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BC Critics’ Picks – April 2015

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks 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.

What’s on our minds this month? From the looks of the picks submitted below, a lot. We’re dividedly focused on hockey, food, travels and Earth Day, but united in focus on interesting, unique, off-the-path wines. This month we’re excited about well-priced and BBQ-primed zinfandel, aristocratic Alsatian gewürztraminer, idiosyncratic Jura vin Jaune and a BS-free sustainable sauvignon blanc/semillon from the Okanagan – plus others.

And if you happen to be watching the playoffs, while on the road, contemplating dinner and want to drink a local wine – this month we’re focused on you. Cheers (and go Canucks).

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi

It’s the Stanley Cup Playoffs in most of Canada so this month’s picks are all about calming down. The wine business, like hockey reporting, isn’t exempt from hyperbole so this month’s picks are about relaxing, just a bit, and drinking something authentic, understated and supportive to whichever team turns your crank. Go Canucks.

A wine that screams Tuscan and delicious most any night is the Le Volte dell’Ornellaia 2012. Suave with fine intensity and that signature savoury Bolgheri streak, it calls for pre-game spaghetti and meatballs.

Le Volte Dell'ornellaia 2012 Edmeades Zinfandel 2011 Radio Boka Tempranillo 2012

Following the comfortable theme, zinfandel works for hockey game gatherings and a current favourite is the Edmeades Zinfandel 2011 from its peppery, blackberry jam nose to its dense, sweet finish. Fire up the barbecue.

Finally a bargain you can find in private wine shops is Radio Boka 2012. Boka hails from Valencia, the home of oranges and paella, and in a similar fashion this red is as comforting as both. It’s dirt cheap, and even 30 percent cheaper in Ontario, but when you come from mountainsides and head-pruned, 25-50 year-old vines, well let’s just say it’s a good buy.

Rhys Pender, MW

Here are three wines that are just freaking delicious and worth seeking out.

The first is an old favourite, the Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. I’ve been lucky enough to try cellared versions of this wine for decades as my dad often had a few older bottles kicking around when I was growing up. It was one of the few wines that got aged. It can easily go for a decade and there are probably few wines in the world that are as good a value bet for the cellar. And a secret, it is much more expensive in Australia than it is here in Canada!

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2012 Domaine Barmes Buecher Rosenberg Riesling 2012

I recently got the chance to visit the stunning vineyards of Alsace and one of my visits was with the charming Catherine Faller of Domaine Weinbach. We went through a lineup of 14 impressive wines, all of which ooze complexity, power and intensity. The Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2012 was particularly delicious, especially the bottle I had later with foie gras.

Another great Alsatian producer I visited was Barmes-Buecher. Such a charming family and the wines do not disappoint for being excitingly unique and interesting. One of their wines that has appeared from time to time in BC is the Rosenberg Riesling 2012, with its great texture and length. Worth seeking out.

DJ Kearney

Halibut season accounts for my three white choices this month. From Campania, the captivating Masseria Frattasi Acquafredda Fiano Beneventano IGT 2013, a rich but lively fiano for halibut marinated in lemongrass, lime leaf and coconut milk, then crisply grilled.

Masseria Frattasi Acquafredda Fiano Beneventano 2013 Colle Stefano Verdicchio Di Matelica 2013 Domaine Stéphane Tissot Arbois Savagnin 2000

For the linear but highly flavourful Colle Stafano Verdicchio di Matelica DOC 2013, halibut needs nothing more than a generous squeeze of lemon before slipping into a bamboo steamer.

For this magical Vin Jaune 2000 from savant winemaker Stéphane Tissot the halibut needs a beurre blanc made with the Vin Jaune, or serve after the fish with Compte cheese, another famous gift from the Jura.

Treve Ring

With April’s burst into spring, I’m always reminded how lucky we are to live in this corner of the globe, and what an outstanding and awe-inspiring diversity of environments that makes up our province. With Earth Day falling this week, it’s a perfect time to set to drinking wines that are purposefully grown and produced with sustainable measures in mind.

Claus Preisinger is one of Austria’s hottest winemakers. Youthful, driven, modern, consciousness and innovative – his aim is to create that typify terroir, and his vineyards are completely biodynamic to honour that. Basic 2011 is just that – a beauty blend of zweigent and blaufrankisch that pairs perfectly with blistered crust margarita pizza with arugula.

Claus Preisinger Basic Red 2011 Le Clos Du Tue Boeuf La Butte 2013 Lock & Worth Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013

An equally dedicated producer is Le Clos du Tue-Boeuf, a project via Thierry and his older brother Jean-Marie. Together they farm the organic and biodynamic vines in Touraine, making charming, refreshing wines like La Butte 2013, a gamay with tart cranberry, perfumed tayberry and lissom body. Ideal with lentils and cured meats. #GoGamayGo.

The very best way to go green this Earth Day is to buy and support local producers, and save on shipping costs and goods around the globe. Lock & Worth Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon 2013 is a low-interventionist, herbal and stony textured white, crisp and pure and ideal for toasting our beautiful growing region.

~

WineAlign in BC

In addition to our monthly Critics’ Picks report, we also publish the popular shortlist 20 Under $20, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.

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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New Zealand in a Glass - Canadian Tour

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Blind Tasting 31 of the World’s Top Cabernet Blends

The Master Blend Classification

In late February and on the eve of the Vancouver International Wine Festival, eleven of Canada’s leading wine critics gathered in Vancouver for the third Wolf Blass Master Blend Classification Tasting. Our assignment was to “classify” 31 of the world’s leading Cabernet Sauvignon based blends in a blind tasting. The wines selected for the tasting met three basic criteria: the vintage was 2010, the blend was predominantly cabernet sauvignon-based; and the wine had to fetch a minimum $100 retail price. In the end the list included some impressive labels from France, United States, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, Italy and Australia, painstakingly collected (an accomplishment in any Canadian market for sure) and randomly queued for solo tasting.

mbc2.

The Inspiration

The Master Blend Classification, inspired by the Bordeaux Classification of 1855 was also encouraged in part, by WineAlign’s own Bill Zacharkiw:

“I was asked to lead a tasting of Australian wines for my fellow Quebec journalists. With three winemakers present, I decided to throw everyone a curve ball, and have everyone, including the winemakers, blind taste their wines against comparable wines from around the world.

My goal was to show everyone, including the winemakers, where their wines stood against some pretty hot competition. And nothing defeats prejudice like blind tasting!

Well word got back to Wolf Blass chief winemaker Chris Hatcher about the stunt I pulled, and he loved the idea. And the next thing I know I am sitting in a room with $20,000 of wine and tasting through 30 of the world’s top cabernet blends. 

That was one year ago, the inaugural Master Classification Blend tasting session. It takes guts to do what Hatcher is doing, and this is one of the most educational and fun tastings of the year. And I am glad to have been part of its genesis.”

Thanks to Bill, that’s how we came to be seated in a well lit room in Vancouver, with 31 glasses of red wine in front of us totaling some $20,000 in value. Some of the group had joined Bill at the previous tasting (see last year’s Master Blend Classification and the WineAlign critics’ thoughts on 2009 vintage) so we knew what was likely in store – First Growths, icon wines, curveballs, eye-openers and detailed takeaway notes unrivalled anywhere in the world.

After a couple of hours of contemplative tasting followed by some adept spreadsheet calculations, the collective results were revealed.

Top Ten 2010

IMG_06042010 Chateau Latour

2010 Chateau Montrose

2010 Chateau Haut Brion

2010 Chateau Cos d’Estournel

2010 Chateau Léoville-Barton

2010 Chateau Léoville-Las Cases

2010 Antinori Solaia

2010 Ornellaia

2010 Vasse Felix Heytesbury

2010 Chateau Lafite

Master Blend Classification Event Director, George Samios, noted the quality of the lauded 2010 vintage was evident, with less than 2.25 points differentiating the top 10 wines.

“The eleven judges had a great diversity of background and we saw some really robust and dynamic discussion about all of the wines. Key themes continued to be the oak to fruit relationship and also the respective “characters” of some regional wines.

