October 20, 2020

Majella Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015

So here’s an upbeat Coonawarra Cab Sauv. All that slang for stimulants — black mollies, black beauty, bling bling, blue devil — that’s going to hit you first.

And, first sip this is a wow, wow, wow.  A high point pointster wowza.  But you know what?  On the last sip, it’s good, not wow, just good.  And I wonder if the pointsters drank a comparative sip or nursed a bottle over the course of an evening?  Because here’s a significant different between professional tasters and people who drink wine: People who drink wine don’t buy wine to have a taste.  They buy wine to drink it.

All right, so there you go, this is a huge points winner, many plaudits, it’s got balance and then some, it could be Simone Bile’s Olympic Beam master class.  And it oozes plum, red, juicy, sloppy, overripe plum.  It’s a delicacy on the approach but something about it ends up too much, too rich, and like a slice of layer cake that’s got the proportion of icing to cake in excess, this wine ultimately satisfies but misses; it’s a bronze, not a gold.

Price: $40 something, but rare in Vancouver; the base model “Musician” however, a much less interesting red, is on the corner at every liquor outlet.

Market Liquidity: It will impress, but even Pacino in Scarface was, you know, over the top.

October 20, 2020

Culmina Hypothesis, 2012

From the cellar: A perpetual critic’s pick, Gismondi basically gives it a pass, year after year.  It is a typical Okanagan potent potable, with heft and then some.  And although I’ve only drunk less than five bottles, since discovering Culmina, it’s never left a huge impression.

It certainly lacks the wow factor of, say, Ridge or Caymus.  It doesn’t have the huge appeal you’d expect at the price point and being a BC flagship red blend, being the Culmina flagship red blend.  But it’s good.  $50 good?  You tell me.

How we came across this 2012 I don’t know; perhaps a gift, maybe a purchase at the vineyard.  We do have another lying down, part of their mixed six pack reds they offered this summer.  But the 2012, at eight years, did not leave anyone at table champing at the bit for more.  Which is a shame, this should be a celebratory bottle.

Price: Lost our record, but close to $50 I would imagine.

Market Liquidity: Not every Mercedes is a gullwing 300 SL; in other words, buyer beware the lure of luxury.

October 20, 2020

Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir, 2018

From our most recent mixed case, we busted out a bottle of the PN as a tester.  OOF, what a punchy pop; no pointster is going to review this as “tight”.  Super pronounced, sharp and peppery on the first sip, gobs of nuanced berry, cedar shavings and a soft, long, long finish.  It was satisfaction at first sip.

Of note, though, is we decanted, and with air some of that punch was diminished, not in a good way.  Which, I should point out, did not take away from our overall enjoyment, it was just surprising how some of the bulk and body of the bottle seemed to evaporate in pretty quick order.

Price: $35 direct from the vineyard.

Market Liquidity: Charm offensive.

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.

September 24, 2020

Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-à-Vent, 2014

There is something breezy and uplifting about cru Beaujolais; it’s like a day drinking red with heaps more character than a stale rosé.  It can be romantic, perky, festive and just plain appealing.  But as much as that fresh and forward fruit shines in most CB, the Moulin-à-Vent has a leg up.  Perched in the north, its bottlings often fit for the cellar, you almost always pay more.  But, what really makes MàV special is that it does age.  Sometimes magnificently.

I’m not adept enough to discern the pronounced differences in the 12 cru, but even a novice can intuit the subtle variations due to geography and the reactions they elicit.  If, say, Morgon is Beethoven and, I don’t know, Fleurie is Mozart, then MàV is Bach.

The nose on this is electric, holy even, like when on a hot summer day in Florence you wander into the cool of a cathedral, the frankincense, the wooden pews, the cool stone.  And yes, the organ plays a structured fugue.  The actual wine is more reserved than fragrant; gobs of raspberry, refined and structured, but weirdly not joyful, like what cru B should be, what you expect.  Dirge-y in fact. And with a long, flat finish on the palate as if the organ pedal led to a long low pitch, unappealing to the ear.  Still, we finished off the bottle in no time.

Price: Well it’s too dear for our pockets, but it was reduced from $57 to $50 at BC Liquor and we ended up with a bottle fortuitously.

Market Liquidity: Glenn Gould called Bach’s Italian Concerto “Bach for people who don’t like Bach.”  That was sort of our reaction here; cru Beaujolais for those who don’t like CB.

September 24, 2020

Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay, 2013

From the cellar: Stellar.  No other words.

In 2017 we pulled out the last bottle from a half case we’d scored in the US (back in the day when the CDN had some reasonable busying power) and wrote an over the top post.  Link here.  Then, on the weekend, I found another bottle.  A final final bottle.  Lottery win!  It’s just that gushing 2017 review all over again, amped up.  I mean the legs on this stuff, it’s beyond description. 

