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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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20 Under $20 in BC : August 2015

The Hazy, Lazy Days of Summer in the West

It’s not that we’re actually lazy, or (overly) hazy. It’s just that we’re doing our best to absorb the rest of summer. In a few short weeks we’ll be back together in Toronto to judge The World Wine Awards of Canada. Until then, we’ll be soaking up the sun, time with friends and family, and affordable, easy and quaffable wines like the 20 below.

~ TR

BC Crictic Team

Anthony Gismondi

The last weeks of summer begin hot on the coast and while temperatures are scheduled to abate, the sun persists with no appreciable rain in the forecast. That suggests outdoor dining will continue through Labour Day, making this month’s picks all the more enjoyable. Here are more classic summer sippers you can cool down with on the patio or serve by the barbecue.

Kick things off with a pair of delicious gewürztraminers: the Tinhorn Creek Gewürztraminer 2014, simply the best vintage of this wine I can remember and awash in aromatics. Hillside Gewürztraminer 2014 is so fresh and bright and juicy you can serve it on the patio or with food.

Summer reds, soft and sipable but ready to take on the fire and char of barbecuing takes us to Chile, Spain and Argentina. The Santa Rita Merlot Reserva 2014 meets the first duty of a reserva, which is to be better than the regular bottling. It’s all Maipo from its resiny, savoury notes to its black cherry, bay leaf and tobacco flavours that don’t quit.

Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer 2014 Hillside Gewurztraminer 2014 Santa Rita Merlot Reserva 2014  Castillo De Monseran Old Vine Garnacha 2010Trivento Amado Sur

The Castillo de Monséran Old Vine Garnacha 2010 comes from Cariñena and is made with 50 year old vines. Good value in a solid everyday workhouse red perfect for burgers, chicken, ribs and more.

Finally a wine that consistently over delivers for its price is the Trivento Amado Sur Malbec Bonarda Syrah 2013 – spicy, minty, smoky, juicy, black berry flavours will easily placate the visitors. See you in September.


Rhys Pender MW

Three French, a Portuguese and a British Columbian walk into a bar. Sounds like the start of a bad joke. But if they were nice enough to bring in these wines the scene would be no joke, especially when you see the value of these wines.

The Dão region of Portugal may be one of the most underrated wine regions in the world. The wines are often very good, the prices often very low. What else needs to be said? Try the Grilos 2012 Tondela for under $15 to get both fruit and savoury complexity.

The British Columbian came in with a viognier. Not a grape that you expect to do well in the great white north of Canada but when you realize that you can get it ripe but also keep some refreshing acidity you understand why BC is a top place to grow grapes. The Sandhill 2014 Osprey Ridge Vineyard Viognier is a good example. And it happened to go perfectly with an Indian curry the other day.

Grilos Tondela 2012 Sandhill Viognier Osprey Ridge Vineyard 2014 Domaine De Babio Minervois 2011 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes De Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon Villages 2013 Château Pesquié Terrasses 2013

Then the Frenchies walked in to the bar… Something I really enjoyed was the Domain de Babio 2011 Minervois. This was really quite complex for under $20. Savoury, fruity and mineral for the price. A bargain 90 point wine from my perspective.

The superstar Chapoutier produces some pretty fancy wines around the world but they are also making some pretty good value stuff too. The 2013 Bila-Haut Rouge from the Roussillon is a great mouthful of rusticity for the price.

The final French selection is also from the south, this time from the less trendy but no slouch in quality, Ventoux region. The Château Pesquié 2013 Terrasses is a big, ripe bruiser of a wine but with a nice hit of the garrigue to keep it fresh and drinkable.


DJ Kearney

Fresh, crispy whites for a bargain price claimed my attention this week, necessary wines to combat the torrid heat in Vancouver.  In this weather it’s best to stay outdoors by the bbq, so simple foods – either room temp or sizzled on the grill are where it’s at.

Goat’s cheese and butter lettuce salad is ideal for Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – extra cheeky and snazzy with 15% sémillon added this vintage.  Make the vinaigrette with the wine instead of vinegar for perfect consonance.

