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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!


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Beringer Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks June 2016

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.

Treve Ring

Treve Ring

Having just emerged from the National Wine Awards of Canada, and with Canada Day on the horizon, I thought it fitting to put together a case of some of the most memorable Canadian wines that I’ve tasted in the last twelve months for this month’s BC Critics’ Report. Keep in mind, these are the ones available for purchase within BC; I could easily recommend a dozen other Canadian wines that are still kept beyond our provincial borders. Perhaps by next Canada Day, we will stand united to enjoy Canadian wine.

As to be expected in a country this vast, the diversity of grapes, styles and producers is as ranging as our multicultural heritage. There’s a lot to celebrate this Canada Day, and most fittingly, with high quality bottles like these. #TrueNorth, strong and nearly FREE.

Cheers ~ TR

Yes. Fizz. Always. From my side in the far west, the Bella Wines 2015 Gamay Methode Ancestrale stood out for its brave, wild and natural deliciousness (as well as its less-is-more hand-tied packaging). Bonus #GoGamayGo.

From the other coast, Nova Scotia’s Benjamin Bridge 2009 Brut Méthode Classique, a serious traditional method sparkler, made from decidedly untraditional grapes: l’acadie, chardonnay and seyval. This serves an important reminder that exemplary sites can trump grapes.

Bella Gamay Methode Ancestrale 2015 Benjamin Bridge Nova Scotia Brut 2009 Sea Star Vineyards Ortega 2015 Blue Mountain Reserve Chardonnay 2013

A wine that typifies coastal to me is Sea Star 2015 Ortega, a vibrant example of the lean, aromatic white grape that is so well suited to the Wine Islands’ marine-fresh coastal climates. Tight pear, white peach, melon and crystalline lemon; pass the shellfish.

I continue to be impressed by Canadian chardonnay, and counting down the days when some of the stunners from Prince Edward County and Niagara are available for purchase in our province. Until then, I’m happy to drink wines like Blue Mountain Reserve 2013 Chardonnay, an elegant, creamy and restrained age-worthy style based on 24 year old Okanagan Falls vines.

Speaking of texture, Haywire 2014 Waters and Banks Sauvignon Blanc Raised in Concrete is imbued with it, from its elderflower herbaceousness to its savoury saltiness. They’ve captured the special site in the glass.

Haywire Sauvignon Blanc Waters & Banks 2014 Synchromesh Wines Riesling Four Shadows Vineyard 2015 Tantalus Old Vines Riesling 2013 Little Farm Rosé 2014

Across the board, the most striking wines are the ones where site is king. For Synchromesh Wines 2015 Four Shadows Vineyard Riesling, one of four single vineyard rieslings the winery released from 2015, the wine is a reflection of the higher altitude, steep sloping gravelled site on Naramata Bench. Auslese-styled, this matches concentrated fruit with surging limey acidity, handily balancing 52 g/l RS into 10.6 percent alcohol. Stunner.

Similarly impressive was the Tantalus 2013 Old Vines Riesling, showing the grape through an entirely different smoked stone, wild herb and grippy lens.

Rosé blends the best of both worlds – the drinkability and freshness of white wines with some structure, red fruit and tannins of red. Little Farm Winery 2014 Rosé is drinking beautifully right now (yes, some rosés CAN age), with its cabernet franc expressed with wild herbs, dusted stone and young strawberry fruit. The ideal foil for summer wild salmon bakes or charcuterie.

In a different vein, though similar rosé hue, is the 2015 Le Vieux Pin Vaïla Rosé. Also dry, with silken rhubarb, raspberry, rose bush and fine salts sailing through a streaming palate. Elegant and attractive.

Le Vieux Pin Vaila Rosé 2015 Stag's Hollow Renaissance Grenache 2014 La Stella La Sophia Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Nichol Vineyards Syrah 2012

Also making repeat appearances in the trevehouse is the Stag’s Hollow 2014 Renaissance Grenache. One of the rare Canadian grenaches, let’s hope this fresh, fragrant plum, blackcurrant and white pepper example from Okanagan Falls inspires more.

