Wine Picks of the Week
April 2, 2015
April 1st, 2015
Ah, Easter: time for family gatherings, a chocolate-egg hunt, deeply flavourful roast lamb or ham, and perhaps reflection on those things that matter most in life, like family, precious friends, good health, and celebratory food. And don't forget the wine, of course—like these two winners from our 11th annual Wine Awards, which will flatter any Easter feast.
*available in private wine stores
This game-changing Riesling is one of the most exciting wines being made in the Okanagan Valley. The Tantalus winery was established in 2004, giving new life to one of the oldest vineyards in B.C.—the Pioneer vineyard—which was planted with table grapes in 1927 before noble riesling was tucked into the sloping terroir in 1978. Here, a portion of these concentrated berries joins fruit from younger vineyards. Winemaker Dave Patterson lets the fruit hang until it's ultra-ripe, then it's hand-picked and cool-fermented to near dryness at Tantalus's spectacular LEED-certified winery. Peach and guava twirl around a steely backbone of brain-rinsing acidity, creating an explosion of flavour. Waves of lush fruit propel a dry-ish finish through the richness of an Easter brunch of baked ham, oven-roasted sockeye salmon, or smoky bacon hash.
*available in private wine stores
Take the Italian wine aristocrat Piero Incisa della Rocchetta (his family gave us the incomparable super-Tuscan Sassicaia), set him loose in Patagonia (where pinot noir vines were planted more than 80 years ago), and what do you get? One of the most thrilling outlier wine estates anywhere. (Yes, anywhere.) Its range is micro: two magnificent pinots made from the oldest vines, and this energetic wine called Barda, from newer plantings. The air is pristine in the southern Argentine desert, where Chacra's vineyards are farmed according to strict biodynamic practices. The wines are made with no intervention: native ferments in cement vats, no punching down, old oak casks, and plenty of patience, so the wine can relax and settle before gentle bottling with no fining or filtration. In other words, pure, natural wine that expresses the limestone and glacial, gravelly terroir in a profound way. The scents are floral and wild, with plush raspberry flavours, distinct earthiness, and the silky mouthfeel that distinguishes great pinot. Herb-marinated leg of lamb is exactly what Piero would enjoy with this out-of-this-world Patagonian treasure.
March 26th, 2015
These two stylish Italian winners from our 11th annual Wine Awards beautifully accessorize a rainy weekend dinner, and will keep you enjoying la dolce vita until the sunshine returns. They're both from the northeast of Italy, where the refined local cuisine draws from both land and sea.
*available in private wine stores
One of the best interpretations of the garganega grape, this Soave from Pieropan is universally admired. The 2012 Classico displays flavours of almond blossom, honey, and thyme, and stony aromas. It's savoury and nutty, amplified by steely lemon acidity balanced by creamy, leesy weight. Fresh and inviting, it ends with a mineral force that comes from the volcanic terroir of the Soave region. Try it with Baccalà Mantecato (a classic Venetian spread of whipped salt cod), risotto with asparagus, or creamy polenta topped with garlicky sautéed prawns.
Think of Bardolino as a fresher, juicier Valpolicella. The grapes—Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara—are the same in both wines (as well as in Amarone, by the way), and they come from old vineyards near Lake Garda, in the Veneto region of northeast Italy. Boasting aromas and flavours of wild strawberry and red cherry dusted with spice, it's alive with vigorous acidity and personality. Mild tannins make it a great fish wine, and its adaptability and refreshment quotients are off the charts. Give it a chill and drink as an aperitif like white wine, or pair it with charcuterie, pizza, or wine-braised chicken.
March 19th, 2015
"Rosé 365"—that's not just my mantra, but something increasingly understood to be true around the world. Pink wines have never, ever been hotter, and we're now drinking them in every season, not just during summer. Rosé sales and production have been creeping up for a few years, as wine lovers (finally!) cotton on to the extensive variety on our shelves, from dry, ballet-pink Provençal beauties, to watermelon-hued Spanish specimens, to balanced and herbaceous local heroes like Haywire Gamay Noir Rosé 2013 (from the forward-thinking Okanagan Crush Pad), chosen as best of its category in our 11th annual Wine Awards. Juicy and deeply flavourful, you should try it with charcuterie, a Sunday afternoon grilled cheese made with Comté or aged cheddar, or pasta primavera. Your mouth will believe spring has finally arrived—and, in fact, it does exactly that at 3:46 p.m. this Friday.
Okanagan Crush Pad is at the forefront of wine innovation in B.C., with superstar consultants Alberto Antonini and terroir expert Pedro Parra helping to define new directions. Light, crisp, and bone dry, this rosé combines the juicy berry fruit of gamay and the savoury, herbal aromas of the Okanagan. Seriously structured and ageable, it's a lovely expression of our unique climate. Its tart finish is perfect for classic pairings like Dungeness crab cakes or succulent pork chops, but also with takeout Shanghai noodles or pork potstickers.
March 12th, 2015
I'm on assignment this week in France, not too far from where the wonderful house of Louis Jadot makes these two winners, each of which would be a perfect meal accompaniment over the rainy but mild weekend ahead.
Chardonnay is the white grape of Burgundy, of which there are diverse styles to be discovered and enjoyed—from steely Chablis in the north; sensitively oaked wines in the glorious Cote d'Or; and peachier, riper styles from the southern area called the Mâcon. This Bourgogne offers a broad, lovely version of chardonnay with fruit from three regions, aged both in oak casks and inert steel tanks for a wine that tastes serious yet approachable. Expect floral notes, plus aromas of ripe apple and stone fruit, and a structured palate displaying nectarine, bright citrus, and vanilla-flan flavours. Emphatic and long in the finish, it's well made, well priced, and well worth our devoted enjoyment. A lovely aperitif, but certainly substantial enough for grilled fish or a creamy chicken pasta.
*available in private wine stores
Jadot makes sensational Beaujolais wines from the gamay grape, always with an edge and a dedication to tradition. Some of the grapes in this Beaujolais Village wine (which means the fruit comes from better village sites than basic wines) are from the fine Régnié cru, and the winemaking focuses attention on the jubilant red fruit, a brisk charge of acidity, and mild tannins. Cherry flavours are tinged with the distinct mineral character of the granite terroir that gamay loves best. Dense fruit and appealing freshness make this a perfect wine for pâté or charcuterie.
March 5th, 2015
The clocks spring forward this weekend (yes, we lose an hour of sleep, but it's also a welcome sign that daylight hours are lengthening) and weather will be brisk but sunny—it's definitely time to shift gears, wine-wise. Let's be inspired by the almost-spring sunshine and drink these: a nimble traditional German riesling and a verdant local pinot noir.
St. Urbans-Hof had one of the busiest tables at the just-wrapped Vancouver International Wine Festival, as folks clamoured for a taste from one of Germany's most beloved estates. Happily, more than 700 of their bottles are currently available from BCLDB stores, and they'll be easy to spot on the shelves thanks to their handsome navy-blue label and gold print. This beauty comes from the village of Ockfen, near the Saar River, on a 50-degree sloped vineyard called Bockstein, which is known for intense, aromatic wines with a smoky slate character. Wonderfully traditional, this is a confidently off-dry riesling that's impeccably balanced—you won't find any cloying sweetness at all. Pure citrus and peach flavours are tempered by racy acidity and a firm mineral stamp, gracing a long finish that's both powerful and ethereal. Try it with pan-grilled sablefish with ginger and citrus, or a juicy chipotle pork burger.
Wines from the North Okanagan have never been more exciting. There are many microclimates and exposures where vines can burrow deeply into ancient soils, resulting in wines that are cool-climate and edgy. Arrowleaf Cellars launched its first wine back in 2003, and is a project of much dedication, love, and hard work. The Zuppiger family (Joe, Margrit, and son Manuel) moved from Switzerland to the Okanagan Valley's Lake Country in 1986, and by 1996 they had found the right land to give winegrowing a try. They turned heads immediately, and have been making exciting wines from pinot noir (a red grape that thrives in cooler, marginal climates) that improve with every vintage. Scented as good pinot should be (with violets, red berry fruits, and a distant herbal pungency), the palate parades lovely ripe strawberry flavour, vivid acidity, and silky medium-firm tannins. Full of energy and purity, you'll love this with soy-marinated baked salmon, or a creamy mushroom pasta.
February 26th, 2015
Syrah is the world's fifth most planted grape—quite something, considering that 10 years ago it ranked a lowly 35th, lagging behind such neither well-known nor noble grapes as cayetana blanca and rkatsiteli. But that was then and this is now, and syrah has made the big leagues. It's even a star at the Vancouver International Wine Festival (running until March 1), where more than 170 international versions of syrah (also known as shiraz) are available for sampling on the tasting-room floor. It's a French grape that's travelled the world, even to far-flung locations like the Okanagan Valley. Here are two award-winning syrah's being featured in the festival's grand tasting room—each of them as wonderfully diverse in style and fruit profile and you can get. Try them at home this weekend with lamb shank, braised short ribs, or a great hunk of aged cheese.
Okanagan Valley +272591
This is a delectable B.C. red: herbal, savoury, earthy, funky, gamey, and every bit as ‘Okanagan' as it is syrah. Everyone is clamouring to get on the cool-climate bandwagon, but it's hard to imagine a fresher, fleshier syrah than this. The peppery, dusty palate suggests mouth-puckering dryness, but a refreshing wave of the Okanagan's telltale acidity (here more tart plum than apple) brings a bright, juicy finish. This wine's undeniable terroir notes are profound, lending serious structure and recognizable identity. And like so many B.C. reds, it likes to be chilled. Pair it with a charcuterie platter.
Launched as a co-operative, this estate's members farm some lovely old-vine fruit throughout the Barossa Valley. (Since its founding, it was half-sold to Hardys, then sold back to the co-op, and recently it's been snapped up by New Zealand giant Delegat.) Massive purity of fruit—ripe but not overripe—is the hallmark of Barossa Valley Estate, and this fine 2012 vintage ratchets up the blueberry flavours and velvety texture. Notes of mint chocolate, a lick of oak, and a juicy aspect (not to mention terrific value) make it complete and irresistible.
February 19th, 2015
Once again this week, in celebration of the return of the Vancouver International Wine Festival (which starts tomorrow!), we shine the spotlight on Australia, the fest's theme country. These two Aussie chardonnays bang the drum for brilliant whites made with just the right amount of oak. A salmon filet, an Aussie meat pie, or aged cheese is all you need to show respect for one of the world's truly great wine styles.
If you haven't yet secured your tickets for the festival, go here—and fast! There aren't many left.
Two stars are behind this wine. One is Devil's Lair's charming, boyish Oliver Crawford, a winemaker who knows how to couple chardonnay with a feather-light touch of spicy oak. The other is the unique region of Margaret River: Maritime cool, which keeps acids sharp, but sunny enough to ripen this wine to melon-y, white peach-y heights. (Many of Australia's stunning chardonnays have found their voice in the breezy air of this western pocket.) Intense with zingy acidity layered upon toasted hazelnuts and lime curd, this Hidden Cave oozes finesse and confidence.
*available in private wine stores
Upon opening its doors in 1985, Coldstream Hills quickly became an international standard for excellent cool-climate Australian wine, helping to put foggy Yarra Valley on the map in the process. Citrus dominates this streamlined chardonnay, with subtle flavours of crème brûlée and lime leaf. It's aged in used French oak barrels and has Chablis-like acidity. And with just 12.5 percent alcohol, it's as lean and lithe as a racehorse.
February 12th, 2015
Next week sees the launch of the annual Vancouver International Wine Festival (February 20 to March 1), where some of the greatest wine personalities from "Down Undah" (Australia is the festival's theme country this year) will be pouring for the more than 25,000 visitors expected, each of them sampling from upward of 1,750 wines from 170 wineries and 14 countries. There are still tickets available for some events—but they're going fast, so gets yours here! When it comes to loving life out loud and making exuberant, joyful wines, the Aussies do it better than anyone. Thus, over the next few weeks I'll be focusing on some of Australia's glorious new wines. (Note: If you choose both of the following stunners for Valentine's Day seduction, Cupid will approve.)
*available in private wine stores
Tasmania is a remarkable cool-climate source for articulate chardonnay, and this sleek specimen is the second label of the much-admired Heemskerk brand. (Abel Tasman was an explorer aboard the Dutch three-master Heemskerk, first spying Tasmania in 1642.) The Tempest labels are fairly new to our market. Abel's Tempest is an unctuous chardonnay that's alive with stone fruit, melon, tropical nuances, and a spicy kiss of toasted oak. Juicy and focused, a blade of limey acidity keeps this well-priced wine poised on its tippy-toes.
*available in private wine stores
Try this cool-fruited pinot noir and you'll find a mouthful of bright cherry and plum flavours with savoury, earthy notes that evoke the Burgundian style. Lots of supple fruit gives a round, smooth impression, and lip-smacking "Tassie" acidity refreshes the palate before the next sip. It's a very complete pinot that does not demand food, but the tannins are mild enough for pairing with salmon or tuna.
