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20 under $20 in BC: March 2015

Spring Fever in BC

We know we’ve been fortunate this past winter in British Columbia. Mild temperatures on the coast and just the right amount of crisp winter snow in the interior and on the ski hills has made for a picture-perfect winter, and the past few weeks of unseasonably warm weather has given an early boost to buds and blossoms. Though some chilly, clear nights have us reaching for warming reds, our critics’ thoughts are springing ahead to lively, fresh whites and rosés.

DJ Kearney is on the road this week to Jura, France, so the rest of us at WineAlign West are warming and welcoming spring with these great buys.

~ TR

BC Critic team

Anthony Gismondi

We don’t know a lot about winter here on the coast and we would prefer to keep it that way, but it doesn’t mean we don’t feel your pain if you are still fighting winter in your part of the province or country for that matter. This month’s picks are betwixt and between the last days of winter and the early days of spring.

We open spring with two seafood friendly sauvignon blancs. The first is Kismet Estate 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, an Okanagan newcomer that gets the fruit and the grass in the right proportions.

One of the standard bearers of New World sauvignon blanc is the Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2013 from California. The Mondavi goal was always a richer, Napa Valley style but with the brightness of sauvignon and in 2013 it’s bang on.

Masi Modello Bianco delle Venezie 2013 will suit your shellfish or white fish dishes well with its almond, apple skin, pear and grapefruit flavours. Simple, fresh, clean style and solid value.

Kismet Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2013Masi Modello Delle Venezie Bianco 2013Santa Rita Merlot Reserva 2011

Now for some reds to ride out the storm. Monday night merlot doesn’t get much better than Santa Rita 2011 Merlot Reserva. The reserva series has an injection of flavour and structure that can easily take on grilled meats.

Slightly denser and rounder in texture are the Familia Gascon Malbec 2012, a tasty red for your favourite ribs recipe while the Paz de Finca Las Moras Malbec 2012 with its lifted blueberry and black fruit flavours would be fun for mid-afternoon or post dinner cheese plate or a prime rib dinner. From home, the Blasted Church 2013 Big Bang Theory, a mixed bag of red grapes, will suit a mixed lot of grilled red meats, especially after a splash through a decanter.

Familia Gascon Malbec 2012 Paz De Finca Las Moras Malbec 2012 Blasted Church Big Bang Theory 2013 Quady Batch 88 Starboard

To finish off with something sweet, California’s Quady Batch 88 Starboard is a soft, sweet and round and eminently easy-drinking port-like wine. The style lies somewhere between a ruby (fruity) and a tawny (aged) Portuguese port.

Hang in there – spring is just around the corner.

Rhys Pender MW

The weather in BC is surprisingly warm this early spring, something I know will irk our friends in the chilly East. Such is the weather, thoughts have already turned to fresh, juicy, chilled whites and rosé and afternoons are even warm enough to enjoy them outside in the sun.

One wine I have enjoyed recently is a great value rosé that is consistently very drinkable, the La Vieille Ferme Ventoux Rosé. The 2013 is dry, crisp and nicely savoury.

Another juicy wine and one that is nice slightly chilled is the Masi 2013 Bonacosta Valpolicella. A light bodied red that is elegant with some interesting earthy flavours and great with a plate of charcuterie.

La Vieille Ferme Cotes Du Ventoux Rose 2013 Masi Bonacosta 2013 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Norton Reserva Malbec 2012

I must admit Marlborough sauvignon blanc can be a bit tiresome, admittedly only due to the fact that it is so consistently good quality and very recognizable. Every now and then you find one that seems a bit more interesting and different. I like the 2013 Spy Valley for its cilantro and minerality on the long, crisp finish.

That last wine I want to recommend is a heartier red but still with some freshness from containing about 50% high altitude cooler climate Uco Valley fruit. The 2012 Norton Reserva Malbec ($20) is worth spending a few dollars more than you might normally for an Argentinian malbec. You will appreciate the difference.

For readers in Vancouver, I hope to see you at Chambar on April 7th. I’m teaming up with Chef Nico Schuermans for the Taste of Maclean’s Dining Series. It promises to be delicious – and WineAlign members get a special price. (click here for more info)

Treve Ring

Spring forward? I love when daylight savings brings me an extra hour of light in the evenings, paving the way ever forward until the spring equinox and the arrival of the previous year’s vintage hitting the shelves.

The newest release of Quails’ Gate Gewurztraminer always signals spring with its juicy and off-dry rose blossom notes. Pair with papaya salad. Or if you’re looking further afield, Chile’s Cono Sur Bicicleta Gewurztraminer 2013 is so textbook floral and spice perfumed, you could swear you’re walking through a perfumed rose garden, eating a pink grapefruit (you’d have lots of coin left for fruit after spending only $11 on this wine.)

For a richer, classic styled gew, reach for P.J. Valckenberg’s 2012 Gewurztraminer from Germany’s Pfalz region. This mid-sweet, round and ripe white is an enjoyable 9.5 percent alcohol, and a welcome addition to your brunch table (especially with orchard fruit waffles).

Quails’ Gate Gewurztraminer Cono Sur Bicicleta Gewurztraminer 2013 Valckenberg Gewurztraminer 2012 Calona Sovereign Opal Art Series 2013

Still in the aromatic white camp, but singular unto itself is the Calona Vineyards Artist Series no. 1 Sovereign Opal 2013. Entirely singular, actually, since the blossomed and honeydew Sovereign Opal grape was developed by Agriculture Canada (marechal foch x golden muscat) to thrive specifically in the particular conditions found in the Okanagan Valley.

One body of wine I really grew to appreciate last year were the intriguing whites of Portgual. You would be forgiven for guessing the Dão Sul Cabriz Encruzado 2009 was a Rhone white on a blind tasting. Encruzado, especially with some age (2009 still on shelves) builds herbal, hazelnut, honeycomb and savoury stone while maintaining a firm rod of acid.

I must admit, I fire up the grill year round (sorry!) and one of my favourites meals is BBQ chicken. On cool March weekday evenings, a tumbler of Marlborough’s smoked strawberry Newharbor 2009 Pinot Noir and grilled chicken thighs can work wonders. Or unscrew the ripe and fruity Radio Boka Tempranillo 2012 from Valencia, Spain if you’re doing beef sliders and chips on the grill for an easy mid-week and highly affordable meal.

Dao Sul Cabriz Encruzado 2009 Newharbor Pinot Noir 2009 Radio Boka Tempranillo 2012 Segura Viudas Brut Rose

Of course if you really want to feel like spring is here, pop the cork on pink bubbles and enjoy that extra hour of daylight. The alluring salmon pink Segura Viudas Cava Brut Rosado is a fitting dry, creamy, fruity rosé sparkler to elevate any sunset and to welcome in spring.

WineAlign in BC

In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report which include the wines across any price point and channel that excite us each month, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.

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

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


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20 under $20 in BC: February 2015

Special Edition : Vancouver International Wine Festival

For us, as for many wine folks in the west, February signals Wine Fest. Now in its 37th year, Vancouver International Wine Festival (VIWF) takes over the Vancouver Convention Centre and the attention of many sommeliers, wine enthusiasts and wine producers – from here and abroad. Dozens of principals and countless out-of-town attendees attend seminars, dinners, minglers, brunches, trade tastings, parties (and after parties) and the main event – the International Festival Tasting. The WineAlign team will be out in force, with Bill Zacharkiw, Nadia Fournier and Marc Chapleau coming out from Quebec and Heather Riley and Head Wineaux Bryan McCaw from Ontario. The BC team members will be speaking on various panels, and DJ Kearney will be overseeing the Global Focus Syrah/Shiraz station.

1750+ wines, 14 countries, 170 wineries. Where to start? The BC team (minus DJ, who is currently tasting in Australia) has put together a handy list of 20 wines to watch for under $20 available at the festival.

VIWF’s tagline is “The Wine World is Here.” I hope we’ll see you in Vancouver at the end of February.

~ TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

Thirty seven years is a long time for any festival and special when the subject is wine. It took a lot of brave souls to launch the Vancouver International Wine Festival way back in 1979 but it’s firmly established today as one of the best consumer wine shows on the continent. Our task as always is to find 20 wines under $20 you can enjoy at the festival this month so with my picks I’m going worldwide.

First up is a new juicy, fun, garnacha – 5G Five Garnachas Five Generations from Miguel Torres. Garnacha tends to be more acidic and lower in alcohol in Spain versus the grenache of France making this one food friendly.

From the nearby Okanagan BC, winemaker Nikki Callaway will hold your attention with her Quails’ Gate Chardonnay. Less reductive, less overt oak more citrus and super juicy. Roast chicken is the match.

