Archive for ‘Tempranillo’

February 26, 2019

El Pacto Rioja, 2016

Everything you want in a Rioja at about the price you want to pay for a Rioja.  Drinks like something more expensive, silky tannins, assertive structure, decent fruit, some nice dark hints of charcoal and chocolate; full bodied but not flabby.  Food friendly, a decent sipper, and a lovely label to boot.  There will be multiples down the road.

 

Price: $30 at Kitsilano Wine Cellar

 

Market Liquidity: Surrender to the old school finesse.

December 28, 2018

De Ley Rioja Gran Reserva 2010

Decanter described the explosion of coconut and hints of woodsmoke which pretty much is the money shot, that juicy forward tropical note with a backdrop of musky smoke.  And the LCBO, in Ontario, hit the nail on the head by selling this $30 cheaper than BC.  So there you go, the crime of drinking wine in BC.

 

If you aren’t an expert, if you don’t have a Master of Wine, if you don’t write for the Wine Advocate or Spectator or Decanter, you might be hard pressed to figure out Tempranillo with any exactness.  Sometimes cheap-ish Rioja from old vines and a respectable house turn out top notch plonk whereas the more expensive stuff doesn’t even sip with refinement.  Generally, it’s easy to weed out the crap Shiraz from the cellar selections.  We find Rioja all over the map.

 

Given that you can score great Spanish reds at half the price of the De Lay we’re hard-pressed to recommend it.  But if all that coin is burning a hole in your pocket, then by all means get six for a stag night.  It is heady, hearty and exuberantly generous on the palate.

 

Price: Around $47 at private wine shops in Vancouver.  But, as noted above, much cheaper in the real world beyond BC’s borders.

 

Market Liquidity: When spending half as much for wine that’s no better is just half as good.

September 24, 2018

Stag’s Hollow Tempranillo, 2014

Here’s something novel: Okanagan Tempranillo at a decent price point.  (And here’s something oxymoronic, in a way, Tempranillo from BC’s Okanagan…)  You can ante up in excess of $50 for the Black Hills T, but Stag’s Hollow offers an entry level which is, well, very much Tempranillo.

 

On the plus side it’s boisterous, acidic, evocative of the varietal, if a bit aggressive.  On the down side BC is awash in spectacular Spanish reds in the $25-$40 price range and on that score, just a BC to Spain comparison, this is a one off buy, a curiosity, and leaves us sated if not hugely satisfied.  At this price point I’d probably choose the Stag’s Hollow Cab Franc but if you are willing to ante up the dough almost any red in the Renaissance series will please every time.

 

Price: $28 at Save-On Foods

 

Market Liquidity: Been there, done that.

September 14, 2018

Marques de Caceres Rioja Reserva, 2011

Probably the first bottle of Rioja I ever drank was MdC; a Crianza of course.  I would hazard a guess, based on the volume and availability, many North Americans and not too few British would echo the sentiment.  Marques de Caceres is an omnipresent red which usually comes on strong and tannic and decent in a bistro but nothing of note.  I’ve always thought of MdC as the Casio watch brand of wine labels.

 

The Reserva is less available, at least in Western Canada; the BCL has the Gran Reserva.  We’re not going to shell out another $40 to compare, but I’m going to suggest that if you love the oak of Rioja get the GR but if you just have a hankering for fine Tempranillo go the Reserva route, with less time on the cask but still a fine selection off the vine and some love and care in the aging.

 

At seven years this vintage is a blast of candy store licorice, followed by a heady, alcoholic, tannic bomb of cherry, plum, charcoal, moist earth then followed on the finish with traces of oak and vanilla.  Although top heavy it’s ludicrously food friendly (which we drank with a New York Times beef stew braised in Dijon, cognac, wine and beef stock).  Assertive, not terribly acidic, very masculine.

 

Price: $40 at Kits Wine Cellar (but with a half case purchase, reduced by 10%; no such luck at BCL).

 

Market Liquidity: Like running with the bulls in Pamplona, this wine cannot be held back.

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January 6, 2018

Torres Celeste Crianza, 2013

Corked.  I can’t tell you how common this is in BC.  Oh wait, I can, I kept a record in 2017.  Twice from bottles purchased at private stores and six times from bottles purchased at BC Liquor.  Not including this.  Seven times from BC Liquor.  What a year 2017 was.

