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British Columbia Critics’ Picks August 2016

Drink Ahead to Fall

How does the saying go: Minds that think alike, drink alike? Or is it the other way round – minds that drink alike, think alike? Either way, it seems the WineAlign West crew is already starting to think ahead, and drink ahead to fall. Richer reds are making their first appearance in many weeks, while the whites are all structured and savoury enough to take on some heartier foods. And the fizz selected? Serious stuff. Bring it, September. We’re ready, with a case of serious (and delicious) wines like these.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team

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. All are currently available for sale in BC – through BC Liquor Stores, private wine shops or direct from the wineries. Inventory is also available when linked to BCLDB stores.

Anthony Gismondi

Champagne Bollinger 2005 La Grande Année is only made in the best years, and while 2005 doesn’t fit that accolade, Bollinger tends to overcome most obstacles of weather. It was disgorged in 2014 after eight years on lees, so it is ready to go. There is more sugar ripeness and less acidity, which is why it’s drinking well now and will likely age faster than the norm. When you find yourself losing faith in wine, this champagne will recharge your batteries.

Bollinger La Grande Année Brut Champagne 2005 Two Hands Bella's Garden Shiraz 2013 Domini de la Cartoixa Formiga de Galena 2013

The Two Hands Garden Series is a six-shiraz-set bottled to expose the terroir of individually approved South Australia wine regions. Two Hands 2013 Bella’s Garden Shiraz makes up the largest production, and since the inception the use of new oak has fallen, setting this wine free. It’s not for the timid and it could use a few years in bottle, but many will enjoy the rambunctious new world fruit now, served with a well-seasoned leg of lamb. Bring on the fall.

When I last visited the folks who make Domini De La Cartoixa 2013 Formiga De Galena, a blend of garnacha, samsó and syrah, I was blown away by its intense stony, black fruit aromas and similar smoky, savoury, black cherry fruit flavours. Terrific value here in what is a serious, modern, organic red made in an old school way.

Rhys Pender, MW 

I started last month’s critics’ picks bemoaning the fact that summer had somehow seemed to disappear with chilly autumn like nights and cool days. August has seen summer come back full throttle with rarely a day in the Okanagan and Similkameen under 30 degrees over the last few weeks. The grapes are moving along quickly as a result and harvest has started for many wineries already.

When the apéro hour hits in this warm weather, a crisp white is calling and I’ve picked two wines that fit the bill well. The first is the Culmina 2015 Unicus Gruner Veltliner. There is very little gruner in BC but this shows its potential. Crisp, mineral, varietally correct and super refreshing, showing the power and freshness that BC whites can achieve. A little ceviche or a fresh green salad wouldn’t go astray.

Culmina Unicus 2015 Bk Wines One Ball Chardonnay 2013 Fontodi Chianti Classico 2012 Pol Roger Brut Réserve Champagne

We don’t always think of Chardonnay as crisp and refreshing but most modern Chardonnay is going down that path, particularly those from cooler parts of Australia. The BK Wines 2013 One Ball Single Vineyard Chardonnay from Kenton Valley in the Adelaide Hills is just that – restrained, refined, crisp and fresh with plenty of complexity from the lees aging and subtle use of oak. A bit of grilled white fish with some brown butter would be a perfect match.

When the night cools off but it is still perfect BBQ weather and warm enough to do some star gazing, a complex, rustic and savoury red is the perfect match. The Fontodi 2012 Chianti Classico Chianti Classico will not disappoint. There is plenty of savoury complexity to think about while on shooting star watch.

Any excuse is a good excuse to drink Champagne, and if you pick a good, dry, crisp one with a decent amount of autolysis it will taste good out of any vessel, from a surreptitious water bottle, a tumbler, a plastic cup or maybe even a proper wine glass or flute. If you are on the beach, the boat or the campsite just remember to bring a bubbly stopper to keep those bubbles fresh between pours. One that never disappoints and that I have probably tried out of all those vessels and more is the Pol Roger N/V Réserve Brut Champagne. One of the best in my mind, it has plenty of autolysis richness as well as providing great refreshment.

DJ Kearney 

Three mesmerizing wines that I want to drink again and again, all memorable because of texture, mineral force and the characters behind them. If one of wine’s gifts is to distract, relax and stimulate, then these three are richly endowed with vinous powers.

Acústic Cellers 2012 Blanc may need a scuttle around a few private wine stores, but it’s a fatty/stony/salty marvel for Mediterranean halibut or Iberian ham and well worth the hunt. Thanks to Monsant’s Albert Jané Ubeda for this heroic white.

Celler Acústic Blanc 2012 Les Pavillons Du Chateau D’arlay 2014 Pedro Parra Y Familia Pencopolitano 2014

I drank three bottles of Les Pavillons du Chateau d’Arlay 2014 Rosé in a row (well not drank drank, but you know, opened three to try with three dinner pairings) and applauded the triumph of texture and terroir. To me, the Jura is a powerfully eloquent terroir, and this innocent-looking rosé packs a whallop of fruit and mineral heft. It’s a blend of two Jurassien red grapes: pinot noir for curranty fruit and silky mouthfeel, and trousseau for a spicy weight.  Comte Alain de la Guiche is visiting Vancouver in October, and I hope that helps ensure that we have a constant flow of Arlay wines.

And then the Pencopolitano. I drank this wine with Pedro Perra, and I’m always prepared for his wines to be full of soul. After more than a decade of digging calicatas across the globe – from Burgundy and Barossa to the Okanagan and Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley – Chilean geologist Pedro Parra is well established as the world’s leading expert on the influence of rocks and soil on wine quality and character. He is still young, but he continues to rise inexorably through Decanter’s annual Power 50. Now he has started a project in his home region of southern Chile that focuses on terroirs, not just grape varieties.  Pencopolitano is a different kind of ‘field blend’, celebrating the heritage of dry-farmed bush vines from old vineyards scattered across the isolated and impoverished regions of Itata and Cauquenes. Five grapes, powerful terroir, venerable vines, old oak and concrete, and Pedro’s inimitable winemaking. Like I said in the beginning, mesmerizing.

Treve Ring

Lock & Worth Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2015 Terravista Vineyards Fandango 2015When I look back at the last month of tasting and think about the wines that stood out, excited and impressed me, a duo of local talents quickly come to mind, co-incidentally both from the Okanagan Valley. You may need to drive to the Naramata Bench to pick them up, but, it’s worth it.

The Terravista 2015 Fandango stands alone in all the ways, starting with its singular blend of Albariño and Verdejo from the granitic soils of their Naramata Bench estate. Concentrated, focused and vibrant, with perfumed lime oil, mandarin, gooseberry and yellow plum along a raft of fine ginger spicing. Dialed in.

While Lock & Worth is located on the Naramata Bench, near Terravista, the grapes for their 2015 Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon are from a graveled site near Oliver. Seventeen year-old-year old vines make up this 77/23 sauvignon blanc/semillon blend, resulting in medicinal herbs, meadow grass, lemon thistle, hay and vibrant citrus acidity streaming through the lees-lined palate. Tighter and more linear than the 2014 now, this has the structure to reward with a few years in your cellar (if you can wait that long). Amazing value.


WineAlign in BC

In addition to our monthly Critics’ Picks report, we also publish the popular shortlist 20 Under $20, as well as the Rhys Pender’s BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential 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!

Beringer Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

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It’s cucumber time and the living is silly

The Final Blend
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi Portrait Colour_Cropped

Anthony Gismondi

While I’m recovering from the National Wine Awards and enjoying some of the sunshine, there are a few loose ends, or better yet, bin ends, running through my mind. It’s mid-summer in Canada and for a change this year we have the weather to prove it. In fact, the drought has been so intense in southern Ontario wine country, Vineland grower/winemaker Brian Schmidt made the ultimate sacrifice and removed the fruit from his four-year-old Legacy cabernet franc vineyard to prevent the young vines from expiring, trying to ripen fruit in a bone dry environment.

