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British Columbia Critics’ Picks December 2014

Supersized Sparkling Special

One of the things we love to do at WineAlign is to drink sparkling wine at every opportunity we get and I can honestly say, we never really get bored doing it. When you taste thousands of wines a year (somebody has to do it) you crave the freshness and acidity that is the hallmark of most great sparkling wines just to keep your palate sharp. Yet even if they are soft and perhaps slightly sweet à la prosecco, or pink and fizzy a la rosé the more you taste the more you come to really appreciate what is one of the most diverse categories of wines made in the world. So in the spirit of the holidays we’ve gifted you with a supersized Sparkling Special, with some of our favourite festive fizzes selected from hundreds of picks we tasted this year from under $15 to well over $200.

Cheers,
Anthony

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

One of the great benefits of bubbles is sparkling wine’s ability to make most any dish it is served with taste better. How can you beat that? All you have to do is be ready and by that we mean keep a couple of bottles of your favourites in the refrigerator chilled and ready to go.

The Parés Baltà Cava Brut, is my go-to Spanish sparkler. So sophisticated and clean, it works with most foods and the grapes are 100 percent organically grown. Green never tasted so good.

Many of you will know the quality and consistency of Blue Mountain Brut NV, but to really experience the best of BC sparkling wine you have to try the Blue Mountain Blanc de Blancs R.D. 2007. Like the 2006, this one hundred percent chardonnay is pure elegance and a wonderful expression of less is more. Cheese please.

A delightful surprise from Germany this year is the Selbach-Oster Riesling Brut 2011. Expect crunchy, crisp, Mosel fruit that runs from the front of the glass to back and will have your guests lining up for more. You can pair this with oysters, cheese straws, sashimi and more.

Parés Baltà Cava Brut Blue Mountain Blanc De Blancs R.D. 2007 Selbach Oster Riesling Brut 2011 Jansz Premium Cuvée

The current star of Oz bubble in the market is the Jansz Premium Cuvée N/V from Tasmania. We love its creamy textures and bright fruit.  A compelling drink for the price.

The prosecco prance is waning a bit but there is always room for the best and the Mionetto Il Moscato N/V is one of them. Well balanced and refreshing its peach flavours and baked apple mineral fruit are all in harmony with the bubbles. We love the crown cap.

A California classic and all class is the Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs Brut 2009. Rich but austere it’s as close to champagne as it gets at half the price.

Mionetto Il Moscato Schramsberg Blanc De Blancs Brut 2009 Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut Champagne Möet & Chandon Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut Champagne 2004

Speaking of Champagne we finish with two stars. The Bollinger Special Cuvée N/V  is no ordinary multi-vintage champagne with its high percentage of reserve wines. Complex and powerful it is a spectacular food wine from charcuterie to chicken or sashimi.

Finally perhaps for New Year’s we suggest the Champagne Dom Pérignon 2004. Winemaker Richard Geoffrey, never at a loss for the perfect words to describe his wine, has called the ’04 Dom Pérignon ‘tactile, dark and chiselled’. In the glass this wine is all serious a brooding sparkler whose lees and sparkle have yet to fully knit into what will surely be one of the great seamless Dom’s of the decade if not the first half of the decade. Happy New Year, for sure.

DJ Kearney

Henkell Riesling Dry Les Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc De Blancs Brut Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain ChampagneThere’s nothing like bubbly to get the heart thumping, the eyes twinkling and the appetite fully stimulated. Obviously famous for toasting special moments and milestones, sparkling wines also happen to be some of the most adept and deserving partners for food. I posit that we should drink sparkling more often for this reason alone – not just when a major celebration demands it.

For moments when I crave champagne, my two must-have’s are Henriot Brut Souverain and Le Mesnil’s unbeatable value Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, both non-vintage wines that over-deliver on price, complexity and deliciousness.  I love the Henriot with briney oyster bisque and Le Mesnil with Dungeness crab eggs Benny.

For a crowd when lots of jolly fizz is needed, try the Dry Riesling from Henkell – it’s full of fresh and soft citrus appeal. Give it a frosty chill and serve as a welcome wine to break the ice and spark conversation.

Two more sparklers I find indispensable with food are both crémants. The surprisingly complex Paul Zinck Cremant d’Alsace – with some tender cheesy gougères , and Jean Bourdy Cremant de Jura is a minerally marvel paired with rustic pâté de champagne or frico.

Paul Zinck Cremant d’Alsace Jean Bourdy Cremant du Jura Bottega Gold Brut Prosecco Benjamin Bridge Nova Scotia Brut 2009

Finally two wines that dazzle for different reasons. The gleaming bowling pin bottle of Bottega Gold Prosecco, and the astonishing Benjamin Bridge Brut 2009 that elevates Nova Scotian hybrids to unheard of heights. It’s bubble or nothing for me this Christmas.

Rhys Pender MW

Bubbly should be consumed throughout the year, but over the Christmas holidays there seems to be many more great excuses to pop a cork.

At this time of year it is always worth spending some money on a bottle or two of delicious Champagne. There are many big Champagne brands out there but just because they are Champagne doesn’t mean they are all equally good. For me, one of the best and most consistently excellent from year to year is the Piper-Heidsieck Brut. Delicious for a $60 splurge. For a few more dollars you can get into some really interesting grower Champagne. Biodynamic, wild yeasts, 100% Pinot Noir, neutral oak and just delicious is the Marie-Courtin 2007 Efflorescence Extra Brut.

BC is stepping up its game when it comes to bubbly production with more and more traditional method wines coming on to the market and they are often a lot less expensive than Champagne. Many wines don’t see long lees aging but they have plenty of flavour, freshness and the trademark BC acidity. Try the Bella 2013 Westbank Sparkling Rosé for a good crisp example to help with those afternoon snacks with family and friends.

Piper Heidsieck Brut Marie Courtin Efflorescence Extra Brut Pinot Noir 2007 Bella 2013 Westbank Sparkling Rosé Summerhill Pyramid Winery Cipes Blanc De Noir 2008 Benjamin Bridge Nova Scotia Brut 2009Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava

For a BC bubbly with a little more toastiness from long lees aging, try the Summerhill Pyramid Winery Cipes Blanc De Noir 2008. It is quite complex and interesting and richer in style, perfect with richer canapés.

From the other side of Canada, exciting things are happening with bubbly in Nova Scotia. Benjamin Bridge is leading the way. The 2009 Brut has plenty of verve and intensity and complexity from a good few years of age. Think hybrid grapes can’t make good wine? This will change your mind.

With people dropping in over the holidays you should always have some bubbly on hand to greet them. After all, it is the festive season. The Segura Viudas Brut Reserva is good wine and the price is right so you can pour generously without breaking the bank. Go out and buy a case now. You won’t be disappointed.

Treve Ring

Domaine Carneros Brut 2008 No Unauthorized Reproduction @Jason DziverThose who know me can well attest to the fact I’m an avowed sparkling wine drinker. There are always bubbles chilling in my fridge, I have a secret stash (shh) hidden for impromptu celebrations (Tuesday!) and I’ve been known to pair sparkling wine to BBQ pork chops (a delight). My heart is in Champagne; for me, Champagne is not just the pinnacle of the sparkling world, but the pinnacle of the wine world. That said, my favourite thing about sparkling wine is its diversity; across region, grape and method, there is a style to fit every personality, budget, and yes – food.

From the west coast, one of the most singular sparklers is Road 13 Vineyards Sparkling Chenin 2011, with its racing acidity, green fig, green apple and chalk notes, it’s an ideal wine to crack (crown cap) with west coast oysters.

Our neighbours to the south, in California, know a bit about wine. And Domaine Carneros knows much more than a bit about sparkling wine. The Carneros winery was founded by Champagne Taittinger and holds close ties with the illustrious Champagne house today. Pick up the Domaine Carneros Brut 2008 for Champagne’s tradition, at half the price.

One huge benefit about the prosecco boom is that consumers are discovering there is more than one style, and importers are responding. I’ve noticed quite a few new interesting proseccos on our market recently, including the well priced, fuller bodied Terre Prosecco Extra Dry, the elegant, crisp and fresh Vaporetto Prosecco Brut and the generous, stylish Giusti Prosecco Brut. ‘Tis the season for brunching!

