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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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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!


Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

20 under $20 in British Columbia (September)

Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

It’s official. Summer is over. Well, ok, not officially. But really, come September and Labour Day and immediately I start thinking less about easy breezy whites and lakeshores and more about crunchy reds and sweaters. As we transition from a glorious summer in BC to what looks to be an abundant harvest, the BC team are starting the subtle shift into fall in the glass. And we want to help you drink better, for less. Our 20 under $20 wines are readily available in BC Liquor Stores and VQA stores across the province for your shopping convenience.

Cheers ~ Treve Ring

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

Always a good value, no matter the season, the Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2013 is light fresh and packed full of tension a perfect anecdote to creamy sauces. For those who like their riesling extreme.

Southern Italian reds are a great way to ease into fall. Don’t miss the La Casona de Castaño Old Vines Monastrell 2013; you are getting old vine monastrell made by the Castaño family at a giveaway price. Grilled lamb chops anyone?

More tasty red comes in the form of Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2011 with its blackcurrant, black olives flavours seemingly rubbed with Chilean ‘boldo’, the French equivalent of garrigue. Steak is the cure here.

Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2013 Bodegas Castano La Casona Old Vines Monastrell 2013 Santa Rita Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Gabriel Meffre Plan De Dieu Saint Mapalis 2012 Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2013

Gabriel Meffre Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages Saint Mapalis 2012 is an amazing 50/30/20 blend of grenache, mourvèdre and syrah from noted southern Rhone villages. Think more finesse than regular Cote du Rhone serve with turkey.

Finally, one doesn’t always reach for pinot blanc to excite the senses but the Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2013 is worth sipping for its refreshing citrus/green peach flavours. Let the fall begin.

DJ Kearney

A southern hemisphere round-up is my theme as I reflect nostalgically about two amazing trips that I took this time last year – one to South Africa’s Cape winelands, and the other to Australia and New Zealand. They were journeys of discovery and delight, as was a recent tour of Argentina. Common denominator in the antipodes? Great-value wines that combine generous fruit, clean lines and good stories.

Give this breezy white a try and join the chenin fan club. The Royal Old Vine Steen 2013 celebrates and preserves mature vineyards for only $14 bucks.

Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc 2013 is a ‘got-it-all’ savvy. Fresh and purposeful with the kind of focus that has sharpened over the last few vintages, it’s killer with crisp greens, goat’s cheese nuggets and pink grapefruit.

The Royal Old Vine Steen Chenin Blanc 2013 Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 D'arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2013 Crios De Susana Balbo Malbec 2013 Anderra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

D’Arenberg’s 2013 The Hermit Crab impressed me with a happy balance of weight and herbal savour in this 65% viognier/35% marsanne blend that tastes dry and energetic. Here’s my pairing: a salad of heirloom tomatoes dressed with no more than torn basil leaves, Maldon salt, cracked pepper and tangy olive oil.

Crios Malbec 2013 presents a mouthful of expressive blueberry fruit to contrast with spicy, meaty grilled chorizo sausages, while Anderra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 serves as a tasty reminder that Chile’s central valley churns out more than decent reds for a song.

Rhys Pender MW

Pinot grigio can be dilute, boring and it is hard to understand why it is so popular. Then you hit on one that is everything the variety should be, crisp, fresh and lively but with some drive and intensity. The Kris Pinot Grigio 2013 fits the bill nicely.

One of the benefits of being a pioneer in the wine business is that by the time you survive all the hardships of helping to create an industry, you are usually firmly established and debt free when it all settles down and you can go about making wine and often at a very competitive price. Gehringer Brothers always outperforms on their quality to price ratio and the 2013 Private Reserve Riesling is no exception and worth buying by the case.

Kris Pinot Grigio 2013Gehringer Brothers Private Reserve Riesling 2013Edna Valley Paragon Chardonnay 2011 CedarCreek Gewurztraminer 2013 Cellar Hand Punch Down Red 2012

The world is making an effort at making chardonnay fresher, crisper, lighter and juicier and California is no exception, even though it is hard in many of the warmer climate areas. When the vineyards are near the cool pacific coast they more naturally produce this modern style. Big boys Gallo have produced the well priced Edna Valley Chardonnay 2011 that is a nice example of what can be done.

Gewürztraminer, like riesling, is increasingly being taken more seriously in British Columbia with producers trying to make wines of character and intensity rather than just the simple fruity wines which, frankly, other countries can do better and cheaper. One increasingly serious gewürztraminer producer is CedarCreek and their 2013 is a good example of the fat and rich Alsatian style.

