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British Columbia Critics’ Picks

by Treve Ring

Treve Ring

Treve Ring

In our January 20 Under $20 piece, I made the case against “dry January” and promoted drinking better wines instead. Unlike your resolution to hit the gym regularly, one way to keep up the positive momentum of the new year in a wine-wise way is to make a commitment to trying something new every month. Whether it’s a grape, region, style or producer, there is always something new to learn in this industry. Here are 12 wines to see you through 2016.

Of course I’m going to kick off with fizz. If you’re in the mood for Champagne, but haven’t a budget for it, try Italy’s best known metodo classico sparkling wine, Franciacorta. The Cavalleri Franciacorta Brut Blanc de Blancs utilizes chardonnay in the creation of a chiseled, finessed bubble.

From closer to home, The Hatch burst strong out of the gate last summer with wines and labels like Octobubble Brut Rosé. Crispy bright (swallowing up the 12 g/l RS), this brut rosé gamay from gloried Secrest Mountain Vineyard has spent twenty months on the lees and carries strawberry, cherry, red apple and meadow flowers though to the crisp and snappy finish.

In the same rosé hue, Codorníu Cuvée 1872 Barcelona rosé recalls traditional winemaking techniques in a tribute to the year that Josep Raventós crafted the first bottle of cava. Musts spend time in oak, amping up the body before spending nine months on the lees. Full notes of cherry, raspberry, red currant jam and brioche on a creamy, expansive palate.

Cavalleri Franciacorta Brut Blanc de Blancs The Hatch Octobubble Brut RoséCodorníu Cuvée 1872 Rosé Barcelona Binner Vignoble d’Ammerschwihr Riesling 2012Franc Arman Jano Malvasia 2012

Here’s a chance to taste pure, unadulterated Alsatian riesling, from a family who has been making wines from this terroir since 1770 (you have to trust they know what they’re doing). Naturally produced with no additives, the biodynamically farmed Binner Vignoble d’Ammerschwihr 2012 Riesling is with old vines from granitic slopes, vinified in large wooden barrels and left on the lees until bottling without fining or filtration. Stunner.

Franc Arman Jano Malvasia 2012 may well be a new wine experience on many levels for you: grape, region and style. Ample dried herbs, thyme, anise and meadow flowers stream through this malvasia istriana, a grape indigenous to the Istria Peninsula and a striking, light bodied but concentrated white that is a fantastic match to oysters or sashimi.

Haywire Switchback Wild Ferment Organic Vineyard 2014 BK Wines One Ball Chardonnay 2013Named in honour of the vineyard owner (yup), the striking upper altitude, organically farmed BK Keys One Ball Vineyard 2013 Chardonnay will cement Adelaide Hills in your mind for cool climate, concentrated and complexed Aussie wines.

One of the leading beacons of “natural wine” in Canada (watch for them at Raw London) is Haywire Winery, and Switchback Wild Ferment Organic Vineyard 2014 wine is an apt example: organically farmed, wild yeast, no additives (including sulphur). The pinot gris fermented and rested in an amphora on the skins for eight months before being pressed off and then left for two more months prior to bottling. The result is as pure an expression of site, and grape, that one could hope for.

Always a flag waving #GoGamayGo-er, I was pleased to come across Te Mata 2013 Gamay Noir, one of the rare New Zealand gamay on the market. There is less than 10 HA planted in the country, and this one has appeared on our shores. Seek out and snap it up for a youthful, juicy, quaffable red.

Fortunately we have more gamay here in BC, and wines like Samantha 2014 Gamay show the diversity in styles we produce. A deeper, more generous gamay, with ripe plum, black and red cherry and a plump cushion of strawberry jam are gently textured through time in concrete. Punchy acidity keeps this fresh and easy, while soft tannins and cinnamon spicing aid in gulpability.

Bodegas Ordonez Zerran 2011 Monsant is a savoury Montsant (Priorat’s neighbour) from mostly very old vine garnacha and mazuelo (aka carignan) with a splash of syrah. Big and concentrated, with dense black fruit, crushed stone, black flowers, kirsch, anise and cracked pepper covering a firm, muscular structure.

Vino Nobile de Montepulciano still struggles in Canada likely because drinkers confuse the label with the much simpler Montepulciano d ‘Abruzzo. Avignonesi 2011 Vino Nobile de Montepulciano comes from the vineyards surrounding the town of Montepulciano and is primarily from sangiovese (known locally as prugnolo gentile), blended with canaiolo nero and small amounts of other local varieties such as mammolo.

Te Mata Estate Gamay 2013 Samantha Gamay 2014 Bodegas Ordonez Zerran Monsant 2011 Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2011 Fattoria di Magliano Heba Morellino di Scansano 2012

Another Sangiovese in disguise is Fattoria di Magliano 2012 Heba, from Morellino di Scansano DOCG, tucked in the Maremma region of coastal Tuscany. Here, sangiovese is expressed through dusty, worn leather, black cherry, black plum, wildflowers, and sweet, scrubby spices. Acidity is pomegranate bright while finely structured tannins carry quite the grip.


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!

Gabbiano Chianti Classico

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Italy – a special place for both wine and food

Gismondi’s Final Blend
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

There’s already a buzz in Vancouver about the massive contingent of Italian wine producers headed for the west coast in late February to headline the 38th Vancouver International Wine Festival. The city will host some 60 producers that make wine in just about every important region of the vine land they call Enotria. But are we ready?

Whenever I’m lucky enough to be in Italy I take my watch off. It’s not so much that time stands still, but rather that it moves at its own pace and that rarely includes 60 beats per minute. Italians can be gregarious talkers and use a whirlwind of gestures when doing so, but when it comes to food and wine there is a calmness and a sense of purpose in their choices that few other cultures can match.

It’s not that they spend a lot of time thinking about pairing wine and food as much as they serve what comes naturally, or might I say historically, in the region where they live. What we can say is there is a simplicity and a clarity of flavours on the plate that make Italy a special place for both wine and food. Often only one or two flavours are present in any dish and rarely more than three and it is this reliance on simplicity and uncluttered flavours that gives Italian cuisine its wide appeal.

When you think about it, the Italian way is probably a good road map for where we need to go in Canada. Certainly there could be some relevance between modern-day high end Canadian wine and the mostly lean, fresh style of Italian white and red wines. Freshness and minerality are the hallmarks of many Italian whites and when paired with equally fresh seafood dishes they can move to another level, revealing finesse and character from the front of the glass to the back.

Pasta and Italian wine is an easy match and if you think like an Italian and add perhaps only one or two ingredients the results can be stunning. In the case of verdicchio, a crisp white with plenty of minerality and acid, it is a quick match for tossed fresh pasta, available at most specialty markets, with a variety of pesto. In Canada, pasta, some fresh clams in a butter sauce, and a steely chardonnay could result in a perfect match.

Map of Italy - Vancouver International Wine Festival

Pinot grigio is probably the best know Italian white wine but often the light-bodied, dry, crisp wine is overwhelmed by the food we serve with it in North America. A case in point is squid. It is almost always breaded, spiced and served as an appetizer when in Italy, pan-seared squid with a little olive oil, salt and pepper is the perfect match for a refreshing pinot grigio.

Red wines with vital acidity, like barbera, nebbiolo and sangiovese, are incredibly versatile food wines working with mushrooms, tomatoes, wild boar, raw beef and more. I can think of many local Canadian gamay, cabernet franc, grenache and pinot noir that fit that bill.

Enter Italy. There is something about Italian cuisine that simply does not intimidate the average food and wine aficionado in the way French food and wine traditions do. Perhaps it’s the Italian propensity for showing up late and staying late that sets a tone for informality. This month as the Canadian dollar heads south faster than a snowbird, I suggest you consider organizing an in-house dinner party and end a hectic day, Italian-style, at home, with friends.

It’s easy enough to pull together a no fuss menu and share it before hand with your guests and then suggest they bring along some of their favourite Italian labels to accompany one of the courses. With no restaurant mark-ups to double the price consider spending a bit more at retail and bring along a great bottle of wine for the night.