Some wines, like people, improve with age. While I was impressed with the 2011 La Stella Winery La Sophia when I last tasted it, I know that I will be rewarded ten-fold in five years’ time, when the firm, sinewy, dark fruit, leather and graphite has further intertwined.

Sometimes age is expressed in other ways, like with the Nichol Syrah. But what else would you expect from the oldest syrah vines in Canada, planted on sloping granite and sustainably farmed. The 2012 vintage is a stunner right now and has time to go still, with alluring violets, grippy thorns and dried herbs texturing the structured black cherry fruit.

~

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!


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Gabbiano Chianti Classico

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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!


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National Wine Awards

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks May 2016

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.

The warm spring air has us thinking of the outdoors this month, through both sports (DJ is partial to the French Open, I’m following Giro d’Italia), and cuisine (spot prawns aplenty). Not surprisingly, we’re reaching for the rosé, whites and fizz and while we may be keeping an eye on the screens, we’re doing it sitting in a sunbeam. Here’s a six pack of wines that excited DJ and me this past month.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team

 

DJ Kearney

Watching the French Open always makes me think of Rosé.  Maybe it’s the terracotta-hued clay, maybe it’s the stylish croissant-munching crowd, or perhaps it’s the fact that France is home to a world of delicious, purposeful pinks.

My eye was first drawn to the handsome Art Nouveau label of Les Trois Provence Rosé 2015, and you are sure to admire the pure red berry fruit and tangy dry palate with grilled creamy spot prawns.  For flavour harmony let a rosemary sprig sit in lemony aioli for half an hour then remove, and dunk in the prawns.

I tasted the 2015 Miraval Rosé a while ago in London, and it’s even more delicious and complete now.  The excellent 2015 vintage brings extra fruit depth and finesse. Do deploy with a good meal like grilled whole fish with abundant herbs and lemon to match the citrusy freshness.

Les Trois Provence Rosé 2015 Miraval Rosé 2015 Champagne Vouette Et Sorbée Saignée De Sorbée 2011

And finally a remarkable bubble. It’s entirely probable that Selosse is my favourite champagne house, and Vouette et Sorbée resonates the same way to me.  Singular in the extreme, the 2011 Saignée de Sorbée is a profound expression of wine first, fizz second.  I’ll sip it again during the French Open finals, with a mushroom and Brie omelette.

Treve Ring

The savagely graceful Lock & Worth 2015 Cabernet Franc Rosé pours the very palest orange peach hue. Mostly whole cluster pressed, with four hours on the skins, this textured wine weaves ample salts through subtle wild strawberry on a slender,  lifted palate. Four months in neutral oak before going into bottle unfined and unfiltered, this is savoury, salty and streamline; a dry rosé for adventurous sippers, and best when it warms up in the glass.

Pecorino is such a trendy grape that the amount of people producing “pecorino” outnumbers the number of hectares planted in Italy. Caveat emptor, folks. This is a mountain grape variety, suited to altitude and alpine environs like the men racing in the Giro d’Italia are facing. I salut their courage with a bottle of Colline Pescaresi Tiberio Pecorino 2014, with wild herbs, a riff of mint, flake salt and a sheen of light white honey on the creamy palate before brisk acidity propels quince and green fig to the finish.

Lock & Worth Cabernet Franc Rosé 2015 Colline Pescaresi Tiberio Pecorino 2014 Tantalus Old Vines Riesling Natural Brut 2013

Fizz fans like me can celebrate the return of this BC legend to our shelves. Tantalus Old Vines Riesling Natural Brut is back this spring, and the 2013 vintage is as sharp and pure as anticipated, with riesling from their 1978 block prized for its originality and rarity as much for its vibrant, mouth-watering acidity, minerality and verve.

~

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. Rhys also added a bonus feature this month highlighting his latest European Wine Adventure. 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!


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Gabbiano Chianti Classico

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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.

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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!


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Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks April 2016

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.

Here’s a tidy six pack that excited Rhys and I this month. It’s obvious we’re both enjoying the heat wave warming the west, with this line up of crisp whites, brisk fizz and juicy reds. From our backyard to Burgundy and a skip to Friuli, this is what is on our tables this month.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team

 

Rhys Pender MW

As warm spring days increase in both frequency and temperature, so too does the need for intense and crisp white wines. Riesling, fresh chardonnay, muscadet, picpoul and the like are all finding a spot in the fridge ready for those warm evenings.