Terre Prosecco Extra DryVaporetto Prosecco Brut Giusti Prosecco Brut Lini 910 Labrusca Lambrusco Rosso Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Rosé Champagne

It’s also the season for celebrating with friends. The Lini 910 Lambrusco is a jolly red hue, fruity and bright, and a great casual pour with pizza or cranberry decked poultry.

Sometimes, when the situation calls for Champagne, nothing else will do. I recommend picking up Champagne Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Rosé NV, an elegant, subtly fruited grower Champagne, ideal for cheersing any festivities or for gifting to that special (lucky) someone.

About the BC Critics’ Picks ~

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks column is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics, wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution through BCLDB or VQA stores. All are currently available for sale in BC.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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20 Great Holiday Buys under $20 in British Columbia (December)

Holiday Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

This time of year we get asked the same wine questions over and over (and truthfully, we regularly ask ourselves the same questions too)!

What are the best wines to have at my {insert holiday function here}?

Which we all mean to say…

What are the best wines at the very best prices to have at my {insert holiday function here} because my budgets are all being directed elsewhere but I still want to enjoy delicious and special wines?

We understand. From celebratory dinners to family brunches and from office lunches to gift swaps to the big festive dinner, there are countless wine pairing possibilities – and countless ways to blow your budget. The BC team has gleefully shared some of our favourite under-$20 picks to see you through this busy month.

Happy holidays and cheers from the WineAlign west team.

- TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

I love to decant a young inexpensive red in a simple, plain, glass decanter. Not only does it look good but 30 to 60 minutes of air allows the wine to show its stuff. There’s really not any downside and the upside is your under $20 reds will taste like you paid under $30. Here are five holiday party picks that will all improve with some air and because they are in a decanter they will keep your guests guessing about their price and origin until the reveal.

The Castaño Lujuria 2013 offers fresh, juicy, red wine that mixes merlot and monastrell that is perfect for wandering the party floor catching up with friends.

The Yalumba Shiraz Viognier Y Series 2011 beguiles with its floral nose, ginger, bacon and a black pepper, savoury black fruit aromas and flavours. Grilled meats or cheese work here.

Castano Lujuria 2013Yalumba Y Series Shiraz Viognier 2011Xanadu Next Of Kin Shiraz 2011Famille Perrin Réserve 2012Louis Bernard Cotes Du Rhone Villages 2012

Another Down under pick, this time from Western Australia is the Xanadu Next of Kin Shiraz 2011. A warm, ripe vintage has spawned a peppery, plum, chocolate flavoured red that works with lamb.

Is there better value red wine in Canada at the moment than Cotes du Rhone? The Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Rouge Réserve 2012 bears a ‘Reserve’ moniker but it doesn’t really need the meaningless qualifier. The palate is juicy with plummy, ripe raspberry fruit flavours you can serve with grilled pork or lamb chops.

Maison Louis Bernard works with over 20 vineyard owners in the Côtes-du-Rhône Villages appellation which spreads across some 4000 ha and 95 villages in Ardèche, Vaucluse, Drôme and Gard. Expect a slightly more complex structure and bouquet from this delicious Louis Bernard Côtes du Rhône Villages Rouge 2012.

DJ Kearney

Holiday brunch is on the calendar, and my festive home will soon be bulging with rellies, friends and no doubt, one or twelve kids and a few pets….   The adults are thirsty, the kiddies are hungry and the pets are out of control…. It’s predictable and beloved holiday chaos.

All the favourite recipes have been dusted off, a few new ones are trialed, and the holiday log crackles from the TV in my Yaletown condo. Bubbly is essential for toasts and well, good times in general. One of my favourites for a crowd is the streamlined Anna de Codorniu, with bright citrusy fruit, pillowy mousse and extra definition from a preponderance of chardonnay (70%), uplifting native Spanish grapes. The snowy white bottle and the sale price of $16.49 are two extra reasons to drink or stuff into a stocking.

I’ll also have a favourite Alsatian quichy dish, tarte a l’oignion made with Gruyere cheese and melted onions all bound in a savoury egg custard. An easy and regional pair is Kuhlmann-Platz Gewurztraminer, perfumed, just off-dry and hefty enough for the rich tart.

Codorniu Anna De Codorniu BrutKuhlmann Platz GewurztraminerOlivares Rosé 2012La Vuelta Syrah 2012Ganton & Larsen Prospect Admiral Shorts Okanagan Tawny

Ham and a heaped platter of juicy plump sausages need a rosé and a substantial red – I’ll give the Olivares Jumilla Rosado 2012 a big chill (yes, we can drink pink in the winter) and wow my guests with an Argentine syrah, La Vuelta 2012 that is one of the best bargains I’ve encountered lately.

Dessert (if anyone can manage) is sticky toffee pudding, mince tarts (made from my Mum’s quince mincemeat recipe), plus some local blue cheese, and I’ll offer a BC treat, the Ganton & Larsen Prospect Okanagan Tawny. Like port, it’s been lengthily aged in cask, and offers a mellow, sweet and warming winter drop. Amazingly there are over 200 bottles in the BCLDB system, so don’t miss the chance to taste this fortified BC hero. Eat, drink and be merry.

Rhys Pender MW

Christmas Day for me involves drinking pretty much all day, but certainly isn’t about over indulging. You don’t have to spend a lot to drink well on Christmas day, but as it is Christmas after all, I have stretched the budget a little beyond the $20 mark – but not much.

Christmas starts early with young kids and so after a few strong coffees a little glass of bubbly is good for livening you up for the next eating event. You don’t need anything fancy, as a splash of good orange juice is often in order, but it must be good enough to stand up on its own – not sweet, a little complexity, and freshness. Cava is always the best value and for just a few dollars above entry level you get some pretty delicious wine. The Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvée Brut does nicely.

The next Christmas event is brunch and we always try to have something that is not too heavy, saving room for the grand feast later on. Bubbly works so if there is any Cava left, that will do but it is also a great time to taste some interesting whites. A wine that goes with a great range of foods is Muscadet. The Château De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2013 is crisp, mineral and fresh.

Freixenet_Elyssia_Gran_Cuv_e_Brut_Cava_webChâteau De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2013Château De Pierreux Brouilly 2012Muriel Reserva 2008Falernia Reserva Syrah 2010Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008

When you get on to the main meal of the day, we often go for something other than the traditional turkey or ham, the stomach still full from Thanksgiving. Roast leg of lamb or beef tenderloin works well and allows a number of red wine options. If you go with a lighter Christmas dinner or the traditional route, good quality Beaujolais is the way to go. Try the Château De Pierreux Brouilly 2012.

For something a little fuller bodied, it is often fun to try something with a bit of age or some interesting flavours as there is often time to sit around with family and savour complex flavours. In terms of value for money, Rioja is hard to beat for wines with some development. One good bet is the Muriel Reserva Rioja 2008.

Another meaty, interesting wine that will go with grilled or roasted meats beautifully and do well around the fire place on its own is the Falernia Reserva Syrah 2010 from Chile’s Elqui Valley.

Somewhat miraculously towards the end of the evening, there is room for some cheese, Stilton being a particular favourite. The best value wine to match with a strong, crumbly cheese is Late Bottled Vintage Port. These wines can offer amazing value for money. Try the Taylor Fladgate LBV 2008.

Treve Ring

We all think about matching wine with food, but what about matching wine with people? A bottle of wine is a lovely gift to give and receive, and even more so when there is more thought put into the purchase than just the colourful label. Wine certainly needn’t be expensive to be fantastic, or appreciated. One of my favourite gifts to give is a bottle I’ve specifically selected for someone, along with a handwritten neck tag about why I chose it for him or her – and yes, often with a food pairing suggestion too.

For The Cocktailist: Lillet Blanc is a classic French aperitif – meant to stimulate the appetite before the meal. Try it over ice, or use in cocktails – the golden honey, apricot, orange oil and earthy spice a complement to many spirits.

For The Hostess: Bringing wine to an event can be hit or miss. Just remember that bubbles go with everything! Cava is an easy like and affordable place to start – Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut is mind-boggling value for all the lively green apple and citrus enjoyment.