British Columbia can produce some decent value red wine, the second wine of Black Hills is the Cellar Hand range and the red in particular offers great value at around $20. The Punch Down Red 2012 is a good warming, solid wine for cooler fall evenings by the fire.

Treve Ring

As dated as ‘don’t wear white after Labour Day’ is the credo that white wines should only be reserved for summer months.

California’s Bonterra Organic Chardonnay 2012 is a great example of a fall-worthy wine that will remind you of summer blossoms. This creamy style offers up a sweet green pea freshness and light floral blossoms.

Telmo Rodriquez Basa Blanco 2013 is a wine I’d gladly drink any day of the year, and even more so due to its amazing value. Verdejo, viura and sauvignon blanc from Spain’s DO Rueda come together seamlessly in this crisp citrus, herb and stone beauty.

Bonterra Chardonnay 2012 Telmo Rodriguez Basa Blanco 2013 Bottega Vino Dei Poeti Prosecco Thornhaven Pinot Meunier 2012 Miguel Torres Sangre De Toro 2012

There is never an incorrect time to drink bubbles. Especially when it’s lively, perfumed and citrus kissed, like Italy’s Bottega Nino Dei Poeti Prosecco.

As for reds to ward off early autumn’s chill, Thornhaven Estates Pinot Meunier 2012 is an excellent local choice. This rare solo example of pinot meunier, commonly found in blends, offers up perfumed raspberry and twine-scented spice.

For consistent value year after year, Miguel Torres Sangre de Toro 2012 is hard to beat with its savoury and bright blend of garnacha and carignan from Cataluña, Spain.

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And that’s it for this month’s 20 under 20. Next up this month our Critic’s Picks at any price, and the announcement of the results of the WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada. In the meantime, check out my article on last month’s International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon.

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 30 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Fall in the vineyards, photos courtesy of Treve Ring

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BC Critics’ Picks August 2014

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.

Focusing on the WineAlign World Wine Awards

This week the BC WineAlign team has invaded Toronto, convening with colleagues from across the country to judge the World Wine Awards of Canada (WWAC14). This competition is open to wines from any country (Canada included), as long as they’re sold some where on Canadian soil. We’ve divided the categories by grapes, and also by price point (under $15, $15-25, $25 and up) so we can compare apples to apples, or more correctly, merlot to merlot.

Tasting the wines by grape(s) and price point allows us to taste wines fairly in the company of their contemporaries. While price is not always an accurate reflector of quality, it is how the vast majority select the wines they’re going to purchase. Our job this week is to find the best wines in each category – be it a viognier over $25 or a pinot noir under $15. We’re here to separate the wheat from the chaff, and make shopping and drinking decisions easier. By the end of the week, each winning wine will have been tasted blind at least a dozen times and by all the judges to ensure that it’s worthy of top place in this competition.

To be clear, we are not yet revealing the winners from the 2014 judging. But as we’re lining up our palates to taste these international flights, we’ve been reflecting on the strengths from past competitions and our predictions for this year’s competition. Follow along on twitter at #WWAC14 to see how this year’s competition unfolds in the days ahead.

Cheers, Treve Ring

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

One of the privileges of being head judge of the Wine Align World Wine Awards is you get to see what goes in each and every flight, watching wines progress through flights taking on all comers and judges to become a Category Champion or Judges Choice. There are always pleasant surprises every year and then there are wineries that have proven themselves year after year to become dependable go to labels for almost any occasion.

Mission Hill Martin's Lane Riesling 2012Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2012Robert Mondavi Fumé BlancRobert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2012 is one such wine, and the 2012 vintage as good as any in recent memory. Robert Mondavi wasn’t getting the attention for his sauvignon blanc he thought it deserved back in the 1980s so he looked to the French Loire Valley standard ‘Pouilly Fumé’ and came up with the Fumé Blanc moniker and the rest as they say is history.

Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay is another wine that needs little introduction. Once an advertisement for oak barrels this wine has evolved into a serious bottle of chardonnay and the 2012 vintage proves that Australian chardonnay deserves your attention, and respect.

Respected, and proven names in the wine world separately, Okanagan Valley’s Mission Hill Family Estate and German Rheinhessen star Fritz Hasselbach have come together to collaborate on the Martin’s Lane project bringing another layer of complexity to British Columbia riesling. Juicy and refined the Martin’s Lane 2013 Riesling is sure to continue to turn heads.

