Archive for ‘Red Wine’

May 2, 2022

Undurraga Gran Reserva “Sibaris” Pinot Noir, 2020

We came across this wine at a social event then started serving it to guests.

Instead of a review, because review wise we don’t have much to say, here’s our alternative take: People love it.  We’ve served it to guests umpteen times.  It never seems to disappoint.  It’s a remarkably affordable bottle, you don’t feel guilty opening a second or third at a dinner party. We have it by the two or three just in case.

OK, I’ve never read a splashy review and don’t know its points and of course it doesn’t compare with kingpin Pinot from Oregon or Burgundy.  It’s very light, it’s smooth, it’s definitely not our go-to, it’s not our sort of wine really, but here’s the rub: It’s social.  And a drinkable bottle of inexpensive wine is, in a social setting, worth three Ridge Zinfandels.

Most people socializing over a glass of wine are not holding a grudge against the bottle.  They didn’t come to visit to judge the label or the vintage.  They want something palatable, that doesn’t overpower dinner and doesn’t assert itself so demonstrably as to take away from actually being social.  And this easy going red does the trick.  So thumbs up.  Who would of thunk it with 8% inflation?

Price: $18 at BC Liquor

Market Liquidity: Keep your friends friendly.

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.

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

March 25, 2022

Coterie Cabernet Franc & Malbec, 2018

For years we’ve written some variation on how exceptional the wine is in the Cape region and how it rivals many much more established wine regions, and how dire and uninspired the South African selection is at BC Liquor (and bemoaned the discrepancy).  This is more of the same.  Despite, I must point out, being “BC Select” meaning the consultants chose it as a cellar selection.

Where the CF is, where the barnyard funk is, that remained elusive.  The Malbec shone through, but not in a substantive way, just heavy, with a thud.  It drank like a decent red wine, but only.  Oh gosh, that sounds so petty, but in a way this wine is forgettable from the first sip.  Our notes were, and I quote in total, “juicy,” “where’s the CF?,” “bland without redeeming features,” and “not too memorable.”  Not a scribble on aroma, the palate, or afters.

We drink a lot of mediocre wine.  A lot.  I mean we shop twice a week at BC Liquor stores, what do you expect?  But we don’t post about it all.  We try to find redeeming wines and give then a good shake, we try to focus on the positive, take the Tony Robbins Louise Hay Goop route and just find the gorgeousness and determination in every drop.  We appreciate the hard work of producing a decent bottle.  But God is there a sea of middle of the road plonk on the shelves.

The private wine stores regularly stock Graceland Cab Sauv and when you’ve won the lottery there’s Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, South Africa is not a middle of the road producer, but it’s just a shame that in Cape Town you drink Bordeaux style red that knocks your socks off for half the price of stuff like this.

Price: $28 at BC Liquor.

Market Liquidity: What did I read over on Goop?  Be stronger than your excuses.  Dear BC Liquor: I will try.

March 2, 2022

Mazzei Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva, 2018

95 points from James Suckling.  Seriously.  95 points.  I have no idea what that even means.  For what?  It’s not the best Chianti at BC Liquor let alone the best Chianti available in the province.  It’s a very good Chianti.  Period.  It’s like a 90 point red wine if in fact you must rate wine.

James Suckling: I call him the Peter “great movie” Travers of wine reviewers.  No shade on Travers, but if there was one aspect of his career that hovered above everything it was his name in print, on posters, on signage, in ads.  He gave more space to “Rolling Stone” than the actual Rolling Stones.  And Suckling seems much the same; he loves to see his name in print.  95 points will get your name in print.  But how meaningless.  And for the average drinker, the person who doesn’t rate wine, who may buy this bottle purely on the points and review, how misguided.  It educates the novice nothing.  It diminishes the value of professional reviews.  And it blatantly exploits the privilege accorded to tasters who don’t pay the exorbitant prices for vino.

Anyhoo…  Decent Chianti.  I would head over to the Nebbiolo we loved and Gismondi highly recommended and which was for a month on sale.  It may not be Sangiovese, but on the palate and the pocketbook it’s better wine, better value, higher satisfaction, no points decal.

Price: $33 at BC Liquor.  If you can see the price tag behind the 95 points signage.

Market Liquidity: Wine success, poinster fail.