In the Okanagan Valley, another warm spring and an early bud break pointed to a record early harvest in the West but a change in weather and a fair bit of rain has cooled expectations literally and figuratively. That said, veraison is well underway, suggesting another year where the harvest window is going to peak earlier than normal.

In Vancouver, Burgundy winemaker Philippe Pacalet, who makes natural wines, was explaining to a youthful room of sommeliers how he used to harvest his pinot noir in mid-October. These past years he has been forced to pick his fruit at the height of the warm summer season in August. Those dates would have been something unimaginable to Burgundy producers only a quarter century ago.

It would seem the ancient clones and vineyard selections of Pacalet’s forefathers may have to change to survive and be productive in a warmer environment. Burgundy crop levels are falling due to warmer winters, and the vines that never really go dormant are subject to additional risks that a cold winter would eliminate. In what sounds like heresy, Pacalet may need new pinot noir clones better suited to the changing conditions. If Burgundy is to adapt to the new climate they will need local researchers to develop more clones suited to a warmer future.

Yet after all the talk of change, Pacalet warns that a traditional Burgundy vintage, “Is the way the wine is dressed; it’s not the point.” I love the way the Burgundians see the soul of wine although some days I’m not so sure they see the massive amount of energy and effort the competition is expending to catch up. No one can stand still, not even in the midst of summer holidays.

They say that summer is the silly season, and it would appear some of Canada’s provincial Premiers decided to pile-on regarding the free trade of wine across Canada by suggesting that they would make Canadian wine, from outside “their” provinces, available online, through some newly minted portal on their monopoly websites.

FreeMyGrapesI think we can say free trade in Canadian wine, or any wine for that matter, across Canada is officially dead. I’ve come to the conclusion that wine isn’t that important to Canadians or they wouldn’t put up with a suffocating monopoly system that appears to exist to extract gobs of money out of every bottle of wine. After stalling for four years, literally ignoring a federal ruling to allow Canadian wine be traded freely across the country, some provincial monopolies want to run Canadian wine from outside their fiefdoms through the monopoly gauntlet and generate another level of income. I’m guessing the “Free My Grapes” folks were not counting on another layer of taxes and handling when they lobbied for the free movement of Canadian wine. I’m sure David Lawrason will have much more on this topic and be keeping a close eye on proceedings in his monthly Canadian Wine Report.

Conversely, there does appear to be a light at the end of the monopoly tunnel with the announcement that the LCBO will start selling wine on-line and have it shipped to your local store, or right to you home using Canada Post. To re-jig a Home Hardware jingle, it’s government workers helping government workers.

Jingles aside, it’s a good idea for so many reasons and better late than never. Monopolies can access just about any wine in the world if they want to and with a little practice and work they should be able to satisfy the ten percent of the market that causes them 80 percent of all complaints. If you can order wine, especially wines not available at the LCBO and have them shipped to your home or a nearby store, that would end most of the issues wine lovers have with the monopoly. The same goes for restaurants. If there is a reasonable timeline here, it is going to be a home run.

Price will always be an issue, but often price is less important than availability and access at the higher end of the market. In any event, the over-sugared, junk blends that pass as wine and that currently dominate store shelves will still be sold in monopoly stores, so everybody wins. One of the advantages of being a government monopoly is you get to make the rules, so we do not foresee any regulatory problems relating to online sales that are currently faced by any other retailers.

As for Canadian wine sales, always a big issue with monopolies, there is no reason not to make every provincial wine available online. That should satisfy local producers by giving them access to the entire market as long as they can come up with a price that works for everyone. By the way, as a Canadian citizen and a lover of all wines, I would have no objection to being able to order any wine online in Ontario, Quebec or Alberta or anywhere in Canada for that matter and having it shipped to my home via Canada Post. But then that is probably just wishful thinking.

It may be just a coincidence, but the shift to online sales perfectly aligns with a recent Wine Intelligence report about Online Retail & Communication in the Chinese Market 2016, where the WI reports “49% of Chinese urban upper-middle class wine drinkers now shop for wine on the internet, making the country the world’s largest and fastest-growing e-commerce market for wine with approximately 21 million online wine buyers.”

GinTonicCucumberFinally, while Canadian monopolies continue to search for new sources of revenue they may get some help from a new industry they could never imagine may inject $100 billion into the worldwide liquor business. It’s been suggested that in the not too distant future the rise of driverless cars and car-sharing will make a large impact on liquor sales in restaurants, bars and clubs.

In a Business Insider report, Morgan Stanley was suggesting “Shared and autonomous vehicle technology [could] help address the mutual exclusivity of drinking and driving in a way that can significantly enhance the growth rate of the alcohol market and on-trade sales at restaurants. After calculating current global alcohol consumption and its monetary value, and compared with estimated figures under the impact of car-sharing and driverless cars the analysts found that the booze market could get an extra $98 billion.

We did say it’s the silly season, or as they say in many countries, cucumber time. I’ll take my cucumber in a cocktail on the patio please. Back to more serious, maybe even complicated, wine thoughts next edition.



Beringer Founders' Estate

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20 Under $20 in BC : August 2016

Your Summer Shopping Guide

Light and lively, bright and juicy, here are 20 wines that provide a lot of refreshment for not a lot of money.

~ TR 

BC Critic Team

You can find complete critic reviews and scores by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images below

Anthony Gismondi

Let’s not rush the summer away, there are still a few weeks left to linger over those sunsets and simply relax before the madness of September arrives. To get you started the Leitz Dragonstone Riesling Kabinett 2014 will jump start any street party with its juicy, lively acidity and fresh orchard fruit flavours.

Similar in style is the Meyer Gewurztraminer 2014 but its litchi fruit and orange flavours make it a fine match for vegetarian dishes.

The folks at Spierhead are best known for their pinot noir but the Spierhead Pinot Gris Golden Retreat Vineyard 2015 is a delicious citrus, red apple-scented affair – almost a riesling in pinot gris clothing. The perfect weekend patio white.

Leitz Dragonstone Riesling Kabinett 2014 Meyer Gewurztraminer Mclean Creek Road Vineyard 2014 Spierhead Pinot Gris Golden Retreat Vineyard 2015 Quails' Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2015 Seven Terraces Sauvignon Blanc 2015

If you are detecting a pattern here, remember it’s summer and I don’t like cheap sweet red wines. One my favourite Quails’ Gate party wines is the Quails’ Gate Chasselas – Pinot Blanc – Pinot Gris 2015. Orchard fruits, lime rind and the mysterious wet stone minerality call out a pizza off the grill.

Finally, the Seven Terraces Sauvignon Blanc 2015 is a passion fruit and jalapeño flavour bomb you can drink tonight – think a corn and bean salad. I promise to find some reds next time out. Enjoy the last weeks of summer.


Rhys Pender MW 

I’ve picked a real mixed bag of wines this month that shows the diversity of place and grape you can get for your $20. First is a pair of Chardonnay wines from Australia and California. The Lindeman’s Bin 65 2015 vintage is the best in a long while for this good value wine. There is nice fruit but also some freshness making it very drinkable and at a great price.

The second Chardonnay is the Chateau St Jean 2014 Chardonnay from Sonoma in California. It is Californian in its generosity but keeps a nice fresh crispness.

Another white that I recently enjoyed is the Bartier Bros Lone Pine Vineyard Gewurztraminer 2014. Many find gewurz too pungent, thick and sweet but this one will surprise you with its freshness, dryness and elegance.

Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay 2015 Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay 2014 Bartier Bros. Gewurztraminer Lone Pine Vineyard 2014 Gabbiano Chianti 2014 River Stone Estate Winery Malbec Rose 2015

A wine that always delivers good value for me is the Gabbiano Chianti. The 2014 vintage is very savoury and meaty with lots of dried herbs, leather and spice. A lot of interesting flavour for under $15 and a real go to for something savoury for the BBQ.

It might be rosé season all year but I seem to drink even more of it in the summer. A good BC example is the River Stone Malbec Rosé 2015. It is a pretty big, intense, dark rosé and quite delicious. 