My first choice is a well-known BC wine that routinely delivers top quality. The new release of the Tantalus Old Vines Riesling is the 2013 and it is a very good one. Not just intense and packed with refreshing acidity, it is also a very complex wine. I would drink some now but also stick six bottles away for cellaring to see how it develops over the next decade or so.

Tantalus Old Vines Riesling 2013 David Moret Cromin Meursault 2012Bartier Bros. Merlot

A wine I can never seem to get enough of is good white Burgundy. It is not easy to find and rarely inexpensive but usually worth a splurge to get something absolutely delicious. And the David Moret 2012 Cromin from Meursault was just that  elegant, complex, refreshing and seamless.

We get to taste a lot of different styles of BC merlot from the light, juicy and simple to the big blockbuster extracted style, all of which can be successful. Often the best style though seems to be where some elegance is maintained, often at the expense of big ripeness. I was impressed recently by the Bartier Brothers 2013 Merlot from their Cerqueira Vineyard. It has plenty of generous ripeness but maintains elegance and complexity at the same time. Delicious.

Treve Ring

This month was all about revisiting old favourites. Some were new releases of past charmers, some were new wines from trusted vintners and others looking at choice grapes through a new producer’s lens.

Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées l’Ancien Beaujolais 2013 is the former, the first time I’ve tasted the 2013, and certainly won’t be the last. L’Ancien, from gamay vines 50-80 years old, is savoury and lithe. Wild herbs, rasped stone, juicy wild raspberry and thorns are lifted with bright and lifted cherry and textured with mineral salts. Graceful, with a bamboo firm frame of tannins. I loved this with truffle salted frites and lardon decked endive. #GoGamayGo.

Jean Paul Brun l'Ancien Beaujolais 2013 Bella Gamay Methode Ancestrale 2015Ronco del Gelso Vigna della Permuta Malvasia Isonzo 2014

I’ve tracked Jay Drysdale’s sparkling career since pre-Bella Wines inception; he’s as much of a fizz-fan as I am. So I was delighted to taste his new pét-nat, the Bella Gamay Methode Ancestrale 2015. Six barrels from organic Beaumont Vineyard sat under his cherry trees and waited for a full wild ferment to do its thing (ferment finished in the winery to 11.2 percent alcohol). Zero additives, this was hand bottled and tagged; there is no label on the bottle itself, but a singular paper catalogue tag affixed by string to the cage. Wild, salted earth and stone, funky rhubarb and juicy, just crushed wild strawberries, this is subtle with a spark of intensity.

Always learning. Who knew there were 17 different types of malvasia in Italy? Ronco del Gelso 2014 Vigna della Permuta Malvasia Isonzo is malvasia istriana, grown on the gravelly soils of the Isonzo plains, near the sea. Opening with light perfumed pear and rose blossoms, this compact white shines lemon oil, gooseberry and hay along a linear, oily palate. Great snappy acidity, lingering with sea salt spiciness on the finish. A terrific partner to simple grilled white fish or moules, this will be one I revisit oft this summer.

For those of you in Vancouver, don’t miss the Great New Zealand Wine Tiki Tour which will be held on May 5th at the Terminal City Club. WineAlign members save with access code NZWA2016.

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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!


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Gabbiano Chianti Classico

The Great New Zealand Wine Tiki Tour - Vancouver 2016

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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!


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Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks March 2016

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. The Agent or Winery name is provided on the details page, if you need help finding a wine near you.

March may have roared in like a lion, but with cherry blossoms in full bloom on the coast and on the verge of bud burst in Okanagan vineyards, she’s leaving like an Easter lamb (sorry). We’re getting our first look at the new spring releases this month, so watch for those to fill this space in the coming weeks. In the meantime, it seems we’re collectively and actively seeking out exciting frontier regions and interesting grapes from around the globe. Much like spring itself, we’re always growing.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi

Yes, it’s spring, but I’m not quite ready to leave the realm of meaty, complex, layered big reds behind – just yet (wait for BC spot prawn season). Especially when they’re as exciting, electric and mineral-laden as Clos des Fous 2011 Grillos Cantores Alto Cachapoal Cabernet Sauvignon. An extreme in viticulture, organic and biodynamic farming and non-interventionist winemaking and it doesn’t get much better. Clos des Fous is the New Chile with old-vine heritage varieties (including malbec, pais, carignan, and cinsault).