Lillet BlancJaume Serra Cristalino Brut CavaViñas Elias Mora 2010Hester Creek Pinot Gris 2013No Unauthorized Reproduction @Jason Dziver

For The Carnivore: Elias Mora 2010 is a big, structured black fruited savoury tempranillo from Spain’s Toro region that would make any grill king or queen happy. I suggest pairing with roasted tenderloin and chestnuts.

For The Locavore: From an area that has been approved as BC’s first official Sub-Geographical Indication – the Golden Mile Bench – comes the spiced Hester Creek Estate Winery Pinot Gris 2013, a natural for those who support our local producers (and want something tasty to pair with leftover turkey sandwiches).

For The Sweet Toothed: With icewine, a little goes a long way. All the better then for the BCLDB’s stocking-stuffer-sized 50ml Inniskillin Niagara Vidal Icewine 2012 for $8 (!), a perfect little nip of peach nectar and mandarin spice to pair with your gingerbread.

****

Thoughout the entire month the BC team will bring you timely and useful holiday selections. Our December Critics’ Picks will focus exclusively on sparkling wines, and for the next BC Report I’ll be sharing news on BC’s icewine harvest alongside tasting notes for different styles of local sweet wines. Anthony’s Final Blend will close off December with a look back on 2014 and a look ahead to the fresh new year.

Cheers,

Treve

Here’s a short-cut to the complete list searchable by store: 20 under $20 in British Columbia

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Chile 2.0 The Next Generation

Anthony Gismondi’s Final Blend

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

The modern Chilean wine business is closing in on 25 years in Canada. That’s right, Chilean wine spans an entire generation of Canadian wine drinkers and is already working on a new generation of wine consumers. Unfortunately what worked in the 90s or even the 00s is unlikely to be successful over the next decade and how Chile evolves and reshapes its image in foreign markets is going to be crucial to its long-term success.

Long known for its value, the time has come for Chile to ask itself why they would want to continue down that path. There is nothing wrong with offering value, especially at all price points, but countries, and important wine regions, usually build their pedigree from the top down. As they say at Ford, ‘quality is job one’ and it’s quality wine from recognised appellations that will reshape the modern Chilean wine landscape.

Chile need look no farther than Canada’s Niagara Peninsula or the Okanagan Valley to see how much money they are leaving on the table. It’s all in how you position yourself. In my opinion, and for too many years now, Chile’s best wines have been suppressed by wholesale buyers, distributors, monopolies and supermarkets content to sell expensive French, Italian or American wine while convincing the Chileans they need to attack the market from the bottom end up, because, well they were Chilean and well, the wine was from South America.

Value was the password and while the French and Italian were busy selling Grand Crus, First Growths and Riservas, Chile was asked to sell a case of wine at the same price its competitors were getting for a single bottle. That kind of thinking has to end. I have long been interested in Chile’s ultimate development which surely must move beyond the value for money moniker that attaches itself to Chilean wines in the same way an early morning Pacific fog blankets Chile’s coastal vineyards.

The current mantra is to get to the coast or up the mountains, but beyond that it’s more about exploring all of Chile and finally matching each grape with a specific soil. It’s not breaking news; we know the wine will be better, but the point is the Chileans have finally come to see that their future success will be dependent upon their ability to be different from the rest of the wine world and not to be at the beck and call of British supermarkets, giant American distributors and, of course, our own monopolies, all of whom have ridden the pony for a generation demanding nothing but cheap, loss leader wines to get customers to come into the store.

Casa Silva - Largo Ranco Sauvignon Blanc - Wines of Chile

Casa Silva – Largo Ranco Sauvignon Blanc

Arguing against value is not something I’m used to doing but if it means an end to bland, faceless brands that bring nothing to retail wine aisles, I accept the challenge. Chile’s blanket value brand identity has to disappear if it is going to make the jump to prime time.

Last week I spent some time with a number of the WineAlign team in Chile and we found plenty to rave about starting with Winemaker Mario Geisse of Casa Silva, who blew me away with his Lago Rancho 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from the Futrono, Region Austral Patagonia, Chile. The vineyard is eight years old and dry farmed thanks to 70 inches of annual rainfall. Futrono is situated in the Chilean Patagonia, 904 km south of Santiago where the average maximum temperature is 18.5 degrees Celsius from January to May. Extreme? You bet. Electric, you bet. Different than anything you will see in Canada from Chile, you bet.

About 1700 kilometres to the north in the Atacama desert, winemaker Felipe Toso was pouring the Ventisquero Tara Red from Huasaco. The vineyard, now seven years old, is located at 28º 31’ 54,85’’ S  and is planted to ungrafted syrah and merlot over chalky soils. The mix is 66/34 and the fruit was all picked in the first week of April. The two varieties are fermented separately in small, open 500-kilo tanks, ‘pinot style.’ After a week of pump overs it was racked to fifth-use French barrels, where the malolactic fermentation took place. The wine is simply amazing and has nothing to do with the Chile you know.

Ventisquero - Tara Red Wine - Wines of Chile

Ventisquero – Tara Red Wine

Another sure sign of change is a movement among the big wineries to be more responsive to the need for Chile 2.0 wines. Case in point, the Marques de Casa Concha Pais Cinsault 2014 made by winemaker Marcelo Papa. The hundred plus year old país vines are grown at Cauquenes, Maule Valley; the 50-year old cinsault is from Trehuaco in the Itata Valley. The mix is 85 percent país with 15 percent cinsault, a blend no one would have thought possible even a decade ago. Fresh bright red fruit flavours dominate, revealing a minerality and freshness that is the polar opposite of those old icon reds. Make no mistake; Papa is taking a chance by attaching this wine to the famed Marques brand but he wanted people to pay attention to it and at $20 a bottle this wine is making waves.

The question is will it make it to wine lists in New York, or London or San Francisco where traditionally you can check off the likes of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Shiraz, Brunello, Chianti and lately even Mendoza malbec. Yet more often than not, Chilean wines are nowhere to be found. True, you may find some carmenère but like South African pinotage these curiosities do not a country establish.

Chile’s strength is its fabulously natural and isolated wine regions, uncontaminated by most of what goes on in North America. Naturally made wines should be the focus of its future. My notes from numerous trips would suggest sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, carignan, pinot noir, and yes, old vine pais, will likely be the stars of the next decade along with riesling, chardonnay and more innovative and creative red blends. Many could be organic or biodynamically grown. But there is more.

As varietal wine comes to the end of its useful life, this more than anything could provide the springboard Chile needs to recreate its international image. Temperature, altitude, longitude and yes even latitude are all part of a new story that should be told. As discussed in the pinot noir tasting there is no need to be Burgundian but we can all learn from them. Pinot noir and chardonnay cover the vineyards but the story is always about its people and its places. Puligny, Chassagne, Meursault, Corton, Faiveley, Leflaive, Latour, DRC: the French are the masters of terroir-based wines because they learned decades ago that no one can copy your dirt.

No one knows better what the wines of Chile have to offer than the Chileans themselves. It is time Chile decided what is best for its future. Shaking that ‘cheap’ moniker is not going be just about raising prices. There has to be an attitude change; the industry’s youngest and brightest will need to step up and pursue the next 20 years with the same passion Aurelio Montes, Eduardo Chadwick, Agustin Huneeus, Alvaro Espinoza and Ignacio Recabarren have done in the last two decades.

The Movement of Independent Vintners (MOVI)

The Movement of Independent Vintners (MOVI)

Groups such as The Movement of Independent Vintners (MOVI) and Vignadores de Carignan (VIGNO) are a great start. Young and vigorous, the plan is to explore the limits of Chilean wine while respecting its history. MOVI calls itself an association of small, quality-oriented Chilean wineries who have come together to share a common goal to make wine personally, on a human scale and to promote a passion for the endeavours of growing grapes and crafting fine wine.

But can you be a serious wine producing region if you don’t produce so-called first growth, a grand cru-like wines or in the case of Chile — a super-premium blend? Frankly, I seldom measure a wine region by its greatest wines but rather by its most simple. Using that scale Chile moves well up my world wine chart of quality producers and with 1700 kilometres of potential vineyards to explore the possibilities are limitless.

