Archive for ‘USA: California’

July 12, 2018

Graef Chardonnay, 2013

Liberty (a wonderful and very reputable private wine seller in Vancouver that has a real knack for curating interesting and often uncommon French wines) was selling the (very reputable and usually too expensive) Graef Chardonnay for half price.  Well buyer be warned because despite the screw cap this 2013 was well past (in July 2018), a total dud, and a blot on Liberty.  I couldn’t help but wonder how many tourists at Granville Island bought a bottle for the same disappointment we suffered.  Sharp, sour, sad.  Into the septic.

 

Still, there’s no accounting for taste.  Someone spent over a quarter of a million on this ludicrous Bentley.  Don’t take it from us; spend your money how you will.

Price: $30 before onerous taxes.

 

Market Liquidity: Irwin Allen couldn’t have created a bigger disaster.

March 27, 2018

Ridge East Bench Zinfandel, 2012

From the cellar: Who cellars Zin?  Not too many.  And as for Ridge, why even post another Ridge review?  Is there a bad bottle or two of Ridge, somewhere out in the universe?  A bad vintage?  A mistake in Monte Bello?

 

For no good reason we have a few of the LS lying in wait and pulled one out on the weekend.  It was, as predicted, floral, elegant, enticing, a pronounced oak, deeply aromatic, dried herbs with spring blossoms on the palate, and of course ridiculously delectable.  It drank like velvet which, to be fair, is not to everyone’s taste, that silky, smooth, flan-like texture.

 

In 2014 we went ga-ga over this vintage.  I don’t think this had to age and I can’t unequivocally say it improved substantially when you think of the four years on the lie down, but it didn’t disappoint and won our hearts from the first sip.

 

Price: $28 USD in 2014.

 

Market Liquidity: Like Ricky Jay doing sleight of hand: How does Ridge do it?

February 22, 2018

Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Chardonnay, 2014

 

Au Bon Climat: Here is the ring.  Will you accept?

 

Words fail to express how enjoyable this wine is.  Was.  In a text it’s a yin yang emoji.  In a court it’s the scales of justice.  In a wine review it’s well over 90 points.  All you need to know is it’s the anti-California Chardonnay, all flavour, no pretense, a sleeper at the back of the wine store.  A perfectly balanced Chard, and I mean perfectly, astonishingly balanced, a marriage of appealing acid with butterscotch velvet, not too much oak, nothing cloying, a lilting floral presence on the tongue that is delectable.  The levels and depth of flavour are simply remarkable.  This is the type of bottle that gets you excited about Chardonnay all over again.

 

Price: $30 USD in Narita duty free.

 

Market Liquidity: Subtlety personified.

October 27, 2017

Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay, 2013

From the cellar: In 2015 we found a sale on Rombauer and got half a case for less than $30 USD per.  We drank a bottle, then eventually more; you know how it goes.  I pulled the last bottle out for a spin last week.

 

We liked it in 2015.  We thought it a bit rich, both on the palate and on our pocket book, but we really, really liked it.  Sally Field much.  Here’s our gushing Top Gear review from two years ago.

 

Now?  How did it age?  Ooh la la, la la la la.  Ooh la la.  Like butter.  Like friggin’ butter.  Buttery, baked butternut squash, butter shortbread.  Rich and deliriously good.  Not a shred of bite, tantalizingly smooth, Richie Rich, toasty, lightly mineral with gobs of tropical punch, and just plain swooningly terrific.  We got excited: So we sourced the current vintage at BC Liquor.  And? $56 plus tax, so $65 a bottle.  Then, just like that, poof, it was another bottle in the recycling, and we moved on to a basic Pinot G.

 

Price: Same as 2015.  Too darn much.

 

Market Liquidity: How the other half drink.

June 22, 2017

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier, 2014


When we open a Chenin Blanc we are predisposed to expect something of a cross between butterscotch and cream soda, and then plus, plus, plus.  And when we open a Viognier we are predisposed to expect a tangy, spicy kick, with a rich, maybe oily residue on the palate.  And then when we saw this blend and didn’t know what to expect we were completely ready for a marriage made in heaven.  But it is in fact something of the War of the Roses.  A lovely golden hue, a not too enticing nose and flat on the palate.

 

Clang, clang, clang went the trolley.  As they say.