DJ Kearney

Trivento Reserve Cabernet Malbec 2012Glen Carlou Grand Classique Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2010Florina Alpha Estate Turtles Vineyard Syrah 2008The World Wine awards are such a treat and pleasure to judge. There are always joys and hidden gems like the best Greek wine at last year’s awards, Averoff’s 2008 Xinomavro from Naoussa. I also really admire the wine from Alpha Estates in the north western fringes of Amyndeon, an impressive and ambitious project with fine vineyard land, a striking modern winery and state of the art equipment. Their single vineyard syrah is distinctive and the 2008 vintage is on the BCLDB shelves.  A little age has integrated a bold amount of oak very nicely.

A South African wine that never fails to delight is Glen Carlou’s Grand Classique.  The current release in BC is the 2010 and it manages to taste as Bordeaux-like as ever, yet full of ripe and forward fruit.

Trivento’s Golden Cabernet Sauvignon underscores an important truth:  the cabernets are doing well in Mendoza. Full-bodied and fruit packed, it’s a lot of wine for the price. These three wines were some of my palate tune-ups for the judging.

Rhys Pender MW

Montresor Capitel Della Crosara Valpolicella Ripasso 2011Cono Sur Single Vineyard Rulos Alto Block 23 2013Devil's Lair The Hidden Cave Chardonnay 2013Chardonnay is successful at awards in many different styles but trends are changing in the world. The days of over oaked, buttery monsters is largely gone (thankfully with a few hanging on because sometimes we just really want these wines) and a new version of chardonnay built around restraint is the next generation. The Devil’s Lair 2013 The Hidden Cave Chardonnay is a good example of this.

Another grape successful around the world is riesling. You might not associate Chile with the grape, but there is some serious stuff coming out of the cool climate southern Bio Bio region. The Cono Sur 2013 Single Vineyard Block No. 23 Rulos del Alto Riesling is one I recommend trying to taste some of Bio Bio’s extreme, pristine fruit.

Italy always turns up some winners in the competition in a huge variety of styles. For a good combination of fruitiness and some earthy Euro-ness, try the Montresor 2011 Capitel della Crosara Valpolicella Ripasso.

Treve Ring

As I mentioned in my introduction, we sift through over the 1100 wines entered this week to find consumers the best wines in each category. Looking back over last year’s WWAC results, it’s pretty evident that our thorough judging system, checks and balances, works.

Warre’s 10 Year Old Otima PortUnsworth Vineyards Rose 2012Trapiche Pure Malbec 2012In the Under $15 category, Trapiche Malbec Reserve 2012 took top honours for Best of Variety. I’m hopeful that we’ll run into the Trapiche Pure Malbec 2012 this week – a fantastic example of adventuresome winemaking using wild yeasts, concrete vats and sourced from high altitude vineyards in the foothills of the Andes.

In the $15-25 group, Vancouver Island’s Unsworth Rosé proved a hometown hero and took a Judge’s Choice Award. Let’s hope the streak continues with the 2013 vintage, a fresh, dry marine influenced pinot noir rosé.

It’s a shame that more people don’t drink fortified wines on a regular basis. Don’t be mortified about fortified! Especially when you have a wine like last year’s $25+ Fortified Category award winner, the Warre’s Otima 10 Year Old Tawny Port. This contemporary tawny is from a classic and highly reputed house, spends an average of a decade aging in cask, with some parts of the blend upwards of 40 years old. A steal.

*****

Check out our BC team’s value-focused Top 20 under $20 in early September, along with my special Back to School report on Wine Education in BC.

Cheers,

Treve Ring

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 30 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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20 under $20 in British Columbia (August 2014)

Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

Even though we’ve just made it through the National Wine Awards, our national judges are already preparing – mentally at least – for the The World Wine Awards of Canada (WWAC14), coming up in a few short weeks. These recognize the best wines SOLD in Canada anywhere, regardless of where they are from. They are judged in categories under $15, $15 to $25, and over $25 to a maximum of $50. What’s so fantastic about these awards is that we are judging Canada blind beside wines from France, Australia, Chile, Spain and beyond.

While we’re gearing up for Toronto mid-month, our BC critics have been reflecting on World Wine Awards from past years and anticipating what terrific values we might be seeing in our glasses in competition this year. Our 20 Under $20 wines are readily available in BC Liquor Stores and VQA stores across the province for your shopping convenience.