February 5th, 2015
Have you got your ticket for Big Night yet? Vancouver magazine's annual food-and-wine love-in is a celebration of both its Restaurant Awards and its Wine Awards. Many of the city's top chefs—this year including David Hawksworth, Vikram Vij, David Gunawan, Pino Posteraro, and more—have conjured up exclusive dishes to pair with category winners from our most recent Wine Awards, and will be serving them in person. It takes place this Friday (Feb. 6) at Coast Coal Harbour Hotel, beginning at 7 p.m. A very small quantity of tickets is left, so snap yours up here. In the meantime, here are two of the champions you can enjoy at Big Night—or any night at home.
Graham's is one of Portugal's greatest producers, justly renowned for stately vintage wines and mellow tawnies. This reserve ruby—the winner in our Fortified category—gets characteristically scrupulous attention, resulting in a full-bodied, wood-matured, premium port. Be creative and try it with Brie de Meaux or Taleggio instead of the usual Stilton, or a bitter-chocolate-ganache torte with sour-cherry compote. Cactus Club Cafe executive chef Rob Feenie is cleverly pairing it at Big Night with braised short rib and a ravioli of Bleu de Bresse and mascarpone.
Icewine is unquestionably Canada's best-known wine export. Rare and painstakingly made to exacting standards (sugar-rich grapes must freeze on the vine at eight degrees Celsius before gentle pressing and slow fermentation), this aromatic dazzler, which took the top prize in our Dessert Wine category, bursts with extravagant flavours of exotic citrus and herbal honey. Thick, concentrated, and profoundly sweet, but refreshed by riesling's trademark racy acidity, it invites you to sip it with a savoury foie-gras profiterole, Thai-style fried bananas, or Roquefort cheese. Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie has created a Big Night pairing dish of torchon of foie gras, apple-cider-compressed celeriac, and chili-sesame brittle.
January 29th, 2015
Wines for a sporting weekend should be winners—frontrunners that crackle with confidence, exude competitive zeal, and always rise to the occasion. You'll want them on hand when the Australian Open finalists take to the court Saturday and Sunday. And, of course, there's that little game happening in Arizona, in which 22 men toss a pigskin around the gridiron. Melt some cheesy nachos, braise a pot roast, or assemble smoked-salmon bagels for you and your fellow fans, then complement them with these champions-both of which have consistently claimed a pedestal in our annual Wine Awards.
Made just like bottle-fermented Champagne, this favourite blends the four main grapes of Burgundy—chardonnay, pinot noir, gamay and aligoté—into a vibrant and foamy mouthful of fruit and minerals. Aromas and flavours of apples, redcurrant, and pastry tempt the senses, and the palate is dry, minerally, and precise. A year in the bottle adds toasty notes, and vibrant acidity sharpens the lengthy finish. Perfect for brunch eggs, lox and bagels, or a breakfast-in-bed treat.
This rich red has been on our winners' list many, many times, confirming that it shows like a thoroughbred across vintages. From old vineyards in South Australia's elite Barossa Valley, Shotfire—crafted from a quartet of Bordeaux grapes (43 percent cabernet sauvignon, 33 percent cabernet franc, and 12 percent each of merlot and malbec)—brims with generous cassis fruit, mocha, and menthol. You'll also find exotic spices, dark chocolate, and the kind of suave tannins, firm structure, and lingering finish of a pedigreed champ. It's braising weather right now, so buy a choice cut of beef or pork and make the best pot roast known to man. This wine deserves nothing less.
January 22nd, 2015
"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!" So wrote Robbie Burns in his immortal 18th-century poem, "Address to a Haggis." And it is indeed time to eat haggis again (or perhaps for the first time) and to toast the man himself on Robbie Burns Day (this Sunday, Jan. 25) . While doing so, consider local wines to accompany this king of the sausage family. A mix of sheep parts and oatmeal seasoned liberally with black pepper, haggis tastes savoury and nutty—far more scrumptious than you might think. If you prefer a less ornate sausage, consider some grilled bangers with your "neeps and tatties" (a traditional Scottish accompaniment of mashed turnips and potatoes).
Gewürztraminer is an exotic grape with a striking spectrum of aromas and flavours. One of the best local gewürztraminers comes from Thornhaven Winery, high on the slopes of Giant's Head Mountain near Summerland. The 2013 shows captivating aromas of rose petal, lychee fruit, and honey, plus a touch of sausage scent that marks the exceptionally ripe Alsatian grand cru examples of this grape. (Sounds odd, but it's really true!) The palate is richly textured and mouth-filling, bursting with luscious flavours of orange peel, peaches, and spice. Off-dry, but with a vibrant citrus finish that can cut the richness of haggis (or any sausage). A gorgeously glazed baked ham is also a worthy partner.
*available in private wine stores
Fresh, understated, and as pure as it gets, Haywire's gamay embodies parent winery Okanagan Crush Pad's dedication to making wines of place, not grape. Secrest Mountain Vineyard—a hidden bench of decomposed granite below Macintyre Bluff—is the place, and cool-fermenting the wine in concrete keeps the focus locked on that terroir's expression. The essence of this wine is leafy, juicy, peppery lightness, but you'll also find plenty of jubilant cherry fruit, wrapped in dusty minerals and lit up with acidity. It's a revelation of a light red wine, triumphantly proclaiming the paradoxical truth of the new Okanagan: less is more. And yes, it will be a fine match with the "Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!"
January 15th, 2015
In the continuing post-holiday, post-credit-card-bill spirit of celebrating value and drinkability, try these—a fruity white and a tranquil red—over the weekend.
New Zealand +58032
This forward-thinking Kiwi company integrates the production of wine, fruit, and seafood under the Maori principle of “kaitiakitanga”: guardianship of the land and its resources. Kono sauvignon blanc comes from Marlborough-grown grapes, transformed simply and purely into a crisp, utterly fresh and cleansing white. A little tropical guava aroma, and hints of lime citrus, nettles, and tarragon, and there’s your glass of upliftingly dry white. Well-made, well-priced, and well-judged by our experts, who selected it as one of the top entries in the Light White category of our 11th annual Wine Awards. Try it with a melty goat-cheese panini.
One of the most reliable wines available in B.C., this cheerful bargain red combines ripe strawberry flavours with distinct earth tones, spice, and mocha. The term “crianza” refers to a modest amount of oak aging (one year in the barrel and another harmonizing in the bottle), allowing the fruit to really soar. Old vines contribute an extra dimension of fruit concentration, and the hot, dry summer of 2011 ramped up the intensity of this dazzler from Valdepeñas. Try it with a simple braised lamb shank, or grilled chorizo on a crusty bun.
A chewy, gutsy, hearty mouthful is what you get here for your 10 bucks. Negroamaro is a sensational grape from the heel of Italy's boot, full of deep crimson colour; dense, dark fruit; raspy acidity; and character to spare. Best of all, there's a smoky mineral aspect that, well, rocks the finish. Meatloaf wrapped in bacon and brushed with spicy glaze is the accompanying ticket.
December 23, 2014
Our week of indulgence isn't over yet: New Year's Eve looms, and you'll need bubbles to ring in 2015. Well, perhaps two bottles, if you celebrate like I do—one to pair with Dungeness crab, and one for toasting at the strike of midnight. My favourite New Year's feast is simple but champagne-worthy: I cover the dining table with several layers of butcher's paper, steam six to eight large local crabs, then dump them directly onto the table, and pair them with proper twice-fried frites. I also make aioli, lemongrass butter, and chipotle butter, for dunking both the frites and the freshly cracked crabmeat. It's properly celebratory, and clean-up is just a matter of rolling up the paper. Such a meal requires a good champagne, of course, like this one.
The 250-year-old house of Lanson meshes over 50 individual wines—pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier—to build complexity and structure into this terrific-value bubbly. After three years of bottle aging, the result is magic: yeasty, toasty, nutty, proper Champagne—with vibrant acidity and a long, balanced finish. It has just the right richness and succulence for Dungeness crab (or sushi) or on its own for ringing in the New Year.
December 18, 2014
The big day is just a week away, so this weekend is the best time to acquire all your provisions for Christmas dinner. Whether it's a bird (turkey, capon, duck, goose) or a roast (crown of pork, standing rib, leg of lamb), here are two "best of category" wines from our 11th annual Wine Awards that will perfectly complement your centrepiece dish as well as gourmet sides. The white is a beauty from Australia-a country that's in the throes of a wine revival. Pure, lively, and balanced, it's emblematic of the new breed of chardonnay from Oz. The red is a thoroughbred from Rioja, and its luscious, mellow flavours will wrap effortlessly around red or white meat.
If you think you know Wolf Blass (in particular, its Yellow Label range), think again. The Gold Label series is special, focusing entirely on wines that express place and grape. High-altitude, cool-grown fruit from Adelaide Hills in South Australia gives this sleek oaked chardonnay impressive concentration and tensile strength. Flinty like good white Burgundy, with a thick spread of lemon curd and crème brûlée flavours, it finishes long and strong in the mouth. It's gorgeously oaked, majestic in every way, and defines rich white to a tee. It should make those who say they're bored with oaked chardonnay take another look. (Note: Don't over-chill, and do serve it in a proper Burgundy stem.)
Primacy of fruit characterizes the wonderful 2009 vintage in Rioja, and this classy reserva combines the lusciousness of plum and red berries with a burnish of oak. Muga is a globally admired bodega established in 1932. The house style is both traditional and modern; mellowed for 18 months in French and American oak casks, the wine delightfully retains its aromatic delicacy. It's the best of both worlds for a Christmas feast. For maximum effect, open an hour ahead to let it breathe.
December 11, 2014
The Santa Claus parade spread good cheer throughout downtown last weekend, which means the holiday season is now fully upon us-and so, perhaps, is your worry about being prepared. You need to finish your shopping and find easy party ideas-and fast! Fortunately, wine is always a welcome gift, and you don't have to spend a lot to make a splash. Same with entertaining: a little fizz, a cheese-and-charcuterie board or one of Bosa Foods' oven-ready lasagnas (I love these!) and a crisp salad, and the revelry will take care of itself. Complete the picture with this week's trio of picks: a dressed-to-impress Champagne, a local budget bubble, and a hearty $10 red that's perfect for a party or a workplace gift exchange.
Run, don't walk, to snag a few bottles of this smashing value. (Grand cru champagne for $55-seriously?) Le Mesnil was the runaway Best of Show winner in last year's Wine Awards, and it dazzled yet again in the just-released results from the 2015 edition. Blanc de blancs (which means 100 percent chardonnay) bubbly is revered for its elegance, intensity, and ageability. With two years in the bottle to develop complex layers of toasty, nutty flavours and creamy mousse, this champagne is made for celebrations. It's an effortless match with brunch Eggs Benny, but try it, too, with an easy gourmet dinner of individual salmon en croute: de-skin salmon filets (try topping them with sautéed leeks, or spinach and pine nuts) and wrap them in defrosted puff pastry that you've rolled thin; brush with egg wash and bake until gorgeously golden.
Cipes has a masterful touch with sparkling wines (I'm a big fan of their super-mature Ariel, as well as the complex 2008 Blanc de Noirs) and this nicely dry sparkler will appeal to a broad audience. It weaves three of the Okanagan's best white grapes-typically, 65 percent riesling, 25 per cent chardonnay, and the balance is pinot planc-and is aged for well over a year to encourage a delicate toastiness that adds weight and interest to its fresh, citrus-driven flavours. Frisky bubbles are perfect for the holiday season, and this brut's crisp acidity will slice through the richness of a charcuterie platter or cheese straws. Or just give it a good chill and sip it solo in a slim flute.
An atypically cooler vintage saw rain replace recent drought in Spain's wine lands, giving extra freshness and vitality to this knockout deal. A nose perfumed with tobacco flower starts the charge of dark plummy fruit, pungent herbs, and subtle spice. There's a smoky, meaty note as well, and a slightly bitter, feral finish that will link nicely to food. There aren't a lot of wine regions like Yecla that can conjure up a $10 wine made with 40- to 60-year-old vines, and that's so savoury, juicy, and appealingly rustic. Our Wine Awards judges were wowed by the value here, and there could not be a more perfect red for a party crowd, a gift exchange, a present for the teacher or dog walker, etc.
December 04, 2014
Are you ready for another year of diverse international wines? We've just posted the 100-plus winners from our 11th annual Wine Awards (whittled down by our judges from 750 worthy entries), and I'm so proud to profile a different must-buy from the competition every week. The goal of our judging panel is always the same: to find quality, diversity and—best of all—value. Value can come at any price point, but we understand that consumers especially seek guidance when spending more for a bottle. That said, this year's winners range in price from 10 bucks to 80, and each one is an example of stunning value. Enjoy exploring them at your leisure until it's time for us to do it all again next year.