Sella & Mosca 2010 Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva is a regular favourite on our local market, but it never fails to impress. In the 2010, expect that special Mediterranean warmth and even more plummy/raspberry cherry fruit aromas and flavours. The palate is balanced with a juicy, dry, fruity, savoury, cherry flavour throughout.

Clos Des Fous Grillos Cantores Alto Cachapoal Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Sella & Mosca Riserva Cannonau Di Sardegna 2010 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

And if you want to really go all out with that easter lamb, decant a bottle of the Don Melchor 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Puente Alto Vineyard from the Maipo Valley. Expect a fragrant, stylish cabernet with bits of savoury cassis flavours flecked with pepper and vanilla. The plate is juicy, with fresh, well balanced acidity. If you don’t crack now, this will easily keep a decade in your cellar.

Rhys Pender MW

Kenji Hodgson left his life as a wine writer in Vancouver to head to the Loire Valley to make wine. Along with his wife Mai they are now making beautiful, interesting, slightly funky but absolutely delicious natural wines. Until recently, you were more likely to find their wines in trendy wine bars in Paris, where they have a good following, but now there is a small amount of the 2014 Galarneau (Cabernet Franc) and Faia (Chenin Blanc) available at private stores in BC. The Galarneau is beautifully aromatic, juicy and complex with some gamey and meaty notes along with bright floral and red fruit freshness. Very moreish.

Tignanello is always a wine worth a bit of a splurge for a couple of bottles for the cellar. It is not cheap but the price hasn’t gone off the charts like so many of the worlds other top wines. The 2011 is a great youthful combination of savoury complexity and great fruit intensity that should age well for a decade or two.

Mai & Kenji Hodgson O Galarneau 2014 Tignanello 2011 Paolo Conterno Ginestra Barolo 2007

Barolo rarely fails to impress if you like wines that combine power with a complex mix of savoury, spice, earth and minerality and that finish firm and grippy, perfectly standing up to roasted meats. It is also a great one for the cellar, giving decades of ageing potential. An example that will not disappoint is the Paolo Conterno 2007 Ginestra Barolo. 

DJ Kearney

Outlier is the common fabric for my wines this month… three wines that share a rich tapestry of individuality and out-there-ness. I truly love wines like these as they stretch one’s notion of what wine is, and send the tastebuds in weird and wonderful directions.

The first is a raw and wild chenin blanc from Kenji and Mai Hodgson who packed up from Vancouver in 2009, only to unpack in a tiny village near Angers and get down to the business of making micro-batches of old vine chenin, cab franc and grolleau as naturally as possible. From Faia 2014’s heraldic label to the bone-dry, tangy and mineral-driven flavours, it’s a genius fusion of grape and ground.

Mai And Kenji Hodgson Faia Vin Blanc 2014 Tibor Gāl Egri Csillag 2013 Suvla Vineyards Kabatepe Kirmizi Red 2013

Just as intellectual is Tibor Gal’s 9-grape blend from Eger, an ultra-traditional Hungarian wine region famed for red blends. Egri Csillag 2013 unites indigenous grapes with a few internationals to great effect, and its appeal is very broad as a result. I highly recommend the pinot and red bikaver as well.

I’ve not yet tasted all of the Turkish wines that are nipping to market these days, but I like Suvla Kabatepe 2013 Red blend for its enthusiastic forward fruit and clean lines.  There’s obvious skill and ambition behind Suvla Vineyards and I’ve tasted a great rosé and marsanne/roussanne blend in the past. My research revealed that their vineyards are not far from the moving ANZAC Memorial, and the climate is a fusion of Bordeaux, Rhone and Napa. With over 600,000 hectares of grapes in Turkey, and over 60 varieties, the future could be exciting.