Grilled peach and burrata flatbreads deserve fruity Township 7 Pinot Gris 2014, a great debut vintage for new winemaker Mary McDermott.

Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2014Township 7 Pinot Gris 2014Wild Goose Autumn Gold 2014Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay 2014Fort Berens Chardonnay 2014

Wild Goose is beloved for their pure, fruit-driven wines: their Autumn Gold 2014 is a summer in a glass, and I’ll enjoy mine with prosciutto-wrapped grilled peaches.

Remember when Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chardonnay 2014 was the ‘it’ wine?  Well it’s never lost its solid form, and you can either gulp a glass while you shuck the corn, or wait until it comes off the grill, freshly slathered with chipotle butter.

Closer to home and just as gulpable, Fort Berens Chardonnay 2014 is racy with lip-smacking acidity. Who’d have thought that Lillooet-grown vines could channel Chablis??  Try with grilled oysters and lemony mignonette.


Treve Ring

Summer – my summer anyhoo –  is about having fun with friends and family, backyard BBQs and picnics, and giving not one care about prepping fancy foods. Same goes with the wines – I need fruity, fresh, easy, approachable (mixed crowds and ages not the time to experiment), screwcapped and summer friendly. The following five have worked well so far this season.

First up, a duo of BC rosés that couldn’t be more different. Salt Spring Island’s organically farmed Mistaken Identity 2014 Bliss is a crisp, dry, light bodied and pale pinot noir rosé that charms with its delicacy. In contrast, Moraine 2014 Pink Mountain Rosé is a deeply hued, deeply concentrated merlot/malbec blend, with punchy candied fruit and a full, sweeter body. No need to choose favourites – pick up both and let the crowds decide.

Mistaken Identity Vineyards Bliss Rosé 2014 Moraine Pink Mountain 2014 Wave Series By Carmen Left Wave Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Twin Islands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Deakin Estate Shiraz 2014

I still have sweet BC spot prawns in my freezer. On the next scorcher of an eve I might toss papaya salad, edamame and a duo of southern hemisphere sauvignon blancs to pair. The Leyda Valley Wave Series by Carmen 2013 Left Wave Sauvignon Blanc merges marine freshness with tropical fruit, for a fruity and crisp refresher.

The intense and creamy Twin Islands 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough can easily stand up to strong flavours, with its pungent herbal notes and passionfruit juiciness

When you fire up the BBQ to grill sausages for the crowd, crack a bottle or few of Deakin Estate 2014 Shiraz. You’ll be surprised by this lighter, fresher red, one with ample smoked branch, perfumed plum and cracked pepper.


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!

19 Crimes Video

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The Search for Summery Wines

The Caveman SpeaksJuly 14, 2015

By Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I get asked a lot for wine suggestions, especially from my friends. Here’s a conversation that I had a few weeks back. Name was changed to protect the innocent.

Carrie: Bill, we want to buy a few cases of wine to bring with us to the country. We’re there for three weeks and I don’t want to stress about wines when we are up there. Can you suggest a few Summery wines?

Bill: What’s a Summery wine? You mean like white wines?

Carrie: You know I don’t like white that much. You keep forcing them on me and yes, they’re alright but that’s not what I am talking about. You know – summer wines.

Bill: No, I have no clue about what you are talking about. You mean rosés? Most people only drink those in the summer.

Carrie: I’ll get a few, sure. But that’s lunch and afternoon drinking. I need good reds.

Bill: Summer reds? You mean as opposed to winter reds? I didn’t realize red wine was seasonal. What are you eating?

Carrie: How would I know? Stop messing with me, you aren’t being any help at all. You’re Mr. fancy sommelier wine critic.

Bill: (Pause) So really what you are asking me is if I were to take a few cases of wine with me to the country, and that’s all I could drink, what would I bring? It’s like that desert island question where if you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would it be? I always answer German riesling or Champagne. You should bring lots of those.