DJ Kearney

A nostalgic tour of some of my favourite dependable deals had me tasting whites like Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015, humming with apricot and zesty citrus flavours. For just 10 bucks, it’s a perennial killer value.

So is the excellent Emiliana Adobe Chardonnay Reserva Orgánico 2015, made from organic fruit, just like Cono Sur.

An excellent red standby since 1970 is La Vieille Ferme Ventoux 2015, a chewy blend ready to jump into action with grilled sausages.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015 Emiliana Adobe Chardonnay Reserva Orgánico 2013 La Vieille Ferme Red 2015 Ricossa Barbera D'asti Superiore 2011 Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel 2014

Or if a meatball pizza is blistering on my grill (yes, you can bbq pizza), then I’ll give Ricossa Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2012 a chill, and splash into a chunky tumbler. Fresh and juicy, it’s a true steal for under 15 bucks.

If big mouthfeel and sweet/spicy fruit is called for, Ravenswood Vintner’s Blend 2014 will do nicely. All great deals, all widely available, and all delicious.


Treve Ring 

Always on the hunt for new great fizz, I was thrilled to discover the Dibon Brut Reserve Cava this month. Bright, fresh and zippy, with earthy fennel, almond, pear skin, peach pit, heady brioche and meyer lemon brightened with brisk acidity makes for a lovely turn from the norm in this well-priced sparkler.

Hands down, one of BC’s top values for quality year over year is Blue Mountain Vineyards, and their new 2015 Pinot Blanc reinforces this. Entirely wild ferment this year, the thirty-year-old estate vines hold their own against the challenging warm 2015 vintage with ripe yellow apple, florals and white peach lined with apricot fuzz and spices.

Dibon Brut Reserve Cava Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2015 Blue Grouse Quill Rosé 2015 Bees Knees Chenin Blanc Viognier 2015 Santero Asti Dolce

From one BC Blue to another, the 2015 Blue Grouse Rosé from Cowichan Valley rested on skins for eighteen hours, giving fine, lithe tannins to quenching cranberry and juicy strawberry fruit. Finishes crisp and bright.

I am a huge fan of chenin blanc, South Africa, and killer values, and the Bees Knees Chenin Blanc Viognier 2015 scores the triad. Ripe pear, peach and melon carry this friendly and fuller Western Cape white before white florals, honeysuckle and fine spice take over on the waxy palate.

Sometimes you just need a little sweet thing. Santero Asti Dolce is a mid-sweet fizz to open brunch or close afternoon tea, with frothy bubbles cut with a pithy citrus and scented with white honey. With only 7.5% alcohol, this is an attractive choice for many reasons.


WineAlign in BC

In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report which highlights a dozen of our favourites from the last month (at any price point), as well as Rhys Pender’s BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential 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!

Beringer Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

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Announcing the Best Performing Small Winery of the Year

Lake Breeze, Where Small is Beautiful
By Anthony Gismondi

Lake BreezeThis year’s National Wine Awards was the most inclusive yet, with 230 wineries entering over 1,500 wines from across the country. The numbers only make the achievement of Lake Breeze as Canada’s 2016 Best Performing Small Winery of Year all that more impressive. It’s been more than two decades since Lake Breeze founders, Swiss natives Paul and Vereena Moser, first opened the winery doors along the scenic Naramata Bench back in 1995. And believe it or not, winemaker/president Garron Elmes has made the wine for all 22 vintages, working through four different sets of owners since.

The laid-back Elmes, who spends his spare time sailing Okanagan Lake, arrived fresh out of Elsenburg College in Stellenbosch. “If you think the Penticton airport is small you should have seen it back in 1995 when I got off that plane” he recounts. In one of those inexplicable twists of fate, the aspiring winemaker’s stepfather was in the tool business in South Africa, as was Paul Moser, and well, one thing led to another and the young South African found himself on the Naramata Bench long before most British Columbians could find it on a map.

“The original plan was to stay for three or four years but when you look around the world there are worse places to live,” Elmes says. Twenty-two vintages later he is still in charge of the cellars and it would appear the low-key, talented South African is the match for current owners Barbara and Drew MacIntyre. The Calgary power couple have been around fifteen years now, nurturing more than meddling, and giving Elmes the tools he needs to make better and better wine.

Now that their kids are teenagers the MacIntyres will spend more time in Naramata and slowly deepen their involvement in the wine business. Just last week they launched two new wines under a new MacIntyre label: MacIntyre Heritage Reserve Astra Chardonnay 2014 and MacIntyre Heritage Reserve Ardua Merlot 2014. Astra and Ardua represent another level to come from Lake Breeze and reflect the MacIntyre’s interest in raising the game even further on the Naramata Bench.

Garron Elmes - Lake Breeze winemaker

Garron Elmes – Lake Breeze winemaker

Pinot Blanc is the unofficial winery flagship wine. According to Elmes, “It is what they make the most of and sell the most of” in the Okanagan Valley. “With our cooler climate, we get higher natural acidities and some great fruit flavours out of it,” he says. “It is kind of an underrated grape, but we love it. We hung our hat on it from the start in 1995. I describe it as a fruit salad with all sorts of fruit: a bit of tropical, a bit of citrus, good crisp acidity and so versatile, it goes with so many foods.”

Lake Breeze only farms 0.2 hectares of land but Elmes works with a cadre of growers all along the bench to supply him with top-class fruit. As it happens the judges were agog over the Lake Breeze 2014 Semillon, ranking it a top scoring Platinum medal. Elmes and his team also took home gold medals for the Lake Breeze 2012 Winemaker’s Series Riesling; the Lake Breeze 2015 Sauvignon Blanc and the Lake Breeze 2015 The Spice Jar White Blend. All have a cool-climate undercurrent that reflects the winery’s prime position, mid-Valley, overlooking the lake.

Lake Breeze Semillon 2014Lake Breeze 2012 Winemaker's Series RieslingLake Breeze Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Lake Breeze Winemaker Series The Spice Jar 2015

If Lake Breeze has a weakness, you might suggest they make too many wines, but when you are the number two winery in the country, number one in British Columbia, and Canada’s Small Winery of the Year for 2016, you can do what ever you want.

If you haven’t visited the winery, do so. In fact, lunch at The Patio is highly recommended and the place to experience the wines of Lake Breeze, not to mention the refreshing breezes off the lake.

Congratulations to Lake Breeze and all the winning wines in this year’s Nationals.

Announcing the Winery of the Year

Canada’s Top Wineries

Top 25 Wineries in Canada

Top 10 BC Wineries

Top 10 Ontario Wineries

Top 10 Best Performing Small Wineries

Results Summary


We would like to acknowledge the following sponsors: Post Hotel and Spa Lake Louise for the glassware used throughout the judging, and Container World for shipping and logistics. A special thank you to Jason Dziver for the above images, as well as for each and every Awards bottle image appearing our site. You can see more of his work at Jason Dziver Photography.

Post Hotel & SpaContainer World


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20 Under $20 in BC : July 2016

Your Summer Shopping Guide

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. A time to stress less, the only decision I want to make right now is what gulpable, refreshing wine to crack into. Stocking up with an assortment of these value bottles will ensure the decision is an easy one to make.

~ TR 

BC Critic Team

You can find complete critic reviews and scores by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images below

Rhys Pender MW

On the heels of Canada Day I’ve gone for an all BC selection this month. There are some great value, really high quality BC wines out there. One of these creeps over the $20 mark by a mere 49 cents but you will find it is well worth it.

The first two wines are a pair of chardonnay from the Okanagan. Both these producers take chardonnay very seriously and are making their wines in the more modern, fresh, elegant style rather than old school bigness. The first is the Quails’ Gate 2013 Chardonnay, a great complex and elegant wine with excellent freshness and length.

Another excellent Chardonnay is the entry level wine from CedarCreek. The 2014 Chardonnay is a lovely combination of fruit and texture.