 

In BC, when you have a corked bottle you can return it and complain.  You must have your receipt.  You must take the bottle back.  It’s an enormous hassle because I rarely keep the receipt (I mean really? Who does nowadays?) and often the bottle is opened up somewhere not at home, this most recent bottle on the Gulf Islands, it’s exacerbated by the lie down factor—you want to lie something down, then really it becomes your responsibility not the seller if you open it in six months or more.  There was no way I could re-cork this bottle and get it back to Vancouver. It graced the septic.

 

Gismondi recommended the 14 as a cellar pick but the 13 was languishing on the shelves and I picked this up in error.  So in theory many buyers are lying down what could be corked wine.

 

I have complained in the past but it’s tiresome and if you complain you are often belittled, you are led to believe it’s the consumer’s problem.  In my experience, BC Liquor takes no responsibility (just our after tax money, in spades).  They claim all their wine is transported in temperature controlled transport and stored in a temperature controlled environment.  Private wine store staff have told me there are some vagaries to this routine including containers that aren’t ventilated but I’m not part of the industry and have no way to know unequivocally.  Is there a PETA-esque wine group that could get footage of the storage?

 

But regardless of how wine is transported, how it’s displayed is testament to an overt attitude of laissez-faire. If you visit a local BC Liquor store you might be surprised at what you’ll see.  Many have direct sunlight poring in onto the wine shelves.  Indiscriminately.  There’s Wolf Blass; hope he’s wearing SPF 30.  Most bottles are upright and a shocking amount are covered in dust; those with corks are just drying out.  And the in store temperature, my God, not a shred of humidity in most stores, some are like saunas in the colder months and in BC most months are the colder months.

 

We’ve never posted on corked wine.  I feel it comes with the territory.  Suck it up.  However, the problem seems to be getting worse not better.  It’s disappointing, a hassle, costly, and I believe largely preventable.  There is no passenger bill of rights for wine buyers.  Pity.

 

Price: What?  Before or after it went down the drain?

 

Market Liquidity: Heaven’s Gate and Ishtar rolled up into one.

July 24, 2017

CVNE Rioja Reserva, 2012 & CVNE Rioja Crianza, 2012

The best tasting, best drinking red wine in its class, the best red wine under $40 in BC, period.  And, I might add, much better than many BC reds up to half the price more.  We have held off posting until assured there was no more to be found in the Lower Mainland.  Joking.  Half joking.

 

Marquis had a superb pre-offer at, with tax, $25 for the Crianza and $36 for the reserve.  We bought a lot.  We went back for more.  Marquis was sold out.  We sourced it at Everything Wine.  We bought a lot.  We went back for more.  EW was sold out.  We sourced it at Kits Wine Cellar.  We bought a lot.  We went back for more.  KWC was sold out.

 

On the plus side, maybe we were the only ones smart enough to buy up this wine?  I don’t think I’ve drunk, and stashed away, so much of one bottle as I have of this year’s CVNE release.  (The Monopole was similarly outstanding if slightly less impressive.)

 

These reds are the most comforting, smooth, rich and concentrated blends you can get at such a reasonable price point.  But price be damned, they are just really good tempranillos.  The Wine Spectator said the Reserva has depth and intensity and gave it 93 points.  (Can you imagine a BC red getting 93 points and going on sale for less than $40?).  That’s a fair summation.  But it’s also just plain likable in the most approachable and delectable way.  As you can see from the group picture, we simply can’t get enough.

 

The Crianza is, yes, lesser, but only by a margin so slim it could be a BC election; and what a wonderful sipper still, and just gorgeous to share at dinner without breaking the bank.  The WS gave it 91 points.  And in Ontario you can buy it with change from a $20.  In BC we have to cough up more and it sells out quicker but let’s give a shout out to Rioja.

 

Price: See above.

 

Market Liquidity: These Riojas remind me of that Hugh Johnson quote that wine is a marriage of nature and aesthetics.  To which I think he meant what is real and beautiful.  Because these babies are real beautiful.

February 16, 2017

Sierra Cantabria Rioja, 2011

sierra-cantabria-rioja-2011

Ever taste wine with friends, take notes, compare them, and find that what one person found heavy and tannic another found fruity and light?  Or, more typically, buy wine specifically because of the reviewer’s blurb—only to be wholly let down?  This is that experience in a nutshell.

 

Here’s the professional review: “…dense, rich red cherry and liquorice aromas…sour cherry, coffee and nutmeg notes and the oak is fully integrated.”