It was, initially, an experiment.  Robert Parker lauds it and apparently so do consumers, it’s a hit.  Go for it.  But we found the fruit and floral a clash.  The thing is, we had a Rhone blend earlier in the week at Vancouver’s new Botanist restaurant at the Fairmont Pacific Rim.  They have a well sourced by the glass menu including (the impossible to source commercially) Domaine de la Mordorée, Cuvée La Reine des Bois, Grenache Blanc Blend.  Wowza.  This was a stupendous stunner with gobs of depth and layers of flavour and ridiculously food friendly.  What a blend.  Sometimes the French get it oh so right.

 

Price: Lost the receipt but a reasonable “in the low 20s” at Kitsilano Wine Cellar.

 

Market Liquidity: A curiosity.

April 2, 2016

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay, 2013

For Christmas I was gifted with wine related subscriptions; Wine Spectator, Decanter, that sort of thing.  Exceedingly generous, fun to browse.  But, alas, there is a flip side.  The WS, e.g., is a bit of a tease; lauding wines largely not available in BC, labeling some wines as good value, which could only be brought into Canada by paying taxes and levies to make them, effectively, the tip of a Ponzi scheme.  You could never hire the WS to be a consultant on cellar development in BC.  What would they recommend?  Lindeman’s and Cono Sur?  So while the writing can be tantalizing, and exciting, and encourage you to face new varietals and vintages, it’s also distressingly complex to find the wines.

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay, 2013

There are a few, here and there, you can source.  Witness this Rodney Strong (and a couple of others we’ll try this week), a so-so with the WS, a 90 pointer over at Parker.  With an objective view it’s quite palatable: The lemon/grapefruit acid balances well with the standard California root beer float cream oak.  It seems more refined than cheaper cousins, although a glimmer against Grgich or Ridge.  Still, at the price point, quite OK.  Here’s the rub: This will be $60 in a restaurant.  And that is criminal.  Because it’s good, not great, outstanding or brilliant.

 

Price: $24.50 at BCL (just over $28 with taxes).

 

Market Liquidity: Typical, in a good way.

January 19, 2016

Edge Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012

Value week on Buyingbcwines: For the life of me I couldn’t get a decent picture. This is an online dupe of what I would call a ludicrous label from a Graphics 101 wannabe under cheap contract.

Edge Cabernet Sauvignon

Beyond the inane label is wine: A really impressive (if somewhat predictable) California Cab Sauv. Heavyweight properties (hence Parker’s 91 points) but without the Ridge-like price tag. A forward, fruity (and I think) overly sweet mouthful. Will please most of the people most of the time. Hits of peppercorn and overripe blackberry on the palate. No soft finish.

 

Price: Under $30 at BCL, over with tax. Given our dollar, good value.

 

Market Liquidity: Value. Not valuable.

November 23, 2015

Waxwing Lester Family Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2013

Words fail me a bit on this one.

 

As a sipper, as a stand alone wine, as an evocation of Pinot, this is sensational.

Cedar Waxwing Lester Family Pinot Noir

It has a powerful and enticing bouquet, the “attack” is heavy like Grenache leather and Cabernet pepper, but it immediately softens, the finish is velvet, soft, elegant, accomplished.  All you can do is take another sip to make sure you weren’t hallucinating.  Anything to moan about?  It can’t stand up to food.  To gentle cheese or mild meat or even a fish soup.  It was like a Faberge egg; delicate and lovely under the spotlight but not meant to be part of the diorama.  So what?  Open something else at dinner.  Ooh la la.

 

Price: Lost track.  I think low 20s USD.

 

Market Liquidity: A spectacular songbird, a no less spectacular Pinot.

September 27, 2015

Agharta Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009

Sensational. Liquid sild, blackcurrant, licorice, heavy spice, hugely satisfying. An unfortunate but predictable 14.77 per cent alcohol volume. A lingering concord grape sweetness on the finish. The epitome of a superb new world CS.

Agharta Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Price: Bought in the US. No receipt. $40+ USD is my recollection.

 

Market Liquidity: What you want when you want California Cabernet Sauvignon.

September 27, 2015

Grgich Hills Chardonnay, 2010

We went head over heels over the 2008. Read our rave here.

 

We went gaga over the 2009. Read our rave here.

Grgich Hills Chardonnay 2010

Restraint overcame us with the 2010. It was subtle, to the point of simplicity, missed a lot of the exuberant finish the previous vintages displayed, and came up short where Chardonnay half the price is excelling.

 

Price: An astounding $71.

 

Market Liquidity: Clint Eastwood talks to the chair.