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).

March 26, 2021

Artuke Pies Negro, 2018 & Artuke Tinto, 2019

This is a case where the “better” wine was not as good as the “value” wine. (At least according to the Wine Spectator, which gave the PN 93 points and the Tinto 90.)

Let me explain: The Pies Negro is a curious bottle.  It evolved with air, it shifted from an aggressive, acid heavy fruitiness, then chilled out to a very balanced and curious red.  Start to finish it seemed a little tight, but both food friendly and a superb sipper. As Rioja goes it was less plush than some but beautifully rich.

The Tinto, on the other hand, was a fruit bomb.  Lighter on the palate by a mile, there was no mistaking this for vintage Rioja.  It was fun, lively, appealing, on the nose, on the palate.  Astonishingly good value; it shames most of the BC Okanagan. 

The Pies Negro might impress people more, and don’t get us wrong it’s a terrific red, but the Tinto would just please more people.  And that, I think, is what makes us think the value wine wins out.

The PN is a typical Rioja, Tempranillo and Grenache, the Tinto Tempranillo and Viura.

Price: Marquis offered the Pies Negro at $34.69 before tax and the Tinto at $21.65 before tax, but with a mixed half case reduced the price by 10%. So value and valuable.

Market Liquidity: Done and done between two gentlemen.

March 25, 2021

Halos de Jupiter Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2014

We posted last year on the “mid-range” Jupiter and how much we loved it.  Although harder and harder to find.

BC Liquor recently took $12 off the Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2016.  Of course it was virtually impossible to find and if you found it guess what? It was the 2014.  We’ve posted on this before (the dates on their product catalogue being wrong, the sale items that are for all intents and purposes non-existent, and other vintage chaos).

So of course with a gift certificate in hand we sourced a bottle.  That was a lot of work (signing on to find the sale items on the right date because BCL doesn’t list them on the first of the month, that would make sense, that would be customer friendly), sorting wine out from the beer and spirits, notations on what to buy, finding locations for what you want to buy, etc.)  But it was worth it.  Boy was it worth it.

A sharp clap of thunder on the nose, like cedar shavings, nuanced cherry on the palate crossed with black licorice, gorgeously warm on the finish: woodsy, spicy, notes of dark chocolate.  Any smoother and it would be glib.

Price: $60, reduced from $72, but paid with a gift certificate.

Market Liquidity: Like an investiture coronet.

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.

February 11, 2021

Alain Jaume Clos de Sixte Lirac Rouge, 2016 (& Alain Jaume Vacqueyras “Grand Garrigue” 2018)

Good golly is the Lirac a wow.  A big fat bottle of satisfaction.

Before we get into it, oh why not get into it: the Lambert cherry that reminds me of the canned cherries from our yard my mum served on ice cream in the 1970s, gobs of juice and melt in the mouth, the oozing fruitcake, the smooth, luscious, extremely defined rush on the tongue, the floral hints that mesh with wood.  Now, after all that, just take a deep breath and ask yourself: Palatable BC red or brilliant old growth Rhone majesty?  Which will you choose for the dollar figure?

We try and Rah Rah Rah for the Okanagan.  We try and go all in on local support and muster round the setting sun of our provincial flag.  But France like this, this is steep competition.  This is better than anything at Black Hills where you will pay between $42 (basic Syrah) and $65 (the lovely Nota Bene) for a bottle, much better than the really appealing Culmina Cab Franc ($40, which we love to drink, just not to pay for) or their flagship Hypothesis ($47 and up, yikes), almost half the price of the enviable Laughing Stock Portfolio (mid $50s), less than the Sandhill Small Lots One ($40 thereabouts, and good luck in sourcing anyway), less than most any Reserve Pinot Noir BC produces, but e.g., the La Frenz ($40, usually sold out), and of course don’t get me started on grey label Haywire or Le Vieux Pin…

This is not to say BC doesn’t produce great reds.  This is to say you pay the price for great reds made in BC.