Treve Ring

Less is more. Twenty-five year old arneis vines go into the Vietti Roero 2013 Arneis, see no MLF and are put into stainless steel. The result is a pure, fresh expression of herbal meadow flowers, wild herbs, potent honeysuckle, apple, bitter almonds and walnuts and mineral salts. Lovely concentration, with a watery wash mid-palate and brisk acidity throughout to the lingering finish. Pairs beautifully with simple dishes with some herbal heft – think brown butter and sage pasta.

The new Bartier Bros 2014 Semillon continues to show how striking and impressive this grape can be in the Okanagan. From Oliver’s Cerquiera Vineyard, laced with granite cobbles coated with calcium carbonate, this sem is fermented with wild yeast and partially in concrete, releasing intense and striking medicinal herb-laced yellow fruit, green fig, apricot fuzz, subtle elderflower, thorny desert bush and mineral salts. Though lean and narrow, with lively, almost prickly acidity, the concentrated, oily white brings a textured generosity to the palate which is highly alluring. Drinking lovely now in youth, but will last 10+ years.

Vietti Roero Arneis 20132014 Bartier Bros SemillonBodegas Gurrutxaga Txakoli 2013

Txakoli is classic in the pintxos bars of San Sebastien and the Basque region, and classically (brilliantly) poured from above (at least 5 inches) into the glass to allow the wine some air, some bubbles and a lot of show. The deliciously authentic Bodegas Gurrutxaga 2013 Txakoli is a light and brisk blend of predominantly hondarrabi zuri, with a touch of hondarrabi beltza, folle blanche, petit corbou, and cabernet franc. Saline and astutely ringing of the sea, making the mouth water for savoury bites – and another cold glass. At a refreshing 11 percent alcohol and this much seriously gulpable fun, why not?

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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!


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Gabbiano Chianti Classico

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20 Under $20 in BC : March 2016

Spring is Springing 

With the cherry blossoms out, it sure feels like spring in the west. During this transition month from the wets of winter to the sun of spring, we’ve a mix of wines suitable for all moods, and climates. Charming, authentic reds and fresh, herbal whites seem to rule our selections this month, with picks stretching all around the globe. While providing great value, all are food-friendly and ready for drinking now, ideal for stocking up on for your Easter celebrations. 

~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi 

Though Italy has been top of mind and tongue this past month, I’ve also been busy tasting wines from around the globe that typify great value, even on our market.

Delas 2013 Côtes-du-Ventoux is a spicy resin-laced 80/20 grenache/syrah blend of black cherry, licorice and light charcuterie notes. The juicy fruit finishes with smoky, savoury, tobacco flavours in the finish. Try this with barbecue ribs.

Spain and value go hand in hand on this market, and where else can you find a decade plus old well made red selling for $18? Monasterio de las Vinas Gran Reserva 2005 is a mature mix of garnacha, tempranillo and cariñena that delivers with soft, round, complex savoury flavours of tobacco, spice, old barrels and a bit of spicy fruit cake.

Another great Spanish red – this one five years younger and a few dollars less expensive – is the Castillo de Almansa Reserva 2011. A 60/20/20, monastrell, tempranillo and garnacha tintorera blend from Alamansa, this is matured in American oak casks for about a year. The attack is supple, the textures smooth with medium rich, juicy, smoky, spicy, plummy fruit flavours.

Delas Côtes Du Ventoux 2013 Monasterio De Las Viñas Gran Reserva 2005 Castillo De Almansa Reserva 2011 Backyard Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2013 BenMarco Malbec 2013

From here at home, Backyard Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2013 gives you a taste of BC’s highly promising cabernet franc grape, here highlightin the savoury red and black fruit, cedar and spice. Youthful and robust, this would suit a grilled piece of lamb (perhaps for your homegrown Easter).

Judging the Argentina Wine Awards last month reminded me about the fresh, bright, smartly-priced wines we do see on our market, like Dominio del Plata Ben Marco Malbec 2013. Ripe red fruits with a dash of blueberry and that typical but not overwhelming savoury undercoat, softly textured with spice, licorice and chocolate. A wine in transition (somewhere in the middle) from the old style to the fresher more mineral, red fruit, modern style. This was a gold medal winner at the 2016 Argentine Wine Awards.