Cheers ~ Treve Ring

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

Looking back at 2013 “Sauvignon Blanc” results from the World Wine Awards, the top five labels were: Robert Mondavi 2011 Fume Blanc, Napa, Mapu 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Chile, Giesen Sauvignon Blanc 2012, New Zealand, Arboleda 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Chile and The Ned Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. There’s no telling how the 2014 results will go but here are five of my current favourite white sauvignons to finish off the summer on the patio.

The Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2012 is easily the best value sauvignon in the country.

No less impressive, save for it drab packaging and Don Max designation, is the Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc Don Max Reserva 2013, it’s mix of citrus and dried herbs with enough passion fruit to give it a fruity underbelly. It is delicious.

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2012 Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Blue Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Leon De Tarapaca Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Locally, the Blue Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2013 is a fresh, electric-style sauvignon with grassy, grapefruit, gooseberry flavours.

You can spell the Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Regional Collection 2013 c-l-a-s-s-i-c, with no shortage of passion fruit, melon and bell pepper notes.

Finally the big steal is León de Tarapacá Sauvignon Blanc 2012, the perfect luncheon-style sauvignon that is a kinder gentler version of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

DJ Kearney

Wine’s greatest strength is its diversity – and it’s such an exciting time to be a wine lover when diversity can come at a bargain price.

At last year’s Awards the 2012 Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio absolutely shone in the Under $15 category. The 2013 is pretty darn tasty too, especially with a frosty chill and gourmet nachos.

One of my favourite regions to drink from is Austria and I’ve got my fingers crossed that this alpine, landlocked country will be well-represented at the August judging. The Domaine Wachau Gruner Veltliner Terraces 2012 is a crisply taut dry white with subtle fruit and a saline aspect that’s tasty with cheese, or brined then grilled prawns.

Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2013 Domäne Wachau Terraces Grüner Veltliner 2012 Trivento Amado Sur Torrontes Viognier 2013 Falernia Reserva Syrah 2010 The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvèdre Viognier 2013

Trivento’s Amado Sur Blanco 2013 is a dry and joyful blend of torrontés, viognier and chardonnay that demonstrates how fresh and lively Argentine whites can be.  It’s a great price that’s slashed to $12.99 in BC Liquor Stores until August 30th.

I admire the Falernia Syrah Reserva 2010 every time I encounter a bottle. From the 2010 earthquake vintage, it’s a moving wine to drink, and is showing black fruit, pepper and the sinewy qualities of cool-climate syrah. A runaway winner at last year’s Worlds, I sure hope to see more of Falernia’s range at the WWAC14.

Finally another staple of mine, especially when the charcoal grill is hot and smoky baby back ribs are getting their final burnish, bring on the Wolftrap Red 2013.

Rhys Pender MW

The Rhône valley always seems to feature well in the World competition, the soft and rich texture of both the red and white wines appealing to the judges. An impressive and well priced Rhône red tasted recently that is worth seeking out is the Cave De Rasteau La Domelière Rasteau 2010.

The WWAC judging always turns out some amazing value discoveries, wines you should buy by the case. There was no pinot blanc in the winners list last year but this variety does consistently offer excellent value. The Inniskillin Okanagan Pinot Blanc 2012 is a great crisp, fresh summer white.

Malbec is no stranger to the limelight in the value price points but most of it comes from Argentina. There is also serious, if slightly lighter and fresher, malbec being grown over the hills in Chile. A great value example is the Viu Manent 2012 Estate Collection Malbec from Colchagua Valley in Chile.

Cave De Rasteau La Domelière Rasteau 2010 Inniskillin Okanagan Pinot Blanc Reserve 2012 Viu Manent Estate Malbec 2012 Quails' Gate Chenin Blanc 2013 Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris 2013

The WWAC is always a good chance for some of the lesser known grapes to get some attention. The Red Single Varieties and White Single Varieties categories see some exciting entries from all over the world. Chenin Blanc is not the rarest but surely not that well known either. A great example tasted recently is the Quails’ Gate 2013 Chenin Blanc. It is explosive, powerful and crunchy and great value.

Always a consistent performer is the Tinhorn Creek Vineyards Pinot Gris. The 2012 vintage was a judges’ choice at last years WWAC and it will be interesting to see how the 2013 vintage does. It is richer, rounder and more lush than previous vintages offering something a little different and will stand up well to mild curries, poultry and rich white fish.

Treve Ring

As I noted in my intro, the great thrill of the World Wine Awards is seeing how Canada stacks up blind against wines from all corners of the globe. One Canadian wine that excelled last year in its category was Wild Goose Mystic River Pinot Gris 2012, proving pinot gris needn’t be bland and banal or expensive.