Winemaker Aurelio Montes has fought the good fight for a long time and he is to be congratulated for pushing The Wines of Chile and its members to think outside of the box as it moves forward. Montes suggested the entire industry needed to “be brave,” moving forward as it reveals the story of the New Chile. Indeed as the song says, “Honestly, we want to see you be brave.”

Oh and be Chile, because no other country can replicate that.

 

Anthony Gismondi

(Photos courtesy of Wines of Chile & MOVI)


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British Columbia Critics’ Picks November 2014

Our critics have been on the move this month – crossing paths, and crisscrossing seasons between Vancouver, Similkameen, Okanagan, Whistler, Argentina and Australia. Whether we’ve just been in spring (flowering and bud break in the southern hemisphere) or dreaming of spring (the earliest icewine harvest ever for many in BC), the wines we’ve individually selected will warm you. Naturally, since we’re all crazy for food, our finds specifically pair with meals that will comfort.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

Wind, rain, snow and cold is all on its way and that makes it easier to slide into some richer wines from warmer climates to help warm up your disposition.

Zuccardi Q Tempranillo 2010 Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Chateau de Caraguilhes Classique 2012From southern France my pick is a delicious organic Corbières: Chateau de Caraguilhes 2012. Believe me it is far easier to drink than to pronounce.

This syrah/grenache/mourvèdre/carignan blend is textured with savoury licorice undercurrent and makes a great match for fall’s cassoulets.

A tough year in Napa was no problem at Beringer where several vineyards from the valley floor to the mountain top contributed to a fresh and aromatic Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, ready to drink now with your steak.

If lamb is on your fall menu the Zuccardi Q Tempranillo 2010 will stand up to its wild flavours and impress with its richness, power. A bargain red for all you year-round barbecue fanatics this juicy and round high altitude (620m) is the best yet from Zuccardi. Impressive now but will age easily for five years.

DJ Kearney

Drinking whites in the winter is something I anticipate each year with the kind of deep-seated pleasure that stirs my soul and tastebuds. Earthy, savoury, botanical, spicy, broad wines embrace flavours in a bearhug of body and warming alcohol. Wines like creamy oaked chardonnay, ripe white Rhones, mineral-drenched Wachau gruners, honeyed Alsatians, Italians like arneis, top soave and vermentino, and even the right kind of rich, leesy, toasty champagne are perfect. The dishes that I crave and cook for these cool-weather whites are leek risotto, cream-braised endive, veal and mushrooms, roast pork with onion soubise, cauliflower and cheese, roast chicken with truffle oil…  you get the picture? Here are three whites that I am drinking now to warm palate and spirit.

Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013

La Spinetta Vermentino 2012

Verus Vineyards Pinot Gris 2012Wolf Blass Gold Label Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2013 is broad and surging, with lemon curd, crème brulée and gingerbread flavours kept fresh and crisp with succulent acidity. Worth keeping for a few years for the oak to snuggle into the exotic fruit density, but will be delicious now with lemongrass risotto or winter baked fish with rich Mornay sauce.

La Spinetta Vermentino 2012 is a remarkable wine with savory flavours and emollient texture, held together with just enough acidity to coat the wine sleekly. Completely fascinating and serious vermentino for winter dinners or savouring by the fire.

An attention-getting smoky nose opens Verus Vineyards Pinot Gris 2012 from Slovenia before impressive mineral heft and complexity, reminding me of both Alsace and Soave. It’s a sign of the high calibre wines that Slovenia is capable of, and we want more sent our way, please.

Rhys Pender MW

With the holidays rapidly approaching, it is time to think about starting to loosen the purse strings a little bit and treating yourself.  You want to avoid the wines that are expensive on reputation ahead of quality, and hopefully we steer you on the right track with our winealign.com notes. Of course, there are many great wines that are worth the occasional splurge. There are also some great value alternatives if you look to some lesser-known regions.

Boutari Grande Reserve 2007 Poderi Di Luigi Einaudi Barolo Terlo 2009 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2013Chardonnay is still the greatest white wine and it turns up top quality wines in surprising places. Take the Hamilton Russell 2013 Chardonnay from the cool, coastal part of South Africa where it achieves wonderful elegance but still with some new world gumption.

One wine that is nearly always worth a splurge is Barolo. And not to just have a few sips, you need to sit with a big glass full and let it open up over time to enjoy all the nuances and complexities that lie hidden in its slowly evolving self. The Luigi Einaudi 2009 Barolo Terlo does just that.

Okay, we can’t all afford Barolo and there are some wines that offer a pretty good facsimile at much more approachable prices. The best bet for me is Xinomavro from Naoussa in northern Greece. While we don’t get a lot of good Greek wine options in BC, one stalwart on many BC Liquor Stores shelves is the Boutari Grande Reserve 2007 Naoussa. Great complexity for $23.

Treve Ring

When I approach pairing wines with food (or with seasons), it’s not so much about the flavours or the hue; it’s all about texture. My November wines are much like my November wardrobe – thick and layered, cozy and familiar, with grippy fabric, warming thread throughout and a comforting, lingering memory. Pass the wool scarf – I mean semillon!

Ferrari Carano Chardonnay 2012

Bartier Bros. Semillon Cerqueira Vineyard 2012

Alvear Pedro XimenezFerrari-Carano Chardonnay 2012 from Sonoma’s Alexander Valley is one such wine, full bodied and weighted on the palate, built with creamy pear and hazelnut paste, and primed to partner with your white sauced pastas or fish.

Bartier Bros. Semillon is another such wine that has palatable texture and depth that seems to grow each time I taste it. Though the 2013 is on the shelves now, I recently opened a 2012 (these wines age beautifully) and was impressed by its thorny, herbal wildflower spice and chalky, tactile acidity. Pair with pork belly, savoury risotto or scallops with herbed leeks.

And it’s hard to think of a more textured wine than pedro ximenez, some rumoured to be so thick and unctuous you can take with a spoon. Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximenez is unapologetically and confidently a bit of a conundrum; exceptionally sweet, and overtly salty with baked figs, coffee and cloves that linger far past a single sip. Try this memorable PX with (or over) vanilla bean ice cream and cracked black pepper for a dessert you won’t forget.

About the BC Critics’ Picks ~

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks column is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics, wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution through BCLDB or VQA stores. All are currently available for sale in BC.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Beringer - Holiday the California Way

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20 under $20 in British Columbia (November)

Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

No matter where we are in this vast vinous world (Similkameen, Vancouver, Chile, Australia…) we always have our ears finely tuned to value wines. Yes – we love to taste all wines, but we tire of the reserve, grand reserve, super premium reserve, icon extra reserve and every other uber, super, ultra premium tier wines – all with a price to match. When I talk to my colleagues about what they’re excited about, and what they’re drinking at home, it’s often under $20, and it’s a great find that doesn’t dent the bank account. That is what this column is about, and what we’re out there roving around and finding for you.

- TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

Though I’m writing this en route to spring in Chile, I’ve just left wind, rain and cold, so my mind is tuned to wines that will warm from the inside out.

A bargain red for all you year-round grilling fanatics is La Posta Tinto Red Blend 2013 and fun easy-sipping-style made from malbec, bonarda and syrah.

Syrah also dominates the Matchbook Dunnigan Hills Syrah 2011 from Yolo County in California. Here, a splash of cabernet sauvignon ups the smoky chocolate notes and results in a solid mid-week red.

La Posta Cocina Tinto Blend 2013Matchbook Syrah 2011Tommasi Vigneto Le Prunée Merlot 2012Graham Beck The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011No Unauthorized Reproduction @Jason Dziver

If your tastes veer more European, try the fresh Tommasi Merlot Le Prunée 2012  from Veneto, Italy with your grilled meats or mushroom dishes.

Graham Beck The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is ready to crack with your cheeseburger or beef dip, the smoked earth and cassis notes working with the freshness in this Western Cape rustic red.

And when you’re craving creamy pasta or warming clam chowder, pour a glass of the bread and orchard fruit-full Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2013 to match.

DJ Kearney

It’s time to lay in some wines for a crowd… trust me, November will evaporate and you’ll find the entertaining season arrives before you know it. Here are a few of my favourite bargains to stock up on this month.