~ TR

Thoughts and themes from our WineAlign critics:

Bill Zacharkiw:

The Vancouver tasting confirmed what many have said, that 2010 in Bordeaux was an extremely good vintage especially if you value acidity. My top five wines were all Bordeaux (in order): Chateau Latour, Chateau Cos d’Estournel, Chateau Montrose, Chateau Léoville-Las Cases and Chateau Lynch-Bages.

Compared to the tasting of the 2009’s, when Bordeaux pumped out some pretty ripe wines, this year’s tasting showed that when Bordeaux has a more classic vintage, they really stand out from the pack. Last year, my top 10 was divided up pretty evenly between wines hailing from Italy, Chile and California.

Château Latour 2010 Château Cos D’estournel 2010 Chateau Montrose 2010 Château Léoville Las Cases 2010 Château Lynch Bages 2010

It comes down to character, and I have always felt that the riper the grapes are picked, the less they are distinctive. This year I was able to guess which wines were from Bordeaux, while last year tasting the 2009’s, I wasn’t nearly as precise.

Anthony Gismondi:

It was fun to be in Vancouver for a change, for a tasting of this magnitude and what turned out to be a showdown between California and Bordeaux. Both regions seemed more subdued in 2010 dealing with slightly cooler fruit. In my estimation California wines come about their ripeness and hedonistic demeanor in a more natural way than the Bordelais examples, i.e. sunshine and heat, versus optical sorting machines and cooler, low yielding vineyard sites.

That said, it is amazing how the gap between styles has closed over the last two decades, so much so that picking the appellation of any of these wines with certainty is a bit of a mug’s game. What I do know is that in all my travels through the New World, when you meet transplanted French people making wine in warm climates you usually find very interesting wines, and that was the case on this day.

Opus One 2010  Harlan Estate Proprietary Red 2010 Almaviva 2010

In the end I chose the luscious Opus One over the more mineral and restrained Chateau Haut Brion, and while they are studies in opposite style, Opus One is really hitting its stride, especially bringing some much welcomed elegance to the Napa Valley theme. I’m guessing ten years from now the scores could be reversed. The Harlan Estate Red was as elegant as I can remember, and that gave it the edge over the Dominus on my score sheet although both are superb. The best value among the French wines has to be the sturdy, well-crafted Château Léoville-Barton.

Back to the French transplants, with Chile impressing and Almaviva just barely inching the Joseph Phelps Insignia on my card. Both are delicious wines and will be ready before the French bottles reach their glory. The leaner, cooler, more mineral resinous wines’ futures lay ahead of them; Chateau Montrose, Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande and the Antinori Solaia round out my top wines scoring 91 points or higher.

Joseph Phelps Insignia 2010 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse De Lalande 2010 Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2010

It was a tough trial for the Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, now in its 38th Vintage with its 40 percent shiraz. Winemaker Chris Hatcher, to his credit, thought the acid was too high and so did I.

There may need to be a different world order in 2016, and perhaps opening up the pricing restrictions could allow that. Certainly I have had wines from Argentina and Canada that would challenge several labels and need to be at the show.

mbc7

Rhys Pender, MW:

It was a suitable birthday present that I got to sit down at the end of February and taste 31 of the world’s most iconic Cabernet based wines, all from the 2010 vintage. Following on from last years tasting of the 2009 vintage, this was another good year for Bordeaux wines to strut their stuff. They performed pretty well, comprising six of my top 10 wines and nine of the top 12 when all tasters scores were averaged.

The surprise this year was the performance of the Italians. Last year I found them very new world and overly fruity and heavy on winemaking, but this year two were in my top four (Antinori Solaia and Ornellaia). The leathery, meaty, savouriness was back along with plenty of ripe, concentrated fruit.

Antinori Solaia 2010Ornellaia 2010Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2010

The Californian wines caused a bit of strife amongst the tasters. Some wines were holding on to that lush, sweet style and while others were a bit more structured and less manipulated. There were scores both high and low for each style suggesting that California is in a bit of a state of flux as to what style its icon wines should be. I loved the Ridge Monte Bello as did a few others, but overall it finished quite a way down the list.

When tasting this calibre of wine, you have to basically disregard price as they are all expensive. But that said, a few of the wines that were expensive and from what should be a very good vintage disappointed. But that is always the way in wine and that is what keeps it interesting. 2011 with a cool year in Bordeaux should be very interesting indeed.

DJ Kearney:

The Master Blend Classification is aptly named. Handling cabernet sauvignon takes masterful hand; blending is what adds grace and charm to Bordeaux’s haughty black grape, and the courage to rank/compare/classify cabernet blends is a useful and meaningful endeavour. Well done to Wolf Blass and ‘Hatch’ for the third incarnation of this self-imposed measuring stick. It is an incredible privilege to take part in this iconic tasting.

It does not need to be said again that all tasters were surprised (sometimes gob-smacked) by the ‘reveal’. The very young Bordeaux wines – all acknowledged stars – showed intractable and shuttered, (downright dour in some cases), and their Cali and Oz counterparts beamed in comparison. My highest scores landed on both a classic aristocrat, as well as the Wolf Blass Black Label…. Nice when the quality gap is narrow, between wines made worlds apart. My overall highest scores where for a happy mix of new and old world blends. In retrospect, the 2010 Bordeaux, despite the glorious vintage, were tightly bound and difficult to taste.

Château Haut Brion Premier Grand Cru Classé 2010Château Margaux 2010 Sena Red 2010

My top five included both the focussed and fleshy Wolf Blass Black Label 2010 from McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek, followed by the brooding, savoury and spiced Chateau Haut-Brion 2010.

Chateau Margaux 2010 revealed its pedigree immediately, with intense perfume, potent cassis and the luxuriant aroma of fine, new French casks. Pauillac’s Chateau Latour 2010 emanates power and pedigree, even though it has years of unwinding ahead of it. While Eduardo Chadwick’s Seña 2010 displays lovely balance, depth and fruit right now.

IMG_0605mbc8

Treve Ring:

What an honour to taste these gloried wines, en masse, and have a bit of solo time to meet each one.

Upon reflection, my top notes were written for Bordeaux, with the structured savouriness and gravitas of Chateau Latour taking first rank, followed closely by the smoked stone and white pepper of Chateau Beychevelle and the peppery potency of Chateau Cos d’Estournel. The fine bones, bacon and gravels of Chateau Pichon Longueville was compelling and singular, even though I felt I was tasting through a faulted bottle, and a pair of Léovilles (Chateau Léoville-Barton and Chateau Léoville-Las Cases) charmed with their potential. Of course, these were still all far too young, but testament to the 2010 vintage that they impressed and showed as well as they did at this stage.

But all my highest scores weren’t reserved for the graphite youthful grippiness of 2010 Bordeaux. I also appreciated the generosity of fruit balanced with tempered, integrated tannins in the dense Wolf Blass Black Label. Henschke Cyril Henschke, Vasse Felix Heytesbury and Opus One also surprised and impressed me with their lavishly fruited, moderately oaked and positively floral direction.

Château Beychevelle 2010 Henschke Cyril Henschke 2010 Vasse Felix Heytesbury 2010 Vergelegen 2010

Would I have scored them as I did if I knew their retail price? Probably not. That’s the benefit of tasting blind, removing all name and price prejudices and shouldering up a $2500 bottle (Chateau Lafite) alongside one more than 25 times less (Vergelegn Estate GVB).

As this was my first Master Blend Classification tasting, I have no comparable event to hold it against. That said, I’m already looking forward to a line up of the 2011 vintage, when the playing field appears to be a bit more leveled globally.

En Français

Marc Chapleau wrote about his experience at Master Blend Classification in his column for Chacun Son Vin here.