Carrie: Yes, I remember that German wine. Didn’t we drink that last time at your place? That was yummy, but I can’t remember the name.

Bill: Hey you remembered! That was the 2013 from Selbach Oster. It’s a great pre-dinner wine when you are cooking and when you eat spicy shrimp and other seafood. And if you want a deadly little sparkling wine for cheap, try the 2013 Vouvray from Vincent Careme or the 2011 Reserva Brut Cava from Juvé y Camps.

Selbach Riesling 2013Domaine Vincent Carême Vouvray Brut 2013Juvé y Camps Cinta Purpura Reserva Brut Cava 2011

Carrie: Ok, you’ve done aperitif, how about one of your pale rosés? You’ve actually convinced me on those.

Bill: Ha! No more sip sack sweet pinks for you! Go for either the Petale de Rose or the Pive Gris. They are my go to pinks these days. For a little more full-bodied rosé, try the 2014 Brotte Les Eglantiers Tavel.

Pétale de Rose 2014Le Pive Gris Vin Rosé 2014Brotte Les Eglantiers Tavel 2014

Carrie: Okay, pinks, bubbles and rieslings. What’s good with trout if hubby can actually catch a trout.

Bill: I would go with something crisp. Try an assyrtiko from either Gaia, Sigalas or my lil jewel from Argyros.

Gaia Thalassitis Assyrtiko 2013Sigalas Santorini 2013Argyros Atlantis White 2014

Carrie: Ok, I’ll try them. Now onto the important stuff – the reds.

Bill: Oh yes, the summery reds. Barbecue wines you mean.

Carrie: Exactly.

Bill: You need a few Burger wines. You guys eat Hamburgers don’t you?

Carrie: Of course.

Bill: Sounds strange but you need a red that goes well with ketchup. A red that you can chill a bit and crank it back but with a touch of green that will go well with the ketchup. My favourite ketchup wine is carmenère. Try the Cono Sur or Carmen. They have some torque as well.

Carrie: Now you are actually helping.

Bill: No problem. This is actually fun. So now a few wines to go with barbecue sauce – ribs, chicken pieces, pork chops – stuff like that. I would go new world here – California, Australia. Wines with loads of oak and lots of fruit, alcohol sweetness, especially if your sauce is a little spicy. Take a good zinfandel like the Lake Sonoma Dry Creek Valley or Ravenswood Besieged. They are a little more expensive but worth it.

Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenère 2013Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013Lake Sonoma Winery Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2010Ravenswood Besieged 2013

Carrie: What about steak? We eat a lot of steak.

Bill: Steak wines. You can go wherever you want. I mean any wine with some good tannin that has done some time in oak will do. (Pause) But nothing too serious. Okay I see what you mean now by summer wines. I wouldn’t go Bordeaux, Rioja or Barolo or anything like that. I would go with wines like those zins I mentioned, or for a change try some Rhône wines. Rhône reds are great, been drinking a lot of those recently. Try the Saint Cosme, Signargues from Morel or Les Halos De Jupiter.

Château de Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône 2013Pierre Henri Morel Signargues Côtes du Rhône Villages 2013Les Halos De Jupiter Côtes du Rhône 2012

Carrie: Okay perfect, you will write everything down.

Bill: Not everything. I’ll give you a few specific wines and for the rest just find wines you want to try in the same style. But bring an ice bucket, hopefully it will be hot.

Carrie: We keep the whites in the fridge.

Bill: No, the ice bucket is for your reds. If it’s hot out, make sure it is always handy so you can dunk your bottle in it to keep temperature down. Hot red wine is gross, and you always serve your reds too warm.

Carrie: You are such a snob. You make me nervous every time you come over.

Bill: Okay, I won’t bring my own glass with me this time if it makes you feel better.

Carrie: Such a total snob.



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

Editors Note: You can find complete critic 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!


Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon


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Margaret Swaine’s Spirits Review – July 2015

Super Cool G&T’sJuly 13, 2015

by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Last column I promised to write more about the gin and tonic bar craze. Well summer is here and it’s time to mix up a long cool one with tips from the experts on how to make it perfect.