Another Okanagan winery that held its weight (and earned its weight in medals) is the Gray Monk Riesling 2011, from a winery forging Germanic roads in BC for decades, and always for a reasonable price.

Wild Goose Pinot Gris Mystic River 2012 Gray Monk Riesling 2011 Campo Viejo Reserva 2008 Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Sogrape Gazela Rosé

Outside of Canada, we always expect certain countries, and regions to fare well in the under $25 category. While many countries are strong here (Chile, Argentina, South Africa and Australia amongst them), right now Spain and Portugal’s values are second to none, and I think both countries will be big contenders in this year’s competition. Rioja’s Campo Viejo Reserva 2008 value is extremely hard to beat year over year, as the classic tempranillo and graciano blend is traditional and modern all at once.

Of course, Cava is practically equivalent to amazing value, and Segura Viudas Brut NV is top of the heap for taste, value, consistency and availability in any market, worldwide.

And I’m particularly keeping a close eye on Portugal this year, a country category buoyed by a very strong showing in B.C. This summer, there is often a bottle of Gazela Vinho Verde Rosé around, and with good reason. Easy, breezy, off-dry, interesting and pink – what more could you ask for in a $10 patio wine?

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Follow along as WineAlign’s BC critics, as well as all of our national critics, tweet, facebook and instagram live daily from the World Wine Awards of Canada (#WWAC14) from August 18-22.

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 30 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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20 under $20 in British Columbia (July 2014)

Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

We’re well into summer now, and priorities have distinctively shifted into summer holiday mode. We’re still tasting as much as ever, though patios, beaches, campsites, parks, docks and boats play heavily on our choices now. As Ella so soulfully and rightfully crooned, it’s Summertime, and the livin’ is easy

Our 20 Under $20 wines are readily available in BC Liquor Stores and VQA stores across the province for your shopping convenience.

Cheers ~
Treve Ring

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

It’s amazing how a few warm days can transform a lightweight, fruity wine into a quenching patio favourite that has everybody asking to see the label. Remember light and fruity doesn’t have to mean flavourless and flabby nor should the wine possess a finish that lasts longer than a weekend round of golf.

Case in point, Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling 2012 from Washington’s Columbia Valley. Or, from further south, the simple, juicy and off-dry Fetzer Quartz Winemaker’s Favourite White Blend 2012. Chill them down, find a deck chair and away you go.

Equally refreshing – and local – is Grant Stanley’s 50th Parallel Estate Riesling 2013 from British Columbia Lake Country with its bright acidity and tension. Think grilled pork.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling 2012 Fetzer Quartz Winemaker's Favourite White Blend 2012 50th Parallel Riesling 2013 Bold Vine Old Vine Zinfandel 2012 Château Peyros Tannat Cabernet 2009

Barbecue freaks often reach for red, and this juicy example from California will match many al fresco meals. Bold Vine Old Vine Zinfandel 2012 is a catchy, friendly fresh, easy-sipping style for lighter grilled dishes, plus tapas, cheese and pizzas.

Finally, it’s fun to explore new grapes, blends and region in the summer and  Chateau Peyros Madiran Tannat Cabernet Franc 2009 qualifies on all counts.

This very interesting tannat /cabernet franc blend from southwest France’s Madiran region will expand your wine knowledge, and your big meaty BBQ pairing options.

DJ Kearney

White wines from the Southern Hemisphere typically bring a trio of satisfying factors:  generous fruit, lush texture and killer value. I’ve chosen five bottles from south of the equator that are lovely summertime wines for relaxed outdoor dinners.

Giesen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 brings brisk and cheeky to a new level, with tropical notes, grassy freshness and dusty minerals for a tossed salad of local goat’s cheese, grapes, kiwi and baby greens. Use the wine in the vinaigrette as the acid for complete harmony.

South Africa’s Cape winelands have embraced sauvignon blanc in a bearhug, and are sending lovely trim wines to market, like the Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2013. Savoury with nettles and crunchy gooseberries, it’s a dry and earthy companion for chilled cucumber soup.

Giesen Wine Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Miss Molly By Moreson Hoity Toity Chenin Blanc 2012 Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2012 Concha Y Toro Marques De Casa Concha Chardonnay 2012

Chenin Blanc is the Cape’s most planted white grape and in Miss Molly Hoity Toity 2012, a jolt of perfumed viognier romps through the blend.  Lemony fresh with a peachy finish, it’s built for simple grilled chicken skewers.