Quails' Gate Chardonnay 2013 CedarCreek Chardonnay 2014 Quails' Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2014 Poplar Grove Pinot Gris 2015 Poplar Grove Pinot Gris 2015CedarCreek Cabernet Merlot 2013

A crushable BC white is the Quails’ Gate 2014 Chasselas, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris. They have avoided the temptation to sweeten this up making it a nice, affordable refreshing summertime drink. You could drink lots of this to soothe the heat on a hot summer day.

To me, the quintessential BC pinot gris may be the Poplar Grove. Pear, melon, lemon, dry with good acidity = very drinkable. Both the 2014 and 2015 hit this style nicely. 

A good local red for the BBQ season is the CedarCreek 2013 Cabernet-Merlot. There is nice red and black fruit and a savoury, sagey, dried herb note that would pair well with hearty BBQ fare.

DJ Kearney

It’s summer patio party time, and we need sure-fire values for a (large) crowd and a smoky grill. My five stalwarts include the crisply dry Kris 2015 Pinot Grigio, that satisfies the needs of classic white wine lovers, and the lush, fruity Cuma 2015 Organic Torrontés for sipping with scallop ceviche.

For the juicy lamb burgers on the menu, a glass of gutsy, fragrant Undurraga 2014 Sibaris Pinot Noir Gran Reserva is just the ticket. I believe this to be one of the best value pinots on the planet.

Kris Pinot Grigio 2015 Michel Torino Cuma Organic Torrontés 2015 Undurraga Sibaris Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2014 Finca Los Primos Malbec 2015 Finca Las Moras Tannat Reserva 2014

The amazingly-consistent best-seller Finca 2015 Los Primos Malbec shows tobacco flower fragrance and blueberry fruit. Give it a slight chill to add refreshment. If you don’t know the tannat grape (a staple in the Madiran region of southwest France) Finca 2014 Las Moras Tannat Reserva is a friendly introduction to a strapping, chewy variety.

Treve Ring

Who wants to be running to the store mid-party? Or worse, mid-serious-hammock-time? A few bottles chilled of the lean, bright, melon-led Lagaria 2014 Pinot Grigio from Veneto, or the juicy grapefruit-ringed Graffigna 2015 Centenario Pinot Grigio Reserve from San Juan can save the day. Also from Argentina, the full and toasty Alamos 2014 Chardonnay is handy to have on hand when unexpected guests pop by, bringing fresh crab for the cookout (the best type of friends to have, by the way).

Lagaria Pinot Grigio 2014 Graffigna Centenario Reserve Pinot Grigio 2015 Alamos Chardonnay 2014 Malbec Gouleyant Cahors 2014 Bogarve Lacruz Tempranillo 2014

Impromptu BBQ sessions are another “problem” if you haven’t stocked up property. A few Le Gouleyant 2013 Malbec from Cahors, with its tobacco, juicy black plum and leather, hemmed by sinewy tannins, will match well with grilled pork chops. For smoky sweet ribs, pull the cork on Bogarve 2014 Lacruz Tempranillo, a ripe, wooded, fruity red from La Mancha, Spain, that leaves a lingering medicinal black cherry note on the palate.

For grilled steak for a crowd, be sure to have Nederburg 2013 Winemaster’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon stocked. This Western Cape red consistently impresses for the price, with its wild blackcurrant, black cherry and tobacco structure. Pairs with the grill. Locally, CedarCreek continues to impress with their entry-tier wines. Most are pure, bright expressions of site and grape, like their 2013 Merlot, a fantastic value for the warm hug of a plush, fruitcake-scented, integrated bigger red. 

Nederburg Winemaster's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 CedarCreek Merlot 2013 Yalumba Moscato Christobel's 2015 Tinhorn Creek Gewürztraminer 2015

There is no better season to enjoy a plate of fresh fragrant fruits for brunch or dessert. Play the same-same match game with Yalumba 2015 Christobel’s Moscato. Scented fruit salad in a blooming garden of flowers sums up this new moscato from Yalumba, and with a likeable 8.5 percent alcohol package too. 

And for one of Canada’s top gew’s, the consistent Tinhorn Creek 2015 Gewurztraminer impresses again this year, with the concentration of 21 year old vines expressed through ample gingersnap, gooseberry and peach. Tastes like summer.


WineAlign in BC

In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report which highlights a dozen of our favourites from the last month (at any price point), as well as Rhys Pender’s BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential 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!

Beringer Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

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20 Under $20 in BC : June 2016

Ohh, Summer Wine

We made it. The 2016 half way mark. How can it possibly be June already? Though I’m certainly not going to complain about long summer days on the patio, with an ice bucket, BBQ, friends and 20 wines under $20 to keep us company.

~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi

Summer is only a couple of weeks away but temperatures across the country would suggest it’s already here. I went looking for a few friendly whites to cool you down.

The quintessential BC pinot blanc is made at Lake Breeze most every year and the Lake Breeze Pinot Blanc 2014 is no exception. Great with goat cheese, halibut steaks and chicken/kale salads.

Another reliable white, this time from Italy, is the Umani Ronchi Casal di Serra Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2014. Look for a delicious cleansing style white that pairs well with seafood, pesto and vegetables. Good value too.

Lake Breeze Pinot Blanc 2014 Umani Ronchi Casal Di Serra Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi 2014 Ormarine Picpoul De Pinet Les Pins De Camille 2014 Quails' Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2015

Perhaps my favourite summer sipper that makes almost any food better is the Ormarine Picpoul de Pinet 2014. Great value and perfectly suited to screwcap. Seriously, try something different.

Locally one of the juicy, fun, gulpable whites to come out of the Okanagan is the Quails’ Gate Chasselas – Pinot Blanc – Pinot Gris 2015. Some times the simple stuff is the best. Fish tacos, sushi, or a Margherita pizza all work here.

Ernie Loosen has been trying to revive the dry Riesling style of his grandfather’s wine for more than eight years and he has finally done it with his Dr. L Riesling Dry 2014. Expect a fresh, citrus palate flecked with grapefruit and guava and all with super fresh acidity and a clean, stony mineral back end.

Dr. L Dry Riesling 2014 Stoneboat Stone'd White 2014 Blasted Church Gewurztraminer 2014 Sumac Ridge Private Reserve Gewürztraminer 2015

Similar in style if not in grapes is the new Stoneboat Stone’d White 2014. The Black Sage Gravel bar is home to this eclectic mix of minerality and orchard fruits made from 25/23/22/20/7/3 mix of pinot blanc. müller thurgau, schönburger, kerner, pinot gris, viognier.

Finally two gewürztraminers to loll away an afternoon in the warm summer sun are the Blasted Church Gewurztraminer 2014 and Sumac Ridge Gewürztraminer Private Reserve 2015. Both are light on the pocketbook.


Rhys Pender MW

It is now hot in BC wine country and I want dry rosé and crisp juicy whites and reds to soothe against the heat. Or at least nothing heavy and cumbersome.

My first pick is a great value French rosé. The La Vieille Ferme Cotes Du Ventoux Rose 2015 is just $12.50 a bottle and provides all the things you need for a rosé to drink by the pint load. Dry, crisp, fresh and great value. Better still, you can get a magnum at some BC Liquor Stores for just $19!

Another proper dry French Rosé is the Racine Rosé 2015 from Provence. It is soft, round, incredibly drinkable with some nice spice and zest notes.

La Vieille Ferme Cotes Du Ventoux Rose 2015 Racine Rosé 2015 Muga Rosé 2015 Ormarine Picpoul de Pinet Les Pins De Camille 2014 Château Terrefort Quancard 2010

When we think of rosé many of us think immediately to the south of France. But Spain can also make some pretty tasty rosado wines. They are usually a little fuller flavoured than the light delicate French versions but equally as tasty. A great value wine from the newly released 2015 vintage is the Muga Rosé 2015 from Rioja in Spain.