Rhys Pender MW

I have been inspired by the recent Vancouver International Wine Festival for this months picks and particularly by many of the indigenous (or autochthonous as was the fancy word of the festival) grapes that are starting to emerge from the shadows to plunge wine students into further despair while giving wine drinkers an ever expanding world of interesting wine to enjoy.

Italy was the theme of the festival and that is where the first four picks come from. As you should always start things with bubbly, we will kick things off with a lovely Lambrusco. After a recent visit to Italy and through an obsessive desire to eat fantastic charcuterie, I have fallen in love with Lambrusco. And we are not talking the sweet, simple, red plonk you may have stereotyped anything with the name Lambrusco as, but rather the more serious side of this large family of grapes. The Medici Ermete 2014 Lambrusco Reggiano Frizzante is made from the Lambrusco Salamino variety and is juicy, savoury, slightly fizzy and beautifully dry. Just add Salami or Coppa and happy times are ahead.

Medici Ermete Lambrusco Reggiano Frizzante 2014 Attems Ribolla Gialla 2014 Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino di Sardegna 2014 Feudo Maccari Nero d'Avola 2014 Lovico Gamza 2011

The north-east of Italy is a bit of a hotbed of experimentation and another area falling in love with its native grapes. One of these varieties is Ribolla Gialla which can have a lovely floral and citrus, lemon scent. The Attems 2014 Ribolla Gialla at just $17 is crisp and citrusy and has some nice weight to make this stand up to some serious seafood dishes.

Another even richer white comes from the toasty warm shores of Sardinia. The Argiolas 2014 Costamolino is made from the increasingly trendy Vermentino grape. It is rich, ripe and honeyed while remaining dry. Great with heavy, rich white fish.

Still in the south but from the Island of Sicily comes a lovely Nero D’Avola from Feudo Maccari. The 2014 has ripe, sun-warmed berry fruits but finishes dry and savoury with some complex graphite minerality.

Sticking with the theme of indigenous grapes, I recently re-tasted the Bulgarian Lovico Gamza 2011 that I had written up more than a year ago. Still in the BC LDB stores and a great price of $9.99 it was delicious on a chilly night around a fire pit. Savoury, good fruit and just a great Monday/Tuesday wine.

DJ Kearney

Variety is arguably the most appealing aspect of wine. That grapes can transform into so many flavours and textures is an insane delight. These five bargain wines are made from eight different varieties, and each is an honest, workaday wine, made to give pleasure, relaxation and keep tasty food company.  Just what you’d hope for vino that’s under twenty bucks.

We all need more chenin blanc in our lives, and South Africa has some of the oldest preserves of this noble Loire grape. Painted Wolf The Den Chenin Blanc 2014 combines weighty fruit and lick-smacking acidity for bring-home sushi or melon and shrimp cocktail.

And perhaps we all need interesting Spanish whites in our lives too, like the snappy, lime flavoured Cal Y Canto Blanco made from verdejo, just made for take-out sushi or a salad of crunchy greens, avocado and cucumber. Built for richer food is Lopez de Haro Blanco 2014, an all vuira (macabeo) white with a kiss of oak, and the kind of sneaky creamy weight that will prop up roast chicken or an oozing, crusty grilled cheese sandwich.

Painted Wolf The Den Chenin Blanc 2014 Cal Y Canto Blanco 2014 Lopez De Haro Rioja Blanco 2014 Masi Bardolino Classico Frescaripa 2014 Cave Saint Désirat Syrah 2013

Think of Bardolino as a region that makes reds that are lighter, juicier and even more refreshing than next-door Valpolicella. Masi Bardolino Classico Frescaripa 2014 is so well named – fresh and lively and ready for spag bol or just classic pizza.

And finally, one of my favourite red wine deals is Cave Saint Desirat Syrah 2013, a confidently rustic wine from the Ardeche. It balances lean fruit with a rust/stone character for shepherd’s pie or merguez sausages and cous cous. 

