Archive for ‘White wine’

May 27, 2022

Edgebaston David Finlayson Camino Africana Chenin Blanc, 2015

Marquis had a spring cleaning sale and we picked up a bottle of this South African Chenin for a song.  Then we went back and bought four more. YOWZA.

It’s only May, but this feels like the white wine of the year.  It’s absolutely, totally, over the top sensational.  Not one bottle we’ve had this year, perpetual favorites, old reliables, new finds, nothing compares.  Of course it’s at its peak, you can’t hold onto it, it’s no Vouvray, it’s ready.  And boy is it ready.

A golden, smoky quartz in the glass, the nose is apple and pear, the palate caramel, quince and sage, it’s rambunctious, monstrously appealing, deeply complex, nuanced crossed with assertive, and 100% Chenin loveliness.

Honestly, we are shy of words to adequately describe the heights this bottle soars to.

Now, caveat emptor: The Chardonnay/Sauv Blanc crowd will not like it.  It is nothing like, zero in common with and no kin to the run-of-the-mill whites on the spigots at chain restaurants nor the bland, thin “house” whites the BC Okanagan churns out.  It’s unique, unusual, mysterious, and drop dead spectacular.  For the adventurous, highly recommended.  But hurry, this vintage will spoil.

Thank you Marquis.

Price: Marked down to $27 from $41. 

Market Liquidity: Come taste the wine, come hear the band, come blow your horn, start celebrating..

May 2, 2022

La Frenz Vivant, 2017

Heavy and veering towards cloying.  Not La Frenz’ finest hour.  It sips a bit closer to Muscat than you expect, and fights with fish at dinner.  Believe it or not, some plain potato chips paired a dream.  We haven’t blogged about a Vivant since the 2013 vintage where we felt, well, pretty much the same: Just shy of intent.  We wrote, back then, “Lewis Hamilton on the label, 12th on the grid.” [Now, with a failing car, I guess it’s not uncommon to see him in the slipstream. Lapped in Italy by his nemesis this year!]

It’s just such an appealing blend (on the label), touch of sweet, touch of class, lovely hue, decent nose.  And yet somehow it’s not on the mark on the palate.  There are heaps of fine vines littering the La Frenz vineyard, it seems to me this blend could use a tweak or two.

A little buoyant on the alcohol content to boot.  Sells out though, so perennial favorite.  Who are we to say?

Price: $30 on Salt Spring Island, sold out at the vineyard

Market Liquidity: Close but no cigar.

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

La Primera Rivancha Chenin Blanc, 2020

We like us our Chenin Blanc.

Like the simple Axle.

Like the not too easy to find old vines Bellingham. Which, you know, we liked before. And before.

And like the Le Parc.

Or just search Huet on the site; it’s awash with short shoves for Vouvray

So we had high hopes for this Argentinian offering that was 91 points over at Vinous.  The review noted “a lovely tension” and I’m never sure exactly what that means, having seen it so many times over the years.  When I’m tense I might bite my lip or tongue.  Or my muscles might ache.  Or I might be sitting on the edge of my seat, on the crack of my ass during the Wimbledon finals, so tense I scab up.  A lovely tension; huh. Reviews baffle me.

Despite the glowing reviews we found this unmemorable.  And not for want of trying; goodness, we have three more bottles to drink.  Very lime-citrus, earthy, and hints of the metallic French Chenin that costs so much more.  Not hugely food friendly. To dumb it down, it lacks some of the anticipated crispness you count on in CB.

Plaudits to Marquis on Davie for continuing to bring in novel wines and expand the limited BC horizons.  Discounts to boot.  But you win some, you lose some.

Price: $31 with a discount so more than reasonable for a Chenin.

Market Liquidity: It ain’t no Vouvray.  Just sayin’.

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May 14, 2021

Hester Creek Trebbiano, 2019

Trebbiano in the Canadian Okanagan.  Who knew? And old vines at that.

To be fair, we knew; during the stay at home C19 days of stir crazy stillness.  And we knew where to score it at the vineyard price, in Vancouver, at $23, rather than, say, Marquis, at $29.  So why bother blogging about that little secret?

During the darkest days of the pandemic winter, a glass of this was transformative; it could truly evoke a stinking hot day on a vine draped pergola over a long Italian lunch.  The 2018 was fruity, rippled with a honey sweetness, and sat on the tongue like Sun-Rype Apple-Cot nectar from back in the day.  A gem.  A real surprising I can’t believe this came from BC gem.  The 2019? Well, err, you know, good I guess.

The 2019 and 2020, both available from private stores in YVR, are just as a bottle to bottle comparison, a tad less thrilling than 2018.  Either the wine is the same but the world is different or the vintages just don’t have the same pop as 2018.  Gismondi called this a highly affordable treasure; that it is, and at the vineyard price it’s a summer slam dunk.  And to think no one else is growing this ebullient treasure.

