Archive for ‘British Columbia’

May 2, 2022

Clos du Soleil Signature, 2013

There are a couple of old posts on the site for the CdS Signature which, once upon a time, many moons ago, we dubbed BC’s best red.  So much has happened in the last decade across the province it would be both wrong and a disservice to stake the same claim today.  And then a little surprise…

We decided to subscribe to the CdS wine club.  The problem with BC wine clubs (as opposed to American, like the NYT or WS Journal) is that you pledge loyalty to a vineyard.  If you like some Burrowing Owl, or some Cedar Creek, but not all, it’s a crap shoot.  Still, we took an oath and called it CdS.  Which, not to be too over the top since there’s no kickback on compliments, but it has been pure joy.  And little presents, so to speak, sneak into the allotment.

This 2013 Signature was absolutely plum: luscious, gobs of fruit, huge mouth feel, delectable with meat, a stupendous sipper.  It opened up a little with air, we noted the first sip and the second pour were markedly different.  A three volt kick on acidity that gives way to ripe orchard fruits and a snippet of cedar shavings. 

So, you know, thanks CdS and, gosh, anything else lying around in the cellar you need to pass off?

[Sad Sidebar: In 2013, this clocked in at 13.8% alcohol; newer vintages approach 15%.  Sigh.]

Price: $48 at the vineyard for the current vintage (about $10 more than when we first became aware of the blend X years ago).  Discounts, it should be noted, for wine club subscribers.

Market Liquidity: It’s a scratch lotto win.

May 2, 2022

La Frenz Vivant, 2017

Heavy and veering towards cloying.  Not La Frenz’ finest hour.  It sips a bit closer to Muscat than you expect, and fights with fish at dinner.  Believe it or not, some plain potato chips paired a dream.  We haven’t blogged about a Vivant since the 2013 vintage where we felt, well, pretty much the same: Just shy of intent.  We wrote, back then, “Lewis Hamilton on the label, 12th on the grid.” [Now, with a failing car, I guess it’s not uncommon to see him in the slipstream. Lapped in Italy by his nemesis this year!]

It’s just such an appealing blend (on the label), touch of sweet, touch of class, lovely hue, decent nose.  And yet somehow it’s not on the mark on the palate.  There are heaps of fine vines littering the La Frenz vineyard, it seems to me this blend could use a tweak or two.

A little buoyant on the alcohol content to boot.  Sells out though, so perennial favorite.  Who are we to say?

Price: $30 on Salt Spring Island, sold out at the vineyard

Market Liquidity: Close but no cigar.

April 13, 2022

Sign of the times. Sigh.

Spider webs cover Gippsland, Australia, after flooding caused millions to settle on higher ground (2021)

Wow: Blue Mountain won’t bottle this spring.  We got the email last week.  Smoke, from forest fires last summer, have left them with a difficult decision: Bottle a less than desirable wine, or face the fact that smoke has irreparably harmed the harvest.  BM made the right choice.

Wow: This is disheartening on so many levels.  For BM, for wine drinkers, for the future of the BC wine industry, in the context of climate change, it goes on and on.

Wow: We have been drinking mixed cases from BM for as long as I can remember and as long as we’ve been blogging.  We don’t always love every bottle, but we never despair, we never give up, and along the way they have knocked our socks off.  But who knows now?  Just to give this exceptional independent vineyard its due, and as a reminder of our devotion, here’s a brief retrospective:

2018 Reserve Pinot Noir, mixed review

2015 Reserve Pinot Noir, on the cusp for us

2016 Chardonnay, excellent value

2016 Pinot Noir, a beautiful weeknight sipper

2008 Reserve Brut, wowza

2015 Pinot Gris, “best ever”

2014 Gamay Noir, like an addictive app

2013 Reserve Chardonnay, luscious

2014 Pinot Gris, not the finest hour for their PG

2013 Chardonnay, decent but not more

2013 Pinot Noir, decent “plus”

2012 Pinot Gris, gorgeous fruit bomb (we voted it BC wine of the year in 2014)

2012 Chardonnay, it’s a yes, yes, yes

2011 Chardonnay, imagine, this quality at $21, those were the days

February 11, 2022

Roche Wines Texture Pinot Noir, 2019

First tasted with duck in a fine restaurant in early December and it sang.  Not Ethel Merman belting it out, more like Elvis on Are You Lonesome Tonight?, just in sympathy with the food, red currants and pungent acidity and nothing declarative.  It didn’t attack the food, or make any demands.  Note to self: get some of this in the cellar.

