November 6, 2018

Graceland Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016

Something else altogether.  Wrapped up in tissue as if swaddled and then labelled like a candle from a religious supply store, the wine inside is anything but deceptive; it’s the essence of a decent glass of red.

 

My mother used to take blackberries from a bush along the fence in the lane, when I was a kid, macerate them, and squeeze out the sweetest, darkest, densest cordial imaginable.  To appreciate it, you had to drink it carefully and with hesitation, no more than a tablespoon at a time.  Some years, it was so rich, we mixed it with soda.  This wine, which just begs to be sipped, very, very slowly, is an eloquent turn on cordial.  Creepily addictive and wickedly good but pointless in large doses.

 

We’ve tasted the Graceland in previous vintages and had been neither here nor there, but this smoky, intense and luscious red is a keeper.  It oozes warmth and comfort and has none of the brass band of a Napa CS.

 

Price: $31.50 at Everything Wine.

 

Market Liquidity: It will float you across the river Styx.

November 5, 2018

Blue Mountain Pinot Noir, 2016

We drink at least a case of Blue Mountain every year.  It’s very good value, if not valuable, and generally a crowd pleaser, gentle reds and lively whites.  The 2013 Pinot, well that sort of put us off their PN, and we reduced our intake the last few years, but the 2016, the entry level base market 2016, is just plain tasty; comfortably round, soft, berry flavour accented by a hint of sharp pepper and some cedar vanilla.  Too bad BM can’t seem to shake the cork for screw tops.  But kudos for free delivery to Vancouver.

 

Is it a $30 wine?  Well it sells out almost overnight, whether that’s fans or scalpers is anyone’s guess.  I’d never shell out $60 in a restaurant, but at home it’s a welcome addition to any basic cellar.

 

Price: $30 from the vineyard.

 

Market Liquidity: If not for the cork, a corker.

November 4, 2018

Enebral Tinta de Toro, 2015

James Suckling described this as tasting of ivy and forest floor.  Say what?  There is pronounced vanilla, a smoothness that is as deceptive as black ice, giant tannins and gobs of plummy, jammy fruit.  We didn’t get the tightness Robert Parker alluded to but we do agree a dozen in the cellar will pay huge dividends.  At the price it’s a slam dunk and exceptional in more ways than it’s worth describing.  Buy now, buy lots; the holidays will be upon is in weeks.

 

Price: An astonishing $23 at Everything Wine

 

Market Liquidity: A case for the wedding.  Or just to drink on Tuesday nights.

November 3, 2018

Tinto Negro Limestone Block Malbec, 2015

The entry level TN Malbec will set you back $15.  It’s good patio value.  The Limestone Block will set you back double.  But it’s not twice as good.

 

With decanting and a little air this will soften up and beckon.  Previous vintages have scored highly with James Suckling and Robert Parker.  They like the balance, fruit and herbal notes.  We found it muted.  All those things they like are present, you just have to close your eyes and think hard.  It’s not an open book.

 

Price: $30 at Everything Wine.

 

Market Liquidity: Fleeting.  Think of a trumpet mute; it has an effect, but nothing worth a whole symphony.

November 2, 2018

Sea Star Encore, 2015

All over the blog we rave about Sea Star.  Growing the right grapes for the climate, small batches, unfiltered wines, biodiversity, you name it.  Bring on the Salish Sea.

 

The red here is a primarily Okanagan blend with some local grapes thrown in for good measure.  The first glass I had of Encore was a few years back and I wasn’t wowed.  Top heavy, it was a Cab Sauv and Cab Franc and Merlot clash; we ignored their reds and concentrated on their gorgeous library of whites.  I think the Encore (which they call a Meritage) has gone from 15 to 16 to 18 months in oak.  But this vintage they seem to have it closer to right than ever.  Online they call it a Merlot Cab Franc blend with (I think) just the right amount of Merlot velvet contrasted with just the right amount of Cab Franc funk.  On the bottle they note some Marechal Foch, from Pender Island, thrown into the mix.

Curious, and a great sipper, it slipped with a hearty meal of (mostly) cheeses, whereas a basic Wente Cab Sauv was a home run.  I could get to drinking this regularly, but not at the price point.

 

Price: Around $32 at private wine shops, $29 at the vineyard.

