Archive for ‘Sparkling’

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

August 13, 2021

Lunessence Brut Riesling 2020

Bar none the sparkling wine of summer 2021.  We drank it, we sipped it, we had it as an aperitif, sometimes with a dash of Amaro or Campari; one guest even asked for an Aperol spritz (it takes all types…). 

It’s dry.  Gorgeously tart and citrus forward with a toasty, chewy note on the palate and a Granny Smith finish.  No Prosecco sugar rush; bless us.  It’s food friendly, flexible, low in alcohol, local, and a just plain workhorse cheap and cheerful bubbly.  This is an all around no complaints how lucky to find it deeply appealing basic fizz.  Thank you Lunessence.

And the kicker? The proverbial cherry on the cake? Gismondi gave it 88, the kiss of death.  Oh lord we thank Gismondi for lowering the profile, disincentivizing it for the masses.  Let the masses, the wine cognoscenti and the points focussed fight over Bella, or Blue Mountain or whatever bubbles landed a 90 plus.  We drank bottle after bottle of the Lunessence, through the heat dome and after, we never failed to keep a bottle in the fridge, we shared it on the patio, we kept it on ice at picnics, we trotted it out during hot summer nights for cold supper evenings, and it never burned a hole in our pocketbooks.

Price: We scored it in Victoria at $22.52 a bottle which, with tax, is about the same price as the vineyard and, I would editorialize, a sensational price given the cost of drinkable BC sparkling.

Market Liquidity: Common sense in a bottle.

June 18, 2021

Bizou + Yukon BEE-zoo Bubbles, 2018

This is an easy-off flip cap and easy on the pocket-book super effervescent, no buoyantly effervescent sweet—but not too sweet, not cloyingly sweet—decently fruity if in a faux fruit sort of fashion, bubble gum fruit flavour, perfectly sippable patio style (not so much celebratory style) lively and colourful as in literally colourful Okanagan fizzy that for the product has an exceptionally long finish like this overwritten sentence.

Price: An extremely reasonable $23 at Jak’s.

Market Liquidity: Better than Prosecco.  Repeat: Better than Prosecco.

March 25, 2021

Villa Teresa Prosecco

92 points for Prosecco.  What’s the comparison? Andre’s Baby Duck?

In regard to flavour, this was fine; the melon and lemon, the lilt of a spring bouquet.  But flat as all get out.  We literally counted one bubble, one solitary bubble.  Look at the flute, freshly poured, could be Pinot Gris. A light, low alcohol aperitif, a splendid patio sipper, but short on many fronts.  Organic.  And, apparently, a hugely popular sparkling.  Go figure.

Price: Less than $20 and widely available at BCL.

Market Liquidity: Sort of like the toddler’s rides at Disneyland: It’s Disneyland, but it’s not, you know, Indiana Jones.

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

Mare Magnum Crudo Prosecco

The bottle says party up.  The wine says better than most Prosecco at the local liquor store.  Organic plays another trump card.  So all round, pretty good value, and fun times.  Good fizz, maybe too assertive (look at the photo; that’s some dense conglomeration of bubbles).  Dry (ish), dryer than the bubbly from up in the Italian north that adorns BC Liquor shelves. 

We tend to veer away from Prosecco: BC and any number of “new world” options at or around the same price point win out, but this (although not stellar) was very pleasing and drank with cheese, crudites, crackers and olives very well.  There is a tongue feel not unlike a bowl of stewed rhubarb. Appealing acidity.

Price: $26 before taxes at Legacy Liquor.

Market Liquidity: $10 less in Manitoba where it would be, literally, a steal.

June 26, 2020

Cune Cava Brut, NV

Cune Cava Brut

Thank you Marquis: A dry, palatable, superb summer sparkler, much more enticing than umpteen local rose offerings and some plain un-outstanding local fizz.  A most perfect mixing faux-champers, a dash of Campari or put a Spanish twist on an Aperol spritz.  Not too effervescent with some heady, yeasty, earthiness and a touch of shale.  Decent and then some.