Let's start with the Best of Show winner. Our Wine Awards are organized into 10 style categories, aligned with how we wine lovers think about and choose wine. It also allows for easy, intuitive food pairing. The one wine that our judges deemed to be above the other category winners was this utterly delicious gamay from Burgundy, which is also the winner of the Light Red category. From a new appellation (a fancy term for a named geographic region with specific laws about how wine is made) called Bourgogne Gamay, it presents an interesting blend of top-quality cru gamay blended with up to 15 percent pinot noir. This blend of Burgundy's two red grapes is not new, but this appellation ensures a high-quality wine, and Louis Latour (a name we know and trust from Burgundy) has made a beauty. Aged in a little French oak, it's on the light-bodied side; pretty aromas of red berries and savoury spice usher in a juicy palate, with cherry flavours, bright acidity, a featherweight polish of oak, and a mineral-tinged finish. Tastes like a good cru Beaujolais, but you'll certainly recognize the dignity that pinot noir adds to frisky gamay. It's gorgeous with a mound of grilled sausages or a cheese board at a holiday family gathering, but it easily satisfies on its own as you sit by the fire and wrap gifts.
November 27, 2014
Bespoke wine is extra special when one of our very own local stars chose the fruit, the style, and the final blend, then put her name and sporty image on the label. She won the honours of this magazine's Sommelier of the Year in 2012, and has more than a few snowboard and bike race golds as well. She's Samantha Rahn, wine director at Whistler's celebrated Araxi Restaurant, and this is her syrah.
Rahn is also the fourth Sommelier of the Year to present signature wine through Okanagan Crush Pad's Wine Campus program (proceeds benefit the BC Hospitality Foundation), working with veteran winemaker Michael Bartier to produce a complex, multilayered red that expresses her love of Okanagan syrah. Sourced from the stellar Cerqueira Vineyard on the Lower Black Sage Bench, it boasts brambly berry fruit, cracked black pepper, and earthiness combined with the "juicy minerality" that is the defining characteristic of the best B.C. reds. It's seriously delicious now but will repay several years in the cellar. Gloriously adaptable with winter braises, summer barbecues, or an after-dinner cheese plate.
November 20, 2014
Today (Nov. 20) the hills of Beaujolais will be alight with fireworks, music and festivals, as the region celebrates the first wines of its harvest. Under French law, the wine is released at 12:01 a.m. on the third Thursday of November, scant weeks after the grapes have been harvested. Juicy, tart and vibrant, ‘Bojo Nouveau' wines, as they're called, are for instant thirst-quenching enjoyment, and worth checking out at your favourite store. (By the way, most French wine regions release young wines, but the Beaujolais have absolutely aced the marketing of these cherry-hued youngsters.)
In a way, this wine is the antithesis of Beaujolais Nouveau: it's a supreme terroir expression, but it possesses the same unadorned, pure red fruit that marks the young wines we celebrate every November. Christophe Pacelet is the nephew of the late, great Marcel Lapierre, and he farms his fruit and makes his wine in the same natural manner. The result is a delicate, raspberry-scented light red, alive with red-fruit flavours, bracing acidity, mild tannins and a forceful, stony finish. Humming with life and arrestingly feral, try it with grilled saucisson, braised rabbit with Dijon, or simple charcuterie.
November 13, 2014
This week's cold snap gives us a great excuse to drink one of the great white-wine styles for winter: chardonnay with a glorious caress of oak. Although this most noble of white grapes has been abused by heavy-handed wood treatment much too often, it deserves another look. White burgundy and magnificent new-world chardy-like this Mondavi Napa edition-set the standard.
An icon among wine icons, the late Robert Mondavi not only resurrected California's wine industry in the 1960s; he helped to put oaked chardonnay on the map. Top fruit from both Napa's valley floor and Carneros (the Napa side of Los Carneros AVA) is popped into fine French oak casks for fermentation and "sur lie" aging, with a small amount fermented in stainless-steel tanks to keep a streak of vibrant, bright fruit that counters the creamy, rich taste and texture. Lemon curd, crème brulée, and baked apple flavours are outlined with juicy acidity, elongating the sleek finish. This wine's power, finesse, and impeccably integrated oak pair well with roasted-sunchoke risotto, pancetta-wrapped pork roast, or baked sablefish.
November 6, 2014
This weekend marks the launch of Cornucopia, Whistler's glittering annual food and drink festival, boasting 11 days of mountaintop dining, imbibing, and learning. Vancouver's wine pros are always in attendance—this year I'm hosting seminars about natural wine (so excited about this tasting, which tackles what the "natural" designation is all about), beer, "WOW wines" (premium bottles for very special occasions), and wines from South Africa and Argentina. (And yes, tickets are still available for most sessions, from whistlercornucopia.com. Come see me there!) Cornucopia's cozy setting and non-stop conviviality define the spirit of the festival, and those bubbly feelings have inspired this week's pick.
Let's be clear: this wine—a top pick in the Sparkling category of our tenth annual Wine Awards—is tricky to find. Yellowglen is a sparkling-only house in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, where vineyards nest at just under 500 metres of elevation, ensuring elegant, balanced fruit from cool growing conditions. Founded over 40 years ago with the goal of creating Oz's best bubbly, Yellowglen's vintage Perle is indeed an aristocratic wine. Made from champagne grapes (pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot meunier) and aged for three years (just like vintage Champagne), it's toasty, complex, and sophisticated. Enjoy it as an at-home brunch accompaniment-you don't have to go out to indulge in proper Eggs Benedict with heaps of Béarnaise sauce, oysters on the half shell, or my favourite (if off-beat) pairing: paella. If you can't find this winner, try the soft, fruity, full-of-joy Yellowglen Pink (a previous winner), which is widely available on the shelves of BC Liquor Stores.
*available at private wine stores
October 30, 2014
Now that most of the grapes have been harvested in our wine regions (Ontario too), estates turn their attention and hopes to icewine. They’re made under rigorous VQA strictures in both provinces (rules state that the temperature must be at least -8°C and the sugars sky-high), and only a few grapes have sufficient acidity to balance their decadent honeyed sweetness. Try our Ontario winner, Château des Charmes, made from the vidal grape this Halloween weekend. Sip while you hand out the treats, or make a rustic local apple crostini for a well-paired dessert.
$25.99 for 200ml
In the heavy tome called Wine Grapes, the vidal entry is introduced as "a French hybrid ideally suited to the production of sweet Canadian Icewine"-a ringing endorsement for a grape that does little outside our northern climes, except in Sweden and smatterings of vineyards in the eastern U.S. The world's largest plantings are in Ontario, whose winter-hardiness is obviously a virtue. The Château des Charmes 2009 Vidal Icewine is lush with tangerine marmalade flavours and grapey sweetness, but revived by lip-smacking racy acidity. It's deftly balanced, showing the harmony that comes with five years of age but still vital and lively. Try it with foie gras with sautéed apples or with fruit tarts, or add a dribble to a glass of prosecco for Sunday morning breakfast in bed.
October 23, 2014
The judging for Vancouver magazine's 11th Annual Wine Awards is in full stride: 17 judges are evaluating more than 750 wines at this very moment, looking for 100-plus bottles you'll want to start tasting now (or saving for the perfect moment). This charming, aromatic Fraser Valley white embodies what our judges try to find each year: well-made and interesting gems from all over the world that broaden one's vinous horizons while delivering terrific value. Look for the results from our 2015 competition at Vanmag.com on December 1st.
Siegerrebe is a compelling German grape cross of savagnin and madeleine angevine that is valued for its early budding and ripening. It smells a bit like muscat and gewürztraminer, with heady scents of orange blossom and exotic citrus. The palate of this Chaberton wine, grown in Langley, is confidently fruity, with luscious apple, peach, and honey flavours, all nicely sharpened by crisp acidity. An off-dry B.C. favourite, it charmed our judges at last year's Wine Awards. Give it a good chill and enjoy with Thai coconut curry.
*Available at private wine stores
October 16, 2014
Visiting from his Ottawa restaurant, Navarra, chef Rene Rodriquez (winner of Top Chef Canada season four) was in our city this week, and together he and I drank some of this remarkable, refined cava. Seriously structured, dry as a bone, and full of yeasty complexity, you should try it this weekend in a pine-mushroom risotto (yes, cook with it) and enjoy the earthy alchemy that results.
The Cusiné family has been farming in the Penedès region since the 1790s. When they took over the Parés Baltà estate in the 1970s, they continued the tradition of organic cultivation, certifying their vineyards in 2004. This fresh, clean wine shows how truly elegant cava can be. The distinct Catalan grapes Parellada, Xarel-lo, and Macabeo provide a lovely mix of aromas and flavours: apple, pear, lemon, herbal, and mineral. Traditional-method fermentation and 18 months of aging in the bottle (just like Champagne) bring toasty richness and creamy texture. Built around a firm spine of acidity, it also possesses Mediterranean warmth and charm.
October 9, 2014
Here are some winning wines that will make you look good at Thanksgiving dinner. Don't worry—the meal needn't be a pairing feast. Turkey is the simple part; its light flavour matches white, pink, and red with ease. Classic side dishes, however, present challenges with their diverse flavours: bitter Brussels sprouts; sweet/tangy cranberry sauce; sugar-baked squash or yams; crunchy roast potatoes; and rich, savoury gravy. It's hard for one wine to do it all, so I suggest a few different ones that will complement Thanksgiving's fanfare of tastes. Place them on the table and let family and friends try several combinations. (I haven't included vintages here. Whichever ones you find will work beautifully.)
A savoury dry white with peachy botanical flavours.
*Available at private wine stores
Off-dry and rich, to match the sweeter side dishes.
*Available at private wine stores
A structured, dry pink with firmness from cabernet sauvignon.
*Available in private wine stores
An elegant, succulent, gorgeously oaked chardonnay.
*Available at private wine stores
A light and juicy red with plump fruit. This may be the best single choice
A rich red with forward fruit, supple tannins, and fresh acidity.
Versatile fizz for an aperitif, or with fruit pie or cobbler.
October 2, 2014
This weekend you might (actually, you should!) test a recipe or two for your upcoming Thanksgiving celebrations. It's usually a good idea to have a dry run with a new dish, as the happy chaos of a family gathering isn't an ideal time to be tackling unfamiliar techniques or ingredients. Finding something new to build upon your family's beloved traditional dishes can be a highly pleasurable pursuit in the kitchen. (How about a crown roast of pork, cheesy baked kale, or pumpkin spice ice cream?) Enjoying a glass of sherry-in particular, my pick below-while you investigate cookbooks, magazines or the internet is a fitting start to holiday planning. Give it the slightest of chills, pour into a small wine glass, swirl, and inhale the scents of one of the world's most admired and imitated wines.
Complex and delicious, Oloroso sherry is an historic fortified wine style that's appreciated around the world. Wines from the white palomino grape are fortified, blended, and aged dynamically in large old casks, where they develop complex dimensions. The Nutty Solera smells of apricot, almond, and raisins; its fruitcake flavours finish with a touch of sweetness to counter the classic salty, savoury tang. A perfect starter sherry to try with roasted almonds or olives, but it's also a versatile wine to accompany rich pâté or roasted chestnut soup.
September 25, 2014
Australian cabernet sauvignon delivers so much pleasure: pure blackcurrant fruit, a minty lift, and smoooooth tannins, which separate it from Gallic versions in a recognizable way. Australia is the theme region of the 2015 Vancouver Wine Festival (February 23-March 1, 2015), and this glorious cab from the delightfully named region of Coonawarra is a fine way to tune up your palate.
St. Urban is the patron saint of German winemakers, and when riesling is grown at 50 degrees north in Germany's steep-sided Mosel Valley region, saintly intervention is often wished for: the climate is unpredictable, and grapes need shelter, a good slope, proximity to the mirror-like river, and dark, heat-retaining slate soils to help them ripen to perfection. This beauty comes from the village of Ockfen, near the Saar River on a 50-degree sloped vineyard called Bockstein, known for intense, aromatic wines with a smoky, slate-like character. While there is a trend toward making drier wines in Germany, this bottle is wonderfully traditional, with an impeccable balance of off-dry citrus and peachy fruitiness, racy acidity, and a firm mineral stamp on a long finish that is both powerful and ethereal. Try it with a soft, creamy cheese; a buttery pâté; or the tried-but-true pairing of spicy exotic curries, stir-fries or hotpot.
September 18, 2014
Are you drinking enough riesling? This is a question we should ask ourselves daily. The noble grape produces wines that, like pinot noir, can transmit a sense of place. Eminently suited to cool sites, adaptable riesling has travelled the world: the biggest plantings are in Germany (more than 22,000 hectares), but it's also hugely important in Australia, where it's become the fifth most planted wine grape (4,500-plus hectares) since arriving in the early 19th century. Here are two very different wines that show off riesling's stylistic versatility.
St. Urban is the patron saint of German winemakers, and when riesling is grown at 50 degrees north in Germany's steep-sided Mosel Valley region, saintly intervention is often wished for: the climate is unpredictable, and grapes need shelter, a good slope, proximity to the mirror-like river, and dark, heat-retaining slate soils to help them ripen to perfection. This beauty comes from the village of Ockfen, near the Saar River on a 50-degree sloped vineyard called Bockstein, known for intense, aromatic wines with a smoky, slate-like character. While there is a trend toward making drier wines in Germany, this bottle is wonderfully traditional, with an impeccable balance of off-dry citrus and peachy fruitiness, racy acidity, and a firm mineral stamp on a long finish that is both powerful and ethereal. Try it with a soft, creamy cheese; a buttery pâté; or the tried-but-true pairing of spicy exotic curries, stir-fries or hotpot.