To view the entire lineup of wines at the third annual event click on: Master Blend Classification

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


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Gabbiano - Take me to Tuscany

 

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20 Under $20 in BC : April 2015

April Fools in BC

If you’re reading this column, you are interested in wine. If you are from BC, you doubtlessly know about the recent changes to our liquor laws (yes, more changes) as of April 1, 2015. As part of the government’s effort to “level the playing field”, all the prices of wine in the BC Liquor Stores is now displayed without taxes, as Anthony notes below. This means that you have to be quick on your feet or have calculator in hand to know the price for your purchases (multiply the shelf price by 1.15). Private wine stores have followed suit, as the optics of having shelf prices 15 percent higher than your major competitor (your elected government) isn’t a positive.

For now, we’ve decided to try to keep our 20 Under $20 wine picks under $20 ALL IN (including the taxes), meaning the shelf prices of the wines below will be approximately $17.40 or less. We’re waiting to see how it all shuffles out over the coming weeks, and while the dust settles, WineAlign West is still hard at work to find you the best wines that you can purchase with a $20 dollar bill.

~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi

It’s no secret that it’s getting harder and harder to find wines under $20 a bottle in BC and this month it looks as if government clearly agrees after it removed the PST and GST from its display price, dropping prices, at least for a few feet, by 15 percent. It’s a sleight of hand we could live without but when the taxes are as high as they are in BC what else can they do but try to deceive customers by hiding the ultimate price of its products. This month my picks are truly under $20 taxes all in. But I’m not sure how long that can continue as wine prices and taxes soar in BC.

Sumac Ridge Estate Winery Private Reserve Pinot Noir 2013 Santa Carolina Reserva Pinot Noir Casablanca Estate 2013 Pentâge Pinot Gris Estate Bottled 2013 Dunavár Pinot Grigio 2013

Pinot noir is never cheap but two bottles worth looking for as mid-week reds are the Sumac Ridge 2013 Pinot Noir Private Reserve and the Santa Carolina Reserva Pinot Noir Casablanca Estate 2013. Both offer a modicum of pinot noir flavour and would be perfect with a Margarita style pizza or a salmon salad.

Still with pinot, this time gris or grigio, it looks as if it is the only variety that consistently sells for less than $20. We love the latest Pentâge Winery 2013 Pinot Gris with its mineral salty notes and candied red apple flavours. Speaking of bargains, the Dunavár 2013 Pinot Grigio is as fresh and bright as you could want for $10.

Torres Viña Esmeralda 2014 Wild Goose Autumn Gold 2013Matua Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014Château St. Jean Fumé Blanc 2012

If spicy, Pan-Asian take-out is on your mind you can pair it up with the exotic, generous, spicy/limey litchi fruit flavours of the Torres 2014 Viña Esmeralda or a personal, local favourite, Wild Goose Autumn Gold 2013, the latter a delicious mix of roughly one-third gewürztraminer, riesling and pinot blanc, just sweet enough to tame any spice.

Finally, the lighter dishes of spring will work better with clean, fresh sauvignon blanc such as the crisp, mouth-watering, tropical fruit scented Matua Valley 2014 Sauvignon Blanc from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. Or in a slightly richer category, consider the Chateau St. Jean 2012 Fumé Blanc out of Sonoma County, California. It works well with goat cheese, pasta or shellfish dishes. 

Rhys Pender MW

This month’s selections are partially inspired by recent visits to Argentina and Alsace. There are many amazing wines, and while the best can set you back a few dollars, there is also a theme of great value in these areas. The best and most expensive wines are rarely crazy prices and this translates to the value range as well, where you get a lot of quality for the price.

I’m starting off with a pair from Alsace. Domaine Zinck is now run by Philippe and Pascale Zinck after taking over from Philippe’s father, Paul, who started the domain in 1964. They have expanded the estate vineyards and modernized things but kept making serious wines. Available at the BC Liquor Stores is the 2012 Pinot Blanc, a great way to compare an Alsace version with some of the quality BC wines made from the same variety.

Another great variety in Alsace is Gewurztraminer. Not for everyone’s taste because of its lush richness and often with a bit of residual sugar, there is no doubt it is the best wine to pair with richer, spicier foods. Foie gras is also a great match with sweeter versions. Try the 2013 Kuhlmann-Platz for a great priced version.

Paul & Phillipe Zinck Pinot Blanc 2012 Kuhlmann Platz Gewurztraminer 2013 Michel Torino Cuma Organic Torrontés 2013 Tinhorn Creek Merlot 2012

In Argentina, when the weather warms up you crave juicy, refreshing Torrontés. It is aromatic but not sweet and is a fantastic aperitif wine or one to just sip on its own for refreshment. The Michel Torino Cuma brand is not only great value but also organically grown.

From BC, one of the benchmark wines has always been Tinhorn Creek Merlot. It has always been great value and had a strong following. After a couple of tough vintages on the Bordeaux grape varieties (2010 and 2011 were very cool vintages), 2012 was much better and the Tinhorn Creek Merlot is the best it has been in many years.

DJ Kearney

Self-imposed frugality will govern my wine spending now as I look towards summer and the holidays I dream of taking. As the weather gets a little brighter, the frisky Fritz 2013 Riesling from Gunderloch buoys my spirits with its cheeky fruit and sheer ease of drinking. No food required, but a fiery black bean and mango salsa and good corn chips would be the ticket.

Two local aromatic whites are also in my fridge: Mission Hill’s 2013 Reserve Pinot Gris for when I need dry, assertive white wine, and the expressive Quails’ Gate 2014 Gewurztraminer which packs a punch of fruit in a confident off-dry style for a simple (and budget) chickpea curry or lettuce wraps.

Gunderloch Fritz's Riesling 2013 Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Gris 2013 Quails Gate Gewurztraminer 2014 Vina Chela Reserve Malbec 2013 Bota Box Old Vine Zinfandel

I’ve also selected a couple of reds that will keep my piggy bank bulging, including Viña Chela’s cheerful Malbec 2013 – smooth, smoky and organic for spicy grilled chorizo-in-a-bun. Also watch for the Bota Box Old Vine Zinfandel, holding 4 bottles-worth of good tasting red in a bag-in-box offering that over delivers.

Treve Ring

Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Trapiche Pure Malbec 2012 Norton Barrel Select Malbec 2010With a jump on this month’s World Malbec Day, stock up on Norton 2010 Malbec Barrel Select and pour its smoky tobacco and cassis with a thick wedge of BBQ beef. For a few bucks more, I recommend grabbing the Trapiche 2012 Pure Malbec – a chance to taste what pure Malbec is like, unharnessed and unsuppressed by oak.

Of course, there are more colours in the rainbow than malbec blue. A quick hop over the Andes lands you in Aconcagua Valley, and as you continue towards the coast you’ll come across this vibrant, spring fresh Errazuriz Don Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013, tropical-fruit ready to meet your fruit chutneys or white fish. 

~

WineAlign in BC

In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report and include the wines across any price point and channel that excite us each month, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.


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Laughing Stock Wine Club

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Final Blend: Niagara Falls, Step by Step, Inch by Inch

by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

It’s that time of the year again when the WineAlign team gears up in preparation for the National Wine Awards of Canada. The annual search for the best wine in the country is now in its 15th year at least for David Lawrason and me. It started back in Toronto in 2001 under the aegis of the now defunct Wine Access Magazine and for the last three years the WineAlign team has picked up the Canadian wine baton and run with it.

The Nationals have never been an easy feat to pull off. It’s not like the Canadian wine industry is one big happy bunch of folks who can’t wait to get into a room and work together. In fact, the wine scene very much mirrors the convoluted, patchwork quilt of people who make up this country and its culture. Every year when David and I sit down to prepare for The Nationals we feel a great deal of pressure to make sure all of the country’s wines can be brought together in one room to be assessed over one week and produce what we hope are unimpeachable results.

But getting everyone to buy in is tough.

Wineries have their reasons for entering or not entering competitions. All we can do is run the most rigourous tasting in the county, if not the world. After that, all we can hope for is that by applying the highest standards to our work, we convince everyone that getting their wine in front of a broad selection of experienced tasters from across the country is good for consumers, wineries and Canadian wine culture.