A tasty and affordable white for this month’s list is the Ormarine Picpoul de Pinet Les Pins De Camille 2014 from the Languedoc region of France. It is nicely dry and crisp and has plenty of complexity for the price.

A great value red wine that is not super light and juicy but by no means heavy and just exceptional value is the Château Terrefort-Quancard 2010. It is from Bordeaux. It is under $20. It is from the delicious 2010 vintage. It is very tasty. Buy it. Now.

Treve Ring

I taste wine every single day, filing notes, moving through the queue. Every so often, I taste something so strikingly good I just have to stop and drink. Even better result when it’s under $20, and as accessible as the CedarCreek 2014 Riesling. Standing out for its vibrant, mouthwatering lime and sherbet and steady line of acid amidst the softer 2015’s, this new release riesling will be getting some serious play at the Trevehouse this summer.

Seven Directions is BC’s first and only rosé-exclusive winery, with a trio of single vineyard releases this year. My favourite of the three just so happens to be the least expensive – bonus! Seven Directions Fruitvale Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Franc Rosé 2015 is from Osoyoos’ Fruitvale Ridge Vineyard, whole cluster pressed and cool fermented to preserve strawberry, rhubarb fruit in a dry, light style. More like this please.

CedarCreek Riesling 2014 Seven Directions Fruitvale Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Franc Rosé 2015 Joie Farm Re Think Pink Rosé 2015 Mezzacorona Tolloy Pinot Grigio 2014

From a brand new BC rosé to a classic, the 2015 vintage of JoieFarm Re-Think Pink! Rosé is a generous and supple 70/30 pinot noir/gamay blend, with strawberry shortcake, rhubarb, Rainier cherry and pear all tightened by sun-sweet pink grapefruit and finely rasped pink peppercorn.

Wines like the Tolloy 2014 Pinot Grigio – from the foothills of the Dolomites – prove that Italian pinot grigio doesn’t have to be boring and forgettable. Tight and lean, with almonds, meadow, bitter lemon, medicinal herbs and quiet white florals riding along a river bed of stones – lovely with summer vegetable risotto or shellfish.

Fizz is fun and I drink a lot it, so I always stock up for unexpected situations (like thirst). It helps when you find cheery affordable sparklers, like the Charles de Fère Brut Merite Mousseux Premium. Traditional method blancs de noir, with an untraditional blend of merlot, grenache, pinot noir and gamay, this carries a lot of red berry fruit before a tight and crisp finish.

Charles De Fere Brut Merite Mousseux Premium Parés Baltà Cava Brut Bodegas Borsao Monte Oton 2014

The Parés Baltà Cava Brut B is another go-to fizz in my house. Organic and biodynamically farmed, this dry and apple crisp cava carries wild herbs, cracked stones, lemon and nuts, lifted with sharp acidity and cushioned by creamy mousse. Serious stuff.

Spain is a hotspot for amazing value wines, and the new releases from Bodegas Borsao exemplify this. Monte Oton 2014 is from 15-25 year old garnacha planted on the slopes of extinct volcano Moncayo, in the arid Campo de Borja DO. Light-medium bodied, this bright red practically vibrates with jittery energy and pepper, along with light balsamic, black raspberry, candied cherry and plum.


WineAlign in BC

In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report which highlights a dozen of our favourites from the last month (at any price point), as well as Rhys Pender’s BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential 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!

National Wine Awards

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Savour Australia’s History

Wine Australia – Where have all the critters gone?
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

It’s easy to forget Australia’s nearly two centuries of winemaking history given most wine writing barely spans two generations of work at a time, but many ‘new’ world producers are not all that new and in a fast changing, internet-fuelled world where change and technology is inevitable, there is something comforting about the history of people and place that can be reassuring and useful.

That’s not to say you will be seeing any rush to a new round of critter labels any time soon because that isn’t going to happen. This time around the reinvention of Australia is more about evolution and revolution but it is all under way with an eye to the past. The history of vineyards and producers in Oz are rich and deep and there is no need to discard that legacy in the rush to another revolution.

One need only look to the ancient soils of Australia to remember this place is steeped in history; decomposed wind-blown rock dates back in some spots to 500 million years ago. As old as as the soils are, the investigation of what is going on beneath the surface is as new as it gets in geological time. While it’s easy to say farmers/growers have a strong connection to their land, much of the new world is only beginning to look at its regions and sub regions with a microscope.

It took as late as 2008, and a couple of sub-regional tastings featuring single-vineyard shiraz, before Barossa got the bug. With so many wines tied to historical ‘parishes’ within the Barossa, I suspect in the years to come historic names like Gomersal, Williamstown, Lyndoch, Rowland Flat, Barossa Foothills, Vine Vale, Light Pass, Greenock, Moppa, Seppeltsfield and Marananga will slowly appear on labels.

There’s a rush to be new and different in Australia but make no mistake, the place is steeped in history. Barossa, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale and Victoria and New South Wales are not unlike the Cote de Nuit or the Haut Medoc of France. In fact, it is only with more study that we can come to know all the nuances of Down Under in the same way we might discuss the styles of wine coming out St. Estephe or Pauillac or Santenay for that matter.

Today, local winemakers and viticulturists are currently collating soil, and climatic and historical data to try and figure out what is going on across the country. I’m sure what they will find are many similarities interrupted by differences in soil type, elevation, rainfall, meso-climates, temperature, soil fertility and much more.

Another big advantage of a long history is old vines. In fact, the Barossa Valley is home to some of the oldest continuously producing vineyards in the world. After a lot of thought and study at Yalumba, owner Robert Hill-Smith put forth an Old Vines Charter to protect Barossa’s and the rest of Australia’s most precious assets after an ill-considered vine pullout scheme triggered the end of so many magnificent vineyards in the 1980’s.

Barossa Ancestor Vine

Today under the Charter, vines 35 years of age or more can be named Barossa Old Vines. Those over 70 will be Survivor Vines; 100 years will be Centurion Vines; 125 years Ancestor Vines. Since 2009 the region has moved to establish an old vine register to protect all of these treasures.

Robert Hill-Smith may be onto something when he suggests, “In the perception of the serious wine-drinker, the old world owns the integrity to old vineyards. To take an Old Vine Charter to the world will cause a lot of people that take Australia for granted to think again. This charter is about integrity; about hoping that the wines we put in front of people express the place and the variety. It is a necessary evolution that signifies the growing up of Australia.”

It’s hard to argue that logic. As for the oldest Ancestor Vines, at least 125 years old and now growing under protection, my advice is to seek them out at all cost and enjoy the history they can bring to your glass.

In Canada there are a few bottles of wine that evoke the history of Australia while pointing to what is surely a bright future. Here are some historical names or vineyards in the market, making modern wine.

Wakefield St Andrews Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 This single vineyard Clare Valley cabernet sauvignon is sourced from the historic St. Andrews property, first planted in 1892. Classic terra rossa soils atop a limestone base yield a refined cabernet Sweet spices and warm ripeness (14.5 percent alcohol) gives this a generosity that is well suited to roast pork if drinking now. Otherwise, continue to cellar for another few years.

Wolf Blass Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 It’s been thirteen years since we last saw this wine. In those days it was cork finished; not anymore. Classic Coonawarra on the nose with an aromatic mix of brambles and spice with a juicy cherry menthol entry.

Wakefield St Andrews Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010Wolf Blass Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013Two Hands Bella's Garden Shiraz 2013Heartland Directors' Cut Shiraz 2012

The Two Hands Bella’s Garden Shiraz 2013 is one of six shiraz in the Garden Series set bottled to expose the terroir of individual approved South Australia wine regions. The fruit is bought under long term contract. Bella’s is the largest production and but in 2013 is a picture of density and sweet fruit over pepper and brown spices with a long warm persistent finish. An old site for a new wine.

Heartland Directors’ Cut Shiraz 2012 is the most powerful expression of the winery’s Langhorne Creek shiraz. A soft and drinkable blockbuster with a big, warm finish. Drink or hold a decade. Best with a steak grilled medium rare.

Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2014 Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard Trueman Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Pewsey Vale Riesling 2014Fellow Wine Align critic Treve Ring was impressed with the Pewsey Vale Single Vineyard Estate Riesling 2014 Englishman Joseph Gilbert planted the Pewsey Vale vineyard in 1847 but it wasn’t until 1961 Geoff Angas-Parsons and Wyndham Hill Smith fully develop the historic vineyard site into the contoured Pewsey Vale Vineyard –  a single vineyard dedicated to the single variety – riesling. 

Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard Trueman Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is the work of Australian winemaker Charlie Seppelt and American Chris Carpenter. The pair have combined their talents at Hickinbotham to produce what they term is the pinnacle of Clarendon cabernet. Elegance and intensity is the hallmark of this deliciously style red with perfectly crafted tannins to bring structure and frame but with no toughness or dryness. Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard was first planted by Alan Hickinbotham in 1971 in McLaren Vale, and over the years has been the source of fruit for some of Australia’s finest wines including Penfolds Grange and Hardy’s Eileen Hardy. it was purchased and refurbished by Jackson Family Farms beginning in 2000 but the history lives on.

Another Treve Ring pick is the classic from low yielding gnarly old vine grenache from the Barossa is the Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache Barossa 2012 shows its concentration and depth of fruit here through the mulberry, kirsch and menthol blackberry ripeness and fine, ample persistent peppery spice.

Anthony Gismondi


The History, Evolution & Revolution of Australian Wine

This article is one of a three-part series taking a look at the history, evolution and revolution of Australian wine on the page and in the glass. Please link to the other two articles below:

A Lesson in Evolution, by John Szabo, MS

A Lesson in Evolution, by John Szabo, MS

The Fire of Revolution, by Bradley Royale

The Fire of Revolution, by Bradley Royale



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Bodega Argento: A brand new wine

The Final Blend
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi Portrait Colour_Cropped

Anthony Gismondi

Every once in a while the normally staid wine business can surprise you when it changes direction. Screwcaps, wine on tap, the art of growing vines under biodynamic rules or even the idea of the United States becoming the number one wine market despite its conservative winemaking base that has done its best to avoid most of the aforementioned trends – all unforeseen advances.

Recent announcements touting the ginormous amounts of money paid for American wine brands Meiomi and The Prisoner, where the buyer had zero interest in the land or anything to do with the wine other than its label or brand, has me doubting my own journey and whether caring about wine, and where it comes from is anything more than a pipe dream.

It’s deflating to see so many people I assumed were in it for the long run – you know, generations of winemaking, stewards of the land – cashing in on the growing interest in wine but I’m sure they have their reasons. It is clear not everyone is suited to farming and the massive amount of hard work required to grow meaningful wine that can add something to our culture.

All of which brings us to a story about a South American brand headed in a very different direction. It’s rare to see a commercial wine brand turn itself into a full-fledged winery with a solid lineup of wines (in fact they often go in the other direction) but that is what’s happening in Argentina at Bodega Argento. Argento, under the leadership of Carlos Pulenta, has literally rediscovered its roots in the vineyards of Mendoza, in effect transforming itself from an ordinary brand to a story of people and place all seeking a higher level of excellence.

Argento the brand was born in 1998, and was malbec focused. It’s easy to see by the nomenclature of the time that Argento was all brand – “Intrinsically entwined with its country of origin. When you drink our wines, you experience the real Argentina.” Compare those dreamy words first tagged to the brand back in the early 2000s under the new Bodega Argento, where “There is a strong belief that blending fruit sourced from a variety of altitudes, soil profiles and microclimates creates more interesting wines with greater complexity and balance.”

A lot of the credit for Argento’s transformation lies with winemaker Silvia Corti. Corti heads up the winemaking team since 2004, and she has implemented a philosophy of “achieving fruit purity, vibrancy and elegance” at all levels of the winemaking process. Mentoring Corti is renowned Italian winemaker/consultant Alberto Antonini.

Winemaker Silvia Corti

Winemaker Silvia Corti, Bodega Argento

Antonini has been instrumental in convincing Pulenta, Corti and the team that when you are seeking purity and truth in wine less is more. To paraphrase the quixotic Italian “it’s the high quality minimal ingredients that make the Margherita pizza, it doesn’t need a dozen toppings to be great.”

After moving to a larger facility at Cruz de Piedra, Maipú, Mendoza, Corti has the space and the equipment to really dial in the Argento philosophy. It’s an old property built in the 1970s that will get a facelift for visitors, but inside and underground, it’s the large concrete vats that have Pulenta, Antonini and Corti smiling.

Argento is unlikely to get the attention of a Bordeaux first growth or a Napa Valley icon label, but it may be the best quality wine coming out of Argentina at the lowest possible price. Careful fruit selection and paying attention to its source has proven to be the key to the Argento team getting its amazing texture and concentration of flavour into the bottle. The use of concrete and old methods simply serves to enhance those characteristics and protect them throughout the ageing process.

Winemaker/consultant Alberto Antonini

Winemaker/consultant Alberto Antonini, Bodega Argento

Silvia Corti’s love of wine is rooted in its social aspects. As she puts it, “It has always intrigued me to watch people engage their senses. When you make a wine people like, it’s so satisfying because it means that you have accurately interpreted what they want. To have this result the wine must have significant fruit purity, with good weight in the mouth, great persistence on the palate and enough softness to be easy to drink.”

Corti goes on to say “The style of Argento wines is based on finesse and aroma concentration, freshness, a clear expression of the terroir and varietal typicity. There is widespread use of selection tables at reception to maintain a high quality of grapes. The fruit goes into stainless steel tanks with cooling jackets, concrete tanks with epoxy covering, and barrels of different dimensions (including big casks) that allow us to elaborate diverse wine styles conferring a complexity and identity to each line of our wines.”

Today, Bodega Argento has the authorization to make organic wine with grapes coming from its organically certified vineyard in Altamira. It is the first step towards sustainability as the company moves to attain organic certification in all its vineyards. Argento has what seems like an ever-changing mix of labels in markets across the country. The good news is this is a brand you can rely on no matter which wine is in your market.

Here are a few of the labels that caught my attention during a recent visit to the property.

The Argento Classic 2015 Pinot Grigio is a great example of the style change. After sitting on its lees in stainless steel tanks, with intermittent stirring, the fresh, textured white is a step above the crowd when it comes to an easy-sipping white for summer.

The Argento Classic 2015 Malbec is simply pure fun, and pure fruit. So fresh and savoury with juicy black and red fruits that is all Mendoza from Rivadavia, Junín, Luján de Cuyo, Maipú, Tunuyán and Tupungato. Crazy value.

Bonarda remains underappreciated by the gatekeepers in North America who seem to have given up on listing or selling it but the Argento 2015 Bonarda offers a juicy, peppery red with aromas and flavours of raspberries and other red fruits, ending with a dusting of pepper. Simple, fun and very drinkable.

Argento Pinot Grigio 2015Argento Malbec 2015 Argento Bonarda 2015

Esquinas de Argento 2015 Pinot Grigio Cool Climate Selection turned my head first for its clever label that celebrates life of Buenos Aires street corners often cut back on a 45-degree angle to accommodate restaurants and retail stores that harbour the energy of the neighbourhood. This high altitude pinot grigio boasts bright fresh fruit from the Tunuyán region of the Uco Valley. Delicate and crisp, it is a perfect summer sipper for chicken or seafood salads.

Wow is how I describe the Argento 2014 Reserva Malbec, reflective of all the hard work going on at Argento. Floral (violet) notes mix with beautiful pure plum and blackberry fruit that is super juicy and slippery on the palate. Back up the truck and serve around the barbecue all summer.

The Argento Reserva 2014 Cabernet Franc is equally beguiling full of aromatics on this wine. An expressive rich, soft red with texture and length.