If you prefer your light whites dry and assertive, this exciting riesling from cool vineyards in South Australia is for you. Planted in the Barossa region over a hundred years ago by Silesian immigrants, the Eden and Clare valleys have become the spiritual home for dry, riveting wines that are completely distinct. Aromatic like its German counterparts, but with a haunting botanical note, Wolf Blass Gold Label is defined by lovely grapefruit and kaffir-lime flavours, spicy body, and a rapier slash of acidity. Dry and zesty, its persistent finish complements ginger scallops or lemongrass risotto.
September 11, 2014
As autumn's crisp temperatures start making it cool enough to turn the oven on again, these two outstanding food-friendly wines-a savoury Venetian white, and a sumptuous dry red from the Port region-will entice you back into the kitchen after a gorgeous summer of outdoor cooking.
This displays aromas of almond blossom, honey, thyme, and stone. In the mouth, savoury, nutty flavours are amplified by steely, lemony acidity, and balanced by creamy, lees-like weight. Fresh and inviting, it ends with a mineral force that comes from volcanic soils. Risotto- fragrant with Parmigiano Reggiano and a drizzle of truffle oil-is a perfect pairing.
Cultivated since Roman times, Portugal's Douro Valley is a profoundly beautiful wine region. Famous for port, there are also magnificent dry table wines produced in this rugged and ancient terroir. Top-quality grapes grown on steep schist terraces contribute muscular fruit and sturdy tannins to this fragrant, polished red. Complex, persistent, and unoaked to display dark, plummy fruit purity and stony power, it deserves a flavourful braised pork shoulder-and a very large glass for vigorous swirling. Truly stunning value at $20.
September 4, 2014
With Labour Day weekend (and summer itself) fading into the distance, back-to-the-grind wines need to be diverting, soothing and accessible. Pour yourself a generous glass of either of these two winners on a weekday night, and enjoy them with takeout gourmet barbecue chicken, or simply grill a juicy lamb burger. Add a crisp salad and crusty bread, and dinner is done.
South Africa +120972
I've long been a fan of this honest, satisfying, easy-to-drink Cape white. The pretty nose displays blossoms and green pear, and your first sip will unleash a bowl of gooseberries, lush mango, and crunchy grape flavours. Balanced, clean, and fresh, with a dry citrus finish that hints at sweetness. Twelve bucks is a deal for this lip-smacking blend of 80 percent sauvignon blanc rounded out with sémillon.
Maritime Western Australia's signature of lively, slow-ripened fruit comes across loud and clear in this cheerful shiraz. Mouth-swelling flavours of juicy brambleberry fruit with grindings of black pepper and shaved dark chocolate keep you coming back for more. This modern, vibrant red finishes on a dusty, savoury note that's tailor-made for a lamb burger.
August 28, 2014
The Labour Day long weekend reminds us it's sometimes our duty to put our feet up, exhale deeply, and slowly ease our troubles away. Close your eyes and dream of dinner-something effortless like beer-can chicken and veggie skewers, and for dessert, plump local blueberries with cream. Labour-free wines-with a convenient screw-cap and free-flowing flavours-will keep the good times rolling until it's back to work on Tuesday morning.
Peachy and tangy, this German riesling leans deliciously in the fruity direction, but will still satisfy wine lovers who prefer a drier style. Vivid stone-fruit and citrus flavours are concentrated and focused, with a lush sweetness that's virtually erased by racy acidity. Made in the Pfalz, a dynamic "new wave" winemaking region in the south, it offers terrific value in a fresh, clean, nicely balanced white. Easy on the alcohol, too, at just 11.5 percent. Give it a deep chill, and thickly brush a brined chicken with a blazing-hot glaze-this snazzy riesling will douse the flames. If a newer vintage of Devil's Rock is on the shelves, you'll find it just as consistent and tasty.
The goal of our annual Wine Awards is to provide a diverse list of 100-plus bottles from around the globe that offer value and quality, and Hardys Varietal Range undeniably delivers-at under 10 bucks, no less. This cheeky, budget-priced Aussie shiraz rose to the top of the Rich Red category. Its generous ripe fruit and crowd-pleasing qualities nail shiraz's varietal character. Plum and blueberry flavours with spice and eucalyptus melt together into a satisfying mouthful of jammy goodness. Massage a sweet-smoky dry rub into a plump free-range chicken long before you toss it onto the barbecue. This dry red can handle it.
August 21, 2014
Here's a duo of big-gun Aussie wines-perfect for a special late-summer dinner, or as a creative gift for that Labour Day wedding. (Why are there so many weddings on long weekends?!?!) One has some bottle age, which is a treat, because most of us don't have ideal storage conditions at home or are far too impatient to hold wines back. These rich red winners are at BC Liquor Stores, and both are ready to drink now, but they can also be cellared for another five years. By the way, our Wine Awards picks always encompass terrific value, whether it's a $15 wine that over-delivers, or a $100 one that's worth every penny.
The maritime region of McLaren Vale is a highly distinctive place for shiraz in South Australia. More temperate than Barossa, wines from here possess elegant structure and plush fruit. First made in 1975, the Grey Label Shiraz 2010 has gorgeous, savoury black-fruit aromas and flavours, with herbal perfume and barrel spice. You'll find rich and mouth-filling blueberry and mocha flavours; polished, supple tannins; and balancing acidity from this elegant, fresh vintage. Fruit sourced from different elevations and clay-based soils adds complexity and dimension. Open and accessible now, but good for another three to five in the bottle.
This is a showstopper, and well worth the splurge. Wolf Blass wines are organized by label colour (Platinum, Black, Grey, Yellow etc.); the Black super-premium program identifies the best South Australian grapes available in a given vintage, which sculpt a serious and stately wine-just as Bordeaux does. Deep crimson in colour, the nose is toasted and complex with black currant, fennel, exotic vanilla, espresso, and leather. The palate is opulent with concentrated, savoury black fruits, mint, chocolate, and cassis. This powerful fruit character is kept structured by velvety firm tannins and seamless acidity, with a lengthy, smouldering finish. The 2007 vintage is built from 70 percent cabernet sauvignon, 22 percent shiraz, and eight percent malbec, and it will continue its bottle development for at least a decade.
August 14, 2014
I love the idiom "dog days of summer." A week spent catching up on reading while on a hot beach in the North Shuswap reminded of this excellent saying. Dating to Roman times, it links the hottest part of summer with the "dog star" Sirius, the most brilliant of the constellation Canis Major. We are now smack-dab in the middle of the dog days, which naturally made me think of the hot dog, the excellent portable snack that can be elevated to gourmet status with ease. Relax for the rest of this year's dog days with a few upmarket home-grilled hot dogs, and enjoy them with these two carefree summer wines.
Big is beautiful. This Washington State stalwart is the world's largest single bottling of riesling. It's been around forever and shows how happily this northern Germanic grape has sprawled over the vast Columbia Valley. Soft, fresh, and confidently off-dry, it sports a bouquet of orange blossoms, while green apple and apricot flavours frolic across the fruity, juicy palate. Everyday white that's got enough acidity and moxie for a bratwurst with sautéed Walla Walla sweet onions and wine mustard, tucked into a crusty roll.
One of the most reliable wines available in B.C., this cheerful bargain red combines ripe strawberry flavour with distinct earth tones, spice, and mocha. The term "crianza" refers to a modest amount of oak aging (one year in the barrel and another harmonizing in the bottle), allowing the fruit to really soar. Old vines add concentration, and the savoury, smoky nature of this beaut from the arid Valdepenas region will link smoothly with a spicy lamb merguez on a bun, or the winey tang of grilled chorizo with sautéed local bell peppers.
August 7, 2014
Fire up the barbecue—the final weeks of summer call for some hardcore time around the grill! To accompany smoky flavours, we offer two worthy reds: one a mellow, aged stunner (and a steal as well); the other a suave Syrah from Chile.
Hats off to Spain for doing the cellaring for us. Certain regions maintain a lingering tradition of aging wine in barrel and bottle, only releasing them to market when the bodega determines they're ready to drink. On the label, the terms Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva tip you off to an increasingly aged wine. Gran Reserva editions must age for at least five years in a combination of barrel and bottle, but this gem has been held back even longer-it's 12 years old. Yet it costs just 16 bucks, which pretty much never happens. The Anciano Tempranillo is a Rioja-style wine (but from the region of Valdepeñas), and it offers a chance to taste a silky, wood-burnished red with wonderfully mature characters for a bargain price. The flavours are like cherry fruit-leather with spice and cedary layers. Note the mellow texture, balanced with enough acidity for a succulent grilled lamb chop or a slow-barbecued pork shoulder with smoked paprika rub.
One of Chile's great modern estates, Montes soared to prominence 25 years ago with plush premium wines designed for export. Alpha Syrah was launched in 1999 from a Cote Rotie-steep vineyard in the elite terroir of Apalta Vineyard, within the Colchagua Valley. I've trudged up these vineyards and can verify that they are supremely vertiginous and granite-strewn. The warm 2009 vintage gives this Syrah a broad black-fruit palate, with cracked pepper and meaty notes. Trademark supple tannins are bolstered by a year in French oak casks, lending structural support to generous fruit and spicy alcohol. Combining elegance and power, it deserves a huge glass for swirling and sniffing before you succumb to a sip. Peppercorn steak, or Asado-style grilled beef with chimichurri sauce, is a brilliant match.
July 31, 2014
This holiday weekend, enjoy a long, lazy dinner of local specialties with family and friends. These two serious, well-built, food-friendly whites will complement them perfectly. Happy Birthday, British Columbia!
There are only three wines in Mission Hill's Martin's Lane series-all special micro-cuvées that express site, grape and vintage in a concise way. The winning viognier in our 2014 Wine Awards, this is headily perfumed with jasmine, while flavours of apricot, tangerine, and spicebox stretch out in the mouth. Fruity acidity interweaves the rich palate, and a languid, emollient finish is textured and persistent. Rich enough for grilled pork chops with nectarine salsa, or simply wrap peach halves in prosciutto and sizzle them on the barbeque. Make sure you take time to swirl this exotic viognier and admire its expressive scents.
This imperious chardonnay from Gravelbourg Vineyard, on the sun-drenched Black Sage Bench, is full-bodied, and rich with concentrated forward fruit. After a long and cool fermentation, it's aged in a mix of used and new French oak barrels, adding buttery, spicy richness. Best of all is its balancing citrusy acidity, which keeps this bold wine fresh and food-ready. Precocious corn is appearing on farm stands now, so try this delicious technique: choose small ears of corn, carefully remove some of the tougher outer leaves, peel back the husk to the bottom, remove the silk, brush each ear with a compound butter you've made earlier (try garlic and lime zest, habañero and mango, or smoked hot paprika), and rewrap the husks. Place them on a medium-high grill for 15 minutes, turning a few times. Pair with barbecued wild salmon and the chilled chardonnay.
July 24, 2014
It’s 178 hours until the long weekend (calculating from when this edition of The Fix hits the ether on Thursday afternoon), and that means there’s still time to pick up these expressive Okanagan sparkling wines and raise a toast to our great province. Both are made just like champagne: one is gorgeously bristling, with brain-rinsing acidity, wild berries, and vinosity; the other sings with fruit, toast, and citrus.
*Available at private wine stores
The excellently named and crown-capped Bub is a pure expression of Haywire’s “place, not grape” manifesto for the New Okanagan. This is a courageously transparent wine that dares to proclaim the virtues of delicacy, lightness, and precision. A hand-riddled méthode champenoise blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, its yeasty complexity harmonizes seamlessly with the subtle native aromas of clover, honey, and green apple. Fresh and clean from start to finish, and a lovely articulation of the less-is-more winemaking philosophy. Really fun to drink—a delightful outcome from a winery so committed to establishing the seriousness of the Okanagan. Profoundly invigorating on its own, but a grilled Spot Prawn (or twelve) would be perfection.
*Available at private wine stores
Produced from venerable old vines planted in 1968, Road 13’s Sparkling Chenin is a true B.C. classic, which at once affirms the pedigree of the renowned Golden Mile district and validates sparkling as a natural style for Okanagan wine. Crisp and vibrant, it bursts with orchard fruit: flavours of apple, peach, and pear combine with bracing acidity and toasty lees in a supremely satisfying way. Perfect for a summer evening in the garden.
July 17, 2014
Yes, the August long weekend is still two weeks away, but planning your food and drink options now will allow you to relax thoroughly with family and friends. Seek out these local heroes for your menu. (Historical note: In 1871, British Columbia became the sixth province of the Dominion of Canada, 12 years after B.C.’s first vineyards were planted at the Pandosy Mission in Kelowna.)
*Available at private wine stores
Okanagan Falls is the home of Synchromesh Wines, and this provocative white is for those who crave riesling’s high-wire tension of fruit and acidity. The grapes are sourced from a young vineyard in Naramata, and boasts exotic citrus, crisp apple, and ripe peach flavours. Light yet intense, there’s an electric charge of acid that balances lush fruit to the point of near dryness. Full of the kind of succulence that grilled baby back ribs demand. (You may find the 2013 on the shelves, which offers similar excitement.)