Friulano Tenuta di Angoris Villa Locatelli 2013 Adami Bosco di Gica Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco SuperioreTo get the party underway think about serving a selection of antipasti and your favourite Prosecco. The best Prosecco, the DOCG, are made from the glera grape and grown in the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene regions of Veneto, just north of Treviso. It’s a softer style bubble, with ripe fruit and a brisk finish, well-suited to all types of antipastos and pre-dinner bites. Think marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, a selection of olives, and some thinly sliced sopressata, capicola and Genoa salumis. I recommend the Adami Bosco di Gica Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.

Make pasta your secondi or second course and keep it simple. You can pick up a variety of fresh pastas at most specialty markets. Simply decide on the saucing and you are ready-to go. Linguine with pesto is both satisfying and easy to prepare and it’s relatively wine friendly. All you have to do is boil some water, cook the pasta al dente and then toss with the pesto.

To accompany the pasta, think about the cooler, fresher style Italian whites from the north or those grown near the sea, or at altitude. A current favourite is Tenuta di Angoris Villa Locatelli Friulano 2014 from Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Fragrant wildflowers, honeysuckle, nectarine and fennel set the stage for a white wine that will cut through the pasta.

The main course sounds impossibly challenging but grilled Florentine steak or Bistecca alla Fiorentina could not be simpler to prepare. Rub the steak with a good olive oil and generously season it with salt and pepper. Then simply toss it on a pre-heated grill and prepare it to order for your guest. Grill some vegetables ahead of time – they taste sensational as the dry heat concentrates natural sugars and gives them a bold and rustic look. Now you have a main course built for big reds.

Tuscan sangiovese or Super-Tuscan reds are perfect match or you could look to the south of Italy for slightly more rustic reds that are big on value. Begin with Rocca della Macie Roccato 2009, a super Tuscan bled made by Sergio Zingarelli. Roccato is a 50/50 mix of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon all picked by hand and vinified separately aged in French oak barriques. It easily has the heft to handle any grilled meats.

Similarly, fans of big reds will enjoy the Barone Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010.  Colledilà has been a part of the Brolio estate for centuries, and is the cru that stands above all others. Expect a rich, round, smooth, juicy palate with a long but warm, meaty finish.

Rocca Delle Macìe Roccato 2009 Barone Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010 Il Passo Nerello Mascalese E Nero D'avola Vigneti Zabu 2013 Batasiolo Bosc Dla Rei Moscato D'asti 2014

The ultra bargain steak wine comes from Sicily: Il Passo Nerello Mascalese e Nero d’Avola Vigneti Zabu 2013, Sicily. An 85/15 mix of nerello mascalese and néro d’avola whose canes are cut allowing the grapes to naturally dry out on the vines. The nose and palate is a savoury mix of baked fruit including plums, figs and black currants flecked with a peppery, cherry, chocolate finish.

If you have paced yourself through this multi-course marathon you can easily cap off the evening with an array of chocolate truffles from your favourite local purveyor and a lightly frizzante fruity ending based on the aromatic moscato grape. The fruity, orange ginger notes of the lightly sparkling moscato will all but set off the chocolate and send your guests home smiling.

The Batasiolo Bosc Dla Rei Moscato d’Asti 2014, as reviewed by Sara d’Amato, will suit.

Now all you need do is add music (Italian of course), and lively guests (Italians not a prerequisite) and you’ve yourself una serata perfetta – a perfect evening.


Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012


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20 Under $20 in BC : January 2016

Resolve to Drink Better

We all know them – maybe we’ve even been one ourselves. The person who swears off alcohol in a New Year, new start, liver cleansing, clean living kick. Yes, post-holiday restraint and moderation is a smart and healthy move. But, no wine? The thought to me always sounded a bit too unmoderate. Wine, in many cultures, is a part of daily life. Grapes are key members of the fruit group, yeah? Numerous studies have shown that wine, in moderation, leads to a healthy, lengthy, and much more fun life. Pay attention you January resolutioners – it doesn’t get better than this!

However, what many do need to cut back on after a holiday season of excess is expenses. Here are our January 20 Under $20 to boost your health and your bank account.

~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi

It’s a new year but I’m loathe to change my philosophy of trying to always drink wine that matters no matter what the situation, or the price. Of course under $20 is a challenge in BC. Don’t be suckered in by the new tax-out pricing. Make sure you add that 15 percent in your head before you get to the till where some of these prices will quickly make some under $20 wines, well, more than $20. Add to that a brutal Canadian dollar and no respite in local prices and it all points to a column that will continue to be tough to write all year. The good news is we are doing all the work for you.

First up, a dealcoholized wine worth having around the house. Loxton N/V Cabernet Sauvignon is for that guest who would like a glass of wine that looks real yet does not pack that alcoholic punch that comes with regular wine.

Rustic reds are always better in cold weather so look to the mid-weight, easy-sipping Navarro López 2012 Pergolas Old Vines Tempranillo Crianza from Valdepeñas, Spain to help warm up a mid-week stew or a casserole.

If you are up to try something new, sparkling and affordable, from Moldova, check out Cricova Crisecco N/V Sparkling Brut, a medium-weight fruity sparkler you can serve most nights with some pre-dinner taste bites. It is a good value prosecco lookalike, but drier.

Loxton Cabernet Sauvignon Navarro Lopez Valdepenas Crianza Tempranillo Pergolas Old Vines 2012 Cricova Crisecco Sparkling Brut Feteasca Alba Muscat Bartier Bros. Gewürztraminer Lone Pine Vineyard 2014 Heartland Spice Trader Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Elephant Island Orchard Wines Fortified Framboise 2014

I love winemaker Michael Bartier’s style. Try his delicious Bartier Bros. 2014 Gewürztraminer Lone Pine Vineyard from Summerland: an orchard fruit party in a bottle. Where’s the curry chicken?

Finding an inexpensive Oz red that isn’t sweet and sour is no easy task but I like the Heartland Spice Trader 2012 Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon. There is good balance here, and even better, it is not acidic in the back end. From a superior vintage too.

Finally a simply amazing fortified fruit wine you might enjoy on your ice cream or solo in a glass. Elephant Island Orchard Wines 2014 Fortified Framboise is a treasure trove of intense raspberry/chocolate flavours.

Rhys Pender MW

Ahh, the hangover that is January. Memories of all the great wine, great food and nights of indulgence are etched in that extra belt hole and the hollow bank account. This makes January an important time for finding value wine. With your palates still tuned to the high quality wines you gulped down with abandon over the holidays, the budget bottles of the New Year have a lot to live up to. This makes it tough to find pleasure for under $20. Here are some wines I find that over deliver for their price. I hope you enjoy them.

You cannot easily wean yourself off celebratory bubbly and there is no need to as many of the best value wines on the market are sparkling. You can still get something with a little toasty autolysis and stay well under $20. That is worth celebrating in itself. The Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava is consistently one of the best.

We also need something crisp, fresh and white to pair with all those health conscious salads we are now eating as part of the new years resolutions. I was impressed by the new 2014 Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling both in price and quality.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Quails' Gate Dry Riesling 2014 Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2013 Niepoort Dialogo 2013 Ricossa Barbaresco 2011

I will admit I’m often not the biggest fan of Fumé Blanc but I was presently surprised and impressed by the 2013 Robert Mondavi Fumé. These guys invented the stuff so I guess they really know what they are doing. This vintage is probably the best I have had and is a lovely balance between racy freshness, a little tropical fruit and just a dusting of vanillin oak. Sear a bit of richer white fish in the pan to serve with your fresh vegetables or greens and with this wine you are set.

You also need some red wines that over deliver with a little complexity at a low price. A regular winner is the Niepoort Diálogo Tinto and the 2013 is a delicious mix of juicy, earthy, savoury and a good whack of fruit and complexity. This can please all comers and is a versatile food wine too with anything from basic pasta with tomato sauce to any grilled meat.

Another consistently good value wine is the Ricossa Barbaresco. The 2011 is lighter and savoury but gives a hint at some of the flavours you will find in the more concentrated Barbaresco and Barolo but at a fraction of the price.

Treve Ring

As I mentioned in my intro, wine is a part of daily life in many cultures, including the Trevehouse. I would much rather use up my “resolution budget” to try something new. Why not stretch into a new grape or region this month? It’s an especially apt opportunity when you’re not laying out too much cash as well.