By the time we assemble 18 judges and an equal amount of people in the back room for a full week of work we are happy not to lose too much money. But on the bright side this spring we want to explore the real reasons the entire WineAlign team will be in Niagara Falls this June. We love wine and we can’t wait to find out who is making the best examples of Canadian wine in 2015.

Nk'mip Cellars Qwam Qwmt Pinot Noir 2012 Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2012 Painted Rock Red Icon 2011 Hidden Bench Tête De Cuvée Chardonnay 2011

We can’t wait to see who will top the competition this year. Could this be the breakthrough for Nk’Mip Cellars or Norman Hardie, Painted Rock or Hidden Bench – I’m sure Mission Hill and/or last year’s winner Peller Estates Winery Niagara-on-the-Lake will have something to say about that. Will the syrah flights grab the highest marks; will Laughing Stock top the charts again? Will Canadian chardonnay continue its ascension to a place we can all be excited about? It’s what makes this the most important week in wine in Canada.

Mission Hill Perpetua Osoyoos Vineyard Estate 2011Andrew Peller Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2012Laughing Stock Vineyards Syrah Perfect Hedge Vineyard 2012

With the doors now open to the National Wine Awards of Canada 2015 it will be interesting to see if we can entice more entries from Quebec and Nova Scotia. Both regions have been working hard at raising their game and there’s no better proving ground than our five-day blind tasting, where every wine is given equal and fair shot at showing its best.

What we do know is the quality level of the wines entered has risen exponentially in recent years as all the work going on in Canadian vineyards is finally coming to fruition. It’s not easy to make the finals and it’s even tougher to win against all the other finalists but that’s what makes it worth entering.

Maclean's - WineAlign Awards ResultsThere’s no better benchmark for Canadian wine producers to discover how they measure up against their neighbours and competitors across the country, and frankly there is no better tool for Canadian wine drinkers to use then the results of the Nationals to see how their favourites measure up.

Speaking of results, each year we continue to speed up the process of getting the story out sooner than later. We expect to publish the full results, including awarding the prestigious Canadian Winery of the Year, online at WineAlign by the end of July 2015. That should help everyone find more of the winning wines over the summer and busy fall/harvest season and hopefully inspire many of you visit one of Canada’s spectacular wine regions.

Two years ago we instituted the first full integration of the results into the WineAlign website and have had nothing but positive feedback from you, our readers, who enjoy being able to access the results while standing in wine shops and wineries. Last year, the results of both of our awards The Nationals and the World Wine Awards of Canada were printed in a special section of Maclean’s magazine and we are pursuing similar options in 2015.

In 2014, we had 1,335 different wines entered from 219 wineries across Canada. (Click here to see the results from the 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada.) This year, we expect to be bigger and better than ever, with a new record for entries.

You can follow all the action at #NWAC15 as we prepare for the awards throughout the spring right through the judging where up to the minute thoughts fly from the front room judges and back room organisers. As I finish this piece, the first riesling entry for 2015 has just been entered. Last year we were privileged to taste 96 different riesling from all over the country. If that doesn’t inspire you to be a part of the 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada, we are not sure what ever will.

See you all (virtually) in Niagara Falls in June.

 

~ Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic. Click here to visit his WineAlign profile page.

 


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Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks March 2015

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks 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. 

Spring has certainly sprung in BC, and we’re utilizing that extra hour of daylight to flex our spring cooking repertoire. Along with the cherry blossoms and magnolias, we’re celebrating the start of fresh halibut season (the best) and first of the 2014 wines from the Okanagan.

Rhys Pender is currently travelling through France, and we must be collectively missing him because we’ve all independently selected French wines in our picks.

Accueillir le printemps!

Cheers ~ TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

It’s springtime in Vancouver and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. While we should be preparing for warmer days and lighter meals most of us are completely consumed by the current wholesale pricing debacle being foisted on the wine community come April Fool’s Day – and that is no joke. This month my picks reflect a very urgent need for all of us to get back to the business and culture of wine, a subject infinitely more interesting than taxes and the machination of the monopoly. This month my three picks bring something to the table that no tax or bureaucrat possibly could. These are wines that have a soul, that tell a story of place and uniqueness only a true wine lover could appreciate.

Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos Des Mouches Blanc Premier Cru 2010 Selbach Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Halbtrocken Riesling Kabinett 2013 Château De Lancyre Vieilles Vignes 2012From the south of France Château de Lancyre Vieilles Vignes Pic St-Loup 2012 tells a stunning story of terroir and flavour through 50 year old grenache and syrah vines. It’s never too early to fire up the barbecue and this wine would be a worthy companion to grilled lamb.

I spent a wonderful week at ProWein in Dusseldorf, renewing my impressions of the great wines of Germany. In a rare occurrence BC has received the fine fortune of a shipment of Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken 2013. This wine amazes almost all who taste it, even if few in the world know what ‘Halbtrocken’ wine is. If you guessed half dry, good for you, but many will find it drier than most of the so-called dry wines you normally drink. Not to mention salty, mineral, stony and ridiculously electric. From seafood to chicken and beyond this wine will jumpstart your spring.

Finally get a group of friends together and buy a bottle of Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches Blanc 1er Cru 2010. Clos des Mouches Blanc can live a decade with ease but 15 to 20 years is possible in great vintages. At five years old the journey here has just begun for this white wine whose site was once home to bee-hives and mouches à miel (honey flies) the origin of Clos des Mouches. No tax, good or bad will move you like this wine.

DJ Kearney

Spring means one thing to me… lamb. Yes, I eat lamb in the winter, but somehow its intense rangy, lamby flavour – at once sweet, earthy, pungent and succulent – evokes the pulsing life force of spring.

Jean Maurice Raffault Les Galuches Chinon 2013 Château Meyney 2010 Godelia Mencia 2010A favourite preparation is a simple oven roasted leg, infused deeply with flavour from garlic cloves and anchovy fillets inserted into slits all over the meat. The anchovies melt into something not at all fishy, but intensely savoury and rich, creating a simple umami-rich jus. Magic with this pure 2013 Les Galchues Chinon from Jean-Maurice Raffault.

Simple grilled chops (massage first with rosemary and olive oil before flinging over hot coals), will uplift the pure cassis of Chateau Meyney 2010, a vigorous Saint-Estephe stalwart.

And because the bald truth is that warmest weather is still months (yes months) away, braising is still an option. How about lamb shanks simmered in a thick and flavourful broth, washed down with the Godelia 2010 Mencia from Bierzo, Spain, where robust meets robust and your tastebuds are the winners.  So join me in welcoming spring by cooking some lamb – at least once a week until July when it will finally be summer.

Treve Ring

I’m certainly a member of the rosé-year-round camp, but it’s a lot more fun to enjoy a lively pétillant natural rosé like 2013 Jean Maupertuis Pink Bulles outside on the patio, warmed by the sun. This blend of 50+ year old d’auvergne gamay and gamay is an ideal aperitif – lifted, edgy and subtly sweet – and far too easy to down at 11 percent.

Benjamin Bridge Tidal Bay 2013 is another spring signifier, with its effusive meadow flowers, and lean and juicy palate of lime. Surprising concentration in this Nova Scotian blend of l’acadie blanc, chardonnay, ortega and new york muscat – especially considering its 10.5% alcohol. Hello brunch!

I mentioned fresh halibut season, and it certainly is cause for rejoicing on the coast. I grilled a fresh off the boat catch last week alongside roast potatoes and green beans and the lively, crisp, mineral salted 2013 Tolloy Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige- Südtirol in northeastern Italy. No wimpy pinot grigio here.

Jean Maupertuis Pink Bulles 2013 Benjamin Bridge Tidal Bay 2013 Mezzacorona Tolloy Pinot Grigio 2013 Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis 1er Cru Vaillon Cuvée Guy Moreau 2011 Haywire Chardonnay Canyonview Vineyard Rainoldi Sassella Riserva 2007

Of course, if you wanted to up the game with your fresh halibut dinner or have a deeper cellar (or deeper pockets) to dip into, the oaked 2011 Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis 1er Cru Vaillon Cuvée Guy Moreau would be a stellar, classic  choice.