While the G&T seems a simple two ingredient highball, today there are a multitude of variations and ways to “perfect” the drink. In his 2014 book The Spirit of Gin: A Stirring Miscellany of the New Gin Revival, Matt Teacher writes about the London Gin Club in England: “Members can rejoice at the large selection of garnishes that have been specifically paired with each of the gins. The variable one has to choose from when selecting the perfect combination include the gin label, the brand of tonic, the accoutrements or garnishes, the form of ice and sometimes the addition of other flavors such as bitters.”

Toronto’s Nota Bene restaurant has a special G&T menu that enables customers to build their own by selecting first from the rotating choice of a dozen or so gins, then picking a tonic and the type of ice from the list. Two of my favourites were Botanist Gin on cubed ice with the house tonic garnished with lime wheels, cardamom and rosemary and Dillon’s Gin 22 on a single large cube of ice with Fever Tree tonic garnished with lemongrass, cucumber and dried hibiscus flowers.

The Botanist Islay Dry Gin Dillon's Unfiltered Gin 22Nota Bene’s owner Chef David Lee was inspired to do a G&T bar after his travels to Spain. On a recent trip to Spain, I too noticed Gin-Tonic bars were all the rage and have been told that “Gin Tonicá” is practically Spain’s national cocktail.

Matt Goulding in his article in, wrote about Spain’s obsession with gin and tonics. “When I tell people that Spain is the best place in the world to drink a gin tonic, a drink created by the British army in India as a defense system against malaria, I’m invariably met with skepticism…. But “gin tonics” (in Spain, they use the English name, but drop the “and” so that it comes out cleaner) have captured the attention of Spain’s chefs, bartenders and alcoholics alike,” he wrote.

Apparently the country is now the world’s biggest gin consumer per capita, with demand increasing at an average of 18 percent over the past five years. I’ve not found anyone who can say why a niche taste became a mainstream mania in Spain, except perhaps that it suits the climate and Mediterranean lifestyle of the country.

The Gin-Tonic bar I went to in the historic centre of Aranda de Duero, north of Madrid, matched brands of gin with different flavours of Schweppes Tonic such as Pink Peppercorn, Orange Blossom & Lavender, and Cardamom & Ginger. I haven’t seen that range of Schweppes tonics in Canada yet but there are a growing number of artisanal tonics available both made here and abroad.

Jack's Tonique (photo: Amenh Tsan)

Jack’s Tonique (photo: Amenh Tsan)

Fever-Tree premium Indian tonic water from the UK is a great brand that blends natural botanical and quinine flavours. Q Tonic from New York claims hand-picked quinine from the Peruvian Andes. In the Atwater market in Montreal, I found Jack’s Tonique, an artisan tonic water concentrate that’s made in Gatineau from cinchona bark (the source for quinine), honey instead of sugar, fresh lemon grass, Sicilian lemon juice, ginger and lavender.

Mathieu Guillemette and Joël Beaupré launched Jack’s Tonique in the spring of 2014 to make the best G&T’s ever. They say their tonic goes particularly well with Tanqueray, Dillon’s gin from Niagara, North of 7 gin from Ottawa and Piger Henricus gin from Quebec. You can find stores that carry Jack’s via their facebook page:

This brings us to the question of what gin to use in a G&T. Beyond the obvious – aka your favourite – I’d say switch around depending upon what flavours you’re in the mood for.

In Canada, more and more delightful gins are being made by artisan producers. Ungava made by Domaine Pinnacle in Quebec is flavoured with indigenous Canadian botanicals of our far north such as Nordic juniper, Labrador tea leaf, crowberry, cloudberry and wild rose hips. Piger Henricus gin from Quebec features parsnips as its secret ingredient along with juniper, coriander, angelica, lemon peel and cardamom.