Always fizz. There are many value quality : value fizz to explore this month. If you are adamant that you are cutting down on alcohol, then pick up Fresita, a Chilean fizz infused with organic Patagonian strawberries. Only 8 % alcohol and effortlessly delicious.

The act of drinking fortified wines regularly is new to most folks, so picking up a bottle of Bodegas Hidalgo Manzanilla La Gitana from Jerez’ neighbouring Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain is pretty much a must-do. This popular Manzanilla wins with its dry delicacy, sea salt freshness and lingering tanginess. A natural pair for almonds, olives, sardines and cured meats – as well as sushi. Pick up the 375ml to stay under $20.

Fresita Sparkling Wine Infused With Strawberries Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla Stag's Hollow Viognier Marsanne 2013 Friulano Tenuta Di Angoris Villa Locatelli 2014

Search hard for the new Stag’s Hollow 2013 Viognier – Marsanne, a ‘natural’ wine made without added sulfur or yeast, and one that was unfined and unfiltered. One year on the lees in older acacia barrel yields, gentle honeysuckle, heady floral acacia and lime on a very textured palate, where an undercurrent of herbal fennel, apricot, ginger spicing stream in with brisk acidity. A striking adventurous wine for BC.

If you aren’t familiar with the friulano grape, the Friulano Tenuta Di Angoris 2014 Villa Locatelli is a great gateway wine. Fragrant wildflowers, honeysuckle, nectarine and fennel are drawn across the waxy palate, one kept bright and fresh with 12.5% alcohol.

Portugal is a treasure trove of quality wines that hit far above their price – plus are comprised of indigenous grapes that are probably new to you. See Rhys’ Niepoort red pick above as prime proof. The Niepoort Dialogo 2011 Douro Branco is another prime example. This white blend of codega do larinho, rabigato, gouveio, dona branca, viosinho and bical entices and intrigues with its texture, concentration and easy lightness of being.

Another entirely overlooked and completely underrepresented category in BC is South Africa. There are some real wines / real values to be found, like the Spier 2013 Chenin Blanc, a steal at $14. Meadow, white grapefruit, perfumed gooseberry and ripe pear weightiness, without any oak influence which allows the fruit to shine.

Maybe Austria is a region you haven’t explored much of? Right that, right now, with Laurenz Und Sophie Singing Grüner Veltliner 2013 from Niederösterreich, a stony, herb-basted GV with crisp orchard fruit and green fig carried on a dry, oily, medium bodied palate, and an ideal pour against your pissaldiere.

Niepoort Dialogo Branco 2011 Spier Signature Chenin Blanc 2013 Laurenz Und Sophie Singing Grüner Veltliner 2013 Leyda Reserva Syrah 2012 Regis Boucabeille Les Terrasses 2014

Winter warmer needed? Are you familiar with Chile’s Leyda Valley? The Leyda Reserva Syrah 2012 was a gold value winner at the 2015 World Wine Awards, gold lit for its ripe, spicy and floral notes, grilled meatiness and smoothed tannins. Compact and tidy.

I think you’ll spare me the extra $0.49 to recommend the newest vintage of Regis Boucabeille Les Terrasses 2014, Cotes Du Roussillon Villages. Having southern France red blends like this remind me how much I adore southern France red blends. This organic grenache/syrah/carignan blend is planted on shale slopes that were abandoned in the 20th century because it was too hard to farm, but now is made into a seriously quaffable fresh, juicy red with ripe plums, smoked stone and garrigue riding a plump, sun-ripened cushion, one supported and defined by slightly gritty tannins. Stock up.


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!

National Wine Awards Wine Club

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks December 2015


While the WineAlign West crew drink fizz, well, daily, there’s even more reason to pop the cork at year’s end. Between festive gatherings, Christmas dinner (and brunch!) and toasting to the start of a prosperous 2016, there is ample reason to celebrate this season. Here are a dozen of our favourite sparkling wines tasted this past year, any one of which we would be happy to raise a glass of to you, dear reader and fellow wine lover.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics – wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution through BCLDB or VQA stores. All are currently available for sale in BC.

Anthony Gismondi

If you want to know which of your friends is really into wine, check their refrigerator. If you find a chilled bottle of sparkling wine just waiting to be opened for no particular reason, chances are they are wine freaks. Some thirty years down the wine path I’m still baffled by consumer resistance to open, share, and generally drink sparkling wine on a regular basis. It’s almost as if we dare not be seen consuming a product widely associated with “celebrating” something. Confounding the issue is sparkling wine’s ability to pair with an almost infinite number foods. But why dwell on the dreary; it’s time for a break and a great bottle of fizz to celebrate a few days off.

My picks for the holidays are not cheap but if you are only going to celebrate with sparkling wine you might as well drink the best. The Veuve Clicquot 2004 La Grande Dame comes from a large harvest but you would never know it. Big and rich, yes, but with a brightness and acidity that travels throughout. Showing at its peak now but should age gracefully.

Taittinger 2005 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs is not as big as the 2002 or 2004, so it’s ideally situated to drink now, providing breathing room for those wines to continue to age. Elegant as ever and delicate with full flavours.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin La Grande Dame Vintage Brut Champagne 2004 Taittinger Comtes De Champagne Blanc De Blancs Vintage Brut Champagne 2005 Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne Piper Heidsieck Rare Champagne 2002

The delicious Louis Roederer N/V Brut Premier Champagne continues to impress in recent years, especially for the price. Love its cherry, citrus, chalky salty mineral palate. Always classy.

Finally the latest Piper-Heidsieck 2002 Rare Brut is a treat. One of the last tête-de-cuvées to come to the market, it doesn’t look or taste its thirteen years. Balanced and complex consider this serious enough for the dinner table.

Rhys Pender MW

Let’s make no mistake. Bubbly should not be reserved only for this holiday time of the year. Yes, we loosen our wallets a bit more around Christmas and upgrade from Cava to Champagne a little more often but we have to remember that it is fine to drink the sparkling stuff year round.

That said, the holidays are a great chance to try some classy wines and really see what you get for those extra dollars. You should get wines with more intensity, more complex flavours and greater length. They should leave you thinking with each sip. Here are four sparklers I would recommend for this Christmas and New Year.

The first is a delicious chardonnay based wine from the small Philipponnat house. You can currently buy the Philipponnat 2004 Grand Blanc Brut at private stores in BC and it is worth seeking out. Great combination of racy freshness and complex age and autolysis.

Another Champagne that is new to the shelves of the BC Liquor Stores, and new to me, is the Tendil & Lombardi N/V Brut Champagne. On special ’til Jan 2 for $46.99 this has fresh, crisp, racy minerality and just a hint of toastiness. Pairs well with oysters. I tested this personally for you.

Philipponnat Grand Blanc Brut 2004Tendil & Lombardi Champagne Brut Arras Grand Vintage 2004 Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve Champagne

Tasmania is Australia’s Champagne region – making its best sparkling wines. We are lucky to have another wine with some bottle age on the shelf in BC for a special treat. The Arras Grand Vintage 2004, is $60.99 and offers a richer style of wine with lots of developed character and still holding on with freshness. Try it with gougères.

Of the more widely available Champagnes you often end up developing a favourite. Admittedly I have a couple, but perhaps my favourite is the Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve Champagne. This has the combination of toasty richness balanced with crisp, mineral acidity that I look for and it seems more complex and intense than most of its competition.

Treve Ring

Fizz goes with everything from brunch to dinner and intimate date night to grand showy celebrations. And really, everything else. I’ll self award an A for Effort in my attempt to taste as many sparkling wines as possible in 2015. Here are four memorable bottles of bubbles.

The pristine, Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils N/V Brut Rosé de Blancs is for those people who may not generally gravitate towards rosé champagnes (ahem – people like me). Delicate and intense at once, with a chalky textural minerality and precision that befits its 96 percent chardonnay. Four percent still pinot noir from Bouzy is added to the blend, yielding an ever-so-delicate peach hue and whiff of wild strawberries. One of the most memorable wines of my year.

Champagne Vilmart & Cie Grande Réserve N/V Brut Premier Cru is a graceful grower champagne, from premier cru vineyards around the village of Rilly, organically farmed. A fuller cushion of red fruit (red apples, currants) reflects the majority pinot noir in the cépage, balanced out with a vein of bright acidity from the chardonnay and plumped up with a minimum of ten months ferment and aging in oak.

Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Brut Rosé de Blancs Champagne Vilmart & Cie Grande Réserve Brut Premier Cru Coates & Seely Hampshire Reserve Brut Haywire The Bub Bottle Fermented & Aged

You’ve probably heard about British bubble, and now you can taste it, with the first to our province, Coates & Seely Hampshire N/V Reserve Brut, currently on shelves. This is a tiny, hands-on, traditional method (Méthode Britannique) sparkling house. Salt, wet chalk, lemon pith and subtle earthiness rings on the intense nose and palate before a bite of crunchy, citrus-spun acids. Charms with honest exuberance.

It’s always rewarding to see local wines shine and stand shoulder to shoulder with their peers worldwide. That’s what I thought when I tasted the latest Haywire The Bub, Bottle Fermented & Aged 2013. Pinot noir and chardonnay from cooler sites in Summerland and Oliver were used in this crisp, bright, bone dry (brut zero) fizz. Stock up, drink up.


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!

Zalto Wine Glasses

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20 Under $20 in BC : December 2015

Merriment & Cheer

‘Tis the season for holiday entertaining. Whether it’s trimming the tree, holiday parties or Christmas dinner, wine factors in often, and among this group, liberally. What better way to spread merriment than by sharing a bottle of wine with friends and family? We’ve selected 20 bottles that that will see you through the seasons’ festivities while leaving money for your holiday cheer.

~ TR

BC Critics

Anthony Gismondi

My goal was to cover all your holiday entertaining with six wines. I figure a half case of each should get you through the New Year and leave you some leftovers for the odd dinner or night off.

We begin with chardonnay – everyone loves it, especially from California. Our pick is the Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Chardonnay 2013 from California. It’s drier and fresher than you might think and capable of flying solo without food if needed.

You’ll need a cabernet but under $20 makes it challenging. A capable performer at a giveaway price is the El Esteco Don David Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 from Cafayate, Argentina.

Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay 2013El Esteco Don David Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013Tabalí Reserva Pinot Noir 2013

Pinot noir will be required by those who prefer a softer red with gentle tannins, something you can sip all night. Enter Tabali Reserva Pinot Noir 2013 from Limari, Chile.

Of course, you should make sure you have a crowd-friendly sauvignon blanc on hand so I’m thinking Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014. It is all Aconcagua Costa fruit, quiet and fresh on the palate forsaking pungency for finesse. Great with holiday party snacks.

Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014Rio Madre Rioja 2012Château Pesquié Terrasses 2013

You need a geeky wine for the hipster crowd so I’m calling Rio Madre Rioja 2012. Rioja is not so geeky but when it’s made with 100 per cent graciano, it’s a bit off the beaten path. Round, soft and super ripe it slides down easily with party bites.

My under twenty red blend comes from the south of France where all the top values in wine reside. Château Pesquié Ventoux Les Terrasses 2013 is a 60/40 Rhone blend of grenache and syrah, or almost. There are traces of carignan, cinsault and mourvèdre. Expect a spicy black pepper nose with a fine dose of juicy, red fruits.

Rhys Pender MW

It’s that season again: friends and family drop in for a glass of wine and too much good food by the fire. It is important to have a selection of wine on hand to suit whatever situation may arise – be it charcuterie, sweets, oysters, etc. Here are my tips for five wines to get you through the holidays in festive style.

Bubbly – you must have good inexpensive bubbly on hand. Of course Champagne works best if your budget stretches that far but you don’t have to spend a lot to get decent bubbly. Cava is the best value and there are plenty of them on sale at the BCLDB this December. One of my favourites (unfortunately not on sale but worth it anyway) is the Parés Baltà Brut. It is crisp and zingy with some nice minerality. I’ve been slipping a lot of Cava into making some French 75s lately. So get some Gin and lemon juice and try out this delicious cocktail too.

Hopefully oysters are involved this holiday party period. While the Parés Baltà Brut will work as a good pairing, I would have on hand some crisp, mineral white that will go with oysters as well as many other little nibblies. I like the raciness of Muscadet and in BC the Château De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2013 is always a safe bet.

Parés Baltà Cava BrutChâteau De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2013Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages Combes Aux Jacques 2013Clos Des Miran Visan 2013Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage 2010

I also like to have a light juicy red on hand. This kind of wine is perfect with charcuterie and other savoury snacks. Get some top quality iberico ham, copa, salami, some olives and the like and crack open a bottle of Beaujolais. Nothing can go wrong. A good value choice is the Jadot 2013 Beaujolais-Villages – Combe Aux Jacques. Light, juicy, fresh and very tasty.

A soft warming red is also always a good idea to have around the house, one that is delicious around the fire or with anything meaty. The Rhône Valley and the Languedoc are always the source of many interesting and affordable wines. The Moillard 2013 Clos des Miran Côtes du Rhône-Villages Visan is fresh and lively as well as soft and silky and will be a good all rounder.

In the cool, winter holiday season it also seems like the perfect time to drink Port. There is plenty of great value Port out there, particularly in the Late Bottled Vintage category. The Taylor Fladgate LBV will be the perfect match to Christmas pudding as well as blue cheese and many of the baked goodies that appear at this time of year. You can get a half bottle for under $15 or spring for a larger version for under $25.

Treve Ring

So much joy to the world and decking of halls goes on this month, and much of it last minute. It’s best to stock up in advance so you can be prepared. With these tasty value wines, you can afford to pick up and stash a few. Maybe leave one out for Santa…

Of course, fizz. Always fizz. It wouldn’t be the holidays – or any day at the Trevehouse ending in ‘Y’ without it. Prosecco is certainly in its zenith right now, so it would well suit you to have a crisp, elegant and lively example like Vaporetto Prosecco Brut NV chilled and on hand at all times.

So impressed by the 2014 Tinhorn Creek Gewürztraminer. Always a strength of the winery, but the latest vintage has everything dialed in – especially the concentration of the 20 year old vines.

Vaporetto Prosecco BrutTinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer 2014Quails' Gate Chardonnay 2014Fontanafredda Gavi Di Gavi 2014

Always a smart move to have some chardonnay on hand, especially when its as star bright and food friendly as the Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2014. The juicy, medium bodied and lifted with bright lemon zest acidity – your new house local.

The classic Fontanafredda Gavi Di Gavi 2014 is as current and delicious now as it ever was. Almonds, herbed honey, citrus and cracked stone aromas lead through to a salty, snappy finish. Shellfish, anyone?

Okanagan Crush Pad’s Narrative line is meant to be pure, fresh, seriously quaffable wines that reflect the Okanagan – all at an affordable price. This current twinset of Narratives certainly reflect that credo, with the 2014 Red a juicy syrah and gamay blend and the 2014 White a fresh, floral blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, gewürztraminer and pinot gris.

No matter if you’re doing turkey, chicken, ham or salmon for Christmas dinner, a light, juicy, bright red will cover off all. I urge you to #GoGamayGo, with a lovely Cru Beaujolais like Domaine Lathuiliere Pisse Vieille Brouilly 2012. 50 year old vines, sustainably raised, precise and stony and structured – for this price?! Holiday miracle (though buy enough to drink year round).

Okanagan Crush Pad Narrative Red 2014Okanagan Crush Pad Narrative White 2014Domaine Lathuiliere Pisse Vieille Brouilly 2012Undurraga Sibaris Carmenere Reserva 2013Amalaya Vino Tinto De Altura 2013

When you’re home for a warming beef or root veg stew, reach for a bottle of the equally warming and rustic Undurraga Sibaris Carmenere Reserva Especial 2013, a full-bodied earth and tobacco laden red from Chile’s Colchagua Valley that will stand up to hearty dishes.

For a full bodied red in a more precise, perfumed style, hop across the Andes to Argentina’s high desert and the 2000m high vineyards of Amalaya Vino Tinto de Altura 2013. Malbec, cabernet sauvignon and syrah has never shown so concentrated – and lifted – at once. Suitable for beef tenderloin or lamb.


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, the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry, as well as Treve’s Travels,  a periodic trip to the world’s wine regions. 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!