Torres 5g Five Garnachas Five Generations 2013 Quails' Gate Chardonnay 2013 Louis Bernard Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2012 Mionetto Il Prosecco Frizzante Nugan Alfredo Second Pass Shiraz 2012

Be sure to drop by the Louis Bernard booth and find why the Louis Bernard Cotes du Rhone Blanc is so delicious and so inexpensive. Stock up on this one.

Bubble is a useful sip at the festival cleansing your palate as move about the room. Don’t miss the value packed Mionetto Il Prosecco Frizzante. Balance and style bottled under a yellow crown cap you just pop off.

To finish I suggest a stop at Nugan Estate to discover the Down Under version of ripasso, “the Second Pass” re-fermented over the skins or pomace of the Nugan Alfredo Dried Grapes Shiraz.

Have fun, don’t forget to spit.

Rhys Pender MW

Australia is proudly the theme country for the Vancouver International Wine Festival and it often produces killer value wines. Bleasdale of Langhorne Creek in South Australia has a couple of beauties under the $20 mark. Try the Mulberry Tree Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon for a nice, pure example of Cabernet.

If you are at Wine Festival you should also try to visit the Tahbilk table. Tahbilk has been around a long time and is kind of out on its own in the middle of Victoria. But the wines are killer, particularly the Shiraz and Marsanne 2013.

Bleasdale Mulberry Tree Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Tahbilk Marsanne 2013 Penfolds Rawsons Retreat Shiraz Cabernet Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2013 Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013

Penfolds will be sure to have some great red wines open for tasting at VIWF so be sure to check out that table. They also offer great value in the lower price points. Try the classic Aussie blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Rawson’s Retreat Shiraz Cabernet.

Yalumba is another table definitely worth a visit. One of the best wines in the Yalumba lineup is always the viognier as they helped pioneer this variety in both Australia and to the world. The Y Series Viognier 2013 is great value.

I feel like I am always recommending this wine to everyone but it is just such a good wine for the price and really hits the style that good cool climate Aussie Chardonnay should be aiming for. And a few dollars over $20 but worth it. It is the Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay. Both the 2012 and 2013 vintage are excellent.

Treve Ring

One of the very best things about the International Festival Tasting is the chance to try something new. At every level, from fledgling through professional, there is something new on that floor to taste, and hopefully, find some new wines to love that won’t break the budget.

Many folks won’t have tried the traminer grape before, so Shot in the Dark 2013 Traminer Riesling from New South Wales is an aromatic and quaffable place to start.

Or perhaps you’d like to visit a new region? Sip Southern France’s Languedoc-Roussillon, with the tasty Château de Caraguilhes 2012 Domaine de L’Olivette Rouge, a humble and juicy organic blend of familiar grapes syrah, grenache and merlot.

Shot In The Dark Traminer Riesling 2013 Château De Caraguilhes Domaine De L'olivette Rouge 2012 Deinhard Green Label Riesling 2012 Cavas Hill 1887 Brut Anna Spinato Prosecco Brut Organic Sparkling White

Deinhard Green Label Riesling 2012 was a Judges’ Choice selection at the 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada. This consistent, tropical, off-dry sipper over-delivers and is worth having in your ‘wines for a crowd’ collection.

From time to time, you’ll need to refresh your palate, and after water (drink water!) bubbles is a classic refresher. Cavas Hill 1887 Brut from Spain will do the trick, with its white grapefruit, green apple and lemon pith notes. Or skip to Italy, for the lively floral, yellow apple and pink grapefruit fruited Anna Spinato Prosecco Brut Organic – you won’t be able to miss the dynamic green wrapped bottle.

While in Italy, swing by the Ruffino table, start on their entry level dusty cherry scented 2012 Chianti, and then work your way up through the winery’s ranks of increasing typicity and prestige.

When you think of white wine from New Zealand, chardonnay probably doesn’t come to mind. After trying the generously creamy melon and stone fruit of Marisco The King’s Legacy.

You don’t need to travel far from home to taste something new. BC is represented at the festival, so be sure to introduce yourself to Summerland’s 8th Generation 2013 Riesling and its bright, energetic orchard fruit. Or look to Oliver, in the southern Okanagan and the round and ripe fruited Cellar Hand 2013 Free Run White from Black Hills Winery, an aromatic and creamy blend of pinot blanc, muscat, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and viognier.

Ruffino Chianti 2012 Marisco The King's Legacy Chardonnay 2012 8th Generation Riesling 2013 Cellar Hand Free Run White 2013 Croft Pink Port

It’s always a good idea to go out on a sweet note, so head to Portugal and finish off with some of the amazing fortifieds of the Taylor Fladgate / Fonseca / Croft Port partnership. If you’ve never tried, or heard of, pink port, now’s your chance with the candied strawberry and cool plum sweetness of Croft Pink Port (tip – also a great building base for cocktails).

If you don’t have your tickets to VIWF yet, there is still time. Many seminars and dinners have SOLD OUT, but there are still some great finds to be had.  Your International Festival Tasting ticket is FREE if you book a downtown hotel with www.beVancouver.com. Details at www.vanwinefest.ca.

Check out Treve’s Travels feature on Australia TODAY Part I here, with Part II coming next week. In addition, DJ Kearney is previewing her Oceans, Altitudes & Attitudes seminar that she is presenting alongside Rhys Pender, Treve will be talking all about the Global Focus, Shiraz/Syrah in a look at this grape in all its forms, as well and sharing what top sommeliers and wine professionals are excited about this year with a recap of the popular trade seminar, Excitement in a Glass. All critics’ will chime in on their top 3 wines to taste at the festival in our joint BC Critics’ Report coming out next week. Finally, Anthony Gismondi’s Final Blend column will take an insightful look at the festival and where wine culture and private liquor retail is in BC today.

Treve

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

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


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20 under $20 in BC: January 2015

Altogether Now: We Resolve to Spend less and Drink Better

We know. You have bills. And you’re resolving. But it doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy wine in post-holiday season January. In fact, I recommend the complete opposite.

Instead of tying yourself to strident resolutions that you won’t stick to (no wine – HA!), resolve to spend less and drink better. Explore paying attention to one glass of honest, authentic, interesting wine with dinner rather than downing a few glasses of plonk mindlessly. You needn’t spend more than $20 to find bottles to transport you around the globe in your glass. And by slowing down, focusing on what you’re drinking and where it’s from, you’ll be protecting your bank account while growing your wine databank.

Here are 20 wines to welcome you to January, and a year of drinking mindfully and smartly.

~ TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

Though daylight hours are shorter, my tasting hours are longer in January. There isn’t much incentive to venture outside into Vancouver’s downpours, so I’ve been catching up on wines and notes while taking full advantage of a warm, dry office.

As the label says, MMM. MMM Macho Man Monastrell from Jumilla, Spain is 100% monastrell from very old vines, full with black fruit and floral notes and leather and black peppery on the finish. Great for warming and satisfying.

Stay in for pizza and a movie night with a tumbler of Santa Cristina 2012 Sangiovese Toscana. The fresh, soft, juicy palate shows plum jam, black licorice, spicy, savoury flavours in a simple but well made wine. Solid value here.

Macho Man Monastrell 2012 Antinori Santa Cristina Rosso 2012 Red Rooster Pinot Gris The Show Chardonnay 2012 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Sparkling Brut

If you’re in the mood for white wine, pick up Red Rooster 2013 Pinot Gris from our Okanagan Valley. Pear, floral, apple skin notes melt into similar flavours on the palate, and finishes dry and mineral-focused. Great for poultry or lighter pork dishes.

Or for a fuller, creamier white, The Show 2012 Chardonnay is a mix of cool fruit from Sonoma and Monterey appellations, fresh with pear and ripe apple, impressively dry and with some French oak to add texture and weight. A perfect wine for grilled scallops or lightly prepared calamari. Fair value.

It’s been a couple of years since I tasted Wolf Blass Yellow Label Sparkling, so I was happy to see it remains reliable and at a crowd-pleasing price. Refreshing juicy, citrus, honey apple flavours go down easily and will brighten a dull January day.

DJ Kearney

If ever there was a time when we need smashing deals, this is it. We are tightening our belts (literally and figuratively) and getting ready for the potential debacle of a new government liquor pricing policy (see my colleague Anthony Gismondi’s sobering words here) that could potentially greatly reduce the diversity that we currently enjoy. I’d start stocking up on your favourite premium priced wines, and when they are safely in the cellar, try these 5 bottles that deliver on every penny.

I was charmed by Chateau de la Gravelle 2013 Muscadet at a great new Kitsilano bistro, and it’s gratifying to find it on the monopoly shelves. It’s the real deal leesy muscadet, with extra heft and thrust from superb volcanic terroir, and a heroic pairing with a simple prawn salad, or croque monsieur.