Ungava Canadian Premium GinPiger Henricus GinGeorgian Bay GinParlour Gin

Dillon’s in Beamsville, makes their Unfiltered Gin 22, by passing vapour through 22 botanicals. Georgian Bay Gin vapour infused with wild juniper, earthy angelica, lavender and more is bright with juniper and clean fresh botanical notes.

Alberta’s aromatic and well spiced Parlour Gin from Eau Claire distillery has the traditional juniper notes along with hints of rosehip, Saskatoon berry, mint, coriander and citrus that finish with cinnamon and ginger spice.

Victoria Gin, hand produced in small batches on Vancouver Island and distilled from ten botanicals (natural and wild gathered) is packed with personality. With Vancouver’s triple distilled Yaletown Gin, juniper and coriander jump forward in the bouquet.

Victoria GinYaletown Craft GinThe London No. 1 GinSipsmith London Dry Gin

London is the home of gin – so naturally there are many lovely ones to recommend from the mother country. The London Gin #1 is instantly recognizable by its distinct azure blue colour and sophisticated palate. Sipsmith London Dry Gin is a relative newcomer that’s beautifully crafted. Broker’s Premium London Dry delivers a delightful well-balanced style that’s value priced.

Death's Door Gin Broker's Premium London Dry GinNew to Canada from Wisconsin is Death’s Door Gin, with a focus on just three botanicals: juniper, coriander and fennel seeds.

The final step to a great G&T is the glass itself. Regarding that, bartenders are increasingly recommending serving G&T in a balloon shaped glass with plenty of ice and a garnish tailored to the flavours of the gin to best enhance the experience. (The balloon shape gathers the aromas of the drink at its opening.)

The gin and tonic has been raised to an art form. One that delights and refreshes the palate, far removed from its medicinal past.

Margaret Swaine

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!


Victoria Gin

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20 Under $20 in BC : July 2015

Smokin’ Hot in B.C.

Trust me, we’re not complaining about the heat in BC. We’re absorbing it as much as the grapes are (up to two weeks ahead of the norm in some areas). It’s just that after weeks of 20+ degrees Celsius and even more weeks without rain, we’re starting to dream rain dances in our sleep. Our thoughts are with all in BC affected by the fires, and with the brave firefighters working around the clock to stop the blaze. Keep safe all.

Though we certainly can’t control mother nature, we can control our thirst, and we do, liberally, with the tidy value buys below.

DJ Kearney is off to visit vineyards in Greece, so we’ve filled in while she’s filling up with Assyrtiko and other delicious wines. Watch for her field notes over the coming weeks.

~ TR

BC Critic Team


Anthony Gismondi

The heatwave persists in British Columbia and I can’t help but think it has spurred on interest in summer style wines that frankly were never a big part of the BC wine market, especially on the wet coast. But, damp and wet summers appear to be a thing of the past under climate change so this month I’m going with some classic summer sippers you should cool down with on the patio.

We begin with Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014. This wine just gets better every year as the vines settled into the Manzanar Vineyard some 12 km from the Pacific Ocean at Aconcagua Costa. Goat cheese, tomatoes, corn fish chicken…mmmm.

Closer to home and pink is the 50th Parallel Estate Pinot Noir Rosé 2014, a classic cool-climate style that is dry with citrus and cran-cherry flavours. Think summer pasta salmon and or potato salads.

Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 201450th Parallel Pinot Noir Rosé 2014Uber Riesling KabinettHillside Estate Unoaked Pinot Gris 2014Louis Latour Chardonnay l'Ardeche 2013Wolf Blass Yellow Label Sparkling Brut

No summer can pass without riesling and the Über Riesling Kabinett N/V from the Pfalz is affordable and gulpable. Bring on the sushi platters.

How much do I like the Hillside Pinot Gris Unoaked 2014? A lot. It’s such a pleasure to drink a pinot gris for grown-ups. Pinot gris can throw a little colour from its copper skin and this one has a beautiful Provençal hue. Grilled chicken or assorted shellfish all work here. Stock up for summer.