Rhone red: Hard to find (BC Liquor stocks a mere six Cotes-du-Rhone Villages a go to in restaurants across France).  Must be on an email list with the wine store to know about arriving allotments.  Must pre-order (ideally the day you get the email) or wait a year and, hopefully, there will be more; half case, or mixed half, gets a 10% discount.  If you bother to make the effort there is reward.  The Jaume ticks a lot of reward boxes.

Price: $33.50 with a discount.  Exceptional value.

Market Liquidity: Perseverance Furthers.

And of course we also picked up the 2018 Vacqueyras “Grand Garrigue” at $35, and while we sipped with abundant pleasure, it wasn’t quite as bowl you over as the less expensive Lirac but, check out the BC wine cost references above, the GG was a score, a slice of wine heaven, and a little bit like living in the UK where the choice and options for Rhone reds ooze like failed rough puff on a Comic Relief Bake Off.

February 3, 2021

Kleinood Tamboerskloof Syrah, 2016

So, you know, we are still drinking off of Christmas gift certificates, and we decided to ante up for a South African Syrah of some note.

The best South African wines seem antique, rooted in a tradition long gone in North America, Australia, South America.  This is strikingly Syrah, brazen, while at the same time unlike most of the Aussie bottles that litter the liquor stores here.  Heartily floral, the perfume pronounced and delicate, velvet tannins, just a soupcon of licorice.  I write licorice but of course one review had “tree bark” and, well, that seems a tad much.  Just a soupcon of tree bark (there, I sound more legit).

Still, despite being something of a stunner, there also seemed to be something a little bit sharp on the spice notes; think of the time you over salted meat or threw in too much nutmeg on winter vegetables and it otherwise ruined a celebratory meal.  Maybe it was the tree bark.

Staff advised us it has long cellaring potential but we wondered what direction it would go.

Price: A steep but probably, for the cellar collector worth it, $47 at Everything Wine.

Market Liquidity: At five years out we’re undecided.

Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible…
February 3, 2021

Carm Reserva Douro (Red Blend), 2016

Intriguing, unusual blends make us wonder how the experts deduce quality.  This offbeat red (a mix of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Rorix and, wait for it, 5% Tinta Francisca.  Say what?) has the mellow, floral aromas of a Merlot crossed with some chewy, Nebbiolo-ish edges, woodsy, earthy.  Not a chance in heaven, on a blind taste, we would have had a clue what the grapes were.

It drank easy, again like Merlot, but had a rough-hewn finish with a bit of punch.  A little research turned up the note it rated in Wine Spectator’s Top 100, 2016, although we had no idea on purchase.  Was it rated based on comparables or novelty?  That’s key, don’t you think?  Was there six Touriga/Tinta blends, back to back, and this was best?  Or did someone just say “hey, this is a tasty bottle”? We don’t understand wine: That’s why we blog about it.

As for a buy, again, I’m going to say no.  The price point was too dear.  But the bottle went down easy, very easy.

Price: $42, if you must, at Everything Wine; a few bucks less at BC Liquor, and recently on sale for an extremely reasonable “just over $30” but good luck in finding any: Thank you BC Liquor.

Market Liquidity: Novel but not momentous.

February 3, 2021

Champagne Tribaut Brut

We never got to a celebratory bottle of champers at New Year’s.  My recollection is I was asleep before midnight!  The joys of being old.

On the flip side we had champagne in January.  What did Ricky Gervais say in 2012 to the NYT journalist who contacted him at home on a weekday and saw him sipping champagne?  “Happy 6 o’clock-mas.”  (He’s since repeated that a few times, including Twitter, and sometimes modified with the f-bomb…)

Well.  93 points.  Gosh, Wine Spectator.  There was nothing much 90 points in this let alone 93.

The fizz faded; it was flaccid and unexciting on the pour and went downhill from there.  The toastiness and texture of the wine was uninspired.  Sure, on the one hand it was spectacular sparkling wine, and on the other it was forgettable champers.  I know it’s a dedicated family run operation, and I want to jump up and down for their sincerity and dedication, but this bottle lacked the liveliness and pep of its competitors.