Like Chablis, and on the vein of chardonnay that isn’t really about chardonnay but about the place, I recommend the 2013 Haywire Chardonnay Canyonview Vineyard. Alluringly ‘Raised in Concrete’ though the savoury dried herbs, scrubby meadow bush, creamy, potent palate of desert citrus, herb-laced pear, musk melon, stony, savoury lees and fine spices is really all about Canyonview Vineyard. And a new, brave frontier of chardonnay in BC.

I was intrigued by the 2007 Rainoldi Sassella Riserva recently, the faded orange red hue, heady smoked Ricola nose, alpine herbs, fernet and amaro bitterness and candied marascino cherry creating a memorable connection. From the Valtellina Superiore DOCG in Lombardy, this Chiavennasca (Nebbiolo) would pair with truffled risotto or sautéed mushrooms on rapini.

~

WineAlign in BC

In addition to our monthly Critics’ Picks report, we also publish the popular shortlist 20 Under $20, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.

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 under $20 in BC: March 2015

Spring Fever in BC

We know we’ve been fortunate this past winter in British Columbia. Mild temperatures on the coast and just the right amount of crisp winter snow in the interior and on the ski hills has made for a picture-perfect winter, and the past few weeks of unseasonably warm weather has given an early boost to buds and blossoms. Though some chilly, clear nights have us reaching for warming reds, our critics’ thoughts are springing ahead to lively, fresh whites and rosés.

DJ Kearney is on the road this week to Jura, France, so the rest of us at WineAlign West are warming and welcoming spring with these great buys.

~ TR

BC Critic team

Anthony Gismondi

We don’t know a lot about winter here on the coast and we would prefer to keep it that way, but it doesn’t mean we don’t feel your pain if you are still fighting winter in your part of the province or country for that matter. This month’s picks are betwixt and between the last days of winter and the early days of spring.

We open spring with two seafood friendly sauvignon blancs. The first is Kismet Estate 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, an Okanagan newcomer that gets the fruit and the grass in the right proportions.

One of the standard bearers of New World sauvignon blanc is the Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2013 from California. The Mondavi goal was always a richer, Napa Valley style but with the brightness of sauvignon and in 2013 it’s bang on.

Masi Modello Bianco delle Venezie 2013 will suit your shellfish or white fish dishes well with its almond, apple skin, pear and grapefruit flavours. Simple, fresh, clean style and solid value.

Kismet Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2013Masi Modello Delle Venezie Bianco 2013Santa Rita Merlot Reserva 2011

Now for some reds to ride out the storm. Monday night merlot doesn’t get much better than Santa Rita 2011 Merlot Reserva. The reserva series has an injection of flavour and structure that can easily take on grilled meats.

Slightly denser and rounder in texture are the Familia Gascon Malbec 2012, a tasty red for your favourite ribs recipe while the Paz de Finca Las Moras Malbec 2012 with its lifted blueberry and black fruit flavours would be fun for mid-afternoon or post dinner cheese plate or a prime rib dinner. From home, the Blasted Church 2013 Big Bang Theory, a mixed bag of red grapes, will suit a mixed lot of grilled red meats, especially after a splash through a decanter.

Familia Gascon Malbec 2012 Paz De Finca Las Moras Malbec 2012 Blasted Church Big Bang Theory 2013 Quady Batch 88 Starboard

To finish off with something sweet, California’s Quady Batch 88 Starboard is a soft, sweet and round and eminently easy-drinking port-like wine. The style lies somewhere between a ruby (fruity) and a tawny (aged) Portuguese port.

Hang in there – spring is just around the corner.

Rhys Pender MW

The weather in BC is surprisingly warm this early spring, something I know will irk our friends in the chilly East. Such is the weather, thoughts have already turned to fresh, juicy, chilled whites and rosé and afternoons are even warm enough to enjoy them outside in the sun.

One wine I have enjoyed recently is a great value rosé that is consistently very drinkable, the La Vieille Ferme Ventoux Rosé. The 2013 is dry, crisp and nicely savoury.

Another juicy wine and one that is nice slightly chilled is the Masi 2013 Bonacosta Valpolicella. A light bodied red that is elegant with some interesting earthy flavours and great with a plate of charcuterie.

La Vieille Ferme Cotes Du Ventoux Rose 2013 Masi Bonacosta 2013 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Norton Reserva Malbec 2012

I must admit Marlborough sauvignon blanc can be a bit tiresome, admittedly only due to the fact that it is so consistently good quality and very recognizable. Every now and then you find one that seems a bit more interesting and different. I like the 2013 Spy Valley for its cilantro and minerality on the long, crisp finish.

That last wine I want to recommend is a heartier red but still with some freshness from containing about 50% high altitude cooler climate Uco Valley fruit. The 2012 Norton Reserva Malbec ($20) is worth spending a few dollars more than you might normally for an Argentinian malbec. You will appreciate the difference.

For readers in Vancouver, I hope to see you at Chambar on April 7th. I’m teaming up with Chef Nico Schuermans for the Taste of Maclean’s Dining Series. It promises to be delicious – and WineAlign members get a special price. (click here for more info)

Treve Ring

Spring forward? I love when daylight savings brings me an extra hour of light in the evenings, paving the way ever forward until the spring equinox and the arrival of the previous year’s vintage hitting the shelves.

The newest release of Quails’ Gate Gewurztraminer always signals spring with its juicy and off-dry rose blossom notes. Pair with papaya salad. Or if you’re looking further afield, Chile’s Cono Sur Bicicleta Gewurztraminer 2013 is so textbook floral and spice perfumed, you could swear you’re walking through a perfumed rose garden, eating a pink grapefruit (you’d have lots of coin left for fruit after spending only $11 on this wine.)

For a richer, classic styled gew, reach for P.J. Valckenberg’s 2012 Gewurztraminer from Germany’s Pfalz region. This mid-sweet, round and ripe white is an enjoyable 9.5 percent alcohol, and a welcome addition to your brunch table (especially with orchard fruit waffles).

Quails’ Gate Gewurztraminer Cono Sur Bicicleta Gewurztraminer 2013 Valckenberg Gewurztraminer 2012 Calona Sovereign Opal Art Series 2013

Still in the aromatic white camp, but singular unto itself is the Calona Vineyards Artist Series no. 1 Sovereign Opal 2013. Entirely singular, actually, since the blossomed and honeydew Sovereign Opal grape was developed by Agriculture Canada (marechal foch x golden muscat) to thrive specifically in the particular conditions found in the Okanagan Valley.

One body of wine I really grew to appreciate last year were the intriguing whites of Portgual. You would be forgiven for guessing the Dão Sul Cabriz Encruzado 2009 was a Rhone white on a blind tasting. Encruzado, especially with some age (2009 still on shelves) builds herbal, hazelnut, honeycomb and savoury stone while maintaining a firm rod of acid.

I must admit, I fire up the grill year round (sorry!) and one of my favourites meals is BBQ chicken. On cool March weekday evenings, a tumbler of Marlborough’s smoked strawberry Newharbor 2009 Pinot Noir and grilled chicken thighs can work wonders. Or unscrew the ripe and fruity Radio Boka Tempranillo 2012 from Valencia, Spain if you’re doing beef sliders and chips on the grill for an easy mid-week and highly affordable meal.

Dao Sul Cabriz Encruzado 2009 Newharbor Pinot Noir 2009 Radio Boka Tempranillo 2012 Segura Viudas Brut Rose

Of course if you really want to feel like spring is here, pop the cork on pink bubbles and enjoy that extra hour of daylight. The alluring salmon pink Segura Viudas Cava Brut Rosado is a fitting dry, creamy, fruity rosé sparkler to elevate any sunset and to welcome in spring.

WineAlign in BC

In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report which include the wines across any price point and channel that excite us each month, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.