The jewel in the lineup is the Argento Single Vineyard Paraje Altamira 2014 Malbec. The new focus is all about making wines of purity, vibrancy, elegance, balance – or the highest expression of the terroir. Easy to say but not so easy to accomplish yet winemaker Silvia Corti and consulting winemaker Alberto Antonini are getting there thanks to an amazing selection of fruit from Argento’s Paraje Altamira estate in the Uco Valley, a vineyard that sits some 1090 metres above sea level. Style with structure and length at a very fair price.

Esquinas De Argento Pinot Grigio 2015 Argento Reserva Malbec 2014 Argento Reserva Cabernet Franc 2014 Argento Single Vineyard Paraje Altamira Malbec 2014

It’s inspiring to see the transformation at Argento. Antonini has a lot to do with the change, but as he likes to say he does it “By doing nothing.” It takes a lot of confidence to do less in pursuit of more but Corti and Antonini, along with the team and the blessing of Pulenta, are heading in a brand new direction few could have guessed Argento would, just a few years ago.

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!

Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

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20 Under $20 in BC : May 2016

Let your taste buds travel

These past three weeks, our WineAlign West crew has been in Vancouver, Okanagan, Similkameen, Vancouver Island, Sonoma, Napa, San Francisco, New York, London, Champagne, Loire Valley and Paris. That’s not so bad for a pack of thirsty west coast wine geeks. It’s pretty evident from our picks, that our taste buds travel globally even when we’re shopping for wine in BC.

~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi 

Summer has arrived early on the west coast. Temperatures are well above average and it looks like its going to be a long, dry season. This bodes well for crisp, fresh, summer-sipper style wine sales to keep you cool while you cut back on your water usage. The recent fire events in Alberta remind us all to be vigilant in the forests all summer.

Errazuriz is doing a neat job with sauvignon as evident by the value in this super tasty Errazuriz Estate Series Sauvignon Blanc 2015. Refreshed by its proximity to the cold Pacific Ocean you get a wine that is slightly less aggressive than the Kiwi style and a lot more affordable.

Speaking of value, the Kvint Solaricco Fresco, a lean blend of pink traminer, viorica and aligoté, is crisp and bone dry. A summer charcuterie plate served al fresco is the ticket here.

My classy no sugar, no oak red pick is the Castello di Gabbiano Chianti 2014. Try it with barbecue grilled pizza.

Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Solaricco Fresco 2013 Gabbiano Chianti 2014 Quails' Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2015 Heartland Shiraz 2013 Meyer Family Vineyards Mclean Creek Rd Vineyard Gewurztraminer 2014

Locally, the just released Quails’ Gate 2015 Chasselas – Pinot Blanc – Pinot Gris has summer written all over it. Juicy, fun and gulpable but with some minerality for interest.

The Heartland Shiraz 2013 is the best I have tasted in a while. Rich blackberry fruit makes this a classic shiraz that calls for a piece of grilled lamb. Good value.

Finally, can’t say enough about the latest Meyer Gewurztraminer 2014 that comes off a block of 22-year-old fruit that faces the setting sun. A drinkable food-friendly style you can serve on the patio with spicy tuna rolls and or vegetarian dishes. Don’t forget the suntan lotion. 

Rhys Pender MW

I am just back from a trip through London, Loire and Paris. What a mixed bag of wines I have tasted along the way. Here are a few interesting ones worth trying this month.

Spending time in the Loire reminded me just how much I love its wines. They are crisp, fresh, juicy and so very drinkable with their lower alcohol levels and freshness. Because the region isn’t uber-famous the prices are usually very good too. An added bonus. At one market in France they were fortifying market goers by serving up small plates containing a few freshly shucked oysters and prawns with a glass of wine (yes, at 11am). It was a nice Loire Sauvignon Blanc served with it but a Muscadet would have perhaps have been even better. A great value example is the Ch. De La Gravelle 2014 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie. You may have to shuck your own oysters though.

That market happened to be in Chinon, which is much better known for its lively, juicy Cabernet Franc reds. A great value wine in the market for me is always the Jean Maurice Raffault Les Galuches Chinon, the 2013 being no exception.

Château De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2014 Jean Maurice Raffault Les Galuches Chinon 2013 Bodegas Leceranas Evohé Vinas Viejas Garnacha 2014 Pedra Cancela Dao Selecao Do Enologo 2010 Amalaya Torrontes Riesling 2014

Another wine I enjoyed in April was from a little further south, in Spain’s Aragon. The Evohé 2014 Garnacha Viñas Viejas is rich, soft and round and has some nice earthy and mineral notes for the price.

I feel lately like I keep going on and on about the Dão region of Portugal. It is a very serious wine region, without the recognition to achieve serious prices. This equals great value for the smart drinker. I recently re-tasted the Pedra Cancela 2010 Winemaker’s Selection and found it offered great savoury complexity at a great price.

I didn’t know what to expect when I tasted the Amalaya Torrontes-Riesling 2014 blend but it was quite nicely done. The floral aromatics of Torrontes with the zip and zing of Riesling results in a nice combo worth a try.

DJ Kearney

Here are some of my all-time favourite wines that tick all the boxes: killer value, food-worthy, and have soul.

Here in BC the hotly-anticipated spot prawn season is upon us. You could pull out a pricey Meursault for a fussy culinary preparation, but when those pricey crustaceans are simple flipped in a foaming pan of butter, garlic and parsley, I opt for Domäne Wachau’s 2014 Gruner Veltliner Terraces. And the wine that I’m going to sip as I peel the prawns (and I’ll heave a little in the hot pan in place of a squeeze of lemon) is the zingy 2015 Vinho Verde from Casal Garcia.

Domäne Wachau Terraces Grüner Veltliner 2014 Casal Garcia Vinho Verde 2015 Te Pã Koha Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec 2014Yalumba Shiraz 2014

Whenever young, local goat’s cheese is in my salad, Marlborough sauvignon is needed, like a new-ish to market one like Te Pã 2014 Koha Sauvignon Blanc from the distinctive soils of the Lower Wairau Valley. Nervy and streamlined, and can handle a salad with grapefruit and chevre.

Finally two reds for the grill: the ever-delicious, soulful Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Clasico 2014 for grilled flank steak and chimichurri sauce, and a juicy, organically farmed 2014 Shiraz from Yalumba that will uplift smoky lamb chops.

Treve Ring 

I have been tasting through dozens of the spring releases from BC, impressed by the generosity of the warm 2015 vintage.

In my mind, there is no better Riesling producer in BC than Synchromesh Wines, releasing no fewer than seven Rieslings this year, four of which are single vineyard from the 2015 vintage. And this pair, both sourced from 4 vineyards in Naramata and Okanagan Falls, illustrate the incredible diversity of style, and amazing value, this producer puts forth. Synchromesh Riesling 2015 is an amply off-dry, Kabinett-style, carrying 34 g/l RS, with perfumed pear blossom, key lime cordial, ripe apricot and fleshy peach on a round mouthfeel. Ample juiciness, with a cut of bitter key lime to hem everything in. Synchromesh Drier Riesling 2015 is in comparison to their straight Riesling (also a boggling $19) and still sings at 27 g/l RS, but with TA at 10.78 to keep the sugars neatly in check. With more late harvest grapes in this blend from Okanagan Falls and Naramata, cold cream, lime pulp, green apple, orange blossom hovers above a base of stone and citrus pith. The acidity here is tight and edgy, ideal for pairing with a wide range of foods – and at this price point, ideal for restaurants by the glass too. 

Synchromesh Wines Riesling 2015 Synchromesh Drier Riesling 2015 Sea Star Vineyards Ortega 2015Unsworth Vineyards Rose 2015

Sea Star Ortega 2015 is also entirely on pointe this vintage, with tight pear, white peach, crystalline lemon and pink grapefruit ringing throughout this Pender Island coastal white. 

From Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley comes the charming Unsworth 2015 Rosé. Pale pink in hue, with a hint of strawberry, red currant and earthy brie, this is a lean, bright and marine styled rosé, reflective of the coastal climate and ready for cured salmon or tuna.