Treve Ring 

You know when you find one of those value gems that blows you away and you’re nearly hesitant to tell people because you’re tempted to stuck up and drink it all yourself? Well – Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie 2014 is one of those wines for me. From one of the region’s leading sustainable vignerons, this is organic, wild ferment Muscadet, aged sur lie in earthen vessels, buried in the ground to keep cool and rest (obviously no racking) until the following spring. Light pear, subtle earthy lees, river stone, white florals and a fine vein of saline-laced lemon. Stunner. Save me some.

I feel similarly about the 2014 vintage of Bartier Bros. Semillon. Intense and striking though lean and narrow, with lively, almost prickly acidity, the concentrated, oily semillon lends a textured generosity to the palate which is highly alluring. Tempting to drink now, but you will be rewarded over a decade in your cellar.

Domaine De La Pépière Muscadet Sèvre Et Maine Sur Lie 2014Bartier Brothers SemillonCedarCreek Pinot Gris 2014 Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015

From further north Okanagan in east Kelowna is the 2014 CedarCreek Pinot Gris. Fresh and vibrant, pear, orange zest, almond, white peach and brisk acidity is bathed in savoury dried herbs and buoyed by a pillow of fine, creamy lees. This would make a great match for Easter ham. 

Shooting down the coast – a long way – are the vines for Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2015. The Manzanar Vineyard, less than 13 kilometres from the Pacific, is home to this snappy, brisk fruit, while three months on the lees increases creamy, voluminous texture.

A hop over to Colchagua Valley, is the unbeatable king of value on our market. The latest vintage of Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier, 2015, highlights the grape’s cold cream, guava, bright pear, lime oil and apricot, with a nuzzle of peach fuzz on the medium bodied, creamy palate. Pour with Chinese-styled seafood hot pot or pad Thai.

~

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. 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 Chianti Classico 2013

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Rooting for Italian Wine

Gismondi’s Final Blend
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

It didn’t take a wine festival to understand Canadians love Italian wines but the recent love affair in Vancouver between consumers and the visiting throngs of Italian wine producers would suggest the bonds are stronger than ever. In fact, Italian wine sales are now number two in British Columbia and closing in on the USA. So much for those infamous west coast palates we are said to possess.

The truth is the Italians seem comfortable making wine and selling it seemingly effortlessly around the world. Maybe it is the way they dress – there is no denying they were the most stylish delegation in the room. Maybe it’s their labels – classic yet modern, understated but artsy and all the while projecting a mystery that makes you want to buy every one of them. It might be that accent that had consumers swooning at the booths.

Okay that’s whimsy but there is something magical at the moment about Italian wines and consumers appear to have picked up on it.

My guess is that it’s all about diversity. Be it the style of the wines, the wealth of grape varieties or an even more primal attraction, the way the wines taste. No matter the reason, the more diverse Italian wines become the more it would appear wine drinkers are attracted to them.

Then there is the food. Italian restaurants are thriving in just about every corner of the world, they all sell Italian wine and they have for decades. Most of us grew up with Chianti in the kitchen, first as a wine, then as a candlestick. Either way, Italian wine was never far away, and as mentioned, always present in those restaurantes italianos.

Imagine the future of Canadian wine if ‘Canadian’ restaurants were spread across the globe and if they were important enough to be part of a yearly top ten list in most major cities. Visibility and familiarity has to have played a role in the spread and success of Italian wine globally.

It’s been said that consumers are confused when it comes to wine. Too many labels, too many, producers, too many grapes etc., etc. Yet Italians can sell a wine like Barolo, which is a region and a commune, made from the nebbiolo grape, a name that doesn’t appear on the label and everybody gets it. As for needing something new to capture the imagination of wine drinkers. Barolo is Barolo is Barolo, made with same grape, from the same place for many, many years.

Tignanello 2013 Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino di Sardegna 2014But don’t take my word for it; you can seek out most of the following wines anywhere you live in Canada and embrace the modernity of Italy. That the wines are technically better now versus historically is a given, but you could make a case they are also more authentic now than at any other time in their life. 

