Archive for ‘Merlot’

January 25, 2017

Chateau Canada, 2012


I have never bought this wine on principle: It states the varietals in English on the front of the French label (!).  Plus, and this is just my quirk, a label that reads Chateau Canada is sort of like a Ye Olde pub in Victoria, BC, with faux wainscoting and Molson Canadian on tap.  Worse, they have, in English, an explanation of why it’s called Chateau Canada.  On the front of the bottle!  However…


However, AG gave it a great little review and the price point is right in my sweet spot and I only have this to say: Is there any better bottle of French red on the liquor store shelves in this city at this price?  I think not.  Astonishingly appealing value red.  Luscious to the last drop.  A mostly Merlot blend that is a must buy.


Price: $18 at BCL before taxes.


Market Liquidity: Ignore the window dressing.

October 18, 2016

La Frenz Merlot, 2011


From the cellar: Found this with some other treasures, bought in 2014, awaiting the day.  It was everything a somewhat aged OK Merlot could and should be, and then some, but overshadowed by how much we liked the Hypothesis last week.  We reviewed a more recent vintage a few months back (which, bizarrely, was apparently cheaper than this), and found it wanting.  But the 2011 is (now) a treasure trove of inky fruit with juicy acids and a really addictive tartness. Quite superb on its own but, hard to believe, wavered with a pumpkin sage risotto.


Price: $28 from the vineyard in 2014 before the tax fiascos.


Market Liquidity: For those with discipline, La Frenz can bring it home.

July 7, 2016

La Frenz Merlot, 2013

I am not reviewing the 2015 base model La Frenz Chardonnay.  The price was right ($22) but it was strange, it tasted tweaked, as if tinkered with to achieve a result and not supported to evolve and become an interesting wine.  To call it a huge disappointment is being kind.  And since I’m not prone to reviewing every bottle we drink, and trying not to slag off those BC vineyards I like to support, we skip to the 2013 Merlot, also modestly priced.

La Frenze Merlot 2013

First, it is not the slightly more expensive and more fulfilling Burrowing Owl Merlot, but it is heaps better than the base model Cedar Creek.  It comes on floral, lavender and rose and violet, hefty and off-putting, but it mellows with decanting and an hour or so later has a medium body that is as appealing as a sipper as it is with a gently spiced chicken dinner.


Here’s the thing: Bartier Brothers makes an excellent Merlot, (which I’ve drunk heaps of, never reviewed for no good reason, and is an oft-turned to weeknight red), now widely available at BCL, which is virtually the same price point.  And if you think of these two wines, both local, as apples and apples, BB is on the podium, and La Frenz is simply in the pack.


Price: $26 from the vineyard.


Market Liquidity: It hurts to say it, but it’s two strikes to La Frenz.

June 24, 2016

Burrowing Owl Merlot, 2010

Sideways is now a play.  Sideways, the book which became an Alexander Payne movie, which transformed wine tourism, at least in California, is now hitting the West End.  A great article with author Rex Pickett can be found here.


My biggest regret about Sideways is that while the volume of Pinot drunk in America skyrocketed, the price of Merlot stayed more or less static.  That, to me, is a con; even gold and silver fluctuate on demand…

Burrowing Owl Merlot, 2010

There has been no reprieve on the price of Merlot at Burrowing Owl.  If you buy it online from the winery, at $30 before shipping, it’s not too hard on the pocketbook.  But locally (and the Merlot is the only BO easily found in private shops), it tops out at $40 once you factor tax.


It is good.  Toxically good.  We definitely finished the bottle (over oven baked broccoli, cauliflower and turkey meatballs).  If The Who was BO wine, Roger Daltry would be their Chardonnay, Pete Townshend the Athene, and Keith Moon (RIP) their 2010 Merlot.  I am not kidding: This wine is that manic, it swings the gambit from soft and lush and typical to aspirations of nearly Cab Sauv profundity (which, no, it doesn’t reach).  There are some serious peaks and valleys as you drink it.  If you need qualifiers, OK: violets and hints of chocolate, tannins, unripe tart blackberries mixed with overripe loganberries, it’s a teeter totter).  All of that, and more, in a whirlwind potpourri that is both intoxicating and confusing.

Burrowing Owl Merlot 2010

Price: In a restaurant at $70 I think it’s a joke.  At $40 I give it a pass.  At $30 it’s half a case.


Market Liquidity: David Sedaris in culottes.  If you get the reference.

May 8, 2016

Seven Stones Row 128 Merlot, 2011

I couldn’t get enough of it.  Until I looked at my receipt.