Price:  $23 at a store that got the price wrong.

Market Liquidity: Travelogue in a bottle.

May 13, 2021

Envinate Palo Blanco, 2018

Woodsy, walk in the dewy woods, if you will, dampness and pungent, sour, acidic, and heavy, like an earthen pot; and look at the glass, that mellow amber hue.  This is the Yin to, say, an ethereal Alsace white Yang.  And it is novel; pretty much unlike any white you’ll have in the cellar.  I will admit it’s the first Listan Blanco that I’ve searched out.

Over at the Wine Advocate they raved, gave it 97 points, and perhaps in its class (a unique and individual class, like a wire haired Ibizan Hound), it soars.  We couldn’t get past the novelty of it all.  I write that both positive and negative, yin and yang.  The WA used the term “rock juice” which is both accurate and the first time I’ve ever seen a pointster use the phrase in print.

Just as a relevant sidebar: Up at Okanagan Crush Pad they are (in our view) extremely hit and miss, but never do they rest on their laurels.  There is no repetitive “Wolf Blass minimize the vintage variation” at OCP.  And right now they have a Vin Gris which, rather than Pinot Gris, is a Pinot Noir treated as if a white wine.  And it’s novel.  Also earthy, funky, unusual, appealing, and complex.  And half the price of the Blanco.  So if novelty is your thing, you don’t need to travel halfway round the globe to sample the Canarias.

As you reach for the stars with wine, if you are willing to shell out the big bucks, novelty is of course a thing.  Gary Shteyngart can’t stop buying watches, not that he needs another watch.  And we can’t stop buying wine, not that we need another bottle, the cellars (yes, plural), are brimming.  To say nothing of the “everyday” drinkers under the sofa in the coldest room of the house.  And then that box that got delivered to the office.  Or two…

But despite the WA raves, the way this wine opened with air, and the unusual mouth texture, it still left us feeling a bit unsure, deer in the headlights stunned, and over it before it all began. And, yes, the wax on the neck is bar none a gargantuan pet peeve.

Price: $60.

Market Liquidity: Lovely, in passing, but the memory will fade too soon.

April 12, 2021

Domaine FL Le Parc, Savennieres, 2015

Pure and unadulterated.

Decanter got it right, “best in show” like the title pooch at Westminster.  It drinks so precious you might feel a Faberge egg is being scrambled.  Striking on first taste, a short tropical note of coconut, some serious acidity, grapefruit pith, and a finish, extremely restrained, of melon.  Jackie O in a sweater set and pearls.

Chenin Blanc, in our view, is to die for.  My desert island white.  And no doubt this is a pinnacle of the Loire.  But it does drink just a tad, how can I put it? Elegant.  Sort of like arriving at a restaurant that requires a jacket and having to wear a club loaner; think Michael Bluth double dating at the country club in the size 44 large suit jacket.

Price: The best part of $50 at BC Liquor

Market Liquidity: Art house treasure (but, still, it’s art house).

December 25, 2020

2020 Wine of the Year: Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu Sec Vouvray, 2015

From the cellar: Hands down the best wine we drank in 2020.  Wow.  Words simply aren’t necessary.

As a tradition, we open a bottle of Vouvray sometime in December, celebratory style.  Usually it’s a demi-sec, and more often than not it’s Huet.  The Wine Advocate gave this 2015 a comfortable 93 points, and in some semi-effectual way tried to describe its fruit aromas and subtle herbal aromas.  Unfortunately, their prose couldn’t match the majesty.  This was eloquence, diplomacy, mysterious, a John Le Carre, may he rest in peace.  The WA did write “”a very long and grippy, tension-filled finish” to which I would echo and say it’s Escher-esque.

Chenin Blanc is perhaps the most mysterious (or unpredictable?) of white grapes; it can be coarse and edgy, it can be cloyingly sweet, but it can also age into a deliriously good state.  Witness this spectacular vintage.  I wish we had more.  I wish we had more laying down. But be grateful for small mercies I suppose.

Price: In October 2017, $48 from Marquis, and so less than a bottle of Culmina’s Hypothesis.  Cin cin.

Market Liquidity: The weft and warp of the finest silk in a bottled beverage.

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.

October 20, 2020

Sea Star Ortega, 2019

A whack of stone fruit, notably apple and pear, with an apple cider acidity that rounds out the syrupy weight.  Delightfully light and weighty all at once; heaps more likable than the Salish Sea, which we dissed a few weeks back…

Sea Star generally grows the right grapes in the right region and makes wines that are complementary to so much west coast cuisine, most commonly low in alcohol, and inherently social.  But they can miss, as well.  For a light lunch, an afternoon aperitif, or just to pair with a nibble of cheese, the Ortega fits the bill.

Price: $24.27 at the Saturna General Store.

Market Liquidity: Easy on the palate and the pocketbook.