Château De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2013 Quinta Do Ameal Loureiro 2013 Sogrape Gazela Rosé Tommasi Vigneto Le Prunée Merlot 2012 Alceño Premium 50 Barricas Syrah 2012

In a similar stony vein is the Quinta do Ameal Louriero 2013 Vinho Verde from coastal Portugal. Floral, briney and delicate, it’s as lively an aperitif wine as you could hope for.

Staying in Portugal, try the cheeky rosé from Gazela next time you have 11 bucks burning a hole in your pocket. Yes, I know you’re thinking I’m bonkers recommending a fruity rosé in the middle of January, but it truly is a soothingly mellow winter drop. Made from native, characterful red grapes, low alcohol and possessing tangy sweetness, you’ll love sipping it after a brisk tromp in the woods or après-ski, should you find any snow this year.

Perfect for the fireside is Tommasi’s Merlot Le Prunée, a robust red for lamb Shepherd’s Pie or pizza (which you are allowed to eat on your lap) or a nice hunk of cheese.

Finally, a delightfully rich and mellow wine I tasted over many hours, looking for a chink in its armour and finding none, is Alceño 50 Barricas Syrah from Jumilla, Spain.

Rhys Pender MW

I’m writing this from Thailand where everyday is 30 degrees (and wine is ridiculously overpriced so I’ve only drunk beer for 3 weeks) but a quick check on the thermometer at home shows -8 C. I know I’ll be craving red wines, grilled meats and hearty stews when I get home in a week. The $20 mark also is a good target at this time of year when the Christmas and holiday VISA statements start coming in. Here are five choices that will not disappoint; some lighter, some heavier, some cheaper, some earthier, some fruitier but all worthy of picking up a few bottles to warm you through winter. (Click on the bottle images or names below for the details and my review)

Vigneti Zabú Il Passo Nerello Mascalese 2012 Carpineto Spolverino 2011 Nuviana Tempranillo Cabernet 2012 Niepoort Dialogo 2011 Almansa Laya 2013

Vigneti Zabù 2012 Ilpasso Nerelli Mascalese Nero d’Avola
Carpineto Spolverino 2011
Nuviana 2012 IGP Tempranillo / Cabernet Sauvignon
Niepoort Dialogo 2011
Laya 2013

Treve Ring

Back to school, back to work, back to reality. In the thick of deadlines, 2015 scheduling and holiday recovery mode, I’m in need of some comfort wines.

Is there anything more comforting to drink than an aged red wine on a drizzly wet winter’s day? Instant comfort via the 2005 Anciano Gran Reserva Tempranillo Aged 7 Years, with its mellow, sweet aged vanilla oak aromas and earthy tea leaves, dried raspberry and dusky, dusty fruits on the finish. Pour with sage dusted pork dishes.

Calatayud’s Pablo 2012 Old Vine Garnacha is another Spanish warmer winner, round and ripe, with black cherry, anise, blackcurrant jam and cracked black pepper. Nice, honest fruit concentration over slightly ragged tannins, urge you to partner with grilled pizza or ragú sauced pastas.

Valdepenas Gran Reserva Anciano 2005 Calatayud Garnacha Pablo Old Vine 2012 Kuhlmann Platz Gewurztraminer 2013 CedarCreek Rose Montes Classic Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

I’ve been on a curry kick as of late (more comfort dishes). Kuhlmann-Platz 2013 Gewurztraminer has been a regular pour, a medium bodied off-dry gew delivering peach blossoms, pink grapefruit, roses and a heady, potent ginger spice note on the finish.

CedarCreek Rosé Pinot Noir 2013 will brighten your day through its alluring delicate fruit and hue alone. Wild ferment pinot noir fermented long and cool in stainless steel teems with savoury wild strawberries and finishes with persistent spice. Polished and elegant enough to pair with your poached salmon or poultry.

Sometimes, only a big, built red will do. When you’re hankering for rustic casseroles or tourtière, Montes Classic Series 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon will meet you there. This plumy, approachable medium-bodied cabernet is drinking well now (especially with that beef) but will continue to hold and improve over the next 2-4 years. And at this price, you can afford to lay a couple down for a couple of years.

~

If you can’t decide on one of these twenty wines, try one of the 1500+ wines available during Vancouver International Wine Festival week at the end of February. Tickets to public events went on sale Tuesday, January 6, and your ticket is FREE if you book a downtown hotel with www.beVancouver.com. Details at www.vanwinefest.ca. The entire WineAlign West team will be on hand, as will some of our colleagues from across the country. Oh yeah, and tens of thousands of other wine lovers from around the globe. Watch for our VIWF coverage to kick off this month with Treve’s Travels, and WineAlign West will focus exclusively on the festival wines and events throughout February.

Cheers,

Treve

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

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


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20 Great Holiday Buys under $20 in British Columbia (December)

Holiday Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

This time of year we get asked the same wine questions over and over (and truthfully, we regularly ask ourselves the same questions too)!

What are the best wines to have at my {insert holiday function here}?

Which we all mean to say…

What are the best wines at the very best prices to have at my {insert holiday function here} because my budgets are all being directed elsewhere but I still want to enjoy delicious and special wines?

We understand. From celebratory dinners to family brunches and from office lunches to gift swaps to the big festive dinner, there are countless wine pairing possibilities – and countless ways to blow your budget. The BC team has gleefully shared some of our favourite under-$20 picks to see you through this busy month.

Happy holidays and cheers from the WineAlign west team.

– TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

I love to decant a young inexpensive red in a simple, plain, glass decanter. Not only does it look good but 30 to 60 minutes of air allows the wine to show its stuff. There’s really not any downside and the upside is your under $20 reds will taste like you paid under $30. Here are five holiday party picks that will all improve with some air and because they are in a decanter they will keep your guests guessing about their price and origin until the reveal.

The Castaño Lujuria 2013 offers fresh, juicy, red wine that mixes merlot and monastrell that is perfect for wandering the party floor catching up with friends.

The Yalumba Shiraz Viognier Y Series 2011 beguiles with its floral nose, ginger, bacon and a black pepper, savoury black fruit aromas and flavours. Grilled meats or cheese work here.

Castano Lujuria 2013Yalumba Y Series Shiraz Viognier 2011Xanadu Next Of Kin Shiraz 2011Famille Perrin Réserve 2012Louis Bernard Cotes Du Rhone Villages 2012

Another Down under pick, this time from Western Australia is the Xanadu Next of Kin Shiraz 2011. A warm, ripe vintage has spawned a peppery, plum, chocolate flavoured red that works with lamb.

Is there better value red wine in Canada at the moment than Cotes du Rhone? The Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Rouge Réserve 2012 bears a ‘Reserve’ moniker but it doesn’t really need the meaningless qualifier. The palate is juicy with plummy, ripe raspberry fruit flavours you can serve with grilled pork or lamb chops.

Maison Louis Bernard works with over 20 vineyard owners in the Côtes-du-Rhône Villages appellation which spreads across some 4000 ha and 95 villages in Ardèche, Vaucluse, Drôme and Gard. Expect a slightly more complex structure and bouquet from this delicious Louis Bernard Côtes du Rhône Villages Rouge 2012.

DJ Kearney

Holiday brunch is on the calendar, and my festive home will soon be bulging with rellies, friends and no doubt, one or twelve kids and a few pets….   The adults are thirsty, the kiddies are hungry and the pets are out of control…. It’s predictable and beloved holiday chaos.

All the favourite recipes have been dusted off, a few new ones are trialed, and the holiday log crackles from the TV in my Yaletown condo. Bubbly is essential for toasts and well, good times in general. One of my favourites for a crowd is the streamlined Anna de Codorniu, with bright citrusy fruit, pillowy mousse and extra definition from a preponderance of chardonnay (70%), uplifting native Spanish grapes. The snowy white bottle and the sale price of $16.49 are two extra reasons to drink or stuff into a stocking.

I’ll also have a favourite Alsatian quichy dish, tarte a l’oignion made with Gruyere cheese and melted onions all bound in a savoury egg custard. An easy and regional pair is Kuhlmann-Platz Gewurztraminer, perfumed, just off-dry and hefty enough for the rich tart.

Codorniu Anna De Codorniu BrutKuhlmann Platz GewurztraminerOlivares Rosé 2012La Vuelta Syrah 2012Ganton & Larsen Prospect Admiral Shorts Okanagan Tawny

Ham and a heaped platter of juicy plump sausages need a rosé and a substantial red – I’ll give the Olivares Jumilla Rosado 2012 a big chill (yes, we can drink pink in the winter) and wow my guests with an Argentine syrah, La Vuelta 2012 that is one of the best bargains I’ve encountered lately.

Dessert (if anyone can manage) is sticky toffee pudding, mince tarts (made from my Mum’s quince mincemeat recipe), plus some local blue cheese, and I’ll offer a BC treat, the Ganton & Larsen Prospect Okanagan Tawny. Like port, it’s been lengthily aged in cask, and offers a mellow, sweet and warming winter drop. Amazingly there are over 200 bottles in the BCLDB system, so don’t miss the chance to taste this fortified BC hero. Eat, drink and be merry.