 

Market Liquidity: A blend moving in the right direction, but not at its destination.

November 1, 2018

Evel Real Companhia Velha, Douro, 2014

Wine Spectator put it in their top 100 in 2016 and, thus, the bottle comes with a neck ribbon.  Somehow it wasn’t 89 points but 90 points and this is where we loathe the pointsters.  Yes, it’s good value, there is as the critics say juicy acidity, it’s warming on the tongue in that way red blends (masterfully crafted) can be, and this (dominated by Touriga Franca) has a lovely although not hugely memorable classic Portuguese style.  I would be hard pressed to remember it in a blind test a week after the fact though.

 

Price: Low 20s at private wine stores.

 

Market Liquidity: Good value but not great value.

October 31, 2018

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay, 2010

From the cellar: On one of those gorgeous early autumn days that still has the flavour of summer we pulled out of the cellar either our last or next to last HR Chardonnay from a half case purchase umpteen years ago.  Nirvana.

 

This wine seems to pass the critics by.  It never has a note in the liquor store on points or a sticker on the neck about reviews and, if you can find it, it will no doubt be dusty.  Why no love in BC?  At the price point it’s oodles better than BC whites that command a higher price and momentously better after some time in the cellar.  Here we are eight years down the road and it’s stellar, still to peak.

 

Look at that golden hue.  Nectar from the gods.  It’s delectable, old school, hearty, earthy, refined, and with a crisp, acidic flourish on the palate that makes it very hard to sip as opposed to swill.  We called this “old school goodness” three years ago and have nothing to add except what a wine to lie down.  Wow.

 

Price: In the high 40s for a current bottle at private wine stores (but if you can score 10% off on a half case you’re laughing).

 

Market Liquidity: Why those of us who cellar cellar.

October 18, 2018

La Frenz Malbec, 2016

We are blowing through a mixed case of La Frenz with mixed results, mixed feelings, some white has even hit the stock pot, but this one hit a chord.  E Major!  From the first sip you feel transported to a sun drenched patio on the Chilean coast, it has the dark, acid, chocolate you associate with the varietal and a much cooler climate than you’d expect in Naramata, but it strikes a balance we found appealing from first to last sip.  Sort of momentous in how basic it is on the one hand and how satisfying on the other.  This Malbec needs some time in the cellar where it would blossom in a year or two; if you can hang on to it that long…

 

Price: A stunningly reasonable $24.25 from the vineyard but substantially more in YVR at private shops.

 

Market Liquidity: Value.  Value, value, value.  And satisfaction.

October 18, 2018

La Frenz Merlot, 2016

If you’re not a fan of Merlot this won’t win you over.  It has all the archetypal high notes of a Merlot, readily identifiable: soft, easy to drink, low on tannins.  But the fruit is forward, even a little pushy; plummy.  It seems rather simple.  In the alternative, if you like Merlot, then you will be happy with the cherry cola and the sweetness and the generosity on the palate, but you might find it lacking, comparatively.

 

You would think the 20 months in new oak would be a slam dunk but it was a hit and miss for us.  No regrets, no memories.  We’ve had our ups and downs with the LF Merlot over the years but somehow, like Charlie Brown and Lucy, we keep coming back for another go.  Hmmm…

 

Price: $24.25 from the vineyard.

 

Market Liquidity: Not La Frenz’s finest moment.

September 26, 2018

Nk’Mip Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay, 2016

We had the QQ open along with the Black Hills Nota Bene Chardonnay, which retails at about four dollars more.  As a sipper the BH is gorgeous, butter on the tongue and a more luxe finish.  But the QQ was better with dinner.  Hands down.  (Vegetarian main, cheeses, soup.)  And on that score along, the gorgeous food friendly flexibility of the QQ, we nixed the BH post.

 

Strong, California Chardonnay notes, assertive vanilla, an almost synthetic almond and crisp Bosc pear.  Lush but not louche, there is a tightness to this bottle that doesn’t lead to the full Black Hills expression, a sort of modesty, but from the first sip to the last hugely enjoyable.  And not a bad price point to boot.  A worthy award winner.

 

Price: $26 at Save-On Foods

 

Market Liquidity: Finally a contender in our price bracket.