A few weeks later we picked up two bottles at Marquis.  And this is where I wondered what happened to that gorgeous food wine symbiosis?  It sipped gently and enjoyably, we thought a decent red, no qualms, there is (as per the label) a kinship with the French much more than most of the BC Okanagan, where assertive and even testy Pinot Noir leads the pack.  But it didn’t meld with any number of foods, from mild cheese to poultry to stew.

Organically farmed, so there is that…

Price: $34 which, as the BC Pinot Noir market goes, is thoroughly decent.

Market Liquidity: You will drink it and enjoy it but it might not impress.

February 11, 2022

Sandhill Single Vineyard Barbera, 2018

We have a few reviews on this going back years here and here; it was a delight to discover and we drank umpteen bottles “back in the day” when you could pick it up at indie wine stores.  But what largely was a “POP” bottle for us fell off the radar.  Plus, try the find the damn thing—Swirl (may that store RIP) told me Sandhill stopped supplying it to them.  And now, lo and behold, BC Liquor has it on the shelves.  This is like meeting up with an old friend, in a good way.

A fine if not excellent expression of the varietal, more than satisfying, present but not omnipresent oak, rustic twiggy earthiness with breakthrough sweetness.  Archetypal juicy tannins.  Sips well, but Barbera, with its appealing acidity, is better suited for everyday “treat” foods like pizza or a rich pasta.  And here’s where we fall out a little, given our reticence to spend so much on what can be got for so much less.  That said, a rare bird in Canada, not too many vineyards with a Barbera this calibre.

Price: $35 at (wait for it,) BC Liquor.

Market Liquidity: Family, er, wine reunion.

December 6, 2021

La Frenz 2018 Malbec and La Frenz 2018 Merlot

La Frenz is having a moment.  Awards and glory.  Good on them.  We’ve been getting a mixed case, annually, for over a decade; they deserve some acclaim.  Somewhere along the line we went “off” Burrowing Owl Chardonnay and transitioned to La Frenz.  But here’s the rub: We got a bit put off by the rise in prices.  And now LF, like most of the BC Okanagan is, well, you know, expensive if you’re not there on the day of release.

Here are two worthy reds.  You won’t be able to get them from the vineyard directly, and if you source them at private stores you will pay in the high 30s before tax.

On the Malbec, which scored a silver at the Canadian Wine Championships in 2021, I will say it’s gloriously good.  If this doesn’t encapsulate Malbec, nothing does.  It’s berry forward, very berry forward, with that dark, smokiness characteristic of the varietal.  A big whopping joy of red.  If you bought it at $26 from LF you scored big time.  If you bought it at a wine store for $36 you thought “Why?”  Comparative South American Malbecs litter the BC Liquor shelves at $10 and $15 cheaper; and are equally if not more satisfying. (The last time we loved their Malbec this much was the 2016, which we blogged about here.)

The Merlot is something of an enigma.  It definitely is lacking charm or curb appeal or whatever the average Merlot drinker wants when they screw off the top.  This seems rough around the edges, cedar shavings and earthy pith, very sharp on the palate, and the professional reviewer phrase “gorgeous tannins” just doesn’t apply.

So you have the little winery that could and then did, sold out inventory, amped up prices for what’s left on private shelves, and in our minds too much hoopla.  Here’s a big hats off salute to success at LF.  Full stop.

Prices: $36 at Marquis for the Malbec and $38 at Liberty for the Merlot. Gosh, that 2016 Malbec was $24!!!

