Archive for ‘Gamay’

April 22, 2021

Chateau Gaillard Clos de Mez Morgon, 2017

Heaven. I repeat: Heaven.

We splurged for an Easter weekend red, something meat and vegan friendly, and this was the ultimate.  So bold and striking, a great big gob of fruity juiciness with these niche floral notes floating through like motifs, great balance, terrific finish.  And we finished it, in a flash.

Rarely do we wholeheartedly buy into the Wine Advocate, but their 92 point review is right on the money, every single point.  It has that ethereal lightness of Beaujolais but legs, determination and assertiveness, and a luscious super appealing garnet hue in the glass. As Anthony Gismondi is wont to say, real wine.

Price: $44 at Marquis

Market Liquidity: Beaujolais goes all “authentic self” on itself.

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.

September 24, 2020

Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-à-Vent, 2014

There is something breezy and uplifting about cru Beaujolais; it’s like a day drinking red with heaps more character than a stale rosé.  It can be romantic, perky, festive and just plain appealing.  But as much as that fresh and forward fruit shines in most CB, the Moulin-à-Vent has a leg up.  Perched in the north, its bottlings often fit for the cellar, you almost always pay more.  But, what really makes MàV special is that it does age.  Sometimes magnificently.

I’m not adept enough to discern the pronounced differences in the 12 cru, but even a novice can intuit the subtle variations due to geography and the reactions they elicit.  If, say, Morgon is Beethoven and, I don’t know, Fleurie is Mozart, then MàV is Bach.

The nose on this is electric, holy even, like when on a hot summer day in Florence you wander into the cool of a cathedral, the frankincense, the wooden pews, the cool stone.  And yes, the organ plays a structured fugue.  The actual wine is more reserved than fragrant; gobs of raspberry, refined and structured, but weirdly not joyful, like what cru B should be, what you expect.  Dirge-y in fact. And with a long, flat finish on the palate as if the organ pedal led to a long low pitch, unappealing to the ear.  Still, we finished off the bottle in no time.

Price: Well it’s too dear for our pockets, but it was reduced from $57 to $50 at BC Liquor and we ended up with a bottle fortuitously.

Market Liquidity: Glenn Gould called Bach’s Italian Concerto “Bach for people who don’t like Bach.”  That was sort of our reaction here; cru Beaujolais for those who don’t like CB.

May 27, 2019

Haywire Secrest Vineyard Gamay, 2017

Haywire Secrest Vineyard Gamay, 2017

You know what?  Surprisingly good in that it was surprising and at the same time good.  Juicy, fruity, delicious although it tends sweet and with air became cloying.  The chocolate notes are not easy to place, even if you linger and sip over the course of an evening.  The complexity, well, let’s not get carried away.  This is a solid Gamay from the BC Okanagan; it’s no Cru Beaujolais.  But it has the echoes of more expensive Pinot, rougher around the edges but no less attractive, and the average joe is much less likely to grab a Gamay than Pinot Noir, which makes this easier to find and easier on the pocket book.

 

Price: $29 at Kitsilano Wine Cellar (buy six for a 10% discount).

 

Market Liquidity: Nothing to sniff at.

May 17, 2018

Jean-Paul Brun Le Ronsay, 2016

Spring is in the air.  Who doesn’t like a little Beaujolais to sip on a mild May evening?  Sedimentary, a distributor in Vancouver that focuses on natural wines, brings in the Jean-Paul Brun, although you’re hard pressed to find it.  It’s light, simple, tasty, fresh and very good value.  There is the berry of Gamay with a kick of pepper that is tantalizing if a bit out of place.  I would fault it on the tannins, a little cloying to our taste, but it is brilliantly French and reminiscent of finer, more expensive cru-Beaujolais (out of our price range).  So much pleasure at such a good price.

 

Price: $25 at Kits Wine Cellar

 

Market Liquidity: A perfect introduction for the natural wine novice.

January 8, 2018

Domaines Dominique Piron Morgon, La Chanaise, 2015

Plummy with a floral finish.  This is a young Gamay with gobs of acidity but somehow it all just works.  A little slight with red meat but full and delectable with cheesy pasta.  It drinks lighter and livelier than you might expect a Morgon, usually what I feel is the heaviest of Cru Beaujolais.  Put a blind fold on Mr. Parker and maybe he’d mistake it for Fleurie?  Apparently a Top 100 over at the WS.

 

Price: $26 at BC Liquor.  Very good value.

 

Market Liquidity: Jam sponge in a bottle.

February 9, 2017

Joie Gamay, 2014

joie-gamay-2014

I’ve always thought of Gamay as the poor man’s Pinot—and not in a bad way, in a way to access light, fruity wines that can surprise much more often than similarly priced Pinots. The Joie doesn’t disappoint.

 

Sour cherry, rose petals, violet, vanilla and a finish that echoes a black currant pastille. Plus, take a close look at the label: 12.6% is not a type. Er, I mean typo.  How heavenly is that? A Wine Align award winner, so not the easiest to source, but definitely a plus if you’re seeking a gentle, flavourful red for many of the delicate fusion style dishes of the Pacific Northwest.

 

Price: $24 at Swirl in Yaletown.

 

Market Liquidity: Light, lively, pleasant, pleasing.