Rhys Pender MW

Christmas Day for me involves drinking pretty much all day, but certainly isn’t about over indulging. You don’t have to spend a lot to drink well on Christmas day, but as it is Christmas after all, I have stretched the budget a little beyond the $20 mark – but not much.

Christmas starts early with young kids and so after a few strong coffees a little glass of bubbly is good for livening you up for the next eating event. You don’t need anything fancy, as a splash of good orange juice is often in order, but it must be good enough to stand up on its own – not sweet, a little complexity, and freshness. Cava is always the best value and for just a few dollars above entry level you get some pretty delicious wine. The Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvée Brut does nicely.

The next Christmas event is brunch and we always try to have something that is not too heavy, saving room for the grand feast later on. Bubbly works so if there is any Cava left, that will do but it is also a great time to taste some interesting whites. A wine that goes with a great range of foods is Muscadet. The Château De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2013 is crisp, mineral and fresh.

Freixenet_Elyssia_Gran_Cuv_e_Brut_Cava_webChâteau De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2013Château De Pierreux Brouilly 2012Muriel Reserva 2008Falernia Reserva Syrah 2010Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008

When you get on to the main meal of the day, we often go for something other than the traditional turkey or ham, the stomach still full from Thanksgiving. Roast leg of lamb or beef tenderloin works well and allows a number of red wine options. If you go with a lighter Christmas dinner or the traditional route, good quality Beaujolais is the way to go. Try the Château De Pierreux Brouilly 2012.

For something a little fuller bodied, it is often fun to try something with a bit of age or some interesting flavours as there is often time to sit around with family and savour complex flavours. In terms of value for money, Rioja is hard to beat for wines with some development. One good bet is the Muriel Reserva Rioja 2008.

Another meaty, interesting wine that will go with grilled or roasted meats beautifully and do well around the fire place on its own is the Falernia Reserva Syrah 2010 from Chile’s Elqui Valley.

Somewhat miraculously towards the end of the evening, there is room for some cheese, Stilton being a particular favourite. The best value wine to match with a strong, crumbly cheese is Late Bottled Vintage Port. These wines can offer amazing value for money. Try the Taylor Fladgate LBV 2008.

Treve Ring

We all think about matching wine with food, but what about matching wine with people? A bottle of wine is a lovely gift to give and receive, and even more so when there is more thought put into the purchase than just the colourful label. Wine certainly needn’t be expensive to be fantastic, or appreciated. One of my favourite gifts to give is a bottle I’ve specifically selected for someone, along with a handwritten neck tag about why I chose it for him or her – and yes, often with a food pairing suggestion too.

For The Cocktailist: Lillet Blanc is a classic French aperitif – meant to stimulate the appetite before the meal. Try it over ice, or use in cocktails – the golden honey, apricot, orange oil and earthy spice a complement to many spirits.

For The Hostess: Bringing wine to an event can be hit or miss. Just remember that bubbles go with everything! Cava is an easy like and affordable place to start – Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut is mind-boggling value for all the lively green apple and citrus enjoyment.

Lillet BlancJaume Serra Cristalino Brut CavaViñas Elias Mora 2010Hester Creek Pinot Gris 2013No Unauthorized Reproduction @Jason Dziver

For The Carnivore: Elias Mora 2010 is a big, structured black fruited savoury tempranillo from Spain’s Toro region that would make any grill king or queen happy. I suggest pairing with roasted tenderloin and chestnuts.

For The Locavore: From an area that has been approved as BC’s first official Sub-Geographical Indication – the Golden Mile Bench – comes the spiced Hester Creek Estate Winery Pinot Gris 2013, a natural for those who support our local producers (and want something tasty to pair with leftover turkey sandwiches).

For The Sweet Toothed: With icewine, a little goes a long way. All the better then for the BCLDB’s stocking-stuffer-sized 50ml Inniskillin Niagara Vidal Icewine 2012 for $8 (!), a perfect little nip of peach nectar and mandarin spice to pair with your gingerbread.

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Thoughout the entire month the BC team will bring you timely and useful holiday selections. Our December Critics’ Picks will focus exclusively on sparkling wines, and for the next BC Report I’ll be sharing news on BC’s icewine harvest alongside tasting notes for different styles of local sweet wines. Anthony’s Final Blend will close off December with a look back on 2014 and a look ahead to the fresh new year.

Cheers,

Treve

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

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


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20 under $20 in British Columbia (November)

Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

No matter where we are in this vast vinous world (Similkameen, Vancouver, Chile, Australia…) we always have our ears finely tuned to value wines. Yes – we love to taste all wines, but we tire of the reserve, grand reserve, super premium reserve, icon extra reserve and every other uber, super, ultra premium tier wines – all with a price to match. When I talk to my colleagues about what they’re excited about, and what they’re drinking at home, it’s often under $20, and it’s a great find that doesn’t dent the bank account. That is what this column is about, and what we’re out there roving around and finding for you.

– TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

Though I’m writing this en route to spring in Chile, I’ve just left wind, rain and cold, so my mind is tuned to wines that will warm from the inside out.

A bargain red for all you year-round grilling fanatics is La Posta Tinto Red Blend 2013 and fun easy-sipping-style made from malbec, bonarda and syrah.

Syrah also dominates the Matchbook Dunnigan Hills Syrah 2011 from Yolo County in California. Here, a splash of cabernet sauvignon ups the smoky chocolate notes and results in a solid mid-week red.

La Posta Cocina Tinto Blend 2013Matchbook Syrah 2011Tommasi Vigneto Le Prunée Merlot 2012Graham Beck The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011No Unauthorized Reproduction @Jason Dziver

If your tastes veer more European, try the fresh Tommasi Merlot Le Prunée 2012  from Veneto, Italy with your grilled meats or mushroom dishes.

Graham Beck The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is ready to crack with your cheeseburger or beef dip, the smoked earth and cassis notes working with the freshness in this Western Cape rustic red.

And when you’re craving creamy pasta or warming clam chowder, pour a glass of the bread and orchard fruit-full Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2013 to match.

DJ Kearney

It’s time to lay in some wines for a crowd… trust me, November will evaporate and you’ll find the entertaining season arrives before you know it. Here are a few of my favourite bargains to stock up on this month.

Wyndham Estate Bin 222 Chardonnay 2013 has a spark of acidity that works well with a variety of dishes from seafood through poultry, and it’s always a smart idea to have a solid, well made chardonnay in the house.

Another great wine to stock up on is a varietally-sound, drinkable and affordable pinot noir – not an easy thing to find. Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir 2012 covers all bases and impresses with its gorgeous pinot fragrance.

Wyndham Estate Bin 222 Chardonnay 2013Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir 2012Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013San José De Aguarón Monasterio De Las Viñas Reserva 2006Crios Torrontés 2013

With hearty beef or lamb braises to warm you from the inside out, a tankard of Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013 from Colchagua, Chile will work well, with its currant, black plum and light smokiness.

If you are looking for a more savoury, Spanish red for your lamb, the Grandes Vinos y Vinedos Monasterio de las Vinas Reserva 2006 from Carinena, Spain is an exceptional value, with a chewy/silky blend of garnacha, tempranillo and carinena from vines aging 35-45 years offering up complexity and amazing value.

And if you really need a sunny lift? Stock up on Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes 2013. A salty note adds interest to this dry, citrusy high-altitude Salta aromatic white.

Rhys Pender MW

This month I have been enjoying a lot of soft, rich, cuddly red wines. The Rhône, southern France and southern Italy are always good bets plus I have thrown in a new Bulgarian listing and one Similkameen grown red to the list this month. These all over deliver for under $20 and should be enjoyed with some hearty food, ideally standing around an open fire in the chilly fall air.

The Château Millegrand 2012 from Minervois is the perfect soft, warming style and great with anything grilled and meaty.

Another similarly styled southern French value buy is the 2012 Pierre Henri Morel Signargues Côtes du Rhône. Both have plenty of fruit but also lots of savoury notes to add complexity and interest.

Château De Millegrand Minervois 2012Pierre Henri Morel Signargues Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2012Verso Rosso 2013Lovico Gamza 2011Sandhill Cabernet Merlot Vanessa Vineyard 2012

Southern Italy also makes some very soft yet savoury reds perfect for around the fireplace. The 2013 Verso Rosso from Salento IGT is a good buy at $19.99.

Bulgarian wine practically disappeared from BC shelves over the last decade but there may be signs of a comeback. The 2011 Lovico Gamza is a delicious, light, juicy and fresh savoury red for just $13. Maybe there will be some Mavrud and Melnik coming to follow in Gamza’s footsteps?