Market Liquidity: Join their wine club, or take a pass.

August 13, 2021

Lunessence Brut Riesling 2020

Bar none the sparkling wine of summer 2021.  We drank it, we sipped it, we had it as an aperitif, sometimes with a dash of Amaro or Campari; one guest even asked for an Aperol spritz (it takes all types…). 

It’s dry.  Gorgeously tart and citrus forward with a toasty, chewy note on the palate and a Granny Smith finish.  No Prosecco sugar rush; bless us.  It’s food friendly, flexible, low in alcohol, local, and a just plain workhorse cheap and cheerful bubbly.  This is an all around no complaints how lucky to find it deeply appealing basic fizz.  Thank you Lunessence.

And the kicker? The proverbial cherry on the cake? Gismondi gave it 88, the kiss of death.  Oh lord we thank Gismondi for lowering the profile, disincentivizing it for the masses.  Let the masses, the wine cognoscenti and the points focussed fight over Bella, or Blue Mountain or whatever bubbles landed a 90 plus.  We drank bottle after bottle of the Lunessence, through the heat dome and after, we never failed to keep a bottle in the fridge, we shared it on the patio, we kept it on ice at picnics, we trotted it out during hot summer nights for cold supper evenings, and it never burned a hole in our pocketbooks.

Price: We scored it in Victoria at $22.52 a bottle which, with tax, is about the same price as the vineyard and, I would editorialize, a sensational price given the cost of drinkable BC sparkling.

Market Liquidity: Common sense in a bottle.

August 13, 2021

Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir, 2018

Liked it a lot, did not love it. 

It’s potent, it’s a gut punch, it has none of the ethereal lightness of Burgundy.  There is tar, yeast, and very sharp pepper notes, cranberry on the finish.  The professional reviews said smooth and silky; we definitely totally, unequivocally got nothing smooth.  In fact, it could do with a spin on the lathe.  Having said that it was still delectable, and I would say we opened it too early.

[Jeepers: Look at the spots on that wine glass!]

Price: From the vineyard back in the day, $44.

Market Liquidity: Wine evolves; this one just not quite enough.

June 18, 2021

Bizou + Yukon BEE-zoo Bubbles, 2018

This is an easy-off flip cap and easy on the pocket-book super effervescent, no buoyantly effervescent sweet—but not too sweet, not cloyingly sweet—decently fruity if in a faux fruit sort of fashion, bubble gum fruit flavour, perfectly sippable patio style (not so much celebratory style) lively and colourful as in literally colourful Okanagan fizzy that for the product has an exceptionally long finish like this overwritten sentence.

Price: An extremely reasonable $23 at Jak’s.

Market Liquidity: Better than Prosecco.  Repeat: Better than Prosecco.

May 14, 2021

Hester Creek Trebbiano, 2019

Trebbiano in the Canadian Okanagan.  Who knew? And old vines at that.

To be fair, we knew; during the stay at home C19 days of stir crazy stillness.  And we knew where to score it at the vineyard price, in Vancouver, at $23, rather than, say, Marquis, at $29.  So why bother blogging about that little secret?

During the darkest days of the pandemic winter, a glass of this was transformative; it could truly evoke a stinking hot day on a vine draped pergola over a long Italian lunch.  The 2018 was fruity, rippled with a honey sweetness, and sat on the tongue like Sun-Rype Apple-Cot nectar from back in the day.  A gem.  A real surprising I can’t believe this came from BC gem.  The 2019? Well, err, you know, good I guess.

The 2019 and 2020, both available from private stores in YVR, are just as a bottle to bottle comparison, a tad less thrilling than 2018.  Either the wine is the same but the world is different or the vintages just don’t have the same pop as 2018.  Gismondi called this a highly affordable treasure; that it is, and at the vineyard price it’s a summer slam dunk.  And to think no one else is growing this ebullient treasure.

Price:  $23 at a store that got the price wrong.

Market Liquidity: Travelogue in a bottle.