Archive for ‘British Columbia’

January 18, 2019

Mission Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, 2017 & La Frenz Sauvignon Blanc, 2017

Anthony Gismondi loved the Mission Hill.  But then, he tends to give a hall pass to Mission Hill and Robert Mondavi.  How he found this pale, plain and rather banal white a 90 pointer is anyone’s guess.  If you really like the grassy, gooseberry, aggressive SB of New Zealand, you will be disappointed and have spent $10 more than a straightforward Brancott.  If you like the tight restraint of a refined Sancerre, you will be baffled by the simplicity.  If you are interested in what’s interesting in the Okanagan, what sort of incredible Sauv Blanc is coming off the vines, you are drinking what is invariably our Tuesday night white: The Haywire Waters & Banks Sauvignon Blanc (and if you buy it at Save On, you can save yourself $10 all in).

 

But if you like SB just in general, and if you want hints of New Zealand with a slightly more fruit forward and tropical fruit flair, you are far and away much better off down at La Frenz, where they bottle something clean, juicy, crisp and gorgeously palatable, which, unfortunately, sells out in a heartbeat.  Only one of these wines is memorable.

 

Price: Mission Hill and La Frenz both sell in Vancouver in the mid-20s at private wine shops.

 

Market Liquidity: The arch mediocrity of Mission Hill and the consistent virtue of La Frenz never ceases to surprise.

 

 

 

January 17, 2019

La Frenz Reserve Pinot Noir, 2016

From our (very) mixed case of La Frenz in 2018 I would say the reserve Pinot not as appealing or satisfying as the less expensive Blue Mountain run of the mill (and we are halfway through our BM Pinot, loving every bottle).  We opened the La Frenz up as a sipper for the Globes and I don’t know, we had it lying down for several months and just expected more I guess.  While it doesn’t disappoint there is simply no wow.  The layers of flavour and degrees of nuance we anticipated were all there, but not strikingly so, and while it is jammy there is no mushroom or black olives as LF bills it.  The finish seemed alarmingly terse.

 

Price: You can fine it in private wine stores for around $40, or in the low 30s on release from the vineyard.

 

Market Liquidity: Bronze.  At best.

December 29, 2018

Nichol Pinot Noir, 2016

Too bright and cheery for this holiday season.  Like an inflatable Santa, it’s just not up to snuff.  Cross check it with some half decent Burgundy and this would be an embarrassment.

 

Too cherry to boot.  Acidic.  Tart.  A bit thin on top of all that.

 

Although we have a general fondness for Nichol (we return on a regular basis to the Cab Franc and Syrah and Pinot Gris), I would call this a failure on all fronts.  Not so Gismondi who said something like earthy, dusky, finessed and slapped it with 90 points.  Shurely shome mishtake?  Let’s support the home market by all means but when they bottle an 87 pointer, tops, let’s not give them a pass.

 

Price: Around $30 give or take depending on where you buy it and in what volume.

 

Market Liquidity: An imposter.

December 21, 2018

La Stella Fortissimo, 2016

We really liked the 2015 but we didn’t love the 2015, and earlier vintages get plus plus plus on this blog.  I don’t think in fact, we have never warmed to the La Stella Fortissimo “full on” the way BC reviewers do, a blend which on paper looks exciting if not brilliant, the way we have warmed to similar blends across the Okanagan.  Critics laud it, particularly Gismondi.  I can sense its “wonderfulness” and the craft behind it and like rooting for the underdog want it to succeed.  And you can pick it up at Save On for just over $30.  So what’s the rub?

 

The 2016 seems to have everything but not enough of anything, a sort of over-thought blend which is more intellect than expertise.

 

Price: Around $30 at Save On depending if you volume buy.

 

Market Liquidity: Pleasant, not surprising.

November 5, 2018

Blue Mountain Pinot Noir, 2016

We drink at least a case of Blue Mountain every year.  It’s very good value, if not valuable, and generally a crowd pleaser, gentle reds and lively whites.  The 2013 Pinot, well that sort of put us off their PN, and we reduced our intake the last few years, but the 2016, the entry level base market 2016, is just plain tasty; comfortably round, soft, berry flavour accented by a hint of sharp pepper and some cedar vanilla.  Too bad BM can’t seem to shake the cork for screw tops.  But kudos for free delivery to Vancouver.

 

Is it a $30 wine?  Well it sells out almost overnight, whether that’s fans or scalpers is anyone’s guess.  I’d never shell out $60 in a restaurant, but at home it’s a welcome addition to any basic cellar.

 

Price: $30 from the vineyard.

