August 15, 2017

Sea Star Ortega, 2016

Yesterday we blogged about an overpriced red.  Today we’re posting about a reasonably priced white.  Ah Sea Star.  Ooh la la.  We have blogged pretty much the entire vineyard and gone ga ga over most of the bottles but now it’s time to part: Sea Star has become too popular.  You simply can’t get a hold of it.  Unless you’re in a restaurant.

 

Luckily, at one of the lesser known cafes in the province, on Saturna Island, chef Hubertus Surm serves a beautiful dinner Saturday nights where he stocks a La Frenz red and a Sea Star white; it’s one or the other or go dry.  That pretty much sums up, in a vinous sense, the southern Gulf Islands in a sentence, LF and SS.

 

A Siegerrebe Muller-Thurgau blend, the Ortega is definitely the most perfumed and aromatic of Sea Star’s table whites.  There are potent honeyed notes with distinct herbal tangents, like oregano in bloom and a whiff of lavender.  The mouth is gorgeously full and overall the wine is superbly food friendly.  Schreiner (and a few others online) write of the grapefruit, but I found the acidity smooth and the citrus gentler, like ugli fruit or tangelo.  There is a linear infusion of tropical flavours, pineapple guava punch, and a long finish.  As we say over and over again about Sea Star, they are producing the right white wines for the climate and soil and they are doing a helluva job.

 

Price: $20 at the vineyard, $30 at the Saturna café (kudos to the SC for a less than 100% markup).

 

Market Liquidity: What joy to drink a drinkable local wine at a decent price.  Hallelujah.

Chef Hubertus Surm turns out a beautiful summer salad at the Saturna Cafe

August 10, 2017

Haywire Canyonview Pinot Noir, 2013

We started off the mid-summer August long weekend with our last bottle of this spectacular Pouilly-Fuisse.  Then we turned to a local red, which I initially found egotistical and with an inflated sense of self (i.e., too much praise in the wine press) but have developed a particular fondness for.  Still, it hit the local shops three years ago at $35 and each vintage it creeps up in price yet more; I wholeheartedly feel it’s too expensive for what it is.  So I’ve made it a “gift list” wine.

 

Not to be confused with the white label (bleachh) or the Waters & Banks, the Canyonview is (in my opinion) the benchmark for Haywire, and their PN this time round is a particular gem: Light, paper thin, ethereal, juicy, slight but not innocuous, it isn’t especially food useful let alone food friendly, but a perfect sipper and easily addictive (one of those the more you drink the better it gets reds).  If the American wine companies win their NAFTA suit to shut down the “BC only” wine market, this is the sort of boutique bottle that will bite the dust.

 

The third vintage for Canyonview; not their finest moment but certainly not the worst.

 

Price: Gifted, but it’s a $40 bottle minimum.

 

Market Liquidity: Add it to your Christmas list.

Summer heaven: Salade Nicoise

August 10, 2017

NV Poema Cava Brut

So this is the sort of wine we don’t bother blogging about, which is why the blog goes dead a lot of the time; we’re non-plussed or looting the cellar for gems already posted.  The Poema is in fact the proverbial 86 pointer for the pointsters.  The fizz is moderate, the dry is sere, the depth pretty much nonexistent.  But here’s something the 86 point reviews don’t mention: It’s a perfect backdrop for something else.

 

We are always looking for a neutral fizz to fix champagne cocktails with; nothing too sweet or yeasty.  This fits the bill to a tee; add cassis, Campari, OJ, do something fancier.  I mean it’s criminal to doctor Champagne.  Cava though?  Bring it on.  The Poema, solitary, neat if you will, it’s sort of a letdown.  But for a social occasion as a fancy aperitif, it works a charm.

 

Price: Less than $20 at private wine stores.  Yes, that’s correct, less than $20.

 

Market Liquidity: Sometimes you need the function, not the form.

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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.

July 21, 2017

Domaine de la Mordorée Lirac, Cuvee La Reine des Bois, 2015

We were looking for a celebratory bottle of white, something that said “just bought a car” as well as “probably the last new car I’ll ever buy” as well as “debt, here I come.”  But it’s summer and we were having sockeye to mark the occasion, which has just arrived fresh in the shops; red was wrong and bubbly seemed misguided.  A few weeks back we sampled a glass of this Lirac ($21 per!) at Botanist; so, with effort, we sourced a private shop.  But I should add this: Kudos to Botanist for having such interesting wines by the glass.

 

You will not get change for a 50 after tax.  Less than Champagne, and while we’re at it, actually less than Invictus or Icon or Quintessential or any number of top tier BC wines, this was still pricey, yet worth every penny to the last drop.  The sense of terroir, a term we are loathe to use, is omnipresent and omniscient.  It has layers of deep flavour, scents and sensation.  The clover meets hay meets wildflowers meets honey meets dewy grass and moist soil with a lush mead-y finish.  A blend, but mostly white Grenache, this wine is nothing if not spectacular.

 

Price: You can source it for under $50 before extras, and hopefully add it to a case for a discount, at local private shop.  But it’s certainly not common in BC.

 

Market Liquidity: Better than two bottles of that insipid Mirabeau.