Wolf Blass Here's to the Chase

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20 Under $20 in BC : November 2015

A Brisk November

Though often thought of as a breather month between holidays, November has proven brisk for WineAlign West – and not only due to the temperature. Anthony has been travelling around Australia the past couple of weeks with a Vancouver Sun group (hence sitting out this month’s 20 Under $20), DJ is fresh off duties as head judge for the Vancouver Magazine International Wine Competition – which all four of us WineAlign Westers judged at – as well as leading trade and consumer classes at Cornucopia. Rhys has been babysitting ferments and getting his Similkameen vineyard ready for winter as well as finalizing the BC Wine Appellation Task Group findings, which he’ll be covering in this month’s upcoming BC Wine Report. Meanwhile, I’m gearing up for Italy next week for a taste of Franciacorta and look at Lombardy.

Yes – brisk is good, and refreshing. Our 20 Under $20 will refresh both your wallet and palate this month.

~ TR

BC Crictic Team


Rhys Pender MW

At this time of year when there is less time spent outside due to the change in weather I always start thinking more about cooking. Flicking through cookbooks turns into long, intensive sessions in the kitchen making complex but rewarding dishes. Part of the fun is finding a perfect wine to go with these dishes.

I like to make choucroute garnie at this time of year, a good dish to fatten you up for the winter. The slow cooked, smoky pork and sauerkraut is perfect with a light juicy red such as Beaujolais but even better with a solid Riesling. The new Intrigue 2014 made by Roger Wong is a great match.

I also recently whipped up a batch of empanadas. With their meaty filling you would first think of going to a red wine, but in Argentina they contrast the empanadas with the crispness of Torrontès. I went for a similar theme but using the local Maverick Sauvignon Blanc 2014. Bertus Albertyn is really stepping it up with his wines in recent years and this is a great value rich yet fresh Sauvignon.

Intrigue Riesling 2014 Maverick Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Campo Viejo Reserva 2009 CedarCreek Chardonnay 2013 Lustau Puerto Fino Solera Reserva

With meat cooked outdoors over the fire with the chill of fall keeping you close to the warmth of the flames, practically any hearty red wine will do. But a particularly good pairing is something that is both flavoursome and also has a bit of complexity. And for under $20 the Campo Viejo Riserva Rioja is a great deal.

A little extra butter is always needed in the fall, right?, particularly when searing off some nice BC prawns or scallops. The elegant and surprisingly complex for the price CedarCreek 2013 Chardonnay has some nice lemon freshness and complexity to match perfectly.

Something a little different and quite interesting for many palates is Fino Sherry. It is all about context. Try a bottle of the Lustau Puerto Fino with some green olives, nuts, tapas or little pieces of deep fried seafood and you will probably get what Fino is all about.

DJ Kearney

World Wine Awards of CanadaRepresenting colossal value, these five picks shone at our World Wine Awards of Canada, held in Toronto at the end of August.

First in the glass is a long-time BC hero, Gray Monk 2014 Gewurztraminer has extra depth and freshness from a warm, quality vintage. Pair with Sunday French toast.

On a dryer note, Matua Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from Marlborough expresses pungent, tropical juicy white to a T.  The aqua label always cheers me up.

Back to Argentina for a pinot grigio that’s a sound alternative to Italian grigio. From one of the oldest of Argentina’s wine regions, Graffigna Centenario Pinot Grigio 2014 is bone dry, with streamlined fruit and an unbeatable price tag.

Gray Monk Gewurztraminer 2014 Matua Hawke's Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Graffigna Centenario Reserve Pinot Grigio 2014 Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Finally the only red of my quintet is one of Chile’s acknowledged value stars, Medalla Real Gran Reserva 2010 from the Maipo Valley, affectionately nicknamed ‘the Bordeaux of South America’. Pure cassis fruit, supple tannins and a gravelly finish make it a great choice for skirt steak and zesty chimichurri sauce. It’s a few cents above our $20 limit, but it defines colossal value to me.

Back to budget, you can’t do better than Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. The fruit comes from Langhorne Creek, a quality region in Oz for cabernet, and it will have you craving a good old fashioned meat pie.

Treve Ring

Of course, fizz. Always fizz. One striking value is the organic Parés Baltà Cava Brut, with 18 months on the lees and wild herbs and cracked stone dominating this green apple crisp sparkler.

Spier 2013 Chenin Blanc is a stellar steen from Stellenbosch – and a steal at $14. No oak influence allows the youthful, citrus and honeysuckle fruit to shine. And on the topic of shining citrusy fruit, the new BC VQA Okanagan Valley Fern Walk label brings a bit of Kiwi to BC with the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. Gooseberry, tart lemon, guava and asparagus will let you support the home team while thinking New Zealand.

Parés Baltà Cava Brut Spier Signature Chenin Blanc 2013 Fern Walk Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Mistaken Identity Journey 2014 Volcanic Hills Gewurztraminer 2013

Speaking of local, how many wines from BC’s Wine Islands do you get to try? Mistaken Identity Winery is located on Saltspring Island, and their 2014 Journey an estate blend of pinot gris, ortega, siegerrebe, madeline angevine, madeline sylvaner and reichensteiner. Expect apricot, peach and apple blossoms to flow from the nose to the juicy, off-dry palate of this lighter bodied aromatic white. And with a pleasant 11.5 percent alcohol, this could be a new favourite brunching go-to. Or pick from the orchard basket of the Okanagan for the Volcanic Hills 2013 Gewurztraminer, where marmalade, lime pith and anise are lifted with rosewater and moderate acidity. Chinese take-out pairing wine.

For warming alongside braised chicken thighs (and a fireplace), Chile’s Vina Undurraga 2013 Sibaris Pinot Noir will do the trick, its smoked red pepper and poultry spice seasoning the juicy palate. Also in Chile, the Leyda 2012 Reserve Syrah impresses for its ripe fruit framed with firm oak; a compact little syrah. If you’re looking for riper, plusher, plumper and sweeter fruited reds, Sumac Ridge 2013 Merlot Private Reserve will suit.

Undurraga Sibaris Reserva Pinot Noir 2013 Leyda Reserva Syrah 2012 Sumac Ridge Merlot Private Reserve 2013 Alamos Malbec 2013 Fresita Sparkling Wine Infused With Strawberries

Across the Andes, the Alamos 2013 Malbec from Catena Zapata is a potpourri of exotic spices swirled with sweet vanilla, perfumed musk, violets, cassis and blackberry jam. Pour this concentrated red with hearty, fragrant lamb roasts. (The 2014 is

And for an effortless dessert, sweet starter, or indulgent breakfast, reach for Fresita, a bold pink sparkling chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and muscatel blend infused with organic strawberries from Patagonia. A bright cranberry acidity helps tame the sweetness and a foamy mousse keeps it light and fun.


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!

13th Street Winery - Giving a Voice to the Vines

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Cellaring wines, try those which are drinkable now

Caveman Speaks
By Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I recently had one of “those” chats with a wine lover and collector.

“You must have a big cellar,” he asked.

“Yeah pretty big I guess,” I replied. “I have around a thousand bottles.”

The fellow listed off a number of classic wine cellar bottles that he figured I must surely have stored away. There were top flight Bordeaux, hard to get Burgundy, the “superest’ of the Super-Tuscans, as well as a few “icon” wines I had tasted from new world places but frankly have never considered buying.

“I don’t know man, I don’t have any of those,” I answered with a shrug of my shoulders.

The fellow, a bit stupefied that a big time wine critic doesn’t share his penchant for the fancy bottles, then asked what made up my collection. So what do I have in my cellar? I do have a few expensive wines crated up. But the vast majority of wines gathering glorious dust in my basement are bottles that cost under $40 and have as their primary appeal one and only one characteristic: drinkability.

The money myth of cellaring wines

The most common misconception about cellaring wines is that you need to spend lots of money on a wine and then wait over a decade to drink them. Well, I don’t have that much available cash to spend on really expensive wines and to be honest, these big red wines (my cellar is half white wines by the way) are often tannic, concentrated and so heavily oaked they melt your teeth in their youth. Patience, they say, will be rewarded.

If there is one thing that I have learned over my 25 year career in wine, it’s that:

1 – I’m impatient.

2 – I don’t believe any wine on this planet is worth much more than $100 a bottle.

