Archive for ‘Cabernet Franc’

December 17, 2020

Naramata Bench Wineries

Last weekend of October we went to the Okanagan for a wine weekend.  It was archetypally fall; cool, crisp, sunny, quiet.  Trees had turned, apples were being harvested in the orchards, and the BC Lieutenant Governor’s wine awards had just been released—the vineyards were well stocked with award winners.  We ate good food, we drank good wine, there should have been a million November wine posts.  There was one, unrelated post.  So, here’s a short, er, wordy summary from October.

Above clockwise: Lunch at Poplar Grove, two views from the Naramata Inn, the view from Poplar Grove, Blue Moon on Halloween, 2020, and dinner at the Naramata Inn.

In this post:

  • Hillside Cabernet Franc, 2017, LG Bronze winner!
  • Van Westen Viscous, 2019, LG Bronze winner!
  • Hillside Syrah, 2017, LG Bronze winner!
  • Therapy Chardonnay, 2018, LG Platinum winner!
  • Ruby Blues Peace Love & Bubbles, not an LG winner!
  • Hillside Estate Old Vines Gamay Noir, 2008 (2008! look at us!)

Where to start?  Something real, like the size of the Okanagan.  It’s a small area (relative to, say, Italy or Spain or the colossus of the US, when it comes to vineyards in production).  That means that there will be less good wine than a bigger region, it’s just math, and that good wine will command a premium, and it does, and that good wine will be in short supply, and it is.

When you hit upon some wine you like, on your tasting tours, you are likely to be reminded that the bottle you’re tasting is a “wine club member” bottling only.  OK, fair enough.  But how many wine clubs can a person join?  BC Okanagan wine clubs demand a kind of brand loyalty.  What happens if you end up with Sunderland or Watford or Ipswich?  I’ll take my chances with Australia and Chile and France.

Let’s go on to something less real, like the BC Lieutenant Governor awards, or LGs.  The judges, heaps and heaps of judges, pile into a hotel, then drink hundred of wines in a sitting.  Sip after sip after sip after sip.  A gazillion Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays and maybe some Cabernet Franc and whatnot.  Word was that the hotel staff couldn’t keep up with clean glasses.  And then after all that intensive volume sipping they select winners, but not first, second and third, oh no, there is platinum, gold, silver and bronze. Do four wines win?  Shurely you jest?

Now, wait for it, there are a lot of winners to take home a prize; it could be junior soccer bootcamp the number of winners. 236 bronze winners alone.  Jeepers, what didn’t make the cut? 119 silver.  You get the picture.  The LG wine awards are a way to highlight the industry and get people to buy more wine; they are like when real estate agents host a banquet and realtors get awarded medallions and then advertise as medallion winners.  The intent might be sincere (or in fact pure commerce) but the outcome is somewhere between exaggeration and Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump.

So there we were, able to taste a number of these winners.  But back to back, repeatedly, award winners at a vineyard were not always as good as an alternative, at the same vineyard.  Which is another weird thing about the LG awards, the vineyards don’t list what they submit, what they don’t.

We stayed at arguably the nicest accommodation in in the south Okanagan, the Naramata Inn (pictured above), which is rustic, and a tad simple, and could use a once over in the bathrooms, and doesn’t have any pool or gym or spa, and even a large room doesn’t have a chair, but it’s beautifully situated and has a sensational restaurant.  Just as a comparison, there is nowhere to stay like we stayed in Western Australia or the South African garden route or ate and drank in Burgundy.  There is nowhere comparable to Healdsburg in California or the Loire.  The Okanagan is lovely, Naramata is quaint and sleepily picturesque, but loathe as I am to say it, a touch of gentrification for visitors would go a long, long ways.

Here’s an unexpected surprise: Ruby Blues sparkling.  It’s nowhere near the better bubbles available across the Okanagan, but it’s lively and fun, it’s not too dear.  Plus it comes in brunch-ready half bottles. When we were tasting a woman walked in and bought a case.  I can think of no better way to Zoom socialize Covid-style and share the love around.  It’s Goldie Hawn on Laugh-in, half naked and adorable and with zero pretense.

Start to finish Hillside wowed (which was a little weird given that what’s available “OTC” if you will, in Vancouver, is rarely their best).  First, their restaurant was just plain satisfying, deeply satisfying, from the bread to the olives to the archived treasures you can purchase on the way out (but be cautious: wines you buy after dinner end up on the restaurant tab and will incur your tip).  We drank an absolutely drop dead 12 year old Gamay Noir at dinner and went home with two very appealing, food friendly reds, a Syrah and a Cab Franc, the former spicy with an acidic nip, the latter, with air, a decent mellow barnyard funk.  The tasting room is a tad robotic, but very well set up and decently diverse.