Yalumba makes a wide range of wonderful wines, and led the charge planting Viognier in Oz.  Organic, floral and gorgeous, the Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2012 is for grilled salmon and stonefruit salsa.

Finally, a Chilean looker that is under $20 by just a penny, but it over-delivers even at this price.  Stately and rich, I want Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2012 with steamed Dungeness crab and Meyer Lemon butter.

Rhys Pender MW

Summer is finally here and in a dramatic fashion. At the time of writing this, temperatures in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys were in the high 30s. The body wants to slow down, shade and water are sought after and crisp, dry and refreshing wines are in order. Fortunately there are many great wines that have the perfect level of refreshment.

My first recommendation this month is not a grape variety and place that we often associate and maybe that is why the Nederburg The Winemaster’s Reserve Riesling 2012 is such a great deal at $10 (BC)!

Summer also means dry rosé time. Few wines are as well suited to lounging in the shade on a hot day than very cold, light pink rosé from the south of France. The Domaine Saint Ferréol Les Vaunières 2013 and the Bieler Père et Fils 2013  are both perfect.

Nederburg The Winemaster's Reserve Riesling 2012 Domiane St Ferreol Les Vaunieres 2013 Bieler Père & Fils Sabine Rosé 2013Baldes & Fils Château Labrande 2010 Trapiche Pure Malbec 2012

Red wine may also be necessary at this time of the year and particularly later in the evening when it finally cools off and you want to grill big chunks of red meat. A good red wine for this must have character but not be overly boozy or heavily laden with oak. And don’t be afraid to chill them down in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour. The Château Labrande 2010 Cahors Malbec is a good choice.

Another important red wine that is bucking a lot of the trends of sweetness and chocolatey oak is the Trapiche 2012 Pure Malbec from the cool Uco Valley part of Argentina’s Mendoza. The vineyard is managed to slow ripening and the grapes are picked a little earlier to avoid jamminess. The wine then sees no oak staying fresh, juicy and lively. And it works.

Treve Ring

Vive le Juillet! Tour de France and this week’s Bastille Day celebrations have me in a distinctively French frame of mind. While many people – erroneously – consider French wines to be expensive and intimidating, I argue that the amazing diversity of regions, styles, grapes – and price points – makes France a wine buyers (and drinker’s) delight.

Everyone loves bubbles, especially when they are pink, fresh, fruity, easy and $16. The Loire Valley’s Remy Pannier Royal de Neuville Rose is a gentle, off-dry example that matches summer’s rosy sunset.

If you prefer your pinks dry, pick up the Chateau de Brigue Côtes de Provence Protégée Rose 2013, a crisp and refined syrah and cinsault blend that will fit patio sipping or your albacore tuna niçoise.

Tour de France riders spent a couple of days in the Vosges mountains, undoubtedly satisfied to slake their thirsts with juicy, fruity, round whites like Kuhlmann Platz Gewurztraminer 2012.

Remy Pannier Royal De Neuville Petillant RoseChateau De Brigue Rose 2013Kuhlmann Platz GewurztraminerCave De Rasteau La Domelière Rasteau 2010 Cote Mas Languedoc Reserve 2012

A GSM blend is always a good bet for summertime suppers, so two must be doubly as good, right? True when we’re talking about Cave de Rasteau La Domelière 2010 from AC Rasteau. This savoury grenache, syrah, mouvedre blend is from one of the oldest wineries in the Rhone valley and demonstrates its pedigree now with a few years patina.

In a younger, fresher vein is the Cote Mas Languedoc Reserve 2012, from Languedoc AC. Here, Grenache, syrah and mouvedre are joined by the charismatic and secretive carignan, resulting in a savoury and garrigue-imbued herbal cherry wonder, ideal for dusky nights al fresco.

Keep cool out there BC – we’ll be back next month to satisfy your wallets and your palates with a special edition 20 Under $20 focused on The World Wine Awards of Canada.

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 30 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Behind the scenes at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada 2014

A Quality Affair

Last month WineAlign converged on Penticton, British Columbia for the National Wine Awards of Canada. For five full days the ballrooms of the Penticton Lakeside Resort were transformed into a world class stage to judge the country’s best wines.

While we are busy tabulating the results – which will be announced later this month – we thought you might enjoy this insider’s look at what goes on behind the scenes of one of the best wine competitions in the world.

It’s as good as it gets!


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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008