Wyndham Estate Bin 222 Chardonnay 2013 has a spark of acidity that works well with a variety of dishes from seafood through poultry, and it’s always a smart idea to have a solid, well made chardonnay in the house.

Another great wine to stock up on is a varietally-sound, drinkable and affordable pinot noir – not an easy thing to find. Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir 2012 covers all bases and impresses with its gorgeous pinot fragrance.

Wyndham Estate Bin 222 Chardonnay 2013Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir 2012Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013San José De Aguarón Monasterio De Las Viñas Reserva 2006Crios Torrontés 2013

With hearty beef or lamb braises to warm you from the inside out, a tankard of Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013 from Colchagua, Chile will work well, with its currant, black plum and light smokiness.

If you are looking for a more savoury, Spanish red for your lamb, the Grandes Vinos y Vinedos Monasterio de las Vinas Reserva 2006 from Carinena, Spain is an exceptional value, with a chewy/silky blend of garnacha, tempranillo and carinena from vines aging 35-45 years offering up complexity and amazing value.

And if you really need a sunny lift? Stock up on Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes 2013. A salty note adds interest to this dry, citrusy high-altitude Salta aromatic white.

Rhys Pender MW

This month I have been enjoying a lot of soft, rich, cuddly red wines. The Rhône, southern France and southern Italy are always good bets plus I have thrown in a new Bulgarian listing and one Similkameen grown red to the list this month. These all over deliver for under $20 and should be enjoyed with some hearty food, ideally standing around an open fire in the chilly fall air.

The Château Millegrand 2012 from Minervois is the perfect soft, warming style and great with anything grilled and meaty.

Another similarly styled southern French value buy is the 2012 Pierre Henri Morel Signargues Côtes du Rhône. Both have plenty of fruit but also lots of savoury notes to add complexity and interest.

Château De Millegrand Minervois 2012Pierre Henri Morel Signargues Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2012Verso Rosso 2013Lovico Gamza 2011Sandhill Cabernet Merlot Vanessa Vineyard 2012

Southern Italy also makes some very soft yet savoury reds perfect for around the fireplace. The 2013 Verso Rosso from Salento IGT is a good buy at $19.99.

Bulgarian wine practically disappeared from BC shelves over the last decade but there may be signs of a comeback. The 2011 Lovico Gamza is a delicious, light, juicy and fresh savoury red for just $13. Maybe there will be some Mavrud and Melnik coming to follow in Gamza’s footsteps?

Closer to home is the 2012 Sandhill Vanessa Vineyard Cabernet-Merlot. This is nice and ripe but shows some of the Similkameen minerality underneath its toasty oak.

Treve Ring

I’m writing this column, as I often do, at an airport, waiting for a flight. I’ve just spent a couple of weeks visiting wine regions in Australia and struck by the innovation and energy coming out of this vast country. Forget about critter labels and commodity wine – the new Australia is focused on regionality and freshness above all – and there are great values to be found.

With my vote for one of the most value-for-money wines on our market is the Tahbilk Marsanne 2010. An absolute steal for under $20, Tahbilk’s ties to the rare French-born Marsanne grape stretches back to the 1860’s when the first grapes were recorded. Though those initial plantings are no longer around, the Estate still produces Marsanne from 1927 plantings – some of the oldest in the world!

Did you know that Oxford Landing is a place, not a brand? I have proof, drinking this bright and sunny Oxford Landing Pinot Grigio overlooking riverfront Oxford Landing, in the sleepily scenic Riverland region in South Australia.

Tahbilk Marsanne 2010Oxford Landing Pinot Grigio 2013Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2013De Bortoli Db Selection Petite Sirah 2011De Bortoli La Boheme Pinot Gris And Friends 2013

Credited, rightfully so, with saving viognier from extinction, the Yalumba Y Series Viognier remains a consistent staple and benchmark for this exotic, apricot spiced grape. Partner with your Thai or Vietnamese dishes for pairing perfections.

If you’re grilling up a quick weekday steak to ward off the chill, De Bortoli Family Selection Petite Sirah 2011 would be a great choice. Uncomplicated sweet plum, dark cassis over a polished, cool finish will match up to your easy midweek dinner plans.

DeBorts, as they’re casually called, have just recently released a new line of wines into Canada. The La Boheme line is a higher tier wine, in smaller production and focus on region. La Boheme Pinot Gris & Friends 2013 is from grapes sourced in the cooler upper Yarra Valley, highlighting the tart lemon, anise and pear skin character of pinot gris, alongside aromatic friends gewürztraminer and Riesling.

****

Watch for the BC WineAlign crew’s monthly Critics’ Picks, as well Anthony’s Final Blend and DJ’s overview of wine judges mentoring judges. Later this month, I will kick off a series taking a closer, detailed look at Australia’s regionality and John Szabo, Bill Zacharkiw and I write a joint piece about our travels through Portugal – Bill, John and Treve’s Excellent Portuguese Adventure. You can check out John’s terrific introduction to the diversity of Portugal here.

Cheers,

Treve

Here’s a short-cut to the complete list searchable by store: 20 under $20 in British Columbia

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Calliope Figure Eight Red 2012

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks October 2014

Each month we write our critics’ picks individually, based on what we’ve tasted and been thinking about. Some months, like this one, it’s obvious how aligned our WineAlign collective thoughts are. October has us reflecting on warming, interesting wines, the majority of which are red, with a rich aged sparkling, heady creamy white and a potent and characterful port in the pack. It’s obvious that the wet west coast’s October have us reaching for wines that invite a bit more contemplation, preferably near a fireplace.

Hoping these wines, and your fireplace, will help warm you this month.

Cheers ~ Treve Ring

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

A Thanksgiving Day dump of rain, over 50mm, signals the end of a great summer and fall and has me thinking bigger, richer, warmer wines as the rain and damp weather returns to the coast. Further inland it will only get colder so this month’s picks are designed to offset the arrival of fall and winter across the country.

Taylor Fladgate Quinta De Vargellas Vintage Port 1998 Rock Wall Wine Co. Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard 2012 Ravenswood Besieged 2013I caught up with Joel Peterson (Ravenswood) last week and had a chance to taste through several new releases. One that caught my eye and taste buds was the Ravenswood 2013 Besieged from Sonoma County, a delicious blend of petite sirah, carignane, zinfandel, syrah, barbera, alicante bouschet and mourvèdre grown across Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, Knights Valley and Sonoma Mountain. Try this with a favourite ribs recipe.

Still on the Zinfandel theme, Kent Rosenblum has emerged from the ashes of a Diageo sale and a non-compete clause to finally launch Rock Wall Wine Co. in Canada. I just love the Rock Wall Wine Co. 2012 Monte Rosso Vineyard release made from two favourite blocks Gallo gives to him based on his reputation and history of making this wine and celebrating the vineyard. Just a baby but you can drink now with a steak or wait five to seven years for it to fully blossom. Real Zinfandel.

Finally at the end of any cold weather meal or for that snowy weekend afternoon by the fireplace I recommend Taylor Fladgate 1998 Quinta de Vargellas. This is a ‘single quinta’ port that is made exactly as Taylor’s ‘vintage’ but in this case the fruit is restricted to the individual Vargellas property. I can feel the day slipping away.

DJ Kearney

These three wines made my thoughts spin in a few directions – and surely that is part of wine’s purpose and delight – to stimulate the senses, the intellect and the imagination.

Nexus One 2012

Rabl St Laurent 2009

Summerhill Pyramid Winery 1998 Cipes ArielSummerhill Pyramid Winery 1998 Cipes Ariel is a mesmerizing sparkling wine that defies expectations. Its complexity and elegance is off the charts, just as distinctive as the elongated pyramid-shaped bottle. Sipping it made me think of rich macaroon-y champagnes I have known and loved, of Maillard reactions and bubble nucleation theory.

Saint Laurent (or Sankt Laurent) is a conundrum. Pinot-like, Cab Franc-y, Nerello-ish… it’s juicy and fresh, but also velvety and soft. Rabl 2009 St. Laurent manages to showcase fruitcake and tangy cranberry all in the same mouthful.