 

Market Liquidity: If not for the cork, a corker.

November 2, 2018

Sea Star Encore, 2015

All over the blog we rave about Sea Star.  Growing the right grapes for the climate, small batches, unfiltered wines, biodiversity, you name it.  Bring on the Salish Sea.

 

The red here is a primarily Okanagan blend with some local grapes thrown in for good measure.  The first glass I had of Encore was a few years back and I wasn’t wowed.  Top heavy, it was a Cab Sauv and Cab Franc and Merlot clash; we ignored their reds and concentrated on their gorgeous library of whites.  I think the Encore (which they call a Meritage) has gone from 15 to 16 to 18 months in oak.  But this vintage they seem to have it closer to right than ever.  Online they call it a Merlot Cab Franc blend with (I think) just the right amount of Merlot velvet contrasted with just the right amount of Cab Franc funk.  On the bottle they note some Marechal Foch, from Pender Island, thrown into the mix.

Curious, and a great sipper, it slipped with a hearty meal of (mostly) cheeses, whereas a basic Wente Cab Sauv was a home run.  I could get to drinking this regularly, but not at the price point.

 

Price: Around $32 at private wine shops, $29 at the vineyard.

 

Market Liquidity: A blend moving in the right direction, but not at its destination.

October 18, 2018

La Frenz Malbec, 2016

We are blowing through a mixed case of La Frenz with mixed results, mixed feelings, some white has even hit the stock pot, but this one hit a chord.  E Major!  From the first sip you feel transported to a sun drenched patio on the Chilean coast, it has the dark, acid, chocolate you associate with the varietal and a much cooler climate than you’d expect in Naramata, but it strikes a balance we found appealing from first to last sip.  Sort of momentous in how basic it is on the one hand and how satisfying on the other.  This Malbec needs some time in the cellar where it would blossom in a year or two; if you can hang on to it that long…

 

Price: A stunningly reasonable $24.25 from the vineyard but substantially more in YVR at private shops.

 

Market Liquidity: Value.  Value, value, value.  And satisfaction.

October 18, 2018

La Frenz Merlot, 2016

If you’re not a fan of Merlot this won’t win you over.  It has all the archetypal high notes of a Merlot, readily identifiable: soft, easy to drink, low on tannins.  But the fruit is forward, even a little pushy; plummy.  It seems rather simple.  In the alternative, if you like Merlot, then you will be happy with the cherry cola and the sweetness and the generosity on the palate, but you might find it lacking, comparatively.

 

You would think the 20 months in new oak would be a slam dunk but it was a hit and miss for us.  No regrets, no memories.  We’ve had our ups and downs with the LF Merlot over the years but somehow, like Charlie Brown and Lucy, we keep coming back for another go.  Hmmm…

 

Price: $24.25 from the vineyard.

 

Market Liquidity: Not La Frenz’s finest moment.

September 26, 2018

Nk’Mip Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay, 2016

We had the QQ open along with the Black Hills Nota Bene Chardonnay, which retails at about four dollars more.  As a sipper the BH is gorgeous, butter on the tongue and a more luxe finish.  But the QQ was better with dinner.  Hands down.  (Vegetarian main, cheeses, soup.)  And on that score along, the gorgeous food friendly flexibility of the QQ, we nixed the BH post.

 

Strong, California Chardonnay notes, assertive vanilla, an almost synthetic almond and crisp Bosc pear.  Lush but not louche, there is a tightness to this bottle that doesn’t lead to the full Black Hills expression, a sort of modesty, but from the first sip to the last hugely enjoyable.  And not a bad price point to boot.  A worthy award winner.

 

Price: $26 at Save-On Foods

 

Market Liquidity: Finally a contender in our price bracket.

September 25, 2018

Blue Mountain Chardonnay, 2016

Not the “reserve” just the regular, the off the shelf; nothing bespoke.

 

The last time we posted on the non-reserve was a few years back.  More verbose, just as satisfied.  And you can also find posts on the 2012 and 2011.

 

The BM Chard is like an old friend.  Year after year I get it by the half case, at least (because sensibly and thoughtfully BM waives shipping to YVR at least once each fall).  It doesn’t change that much vintage to vintage, it’s always fresh with a bit of bite, the oak is present but not omnipresent, the flavours linger with a light sweetness on the palate, and the complexity, while not profound, is a slam dunk on the dollar value.  I’m not sure it’s as crisp and Chablis-esque as some reviewers might claim, but good gosh is it easy to drink.  Yummy.

 

 

Price: $20.90 from the vineyard.  Value, value, value.

 

Market Liquidity: Did I mention the value?