If you’re lucky enough to be enjoying Dungeness crab this month, you’ll want a creamy, solid wine with good intensity and freshness to pour. Try the Louis Latour Ardèche Chardonnay 2013, with intensity and brightness far beyond its price point.

Finally we all need to drink more bubble and to get you started may I suggest the Wolf Blass Yellow Label Sparkling Brut Mousseux. Their style is refreshing with juicy, citrus, honey apple flavours. A crowd pleaser at a crowd pleasing price. Head for the patio.


Rhys Pender MW

With the exception of a few necessary steak pairing situations, I haven’t drunk any big red wine for weeks. The body craves crisp dry white wines, savoury dry rosé, or chilled light juicy reds. Varieties like Riesling come into their own in summer with their powerful ability to refresh. Anything else with that crisp acidity and a mineral edge also works well. My picks this month all fit these criteria.

The first two wines are from BC, top quality wines that are consistent from year to year and wines that are always refreshing and drinkable. The Wild Goose 2013 Stony Slope Riesling has good zingy power and plenty of racy acidity. The Lake Breeze 2013 Pinot Blanc is a versatile wine for food, good on its own when well chilled but also with enough stuffing to stand up to things like roast chicken or richer white fish.

Wild Goose Vineyards Stoney Slope Riesling 2013Lake Breeze Pinot Blanc 2013Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2013Château de la Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2013Folonari Valpolicella 2012

The next two wines are from two of my favourite “mineral” wine regions. Consistently the wines from Limari in Chile and Muscadet in France’s Loire have that stony, mineral edge that gives great refreshment. The Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha 2013 Chardonnay has ripe fruit and some body but still the great mineral edge that Limari always provides. Another standby is the Château de la Gravelle 2013 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie, so crisp and refreshing and great with fresh oysters or anything deep fried.

The final pick is a wine that is red but can be drunk like a white, chilled down against the summer heat. Light, juicy and savoury Folonari Valpolicella 2012 is perfect for charcuterie or grilled light meats like rabbit or quail.


Treve Ring

Fresh back from The Nationals (#NWAC15) and a week of tasting nothing but Canadian wine (and the necessary post-judging refreshing Canadian beer, of course), my Canadian palate is as finely honed as ever. And with summer fresh local bounty taking over my table, the time is prime to pour wine from our BC backyard.

Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2013 has never felt fresher, and upon retasting recently, a beautiful vein of stony minerality has risen through all the ripe orchard and melon fruit. Lovely with grilled corn on the cob.

If salmon is on the grill, crack the top on Therapy Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012. The tart rhubarb and mellow spiced cherry work well to carry cedar planked salmon.

Quails' Gate Chardonnay 2013Therapy Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012Thornhaven Estates Infusion 2014Lake Breeze Winemaker Series The Spice Jar 2014Sandhill Viognier Osprey Ridge Vineyard 2014

No matter the foodstuffs, bubbles is always appropriate. Thornhaven Estates 2014 Infusion blends pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay into a frizzante rosé. This sunripened, strawberry jam and floral sipper finishes crisp and off dry, ideal for brunching.

Lake Breeze Winemaker Series The Spice Jar 2014 is also brunch-ready, blending gewürztraminer, ehrenfelser, viognier and schonburger into an aromatic, exotically spiced white built around ripe pear and pithy lime.

Viognier can overwhelm some dishes, and some drinkers, with its flamboyance in the glass. Sandhill Viognier Osprey Ridge Vineyard 2014 harnesses the grape’s apricot essence, while honing in its bombastic nature. Great with Thai green curry.

Wild Goose Pinot Gris 2014 brings roses, fine spice and pithy citrus in a tighter, leaner style, balancing lime oil and herbal edged acidity to offset the off-dry palate. This makes for a welcome pour for fennel salads or lemon-dressed trout.

