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British Columbia Critics’ Picks : May 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.

We’re coming off of the Victoria Day long weekend in BC, and you can tell the WineAlign West team has been drinking – and eating – well, as usual. We’re all looking forward to next month and re-aligning at The Nationals, held for the first time in Niagara Falls. I suspect many trips to wine country are in our future, a treat for us westerners to taste the small scale, singular wines of the area. Of course, we’ll all excited to taste wines from coast to coast (ahem – Nova Scotia), especially ones like the trio from the Wine Islands that I share below.

There will be much more on the Nationals over the coming weeks. If you have a favourite Canadian winery, especially a small, under-the-radar one, please pass along the news that we’re keenly anticipating their entry and opportunity to taste and learn about them. These are the special wines we seek out to write on in columns just like this.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi

Serious summer wines. Now that’s a section of shelf space you seldom see in a retail wine shop. I mean summer wines are all about light and breezy and fun and fresh and – well you get the picture – but every once in a while you need a wine that reminds you that you care about wine. You need a wine that will test your tasting faculties and frankly those one or two meals a month where you decide the burgers or ribs won’t cut it. So for those nights when the street party is not on, here’s three delicious, summery wines that could qualify as seriously summer.

Descendientes De J. Palacios Pétalos 2012 Joseph Drouhin Chablis Drouhin Vaudon 2013 Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale 2011Chianti Classico is all about class, balance and florality and the Ruffino Chianti 2011 Classico Riserva Ducale brings a bright core of fruit mixed with meaty forest floor notes to turn a late summer afternoon barbecue into an intimate, late-night, dinner party for two.

Chablis has a similar outcome on dining. In this case a bottle Drouhin Vaudon 2013 Chablis Reserve de Vaudon may convince you to forgo dinner and served freshly shucked oysters until the wine runs out.

Finally, at some point a grilled steak will appeal but you can dress up the evening with a Caesar salad and fresh chimichurri sauce and go for mencia over cabernet sauvignon, by opening a fabulous bottle of Pétalos 2012. Pétalos is all about the old vine 60-years plus mencia grape that is bio-dynamically farmed on several small, rocky slate-y hillside plots. It’s seriously summer (and seriously great). You very well may drink the entire bottle.

Rhys Pender, MW

Bernard Baudry Les Grézeaux 2011 Marqués De Cáceres Gran Reserva 2005 Arras Grand Vintage 2004This month I’m picking a couple of classics and something a little more out there on the edge. Good bubble is always a great find. Tasmania in Australia is often considered as the closest thing to Champagne in the style of wine it can produce and one of the legends is now in BC. Not only has the Arras Grand Vintage 2004 arrived in LDB stores but it is also an 11 year old example. Not cheap at $61 plus tax but worth a splurge.

Another classic offering good value is the Marques de Caceres Gran Reserva Rioja 2005. At $35 plus tax it isn’t crazy pricing and the wine is solid, complex and interesting.

If you feel like pushing your wine tasting comforts and boundaries and are a little bored by fruity, same tasting wines you will often find something interesting in the Loire. Not for the faint of heart, the Bernard Baudry Les Grézeaux Chinon has plenty of eyebrow raising, but surprisingly pleasant, aromas and flavours.

(You might find both the 2010 and 2011 in the market.)

Burrowing Owl Syrah 2012

Ravenswood Teldeschi Single Vineyard Zinfandel 2012 Howling Bluff Summa Quies Rosé 2014DJ Kearney

My three choices offered delightful surprises when I cracked them open last weekend, all displaying light, ethereal facets that were thoroughly unexpected.

The inaugural Howling Bluff Summa Quies Rosé 2014 is all-pinot noir and struts some serious structure, while a Ravenswood Teldeschi Vineyard Zinfandel 2012 is one of the most elegant and restrained of its kind.

An impeccable match for steak au poivre is Burrowing Owl’s recently released 2012 Syrah, an alpha wine with a contemplative side. 

Treve Ring

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been travelling pretty solidly the past few months, but so far in May I’ve been focusing on wines from home – specifically my coastal home – the Wine Islands of BC. Often out of mind, out of sight, these small-production, family owned and operated wineries are worth seeking out for a taste of the authentic and unique maritime winegrowing climate of Vancouver and the Gulf Islands of BC. Ask your private wine shop or wine-smart local restos to stock the below, and more.

Sea Star Vineyards Ortega 2014 Unsworth Vineyards Petit Milo Vintners Selection 2014 Averill Creek Gewurztraminer 2014Cowichan Valley’s Averill Creek Gewurztraminer 2014 impressed with its cool climate stylings, transforming gew’s flabbiness into a tight, energetic and vibrant spiced white, ideal for Vietnamese flavours or a summer al fresco seafood dinner.