Nexus 2012 One from harsh Ribera del Duero presents a modern face of tempranillo. The modern part is the freshness and purity of this well-priced wine, where fruit rather than wood is the star, which also has the benefit of allowing terroir to have a voice. Is wood aging (especially in American oak barrels) a moral imperative to which Spanish wines must stay shackled? This wine makes one think about the fruit:wood:terroir dialectic.

Rhys Pender MW

Black Hills Nota Bene 2012 Longview Devil's Elbow Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Fontodi Chianti Classico 2009Lately I’ve had a chance to taste a lot of verticals and some older wines so I have been thinking about ageability. These three wines are all worth picking up 6-12 bottles and laying some down for a few years. They are pretty tasty to drink now but will open up in terms of complexity in just 2-3 years.

The Fontodi 2009 Chianti Classico is the perfect counter to slow cooked meat at this time of the year as the weather cools. Savoury, meaty and delicious.

The Longview Devil’s Elbow 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon already has a few years of age on it too but should keep going for quite a few more. This wine shows the lighter, cool climate side of Aussie wine in an intense way.

Closer to home and with great ageing pedigree is the Black Hills 2012 Nota Bene. This is one of the best yet and having just sat through a vertical going back to the first wine in 1999 this will undoubtedly reward cellaring for a few years and up to 10-15.

Treve Ring

Just as I anticipate wrapping my warm woolen sweaters around me in autumn, I look forward to cozying up with warming reds. Fall is the season when I reflect on the importance of time; the shift in the year to reacquaint myself with wines that benefit from decanting, and foods that require lengthy roasting. After a glorious summer filled with rosé and the BBQ, I’ve been appreciating the return of shorter days, longer nights, and wines like these.

Campolargo Baga Bairrada 2010

Greywacke Pinot Gris 2013

Bodega Noemia’s 2012 A Lisa MalbecBodega Noemía A Lisa 2012 comes from the far reaches of our winemaking map – Patagonia. The pristine environment, streaking sun and windswept landscape produces pristine, fresh and articulate wines, like this memorable malbec.

From another southern latitude comes one of my favourite white wines of the last month – a surprise from a NZ producer typically lauded for their sauvignon blanc. Greywacke 2013 Pinot Gris has the creamy, lees-rich, honeyed herbal intensity of Alsace, but with a stone fruit and citrus freshness that is all New Zealand.

Portugal has long been a favourite country for intriguing, authentic reds, and Campolargo 2010 Baga is no exception. From Bairrada, this spicy red is 100% baga, expressed in a fresh and herbal vein. If traditional, untamable baga tannins have scared you off in the past, I urge you to seek out this modern example.

*****

About the BC Critics’ Picks ~

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks column is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics, wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution through BCLDB or VQA stores. All are currently available for sale in BC.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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WolfClassBryanAd_525x_NL_BC_Oct

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A Year in the Life of Wine or Why Vintage Matters

Anthony Gismondi’s Final Blend

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

As the 2014 harvest winds down across the northern hemisphere I wanted to take a moment to speak to the notion of vintage. The harvest is the culmination of a year’s work for any winery, or to be more specific, the viticultural team that is responsible for growing the grapes. For all the tastings, all the notes and all the scores there is really only one number (four digits) that relates directly to an individual wine and that’s its vintage.

You can think of it as a birthday of sorts but unlike the yearly marker that defines us, a wine’s vintage defines its life in the vineyard and can tell you a lot about the rest of its life in bottle. If you didn’t know by now, I’m a bit of a vintage fiend, especially when I’m spending more than $15 or $20 on a bottle of wine.

I mention this because there is a certain malaise in the wine industry to dismiss vintage. I suspect it’s because it takes time, energy and money to keep track of it throughout a wine’s life. Many large retailers and wineries seem to be conspiring to quietly remove the concept of vintage from their daily life by promoting every wine from every year as being equal. As mentioned, there is a cost to keeping track of the vintage, in the literature and marketing bumpf, on the label (imagine the savings of printing a decade of labels with no vintage listed), changing UPC codes, catalogues et al, but we say, so what? The provenance of a wine includes its vintage and any attempt to obfuscate vintage only reveals a lack of commitment to the soul of wine.

J2272x1704-00937No matter the bother of tracking vintage, we look at it as part of the job. It’s a matter of respect; something fundamental to buying, selling or drinking wine. If a company is too lazy to correctly identify a wine by its vintage it should probably be in another business.

When I first started tasting wine some 35 years ago there was only one harvest of note in the wine world, and that was in Bordeaux. The Bordelais were the masters of vintage, seldom commenting about any harvest until the wines were fermented and sitting in the cellar. Often they would say nothing until the next spring, when their en primeur or advance sale of the recently finished vintage took place for the trade.

In those days, knowledge of growing conditions were confined to a handful of folks; given the difficulty of communicating that knowledge worldwide in a short period of time, it didn’t really affect sales all that much. Vintages were usually graded good, better or best and the price went up regardless.

You could say the laissez-faire attitude surrounding vintages changed after 1982 with arrival of Robert Parker and his yearly proclamations on the health, quality and aging potential of Bordeaux wine. In fact, it was Parker who gave collectors the buy signal for 1982 Bordeaux, when many others critics were panning the vintage. One naysayer included noted American reviewer Robert Finnegan, who after telling consumers to avoid the harvest, was never a serious player in the review business again.

IMG_6412The notion of ‘vintage’ was long suppressed in the New World because back in the day we learned that every year was a good year in California, Chile, South Africa and Australia. It was always warm and sunny, hence no need to ask if it was a good year. It seemed a clear advantage over the wet springs and falls that could plague Western European vineyards. We now know better.

“Warm and sunny” comes in degrees, if you’ll pardon the pun. Even in benign climes we have come to learn that some years are better than others, especially as temperatures rise in many winegrowing regions chosen, shall we say less judiciously, in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.

Today we have come to admire the quality of grapes and wine that are grown on cooler, more marginal sites. That said, the truly poor vintage has all but been eliminated by science and viticultural techniques that were not available to winegrowers as little as two decades ago.

For many wineries, harvest reports (including live video via vineyard cams) are more about public relations than any real pronouncement regarding the quality of the grapes picked. Interviews with the owner or winemaker and daily updates from the vineyard have taken the legs out from under the old good-versus-bad vintage assessments once only issued by tight-lipped wine buyers and a few respected tasters, deep from within the vineyards.

IMG_7096Without doubt, growing fruit inside an appellation ideally suited to the grapes helps reduce the failure rate, as do better clones, better farming practices, low yields, and a host of tools available to the modern grape grower. It even appears possible to smooth out the rough edges of the vintage just by being diligent or, even better, passionate about what you are doing.

Some would argue the result of all this work is better wine year after year and less variation in quality, so why should consumers worry about the vintage? We agree today’s harvest is much less of a mystery than it used to be, and much less risky to buy, but vintage goes to the soul of every wine and noting those four digits on every bottle, sales sheet, shelf sticker and wine list adds perspective and respect to a year’s worth of work.

Even so, just when you think you have a handle on it all, global warming is turning parts of Europe and Canada into the likes of the Napa or Barossa Valley. Modern-day harvest reports speak about the lack of rainfall and rising temperatures throughout the growing season. Seasons that are too dry and too warm are challenging everything we know about growing grapes each new vintage.

IMG_7213As the calendar winds down in 2014 two vintages will come to an end. The first finished up six months ago in the southern hemisphere, the second will be completed next month across the northern latitudes. All of which leads us to the story of those four digits.

I like knowing that all things being equal, the 2012 and 2013 Okanagan vintages were superior to the 2010 and 2011. I take pride in knowing the balance from day one of the 1982 Bordeaux, placed it at the same level as the great 1961, 1959 and 1945s, considered by some the finest Bordeaux vintages ever. Why would you buy a 2004 Burgundy off a wine list if there was 2005 listed alongside it?

The best thing about vintages are you live through them. You can remember them, collect them, cellar them and drink them. They are a part of the mystery and complexity of wine. Why anyone would want to strip all that flavour from a wine is beyond us.