Who doesn’t love vermentino, in this case Argiolas Costamolino 2014 Vermentino di Sardegna grown at some 190 metres above sea level. It isn’t chardonnay and it isn’t sauvignon blanc but it is the perfect, fresh white to pair with seafood appetizers in the garden all spring and summer.

At the Antinori Tignanello/Guado al Tasso vertical tasting one wine stood out above all others: Antinori 2013 Tignanello. We remember visiting Tignanello a few years ago when the folks at Antinori were saying they thought the 2010 could be greatest Tignanello ever. Make no mistake, it is excellent, but the 2013 has something more. Already more elegant than its many predecessors, expect a glass full of power with amazing vibrant, juicy fruit and elegance. Long and complex this is one of the finest young Tignanellos we have tasted. The wine made its world premiere at the festival and will be released at Vinitaly next month but you will have to wait a few more months for its release in Canada. (No worries, the 2012 is excellent).

Ruffino Ducale Oro Riserva Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2010 Castello di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012There’s a new flavour in Chianti Classico – red fruit – making the modern CC story more classic. I love the affordable and available Castello di Gabbiano 2012 Chianti Classico Riserva replete with its violets and supple manner. Can you smell the roasted chicken? As it turns out the festival was a great place to catch up on the state of Gran Selezione, the highest order of merit now accorded a Chianti Classico’s top wines. It signifies the top of the quality pyramid, sourced from the heartland of the historic region. It would appear after anecdotal chats with many producers that the anti Gran Selezione group is fading as consumers embrace the terminology.

In the case of the Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro 2010 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, it’s always been the top label at Ruffino, but maybe Gran Selezione makes it easier for everyone when they are shopping to know it is the top dog. Refer to the first part of this story regarding success in the marketplace. 

Italy’s sparkling wine was a big hit in Vancouver spanning all levels from Prosecco to Franciacorta. Two favourites included what Treve Ring refers to as the blinged out Bottega Gold N/V Prosecco Spumante Brut, and the Ferghettina 2006 Franciacorta Extra Brut. The former is sophisticated fun bubble, produced to order, via a single fermentation in the winery’s specialized pressurized cuve close tanks for forty days. The latter is a serious, structured bubble with Champagne aspirations. It is an 80/20 mix of chardonnay and pinot noir spending 69 months on its lees.

Bottega Gold Prosecco Ferghettina Franciacorta Extra Brut 2006 Adami Cartizze Dry Valdobbiadene Superiore

The Adami Cartizze N/V Dry Valdobbiadene Superiore sparkler grows in a 1,000-foot-high vineyard. The 107 hectares of vines are owned by 140 growers. Sounds like Burgundy, tastes like heaven. Like I said, the Italians get it on all levels and for the moment it seems consumers can’t get enough of Italy.

At the packed Vietti booth, consumers learned when the nebbiolo from declassified cru sites is aged for less than the minimum legal requirements it becomes a varietal, Langhe IGT. How good is the Vietti 2012 Nebbiolo Perbacco? Well, very good. True it’s not a Barolo DOCG, but the price and its stature in the glass suggest this Langhe red is a bargain to be enjoyed now.

The folks at Mastroberardino have been into old, indigenous grapes for quite some time. Preserving the past by bringing it back to the future was another important theme at the festival and is part of a more organised movement across Italy especially with the next generation of winegrowers.

Vietti Perbacco Langhe Nebbiolo 2012 Mastroberardino Radici 2008 Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria

The less is more, old might be better movement, is reflected in the Mastroberardino 2008 Radici Taurasi. The word radici means roots in Italian and the wine is a nod to winery’s mission to preserve the local grapes well adapted to Campania’s volcanic soils.

A little farther south, the folks at Donnafugata have nurtured a Sicilian treasure also grown in volcanic soils. The grape is zibbibo and the Donnafugata 2011 Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria is a sweet breath of Mediterranean air.

Our own John Szabo has just reported on the latest from Brunello and the return of the sangiovese to its most attractive form. But did you know on the other side of the Apennines the growers of Emilia-Romagna claim to have sent the sangiovese to Tuscany?

Italy is steeped in history and it stretches from the past to the future, history to modernity, which is probably why we all like it so much.

Salute!

 

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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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008