Closer to home is the 2012 Sandhill Vanessa Vineyard Cabernet-Merlot. This is nice and ripe but shows some of the Similkameen minerality underneath its toasty oak.

Treve Ring

I’m writing this column, as I often do, at an airport, waiting for a flight. I’ve just spent a couple of weeks visiting wine regions in Australia and struck by the innovation and energy coming out of this vast country. Forget about critter labels and commodity wine – the new Australia is focused on regionality and freshness above all – and there are great values to be found.

With my vote for one of the most value-for-money wines on our market is the Tahbilk Marsanne 2010. An absolute steal for under $20, Tahbilk’s ties to the rare French-born Marsanne grape stretches back to the 1860’s when the first grapes were recorded. Though those initial plantings are no longer around, the Estate still produces Marsanne from 1927 plantings – some of the oldest in the world!

Did you know that Oxford Landing is a place, not a brand? I have proof, drinking this bright and sunny Oxford Landing Pinot Grigio overlooking riverfront Oxford Landing, in the sleepily scenic Riverland region in South Australia.

Tahbilk Marsanne 2010Oxford Landing Pinot Grigio 2013Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2013De Bortoli Db Selection Petite Sirah 2011De Bortoli La Boheme Pinot Gris And Friends 2013

Credited, rightfully so, with saving viognier from extinction, the Yalumba Y Series Viognier remains a consistent staple and benchmark for this exotic, apricot spiced grape. Partner with your Thai or Vietnamese dishes for pairing perfections.

If you’re grilling up a quick weekday steak to ward off the chill, De Bortoli Family Selection Petite Sirah 2011 would be a great choice. Uncomplicated sweet plum, dark cassis over a polished, cool finish will match up to your easy midweek dinner plans.

DeBorts, as they’re casually called, have just recently released a new line of wines into Canada. The La Boheme line is a higher tier wine, in smaller production and focus on region. La Boheme Pinot Gris & Friends 2013 is from grapes sourced in the cooler upper Yarra Valley, highlighting the tart lemon, anise and pear skin character of pinot gris, alongside aromatic friends gewürztraminer and Riesling.

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Watch for the BC WineAlign crew’s monthly Critics’ Picks, as well Anthony’s Final Blend and DJ’s overview of wine judges mentoring judges. Later this month, I will kick off a series taking a closer, detailed look at Australia’s regionality and John Szabo, Bill Zacharkiw and I write a joint piece about our travels through Portugal – Bill, John and Treve’s Excellent Portuguese Adventure. You can check out John’s terrific introduction to the diversity of Portugal here.

Cheers,

Treve

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

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


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20 under $20 in British Columbia (October)

Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

Giving thanks for wine. We have much to be thankful for in BC. We have a thriving, exciting and vibrant wine industry, currently in the midst of a beautiful harvest. We have a selection of outlets to purchase wine, both government operated and independent, ensuring a wide and ranging selection of products at all price points. We have some of the top sommeliers and wine professionals in the country (sorry everywhere east), undoubtedly talented, educated and supportive of each other. And our wine culture, though young and concentrated, is building and confident. I am thankful for a national portal like WineAlign, that unites drinkers, agents, geeks, consumers and professionals all, in our shared quest for great wines. And I am thankful for you, our readers, who fuel our drive to bring you the best, and our best. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours – TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

A few favourites for the long weekend. Whether it’s turkey or ham or salmon or simply a piece of cheese all of these wines work with family and friends and we couldn’t be more thankful.

Chardonnay is on a roll around the globe and the Louis Latour Ardèche Chardonnay 2012 is a favourite given how it walks the fine line between rich and lean – plus it is terrific value to boot.

The new Moon Curser Carmenere 2012 speaks to site and climate, I love the pepper and chocolate we see in top Chilean examples. (Sorry for cheating above the $20 here)

Louis Latour Chardonnay L'ardeche 2012 Moon Curser Carmenere 2012 Tabalí Reserva Pinot Noir 2012 Tormaresca Trentangeli Castel Del Monte 2010 Crios De Susana Balbo Malbec 2013

Still in Chile, turkey and pinot can be a comfortable fit and the Tabali Reserva Pinot Noir 2012 fits that bill. The palate is soft and alluring with enough sweet fruit and spice to please a diverse crowd.

More turkey wine and a crowd pleaser is the Tormaresca Trentangeli Castel del Monte 2010. Rich dense warm and spicy it will stand up to the big dinner flavours.

That goes ditto for the handcrafted Crios Malbec by Susana Balbo Dominio de Plata 2013. Aromatic floral/violet black fruits will draw you deep into the glass. Happy Thanksgiving.

DJ Kearney

Thanksgiving is almost upon us and I give thanks for variety in wine; for the simple fact that we can waltz into a wine store and choose a bottle or five from dozens of countries, hundreds of grapes and thousands of producers. Diversity is wines greatest strength, so let’s celebrate a world of choice.

I blind-tasted Nobilo’s Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2014 this past August at our World Wine Awards, and wow does it deliver freshness and zing for a great price. I’ll be pouring it before Thanksgiving dinner paired with goat’s cheese crostini.

Next up is a sensational South African white, Wild Olive Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2013, and you should run, not walk to buy a case. Pair it with pear, thyme and parmesan stuffed mushrooms.

Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Wild Olive Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2013 St. Hubertus’ Pinot Blanc 2013 Stoneleigh Pinot Noir 2013 Goats Do Roam Red 2013

A different kind of botanical white is St. Hubertus’ Pinot Blanc 2013, with precise apple and citrus and the herbal note of the Okanagan’s ‘garrigue’; try this with Dungeness crab cakes.

To round out dinner of either whole baked sockeye salmon or the traditional turkey (smoky bacon atop), I love the 2013 Stoneleigh Marlborough Pinot Noir, and the Goat’s Do Roam 2013 chewy Cape red blend.  Being thankful for delicious under-$20 wines is EASY!

Rhys Pender MW

The wine world is so diverse and there are some great wines at great value from all over the place. Take the Campo Viejo Reserva Rioja 2008. A lot of interesting flavours for just $20.

Just creeping under the $20 thanks to a limited time offer, you should stock up on the Wakefield Riesling 2013. This crisp, dry Aussie riesling is fresh and juicy for now and should also cellar well, so tuck a few in the cellar.

Another interesting wine is the Feudo Maccari Nero D’avola 2012 from Sicily. This has the ripe fruit of sunshine but lots of meaty goodness, an excellent wine for beside the fire over the winter.

Campo Viejo Reserva 2008 Wakefield Clare Valley Riesling 2013 Feudo Maccari Nero D'avola 2012 Muscadet Sevre Et Maine Chateau De La Gravelle 2011 Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2013

One of the most craveable styles of wine is anything crisp and refreshing and that tastes like licking a wet rock from a mountain stream. The Château de la Gravelle 2011 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine fits the bill nicely. Just add freshly shucked oysters.

Cool nights call for warming meals and there is no better wine to go with Indian curry than viognier. The Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2013 is always a good bet.

Treve Ring

I’m admittedly not the traditional sort, so my Thanksgiving plans generally involve picnics, pizza, brunch or BBQ. However, I always invite folks over – sometimes newly acquainted, sometimes decades-known, often a mix – to share in the festivities. Therefore, my Thanksgiving wine picks veer more to communal camaraderie than a specific menu.

Therapy Vineyards Freudian Sip 2013 will unite a crowd, if not for its herb perfumed florals, then for its memorable label and name.

A well made, well balanced, well priced riesling is good to have in your arsenal, bonus points that it’s from the Mosel. Be sure to stock up on Deinhard Green Label Riesling 2012 for Thanksgiving and beyond.

Therapy Freudian Sip 2013 Deinhard Green Label Riesling 2012 Kendall Jackson Avant Chardonnay 2013 Piccini Fiasco Chianti 2012 Bodega Renacer Punto Final Malbec 2012

Monterey’s Kendall Jackson Avant Chardonnay 2013 demonstrates how far full-bodied Cali chardy has come, with its lemon, applesauce and gentle lees, it is a great wine to dispel the ABC myth with (test it on your company).

You needn’t fear this holiday fiasco. The Piccini Chianti Fiasco 2012 proudly utilizes the old school basket to present this tart cranberry and fresh cherry Tuscan red.

And if you do find yourself out grilling, like I most likely will be, you may need a spicy, hearty red. The solidly built, stylishly packaged Bodega Renacer Punto Final 2012 Malbec, from Mendoza, Argentina will partner with the fall chill, whatever meats you have grilling and your Thanksgiving table.

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Watch for Anthony’s insightful Final Blend which speaks to the importance of vintage, followed by the BC WineAlign crew’s monthly Critics’ Picks, as well as Rhys Pender’s look at natural wine in BC. In the meantime, I have shared my take away notes from the biennial Wine & Culinary International Forum in Barcelona.