Over at Van Westen, at 11 a.m. in the morning, their tasting room gave us pours of such generous proportion I was an inch away from a siesta.  I liked, but didn’t love their reds, but the whites were lively, nuanced and felt lovingly crafted.  There are silly names (the V for viscous is a Riesling), and the rustic-ness of it all might not be every wino’s cup of tea (witness the moose head above the bar; remember when Moe opened up a family restaurant and Marg walks in and sees a moose head with sunglasses and proclaims “A moose wearing sunglasses.  Now I’ve seen everything.” Well, it’s a bit like that), but there was nothing shabby chic about the wines.

The outrageously spectacular Poplar Grove restaurant, cliffside, it’s like climbing Mt. Rushmore in North by Northwest.  Zsa Zsa would have adored the view.  The food was good, the tasting corporate, and the wine a tad ho-hum, comparatively. It was the only vineyard we passed on a take away purchase.

Therapy stunned us with their Chardonnay, but even here I’m not going to say it was an award winner better than so many other wonderful Okanagan Chardonnays.  Even the base model Meyer is good, the Blue Mountain lovely, the Burrowing Owl reliable, and of course Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Chardonnay, now we’re talking platinum.

So there you have it.  A lot of good wine, some very good food, great weather, friendly people. Then we came back to Vancouver and spent less money on older Rioja and more refined whites.

August 31, 2020

Culmina Cabernet Franc, 2014

$38 is too much money for this wine. 

The pointsters will rarely write something so baldly true but it’s true.  I mean you can spend $1500 on a French CF at BC Liquor, if that sort of cash is burning a hole in your wallet.  But CF is something we have, in BC, in relative abundance.  There is plenty of wholly palatable non-plonk under $30.  And $38 is the vineyard price.  You will pay more at the VQA stores in YVR (if you can find it).

A big chunk of this blog isn’t to weigh in, pointster style, on how wonderful wine is, how true to the varietal, or not.  We have given ourselves over to the vice.  Wine we have decided is wonderful at 89 points or 92.  Most of our comment is to think of the after cash money we have to spend on wine, the exorbitant prices we pay for wine in BC, and then to look at value, per sip, per meal, and unlike the Robert Parkers of the world, with comp bottles and label mania, we basically come down to utility and satisfaction.

It’s a wonderful bottle.  It’s just at least $10 too much. 

Price: I think I mentioned it?  (And last time I did intentionally shop for a BC CF, Seven Stones, Tinhorn, Black Sage and quite a few other totally acceptable and very tasty CF’s were less; markedly so.)

Market Liquidity: The loveliness was diminished by the price tag.

August 13, 2020

Jean-Maurice Raffault Chinon, 2015

From the cellar: The 2017 can be found around town, so I’m guessing we’ve had this kicking around for a couple of years. 

Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of posts for Chinon on the blog.  Not sure why, we gravitate towards the leather, gamey top notes of a decent Cab Franc, and this doesn’t disappoint.  A very juicy, black currant and lightly aromatic spice on the finish.  Crazy tannins considering the lie down.  Lovely with food, perfect with food, a little “loose” on the palate as a sipper.

Price: Not sure when, but whatever date we bought it, low 20s before tax.

Market Liquidity: One of those wines unlikely to get high points but highly likely to satisfy.

May 29, 2020

Black Sage Vineyard Cabernet Franc, 2017

Black Sage Vineyard Cabernet Franc, 2017

I’m surprised that the last time we blogged about Black Sage was 2014, a full six years ago.  And that was a Cab Sauv; lovely and yummy.  But, as I like to say after a few glasses, “we’ve drunk a lot of BS over the years.”

 

It’s time to just come out and say thank you, BS, for decently priced quite drinkable, hearty reds.  Zero pretension, a lot of heft on the palate, a reasonable amount of the funky Cab Franc spice and leathery smoke.  Exceptional with meat.  No dissent around the table.

 

Price: An under $30 before the four bottle discount at Save-On.

 

Market Liquidity: A plethora of smiley and thumbs up emojis.

February 24, 2019

Liber Farm & Winery, Signature Red, 2015

We did not understand this wine.  We were baffled by the weight, stunned by the attack, left listless by the brashness of the blend, and confused by its identity.  The Similkameen is awash in wonderful wine, you almost could do no wrong.  Or so we thought.  The 40% Merlot is like a chimera, the Cabernet Franc the Penn to the blend’s Teller.  I don’t think we’ve drunk a more unappealing and mixed up BC red in years.  Enough said.

 

Price: $28 as Save-On.

 

Market Liquidity: Did I say “enough said” already?

February 3, 2019

Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc, 2016

Yeah, OK.  I mean what were you expecting?  It’s not a discovery Chinon style.  It’s a half decent Okanagan red en route to being, several vintages down the road, er, pretty good.  It’s very berry, fruity, raspberry, red currant and raisin forward, not musky or aromatic.  It lacked depth.  A little flat for us especially as (for Cab Franc) it seemed a little weak with meat and better as a sipper, Pinot Noir style.  Price point is good and for those “edging” into CF territory a decent introduction.