*Available at private wine stores
Spicy, juicy, and elegant, this is stunning cool-climate syrah from just south of Oliver. True, it is a desert environment, with hot days and intense sun, but chilly nights keep this syrah fresh and lively, reminiscent of Northern Rhone styles. Violets, dense
dark berries, and cracked pepper complement meaty, smoky flavours. Tannins are ripe and lithe, giving this wine the kind of structure that invites a butterflied grilled leg of lamb.
July 10, 2014
This weekend I’ll be in the Similkameen Valley to judge the efforts of nine chefs at the 5th Annual Similkameen BBQ King competition. Each of the chefs will work with a selection of “secret” hyper-local ingredients that won’t be revealed to them until the last minute, paired with wines from nine of the wineries that make their home in the valley. The showdown (which is sold out) benefits the Grist Mill, a Heritage BC site in the cowboy town of Keremeos, along the banks of the Similkameen River. Two hundred million years ago, this river carved a gash in the Cascade Mountains, creating one of the world’s most extreme and rugged wine regions. Hot, dry, and wind-blown, the vines here ripen in stressed conditions, with roots grown deeply into complex geology. There is a distinct identity to wines from this pioneering agricultural heartland—two of the winners from Vancouver magazine’s Tenth Annual Wine Awards come from Keremeos’s Clos du Soleil winery, where highly-regarded consulting winemaker Ann Sperling allows the voice of the terroir to speak eloquently.
*available in private wine stores
Luscious fruit and grippy structure come together in this buxom cabernet sauvignon rosé. Its bold ruby hue presages exciting depth of flavour, and the palate gushes with ripe blackcurrant, savoury herbs, and a mineral spark on the fruity-but-dry finish. Red wine structure meets white wine refreshment, making this a supremely adaptable, food-friendly rosé that pairs especially well with grilled salmon or pork satay. Our judges awarded the 2012 vintage, but the 2013 you’ll find on shelves now delivers even more body, flavour and zing.
*available at private wine stores
Transcending the generally cool 2010 vintage, there’s a ripe opulence and brooding power to this bottling. A Bordeaux-style blend of merlot (48 percent), and cabernet sauvignon (34 percent) with a spicing of malbec and petite verdot, it’s replete with potent dark cassis, mint chocolate, tightly structured dusty tannins, and lovely acidity. Generous oak aging gives a sheen of mocha to the elegant, lengthy finish. It’s a rich, full-bodied red full of dignity and drama, just like the Similkameen Valley. A prime cut of meat is in order here—simply grilled and unadorned, so as to let the wine in your glass be the sauce. Decant for an hour or so before drinking, and use the largest stemware you have.
July 3, 2014
Pinot Noir can transmit the essence of a place like few other grapes. The monks of Burgundy figured that out a thousand years ago, and as a result the hallowed Côte d'Or is a patchwork of named sites that reflect geologic nuance. Winegrowers around the world aspire to coax identity from this aristocratic grape, and our two pinot noir winners relay their provenance in a delightful way. Try both these juicy and stylish pinots this weekend as we cheer the Wimbledon Finalists and kick off the Tour de France.
New Zealand +20552
New Zealand's Central Otago is extreme, rugged, and pioneering. Its dramatic scenery was the backdrop for Lord of the Rings, and pinot noir makes equally theatrical wines shaped by hot days, cold nights, and mineral soils. Akarua sits in the elite terroir of Bannockburn, where the warm, dry climate ripens pinot to black velvet potency. The 2012 Rua displays extravagant dark cherry aromas and flavours, kept fresh with acidity and a herbal savoury edge. A lovely contrast of rich fruit and fine ripe tannins, this juicy pinot is lightened and brightened by driving acid. The tannins are plush enough for fish, and the dark earthy flavours will suit soy-glazed grilled salmon.
B.C. +33266* (available at private wine stores)
This distinctive block of 21-year-old vines whose roots have dug deeply into lakeside clay soils was special enough for its own bottling. The site is low-cropped for added concentration and is gorgeously perfumed with violets and vivid cherry fruit. Flavours soar with red plums and berries, subtle spice, and energetic acidity that lengthens the finish. It's a pretty, midweight, balanced pinot noir with polish and sophistication and true site identity. Winemaker Darryl Brooker has upped the pinot stakes considerably since joining CedarCreek several years ago. A grilled duck breast or rack of lamb will complement the density and purity of Block 2.
June 19, 2014
For the next few weeks I’m focusing on pinot, as we taste through some of our 18 winning wines that contain grapes from this sprawling, intricate vine family. An amazing 156 Western European grape varieties are the result of natural crosses involving pinot and two very old varieties: savignan and gouais blanc. Pinot gris and pinot blanc are colour mutations of pinot noir, and just to add further intrigue, it seems likely that pinot noir is a great-grandparent of syrah and, surprisingly, cabernet sauvignon. High-tech DNA fingerprinting has been used to uncover these fascinating pedigrees, but happily, we can ignore complex genetic science and dive into two great bottles of local pinot to usher in the summer solstice.
B.C. +500322* *available at private wine stores only
This friendly Naramata Bench winery has maintained a stellar reputation for aromatic whites since 1996. Yes, the terroir is special, as is the breezy lakeside climate, but the critical factor is astute, accomplished, and affable Garron Elmes. He’s been the winemaker since day one, and has a special way with fragrant whites (and some pretty stylish pinotage and pinot noir, it must be said). He consistently makes one of the best pinot blanc wines in Canada, lavishing respect on a grape that is often tucked into a blend, or treated like wannabe chardonnay. Golden apples, honey, clover, and delicate blossoms lift the nose of the 2012, and similar juicy flavours of tree fruit and vivid citrus burst in the mouth. Dry, medium weight, with purity and freshness, it’s a study in respectful farming of old vines and Garron’s intuitive, unobtrusive winemaking. Try with barbecued chicken salad with grilled veg (potatoes, carrots, beets), crisp greens, and pear vinaigrette.
Note: The just-as-lovely 2013 Lake Breeze Pinot Blanc has just been released. If that’s the bottle in your local wine shop, you’ll love it just as much.
BC. +164426**available in private wine stores
Haywire’s mantra is “Less is more; place not grape,” and quietly they are blazing a trail to new Okanagan wine. It’s an all-star team that combines highly respected winemakers Michael Bartier and Matt Dumayne, with global superstar consultants Alberto Antonini and terroir expert Pedro Parra. The quest is for truth and transparency in wine, where organic farming, minimal intervention, concrete fermenters, and neutral oak elegantly transmit the essence of a particular site–the Secrest Vineyard. A cool mountain place where fruit ripens slowly with balance and intensity, Secrest sits directly below McIntyre Bluff, a colossal wall of Precambrian granitic gneiss layered with quartz and dramatically folded. Scented with herbal fragrance and red berry fruit, this juicy, lithe pinot with raspy acidity, fine tannins, and mineral savour embodies cool-climate light and edgy red wine. With a chill and a few lamb sausages, it’s articulate, honest, and utterly delicious. Our judges awarded the 2011 vintage, but the 2012 has similar structure and quality.
June 12, 2014
FIFA World Cup madness is upon us, and many football fans will be glued to laptops or TVs watching the beautiful game unfold and weave its bonding, uniting magic as only sport can. Canada has not qualified since 1986, when we made our first and last appearance on the world stage (winning a total of zero games), and this sad fact needs a little consoling wine…local, of course, so that we can wave the flag for something. Rosé to uplift and refresh, and a substantial, authentic Naramata merlot to sip with the char-grilled steak that will pair well with what might be the final matchup: Argentina vs. Brazil.
B.C. +601161* *2012 vintage available at private wine stores only
Many grapes are suitable for zippy rosé, even aristocratic cabernet sauvignon, which makes up 90 percent of this vibrant pink from equally aristocratic Mission Hill. The colour is bold ruby, and the lush aromas of cherry and raspberry signal a fruity style of summer sipper. Watermelon, ripe strawberries, plus a scattering of herbs add interest and a regional stamp to the off-dry finish. Balanced and satisfying, this rosé pairs well with sunshine.
B.C. +948919* *available at private wine stores only
In many of the world's major wine regions, merlot has been dumbed down to a high-volume workhorse grape, producing vast quantities of dependably inoffensive but terminally boring plonk. Not so in the Okanagan Valley, where merlot has adapted beautifully, producing wines that combine the plummy plushness of merlot at its best with an extraordinary juicy freshness. Poplar Grove's is a lovely example of the Okanagan style, full of fresh red fruit and the savoury warmth of a sagebrush-covered lakeside bench in summer. Well-built with brisk acidity reflecting the cooler 2010 vintage, it shows polished tannins supporting gorgeous plummy fruit. In the classic fashion of well-made B.C. reds, this will benefit enormously from slight cooling and even more from being served outside with prime grilled steak. It will benefit from aging, too, so tuck a few bottles away for FIFA's future.
June 5, 2014
Try two of our winning B.C. wines paired with local cheese this weekend. Our province boasts almost two dozen cheesemakers, from tiny and artisanal to large and long-established. Make a cheese plate for dinner, melt a classic fondue, or add to a crisp green salad and support our local heroes.
B.C. +88492* *available at private wine stores only
The Cowichan Valley provides a special micro-climate for farming, and this is where the Tyruk family established Unsworth Vineyards, bottling their maiden vintage in 2010. Turning heads from the first mouthful, this young winery is doing all the right things, especially rosé. The 2012 is all pinot noir, sporting a pale apricot hue with delicate scents of wild strawberry and citrus. Austerely dry, it shows understated red currant fruit, almond nuttiness, and acidity that is startling, grown-up, and food-worthy. The 2012 charmed the judges; the 2013 has just been released and you will love the extra fruit and confident dryness of the new edition just as much. The acid structure will tame the tang in local goat’s cheese, and the spare savoury aspect will match just as well with an aged cheddar style.
B.C. +734277* *available at private wine stores only
A novel choice for local blue cheese is Elephant Island Framboise. Del and Miranda Halladay run this Naramata gem, specializing in pristine fruit wines as well as the charming sparkler, The Little King. The Framboise 2012 explodes with astonishing essence of raspberry, lovely rich sweetness, and a lipsmacking tartness. Taking inspiration from the classic pairing of port and Stilton, give it a very sight chill before sipping along with your favourite creamy, salty, earthy blue cheese.
May 29, 2014
Two massive-value reds for a weekend of good-looking weather (this rain's an illusion), dusting off the BBQ (if you have not yet), and trying some spiedies on for size. Spiedies (say "SPEE-dee") are a version of kebabs, usually pork (but chicken and beef or lamb also fab), with a tangy herb and vinegar marinade and dipping sauce. Their name derives from the Italian spiedino (skewer) and spiedo (spit), and the crispy grilled meat is often munched in a torpedo bun, liberally brushed with the tangy sauce.
From an estate that dates back to 1877, this traditional Chianti has been a B.C. liquor store stalwart since 1974, delighting with savoury charm and pure refreshment. It's made without fuss, presenting sangiovese in a lovely savoury and spicy manner, with bitter cherry flavours and earthy notes. Acidity is a focal point, giving the wine a briskness that makes it ideal with food, especially the vinegar-based spiedie sauce. Looks like there are over 3,000 bottles in the system at an unbeatable, reduced price of $13.99, so a case is a must. This is also the kind of juicy, light red that is delicious with a slight chill.
Also historic is the estate of Vina Undurraga, established in 1885 in the Maipo Valley. The grape doesn't yet have the importance in Chile of the ubiquitous cabernet sauvignon (there are just 2,884 hectares of pinot; 40,728 hectares of cab), there are ultra-cool-climate coastal zones that are proving excellent for Burgundy's fastidious red grape. The Sibaris is fragrant with delicate perfume, showing bright raspberry, plum, and a hint of vanilla oak. The palate is nimble and juicy, with plenty of forward red-berried fruit, gentle tannins, and a savoury, peppery finish. Punching well above its $15.99 price tag, it's admirably complete with everything simply in the right place. Lamb spiedies will shine with this confident Chilean wonder pinot.
May 22, 2014
If you've not tried the sublime pairing of spot prawns and sake, you are in for a treat. Living in our Pacific Rim city makes drinking sake regularly a moral imperative, and we're lucky to have such a terrific selection available, in addition to our very own sake brewery-Artisan SakeMaker- on Granville Island. Our Wine Awards judges evaluate sake entrants just like wine, because we feel the pairing possibilities are exciting and so appropriate for our local ingredients and cuisine. Like spot prawns, for instance, where sake mirrors the milky, creamy mildness of our favourite local crustacean.
Chill this Oregon-made sake-pearly white because it is unfiltered-and lightly shake it before pouring. A gentle pressing gives it a hearty rice quality, and there are flavours of coconut, fennel, and creamy rice with a long yeasty finish. The key terms on this label are Junmai Gingo, which are quality and style designations, in this case referring to the degree of polish and the lack of alcohol addition. Cloudy Nigori sakes are always the sweetest and mildest, so try this tropical beauty with spot prawns that have an equal hit of sweet and hot, like a prawn coconut curry or simply grilled with a Thai sweet chili sauce.