3 – If a wine doesn’t turn you on in its youth, it doesn’t matter how long you let it age, you probably won’t like it much more later.

Produttori Del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2010 Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 2008 Treana Red 2009 Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Sure my beloved Barolo and Barbarescos can be quite tannic in their youth, but they are still very drinkable and rarely show much in terms of oak. Try the 2010 Barbaresco from Produttori del Barbaresco and you will see that at $40, you can get ageable and drinkable all in one package. Or what’s even better, many Barolo houses only release their bottles after they have already aged. Try the 2008 Dardi le Rose, Bussia from Poderi Cola. Under $50, it’s good for now and the long term future.

For those of you with a New World palate, I have noticed more and more wines showcasing fruit that’s ripe and not overripe, and with less emphasis on all the oak. The 2009 Trenna Red from Austin Hope is a perfect example of this, as is the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags’ Leap.

“Icon” wine?

Domaine De La Vieille Julienne Lieu Dit Clavin 2013 Le Clos Du Caillou Bouquet Des Garrigues 2012The quotation marks should be heavily bolded around the word icon. Somehow this word which is used to denote “an object of uncritical devotion” has been usurped by wineries the world over to draw consumer attention to their top wine. These wines, which for the most part are excessively concentrated and were raised in new and expensive oak barrels, often make me dream of simpler times, and simpler wines.

The reality is that anyone can make these super concentrated wines, and if you have enough cash, you can buy new barrels. But terroir is not democratic, and the majority of the world’s terroirs produce grapes with moderate complexity that are best made into good quality table wines. There is nothing wrong with that; in fact, I revere wineries that can produce a great wine for $20-$30. While these wines will age and get better in the short term, three to five years, the beauty is that they can also be drunk now.

I have been drinking lots of grenache-based wines from southern France these days and they are perfect example of this. The 2012 Clos de Caillou, Garrigues is a remarkable grenache-dominant Côtes du Rhône which will reward with just a modicum of patience. On a similar vein, the 2013 Lieu Dit Clavin from Vieille Julienne is an inspired effort at under $30.

White is definitely right

When I’m asked why I have so much white wine in my cellar, my answer is that for me it is more of a sure thing for aging than red wines. That’s right. I have had great success with wines with striking acidity like the 2014 Vacheron from Sancerre. I recently opened a 2009 Saint Joseph from Pierre Gaillard and it was mind blowing. I am sure the 2014 will be of equal magnitude in three to five years.

Wines that combine acidity and sugar, like riesling, are simply hard to kill. I have been lucky enough to taste verticals of Cave Spring’s CSV and the extra depth and complexity that these wines gain, in a relatively short time frame, is remarkable. The 2013 is a classic example of the worthiness of the Niagara terroir’s ability to produce great quality riesling at a decent price. I have also stocked up on the 2012 Charles Baker Picone Riesling. I just hope that I can refrain from drinking them down too soon.

Domaine Vacheron Sancerre 2014Pierre Gaillard St Joseph 2014Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012

The bottom line is that many people are afraid from starting wine cellars because they feel that one needs to spend enormous amounts of money on wines. This is simply not the case. Any wine done with a modicum of care will gain complexity with even a few years in a wine cellar. So if you buy a wine, no matter what the price, and love drinking it now, then throw a few in your basement. Chances are that it will be even better in the not-so-distant future.

Until next time.


“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial

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


Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Gourmet Games - Nov 17

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20 Under $20 in BC : October 2015

Cool nights, warming wines

Looking over our picks this month it’s clear that the team is starting to layer on the sweaters and fill our glasses with some warming reds and whites (save for DJ Kearney, currently on the road in Portugal). Simple and easy – on the pocketbook and palate – these 20 will match to autumn’s foodstuffs and sliding temperatures. Bonus – all of these lightly tannic, fruity reds and weightier whites will work with your Thanksgiving turkey plans.

~ TR

BC Crictic Team

Anthony Gismondi

It’s mushroom season again. Just like sausages, there are very few inexpensive red wines that don’t taste better paired with them. Today’s cross-section of picks spans the wine world and all should provide just the right flavour and weight to carry a cool fall evening.

Montepulciano is a great transition wine to winter and the Colle Secco Rubino Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010 with its clean fresh red fruit and licorice root flavours is the perfect mushroom quiche wine.

From Chile, the Santa Carolina Reserva Pinot Noir Casablanca Estate 2013 is soft and sippable but with enough fruit and spice to stand up to those earthy mushroom flavours of a creamy chanterelles pasta dish.

Tollo Colle Secco Mentepulciano D'abruzzo 2010 Santa Carolina Reserva Pinot Noir 2013Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhone Réserve 2012Pierre Henri Morel Signargues Côtes du Rhône Villages 2012Kismet Karma 2013

Is there better value red wine in Canada at the moment than Cotes du Rhone? Debatable – especially if we’re talking about the Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Rouge Réserve 2012. Fresh and inviting, the juicy palate brims with plummy, ripe raspberry fruit flavours, spice and dried herbs.

On the same theme, the Pierre Henri Morel Signargues Cotes du Rhone Villages 2012 and its savoury garrigue flavours match up well with a heady mushroom risotto.

Locally, look to an almost Bordeaux blend from the south Okanagan. Kismet Estate Karma 2013 adds syrah to the classic varieties and makes for a rounder, softer red. Works very well with lamb and mushroom kebobs.

Rhys Pender MW

I feel like I’ve had some pretty interesting wines lately. The stores seem full of lighter, juicier reds and whites and restaurant lists in Vancouver are much more interesting than I’ve experienced in the past. People are getting a little creative. And luckily there are some very drinkable and very interesting wines for under $20.

The Zenato 2013 Soave Classico is a good example of what Soave should be. Crisp, fresh but still with a bit of weight to make it a versatile food wine.

Of similar style, and a great example of what BC can do with the grape, is the Joie Farm Pinot Blanc 2014. It is interesting, crisp, yet still with weight and a nice grip to stand up to many dishes. I wish more people took pinot blanc seriously and made these kind of great value wines.

Zenato Soave Classico 2013 Joie Farm Pinot Blanc 2014 Rilento Nerello Mascalese 2013 Jean Maurice Raffault Les Galuches Chinon 2013 Gabriel Meffre Plan De Dieu St Mapalis 2013

Onto the light, fresh and juicy reds. The first is the Rilento 2013 Nerello Mascalese. So light and lively and very quaffable. Along the same lines is the Jean Maurice Raffault Les Galuches Chinon 2013. This time cabernet franc, but ticks all the same boxes.

A lot bigger and riper and richer is the well priced Gabriel Meffre Plan De Dieu St Mapalis 2013. Pruney and full-bodied, it brings a nice range of flavours for the price.

Treve Ring

No matter the weather, it’s always a good idea to have a few fizz in the fridge. They pair with everything, including autumn days. The modern styled (and white-wrapped stylish) Anna de Codorníu Blanc de Blancs NV is a killer way to start the meal with its racy green apple, almonds, grass, lemon pith and peel and a sprinkle of sea salt. Bright, lively and finessed. BC’s St. Hubertus Frizzante Rosé 2014 brings off-dry, lightly sparkling rosé to your canapés hour. Strawberry jam, mandarin and cherry gummies are lifted with a zip of spritz, while rhubarb tartness reins in the sweetness. The Lini Lambrusco Rosso 910 NV has enough red berry depth, plum compote and tannin to tackle lighter proteins and heavier root vegetables, plus fresh and taut acidity to carry them. All this with gentle fizz – never a negative.

Okanagan Falls’ Meyer Family Winery is best known for their chardonnay and pinot noir, so don’t let their off-dry, Asian pear and white pepper laced Riesling 2014 slip under your radar.

Codorniu Anna De Codorniu Brut St Hubertus Frizzante Rose 2014 Lini 910 Labrusca Lambrusco Rosso Meyer Riesling 2014 Clos Du Soleil Grower's Series Pinot Blanc 2014

For a richer, creamier white, look west to the Similkameen, and Clos du Soleil Grower’s Series Pinot Blanc Middle Bench Vineyard 2014. Perfumed orchard fruits carry onto the bright palate, where subtle honey, lightly creamy lees and ample fine stony spice comes into play. Lovely, stone-driven, elegant and bright example of what pinot blanc, handled well, can achieve.