From nearby Unsworth Vineyards (one of the leading spotlights for the region) comes the unique Petit Milo Vintners Selection 2014, a crisp, mid-sweet, pure-fruited white from the hybrid petit milo grape. This is a lovely aperitif wine, especially with melon and prosciutto – and a patio.

Ortega is one of the finer calling cards of the Wine Islands – a coastal, bright, aromatic white grape native to Germany, and a cross between müller-thurgau and siegerrebe. Pender Island’s Sea Star Estate Farm and Vineyards crisp, lively 2014 Ortega is an excellent introduction to the grape, and beauty with papaya 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, 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. 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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20 Under $20 in BC : May 2015

Embrace the Change

Change. We all know it’s inevitable, unavoidable, even annoying.

The sentiment is true for change in routine (like with BC’s new liquor laws) as well as pocket change (who carries coins?)

However, you’ll have to embrace change both coinage and taxation for this column now, as we’re moving to 20 Under $20 before tax. I know, it doesn’t have the same ring to it, and now the wines we recommend may actually cost you $23 and up when you’re at the till. But we’ve been closely monitoring wine sales in BC since the April 1st Fools Day announcement, and it makes the most sense for all to make the pricing shift to reflect what you’re seeing on store shelves.

Believe me, we’re still tasting and searching to bring you the best value buys in wide scale distribution that we can find for this column. It’s just that, in this province, the searching has become a little more challenging. No worries – the WineAlign West team is up for the challenge, and never been afraid of a little change.

~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi

It’s the first long weekend of the year. Temperatures are soaring and the barbecues are in full heat. This month we turn to some friendly, affordable ‘barbecue’ reds and whites you can take with you to a neighbourhood bash so that look like you know what you are doing around the grill. My secret: I have always thought the first duty of any barbecue red is to be affordable, if only because it complements the casual nature of most ‘cues. It also allows the host to accommodate last minute additional guests with minimal damage to the pocketbook. Since wineries seldom characterize their wines as “barbecue reds,” lest you think of them as not serious, I have selected a handful of affordable labels you can proudly term barbecue red or white. All you need to add is the guest list.

The Devil’s Rock Pfalz Riesling 2013 is crazy good for the price, bringing super fresh flavours to the table. Pop this open early for appetizers or bring it out with a piece of cheese.

Serious wine folk will be knocked out by M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut Blanc 2013. This is a seamless mix of juicy grenache blanc, grenache gris and macabeu. Pour this into a glass hand it to your guest and walk away like you are the king of wine.

Devil's Rock Pfalz Riesling 2013 M. Chapoutier Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon Blanc 2013 Santa Rita Merlot Reserva 2011 Sinfonia Monastrell Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Whiplash Lodi Zinfandel 2012

People turn their nose up at merlot for various reasons although none will turn away from the Santa Rita Merlot Reserva 2011. Play up the soft textures and the savoury black cherry flavours. You can’t miss with grilled sausages here.

Next up is Sinfonia Monastrell Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. Floral, blueberry, cranberry fruit with good acidity make this an easy wine to pair with grilled meats.

Finally you can’t have a barbecue without zinfandel. My pick is the tasty Whiplash Lodi Zinfandel 2012. Lodi zinfandel can be rich, ripe and spicy. In the case the tannins are moderate but nothing a big slab of ribs wouldn’t defeat easily. Have a great long weekend.

Rhys Pender MW

The weather has been stunning lately in the Similkameen Valley and I just want to be outside doing two things. One is drinking crisp, dry, refreshing zippy whites, preferably in the hammock and the other is drinking dry, savoury, meaty reds while grilling meat over an open fire. Here are some wines that fit those two scenarios nicely and all under $20.

Great value freshness for the price is the Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014. For something a little more mineral try the Château De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2013.

Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Château De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2013 Paz De Finca Las Moras Malbec 2013 Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2012 Lovico Gamza 2011

I also seem to be spending a lot of time standing around the BBQ or fire pit eating smoky, grilled meat. The natural pairing is a red wine with plenty of character and a savoury edge. These two from Argentina – Paz de Finca Las Moras Malbec 2013 and Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2012 will do nicely.

You are probably less familiar with Bulgarian wine but some of the native grapes are delicious. The Lovico Gamza 2011 is both cheap and perfect with a meaty evening around the BBQ.

DJ Kearney

My value picks this month are wines that I want to drink outdoors while I am fussing over food on the grill. Or perhaps sipping and relaxing while David fusses over the grill…

To start, maybe while menu scheming, I’ll drink a glass of the Kim Crawford Pansy! Rosé 2013, a watermelon-hued New Zealand rosé with a grown-up dry finish.

An appetizer might be grilled peaches wrapped in prosciutto, and the Lake Breeze The Spice Jar 2013 aromatic white blend with lush fruit and overt fruity finish will work a treat.