Wild Goose Pinot Gris 2014Mission Hill Five Vineyards Rosé 2014Spierhead Winery Rosé 2014Tantalus Rose 2014

It wouldn’t be summer without a rainbow of rosés in my glass. It’s hard to beat the consistency and availability of Mission Hill Family Estates Five Vineyard series, and the Five Vineyards Rosé 2014 once again hits the sweet spots. Great price, ripe candied fruit, bright, juicy acidity and just a kiss of summer sweetness to refresh you, and your wallet.

Spierhead Winery offers up a different style of pink with their single Lands End Vineyard 2014 Pinot Noir Rosé. Salted plums, strawberry compote, cured meats and a snappy dry finish welcoming pouring alongside fried chicken or salmon burgers.

Though known for their riesling, Tantalus Vineyards 2014 Rosé masterfully brings equal parts pinot meunier (planted 1985!) and pinot noir together to an elegant, fruity and dry wine my favourite rosé from the winery to date. Beauty balance between berry ripeness and stony freshness and one I’m looking forward to pairing with charcuterie platters all summer long.


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.

Here’s a quick link to the this month’s Top 20 Under $20

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

19 Crimes "To the Banished"

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20 Under $20 in BC : June 2015

Summertime… and the drinkin’ is Easy

It’s the time of year when thinking about drinking is shaped by summer weekends at the beach, boat or campfire and wine decisions are based upon gulpability equally to tastiness and price. What do I mean by gulpable? It’s a word I use to describe wines that are so tasty, well made, well priced and well balanced that it’s hard not to – well – gulp it down. Especially when they seem tailor made to lengthy days of sunlight and cloudless nights lit by starbright.

That said, we’re not all out loading up for a summer of holidays. As Anthony duly points out, we’re warily watching wine prices creep up – or disappear from the listings altogether – while every liquor retailer in BC adjusts to the new reality. Whatever the landscape, we just want to drink well and share our finds with you, and in this column we strive to bring you the best under $20 to meet that aim.

~ TR

BC Critic Team


Anthony Gismondi

We really need to review the under $20 category given all the price machinations taking place in BC. The new wholesale price system has given government retail stores the opportunity to set their own prices and they have been busy mostly raising prices, especially at the high end where in their minds, consumers won’t notice. I mean what’s an extra $20 on a bottle of cru Champagne? At the low end the increases are more calculated but they are there and when you subtract the GST and PST from the shelf price you can’t even see that the wine has gone up in price, until you get to the till. It’s such a slap in the face to regular wine buyers who already pay some of the highest prices in the land. All that said, here’s some picks that justify their price and taste like well, wine, which is why we put this list together every month.

I love the Régis Boucabeille 2013 Les Terrasses. It’s a great site that was abandoned in the 20th century because it was too tough to farm and unprofitable. Today 11 terraces at 200 to 300 metres, facing southeast make some very tasty stony red. Perfect with most summer grilled meats. Fine value.

Nearby in the Rhône the Louis Bernard 2013 Côtes du Rhône Blanc is crazy value. A blend of grenache blanc, bourboulenc and clairette, it is as juicy as it gets for the price.

Regis Boucabeille Les Terrasses 2013 Louis Bernard Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2014 Bota Box Old Vine Zinfandel 2013 Monte Antico 2010 Almansa Laya 2013

If you are planning a street party pick up the Bota Box 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel (3L for $34.79 which works out to a mere $8.69 per 750mL bottle). Classic brambly, sweet blackberry fruit with soft textures assures it will placate crowds.

If chicken is in your plans grab a bottle of Monte Antico 2010 Toscana. This Tuscan red crafted by winemaker Franco Bernabei and importer Neil Empson is juicy, fresh and ready to drink – perfect when you need a simple red to play second fiddle to the food.

Finally from Spain, Laya 2013 Garnacha Monastrell Vieilles Vignes gets the nod for its soft textures and earthy mix of coffee, red licorice and a dusting of oak. Barbecue anyone? Enjoy the heat.

Rhys Pender MW

It is very, very hot in the Similkameen Valley as I write this column. The temperature reads 36.5C in the vineyard and I am glad to be in the cool of the shade. Summer is definitely beginning with a bang. Luckily there are many delicious wines close at hand to help with the heat.