Parker Station Pinot Noir 2014 bills itself the tastiest pinot noir you can afford to drink, and who’s to argue? Pinot noir from Monterey, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo are blended into this perfumed, easy pinot, packed with fragrant and ripe raspberry, strawberry and cherry, while a riff of light toasty tannins keeps everything in place.

Always a great value, Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Pinot Noir 2013 can do double duty with your turkey dinner and the leftover turkey cranberry sandwiches the next day. The juicy, easy red carries fine black tea tannins, ripe black cherry, light earthiness and plump plummy fruit with light cedar spices on the finish. An identifiable and approachable pinot noir for under $20 – challenging no matter what part of the world you’re from, but particularly impressive from high-cost BC.

Parker Station Pinot Noir 2014 Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Pinot Noir 2013 The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2013 Errazuriz Estate Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Vinas Don Martin Los Dos Corte D'oro 2012

From the Western Cape of South Africa, Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap 2013 is a medium bodied blend of syrah, mourvèdre and viognier. Perfumed black plums, cassis, cracked spices and black pepper comes courtesy of syrah, which rules the packed palate. Ample tannins tend slightly sticky, but support well the ripe, wild, perfumed fruit. An impressive twist on your typical syrah, and impressive value.

If you’re going for a hearty roast beef or lamb to warm you, reach for the excellent value Chilean Errazuriz Estate Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. This firm Maipo Valley cabernet carries graphite, cassis, black cherry across a savoury, structured frame. Or pop across the Andes and crack the top on Vinas Don Martin Los Dos Corte d’Oro 2012, a high altitude (1000m) malbec from Mendoza. Though the density here is undeniable, so is the lifted affect of altitude – the freshness propping up all the brooding black cherry, wild blackberry, black plum and undercurrent of tar.


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, the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry, as well as Treve’s Travels,  a periodic trip to the world’s wine regions. 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!

Painted Rock Estate Winery

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20 Under $20 in BC : September 2015

A Fresh Fall Start

Back to school, to work, to the vineyards, to harvest. And for us critics, mid-harvest in the Northern hemisphere signals the season of serious tasting. It seems every day this month is dotted with portfolio tastings or new release launches. We’re tasting them all, looking for the best value for your buying dollar, like the 20 wines we’ve found below.

~ TR

BC Crictic Team

Anthony Gismondi

The corollary to eating local is drinking seasonal and as the rains return to the coast and temperatures moderate, wines that were not in play all summer return to favour. This fall we suggest you consider moving past the notion of changing colours, (red wine for all that rosé or white you have been drinking all summer) and think more about texture and weight. Take pinot noir for example: the colour is light but the flavour can be big, too big for a warm summer day. Tannin and alcohol is more appreciated with arrival of cool nights. Fall is also a great season to sip those richer California chardonnays and while rosé isn’t completely out, the move from the super light Provence style to the richer pinks of Tavel probably make more sense.

Tabalí Reserva Pinot Noir 2013 Château Peyros Tannat Cabernet 2010 Maverick Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Vistalba Corte C Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon Bonarda 2014

Today we switch to fall with four very different wines all suited to cooler days and nights. The Tabali Reserva Pinot Noir 2013 from the cool climate Limari Valley in Chile is a great way to slip into fall. Grown less than thirty kilometers from the cold Pacific Ocean it is the perfect match for BC salmon. For bigger structure and weight try the Chateau Peyros Madiran Tannat Cabernet Franc 2010 from Madiran, France. You will love its rich meaty, smoky, black fruit finish. Pair it with grilled flank steak. The 2014 growing season was one of the warmest in BC since 1998 and 2003 for both heat and length and you can feel it and taste it in the Maverick Estate Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2014. Expect classic sauvignon aromatics with ripe almost sweet honey grassy pink grapefruit flavours. Finally fall is malbec season and malbec blends may be even more appealing. I’m a big fan of the Vistalba Corte C Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon Bonarda 2014, from Luján de Cuyo, in Mendoza, Argentina and the 2014 is easily the most approachable version of this wine we have seen in years. Elegance and style is the hallmark of this year and makes it a perfect restaurant pick. And now, back to school. 

Rhys Pender MW

“Everything should start with bubbly.” A quote I like to live by. To this end, a few weeks ago I decided to buy all the of the inexpensive Cava in BC and taste them blind to find which one truly deserved to be sitting in my fridge waiting for the next something to start. The winner was the very inexpensive Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut. It has a little autolysis complexity and seemed the driest and most refreshing.

As the weather gets cooler, I find myself more looking for wines that aren’t just pure refreshment but also with a little something something. Complexity, different flavours, something a little interesting. Okanagan Crush Pad is making many such wines and really pushing the boundaries for BC. One wine I recently found interesting is the Narrative White 2013, an interesting mouthful of flavour and with the texture and intensity to make it a great food wine.

Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava Okanagan Crush Pad Narrative White 2013 Mcwilliam's Appellation Series Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2013 Sumac Ridge Private Reserve Gewürztraminer 2014 Bleasdale Second Innings Malbec 2012

Another great value and rather complex and interesting wine is part of McWilliam’s wines appellation series. From the cool, higher altitude vineyards of Tumbarumba comes the pretty slick McWilliam’s 2013 Appellation Series Chardonnay. It is in the modern Australian style of lively, crisp, nutty and refreshing, nothing like the old school fat butter and oak versions of a decade or so ago. At $20 this is a great way to see what good Aussie Chardonnay tastes like.

A wine that surprised me recently is the Sumac Ridge Private Reserve Gewurztraminer 2014. For many years one of the biggest selling British Columbian wines it has had mixed success over recent vintages, often weak and dilute. The 2014 is a happy jump back to a good level of intensity and flavour and this should be a great $15 option with some umami rich Asian food.

The last wine is a well-priced, characterful option for those chilly September nights. Good with a hearty stew or sausages, the Bleasdale 2012 Second Innings Malbec from Langhorne Creek in Australia has lots of spicy character to stand up to some flavourful dishes.

DJ Kearney

In celebration of Cape Wine 2015, my picks are a small sample of the South African wine treasure trove. I attended Cape Wine’s last show in 2013 and it was a remarkable time of discovery and delight… but I also felt a touch of regret that we don’t have a greater selection available here in BC. My choices are firm value picks, and while the Cape makes some of the world’s most thrilling and perhaps it’s true to say underappreciated, under-distributed wines (Crystallum, Chamonix, Porseleinberg), there are stunning values at every pricepoint. The Cape winelands rival the most beautiful in the world, and four visits to SA have left my heart aching at the profound vistas. Yes the vineyards are 16,000+ kilometers away from Vancouver, but it’s well worth the effort. *Treve Ring is off to Cape Wine this week for the first time, and will report back on her discoveries on WineAlign.

Goats do Roam White 2014 and Goats do Roam Red 2014 are ultra-reliable blends that evoke the Rhone as much as their Cape character, and will spring into action with end-of-summer barbeques of pork chops and bacon burgers.

Goats do Roam White 2014 Goats Do Roam Red 2014 The Grinder Pinotage 2013 K W V Roodeberg 2013

Pinotage, the unique South African crossing of pinot noir and cinsault creates polarizing wines, none more perhaps than the deliberate wine-as-coffee styles. The Grinder Pinotage 2013 is one of these mocha incarnations, but there is enough pure fruit from dry-farmed vines to counter the smoky espresso oak treatment.

In complete contrast, KWV Roodeberg Red 2013 is an unwavering Cape classic, and in this vintage a big shwack of syrah (in my mind a great, great grape in the Cape) bolsters cabernet sauvignon handsomely. 

Treve Ring

Yes, I know it’s autumn – shortly. In the meantime, while I absorb up the last of late summer sunbeams, I will enjoy Cono Sur 2014 Bicicleta Pinot Noir Rosé’s sun-ripened sweetness and Bio-Bio’s breezy freshness. From nearby Leyda Valley, The Leyda 2014 Reserva Sauvignon Blanc will brighten gloomy fall days with its tropical tangerine notes and fine stony spice, especially poured with warming pea soup.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir Rose 2014 Leyda Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Masi Modello delle Venezie Bianco 2013 Quails' Gate Gewurztraminer 2014

If mussels are in your bowl (lucky you) there are a couple of options. Masi 2013 Modello Bianco delle Venezie would complement a classic shallot and white wine sauce preparation, with its citrus blossom, almond and earthy notes, while if you’re thinking about preparing with a light green curry sauce, tuck into Quails’ Gate Vineyards 2014 Estate Gewurztraminer, with lemon, pear and melon leading the oily palate, and complementing the fragrant curry spices.