Cheers,

Treve

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

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


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British Columbia Wine Report

Back to {WINE} School TimeSept. 9, 2014

by Treve Ring

Treve Ring

Treve Ring

Even though it looks like BC’s public schools will not be back in session any time soon due to a bitter and lengthy teachers’ strike, September’s arrival signals back to school for many lucky BC students. Wine students.

After a busy summer for most of the trade, autumn is a natural slide back into indoors, books and studies. There are classes for all levels of professional and amateur wine students, both informal and accredited, all over the province. Classes vary widely in scope, instruction and cost, and potential wine students should do a little homework to find out what method best suits their needs; it can be confusing to know the difference between ISG and WSET and CMS and beyond – a whole lingo of acronyms in itself! As a wine professional with a funny little alphabet of post-noms, I’m constantly queried on the best way for people to improve their wine knowledge – be it for their personal pleasure, or for improving their career. For this Back To {Wine} School BC Wine Report, I’m going to give you the Coles Notes on the various programs available.

PRO vs. CON

The class you chose depends on your end goal. If you’re a beginning amateur (CONsumer) who would like to understand the difference between chardonnay and cabernet, you may not need or want an accredited course. There are numerous courses at community rec centres and colleges, as well as continuing studies courses offered through universities such as the University of British Columbia. Some private wine shops offer a series of courses to customers, which is a great way to learn more about what’s at your local shop. These courses are often offered in the evenings or weekends, and aimed at widening your world wine scope in a more casual and consumer-appropriate way.

IMG_4912If you’re in the industry, or want to be, you will want to find an accredited course, for PROfessionals. Certification from an accredited education provider will be helpful on your resume, and provides a standard level that is recognized widely. At the entry levels, the instruction between the programs is similar, but as you progress through your studies, you’ll want to know what your end goal is so you can direct your path. You’ll also learn how to taste (yes, and spit) professionally and methodically as well as how to taste wine blind – more than just a nifty party trick.

End Goal: MW vs MS

Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)

This globally recognized, multi-tiered program is great for people just starting wine studies or for those who have informal and/or self-guided training as you can enter at any level that suits. Courses build from Level 1 through 3 into increasingly detailed material about the world of wine and spirits, as well as blind tasting skills. Level 4 is the Diploma level, and is comprised of 6 different detailed units, each focusing on an aspect of global wine business or style. The Diploma is usually a 2-3 year program, and can be taken in class or through Distance Education. There are very few schools worldwide able to administer the Diploma program on behalf of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, based in London, England. Completion of the WSET Diploma is the stepping stone to become a Master of Wine (MW), the highest academic/wine business qualification in the world. *WineAlign’s Rhys Pender is an MW.

There are a few different schools in BC that are accredited for WSET instruction and classes run at various schedules year round, but only the Art Institute of Vancouver is certified to teach the Diploma level. Diploma courses run on a globally synched calendar – meaning all students around the world write exams on specific dates. Other WSET providers in BC include WinePlus+, Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, Fine Vintage and the BC Wine School.

Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS)

IMG_6838Though not a permanent fixture in BC, the Court of Master Sommeliers leads the Introductory Sommelier Course and a Certified Sommelier Course through the Art Institute of Vancouver each fall. Unlike WSET and their focus on global wine business, the focus of CMS instruction shifts to wine service, and completion of their Advanced Sommelier level is the gateway to becoming a Master Sommelier (MS), an exam process chronicled in the documentary SOMM. *WineAlign’s John Szabo is an MS. Vancouver’s CMS courses will be taught via the Art Institute at the end of September and afford students the chance to gain an accredited designation from CMS. Vancouver classes fill up quickly; students who are marching on towards their MS have to travel to the United States to write the Advanced Level exams.

There are other accredited courses in BC that are more localized geographically (International Sommelier Guild) or specialized (French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Specialist). For budding winemakers and grape growers, the Viticulture and Wine Studies Program at Okanagan College is a great place to start.

And now for the Homework…

Unlike most schools, the best part about wine studies is homework. Tasting, tasting, tasting wines from around the globe – benchmarks and oddities – to set your palate and your wine compass. I’m a lifer – a lifetime student – who is excited and grateful to learn new things every time I pick up a glass.

Here are a series of wines that I think everyone, at any level, should experience. Consider it homework.

If you can learn to say Weingut St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett 2011, you’re ahead of the game, and even more when you start to grasp off-dry and intense Mosel Riesling.

After learning German, Greek will be easy – especially when you have the sunny and likable Boutari Moschofilero 2012 from Peloponnese, Greece in your tasting glass.

You will learn how some wineries deftly merge modernity with centuries of tradition, as with the Barone Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010.

Or how producers are reclaiming biodynamic and natural farming techniques to lead today’s brigade of responsible natural wines, like Beaujolais’ Christophe Pacalet Chiroubles 2011.

In our locavore province, students will be schooled on important local wines, like Naramata’s Nichol Vineyard Syrah 2010, made from Canada’s oldest Syrah vines.

St. Urbans Hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2011 Boutari Moschofilero 2012 Barone Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010 Christophe Pacalet Chiroubles 2011Nichol Vineyards Syrah 2010

A big part of the class will be learning type and benchmarks for regions. Sonoma’s Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc 2011 should be on every wine lover’s playlist for its creamy oak and lemon curd balance.

And Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalicino DOCG 2008 makes for a great lesson in elegant Brunello di Montalcino from a very good vintage.

A huge benefit of formal classes is tasting a series of wines beyond most peoples’ budgets. Tasting stunning, shining grower Champagnes, like Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils ‘Cuis 1er Cru’ Blanc de Blancs NV Brut will make you forget you’re at ‘school’.

Ferrari Carano Fumé Blanc 2011 Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino 2008 Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Brut Blanc De Blancs 'cuis' 1er Cru Concha Y Toro Marques De Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Hidalgo La Gitana Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny Port

And another, oft overlooked benefit? Your savvy instructor can introduce you to very tasty wines at very tasty prices, like the brambled and cassis-clad Concha y Toro 2012 Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Maipo Valley, Chile.

Context is everything, and your instructor will paint a hazy picture of Jerez’s history when introducing you to the idiosyncratic Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla from Southern Spain’s Sanlucar De Barrameda.

Similarly, when you are tasting wines – like Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny – from the oldest demarcated and regulated wine region in the and start to grasp that you’re learning, and tasting history all at once, you’ll want to stay a student forever.

Treve ~

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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20 under $20 in British Columbia (September)

Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

It’s official. Summer is over. Well, ok, not officially. But really, come September and Labour Day and immediately I start thinking less about easy breezy whites and lakeshores and more about crunchy reds and sweaters. As we transition from a glorious summer in BC to what looks to be an abundant harvest, the BC team are starting the subtle shift into fall in the glass. And we want to help you drink better, for less. Our 20 under $20 wines are readily available in BC Liquor Stores and VQA stores across the province for your shopping convenience.

Cheers ~ Treve Ring

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

Always a good value, no matter the season, the Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2013 is light fresh and packed full of tension a perfect anecdote to creamy sauces. For those who like their riesling extreme.

Southern Italian reds are a great way to ease into fall. Don’t miss the La Casona de Castaño Old Vines Monastrell 2013; you are getting old vine monastrell made by the Castaño family at a giveaway price. Grilled lamb chops anyone?

More tasty red comes in the form of Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2011 with its blackcurrant, black olives flavours seemingly rubbed with Chilean ‘boldo’, the French equivalent of garrigue. Steak is the cure here.

Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2013 Bodegas Castano La Casona Old Vines Monastrell 2013 Santa Rita Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Gabriel Meffre Plan De Dieu Saint Mapalis 2012 Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2013

Gabriel Meffre Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages Saint Mapalis 2012 is an amazing 50/30/20 blend of grenache, mourvèdre and syrah from noted southern Rhone villages. Think more finesse than regular Cote du Rhone serve with turkey.

Finally, one doesn’t always reach for pinot blanc to excite the senses but the Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2013 is worth sipping for its refreshing citrus/green peach flavours. Let the fall begin.

DJ Kearney

A southern hemisphere round-up is my theme as I reflect nostalgically about two amazing trips that I took this time last year – one to South Africa’s Cape winelands, and the other to Australia and New Zealand. They were journeys of discovery and delight, as was a recent tour of Argentina. Common denominator in the antipodes? Great-value wines that combine generous fruit, clean lines and good stories.

Give this breezy white a try and join the chenin fan club. The Royal Old Vine Steen 2013 celebrates and preserves mature vineyards for only $14 bucks.

Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc 2013 is a ‘got-it-all’ savvy. Fresh and purposeful with the kind of focus that has sharpened over the last few vintages, it’s killer with crisp greens, goat’s cheese nuggets and pink grapefruit.