This is a push-me pull-you Merlot, with a deft lightness of almond and cherry countered by a jagged, cigar leaf edge which, together, are somewhat magical.  Not quite as brilliant with food as we anticipated but delectable as a sipper.  The wines of the Similkameen, if I can generalize, aside from being born and bred in paradise, are truly spectacular, and put Mission Hill to shame.

Seven Stones Row 128 Merlot 2011

Price: With taxes this will clock in around $38 and, in some private stores, over $40.


Market Liquidity: I can’t get past the price tag.

March 18, 2016

Quinta Ferreira Merlot, 2010

Quinta Ferreira Merlot, 2010I credit Swirl in White Rock for helping me discover the breadth of Quinta Ferreira wines. They, alas, have bitten the Jimmy Pattison bullet, and are no more. It was a win win for our scattered provincial premier, setting into motion an auction process of monumental shortsightedness which, single-handedly, allowed one of our wealthiest businessmen to swoop in and pick up a virtual monopoly on indie wine stores. But that’s water under the bridge (the $3.5 billion Massey Tunnel replacement bridge to be more accurate…)


Strident: The QF Merlot is nothing if not assertive. We liked it, not loved it, found it tried just a tad too hard, with firm not soft edges and nothing supple on the palate. All the regular fruit notes of any decent Merlot with a lip smacking woodsy flair but lacking the panache of the Alegria. But this is a winery we’ve come to place great store in and will be buying mixed lots by the case.


Price: $26 at Swirl (RIP).


Market Liquidity: No rod was spared.

February 24, 2016

Quinta Ferreira Merlot, 2010

Quinta Ferreira Merlot, 2010A crowd pleaser. Not as complex as the reviews might indicate, or the boasts of the vineyard with all sorts of layers and flavours and aromas (on the palate, it flattens out considerably), but definitely supple and soft enough to sip through a whole bottle without noticing the “just shy of” 14% alcohol. I guess with whites everyone knows a Chardonnay and with reds everyone knows a Merlot, and this is all Merlot, so what did I expect, except I guess the same sort of thing that knocks your socks off when you have a striking New World Chardonnay from Ridge or Qupé. Cheaper and better than the oft-coveted Burrowing Owl but, as with many wines south in WA, pales in comparison to Basel Cellars.


Price: $25 at Swirl.


Market Liquidity: A good price for a good wine.

June 22, 2015

Lake Breeze Vineyards Merlot, 2012

The varietal was one of the BC Lieutenant Governor’s 2015 winners: Over 400 wines from over 100 wineries and 14 winners. And this was one of them. Really?

Lake Breeze Vineyards Merlot, 2012

The LB opens up nicely, it’s a drinkable common place red, with fruity flavours reminiscent of “mixed berry jam” and a lingering finish that (thank goodness) tastes better than the bouquet. It has no wow factor and seems, at best, a bronze amongst golds and silvers—and even that’s being generous.


Good on Lake Breeze for taking home a prize. But when it comes to Merlot, we have to say Washington wins hands down. A couple of samples along the way include the astounding Walter Clore and the more than enviable Basel Cellars. This doesn’t hold a candle to either—yet both were grown just down the road, in the “other” Okanagan and neither got much recognition. (Or should I write Okonogon?)


Price: $20 or thereabouts from Mud Bay.


Market Liquidity: It will please those who are easily pleased.

April 30, 2015

Burrowing Owl Merlot, 2011

Burrowing Owl Merlot 2011

Evocative of the varietal, with typical cherry, hazelnut and woodsy notes. It seems a little heavy, a little headstrong, in an oppressive rather than ethereal fashion. On the plus side we made harissa cumin chicken, with leeks, lemon and arugula, strong and assertive flavours, and the BO had the stamina to go the distance.


Price: $30 from the vineyard.


Market Liquidity: Of note, but not particularly noteworthy.

September 3, 2014

Woodward Canyon Nelms Road Merlot, 2012

Good Merlot. That’s about it. Good Merlot—and you know what Merlot tastes like. Ever since Sideways we’ve either become inured or in love with Merlot. The Nelm’s Rd has all the typical attributes, the soft tannins, vanilla, light oak, ripe cherry. It’s there. It’s what you expect. It’s just not in any way that interesting.


We all liked it. It’s enjoyable, it’s social, it’s not too much dough. But put on your “reviewer” cap and it pales to a lot of other bottles in this price range. So there you have it: Nice.


Price: Under $20 in the US if you can source it.  I’ve never seen it in Canada.


Market Liquidity: Did I ever tell you how the ground shook when we had the Woodward Canyon Cab Sauv? This is like Godfather 3.