I’m craving crisp, dry riesling. A good example is the Red Rooster 2013 Riesling. This is an absolute bargain at under $15. Chill it down to icy coldness and enjoy.

Another super value BC wine (it seems so many BC wines are getting cheaper and cheaper) is the See Ya Later 2013 Gewurztraminer. Lately I have been addicted to Thai food and the spicy flavours are perfect with the aromatic gewürz. Oh, and until June 27th it is on special for only $12!

Red Rooster Riesling 2013 See Ya Later Ranch Gewurztraminer 2013 Kanazawa Nomu White 2013 Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2012 Lafon et Chamboissier Racine Minervois 2012

A little richer and really well done is the Kanazawa 2013 Nomu White. This blend of viognier, sémillon and orange muscat is incredibly drinkable and perfect for warm afternoons.

For a couple of red selections it is back to the old world for some savoury goodness that is perfect when the sun goes down and the red meat comes out. For a great value Italian wine, the Gabbiano 2012 Chianti Classico is everything you would expect: dusty, savoury, meaty and leathery.

For something a little rounder and softer, the Racine 2012 from Minervois in France’s Languedoc is nice and savoury and juicy while quite complex for the price.

DJ Kearney

It’s warm and sunny and definitely the season that many of us reach for pink wines. I truly believe that rosé is for year-round drinking, but now is the time that the shelves expand with wider selection, like these two bone dry versions. The Bieler Père & Fils 2014 Coteaux d’Aix en Provence is screw-capped and bargain-priced, and Casa Ferreirinha 2014 Douro Rosé is 100% touriga nacional and full of pleasure and structure.

Bieler Père & Fils Coteaux D’aix En Provence Rosé 2014 Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande Rosé 2014Arrowleaf Bacchus 2014Arrowleaf Zweigelt 2014Crasto Vinho Tinto 2013

Two wines from Arrowleaf Cellars are fresh as daisies and beg for a lounger on a summer patio. Bacchus 2014 is a riesling x sylvaner x mueller-thurgau cross and if you love riesling, this fresh patio sipper will delight. The 2014 Zwiegelt’s light, juicy wild berry flavours make it a perfect picnic wine, best served very well chilled and not far from water.

And when the grill is fired up and juicy bacon burgers are sizzling, it’s time to pour a generous goblet of lusty Crasto 2013 Vinho Tinto Douro.  

Treve Ring

When I’m asked for a great wine under $10 in BC, I’m usually at a loss for a solid (honest) answer. Now I’m just going to direct people to stock up on Count Karolyi 2013 Gruner Veltliner. One of my favourite grapes from a somewhat unlikely place equals pure fresh, zippy enjoyment with shellfish or lemon endive salads.

And while you’re feeling adventurous, pick up the Bodega Sierre Norte 2011 Pasion de Bobal. Think tasty 60+ year old bobal from the hot interior of Valencia from high altitude organic grapes would be pricy? Think again (delish with lamb kabobs).

Binderer St. Ursula Count Karolyi Gruner Veltliner 2013 Bodega Sierra Norte Pasion De Bobal 2011 Santa Carolina Reserva Pinot Noir 2013 La Fiole Cotes Du Rhone 2012 Langa Real De Aragon Cava

If exotic bobal scares off your crowd, you can crack the top on Santa Carolina 2013 Reserva Pinot Noir instead. Heady forest floor, light wood smoke and a round, soft palate welcomes pouring alongside cherry smoked pork or portabellas. The La Fiole Côtes du Rhône 2012 is a crowd pleaser as well, as much for the signature curved bottle as for the welcoming, softly spiced cherry, raspberry and peppered fruit.

My mates can attest that I drink more sparkling wine than anything else, and no better way to best summer’s heat than with refreshing bubbles. One of my best buys anytime of the year is Real de Aragon Cava, a stellar, crisp bargain of a Cava (with darling summery packaging as bonus).


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.

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008