The Royal Old Vine Steen Chenin Blanc 2013 Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 D'arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2013 Crios De Susana Balbo Malbec 2013 Anderra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

D’Arenberg’s 2013 The Hermit Crab impressed me with a happy balance of weight and herbal savour in this 65% viognier/35% marsanne blend that tastes dry and energetic. Here’s my pairing: a salad of heirloom tomatoes dressed with no more than torn basil leaves, Maldon salt, cracked pepper and tangy olive oil.

Crios Malbec 2013 presents a mouthful of expressive blueberry fruit to contrast with spicy, meaty grilled chorizo sausages, while Anderra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 serves as a tasty reminder that Chile’s central valley churns out more than decent reds for a song.

Rhys Pender MW

Pinot grigio can be dilute, boring and it is hard to understand why it is so popular. Then you hit on one that is everything the variety should be, crisp, fresh and lively but with some drive and intensity. The Kris Pinot Grigio 2013 fits the bill nicely.

One of the benefits of being a pioneer in the wine business is that by the time you survive all the hardships of helping to create an industry, you are usually firmly established and debt free when it all settles down and you can go about making wine and often at a very competitive price. Gehringer Brothers always outperforms on their quality to price ratio and the 2013 Private Reserve Riesling is no exception and worth buying by the case.

Kris Pinot Grigio 2013Gehringer Brothers Private Reserve Riesling 2013Edna Valley Paragon Chardonnay 2011 CedarCreek Gewurztraminer 2013 Cellar Hand Punch Down Red 2012

The world is making an effort at making chardonnay fresher, crisper, lighter and juicier and California is no exception, even though it is hard in many of the warmer climate areas. When the vineyards are near the cool pacific coast they more naturally produce this modern style. Big boys Gallo have produced the well priced Edna Valley Chardonnay 2011 that is a nice example of what can be done.

Gewürztraminer, like riesling, is increasingly being taken more seriously in British Columbia with producers trying to make wines of character and intensity rather than just the simple fruity wines which, frankly, other countries can do better and cheaper. One increasingly serious gewürztraminer producer is CedarCreek and their 2013 is a good example of the fat and rich Alsatian style.

British Columbia can produce some decent value red wine, the second wine of Black Hills is the Cellar Hand range and the red in particular offers great value at around $20. The Punch Down Red 2012 is a good warming, solid wine for cooler fall evenings by the fire.

Treve Ring

As dated as ‘don’t wear white after Labour Day’ is the credo that white wines should only be reserved for summer months.

California’s Bonterra Organic Chardonnay 2012 is a great example of a fall-worthy wine that will remind you of summer blossoms. This creamy style offers up a sweet green pea freshness and light floral blossoms.

Telmo Rodriquez Basa Blanco 2013 is a wine I’d gladly drink any day of the year, and even more so due to its amazing value. Verdejo, viura and sauvignon blanc from Spain’s DO Rueda come together seamlessly in this crisp citrus, herb and stone beauty.

Bonterra Chardonnay 2012 Telmo Rodriguez Basa Blanco 2013 Bottega Vino Dei Poeti Prosecco Thornhaven Pinot Meunier 2012 Miguel Torres Sangre De Toro 2012

There is never an incorrect time to drink bubbles. Especially when it’s lively, perfumed and citrus kissed, like Italy’s Bottega Nino Dei Poeti Prosecco.

As for reds to ward off early autumn’s chill, Thornhaven Estates Pinot Meunier 2012 is an excellent local choice. This rare solo example of pinot meunier, commonly found in blends, offers up perfumed raspberry and twine-scented spice.

For consistent value year after year, Miguel Torres Sangre de Toro 2012 is hard to beat with its savoury and bright blend of garnacha and carignan from Cataluña, Spain.

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And that’s it for this month’s 20 under 20. Next up this month our Critic’s Picks at any price, and the announcement of the results of the WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada. In the meantime, check out my article on last month’s International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon.

Cheers,

Treve

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

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Fall in the vineyards, photos courtesy of Treve Ring

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20 under $20 in British Columbia (August 2014)

Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

Even though we’ve just made it through the National Wine Awards, our national judges are already preparing – mentally at least – for the The World Wine Awards of Canada (WWAC14), coming up in a few short weeks. These recognize the best wines SOLD in Canada anywhere, regardless of where they are from. They are judged in categories under $15, $15 to $25, and over $25 to a maximum of $50. What’s so fantastic about these awards is that we are judging Canada blind beside wines from France, Australia, Chile, Spain and beyond.

While we’re gearing up for Toronto mid-month, our BC critics have been reflecting on World Wine Awards from past years and anticipating what terrific values we might be seeing in our glasses in competition this year. Our 20 Under $20 wines are readily available in BC Liquor Stores and VQA stores across the province for your shopping convenience.

Cheers ~ Treve Ring

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

Looking back at 2013 “Sauvignon Blanc” results from the World Wine Awards, the top five labels were: Robert Mondavi 2011 Fume Blanc, Napa, Mapu 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Chile, Giesen Sauvignon Blanc 2012, New Zealand, Arboleda 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Chile and The Ned Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. There’s no telling how the 2014 results will go but here are five of my current favourite white sauvignons to finish off the summer on the patio.

The Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2012 is easily the best value sauvignon in the country.

No less impressive, save for it drab packaging and Don Max designation, is the Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc Don Max Reserva 2013, it’s mix of citrus and dried herbs with enough passion fruit to give it a fruity underbelly. It is delicious.

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2012 Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Blue Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Leon De Tarapaca Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Locally, the Blue Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2013 is a fresh, electric-style sauvignon with grassy, grapefruit, gooseberry flavours.

You can spell the Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Regional Collection 2013 c-l-a-s-s-i-c, with no shortage of passion fruit, melon and bell pepper notes.

Finally the big steal is León de Tarapacá Sauvignon Blanc 2012, the perfect luncheon-style sauvignon that is a kinder gentler version of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

DJ Kearney

Wine’s greatest strength is its diversity – and it’s such an exciting time to be a wine lover when diversity can come at a bargain price.

At last year’s Awards the 2012 Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio absolutely shone in the Under $15 category. The 2013 is pretty darn tasty too, especially with a frosty chill and gourmet nachos.

One of my favourite regions to drink from is Austria and I’ve got my fingers crossed that this alpine, landlocked country will be well-represented at the August judging. The Domaine Wachau Gruner Veltliner Terraces 2012 is a crisply taut dry white with subtle fruit and a saline aspect that’s tasty with cheese, or brined then grilled prawns.

Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2013 Domäne Wachau Terraces Grüner Veltliner 2012 Trivento Amado Sur Torrontes Viognier 2013 Falernia Reserva Syrah 2010 The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvèdre Viognier 2013

Trivento’s Amado Sur Blanco 2013 is a dry and joyful blend of torrontés, viognier and chardonnay that demonstrates how fresh and lively Argentine whites can be.  It’s a great price that’s slashed to $12.99 in BC Liquor Stores until August 30th.

I admire the Falernia Syrah Reserva 2010 every time I encounter a bottle. From the 2010 earthquake vintage, it’s a moving wine to drink, and is showing black fruit, pepper and the sinewy qualities of cool-climate syrah. A runaway winner at last year’s Worlds, I sure hope to see more of Falernia’s range at the WWAC14.

Finally another staple of mine, especially when the charcoal grill is hot and smoky baby back ribs are getting their final burnish, bring on the Wolftrap Red 2013.

Rhys Pender MW

The Rhône valley always seems to feature well in the World competition, the soft and rich texture of both the red and white wines appealing to the judges. An impressive and well priced Rhône red tasted recently that is worth seeking out is the Cave De Rasteau La Domelière Rasteau 2010.

The WWAC judging always turns out some amazing value discoveries, wines you should buy by the case. There was no pinot blanc in the winners list last year but this variety does consistently offer excellent value. The Inniskillin Okanagan Pinot Blanc 2012 is a great crisp, fresh summer white.

Malbec is no stranger to the limelight in the value price points but most of it comes from Argentina. There is also serious, if slightly lighter and fresher, malbec being grown over the hills in Chile. A great value example is the Viu Manent 2012 Estate Collection Malbec from Colchagua Valley in Chile.

Cave De Rasteau La Domelière Rasteau 2010 Inniskillin Okanagan Pinot Blanc Reserve 2012 Viu Manent Estate Malbec 2012 Quails' Gate Chenin Blanc 2013 Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris 2013

The WWAC is always a good chance for some of the lesser known grapes to get some attention. The Red Single Varieties and White Single Varieties categories see some exciting entries from all over the world. Chenin Blanc is not the rarest but surely not that well known either. A great example tasted recently is the Quails’ Gate 2013 Chenin Blanc. It is explosive, powerful and crunchy and great value.