Meanwhile, in January, BC Liquor put half bottles of Piper-Heidsieck on sale for $7 off.  That made two half bottles cheaper than a full bottle.  Of course it was virtually out of stock from the get go, I found a few in West Van, bin ends, but basically the Lower Mainland was out of luck.  How very BC Liquor.  As if none of the nearly three million people in and around Vancouver matter, market wise.  Anyway, long way to say how satisfying the PH is, nutty, toasty, an invigorating acidity.  From the spritz in a flute to the splash on your palate, Piper has an undeniable liveliness.  It’s not the best you can by, not by a long shot, but it oozes “Champagne!” if you know what I mean.  I wish we could have said the same of the Tribaut.

Price: The label said $50 all in but Champagne in BC is never $50 all in, even at $14 off for two splits.

Market Liquidity: Fleeting, like a winter sunset.

January 15, 2021

Le Vieux Donjon, 2017, Painted Rock Red Icon, 2017

With Christmas gift certificates in hand we decided to drink like the other half (or at least the one-percenters) for, you know, as long as the gift certificates held out.

They held out for two bottles. 

Thank you Government of BC.

For starters we drank what Decanter called the Canadian red wine of the year and adorned it 95 points; Gismondi, 93, similarly lauded it, among the other usual suspects.  If you want to read about the hoopla surf over to the PR site here.

Here’s our review (or lack thereof): Is spending double on a bottle of wine a better experience, by half, than drinking two (decent) bottles at half the price?  If you are one of the seven people who regularly surf to this site (our stats show us firmly in the single digits, but loyally so, and I would like to thank the steady seven), then you know what I’m going to say next: No.  Wine reviewing is something of a racket.  To borrow from Fran Lebowitz, they show a Picasso in an auction house to silence, sell it for 160 million, the gavel comes down and they applaud, they applaud the price.  Does anyone care about the art?

For the unaware, it’s episode two of the Netflix series Pretend it’s a City.

The Painted Rock is widely available, in BC Liquor, private stores, the vineyard.  At the price point in the middle of a global pandemic what can you expect?

For even more coin you can choose from the organically farmed and never disappointing Rhone.  Here’s the funny thing about the Donjon: It’s the right year.  Gismondi wrote recently about his quirk towards the vintage, not just the wine.  This might be the most engaging aspect of drinking wine, long term, how much a single vineyard can vary year to year and the nuance and delectability of monitoring the change.  So I would say we are more or less on the same page as AG.  Here’s the catch, and I wonder how frustrating it is for AG: In BC, the government liquor stores are usually a year behind.  A top review comes out at the Advocate or Spectator and next you know that vintage sells out.  BC Liquor skips a year.  It may be the single most frustrating aspect of buying wine in BC.  Let’s say the 2017 gets a top review, 2016 can be found in stores, we don’t get 2017 and go straight to 2018.  But, as I say, the Donjon is the right year—or, to put it more simply, the 2017 is the bottle Jeb Dunnick gave 95 points to.

Both wines are good to glorious.  Both wines are hugely satisfying (in our minds, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape slightly ahead).  Both wines are outside our budget.

Price: The Painted Rock with tax comes in around $60 while the Donjon with tax just under $70 but since both were covered (mostly) as a gift, so it’s mostly a gratis posh nosh.

Market Liquidity: Silver Charm over Captain Bodgit, by a head. (Translation: Two thoroughbreds.)

December 30, 2020

Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, 2015

From the cellar: You can’t easily find Au Bon Climat in Vancouver anymore. There is an occasional bottle down at Marquis (they have an alternative Pinot in stock right now retailing for nearly $80). We scored this duty free Pinot Noir in Hong Kong a few years back, before Covid-19, before the democracy protests. And then I guess we forgot about it. Did someone say Pinot WOW? Seventh heaven: I felt like those swimming, floating, bobbing Bond dancers in the title sequence of Thunderball: This wine defies gravity.

Just goddamn deliciousness in a bottle. The gobs of fruit, some pungent woodsy spice, and balanced to within a tenth of a mm. We had nothing but Jack Handy Deep Thoughts; sipped like satin, paired with food like Astaire and Rogers, disappeared in a flash.

Price: $25 USD three years ago.

Market Liquidity: Is it sacrilegious to call it sacramental?