Price: You can score it in YVR for around $64 which is ludicrous. LUDICROUS. Definitely not on our income. But how I wish.

Market Liquidity: In 2015 we wrote “It puts the lush in lush” and in 2017 “How the other half drink” and to that we’ll add parting with the last bottle is not sweet sorrow, it’s just plain sorrow.

They put their phone number on the label AND the cork, like a Johnson & Johnson product. It’s Hello Kitty adorable…
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September 24, 2020

Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir, 2017

We received our annual case from the vineyard and thought we should “finish up” last year’s remnants to avoid any confusion (!).

Of two bottles in a mixed case we had the first last December.  Our review, here, was of a take it or leave it nature, unimpressed and let down.  So, on first sip of this second bottle, nearly a year later, much of the same, nonplussed.  Pretty ho-hum.

But, sip after sip, this wine popped.  Big time.  I was resentful on the last half glass, resentful the bottle was empty I mean.  And, I was pissed off at our December post last year; we drank it too soon.

Woodsy and herbaceous, some spicy cinnamon, juicy gobs of cherry, time and air bringing to life a really evocative PN.  The filbert finish a touching denouement on a classic Okanagan PN.  Not a whiff of the coconut we made note of on the previous bottle.  Time and air, Hugh Johnson has waxed poetic on how time and air can alter wine. Amazing.

Price: $35 from the vineyard in 2019.

Market Liquidity: A series of fortunate events sips.

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September 18, 2020

Domaine de Ferrand Cotes-de-Rhone “Cuvee Antique”, 2018

The other night we were supporting our local bistro, Les Faux, when I noticed on the chalkboard they were featuring the Ferrand Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  At $130 a bottle.  We opted for a more basic Cotes-du-Rhone.  And, when the Ferrand release came into Marquis earlier this year, we did the same.

The “antique” is about as base model as you can get from Ferrand, but even a Toyota Corolla goes forwards and backwards and stops when you brake.  It ain’t no Lexus but it absolutely has enormous utility.  If there is a fault, it’s much too easy to drink in 2020.  Gentler woodsy/dusty notes than some Rhone blends, restrained fruit, a hot lick of pepper, and a lovely cherry on the finish.  Concrete not filtered but, you know, refined.  Very Grenache Forward.

Jeb Dunnuck said it has loads of charm.  Yes.  Loads of charm.  And at $15 less than equivalent blends in BC’s Okanagan (from vines half a century younger) it has thrift to boot.  Go Cotes-du-Rhone.

Price: $34 before a modest discount for a half case at Marquis.

Market Liquidity: Like a scene stealing cameo in a film littered with stars.

September 18, 2020

Sea Star Salish Sea, 2019

We have waxed poetic on Sea Star.  Oh my goodness have we said some fine things about Sea Star.  But alas we are parting ways on this year’s Salish Sea.

Where to begin?  Sweet but not pleasant.  Light, but watery (look at the wine glass, it could be flat Perrier).  Thin without redemption.  Mediocre with food and banal as a sipper.  I don’t know if there’s too much tropical with not enough weight, so you get that phoniness of canned fruit cocktail, or whether it was just a bad year.

It pains me to write this.  Seriously.

Check out the archive, it was total infatuation: The Siegerrebe, 2014, hats off.  The Stella Maris 2015, we were pragmatic but adoring.  The Ortega, 2016, absolutely loved it.  The Pinot Gris 2016; went ga ga. Ga ga. We drooled. So it was crushing to end up with half a case of duds.

Plus, you know, Sea Star is impossible to find.  We pick up a case every year on the Southern Gulf Islands, but outside the SGI good luck.  Oh well, the remainder will make a fine risotto.

Price: $24.27 at Saturna General Store. A very reasonable price I should add

Market Liquidity: Double bogey.

September 18, 2020

Culmina Saignée, 2019

Part of the summer whites package Culmina was passing off this year (to, no doubt, their very loyal fan base).  Hmmm.

OK, let’s start here: In over a decade of blogging about wine we have less than a dozen posts on rosé.  Why?  It’s an upsell wine.  It’s never as good as white (because when it’s chilled it loses flavour whereas, say, Champagne comes alive) and it’s never as good as red (because as it warms, and gains flavour, it’s both not as good as red and without the refreshing zest of white).  It’s a lose lose blend.  But you can’t stop seeing it on the shelves, shoved down our throats.

Well you know what?  If you must drink rosé, drink this.  It has enough heft to be interesting mixed with enough fruit, predominantly raspberry, to be heads and tails above a lot of other Okanagan offerings. I will say this: In summer, on the deck, it was very pleasant.

Still, mixed feelings. And when we moved on to red at dinner I was much more content.

Price: $24 direct from vineyard.

Market Liquidity: We give it our rosé seal of approval (which is of course not a real thing).

NB: Kudos to the photog who captured the underside of a table lamp.