Always a consistent performer is the Tinhorn Creek Vineyards Pinot Gris. The 2012 vintage was a judges’ choice at last years WWAC and it will be interesting to see how the 2013 vintage does. It is richer, rounder and more lush than previous vintages offering something a little different and will stand up well to mild curries, poultry and rich white fish.

Treve Ring

As I noted in my intro, the great thrill of the World Wine Awards is seeing how Canada stacks up blind against wines from all corners of the globe. One Canadian wine that excelled last year in its category was Wild Goose Mystic River Pinot Gris 2012, proving pinot gris needn’t be bland and banal or expensive.

Another Okanagan winery that held its weight (and earned its weight in medals) is the Gray Monk Riesling 2011, from a winery forging Germanic roads in BC for decades, and always for a reasonable price.

Wild Goose Pinot Gris Mystic River 2012 Gray Monk Riesling 2011 Campo Viejo Reserva 2008 Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Sogrape Gazela Rosé

Outside of Canada, we always expect certain countries, and regions to fare well in the under $25 category. While many countries are strong here (Chile, Argentina, South Africa and Australia amongst them), right now Spain and Portugal’s values are second to none, and I think both countries will be big contenders in this year’s competition. Rioja’s Campo Viejo Reserva 2008 value is extremely hard to beat year over year, as the classic tempranillo and graciano blend is traditional and modern all at once.

Of course, Cava is practically equivalent to amazing value, and Segura Viudas Brut NV is top of the heap for taste, value, consistency and availability in any market, worldwide.

And I’m particularly keeping a close eye on Portugal this year, a country category buoyed by a very strong showing in B.C. This summer, there is often a bottle of Gazela Vinho Verde Rosé around, and with good reason. Easy, breezy, off-dry, interesting and pink – what more could you ask for in a $10 patio wine?

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Follow along as WineAlign’s BC critics, as well as all of our national critics, tweet, facebook and instagram live daily from the World Wine Awards of Canada (#WWAC14) from August 18-22.

20 Under $20 in British Columbia

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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20 under $20 in British Columbia (July 2014)

Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

We’re well into summer now, and priorities have distinctively shifted into summer holiday mode. We’re still tasting as much as ever, though patios, beaches, campsites, parks, docks and boats play heavily on our choices now. As Ella so soulfully and rightfully crooned, it’s Summertime, and the livin’ is easy

Our 20 Under $20 wines are readily available in BC Liquor Stores and VQA stores across the province for your shopping convenience.

Cheers ~
Treve Ring

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

It’s amazing how a few warm days can transform a lightweight, fruity wine into a quenching patio favourite that has everybody asking to see the label. Remember light and fruity doesn’t have to mean flavourless and flabby nor should the wine possess a finish that lasts longer than a weekend round of golf.

Case in point, Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling 2012 from Washington’s Columbia Valley. Or, from further south, the simple, juicy and off-dry Fetzer Quartz Winemaker’s Favourite White Blend 2012. Chill them down, find a deck chair and away you go.

Equally refreshing – and local – is Grant Stanley’s 50th Parallel Estate Riesling 2013 from British Columbia Lake Country with its bright acidity and tension. Think grilled pork.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling 2012 Fetzer Quartz Winemaker's Favourite White Blend 2012 50th Parallel Riesling 2013 Bold Vine Old Vine Zinfandel 2012 Château Peyros Tannat Cabernet 2009

Barbecue freaks often reach for red, and this juicy example from California will match many al fresco meals. Bold Vine Old Vine Zinfandel 2012 is a catchy, friendly fresh, easy-sipping style for lighter grilled dishes, plus tapas, cheese and pizzas.

Finally, it’s fun to explore new grapes, blends and region in the summer and  Chateau Peyros Madiran Tannat Cabernet Franc 2009 qualifies on all counts.

This very interesting tannat /cabernet franc blend from southwest France’s Madiran region will expand your wine knowledge, and your big meaty BBQ pairing options.

DJ Kearney

White wines from the Southern Hemisphere typically bring a trio of satisfying factors:  generous fruit, lush texture and killer value. I’ve chosen five bottles from south of the equator that are lovely summertime wines for relaxed outdoor dinners.

Giesen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 brings brisk and cheeky to a new level, with tropical notes, grassy freshness and dusty minerals for a tossed salad of local goat’s cheese, grapes, kiwi and baby greens. Use the wine in the vinaigrette as the acid for complete harmony.

South Africa’s Cape winelands have embraced sauvignon blanc in a bearhug, and are sending lovely trim wines to market, like the Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2013. Savoury with nettles and crunchy gooseberries, it’s a dry and earthy companion for chilled cucumber soup.

Giesen Wine Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Miss Molly By Moreson Hoity Toity Chenin Blanc 2012 Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2012 Concha Y Toro Marques De Casa Concha Chardonnay 2012

Chenin Blanc is the Cape’s most planted white grape and in Miss Molly Hoity Toity 2012, a jolt of perfumed viognier romps through the blend.  Lemony fresh with a peachy finish, it’s built for simple grilled chicken skewers.

Yalumba makes a wide range of wonderful wines, and led the charge planting Viognier in Oz.  Organic, floral and gorgeous, the Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2012 is for grilled salmon and stonefruit salsa.

Finally, a Chilean looker that is under $20 by just a penny, but it over-delivers even at this price.  Stately and rich, I want Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2012 with steamed Dungeness crab and Meyer Lemon butter.

Rhys Pender MW

Summer is finally here and in a dramatic fashion. At the time of writing this, temperatures in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys were in the high 30s. The body wants to slow down, shade and water are sought after and crisp, dry and refreshing wines are in order. Fortunately there are many great wines that have the perfect level of refreshment.

My first recommendation this month is not a grape variety and place that we often associate and maybe that is why the Nederburg The Winemaster’s Reserve Riesling 2012 is such a great deal at $10 (BC)!

Summer also means dry rosé time. Few wines are as well suited to lounging in the shade on a hot day than very cold, light pink rosé from the south of France. The Domaine Saint Ferréol Les Vaunières 2013 and the Bieler Père et Fils 2013  are both perfect.

Nederburg The Winemaster's Reserve Riesling 2012 Domiane St Ferreol Les Vaunieres 2013 Bieler Père & Fils Sabine Rosé 2013Baldes & Fils Château Labrande 2010 Trapiche Pure Malbec 2012

Red wine may also be necessary at this time of the year and particularly later in the evening when it finally cools off and you want to grill big chunks of red meat. A good red wine for this must have character but not be overly boozy or heavily laden with oak. And don’t be afraid to chill them down in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour. The Château Labrande 2010 Cahors Malbec is a good choice.

Another important red wine that is bucking a lot of the trends of sweetness and chocolatey oak is the Trapiche 2012 Pure Malbec from the cool Uco Valley part of Argentina’s Mendoza. The vineyard is managed to slow ripening and the grapes are picked a little earlier to avoid jamminess. The wine then sees no oak staying fresh, juicy and lively. And it works.

Treve Ring

Vive le Juillet! Tour de France and this week’s Bastille Day celebrations have me in a distinctively French frame of mind. While many people – erroneously – consider French wines to be expensive and intimidating, I argue that the amazing diversity of regions, styles, grapes – and price points – makes France a wine buyers (and drinker’s) delight.

Everyone loves bubbles, especially when they are pink, fresh, fruity, easy and $16. The Loire Valley’s Remy Pannier Royal de Neuville Rose is a gentle, off-dry example that matches summer’s rosy sunset.

If you prefer your pinks dry, pick up the Chateau de Brigue Côtes de Provence Protégée Rose 2013, a crisp and refined syrah and cinsault blend that will fit patio sipping or your albacore tuna niçoise.

Tour de France riders spent a couple of days in the Vosges mountains, undoubtedly satisfied to slake their thirsts with juicy, fruity, round whites like Kuhlmann Platz Gewurztraminer 2012.

Remy Pannier Royal De Neuville Petillant RoseChateau De Brigue Rose 2013Kuhlmann Platz GewurztraminerCave De Rasteau La Domelière Rasteau 2010 Cote Mas Languedoc Reserve 2012

A GSM blend is always a good bet for summertime suppers, so two must be doubly as good, right? True when we’re talking about Cave de Rasteau La Domelière 2010 from AC Rasteau. This savoury grenache, syrah, mouvedre blend is from one of the oldest wineries in the Rhone valley and demonstrates its pedigree now with a few years patina.

In a younger, fresher vein is the Cote Mas Languedoc Reserve 2012, from Languedoc AC. Here, Grenache, syrah and mouvedre are joined by the charismatic and secretive carignan, resulting in a savoury and garrigue-imbued herbal cherry wonder, ideal for dusky nights al fresco.

Keep cool out there BC – we’ll be back next month to satisfy your wallets and your palates with a special edition 20 Under $20 focused on The World Wine Awards of Canada.

20 Under $20 in British Columbia

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008