The word "gingo" (the first "g" is pronounced in its hard form; the second is soft) signals the starting point for premium sake, and it refers to the fact that 40 percent of the rice grain has been polished away, leaving just the pure starchy kernel. The Umi Blu has a richness of honeydew melon, cucumber, and botanical character that is complex and unique and carries creamy palate weight with a dry and savoury finish. Steamed prawns with chilled avocado soup or coated with coconut and flash-fried will add the richness that this expressive Japanese sake deserves.
May 15, 2014
Spot prawns have arrived! It's our May gastronomic rite of passage that sends us into a frenzy of grilling, sizzling, steaming, or ceviche-ing, and this most noble of crustaceans deserves an award-winning bottle or two.
This is a no-brainer: a steely lean, acid-driven light white wine with a dusting of briney minerals and jolt of lemon fits the mighty spot prawn like a vinous glove. For 90 years, 300 growers in the Chablis region have been contributing chardonnay fruit to the La Chablisienne cooperative, and it's been a perennial winner in our annual wine awards. The judges loved the La Pierrelée's traditional form, and the 2011 vintages shows a slight roundness that's in step with spot prawns' richness, milky flavour, and creamy succulence. For the Chablis, simple is best, so anoint prawns with a whisper of best oil and garlic and toss in a hot skillet, or in a bamboo steamer till blush pink. And, of course, lemony aioli, Green Goddess dressing, or clarified butter for dunking.
*available in private wine stores
Rosé and prawns can create magic, particularly when the rosé is crisp, dry, savoury, and as local as the spots. Haywire Gamay 2011 is exactly that, a perfect expression of Okanagan hotshot winemaker Michael Bartier's self-effacing less-is-more philosophy. Bartier believes that the first duty of an Okanagan wine is to be "juicy and grippy"-balancing fruity freshness, earthiness, and a bone dryness. Here a delicate herbal fragrance combines with brisk cranberry/strawberry fruit and fresh acidity; the pale colour-precious in rosé-and light texture set up the unexpected thrill of a long-lasting mineral finish. While the wine chills, whip up a creamy rosso pasta sauce. Use a cup of your favourite marinara sauce, stir in heavy cream until it's the colour of a Tuscan villa, and toss with grilled prawns, linguini, and herbs of your choice.
May 8, 2014
Mother's Day rolls around this weekend, and mothers are (as we all know) the centre of the universe. Consider taking Mum to one of our best dim sum restaurants this weekend, possibly with a BYOB of bubble (call ahead to ensure that this is acceptable-bringing a bottle of wine to a restaurant is legal now, but not all restaurants choose to participate). The savoury delicate morsels of dim sum like tender har gao, plump pork pot stickers, melty broth-filled xiao long bao, perfumed lotus leaf rice, and silky rolled rice noodles are sublime with wines with crisp acidity and bubbly texture. Dynasty Seafood won Best Dim Sum at our recent Restaurant Awards; runners-up were Golden Paramount and Neptune Seafood in Richmond. Jasmine tea is also perfect with dim sum, and you can always serve the bubble at home while Mum puts her feet up.
*available at private wine stores
Like the sound of bubbly made in Burgundy's Chablis region? The climate is chilly, the chalky clay soils are just what chardonnay and pinot noir grapes desire, and the house of Simonnet-Febvre has 174 years of practice making elegant traditional-method sparkling wines. (Remember that in France the word "crémant" signifies bottle-fermented sparkling wines that are just like Champagne, but not from the Champagne region.) Yeasty, citrusy, minerally aromas and flavours are bright with crisp apply fruit, vivid acidity, and a surge of frisky bubbles. It has great line and length from quality fruit, and two years in the bottle have developed brioche-like complexity. Savoury just like dim sum, and worthy of a toast to all mothers.
Let's be clear: off-dry fruity wines are superb companions for spicy food. And while the majority of wine drinkers insist they only drink "dry," the truth is folks love balanced fruity wines when they taste them. That's good news for our best Light White, the Dr. Pauly Bergweiler Riesling. It grows on slate slopes hanging high above the mirror-like Mosel River, where warm autumn weather allows riesling to ripen its limey acids and develop peachy flavours. Dr. Pauly's focused fruit, lively mineral presence, and mouth-watering succulence offer a wondrous backdrop for dim sum, or pair this German beauty with a bouquet of equally fragrant blossoms.
May 1, 2014
Please, please take the time to reflect on how very lucky we are in this city to have Maenam (Best Thai in our recent Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards). Chef Angus An could be in London, Paris, New York, L.A., or any other food mecca, charging three times as much and enjoying far more celebrity. But he chooses to stay here and cook the kind of refined yet authentic Thai food that is seldom seen. He's worked under the likes of Jacques Pépin, André Soltner, and Normand Laprise, and in the kitchens of The Ledbury, The Fat Duck, and Le Manoir au Quat'Saisons before landing with acclaimed Thai cuisine guru David Thompson at London's Michelin-starred Nahm. White wines, both aromatic and bone-dry, are wondrous companions for Thai's flavour quartet of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter that also parades umami and chili heat. If you are inspired to cook some Penang chicken or hot-and-sour soup this weekend, try our best Medium White wine, a surprisingly dexterous Austrian classic.
How gratifying to have this captivating grüner veltliner represent the Medium category yet again (as it did in 2010). Austria's trademark white grape deserves the limelight, and we know you'll admire the savoury stone fruit, subtle spice, and mineral-tinged acidity of the Singing Grüner Veltliner. In a series of seven wines, this celebrated estate makes only grüners, and Singing is an ode to Sophie of the next generation, who will undoubtedly keep the grüner love alive. It's a lovely apéritif wine but has fruit heft and brisk acidity for flavourful Thai cuisine.
Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca is a jewel in the glittering crown of downtown restaurants. Known far beyond this city, Pino Posteraro, our Chef of the Year, has a global reputation that has him cooking for Formula One racers, hockey players (Roberto Luongo was a massive fan), Hollywood stars, and famed winemakers as well as the devoted Yaletown neighbourhood. He runs his kitchen with exacting precision and intense passion, and features one of the best wine cellars in the country, hands down. He's had the admirable crognolo on the list for years, and big brother oreno is a staple as well.
Sette Ponti takes its name from the seven medieval bridges that cross the river Arno between Arezzo and Florence, in the heart of Tuscany. Crognolo is a spectacular "new Super-Tuscan" red-less oaky (and far less expensive) than the first-wave versions yet still luxurious, sleek, and refined. Winemaker Carlo Ferrini (a superstar himself) marries local earthy sangiovese (90 percent) with plush cabernet and merlot, then ages it in French oak casks until a torrefaction of smoky spice infuses with intoxicating dark fruit. Tremendous value, it's cellar-worthy and also terrific with grilled rib-eye or braised beef on polenta or whatever chef Pino suggests tableside. One sip and you'll understand how it clinched Best Medium Red.
April 24, 2014
This week at our 25th annual Restaurant Awards, we celebrated the remarkable caliber, depth and breadth that is our sparkling dining scene. Eight hundred trade cheered, hugged and toasted one another as over 45 gold and Best of Awards were bestowed with pomp and circumstance. The next month of FIX wine picks will fête the major winners with wines that relate in a vinous way.
New Zealand +389528
Best Casual, Best New, and Best Restaurant awards for The Farmer's Apprentice caused as much of a stir at this magazine's 25th Annual Restaurant Awards on Tuesday as did Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc when it came out of the gates. Both are iconoclast, both are tiny in size, both have a remarkable pedigree, and both are making waves. Chef David Gunawan's unexpected, spontaneous flavours and textures are underpinned by phenomenal technique that allows him to render simplicity from complexity. So too is Dog Point, a Marlborough winery that sprang from ex-Cloudy Bay talent. Old vines, fine Marlborough terroir, and the courage to be different marked the genesis for this globally admired, astonishing sauvignon blanc. What's familiar is the lush citrus, tropical guava, and spine-tingling acidity. What are unexpected are the flinty struck-stone nose, the mouth-coating emollience, the mineral framework, and a long riveting finish that makes one aware more of place than grape and redefines "classic" Marlborough. Choose a Burgundy glass, fill modestly, and swirl with abandon to release the complex aromas. And try with our Ingredient of the Year: steamed gooseneck barnacles with lemon aioli.
Best Upscale (for the third year running) was peerless Hawksworth, with its sense of occasion, composed style, dedicated wine team, and service that is as smooth, seamless, and refined as burnished gold. Just as polished is Mission Hill's Quatrain, a stylish blend that begins in low-yielding vineyards that provide pristine fruit allowed to turn itself into wine under the watchful eye of (New Zealander) John Simes. Syrah is always a major component, along with Bordeaux grapes, proving yet again what a superlative addition Okanagan syrah is to a blend. There's a depth charge of rich black fruit in the 2009 Quatrain, with layers of resinous herbs, fragrant spice, and gorgeous roasted mocha barrel notes. Potent and sleek, it has impressive freshness and structure, suave tannins, and a majestic finish that will lift any prime roast of meat. In wine-classification terms, Hawksworth and Quatrain are both "first growths." (If the 2010 is on the shelf instead of the 2009, you will love this elegant vintage just as much.)
April 17, 2014
The Easter long weekend is really code for feasting–and, of course, rebirth, reunion, relaxing, reading, revelling… You may have a little cooking to pull off as well, and you'll need some wine to ensure you look like a pro. Easter mains range from ham and lamb to fish so here are two versatile wines that will embrace a range of flavours (and make you look good in the process). April 17 is not only the eve of the long weekend but International Malbec Day, and there are hundreds of global celebrations for this Bordeaux grape that has so happily transplanted around the world. Our delightful best rosé is made from Naramata-grown malbec and syrah.
*available at private wine stores
Winning Best Rich White two years in a row in our International Wine Awards is an emphatic quality statement for this leading estate in western Australia. The fine 2011 Margaret River vintage was warm and dry, giving this elegant chardonnay added white peach and exotic citrus intensity. The forward fruit is sharply countered by nervy acidity and well-framed with spicy French oak. Tight and structured, it will age well and flatter food like grilled or oven-baked salmon or halibut, Easter ham, or foie gras parfait if you plan to really fuss.
*available at private wine stores
Lush and dryish, our top rosé is made from gorgeously ripe malbec and syrah berries grown on elite Naramata Bench terroir. Inviting aromas and flavours of strawberry, pink grapefruit, and Turkish delight swell in the mouth and end on a note of vivid acidity and a hint of sweetness. Chill well and pair with smoky ham, grilled leg of lamb, or any fish you care to throw at it. This is ultra-adaptable food rosé.
April 10, 2014
Looks like we're in for some balmy spring temperatures this weekend, and the parks, seawalls, and sidewalks should be crammed with happy people relishing the warm sun. Dinner at my house will be an easy composed dinner salad (featuring grilled prawns, local blue cheese, bacon, avocado, and Green Goddess dressing) so that outdoor time can be prolonged.
If you haven't tasted a gorgeously oaked chardonnay in a while (shame on you!), try this stylish, restrained beauty with weekend dinner. Delicate gold in the glass, it presents the nose with citrus, baked apple, and custard notes that make the palate salivate. After a good slosh in the mouth, note the chiselled acidity (from cool-climate Adelaide Hills vineyards) and flavours of apple, lemon curd, and pear stippled with lovely vanilla and oak spice notes. The oak is effortlessly integrated, adding texture, depth, and structure and just a hint of buttery flavour to carry the prawns, bacon, and avocado in a Cobb-ish salad. There are 549 units in 41 stores, so head to a BCL near you for this extremely well-priced gem.
This is a bombshell wine for 13 bucks. A steal. It's made by a famous family (famille Perrin of Château de Beaucastel fame), it uses organic grapes, and it's a faithful dry rosé that absolutely sings with food. Grown on the rugged, low slopes of Mont Ventoux (yes, you've seen this fearsome mountain on the Tour de France), grenache, cinsault, and syrah grapes are fermented on the skins until tulip pink. Aromas of fennel, strawberry, and dusty minerals set the palate scene for appealing savoury herbal flavours with a hint of pink grapefruit, spice, and a saline finish. A crisp and dry rosé, it evokes a southern Rhone sunny day and will complement the blue cheese and herbal green onion-y tang of the Green Goddess dressing. (Surf the web for a recipe if you've not made this for decades!)
April 3, 2014
You've probably noticed that our city is exploding with powder-pink cherry blossoms. Did you know that cherry trees (in particular the Prunus serrulate ‘Kwanzan' species) are the most common of the 130,000 street trees on Vancouver roads? Although we enjoy splendid arboreal diversity, ornamental cherry and plum comprise one-third of the trees that decorate our neighbourhoods, sparked in the 1930s when the mayors of Kobe and Yokohama gifted us with 500 Japanese cherry trees. April marks the seventh annual Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, and there are 1,300 official viewing sites, haiku odes, musical theatrical performances, and origami folding events (Vcbf.ca) around town. Our petal infatuation has inspired these wine choices that display cherry aromas and the kind of perfume that stirs the soul in exactly the same way as a tree-lined street flaunting clouds of blossoms.