If grilled oysters or salad with goat’s cheese follow, so will the La Chablisienne Saint Bris Sauvignon Blanc 2013, a delicate, tangy wine that is also lean and saline.

Kim Crawford Pansy! Rosé 2014Lake Breeze Winemaker Series The Spice Jar 2013La Chablisienne Sauvignon Saint Bris 2013 Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2011 Almansa Laya 2013

Lamb chops rubbed in Italian herbs and Tuscan olive will be a fine match for the earthy and nicely developed Gabbiano Chianto Classico 2011. I love how authentic, light yet ripe this vintage presents.

If lusty bacon burgers are sizzling away, awaiting a thick slice of aged cheddar, then the full-figured Laya 2013 will fill a big glass and its massive fruit, generous oak and thick texture will be just the thing for the burgers, and to sit by the Weber kettle when dinner is over and watch the coals glow.

Treve Ring

Glorious spring weather has equaled an over-abundance of asparagus, halibut, al fresco dinners (twice this past week alone) and fresh, bright wines worthy of the season.

I’ve been tasting a lot of BC 2014’s this month, and two northern Okanagan whites that stood out in a field of impressive wines is the Spierhead Riesling Gentleman Farmer Vineyard 2014 with its streamlined, crisp, cool orchard fruit, and 50th Parallel Estate Grown Pinot Gris 2014, deftly blending herbal intrigue with ripe peach and white florals.

Spierhead Riesling Gentleman Farmer Vineyard 2014 50th Parallel Pinot Gris 2014 See Ya Later Ranch Gewurztraminer 2014Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2014Steller's Jay Brut Sparkling Wine 2009

If fragrant orange sauced Chinese flavours are in your bowl, you should splash some See Ya Later Ranch Gewurztaminer 2014 into your glass. Ripe lychee, melon and white peach are overlaid with fine ginger spices. Though if you’re in the mood for sushi or sashimi instead, I recommend the pithy tangerine and green apple lean (but not mean) verve of Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2014.

Of course, not all the current local releases are 2014. Traditional method sparkling wine takes time, and with Steller’s Jay Brut Méthode Classique 2009, you can expect green apple, lemon pith and a white grapefruit cushion of fruit on the medium bodied palate. There is always time for bubble – and I recommend this with brunch or canapés. Preferably outside in the spring sun.

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

~

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.

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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The Final Blend – ProWein: The Pro of Shows

By Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

ProWein 2015 has come and gone but not before leaving a big impression on me. Dusseldorf may seem like an odd place to assemble the entire wine world; it’s a city far more famous for beer than wine. That said, it works, and was an inspired choice to hold what is surely now the most important wine fair in the world.

The success of ProWein is obvious as you approach the fair site each morning – the energy is palpable, not unlike walking into a biodynamic vineyard. The show is global, with some 6000 wineries in attendance yet neutral in the sense that the wines of Germany do not control the stage the way the French wines do at VinExpo, nor do they dominate in the manner Italian wines can at Vinitaly. The halls are all business 9 to 5, with sales meetings at every booth, but it sure is fun to be a writer flitting about the halls, almost like a fly on the wall.

But it’s not all a lark; it can be distressing for Canadian writers and distributors to see so many wines on the floor that are never seen in Canada, where we are shielded from the real world of wine by monopoly buyers who know best what we should be drinking. Undaunted, there was a noticeable Canadian trade contingent, some actually pouring wine while many others were working the halls in search of new wines and to cement old relationships.

If you hadn’t notice a change in the way wine is sold in the free world over the last decade, and many Canadians living under a monopoly nanny state probably haven’t, it is safe to say the business has undergone a profound revolution. There’s been a steady shift toward urban sales, and more importantly those customers are wired to information from birth to death. Information, selection and the chance to sell direct to the final customer is turning the retail and distribution business on its ear.

It would have been unheard of even five years ago to ship wine across Canada, yet British Columbia has opened its doors to any Canadian wines produced in the country. Selling wine direct is the only way local producers can compete financially with rest of the world and it’s not just a Canadian phenomenon. Wine producers across the globe depend on ‘cellar door’ sales to maximise their income.

ProWein

Beyond the winery door there are even more changes. At ProWein, organisers working with Wine Intelligence researchers asked “How these changes are manifesting in terms of observable trends in key markets. Which channels are winning and losing? Which retailers are doing better than others and are there discernible patterns in the channel trends across different markets which would allow us to draw more broad conclusions about the way wine is sold globally?”

They studied eight major markets (that consume half the world’s production of wine) taking data from the United States, the world’s largest market for wine, Germany, the UK, Japan, Australia and France, Spain and Italy.