Surely in a digital world that seems to know everything there is to know about us 24/7 we could manage to keep track of four little digits as they pertain to a wine’s life. Think of it as commitment to your job, a sign of respect to the customer, the grower and most of all the wine.

Anthony

Photos courtesy of Treve Ring


Bridlewood Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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20 under $20 in British Columbia (October)

Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

Giving thanks for wine. We have much to be thankful for in BC. We have a thriving, exciting and vibrant wine industry, currently in the midst of a beautiful harvest. We have a selection of outlets to purchase wine, both government operated and independent, ensuring a wide and ranging selection of products at all price points. We have some of the top sommeliers and wine professionals in the country (sorry everywhere east), undoubtedly talented, educated and supportive of each other. And our wine culture, though young and concentrated, is building and confident. I am thankful for a national portal like WineAlign, that unites drinkers, agents, geeks, consumers and professionals all, in our shared quest for great wines. And I am thankful for you, our readers, who fuel our drive to bring you the best, and our best. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours – TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

A few favourites for the long weekend. Whether it’s turkey or ham or salmon or simply a piece of cheese all of these wines work with family and friends and we couldn’t be more thankful.

Chardonnay is on a roll around the globe and the Louis Latour Ardèche Chardonnay 2012 is a favourite given how it walks the fine line between rich and lean – plus it is terrific value to boot.

The new Moon Curser Carmenere 2012 speaks to site and climate, I love the pepper and chocolate we see in top Chilean examples. (Sorry for cheating above the $20 here)

Louis Latour Chardonnay L'ardeche 2012 Moon Curser Carmenere 2012 Tabalí Reserva Pinot Noir 2012 Tormaresca Trentangeli Castel Del Monte 2010 Crios De Susana Balbo Malbec 2013

Still in Chile, turkey and pinot can be a comfortable fit and the Tabali Reserva Pinot Noir 2012 fits that bill. The palate is soft and alluring with enough sweet fruit and spice to please a diverse crowd.

More turkey wine and a crowd pleaser is the Tormaresca Trentangeli Castel del Monte 2010. Rich dense warm and spicy it will stand up to the big dinner flavours.

That goes ditto for the handcrafted Crios Malbec by Susana Balbo Dominio de Plata 2013. Aromatic floral/violet black fruits will draw you deep into the glass. Happy Thanksgiving.

DJ Kearney

Thanksgiving is almost upon us and I give thanks for variety in wine; for the simple fact that we can waltz into a wine store and choose a bottle or five from dozens of countries, hundreds of grapes and thousands of producers. Diversity is wines greatest strength, so let’s celebrate a world of choice.

I blind-tasted Nobilo’s Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2014 this past August at our World Wine Awards, and wow does it deliver freshness and zing for a great price. I’ll be pouring it before Thanksgiving dinner paired with goat’s cheese crostini.

Next up is a sensational South African white, Wild Olive Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2013, and you should run, not walk to buy a case. Pair it with pear, thyme and parmesan stuffed mushrooms.

Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Wild Olive Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2013 St. Hubertus’ Pinot Blanc 2013 Stoneleigh Pinot Noir 2013 Goats Do Roam Red 2013

A different kind of botanical white is St. Hubertus’ Pinot Blanc 2013, with precise apple and citrus and the herbal note of the Okanagan’s ‘garrigue’; try this with Dungeness crab cakes.

To round out dinner of either whole baked sockeye salmon or the traditional turkey (smoky bacon atop), I love the 2013 Stoneleigh Marlborough Pinot Noir, and the Goat’s Do Roam 2013 chewy Cape red blend.  Being thankful for delicious under-$20 wines is EASY!

Rhys Pender MW

The wine world is so diverse and there are some great wines at great value from all over the place. Take the Campo Viejo Reserva Rioja 2008. A lot of interesting flavours for just $20.

Just creeping under the $20 thanks to a limited time offer, you should stock up on the Wakefield Riesling 2013. This crisp, dry Aussie riesling is fresh and juicy for now and should also cellar well, so tuck a few in the cellar.

Another interesting wine is the Feudo Maccari Nero D’avola 2012 from Sicily. This has the ripe fruit of sunshine but lots of meaty goodness, an excellent wine for beside the fire over the winter.

Campo Viejo Reserva 2008 Wakefield Clare Valley Riesling 2013 Feudo Maccari Nero D'avola 2012 Muscadet Sevre Et Maine Chateau De La Gravelle 2011 Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2013

One of the most craveable styles of wine is anything crisp and refreshing and that tastes like licking a wet rock from a mountain stream. The Château de la Gravelle 2011 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine fits the bill nicely. Just add freshly shucked oysters.

Cool nights call for warming meals and there is no better wine to go with Indian curry than viognier. The Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2013 is always a good bet.

Treve Ring

I’m admittedly not the traditional sort, so my Thanksgiving plans generally involve picnics, pizza, brunch or BBQ. However, I always invite folks over – sometimes newly acquainted, sometimes decades-known, often a mix – to share in the festivities. Therefore, my Thanksgiving wine picks veer more to communal camaraderie than a specific menu.

Therapy Vineyards Freudian Sip 2013 will unite a crowd, if not for its herb perfumed florals, then for its memorable label and name.

A well made, well balanced, well priced riesling is good to have in your arsenal, bonus points that it’s from the Mosel. Be sure to stock up on Deinhard Green Label Riesling 2012 for Thanksgiving and beyond.

Therapy Freudian Sip 2013 Deinhard Green Label Riesling 2012 Kendall Jackson Avant Chardonnay 2013 Piccini Fiasco Chianti 2012 Bodega Renacer Punto Final Malbec 2012

Monterey’s Kendall Jackson Avant Chardonnay 2013 demonstrates how far full-bodied Cali chardy has come, with its lemon, applesauce and gentle lees, it is a great wine to dispel the ABC myth with (test it on your company).

You needn’t fear this holiday fiasco. The Piccini Chianti Fiasco 2012 proudly utilizes the old school basket to present this tart cranberry and fresh cherry Tuscan red.

And if you do find yourself out grilling, like I most likely will be, you may need a spicy, hearty red. The solidly built, stylishly packaged Bodega Renacer Punto Final 2012 Malbec, from Mendoza, Argentina will partner with the fall chill, whatever meats you have grilling and your Thanksgiving table.

****

Watch for Anthony’s insightful Final Blend which speaks to the importance of vintage, followed by the BC WineAlign crew’s monthly Critics’ Picks, as well as Rhys Pender’s look at natural wine in BC. In the meantime, I have shared my take away notes from the biennial Wine & Culinary International Forum in Barcelona.

Cheers,

Treve

Here’s a short-cut to the complete list searchable by store: 20 under $20 in British Columbia

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Calliope Figure Eight Red 2012

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Announcing the Results of the 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada…

Nothing has value unless you give it some
Anthony Gismondi’s Final Blend

Anthony Gismondi, co-head judge

Anthony Gismondi, co-head judge

There’s a lot of great wine tasted at WineAlign every year and you can read about it on the site daily. In fact, we write about nearly every bottle we taste that is for sale in Canada. It’s our job, and pleasure, to search for wines you can buy and enjoy. And even more importantly, we want to answer the two biggest shopping questions you have: How much is it, and where can I buy it?

In order to best answer What, Where, How Much, When and Why, once a year we make a gargantuan effort to gather as a team in Toronto and spend a week locked away in an airport hotel tasting as many wines as we can amass for the WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada [2014 Results].

The word ‘world’ is important because anyone in the world can enter their wines, as long as they are sold somewhere on Canadian soil. We give Canadian wine its due at The Nationals, but we know it is just as important to taste globally to complete the perspective. I know that comes as a surprise to some Canadians who think we should only be drinking local wines but truthfully, that isn’t how the wine ‘world’ works. How do we know where Canadian wines stack up against the world if we only taste Canadian wines? Same with consumers. The goal is to make wonderful wine that expresses its terroir or uniqueness and share it with everyone. That is, the world.

Group tasting shot

The 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada is a tool we use at WineAlign to assess a large segment of wines Canadians buy and drink daily, and we do it as a team. In addition, it gives our judges a valuable chance to calibrate our palates and taste wines that aren’t available for sale in all provinces. It keeps us in check without constraining our opinions – ones shaped by years and travel and study and tasting. It’s a neat exercise on many levels, not the least of which is tasting blind for a week and keeping our palates and minds sharp. We also love the challenge of searching for great value wines and as we head into a busy fall season we can’t wait to arm you with the results.