 

Price: $27.75 at Marquis Cellars.

 

Market Liquidity: It may be a blow-up toddler’s pool next to the big guns, but it has all the summer fun you want to kick off the evening.

November 21, 2018

Calmel & Joseph Blanquette de Limoux

Gismondi quite liked this and “pointsed” it 90.  Yeah, OK, whatever; he’s gotta keep up with his colleagues who found it similarly “over the 89 point hump.”  We found it, well, a little austere, lacking in depth, mineral forward, cucumber hits the palate in an unusual not invigorating way, mediocre effervescence.  Glass half full it makes a wonderful French 75 but a little on the ho hum side as a sipper.  From our perspective, it doesn’t hold a candle to the (four dollars cheaper) Bernard-Massard Brut which we love and which has been our go-to sparkler for over a year.

 

We were attracted to it for the Mauzac, unusual to say the least, but not entranced or seduced.  Another odd thing is that the weekend of AG’s review the Calmel J was in six BC Liquor stores.  Total.  Pretty slim pickings in advance of the holiday season.

 

Price: A more or less reasonable $29 before taxes at BC Liquor.

 

Market Liquidity: Brunch yes, birthday no.

July 9, 2018

Summer Gate Moscato Frizzante, 2017

Well, umm, it’s fizzy. Yeah, it’s that.

 

Supposedly dry, I’d give it a one.

 

Appetizer friendly.  That’s a plus.  And, well, not much more to add.  If you’ve got $30 burning a hole in your pocket, and you need something neutral and novel, OK.  But gosh the province is awash in better options for sparkling.

 

Price: $28 give or take at private wine shops.

 

Market Liquidity: It’s a bottle of wine.

February 7, 2018

Pirie, Tasmanian Sparkling

Drinking wine in Australia 3: In search of a brilliant sparkling we drank glass after glass of Australian sparklers, but mainly Tasmanian wines because, well, it’s almost impossible to find them outside of the state.  The wine industry in Tassie is young, the volume is low, and only a few generic sparklers make it overseas.  Ditto their Pinot.  Plus, restaurants serve them at a low cost and with some cheer.

 

We made the trek deep up country to Jansz and sampled some sensational vintages and bought their limited and very tasty rose.  We had a beautiful regular old non-vintage from Clover Hill.  We drank glass after glass as an aperitif which was uneven but usually fun.  We drank a poorly reviewed Shingleback and found it enormously food friendly and ordered more.  

 

There is a trend, good or bad, for hip Oz restaurants to have five categories on the wine list: Red, White, Sparkling, Orange and Chilled Red.  I can’t see the words “chilled red” without thinking of Lambrusco, and indeed many of the reds we sampled had that cheap fruit tang of L.  The orange category, say a Sem/Sauv Bl left on the skins or a Cab Sauv not left on the skins, were sometimes refreshing sometimes sour.  But perhaps the best thing going on in Australia is bottle after bottle of brilliant sparkling and restaurants that give you a choice per glass, at about $10 per.

 

Of course you can’t return home and buy House of Arras, Clover Hill, Swift, Frogmore Creek, Sittella, Yarrabank, Bay of Fires, or any of the other myriad sparklers we tried.  BC just doesn’t let the consumer choose; they choose for us.  And shelf space, they tell us, is at a premium…

 

When all was said and done there really was no comparison to the generic non-vintage Pirie which was yeasty and aromatic and effervescent and just all round wonderful (and hard to find, even in Melbourne, but worth the effort) and for which, if Canadians were allowed to be adults and buy wine and bring it home in volume the way other nationals were doing we would have ordered several cases.

 

 Of course you can’t buy it and ship it like the rest of the world.  You can’t even contract an agent to get it.  You just have to live with the fact that the BC government is an omniscient beast who not only knows all but acts in our best interest.  Not.

 

Price: Around $34

 

Market Liquidity: Drinking wine in the socialist state of BC sucks. Tassie rocks.