 

Price: $26 at Save-On.

 

Market Liquidity: Only a notch above ho-hum.

June 1, 2018

Bartier Brothers Cabernet Franc, 2015

Good gosh do we love this wine.  Simple, straightforward, delectable.  If we’ve plowed through three bottles we’ve emptied six.  I think I’ve lost track.  This is anti-snob material though.  It’s not going to appeal to the masses but it will appeal to anyone with a nose for value and integrity.

 

It starts off funky.  On the open pour it hits a sour note.  Barnyard. Expect to be disappointed.  Give it air.  It seems pompous but decant.  Or even 15 minutes in the glass.  And then, a blossom, a blossoming.  It’s rustic and thoughtful and mellow and layered and versatile.  There is no pretense.  Your aren’t getting a “cheap” Oculus or Prospectus; rather you’re getting one of the finest table reds BC has to offer.  In our opinion.

 

Price: Around $24 in various private and public liquor stores (although the vineyard will sell in 3, 6, 9, and I’d recommend a direct order, or pick it up where you can get a discount on six).

 

Market Liquidity: One of the most reasonably priced and most pleasurable “honest” reds in the BC OK.

April 6, 2018

Kraze Legz Black Bottom Stomp, 2011

There is nothing bad to say about this wine.  As a wine.  It’s a generous blend, fruit forward, lovely notes of tobacco and plum, easy to drink, food friendly.  Has the velvet of Merlot and a bit of the funk of Cab Franc.  If it sold at $22 or less I’d buy a couple of cases.  No doubt it’s sold out at the vineyard due to it’s remarkable approachability.

 

Here’s the rub: This is a wine that France and Argentina and Australia can produce and retail at $10 less.  Gismondi recently gave 91 points to a Cotes du Roussillon blend (Syrah and Grenache); different varietals I know, but wowza, it just flattened the KL.  And the CdR has years ahead of it.  That is just the tip of the iceberg.  Half decent and pretty good and not too bad BC wines are regularly overpriced.

 

This wine, which btw we really enjoyed, I want to stress that part, but this wine is indicative of the reason we started posting seven years ago.  I mean you have to either pay through the nose for Hypothesis, or suck it up for generic blends, and the decent, everyday wines, like the KL, well they are wonderful to drink but sting at the cash register.

 

There is room here for a whole editorial on the nascent BC wine industry, tax, labour, distribution, regs, the lot, and we don’t need to belabour it.  This is a simple consumer blog.  We have after tax dollars, not too many, and we like wine.  And, importantly, we’d love to support the BC wine industry more fully.  But it’s a snub to average wine drinkers that great BC wines are $20 more than foreign equivalents and good wines about $10 more.

 

Price: $29.99 before taxes at Save-On Foods in White Rock.

 

Market Liquidity: Crazy name but krazy good.

December 31, 2016

Seven Stones Speaking Rock Cabernet Franc, 2013

seven-stones-speaking-rock-cabernet-franc-2013

Another “Big BC Red” hauled out for the season.  Think of an air-horn, the kaboom in a Road Runner explosion, a thud and thump of Cabernet Franc so ridiculously assertive it nearly deafens.  Far from our favorite amongst Seven Stones many fine reds, this is still wonderful, if unsettling.  Of a different vintage John Schreiner wrote that the SS CF is a “swashbuckling” example of the varietal.  That and then some.  The deepness of the berry flavour is immediate and lasting, mitigated by a coarseness that is not so much aromatic as dead weight.

 

If you’re new to SS this shouldn’t be your first bottle.  But if you like their wines, which are grown in the Similkameen Valley in a place as near to heaven as BC gets (please, no federal park, please, no dam on the US side of the border), this is must for a sense of how much can be done on the north slopes of the valley, especially up against e.g., their Meritage or Syrah.

 

Price: $30 at the vineyard (although not that hard to source in private shops for around $36-$40).

 

Market Liquidity: An Okanagan heavyweight without the deftness or broad appeal found elsewhere in the Seven Stones catalog.

August 18, 2016

Quinta Ferreira Cabernet Franc, 2010

Quinta Ferreira Cabernet Franc, 2010

An exceptional BC Cab Franc but maybe not an exceptional Cab Franc?

 

Cherries, berries, with a hint of candied flowers, that soapy sweet smell of guest soaps back in the day, soft and floral and fake, then a punchy spice mix on the palate, a mix of clove, star anise, pepper.  To my mind A1, if at times without polish.  Not as swoon-worthy as the Alegria blend, but delicious to the dregs.

 

Price: $30 at the now defunct White Rock Swirl.

 

Market Liquidity: Assertive but not exceptionally assured.