New Zealand +772079
A chilled flute of ballerina-pink bubbles will bring a smile to any face. The soft cherry and strawberry aromas will delight the nose, and ripe berry flavours refreshed by a zap of citrus will tickle the palate. Oyster Bay is renowned for well-priced wines from the clean, green islands of New Zealand, and head winemaker Michael Ivicevich (who is as fresh-faced, personable, and skilled as can be) combines pinot noir from sunny Marlborough with chardonnay from cool Hawke's Bay, tank-ferments the blend, then ages briefly on the lees for just a hint of toasty character. The result is a dry sparkler with intense flavours, spritely acidity, and a boney (as the Kiwis say when they mean stoney or mineral) finish. Have it as a pre-dinner apéritif or whip up some shrimp with a piquant Creole rémoulade sauce and toast the detonating blossoms.
Good news for us is that there are 558 bottles of this charming and well-priced Bourgogne through 55 provincial LDB stores. Even better news is how well this juicy pinot is blossoming with a couple of years in the bottle. From the lovely, fresh, and tiny-cropped 2010 vintage and a domaine that is reborn, you'll find aromas of red fruits, lilac, and forest floor, with flavours of pure red raspberry fruit, lip-smacking acidity, and lithe tannins. Keep the food simple (like the sound of hanger steak and a crispy potato pancake or fennel-marinated pork chop?), use a large glass, and pour a few degrees under room temperature for maximum pleasure.
March 27, 2014
Pinot noir in California has been on an interesting trajectory since the first bottlings back in the 1960s. Like Cali chardonnay, pinot has been around the block, from clunky and fat with lashings of new oak to trim and elegant and raised in neutral barrels. Now there is an emphatic focus on regional identity, and the wines that express this best have a degree transparency that allows site to speak. Two of our competition winners are lovely examples of eloquent pinot noir from distinct regions.
Walter Schug is one of California's famed winemakers, celebrated as the genius behind Joseph Phelp's mighty cabernet-based Insignia. In 1980 Schug set his sights on pinot noir from cool, foggy Carneros. Eight vineyards contribute fruit to the 2010, giving the kind of clonal diversity and complexity we expect from great pinot. Black cherry fruit with ample spice, and cleansing acidity combines power and delicacy in that ineffable Burgundian way. The 2010 vintage was a doozy, combining a cool spring and terrific late summer heat spikes that kept vintners on their toes. This is the kind of pinot that handles grilled fish nicely (the flavour added through grilling is key to the pairing) and fresh halibut with a sweetish hoisin glaze will nicely balance the ripe fruit core.
*available at private liquor stores only
There is a special lineage behind this seductive pinot noir. Head vintner Rick Sayre started with Rodney Strong in 1979, bringing expertise instilled in him by the great André Tchelistcheff, America's most influential post-prohibition winemaker. Attention to detail like picking times and oak balance were cornerstones of Tchelistcheff's teachings, and over 30 years of tribal knowledge of his vines in the Russian River ensure that Sayre's pinots are something special. The Russian River Valley experiences cool fog, warm sunshine, and chilly nights, resulting in wines with generous fruit, brisk acidity, and firm structure. This perfumed, back-fruited, spicy pinot delivers the power expected from Russian River, with smooth tannins and a hint of woodsy undergrowth emerging. It's for lamb or beef with some sautéed wild mushrooms on the side.
March 20, 2014
*available at private wine stores
In the rolling countryside of Napa where mustard jauntily fills the rows between old gnarled vineyards, premium wines are a way of life. Chardonnay from Napa got us hooked on luscious full-bodied whites decades ago, and they still do it better than most when the terroir is fine, the winemaker is French, and the chardonnay is from Stags' Leap Winery. Winemaker Christophe Paubert (ex Gruaud-Larose and Château d'Yquem) builds this chardonnay in layers, using fermentations in new oak, seasoned oak, and steel tanks and keeping acids rapier-sharp with no malo. The result is an incredibly fragrant rich wine with aromas and flavours of tropical fruit, white peach, custard, and lemon oil. Silky in the mouth, it has weighty fruit concentration and an acid verve that has to be tasted to be believed. The cooler 2011 vintage was ideal for elegant Napa chard, and this wine can take on lemon risotto, halibut with a tangy beurre blanc, or simply a triple cream cheese like l'Explorateur or Saint André.
March 13, 2014
Mid March is a bit of a no-man's land: spring officially begins next week, but summer feels far, far away; the Canucks are feebly freefalling; and the Easter long weekend is still three weeks in the distance. Never mind — busy yourself making this easy lamb roast* and try it with two of our most interesting red winners. Choose a two kilo leg of lamb, make 12 deep slits, and stuff each one with half a peeled garlic clove and an anchovy fillet. Next, massage the leg with chopped rosemary, olive oil, and liberal amounts of salt and pepper and let sit for half a day. Place on rack in roasting pan and roast at 425 F for 20 minutes then for 40-45 minutes at 350 F for medium rare. Meanwhile in a skillet sauté 12 peeled garlic cloves until very soft but not browned and put in bowl. Remove the lamb to a platter to rest, put the roasting pan on a hot burner, and pour in a large glass of dry white wine, scraping all the lovely brown bits, reducing by half. Add this to the garlic cloves, season with salt to taste, and mash together. Slice the roast, drizzle with the garlicky sauce, and scatter with finely chopped parsley. In Provence this is called gigot d'agneau à l'aillade-simply leg of lamb with garlic sauce. Don't get squeamish and omit the anchovy! They melt into nothingness and become an essential but nonfishy dimension of umami. Perfect for our two wines.
Since 1971 the pioneering Sokol Blosser family has tilled the red volcanic loams of the Dundee Hills where pinot noir buries its roots deeply and offers up some of the most perfumed and elegant of all Oregon's wines. Son Alex tended the vines for years, and now makes the wines; his innate understanding of inscrutable pinot shows in the pure-fruited clarity of our winner. The 2010 vintage stretched nerves with cool and gloomy weather, but careful canopy management and a blessedly dry-ish, warm autumn has yielded a classic and age-worthy vintage. It's also added structure and freshness to this fragrant pinot, which combines violets, brisk red cherry fruit, fleshy tannins, and a charming earthy aspect. French oak adds a spicy note and deepens the complex flavours for a perfect fit with the lamb. Consider buying a few bottles to lay down for 10 to 15 years. Alex Sokol Blosser was in town this week and we discussed the remarkable age-worthiness of cooler vintages like 2007, 2010, and 2011.
Do yourself a favour and get on the Similkameen train. This stunning, tiny valley is the next big thing in B.C. wine. Rugged, extreme, isolated, and full of hearty individuals (like owners Dale Wright and Jeraldine Estin) with a common vision, there is a distinct lightness, freshness, and mineral spine to the best wines from this cleft in mountains to the west of the Okanagan. Eau Vivre has made waves, winning two coveted Lieutenant Governor's Awards (in 2012 and 2013 for the 2009 and 2010 pinot noir)-the first LGs for the Similkameen. A brilliant victory, and talented new winemaker Anthony Buchanan plans to keep the excellence flowing. Cabernet franc is a natural with lamb, especially when its floral perfume, gorgeous smoky herbs, and cassis fruit are as present and emphatic as in this 2011. Yes, it's rich and well spiced with oak barrel flavours, but it is also elegant, beautifully balanced, and marked with the distinct dusty minerals of eloquent Similkameen terroir.
*NB: recipe is adapted from Mireille Johnston's Cuisine of the Sun, 1976
March 6, 2014
This week-post wine festival, and as a survival tactic for spring drizzle — I've got pot pie on my mind. Golden, flaky pastry crimped with fork or artful fingers concealing tender chicken with six veg, thyme, and silky béchamel; or red-wine-braised short ribs with pearl onions; or perhaps shrimp, scallops, and crab trio moistened with creamy sauce and a drop of Pernod under a puff pastry dome. Be fancy or be simple, you'll find that a well-made, generously stuffed pot pie is a joy to make and sublime to eat for weekend supper. Open a favourite cookbook, scan a magazine, or click the web to find deep-dish inspiration. And don't be intimidated by pastry — it's more forgiving than you think. (I use Martha Stewart's classic pâte brisée.) Here are two pot-pie-worthy wines that I'll be drinking this weekend.
With its driving acidity, mineral framework, and crisp apple-y fruit, chablis has all the makings of a fine seafood pot pie wine. The Laroche Saint Martin has clinical chablis aromas and flavours of citrus and pears with dusty chalk minerals and a touch of brine. Sufficient concentration of fruit, modest complexity, and creamy texture from lees aging confer firm structure on the charming, well-priced, and representative chardonnay from the distinct terroir of Chablis. Add a little sautéed leek and lemon verbena to the seafood-and-cream pie filling for exquisite harmony.
Worthy of a prime-steak-and-Stilton pie, or the braised short rib version, this is a magnificent mid-weight red wine from the little-known Marche region, on the back of the knee of Italy's boot. Established in the 1950s, Tenuta de Angelis has done much to put this Adriatic region on the map. Chalky, sun-drenched hillsides tempered by cool winds from the east ensure grapes ripen fully but preserve fresh acid. The Anghelos is a stylish blend of native montepulciano, bringing bold acid, cherries, pungent balsam, and smoky meat to curranty, firm cabernet sauvignon, and a spicing of sangiovese. The wine smells of ripe plums, cherries, and cassis, lifted by flowers and cigar box, and the palate is at once richly fruity, savoury, and woodsy with smooth tannins, mouth-coating body, and a generous length. Old World earthiness deserves a large-bowl glass, a rustic pot pie made with top quality ingredients, and a few chunky candles.
February 27, 2014
Like the idea of tasting more than 700 wines in three short hours? It's time for the Vancouver International Wine Festival, which for 36 years has been one of the most celebrated consumer wine festivals in the world. It's fitting that such a warm and jovial reunion of the world's foremost winemakers, owners, growers, and export pros should happen annually in Vancouver, as we are widely admired as a population of educated, adventurous, discerning wine drinkers. And we drink more than the country average of 15 litres of wine per capita (B.C. is closer to 17) as well as paying the highest prices for what we pour into the glass. This year, France is the featured theme region and sparkling wines the global focus. Here are two French wines from our awards that will get your palate calibrated for the Festival Tasting room, on until Saturday evening, March 1.
The history of this old estate, founded in 1811, is colourful: the 1873 Brut was served to Edward VII before he signed the "Entente Cordiale" in 1904, Prince Metternich of Austria, and three Third Republic French presidents. This lively, elegant Champagne is also the bubbly du jour at the Cannes film festival, and the house of Cazanove has generally supported the arts for decades. The Premier Cru Brut uses fruit from some of the 44 designated villages, where fine limestone terroir delivers fruit with finesse and high expression. Half pinot noir and half chardonnay, it yields aromas that meld lemon, red currant, and minerals with lovely bread from years on the lees. The flavours combine fresh citrus and wild berry with a hint of earthiness and a long dusty chalk finish. The bubbles are fine and swell in the mouth, finishing fine and fresh. It's a great oyster wine, but the high percentage of pinot noir adds richness for crab cakes, tuna sashimi, or (my secret favourite) a grilled cheese sandwich made with aged cheddar, the best French bread, and lots of butter in the cast iron pan for the toasting.
There are times when only a chewy, earthy red will do. When the weather is cool and dinner is heartwarming, this is the wine you need. Maison Brotte is centred in the majestic region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where stout ramparts crown the hills and rounded river stones dot the flat vineyard land. The climate is fairly extreme here, with sizzling summers, cold winters, and the relentless, howling wind of the region known as the mistral. In such an environment vines struggle, their low-trained gnarled trunks bent by gusts, desiccated by summer heat. Côtes du Rhone is a sprawling appellation that accounts for the bulk of Rhone wine, where spicy grenache, meaty syrah, and other rugged reds blend, creating robust, herb-scented reds. The La Fiole is a great deal, and for under $20 you get a crimson glass of red berry and spice aromas, bracing acidity, deep raspberry and kirsch flavours, and a warm assertive finish. Yes it's a light red, but it has great presence and is best for rustic pairings like tapenade and crunchy baguette, caramelized onion and herbes de Provence pizza, or used by the bottle for braising a roast.
February 20, 2014
Reporting from the sunny foothills of Mendoza, I've been busy tasting hundreds of diverse malbecs, quality cabernets, exciting red blends, and aromatic torrontés at the 2014 Argentine Wine Awards. The vineyards are ruggedly beautiful and yield wines with intense ripe fruit and a strong stamp of terroir. More than ever, in fact. There is a big shift going on in Argentina. You could call it a winequake in this seismic part of the world. The days of soupy, sweet, anonymous malbecs are waning as a new breed of winemakers focuses on lighter, fresher wines with less oak and extraction, and greater fruit purity and sense of identity. Beyond terroir-driven malbecs, the exciting wines here are blends (usually malbec with strong doses of cabernet sauvignon, franc, bonarda, or syrah); cabernet francs, bonardas, and some wonderfully chewy, inky tannats. Torrontés is a moving target, but the best are aromatic and succulent with exotic kumquat citrus flavours.