Here’s a quick link to find the 20 Under $20 in stores near you.


WineAlign in BC

In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report which highlights a dozen of our favourites from the last month (at any price point), as well as Rhys Pender’s BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential 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!

Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

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

20 Under $20 in BC : April 2016

Great value pairings

Writing this column always makes me hungry, because the WineAlign West crew always seem to tie their under $20 values to their stomachs. But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Every day of the week we want great values to pair with our dinners, lunches and yes – breakfast. And we don’t want to spend big bucks to dine well daily. Here are 20 from around the globe to pair with the first hint of the patio and BBQ this month.

~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi 

Hope springs eternal when it comes to finding great wine selling for less than $20 in BC but the reality is most are closer to good, than great, and even they are getting harder to find. This month I begin with Esquinas de Argento 2015 Pinot Grigio Cool Climate Selection, a delicate, fresh, apéritif white from Argentina’s Tunuyán region of the Uco Valley. The Argento folks have their pulse on simplicity and freshness and they do it by using high altitude fruit.

Across the Atlantic and much farther north, for your first barbecue red of the season go classic with the Delas 2013 Côtes Du Ventoux. This 80/20 grenache syrah blend is packed with smooth, peppery, juicy fruit. Try it with barbecue ribs.

While you are heating up the barbecue reach for a bottle of Loosen Bros 2014 Dr. L Riesling. This is the perfect aperitif white with its soft, easy-sipping styling and fresh red apple, lime, orange and honey flavours.

Esquinas de Argento Pinot Grigio 2015Delas Côtes du Ventoux 2013 Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling 2014 Falernia Carmenere Syrah 2013 Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Winemaker Giorgio Flessati, hails from the Trentino region in Northern Italy but has become an unabashed Elqui Valley crusader. His 60/40 carmenère/syrah Falernia Reserva 2013 is a delicious bottle of ripe, red wine that will work with spicy ribs.

Still in Chile we can easily vouch for the Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha 2014 Cabernet SauvignonThe 2014 blend is 92/6/1/1 cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and syrah, all grown at Puente Alto 650, metres above sea level, and at Pirque some 570 metres high. It’s tasty stuff with savoury, cassis, meaty, coffee black fruit flavours all in balance. Steak or game dishes are the match.

Rhys Pender MW

A nice mixed bag of selections this month mostly focusing on my increased desire for crisp wines to sip in the warm spring afternoon sun before it plummets behind the mountain. These are some serious wines for less than $20.

We’re starting off with a couple of local whites that are fresh and crisp, complex, powerful, and have a bit of textural richness. These are nice on their own but particularly good with some grilled seafood. Semillon is one of my favourite varieties, yet all too rare. Mike Bartier is doing a great job making drinkable and age-worthy wines. Try the Bartier Brothers 2014 Semillon while putting a few bottles away for five or so years for a nice surprise.

From just up the road from me in the Similkameen Valley comes the Orofino Hendsbee Vineyard 2013 Riesling. It is dry, racy, steely, mineral, long and so damn refreshing.

Bartier Brothers SemillonOrofino Hendsbee Vineyard Riesling 2013 Gassier Sables d'Azur Rosé 2014 Lopez de Haro Rioja Blanco 2014 Tenuta di Angoris Villa Locatelli Friulano 2013

Sun means rosé and to me it should be dry and a bit crunchy and fresh but just be very drinkable without having to think about it too much. The Gassier Sables d’Azur 2014 Rosé is just such a wine.

For a little richer white, try the Lopez de Haro 2014 Rioja Blanco. The little bit of oak treatment and some ripeness make this a great wine for our Sunday rotisserie chicken. Just enough gumption to stand up to the chicken but still plenty of freshness to keep it lively.

Another delicious white with good texture and weight and plenty of complexity is the Villa Locatelli 2013 Friulano. Friulano may be trendy but it is probably because it is delicious. A great interesting fish and shellfish wine.

DJ Kearney

Relaxed wine with no ego is what I demanded from my five supreme value wines this month. Three whites and two reds that stimulate the appetite, uplift spring meals and appeal to the mind just as much as the tastebuds.

First is a perennial favourite from Portugal’s Setúbal (say Stoo-bal) Peninsula that shows how Moscatel can make alluring dry wines. The Jose Marie da Fonseca 2014 Albis is in a lovely state of openness now, with aromatic rose and peach character on nose and palate. Dry with a good jolt of acidity its perfumed character needs quince paste crostini or orange-y scallop ceviche.

There’s no question that the Savoie is the next big thing, and if you are unfamiliar with the secret region that nestles in Alpine hills and valleys, Domaine de la Rosière 2014 Jongieux (sort of sounds like jon-jhoo) is a delicious way to meet the jacquère grape. Subtle and savoury, you’ll find that soft cheese or rustic pâté unlocks its fruit layers.

Jose Marie da Fonseca Albis 2014 Domaine de La Rosière Jongieux 2014 Bougrier Vouvray 2014La Bastide Pays D'oc 2014Paul Autard Côtes Du Rhône 2014

Vouvray for under $20 bucks is a find, especially when it’s a succulent, off-dry beauty like Bougrier’s offering from the high-quality 2014 vintage. It begs for crispy pork belly or top take-away sushi. You could drink La Bastide 2014 with pork belly too, or a push towards a simple spring dinner of chunky pâté de campagne, crusty baguette and frisée salad. Take the time to smell this much-loved bargain, and note its herbal resin and breezy fruit aromas.

Elegant, silky, and kirshy sums up Domaine Paul Autard’s 2014 Côtes-du-Rhône red, saturated with equal amounts of fruit and stones. Take the time to dwell on the nose of this sensational red. Relax, eat simple, real food and drink some value wines that lack a shred of pretense.

Treve Ring 

One of the biggest benefits of being the theme region for Vancouver International Wine Festival is the uptick of wines sold in the province immediately following the festival. Frescobaldi Attems 2014 Ribolla Gialla Venezia Giulia is one that caught my attention recently, highlighting the diversity of ribolla gialla in this herbal, earthy and oily slicked white, all lifted with brisk citrus acidity. 

Similarly, Concerto Reggiano 2014 Lambrusco was a memorable drink, due to the striking contrast between its deep and dark hue and light and crisp acidity. A blend of 85/15 Lambrusco Salamino and Lambrusco Ancelotta filled with black wine gums, florals, balsamic and tart raspberries, textured with crunchy acidity and a fine grip of tannins.

Attems Ribolla Gialla 2014 Ermete Medici & Figli Concerto 2014 Cococciola Cuvee Brut Fantini Farnese Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages Combes Aux Jacques 2012 The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014

A new grape, and a new kind of (bedazzled!) label for me came courtesy of Farnese Fantini Cuvée Cococciola Spumante. This Abruzzo fizz is from 20-30 year old cococciola grapes, produced in the charmat method and bottled to be fresh, lively and light. In addition to its distinctive bejewelled label, the squat bowling pin bottle allows for more of the wine to be submerged in ice at a time – smartly, since this value buy is best chilled for your next party for a crowd.

France’s Village level Louis Jadot 2012 Beaujolais-Villages Combe aux Jacques is peppered with fine dusky spices, dried florals and shows darker berry fruit, with a finely structured grip, an excellent example of this quality level just below Cru. With partial grapes sourced from Cru Régnié, and partial carbonic maceration, this shapes the joyful raspberry and cherry tart fruitiness with an herbal, dusty and rustic edge. #GoGamayGo. 

If you’re firing up the BBQ for a braai, crack the top off Boekenhoutskloof 2014 The Wolftrap. Pointed black fruits, thorns and smoked meats rule this syrah/mourvèdre/viognier blend from Franschoek on the Western Cape of South Africa. Tobacco and tar take over the ripe palate, one supported by smoothed, sticky tannins and ready for chargrilled red meat.


WineAlign in BC

In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report which highlights a dozen of our favourites from the last month (at any price point), as well as Rhys Pender’s BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential 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!

Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

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

WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008