January 18, 2019

Mission Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, 2017 & La Frenz Sauvignon Blanc, 2017

Anthony Gismondi loved the Mission Hill.  But then, he tends to give a hall pass to Mission Hill and Robert Mondavi.  How he found this pale, plain and rather banal white a 90 pointer is anyone’s guess.  If you really like the grassy, gooseberry, aggressive SB of New Zealand, you will be disappointed and have spent $10 more than a straightforward Brancott.  If you like the tight restraint of a refined Sancerre, you will be baffled by the simplicity.  If you are interested in what’s interesting in the Okanagan, what sort of incredible Sauv Blanc is coming off the vines, you are drinking what is invariably our Tuesday night white: The Haywire Waters & Banks Sauvignon Blanc (and if you buy it at Save On, you can save yourself $10 all in).

 

But if you like SB just in general, and if you want hints of New Zealand with a slightly more fruit forward and tropical fruit flair, you are far and away much better off down at La Frenz, where they bottle something clean, juicy, crisp and gorgeously palatable, which, unfortunately, sells out in a heartbeat.  Only one of these wines is memorable.

 

Price: Mission Hill and La Frenz both sell in Vancouver in the mid-20s at private wine shops.

 

Market Liquidity: The arch mediocrity of Mission Hill and the consistent virtue of La Frenz never ceases to surprise.

 

 

 

January 17, 2019

La Frenz Reserve Pinot Noir, 2016

From our (very) mixed case of La Frenz in 2018 I would say the reserve Pinot not as appealing or satisfying as the less expensive Blue Mountain run of the mill (and we are halfway through our BM Pinot, loving every bottle).  We opened the La Frenz up as a sipper for the Globes and I don’t know, we had it lying down for several months and just expected more I guess.  While it doesn’t disappoint there is simply no wow.  The layers of flavour and degrees of nuance we anticipated were all there, but not strikingly so, and while it is jammy there is no mushroom or black olives as LF bills it.  The finish seemed alarmingly terse.

 

Price: You can fine it in private wine stores for around $40, or in the low 30s on release from the vineyard.

 

Market Liquidity: Bronze.  At best.

January 16, 2019

Glen Carlou Quartz Stone Chardonnay, 2016

What a wonderful, optimistic and uplifting start to 2019.  A beautiful white; crisp, clean, minerally, the proverbial oyster shells, with hints of honeydew melon and a whisper of jasmine.  A long buttery finish.  When Hugh Johnson writes about his love of acidity, I think this wine epitomizes that sentiment, with a tart acidity extremely well balanced on the palate.  Not knock your socks of Burgundy, but restrained and evocative of terroir.  Zero complaints.

 

Price: Gifted but I’ve seen it at the Kitsilano Wine Cellar in the mid 30s.

 

Market Liquidity: The yin and yang of new and old world Chardonnay.

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December 31, 2018

Domaine Huet Vouvray, Clos du Bourg, 2015

Where to start?  How about magnificent?  How about exceptional?  How about demonstrably brilliant?

 

Huet is expensive, it’s a splurge for us, but every year Marquis on Davie gets a truckload and we pick up a few for the cellar.  We drank this too soon.  We couldn’t resist.  Yet it didn’t disappoint, not one iota.

 

The balanced fruit, a luscious caramel, sweetish without cloying, delicate but not lightweight, it defies description.  Three times as much as we like to pay for wine but worth every cent.

 

Price: Around $60 at Marquis.

 

Market Liquidity: A Christmas miracle.

December 30, 2018

Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014

If this turns out to be the last post of 2018 all I can say is we went out with a bomb.  Wowza.  This is some hugely satisfying red.  Powerhouse yes but no one two punch.  It’s all containment, structure, refinement, like a Mies van der Rohe modernist tower.  We were hard pressed to find any fault with its command, how it encompasses Cab Sauv without trying to impress.  Plain and simple awesome.

 

There are powerhouse BC reds in this price range, such as the Hypothesis (which we love) and stellar kin over at Mission Hill, Seven Stones, Vieux Pin and many others.  However, for the coin, nothing holds a candle.

 

Price: High 50s but with a case discount $50.  So, you know, not your Tuesday night red.

 

Market Liquidity: Restores your faith in Napa.

December 29, 2018

Nichol Pinot Noir, 2016

Too bright and cheery for this holiday season.  Like an inflatable Santa, it’s just not up to snuff.  Cross check it with some half decent Burgundy and this would be an embarrassment.

 

Too cherry to boot.  Acidic.  Tart.  A bit thin on top of all that.

 

Although we have a general fondness for Nichol (we return on a regular basis to the Cab Franc and Syrah and Pinot Gris), I would call this a failure on all fronts.  Not so Gismondi who said something like earthy, dusky, finessed and slapped it with 90 points.  Shurely shome mishtake?  Let’s support the home market by all means but when they bottle an 87 pointer, tops, let’s not give them a pass.

 

Price: Around $30 give or take depending on where you buy it and in what volume.

 

Market Liquidity: An imposter.

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.

December 23, 2018

Chateau Les Croiseille Calcaire, 2014

We had a selection of Gismondi picks for a week away, most of which one way or another proved disappointing, but this was definitely the highlight of the lot.  It’s not a grabber, I probably wouldn’t even offer it to guests, despite how wonderfully it opens up and the aromatic eucalyptus slash pepper awash in luscious fruit; no, this is more of a quiet night in wine, some leftover prime rib with vegetables, a glass to finish off, heck let’s skip dessert and just drink the whole bottle.

 

There is something very old school about it, I didn’t bother to search out the pointster reviews, but my hunch is that it’s a little pedestrian and not quite oak and maraschino forward-enough for the Robert Parker crowd.  A delectable 13% alcohol.

 

Price: $33 at BC Liquor, if you can find it.

 

Market Liquidity: When’s the last time you heard someone in BC order a glass of Cahors?  Nice change from New World.

December 22, 2018

Savennieres Chateau de Varenees, 2016

What an exceptional varietal.  You never know with Chenin.  Witness Vouvray.  The Huet socked away in the cellar.  And South Africa, so much to revel in.  But, alas, not so much this sere and abrasive assertive white.

 

Austere.  Could have been crafted by the Amish.  Simply too dry for our taste.  Really not that food friendly unless you’re eating rich, French rich, fish in butter rich, but if all you’re doing is drinking to cut the richness, a Coke will do.

 

Gismondi loved it.  It is of its ilk and like many whites you will come across in France but it was a non-starter for us, from sipping to accompanying food.

 

Price: No record, which leads me to believe it might have been gifted, as I’m rather fastidious about this sort of thing, although online $30 at BC Liquor.

 

Market Liquidity: BC Liquor describes it as having “aromatic persistence.”  Hmm.  Could be a description of Febreeze.

December 21, 2018

La Stella Fortissimo, 2016

We really liked the 2015 but we didn’t love the 2015, and earlier vintages get plus plus plus on this blog.  I don’t think in fact, we have never warmed to the La Stella Fortissimo “full on” the way BC reviewers do, a blend which on paper looks exciting if not brilliant, the way we have warmed to similar blends across the Okanagan.  Critics laud it, particularly Gismondi.  I can sense its “wonderfulness” and the craft behind it and like rooting for the underdog want it to succeed.  And you can pick it up at Save On for just over $30.  So what’s the rub?

 

The 2016 seems to have everything but not enough of anything, a sort of over-thought blend which is more intellect than expertise.

 

Price: Around $30 at Save On depending if you volume buy.

 

Market Liquidity: Pleasant, not surprising.