If it was legal in BC, we’d take this on a picnic, as if in an Eric Rohmer movie amongst the Monarch butterflies…

July 19, 2017

ColleStefano Verdicchio de Matelica, 2015

Colossally satisfying.  This isn’t your classic verdhicchio in a fish shaped bottle.  It’s hard to find (in Vancouver), reasonably priced (all things considered BC-wise), ridiculously food friendly, and just good drinking.  Organic to boot.

 

There is something Orange Julius peach fuzz Creamsicle about it, with an oily nuttiness underlying the stone fruit.  It has gobs of flavour without being cloying.  Decanter listed it as one of their top verdicchios; we couldn’t agree more.

 

Price: Around $30 in private wine shops, give or take; if you’re smart, you’ll shop where they discount on bottles of six, and you’ll get six.  You won’t be sorry.

 

Market Liquidity: Just make the effort to find it.  It’s all reward.

July 17, 2017

Castel Del Monte Tormaresca Trentangeli, 2014

Puglia, down in the boot, produces some lively wine, without the heft of Tuscany (meaning price tag).  We are very fortunate that here in BC the Liquor Board stocks an enormously appealing and not too expensive red which is not only delectable but organic and can be sourced across the province.

 

This is an ideal red for the patio, for the BBQ, for sipping and eating and socializing.  It’s not top of the game, it’s no Brunello, on the palate it lacks, but the finish is all love, joyously generous, and in a group you can drink three bottles for under $75.  That is, unless you order it in a restaurant, where it will run you an exorbitant $55 or more.

 

It’s in Smithers, it’s in Stewart; it’s in Kaslo it’s in Fruitvale.  I think the Italians would approve.  And I believe it’s worth more, all things considered, than the 89 points Gismondi gave it.

 

Price: $19.50 at BC Liquor before taxes.

 

Market Liquidity: I think if socialist filmmaker Ken Loach gave his seal of approval to wine he’d give this a gold star.

July 15, 2017

Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvee Violette, 2015

Superb.  Despite the expense.  Dreamy in its silkiness and so refined against the many Oz Shiraz-zzz on the BC Liquor shelves.  Berry beautiful.  A sweet raspberry toppled by a more acidic black currant and a hint of maraschino.  Great as a sipper, not too bad with food, generous on the finish like a much more refined red blend from, yes, France.  Too bad about the price tag.

 

Gismondi loved it, Lawrason loved it, they all loved it and so will you if you can get your hands on some and if your pocketbook affords.  Reviewers bent towards the floral perfume of it, but we found on the palate that it definitely went deeper into an earthier realm.

 

Price: A little on the rare side in YVR.  Varies at the private wine stores but after tax you will not get much back from $40.

 

Market Liquidity: Think of the petite exquisite beauty of wild flowers on a wet alpine meadow.

July 12, 2017

Pure Mirabeau en Provence Rosé, 2015

Boring and banal.  But Anthony Gismondi gave it 90 points so, yes, I sourced it (at $30 before taxes!) and gave it a go.  And I guess Gismondi was obligated because Robert Parker also found it “excessively” drinkable.  I feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy sets up the football: Each summer Gismondi gives a rosé a high point score and each summer I source it and each summer I’m suckered.  Look at the pic: I bought not one but two!  Who knows how rich I might be if I’d invested in lottery tickets instead?  At least there is the “hope” that comes with a lottery ticket.

 

This wine, in our opinion, is a veritable disaster.  Any thinner and it would be admitted to a medical clinic  for anorexia.  It’s pale to look at, plain on the palate, innocuous on the finish.  And here’s the extra special rub: BC has some of the finest pinot gris (or pinot grigio, our vintners can’t make up their minds) on the planet.  From A to Z.  We’ve reviewed a bunch.  The Sea Star is sensationally interesting, layers of depth.  The La Stella is a crowd favorite, what a mouthful of delight.  The Blue Mountain is ridiculously inexpensive and of especial value.  The Nichol we blow hot and cold on, but this year we really took to it, and even when we don’t it towers over the Mirabeau.  Even the Tinhorn Creek has won us over.  Why with this abundance of patio friendly, light and lovely and diverse PGs should we even bother with rosé?  Beats me.

 

Next.

 

Price: $29.99 before tax at BC Liquor (and hard to source at that).

 

Market Liquidity: This is to a decent bottle of wine what a Christmas panto is to Shakespeare.

July 10, 2017

Seven Stones Speaking Rock Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012

A big and brash if not charming red with the heft for something substantial, say a bloody T-bone or a medium rare rack of lamb.

 

Cocoa nibs, licorice, Ribena, assertive tannins and a bracing coconut-tanning lotion finish. This is a wine with some serious legs (Ginger Rogers meets Cyd Charisse for a threesome with Fred Astaire) and, for those who don’t like the ethereal nimbleness of a fine Pinot, a wonderful counterpoint.  As much as we liked it, there were times we pictured a mallet falling on Wile E Coyote’s head.

 

Price: $35 at the vineyard in 2016.

 

Market Liquidity: If you dug it out of a peat bog in 2030 it would probably still charm.