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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Final Blend : Towing the Line / Align

by Anthony Gismondi

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Anthony Gismondi

If you’ve ever wondered what the ‘align’ in WineAlign means, think come together or line-up. Although in the case of us critics it is more likely a case of get them on the same page of the website. The process reminds me a bit of the chaos of Italy where 60 million people pulling in opposite directions results in Ferrari, Prada, Gucci, Benetton, Armani, Piedmont Barolo, Tuscan Chianti and much more. At WineAlign we boast an equal strength although I’m sure the people responsible for shepherding our content onto these pages think otherwise as in it’s like herding cats.

In short, we have the freedom to do whatever we want most days with the caveat from management that we let you know once in a while what we are up to. Sounds easy, but I can vouch for all of us it rarely is. All of which leads to this month’s column that begins with some important news about how we display our notes on the Critics’ Profile pages – just in case you haven’t already noticed.

Our old version was coded to display our highest scoring (and often highest priced) wines first, regardless of when the note was posted. We now display our notes by date reviewed. It is far more timely and interesting in my estimation. You can still search the entire site using the Google custom search in the upper right hand corner of any page, but the new design to these pages, including links to their recent articles and Twitter feed, allows you to see the diversity and strength of our critics and exactly what they are tasting at the moment.

Ridge Lytton Springs 2012 Nicosia Fondo Filara Etna Rosso 2010Now we know that John Szabo is writing a book on volcanic wine and appears to be completely consumed by the thought of tuff, a porous volcanic rock also called ‘tufa’, although one should be careful not to confuse calcareous tuffa with the porous volcanic rock whose parallel etymological origins can sometimes be called ‘tufa’. I’m sure John will get to the bottom of the volcano and we will all hear about it, endlessly, between flights at the upcoming WineAlign 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada in Niagara Falls. Sorry John – those are sedimentary rocks you can see from the tasting room in Niagara. Nicosia Fondo Filara 2010 Etna Rosso.

Meanwhile Bill Zacharkiw has been running around California escaping the snow and cold and his beloved Maple Leafs searching for the next, less-is-more wine from the Golden State. Bill’s mission is to convert every sugar-loving, new-barrel toting winemaker into an organic, terroir bleeding, soul-searching wine grower that is completely in touch with his land. Look for many new California selections to get Bill’s stamp of approval in the coming months. I for one love the way Bill has embraced the New World with an Old World eye and when the stars align, well, look out. Expect to see more of Bill’s impromptu videos on penguins, beaches and elephant seals and surfers in the days to come. Ridge 2012 Lytton Springs.

La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard Malbec 2011

Zuccardi Series A Bonarda 2012David Lawrason has been practically living in South America for the last three months when he’s not busy with the Canadian chefs and the Canadian Olympic team where he devotes a great deal of time raising money for Gold Medal Plates, and at the same time, the reputation of Canadian wine. We recently spent a few days together in Argentina searching for the minerality and electricity that excites us. We found it in spades and will report back soon on all our discoveries. Zuccardi 2012 Series A Bonarda.

Earlier this month Sara d’Amato judged alongside Jancis Robinson and a large group of respected woman wine tasters at the Argentina Wine Awards. This travel goes unrecognized by most Canadians but it’s an important part of bringing a Canadian perspective to the international wine scene. We are in the game now and that helps everyone making wine in Canada. La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard 2013 Malbec

The rise of our French-speaking Quebec team has brought an even wider perspective to WineAlign, or as we’re called in Quebec – Chacun son Vin. While it may seem like Two Solitudes sometimes as we discuss scoring systems, somehow on the tasting bench we seem to easily come together when we are talking wine. Nadia Fournier, Rémy Charest and Marc Chapleau have been invaluable additions to the WineAlign milieu. All have been instrumental in bringing a fresh perspective to the judging room at the National Wine Awards of Canada.

As you read this WineAlign Team West: Treve Ring, Rhys Pender and DJ Kearney will be working the 37th Vancouver International Wine Festival greeting a 55-strong Australian contingent hell-bent on getting Canadians to ‘Savour” the new Down Under. There won’t be any critter labels this time around and don’t expect to see any kangaroos in the room. There’s a new mantra Down Under and it has to do with regions, or to be even more specific: place.

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Some of the exciting labels at VIWF from Australia TODAY

Australia TodayOne need only pick up a bottle of modern-day Australian wine to see where the country is heading. Australia’s new generation of winemakers are doing what they do best, adapt, and in doing so they are headed back to their vineyards. Where once they would not think twice about blending wines from hundreds of kilometres apart the new reality is all about uniqueness and to take what the land will give you.

It’s a philosophy that may not be so new to the French or the Italians who love their appellations but Down Under it’s a radical and much needed departure for many in the wine business. Today the emphasis is on regionality and smaller vineyards and as mentioned taking what the land will give you. The difference between a Barossa shiraz and a Coonawarra shiraz are day and night and they should be celebrated, not blended away into one big tank. We will all be looking for it. For me the joy of the show is tasting so many different wines in one room. I leave you with a short list of tasty bottles to look for at the festival, should you have a ticket, or to pick up at your local government wine shop.

Gérard Bertrand Saint Chinian Syrah Mourvèdre 2011 Teusner Avatar 2013  Zuccardi Tito 2011Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Southern France superstar Gérard Bertrand will be pouring his St Chinian 2011 Syrah Mourvèdre while the new kids on the Barossa block at Teusner will be pouring their Teusner Avatar 2013 Grenache Mataro Shiraz. Sébastien Zuccardi honours his grandfather Tito with the Zuccardi Tito Zuccardi 2011 Malbec – Cabernet Sauvignon – Ancellotta while winemaker Peter Gambetta has sent his amazing Yalumba The Menzies 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra.

It’s been a great week so far, and best of all we are free to step out of alignment to cover it for you from our point of view.

~ Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic. Click here to visit his WineAlign profile page.


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British Columbia Critics’ Picks February 2015

A Special VIWF Edition

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks 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. Don’t despair if WineAlign is not showing inventory. Some wines mentioned are only available in the BC Liquor Store at the Vancouver International Wine Festival Feb. 26-28, 2015. Others can be found at your favourite private wine shop.

It’s the week of the Vancouver International Wine Festival, and our BC critics have selected their top three recommended wines not to miss.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

It’s wine festival month in Vancouver and hard to believe it is year 37. I have attended them all in some fashion and written about most of them but I never really get tired of entering the international festival tasting room where hundreds of wines are poured daily for the trade and public. Each year I rate the best booths at the festival, ahead time, based on the wines that will be poured and the principal who will pour them. It is hardly an exact science and it’s not an indictment of the other wineries attending just a personal opinion based on, well, 37 years of experience.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Zuccardi Tito 2011Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz 2008My top three wines you shouldn’t miss in 2015 are:  Yalumba The Octavius, Familia Zuccardi Tito Zuccardi, and Wynns Coonawarra Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon.

Yalumba’s 2008 The Octavius is old vine shiraz sourced from Barossa and Eden Valleys, and is a powerful, rich, ripe and smooth flagship wine that was built to last. Yalumba’s global communicator and storyteller, Jane Ferrari, will be on hand throughout the week.

Familia Zuccardi 2011 Tito Zuccardi is Sebastian Zuccardi’s tribute to his grandfather Alberto, or Tito as he was known, and is a delicious mix of new and old grapes (malbec, cabernet sauvignon and ancellotta).

Finally vine star Sue Hodder will pour her amazing Wynns Black Label 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine she has guided into the future with rich textures, moderate alcohol and plenty of fruit.

See you inside the tasting room.

DJ Kearney

I’ve just returned from a fast and furious week in South Australia and have nothing but Aussie wines in my heart and mind now… also a couple of new pairs of R.M Williams jeans on my legs too! Diversity and sheer joy of drinking is what we have in store for us as some of the biggest wine personalities in the world are coming to party with us in the last week of February.

Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz 2010Thorn Clarke Shotfire Quartage 2012Devil's Lair Chardonnay 2012I’ll be tasting as much as I can, but will not miss three favourites. Devil’s Lair in cool and breezy Western Australia make luxuriant oaked chardonnay, and you’ll find the 2012 Margaret River Chardonnay incarnation full of richness and finesse. It’s an emphatic reminder that chardonnay with a restrained embrace of oak is one of life’s great, great pleasures.

A wine that shows the cooler side of the Barossa Valley is the Shotfire Quartage 2012, from Thorn-Clarke. The wondrous 2012 vintage gives extra dimension and vinosity to one of the most consistent and lovely Bordeaux blends ever, at this price.

Finally – there will be a massive crowd around the Penfolds table, to taste the epic wines of course, but also to hang with DLynn Proctor, who won our hearts in SOMM, the 2012 movie that cast a vivid spotlight on a few characters in pursuit of the Master Sommelier pin.

Now Penfolds Winemaking Ambassador, he’s a smooth guy to listen to as you sip the glorious 2010 St. Henri. It is astonishing, and the $65 price is too-good-to-be-true. (For more from the world of Oz, check out my recent article: Oceans, Altitudes and Attitudes)

Rhys Pender MW

Vancouver Wine Festival is always a treasure trove of interesting wines. I recommend looking through the list and honing in on those wines that you can’t normally buy or taste. From the theme country Australia, look for Semillon young and old, Riesling, Coonawarra Cabernet and wines from some of the cooler re-emerging regions. There is much to learn about Australia.

Black Hills Nota Bene 2012Barossa Valley Estate Ebenezer Shiraz 2007Jansz Premium CuvéeOne wine style that few know about Australia is its sparkling wine. Tasmanian winery Jansz will be on hand and those in the trade should get a chance to try the Jansz Premium Cuvée N/V. Freshness, balance, acidity, excellent.

I’m looking forward to trying the 2010 vintage from Barossa Valley Estate’s Ebenezer Shiraz. There has been some 2007 kicking around in BC that was excellent value.

For a non-Australia wine, this festival might also be the first chance for many to try the Black Hills 2012 Nota Bene. After too very cool vintages in 2010 and 2011, this vintage finally shows all the work winemaker Graham Pierce and team have been doing.

Make sure to do a bit of research online before heading in to the festival tasting room and hit those interesting wines first. See you at the festival!

Treve Ring

Gonzalez Byass Noe Pedro Ximenez Aged 30 YearsSt. Urbans Hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2011D'arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2009I trust you’ll be spending a lot of time in the Australia section (Treve’s Travels Part I and Part II may be added incentive). Be sure not to miss d’Arenberg 2011 The Dead Arm Shiraz, an iconic McLaren vale wine made in very small amounts due to the fact that the aged vine has been affected by ‘Dead Arm Disease’ and can only eke grapes out of one trunk. I have tasted the 2009, so looking forward to this new-to-shores release. Rarified and special.

Don’t forget about amazing wines from the rest of the world. I’m looking forward to trying the Weingut St. Urbans-Hof 2012 Riesling Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett. The 2011 vintage was exciting and intense, proving that low alcohol wines (8%) can be satisfying in their doe-nimble lightness.

And finish off with an exceptional example of one of the richest, most intense and rare sherries you’ve probably come across. Gonzales Byass Noe Pedro Ximénez is designated a VORS (Very Old Rare Sherry) with an average age of 30 years, staggering concentration, alluring sweetness and depth of flavour that you’ll be tasting as you head off (safely on transit / designated driver) from the tasting floor.

WineAlign in BC

In addition to our monthly Critics’ Picks report, we also publish the popular shortlist 20 Under $20, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.

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 under $20 in BC: February 2015

Special Edition : Vancouver International Wine Festival

For us, as for many wine folks in the west, February signals Wine Fest. Now in its 37th year, Vancouver International Wine Festival (VIWF) takes over the Vancouver Convention Centre and the attention of many sommeliers, wine enthusiasts and wine producers – from here and abroad. Dozens of principals and countless out-of-town attendees attend seminars, dinners, minglers, brunches, trade tastings, parties (and after parties) and the main event – the International Festival Tasting. The WineAlign team will be out in force, with Bill Zacharkiw, Nadia Fournier and Marc Chapleau coming out from Quebec and Heather Riley and Head Wineaux Bryan McCaw from Ontario. The BC team members will be speaking on various panels, and DJ Kearney will be overseeing the Global Focus Syrah/Shiraz station.

1750+ wines, 14 countries, 170 wineries. Where to start? The BC team (minus DJ, who is currently tasting in Australia) has put together a handy list of 20 wines to watch for under $20 available at the festival.

VIWF’s tagline is “The Wine World is Here.” I hope we’ll see you in Vancouver at the end of February.

~ TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

Thirty seven years is a long time for any festival and special when the subject is wine. It took a lot of brave souls to launch the Vancouver International Wine Festival way back in 1979 but it’s firmly established today as one of the best consumer wine shows on the continent. Our task as always is to find 20 wines under $20 you can enjoy at the festival this month so with my picks I’m going worldwide.

First up is a new juicy, fun, garnacha – 5G Five Garnachas Five Generations from Miguel Torres. Garnacha tends to be more acidic and lower in alcohol in Spain versus the grenache of France making this one food friendly.

From the nearby Okanagan BC, winemaker Nikki Callaway will hold your attention with her Quails’ Gate Chardonnay. Less reductive, less overt oak more citrus and super juicy. Roast chicken is the match.

Torres 5g Five Garnachas Five Generations 2013 Quails' Gate Chardonnay 2013 Louis Bernard Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2012 Mionetto Il Prosecco Frizzante Nugan Alfredo Second Pass Shiraz 2012

Be sure to drop by the Louis Bernard booth and find why the Louis Bernard Cotes du Rhone Blanc is so delicious and so inexpensive. Stock up on this one.

Bubble is a useful sip at the festival cleansing your palate as move about the room. Don’t miss the value packed Mionetto Il Prosecco Frizzante. Balance and style bottled under a yellow crown cap you just pop off.

To finish I suggest a stop at Nugan Estate to discover the Down Under version of ripasso, “the Second Pass” re-fermented over the skins or pomace of the Nugan Alfredo Dried Grapes Shiraz.

Have fun, don’t forget to spit.

Rhys Pender MW

Australia is proudly the theme country for the Vancouver International Wine Festival and it often produces killer value wines. Bleasdale of Langhorne Creek in South Australia has a couple of beauties under the $20 mark. Try the Mulberry Tree Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon for a nice, pure example of Cabernet.

If you are at Wine Festival you should also try to visit the Tahbilk table. Tahbilk has been around a long time and is kind of out on its own in the middle of Victoria. But the wines are killer, particularly the Shiraz and Marsanne 2013.

Bleasdale Mulberry Tree Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Tahbilk Marsanne 2013 Penfolds Rawsons Retreat Shiraz Cabernet Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2013 Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013

Penfolds will be sure to have some great red wines open for tasting at VIWF so be sure to check out that table. They also offer great value in the lower price points. Try the classic Aussie blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Rawson’s Retreat Shiraz Cabernet.

Yalumba is another table definitely worth a visit. One of the best wines in the Yalumba lineup is always the viognier as they helped pioneer this variety in both Australia and to the world. The Y Series Viognier 2013 is great value.

I feel like I am always recommending this wine to everyone but it is just such a good wine for the price and really hits the style that good cool climate Aussie Chardonnay should be aiming for. And a few dollars over $20 but worth it. It is the Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay. Both the 2012 and 2013 vintage are excellent.

Treve Ring

One of the very best things about the International Festival Tasting is the chance to try something new. At every level, from fledgling through professional, there is something new on that floor to taste, and hopefully, find some new wines to love that won’t break the budget.

Many folks won’t have tried the traminer grape before, so Shot in the Dark 2013 Traminer Riesling from New South Wales is an aromatic and quaffable place to start.

Or perhaps you’d like to visit a new region? Sip Southern France’s Languedoc-Roussillon, with the tasty Château de Caraguilhes 2012 Domaine de L’Olivette Rouge, a humble and juicy organic blend of familiar grapes syrah, grenache and merlot.