February 11, 2022

Ojai John Sebastiano Vineyard Grenache, 2018

Breathtakingly good.  The best North American Grenache we’ve ever had the privilege to drink.  To sip.  To take deep, deep pleasure in.

After a “dry-ish” January we splurged.  Gorgeous maraschino cherry with a nutty sharp turn towards licorice, clove and pepper.  Elegant notes the way you catch a sweet scent passing a florist.  Both forward and restrained on the palate.  Oak without havoc.  Delectable acidity.  Sheer vino satisfaction.

Gosh, this one left us speechless.  Out of the park dollar wise, a treat wine, a special occasion wine, but oh so satisfying and 100% no disappointment despite the investment.  On this we are totally head over heels in agreement with the Wine Advocate who “pointsed” it 93.

Have you ever seen the Nicholas Brothers dance?  Say 28 minutes into Down Argentine Way?  They are aeronautical, defy gravity, glide over the floor and float in the air, and all that work looks effortless and weightless and yet it’s monumentally effortful and demonstrative.  There is no better metaphor.

Price: $56 at Marquis, but 10% off with a mixed half case.

Market Liquidity: Like the detectorist who found the Henry III gold penny.

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.

February 11, 2022

Fanti Brunello di Montalcino, 2015

Look what Santa left under the tree.  Wow.  Very naughty but obviously someone’s been very nice.

This is ludicrously out of our bandwidth.  This is like that visit to a two star Michelin restaurant in Hong Kong where they had a Burgundy wine flight.  This is just heaven.  Wine heaven.  And I am extremely fortunate to have sampled a sample.

If there is somewhere for the 2015 to go, I guess it would be on Elon Musk’s rocket to Mars, because here on earth it is ready, ready now, and on the palate like drinking velvet.  Smooth to the nth, accents of an early spring garden with dewy violets and buried notes of cedar shavings.  Gobs of palate drenching dark fruit, but never heavy, as light on the tongue as the nose.  Just spectacular, it really needs no explanation.  And of course way, way out of our price range.

Price: Gifted, and not in stock in BC (to my knowledge) but in Ontario $70, and if you can afford to drop that sort of coin on a bottle of red then buy it by the caseload.

Market Liquidity: A bottle of earthly delights.

December 23, 2021

Penfolds Bin 29 Kalimna Shiraz, 2018

Christmas card from 1972. Seriously.

And so it goes, another year unfolds.

From the cellar: A Wine Spectator top 100 from 2020 (#41 in fact), gifted under the tree last Christmas, this lay in our own cellar an additional year. I mean not since 1972, but still.

2021, the year so many of us gave up (on travel, on shopping, on eating out, on socialization) left us (as in the us writing this blog) spending too much on wine.  I am not going to write that with any passion except to say if there was a simple positive in 2021 it was drinking well.

The best meal out last year, Pluvio in Ucluelet, offered both Puy and a Jura white by the glass; I think a reflective kudos for having such iconic and food friendly bottles on the pour.  And although Wine Spectator lauds the 38 page wine list at the Pointe/Wickanninish down the way, the Wick has a woefully inadequate by the glass listing.  I write that only in passing; wine in restaurants is exceedingly grotesque: entry level plonk at $40 a bottle.

We devoured the Bin 28. It actually drank better with food than as a sipper. It’s an elegant and perhaps restrained Shiraz, on the one hand typical of Oz Shiraz, and on the other hand reinvented.  Some of the crude, crash and burn (pepper and smoke and heat) of the varietal are cooled off like chocolate ganache oozing over a black forest cake.  We simply couldn’t get all the notes of critical acclaim (cola, hazelnut brittle, cannoli with vanilla custard—I mean perhaps, but gosh, it’s a great bottle of wine but sweet cannoli?  I mean give it a rest precious…). Yes. We are heathens. But we drink well. Cheers, Happy Holidays.

Price: Gifted.  But the 2019 is available for $50.

Market Liquidity: An exquisite wine.  But, you know, #41 in our top 100.  Just joking.  Just half joking.

To close the year on a positive note, non-wine related, without sarcasm, I recommend the (gone viral and much replicated) Drukair or Bhutan airlines version of Jerusalema.  (Yes, everyone and their dog has done it, including Air Transat [!], but Bhutan knocked it out of the park.)  It will put a smile on your face, no “cup of cheer” required.

My 90 year old mother’s Christmas tree, 2021. What a sight!