Canadians will not be surprised to learn that when it comes to convergence the stereotypical business model doesn’t reflect what Wine Intelligence refers to as “The bizarre reality of wine retail environments which are subject to different legal structures and different consumer expectations.” Certainly BC’s recently implemented insipid retail liquor reforms, well documented on these pages, has been a huge disappointment to the trade.

According to the report “This should not come as a surprise: consumers are creatures of habit, and tend not to go in for radical shifts in where they buy their groceries and beverages. Equally, the ‘installed base’ of incumbent retailers have a natural advantage over any new channel or retailer type: they occupy the best sites, have the greatest legacy brand awareness, and benefit most from consumer inertia. In this climate, traditional business models can persist, while new ones can struggle to gain traction in the short term.” Wow – are you listening Ontario? Sounds as if whatever the provincial government does with liquor in Ontario, the LCBO is going nowhere fast and they will make sure that neither will any new players.

What did come out of the study and is worth noting is what researchers are calling the ‘convenience revolution’ or ‘frequent shopping, smaller baskets.’ It’s a consumer trend toward buying groceries more often, in less quantity, and including wine in this behaviour. I know, what a concept, buying wine and food in the same store. It may explain why both the BC and Ontario consumers are being proffered bizarre grocery store models by our monopoly nannies. Regardless of the Canadian experience, shaped by regulators who already run and own the liquor business (see the previous paragraph), small and nimble makes a lot of sense.

The report says “Drivers of this trend are reasonably well known, and arise chiefly from the increasing urbanisation of population, falling car ownership and car usage levels in some markets (itself driven by rising oil prices and motoring taxes). This urbanisation-austerity model is especially true in Spain.” We could add the unaffordable housing markets of Vancouver and Toronto and not enough public transit to the equation and the reasons for the move from the city to suburbs and back is almost complete.

Another multi-country trend reported at ProWein was “The growth of direct-to-home, or online-based shopping models. These also come in several guises, from the UK’s advanced online grocery shopping networks, to the growing “click and collect” systems in France, and the specialist direct-to-home retailers (including wineries) in the USA.”

In many countries, famous for their wine shops the report suggest the new communications technology has changed how consumers use retail channels abandoning storefronts for the “More remote, but information rich, zone of the online shop.” Yet as we are experiencing in BC and soon in Ontario, “None of this changes the long-standing trend in global retail – consolidation and the very real pressure by mainstream supermarkets to occupy more premium market space, and put specialist wine shops under pressure.”

Canadians can only hope the death of specialist wine shops doesn’t come and go before they are allowed to take up residence in this country (Alberta excepted).

Mark Davidson - Wine Australia

Mark Davidson – Wine Australia

As for ProWein let’s just say for wine lovers, especially for the repressed Canadian trade, it is one hell of an exhilarating experience. Just about anybody who is anybody in the wine business is pouring their wine in Dusseldorf.

It’s hard to explain the feeling you get from walking the halls seeing just about every wine in the world open and ready to be tasted. I cut through Wine Australia’s stand where 39 producers and more than 400 wines were open. There was a very cool buzz at Wine Australia thanks to Vancouverite and Global Education Manager Mark Davidson and his ‘History, Evolution, Revolution’ Masterclass focusing on Australia’s people and provenance.

In a single morning I tasted high altitude, single appellation malbec at Alto Las Hormigas; a dozen delicious wines never seen in Canada made by the passionate Movement of Independent Vintners – an association of small quality-oriented Chilean wineries making wine personally, on a human scale; A crazy good albariño from Bodega Garzon grown less than 15 kilometers from the Uruguayan Atlantic coast; next up Castell d’Encus an amazing project of Raul Bobet in the Catalan Pyrenees tasting riesling grown at 1000 meters; from Spain to the Rhone and a comprehensive appellation based tasting at Caved de Tain a high quality cooperative located at the foot of the Hermitage hillside. Cave de Tain produces and markets a remarkable 5 cru wines from over 1000 hectares of vines in Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Saint Joseph, Cornas and Saint-Péray. And the best part of ProWein – as I left the Cave de Tain, export guru David Quillin suggested I visit Romain Collet at Domaine Collet, voted the best young winemaker in Chablis by his peers. It was a perfect ending to a perfect morning.

Canada - On The World Map - ProWein 2015

I didn’t spend a lot of time at the Canadian booth for obvious reasons but there were plenty of other people from around the world who flocked to the stand to check out the latest in Canadian wine and the wineries who attended. I’m never sure why we are so timid about taking our best to the world or why we can’t put together a comprehensive delegation demonstrating all we have to offer in Canada, but if we ever figure it out ProWein is the place to do it.

The show returns to Dusseldorf, Germany March 13–15 in 2016. I’ll be back. Prost.

www.prowein.com 


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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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Gabbiano - Take me to Tuscany


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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Take me to Tuscany - Gabbiano

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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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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008