 

We just couldn’t get past the flatness of it, the one note, a very tepid Tempranillo, immediately forgettable.  Not cheap either.  And this was after our splurge on D’Orrance a few weeks back based on a stellar review which was a match made in heaven.  So it goes.

 

Price: $30 at Everything Wine.

 

Market Liquidity: Hugh Johnson called Sierra Cantabria “drinkable and good” and I’ll give it that.

February 6, 2017

Finca 10 Rioja, 2014

finca-10-rioja-2014

The epitome of cheap and cheerful.  A wonderful Wednesday red.  Fruity, approachable, marginally tannic.  Maraschino syrup against a light peppery bite; think grenadine mixed with Chartreuse.  No weight, feather light for a Tempranillo, and as weak on the nose as the palate and the finish.  But food friendly in a big way and welcome (and warming) during this incredibly long and frigid winter.

 

Price: Regularly $16.99, but on sale at Everything Wine for an astonishing $12.99.  Thanks you EW.

 

Market Liquidity: A bird in the hand.

October 15, 2016

Seven Stones Standing Rock Meritage, 2010 & Celeste Crianza, 2012

celeste-crianza-2012

We drank the lovely if somewhat forgettable Crianza back to back with a Seven Stones blend.  Not unlike some previous bottles which we’ve never reviewed, the Meritage was enjoyable, imperfect, provocative and spoke of terroir in a way the Similkameen seems to beat out the northern OK year by year.

 

So how did it play out against the highly prized Crianza, from, and I quote, “the world’s most admired wine brand”?  I think if you don your impartial reviewer hat the Crianza is the better wine.  I give it this: It has fewer flaws.  And who doesn’t like a silky Tempranillo on a miserable autumn night?  But like a high end suit tailored versus an off the rack that fits to a tee, the Meritage just holds your interest more, lingers on the tongue longer, and has a depth of flavour that is both captivating and a little frustrating, a few inches away from being a better blend.  Now the Crainza rolls over the palate like toffee, smooth, a tad gristly, but pffft, it’s thin and ephemeral, and thus the disappointment.

 

Pricewise, the Crianza comes in at $27 before taxes and the Meritage $35 with taxes, so only a few dollars separate the two on the budget front.  I guess, again, the Crianza is better value, but purely on a subjective level from a very personalized point of view Seven Stones rules.

 

Market Liquidity: Technically, once you have Robert Parker’s blessing, no market liquidity is required.

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January 19, 2016

Maycas del Limari Sumaq Reserva Chardonnay, 2013 & Urban Uco Malbec Tempranillo, 2013

Urban Uco Malbec Tempranillo, 2013Value week on Buyingbcwines: To round off our value wine theme this week we finish with an enormously satisfying Chilean Chardonnay and a critics pick. The Argentinian blend, Malbec-Tempranillo, is an over-90 pointer from Parker, and drinks pretty much the way you’d expect: Fruit heavy, a little leaden, rich and hearty. Personally, I didn’t like it, neither its predictability nor character, it’s 14.5%, a little too heavy on the cigar and without any elegance whatsoever. Too flat on the finish. But that is irrelevant. Most people will like it, like it a lot, as a house wine it could sell like hotcakes, the price is exacetment as the French say. Exactamente I should say. In fact, I’ll set the bar for 2016: Best value red in BC at the price. (Let’s see what happens over the next 11 months.) Comparatively, the local and foreign dross at this price point is suicidally depressing. Ignore my misgivings; dare to compare with your other Tuesday night selections.

 

Price: A budget conscious $14.99 at BC Liquor (with tax $17.25).

 

Market Liquidity: Like getting an upgrade at the rental desk from economy to midsize.

Maycas del Limari Sumaq Reserva Chardonnay, 2013

The Maycas del Limari, on the other hand, won’t win awards nor critical favour beyond “good value” and “fresh”, but what a hugely appealing wine that speaks volumes to breaking the Chardonnay norm. Honestly, it was exciting to cork this bargain bottle. Bright to the point of glaring, this is sunshine encapsulated in a bottle, and really reminded us of the Boutari (in terms of its liveliness). There are more tropical tangents than you can imagine, guava, pineapple, passionfruit, than typical stony notes, but a current of oak runs underneath the forward, very forward, fruit. Drinks like a 12 per cent lunch wine. Is not cloying and does not seek to wow.  It’s all enjoyment.  Great to sip, perfect with frittata. And easy to share at the cost.

 

Price: $21 with tax ($18 before) at Everything Wine or Legacy.

 

Market Liquidity: Carnival in Rio in a bottle.