Chenin Blanc is one of my dearest grapes, so I was quite pleased to taste the waxy Inniskillin Okanagan 2014 Discovery Series Chenin Blanc, with yellow apples, medicinal herbs, apricots and a bracing wild mint note. It proved quite lovely with roasted pork tenderloin, as did the chewy Vigneti Zabu 2013 Il Passo Nerello Mascalese e Nero d’Avola, a warm blend of nerello mascalese and nero d’avola that utilizes Sicilian sun power to naturally raisinate the fruit, upping its intensity.

Inniskillin Okanagan Discovery Series Chenin Blanc 2014 Il Passo Nerello Mascalese E Nero D'avola Vigneti Zabu 2013 Charles De Fere Brut Merite Mousseux Premium

Of course, any meal is complemented by bubbles. A new one to watch for is the Charles de Fère Brut Merite Mousseux Premium. This light, dry, mouthfilling French sparkling blends This traditional method blancs de noir blends merlot, grenache, pinot noir and gamay before resting twelve months on the lees. Pour liberally, especially at this price.


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!

Painted Rock Estate Winery

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Margaret Swaine’s Spirits Review – August 2015

Let the Cocktail Fit the CountryAugust 10, 2015

by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine 

During the Pan Am Games in Toronto, the InterContinental’s Azure Lounge matched drinks with sports and their countries. This was the ultimate “let the cocktail fit the country” exercise and reminded me that there are some places in the world where their cocktails are as iconic as their top tourist sites.

Azure’s “Beach Volleyball” cocktail took the fact that Brazil is a power house in beach volleyball and matched it with the country’s most famous spirit, cachaça to make their version of a Caipirinha, the country’s favourite cocktail. Azure’s recipe calls for two ounces of cachaça, one lime quartered and a teaspoon of white sugar. You muddle the lime and white sugar in a shaker, add ice and cachaça, shake and pour into rocks glass (no straining) for the ultimate refreshing hot weather cocktail. (Up the sugar or lower the lime if you want a less tart beverage.)

The Caipirinha came to be in the 1800s, first made by Brazilian slaves. They drank boiled cane sugar juice called garapa and mixed it with cachaça made from sugar cane. For flavour they added spice and fruit juice. One of these mixes, the batida de limao, which is made with lime, is the base of today’s Caipirinha.

In Rio de Janeiro’s trendy Santa Teresa district, the restaurant Aprazível has its own cachaça sommelier, and a cachaça list with over 100 brands, organized under the states that produce them. Cachaça is distilled from fresh sugar cane juice: the best come from artisanal pot still production in regions such as Salinas in Minas Gerais state, Paraty in Rio de Janeiro state and Monte Alegre do Sul in São Paulo state and can be aged in wood barrels for many years.

Pitú Cachaça founded in 1938 claims to be one of the oldest and most traditional spirit companies in Brazil. If you want to make copious Caipirinhas without breaking the bank this is the brand for you. Leblon Cachaça rests up to six months in vintage XO cognac casks to lend it a sophistication and ultra-smooth character.

The Pisco Sour is long claimed by both the Peruvians and the Chileans as their national drink. Pisco is basically a white brandy (unaged) made from certain varieties of distilled grapes. In Peru they add egg white to the basic mix of Pisco, lime juice and sugar syrup and top that with a dash of angostura bitters. Beyond the slight difference in drink recipes (in Chile no egg white or angostura) is the battle over who owns the rights to Pisco.

Pisco is Peru according to the Peruvian government. The country has a town of Pisco that overlooks the Pisco River at the foot of the Pisco Valley. The town dates back to 1574. Melanie Asher, founder and CEO of Macchupisco, a leading Peruvian producer and exporter, rightly says Pisco is a deeply ingrained part of the culture of the country.

Chile however produces much more of the grape liquor and both countries have strict regulations governing its production. That said under the Chilean system, water may be added to dilute the alcohol content before sale while in Peru this is not allowed.

Pitu Cachaca Leblon Cachaca Macchu Pisco El Gobernador Pisco Capel Premium Pisco

Pisco has been produced in the Pisco region of southern Peru since 1613 while the first documented evidence of Pisco production in Chile dates no further than 1871. However to complicate things, in 1693 Peru and Chile were not separate countries, rather part of the same territory within the Spanish viceroyalty of Peru, and Chile also has a town named Pisco.

Suffice to say both countries have strong claims to Pisco and don’t wish to give an inch to the other. And indeed they both insist they invented the Pisco Sour. The Peruvians say it was conceived in the 1920s at the Morris Bar near Lima’s main plaza. The Chileans say it was invented at a bar in the town of Iquique. Whatever the truth – Pisco sours are delicious and a must order in either country.

Macchu Pisco from Chincha, Valle de Ina, Peru is a single grape Pisco (quebranta) that’s very aromatic and flavour packed. El Gobernador Pisco from Valle di Limari in Chile is produced in a single discontinuous distillation in copper alembic stills to conserve the scents of the muscatel variety. Capel Pisco from a cooperative in the Elqui Valley in Chile is delicate and fragrant.

The Caribbean is the home of rum and to protect its provenance, The Authentic Caribbean Rum (ACR) marque was recently developed by the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association. Most islands have both their indigenous rums and their special drinks. On Bermuda it’s the “dark ’n stormy” Goslings Rum hovering above ginger beer. On Cuba the Daiquiri, a simple mix of rum, sugar syrup and lime juice was made famous by Ernest Hemingway at the El Floridita Bar in Havana which he frequented.

St. Lucia Distillers Chairman's Reserve Rum Skipper Rum Finest Old Demerara Navy Dark Rum New Grove Old Tradition 5 Year Old Rum El Dorado 3 Year Old RumChic Choc Spiced Rum

Try these rums in your cocktails for spirited results: St. Lucia Distillers Chairman’s Reserve is a hand crafted blend of double distilled pot and continuous rums. Skipper Rum is a finest old demerara, produced and aged in Guyana and New Grove Old Tradition is a five year aged Mauritius Island rum.

For a light rum effect try El Dorado 3 Year Old White Rum, that’s smooth on the palate with a dry finish. Want spice and flavour – go for Chic Choc spiced rum from Quebec which launched this year. A true taste of Nova Scotia can be had with Fortress rum matured in Louisbourg, a national historic site in the province – right now available in Nova Scotia and trying to expand its horizons in Canada.

Luigi Francoli Grappa Del Piemonte Nebbiolo Nonino GrappaGrappa is synonymous with Italy though not known for its appearance in cocktails. Nonino, one of the best producers is trying to change that with the Nonino Tonic and other recipes, some found on the neck of the Grappa Nonino bottles on the shelves now. Luigi Francoli Grappa Nebbiolo, is value priced from a family that has been distilling since 1875.

Liqueurs are both a vital part of many cocktails and part of the identity of countries known for their love of food and beverage. In Italy quintessential Italian flavours show up in liquors such as Sambuca (anise), Amaretto (almond), Maraschino (bitter-sweet cherry/almond) and Frangelico (hazelnut).

Luxardo Sambuca dei Cesar is intensely anise and licorice like with a creamy vanilla palate. Luxardo Amaretto di Saschira has terrific marzipan/almond flavours that linger. The Luxardo Maraschino liqueur is an essential part of the cocktail The Last Word, the Aviation, Brandy Crusta and many other classics. Frangelico made from locally grown hazelnuts in Piedmont, blended with coffee, cocoa and vanilla speaks distinctively of the local tastes.

So remember, when in Rome – you know the cliché.

Margaret Swaine


Luxardo Sambuca Dei Cesari Luxardo Amaretto Di Saschira Luxardo Maraschino Originale Liqueur Frangelico

To find these and other picks at stores near you, click on: Margaret’s Whisky and Spirits

Editors Note: You can find Margaret’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great spirits!


Luxardo Brands

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008