If you are like most Canadian wine drinkers, you delight in discovering wine bargains. And why not? In a country where everything from hospitals, to roads, schools and social welfare are dependent on liquor revenues, there is no escaping high wine prices. We pay far too much for wine, so much so that the price on the bottle seldom corresponds to the quality of the wine inside. The price also reflects marketing, trends and tax. But let’s get back to the bargains.

The WWAC works because it is conceived to uncover the best value wines selling wines in Canada under $50 in a manner no other competition does. The tastings are computerized from start to finish allowing wineries, agents or retailers to enter, pay, and eventually track their results online. The same software allows us to build panels and flights of wine and then assign those wines to various panels all in an unbiased fashion, before they are served to our highly experienced tasters, blind.

Collage

The same technology spits out scoring sheets for each individual judge and tracks their scores from start to finish. When our judges leave at the end of the competition they take all their tasting notes, scores and the answer key with them in a highly prized binder. This binder, full of hundreds of detailed notes, tasted blind, is a bible that judges can refer to in articles, purchasing and consulting for the year to come. Since individual scores are only a part of the final picture, judges do not know the competition’s final results until they are released to the public. It all may sound logical but I can attest to a lot of competitions around the world where that information is never returned to the judges.

More than technology, we are particularly proud of our winners because they have to win twice to win big. In the first round they need to outscore the majority of the entries just to get to the finals. Then in the second round they must beat out the best of the best to win and should there be a tie, they may have to face-off again against the very best. It is thorough and challenging, whether the public or producers know about it or not. We know, and we care.

I also know this: If I was a running a private retail store (sorry Ontario) I would stack the winners to the ceiling. If I were running a winery I would brag for an entire year to anyone who would listen secure in my mind that what I was producing a wine that is among the best in its class.

WWAC Panorama

Yet we do not do any of this for wineries, agents or writers. We run the competition for you, the consumer. As mentioned earlier, we think you need a break from ridiculously high wine prices and our coveted Category Champions and Judges Choice winners are our way of saying thanks for coming back to the site as often you do. As we approach the two million unique visitors in 2014, it is clear you come back often, and we work hard to bring you value.

We pledge to continue the competition because we love sharing our highly vetted list with you and we would love your feedback.

Now for the results and few disclaimers…

We have spent an inordinate amount of time tracking down the prices of these wines because the results are predicated on the lowest available price for the wine sold somewhere in Canada. Please remember that the lowest price may not be the price in your province or territory.

The Category Champion bested all the wines in its category while our Judges’ Choice awards went to a short list of the remaining top scoring wines in the category. Best of Country selections represent the top wine across all categories and grape types in which that country’s wines were entered. The Top Value Wines takes into account the wine’s average score as well as its price, thereby ranking the wine by a price/value quotient.

WWAC_BestCountry_WP

It’s hard to explain the energy that goes into these awards but suffice to say the hours are off the charts and it’s all for the pleasure of our readers.

Thanks for supporting WineAlign and wine culture in Canada. Now it is time to shop and taste  – and by the way  – congratulations to all the winners.

Anthony

Use these links to access the complete results of the 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada:

Results Summary Page
Complete list of Top Value Wines 
Complete list of Best of Country

Photos by Jason Dziver


Please join us at our inaugural “Champions Tasting” to be held at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) on Thursday October 16th, 2014 at 6:30pm.

Our Champions Tasting is unique compared to other tastings in that all wines being poured are “Champions” from our 2014 wine awards. These include only Platinum and Gold winning wines from the 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada, as well as, Top Value, Category Champion and Best of Country wines from the 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada.

Champions Tasting

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks September 2014

Focusing on the WineAlign World Wine Awards

The results of the World Wine Awards are about to be released, and co-Head Judge Anthony Gismondi is busy finalizing the results and preparing for the announcement, so the rest of the BC team is reporting on BC Critics’ Picks for September, and reflecting on some of our favourite themes and wines that came out of last month’s competition.

Anthony’s Final Blend column will be posted tomorrow, along with the full results. I can’t wait to see what we all had to say, collectively. In the meantime, these picks may give you a little sneak peek!

Cheers, Treve Ring

BC Team Version 3

DJ Kearney

Chile rocks. My wine picks were inspired by two events:  our recent WineAlign World Awards which re-invigorated my palate for global flavours, and spending a little time with Pedro Parra, Chile’s charismatic geologist/terroir hunter.   Pedro is helping to decode the relationship between grapes and rocks and consults not just throughout Chile, but around the world, including here in British Columbia (at Okanagan Crush Pad).

Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block No. 21 Viento Mar Pinot Noir 2012 Koyle Reserva Syrah 2011So with Pedro’s passionate rants echoing in my ears, I looked at my WWAC notes and instantly remembered the Koyle Syrah Reserva 2011.  It can age a few years more but will be nicely tamed by a smoked brisket or herby lamb braise.

Just as evocative of regional identity is Cono Sur’s 2012 Single Vineyard Block 21 Pinot Noir, with its cool-climate racy acidity, but gorgeous fruit sweetness and mineral twang.  Salmon wine par excellence given mild tannins and leafy savour.

Cabernet Sauvignon is Chile’s most planted grape (over 40,000 hectares of it) and I loved the classic correctness of Carmen’s Gran Reserva Alto Maipo 2011 cab with its chewy black cassis, hint of mint and quiet power.  Built for a prime steak and a few years of bottle-ageing too, for the Alto Maipo’s gravelly signature to emerge fully.

Rhys Pender MW

Having spent the best part of the week sifting through my tasting notes from the World Wine Awards of Canada (WWAC), it is obvious that there are some great wines available around the country and often great value for money. Below are a few of my selections that really hit the mark in the under $15, under $25 and over $25 price categories.

Miguel Torres Sangre De Toro 2012 wine_50012_web San Pedro 1865 Limited Edition Cabernet Syrah 2011It is great seeing wineries breaking the mold with less traditional blends that just work really well. Chile has historically been very Bordeaux variety focused but syrah is making waves in its short history in the country. The blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah is common in Australia and seems to work well in Chile is the San Pedro 1865 Limited Edition Cabernet Syrah 2011. Serious wine for just under $25.

Another top class wine, worth every penny of its $40, is the Wolf Blass White Label Chardonnay Adelaide Hills 2010. This is classy chardonnay showing the big changes that have happened in Aussie chardonnay. Don’t expect toasty oak, butter and bigness but rather a very complex, subtle and restrained wine with plenty of elegance.

We are all looking for great wine deals and sometimes they come along right under your nose. For under $15 you can get the Miguel Torres Sangre De Toro 2012. You have probably had this wine in the past, and it isn’t always overly exciting, but the 2012 vintage offers a great blend of fruit and savoury complexity to make it bat above its weight.

Treve Ring

For me, a valuable and rewarding part of the competition is finding out that you prefer – sometimes overwhelmingly – a wine in the under $15 category more than one in the over $25 category.

Unsworth Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012 Laurenz V und Sophie Singing Grüner Veltliner 2012 Brumont Gros Manseng Sauvignon 2013One particularly appealing lean, bright, mountain herb and smoked stone white that I enjoyed was Alain Brumont’s characterful 2013 Gros Manseng-Sauvignon blend from Southwest France’s Gascony area. Though just a shade over $15 on our market, it settles under the $15 mark in other provinces – a steal at this mark.

Sometimes wines stand out in a flight for all the wrong reasons. In the case of Laurenz V und Sophie Singing Gruner Veltliner 2012 from Austria however, this grape stood out and shone in its flight, memorable for its green fig, herbal spice and tangerine peel notes.

It’s always comforting to see that local wines can command high scores in a mixed international flight, and I was duly rewarded to see that one particularly graceful and elegant young pinot was Vancouver Island’s Unsworth Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012.

About the BC Critics’ Picks ~

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks column is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics, wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution through BCLDB or VQA stores. All are currently available for sale in British Columbia.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008