Shot In The Dark Traminer Riesling 2013 Château De Caraguilhes Domaine De L'olivette Rouge 2012 Deinhard Green Label Riesling 2012 Cavas Hill 1887 Brut Anna Spinato Prosecco Brut Organic Sparkling White

Deinhard Green Label Riesling 2012 was a Judges’ Choice selection at the 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada. This consistent, tropical, off-dry sipper over-delivers and is worth having in your ‘wines for a crowd’ collection.

From time to time, you’ll need to refresh your palate, and after water (drink water!) bubbles is a classic refresher. Cavas Hill 1887 Brut from Spain will do the trick, with its white grapefruit, green apple and lemon pith notes. Or skip to Italy, for the lively floral, yellow apple and pink grapefruit fruited Anna Spinato Prosecco Brut Organic – you won’t be able to miss the dynamic green wrapped bottle.

While in Italy, swing by the Ruffino table, start on their entry level dusty cherry scented 2012 Chianti, and then work your way up through the winery’s ranks of increasing typicity and prestige.

When you think of white wine from New Zealand, chardonnay probably doesn’t come to mind. After trying the generously creamy melon and stone fruit of Marisco The King’s Legacy.

You don’t need to travel far from home to taste something new. BC is represented at the festival, so be sure to introduce yourself to Summerland’s 8th Generation 2013 Riesling and its bright, energetic orchard fruit. Or look to Oliver, in the southern Okanagan and the round and ripe fruited Cellar Hand 2013 Free Run White from Black Hills Winery, an aromatic and creamy blend of pinot blanc, muscat, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and viognier.

Ruffino Chianti 2012 Marisco The King's Legacy Chardonnay 2012 8th Generation Riesling 2013 Cellar Hand Free Run White 2013 Croft Pink Port

It’s always a good idea to go out on a sweet note, so head to Portugal and finish off with some of the amazing fortifieds of the Taylor Fladgate / Fonseca / Croft Port partnership. If you’ve never tried, or heard of, pink port, now’s your chance with the candied strawberry and cool plum sweetness of Croft Pink Port (tip – also a great building base for cocktails).

If you don’t have your tickets to VIWF yet, there is still time. Many seminars and dinners have SOLD OUT, but there are still some great finds to be had.  Your International Festival Tasting ticket is FREE if you book a downtown hotel with www.beVancouver.com. Details at www.vanwinefest.ca.

Check out Treve’s Travels feature on Australia TODAY Part I here, with Part II coming next week. In addition, DJ Kearney is previewing her Oceans, Altitudes & Attitudes seminar that she is presenting alongside Rhys Pender, Treve will be talking all about the Global Focus, Shiraz/Syrah in a look at this grape in all its forms, as well and sharing what top sommeliers and wine professionals are excited about this year with a recap of the popular trade seminar, Excitement in a Glass. All critics’ will chime in on their top 3 wines to taste at the festival in our joint BC Critics’ Report coming out next week. Finally, Anthony Gismondi’s Final Blend column will take an insightful look at the festival and where wine culture and private liquor retail is in BC today.

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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British Columbia Critics’ Picks – January 2015

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks 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.

It doesn’t take long for our BC team to settle back into work after the holidays. We’ve been led by our stomachs (pairing to comfort foods), our schedules (prep for Vancouver International Wine Festival), celebration planning (Chinese New Year), and our natural instinct for great deals (Rhys’ port pick below) in this month’s selections.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

With a foot still dragging in 2014 (post-holiday catch up) I’ve already got my eyes on February, and Vancouver International Wine Festival. The BC team will have lots of coverage on the festival next month, but since seminar/interview/coverage planning is well underway now (as are ticket sales), my mind is in VIWF mode.

Arrocal Selección 2009 Stag's Hollow Syrah Penfolds Bin 2 Shiraz Mourvèdre 2012Australia is the theme region, and Penfolds will be well represented. The Penfolds 2012 Shiraz – Mourvèdre Bin 2 is drinking well right now, particularly when poured with warming roasts.

Shiraz is in the spotlight, so we’ll be tasting dozens of examples from around the globe. One BC winery showing the grape due respect is Stag’s Hollow, and their 2011 Syrah has the freshness, black fruit flavours, florals and acidity we look for.

Of course, there’s a world of wine not represented at VIWF. Bodegas Arrocal 2009 Seleccion Ribera del Duero will transport you to Spain’s rugged landscape with its intense black fruit, leather and tobacco flavours. Pour this now with roast lamb, or cellar for a few years.

DJ Kearney

For me, right now, it’s all things Italian. Mid-winter makes me get into the kitchen and braise, stir and slow-cook deep flavours that demand lusty, earthy reds with a juicy edge – in other words, Italian reds.

Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale 2011 Ceralti Scirè Bolgheri Rosso 2012 Masi Serego Alighieri Vaio Armaron 2006Ragu first… my partner and I have ragu smack-downs which serve to fulfill our competitive spirits and the freezer. He favours a silky three-meat version simmered for (interminable) hours with milk, and I (quickly) sizzle up an all pork and calabrese sausage rendition with heavy wine deglazings and globs of bomba stirred in along the way. This time we opened the benchmark Ruffino 2011 Chianto Classico, alive with plummy fruit and a good thrust of sangiovese’s trademark acidity from this early, ripe and abundant vintage.

A Bolgheri Rosso provided stark contrast of both cépage and vintage, and the Ceralti 2012 Scirè showed impressive structure, fruit and persistence.

For a wild mushroom risotto, no other wine than the Masi 2006 Serego Alighieri Vaio Armaron would do – rich, savoury, powerful, maturing. With food and wine this good, winter can stay all year.  Well not really, but another month is ok.

Rhys Pender MW

There is something special to find a wine that is big and burly but also structured and with some freshness. Seghesio is a Zin specialist with a great range of wines and while not cheap, they are excellent quality. The 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel from 90 year old vines in Alexander and Dry Creek valleys in Sonoma is everything Zinfandel should be.

Croft Vintage Port 1991 Poplar Grove Syrah 2011 Seghesio Old Vine Zinfandel 2011A good homegrown wine that impresses every vintage is the Poplar Grove Syrah. The 2011, a very cool vintage, shows that Syrah can still be delicious even in chilly vintages. It is peppery and delicious now but should also cellar nicely.

Port houses occasionally do us the lovely favour of releasing some older vintage wines from their cellars. Not only are the wines ready to drink but they are often very reasonably priced.

There are still a few cases of the Croft 1991 Vintage Port left in BC Liquor Stores at just $80 a 750ml bottle, $40 less than the current 2011 release. Definitely worth a splurge to see what a 20+ year old wine tastes like.

Treve Ring

Though the holiday season is a fading memory for some, it hasn’t even culminated for others. Chinese New Year is February 19, and celebrations will be welcoming in the year of the Sheep.

Haywire Lunar New Year White 2013 Haywire Lunar New Year Red 2012 Pentage Roussanne Marsanne Viognier 2011You might not think of pairing wine with your Chinese New Year feast, but Haywire’s recently released, limited edition Lunar New Year duo should urge you to reconsider. Scoop these quickly, because only 200 cases of each were made. The Haywire 2013 Lunar New Year White is a fresh, white aromatic blend to pour alongside fragrant curries or citrus slicked noodles with prawns, while the Haywire 2012 Lunar New Year Red is a gamay-based blend that will complement caramel chicken or Peking duck.

Of course, you needn’t have a special occasion to crack a special bottle. Pentâge Winery’s 2011 Rousanne Marsanne Viognier has the weight and texture to stand up to January’s heartier foods, and enough of the fragrant Skaha Bench orchard fruit to have you dreaming of warmer times ahead. I poured with seared tuna and hazelnut endive salad.

WineAlign in BC ~

In addition to our monthly Critics’ Picks report, we also publish the popular shortlist 20 Under $20, as well as the BC Wine Report.

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 Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon


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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008