There is a rock star team behind this refined malbec, which has caught the attention of the wine world, winning award after award. The team includes Chilean terroir-hunter Pedro Parra and winemaker Alberto Antonini, recently named to a list of the top 10 global consultant. It's fragrant and juicy, with fresh blueberry flavours, fine acidity, fleshy tannins, and a long mineral finish. Not only did the Vancouver Magazine International Wine Awards judges love it, it was named best malbec in the world (under ₤15) in what is arguably the most influential wine competition, the Decanter World Wine Awards. Definitely grill a steak for this beauty, or fresh chorizo sausages, or thyme-marinated chicken. (Both Pedro and Alberto are involved in a B.C. winery, Okanagan Crush Pad, and they are very excited about the future of our winelands.)
This light white, out of this world in value, is not from Argentina, but it is made by the maestro of our feature malbec. Alberto Antonini's Poggiotondo estate is located in the Tuscan hills west of Florence, near the village of Vinci, where da Vinci was born. The hilltop vineyard is full of calcium-rich fossils that contribute crisp acidity to this delicious blend of indigenous Mediterranean grapes vermentino, malvasia, and ansonica. It's a minerally dry white that you can deploy like chablis, with fresh citrus, almond blossom, and a honeyed note. It's light and lively but with depth of flavour and finishes on a botanical, saline note that connects effortlessly to linguine vongole, lemon and herb-marinated chicken, or cacio e pepe, a soothing pasta dish sauced with plenty of freshly ground black pepper, pecorino cheese and fruity olive oil.
February 13, 2014
Valentine's Day already? Don't stress-Cupid's never far away when you've got the right wine (and chocolates, and roses, and a heart bursting with amour). There's nothing like bubbly to stimulate the appetite, pique the senses, and loosen the moment.
What's not to love about this expressive pinot noir bubbly from the revered terrain of Burgundy? It's a pretty shade of pink, it froths and foams with excitement in the glass, and it bursts with raspberry and redcurrant flavours. The term "crémant" refers to a wine made in the Champagne method but not from the Champagne region, with bottle fermentation that gives a lovely yeasty, creamy-moussed wine. It's softly dry with well-tempered acidity and best served with savoury treats like cheese fondue (a romantic sharing dish), oysters on the half-shell with pomegranate mignonette, or even retro bacon-wrapped scallops.
Plush and uplifting, this affordable red from breezy Western Australia seduces with plums and mocha, and smooth texture. Serious red grapes merlot, cab, and shiraz provide a surge of dark brambly fruit, and a layer of spicy oak completes this handsome red. Ex-Penfolds winemaker Oliver Crawford has put this innovative estate-a repeat winner in our annual wine awards for this and the majestic best Rich White Devil's Lair chardonnay-on the wine map. Serve with simple grilled lamb chops, heart-shaped meatballs and spaghetti, or just in a large glass by the fire.
February 6, 2014
Big Night is big fun, big food, and big wine. (There's a chance a ticket for tomorrow night is still available here). It's a big deal too, as it celebrates the best of Vancouver dining, uniting winning restaurants from the 24th annual Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards with the best of the best from our 10th annual international wine awards. Dress up, sample Cioppino's beef and chorizo cannelloni with a stylish super-Tuscan or Hawksworth's sunchoke soup with caviar and grand cru Champagne, and mingle with several hundred lovers of fine food and wine. Here are two other category champs that will sparkle at Big Night 2014.
*available in private wine stores
It's well-established that women and smart men drink rosé frequently. We love it for its versatility when pairing with food, for the variety of its hues-from pomegranate to palest powder-puff pink-and for its exciting range from soft and fruity to grippy, bone-dry, and serious. This winner of Best Rosé is lush and dry-ish, made from gorgeously ripe malbec and syrah berries grown on elite Naramata Bench terroir. Inviting aromas and flavours of strawberry, pink grapefruit, and Turkish delight swell in the mouth and end on a note of vivid acidity and a hint of sweetness. Chill well and pair with watermelon, feta, and olive salad or smoked-salmon pizza. Rosé consumption is projected to rise over the next two years-get ahead of the trend now.
Our Rich Red winner shows a cooler and more refined aspect of the Barossa Valley. Four bold grapes from three different sites harmonize with stylish power, though cabernets sauvignon and franc dominate, assuring blackcurrant, cedar, and spice flavours and bright acidity. A year in large French casks adds a dimension of glossy oak, and velvety tannins prolong a seductive finish. It's worth lauding Thorn-Clarke for admirable consistency: Rich Red is a large, competitive category at our awards, and this handsome blend has made the list multiple times. Brilliant with prime rib or roasted leg of lamb or venison sausages.
January 30, 2014
This weekend is bookended by two diverse celebratory events: Chinese New Year (January 31) and the 48th Super Bowl (February 2). Both are great occasions/excuses for eating and drinking well. White aromatics are the safe pours for the incredible panoply of flavours that distinguish the eight branches of regionally distinct Chinese cuisine. And while riesling and gewürztraminer and similar fruity whites do a bang-up job of taming heat and embracing exotic ingredients, the right kind of pinot noir can also dance with the Dragon. Pinot that juggles vivid fruit with earthy umami and cleansing acidity is best, so look for cooler-climate New World origins. Save the boldly oaked, higher alcohol versions for your next hip of beef.
New Zealand +617530
There are so many reasons to love this knockout New Zealand pinot. Let's start with the winemaker, a guy born and bred in Marlborough and one who considers himself a regional pioneer. Brent Marris picks prized fruit for The Ned pinot from the Southern Valleys (a gravelly/clay terroir within Marlborough with the best conditions for this capricious grape), and his nuanced winemaking keeps the fruit forward, the spice overt, and the wood subtle by aging in large French oak casks. With lifted floral aromas and dark cherry flavours layered with smoke and spice, this complete pinot also has a lively herbal aspect and a tart edge of acidity. Best of all, a savoury earthy core that binds it to umami-rich dishes like crispy duck with pancakes, crystal chicken, or stir-fried mushrooms with oyster sauce. And the name, you ask? The Ned is a 900-metre peak in Marlborough that Brent conquered as a youngster.
As part of Cascadia, the Seattle Seahawks are our adopted NFL team. They sport the snazziest uniforms in the league, the smartest quarterback, the priciest defensive squad, and a fun-loving coach whom all the players call "a big kid." It's possible that I love sports just as much as wine, and I can't wait for kickoff on Sunday. I'll be drinking this Thunderbird of a wine with my chili verde and fresh tortillas, shrieking in support of the Seahawks. Cabernet sauvignon is joined by an almost equal amount of syrah plus a quartet of other juicy red grapes, elevating this muscular wine to the starting roster. Bold plummy fruit, strapping vanilla oak, and grilled herbs finish big and round in the mouth. It's a confident, winning red and I'm just as sure the right team will win.
January 23, 2014
Why can't haggis be as good looking as Robbie Burns? Then we might more eagerly await its annual appearance on Robbie Burns Day. (Saturday marks his 255th birthday.) Did you know there are more statues of the handsome Scot erected around our planet than of any other writer? The world's favourite poet has an iPhone app, has graced the front of a Coke bottle, and had at least 12 children with four different mothers…. If you are in the haggis frame of mind (and all our best butchers will stock them this weekend), try these two wines with the "Great Chieftain o' the Puddin-race"-and neeps and tatties too, of course.
This hearty malbec (70 percent) gets a shot in the arm from juicy bonarda and sturdy syrah grown in very different regions of Argentina. The result is the expected fruit-forward glass of perfumed blueberry/plummy flavours that we adore in malbec, but brightened nicely with cherries, deepened with spice and smoke, and buttressed by lean tannins. It's a true meat wine, an outstanding value, and a fitting match for haggis's gamey nature.
Always a solid reflection of its region and style, this rioja has been Best of Show in previous Vancouver magazine International Wine Awards competitions, and usually stars on the winners' list every year. Beronia Reserva 2008 is no exception, this vintage offering plenty of fruit layered with cedary oak and tempered by brisk acidity. Mellow leathery notes add interest to the creamy oak character, and this Rioja Reserva manages to be round, supple, edgy, classic, and modern all at once. It has the heft haggis needs and deserves, but if you are feeling like a braised lamb shank instead, this is still the ticket. Drinks deliciously now, but will develop for a few years yet.
January 16, 2014
Dine Out has become a beloved happening here in Vancouver, and from January 17 to February 2 you can sample prix-fixe menus at new places you've been dying to try ($18 offered by 62 restaurants, 129 options for $28, and 63 priced at $38.) Like the idea of 50 chefs making one big bowl of soup? The dining festival launches with a cauldron featuring 50 different ingredients tossed into the pot by 50 top chefs. Julian Bond, Vanmag's first Mentorship Award recipient, orchestrates proceedings as his Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts students prepare and cook the fusion brew.
And when you are not dining out, here are two bottles to savour at home.
Here's a cozy winter white full of lychee, exotic citrus, and spice for great food-pairing options. Thornhaven Winery, perched high on the bluffs above Summerland, offers one of the most breathtaking views over Okanagan Lake. The vineyards feel the fresh breezes that help keep the acidity alive in gewurztraminer, which tends toward fatness. This one is distinctly fruity but balanced with sufficient tang to counter the tropical peachy flavours. Pouring with dishes that are a touch sweet themselves is key to maintaining harmony, so try homemade fried rice with Chinese sausages or honey-and-chili-glazed pork chops or barbecued pork, crunchy shrimp, sweet peas, and a little hoisin.
This wine, brimming with personality and flavour, captured our judges' taste buds yet again. Tannat is an interesting French grape responsible for the historically famous wines of Madiran, in the southwest corner of France. Tannat's tannins can be quite ferocious, but in Argentina's warm climate they become meltingly supple. Finca Las Moras is based in the rugged San Juan region, and these grapes grow at altitudes where slow ripening and full flavour are assured. A year in French oak adds chocolate-y richness to intense cassis and black plum, giving body and a smouldering finish. Try your hand at a classic cassoulet, with earthy beans, duck confit (it's easier to make than you think) and porky sausages, or complement tannat's smoky side with the best bacon money can buy on a juicy burger. Tannat vineyards are springing up in B.C. and California, and the grape's high antioxidant components may prompt even more interest (having more pips than most wine grapes, it has greater amounts of polyphenols, procyanidins, flavonoids, and resveratrol).
January 8, 2014
As we confront post-holiday belt-tightening of all kinds, barnstorming bargains are what we need. Maybe our meals get a little leaner, our appetites a little lighter (from self-imposed dieting or sheer gustatory overload), but we still need wine to wash down those comforting (budget) winter stews and soups. Here are two best-value picks that are easy on the wallet yet big in the glass.
Without the makeup of oak to hide behind, unwooded chardonnay must have ripe, healthy, quality fruit backed up by respectful, clean winemaking. Calona hits the target squarely with freshness, balance, and attractive orchard fruit. It's a naked expression of Okanagan pear, apple, and citrus with inflections of sage and honey. There's also juicy acidity and decent length to punch through a root veg bake, chunky leek-and-potato soup, or crusty-melty brie panini.
Like plummy? Like silky? Like a smashing deal? You can tuck this red away for a few years and have it improve, so buy lots of this classic Côtes du Rhône and look like a hero. It's been around forever and never lost the plot of kirschy grenache, peppery syrah, and feral mourvedre grown in various plots in the complex geology of the southern Rhone valley. Smells of herbs and lavender, pure plum and cherry, with background smoke and pepper. The palate is smooth with dark fruit, spice, and tannins that show well (given the odd ripening cycle of the decent 2011 vintage), and there's enough acid for freshness and sufficient fruit for a few years of bottle evolution. But it's so gulpable now: drink deeply with grilled merguez and barley soup, bacon-wrapped roast chicken, or pizza with heavily smoked sausage.
December 19, 2013
One of the best things about the holiday season is having a few days off-to sleep in, laze around, and prepare a lingering brunch with indulgent treats and glass or two of ambrosial sweet wine. Invite family and friends, dust off the waffle iron, season the pancake skillet, and get creative with an enticing festive brunch menu. Remember this rule of thumb: the wine must be as sweet as, or sweeter than, the dessert for optimal harmony (unless it is a savoury pairing, like icewine and foie gras, and you can happily contrast sweet, savoury, and salty). Think also about the weight of the pairing-thick-textured and intense wines can handle richer food.
This moscato, our best of dessert wine category winner, is heavenly. Innocent Bystander is a cutting-edge winery in the Yarra Valley just an hour from one of the hippest cities on the planet, Melbourne. The Innocent Bystander team lavish massive effort and respect on the black and brown muscat grapes grown along the banks of the Murray River. The beer-capped bottle, arty label, and hot pink colour are delectable eye candy. You'll be tempted by the dreamy nose of wild strawberry, tangerine, and white flowers, and tangy berry and rose petal jam flavours will awaken your palate. Semi-sparkling with fizzy-foamy bubbles, it has a charming creamy mouthfeel. With delicacy, lightness, and moderate sweetness (5.5% alcohol and a 2 rating on the BCLDB sweetness scale), this juicy beauty pairs with lychee or peach waffles, rose petal jam and brie French toast, or orange-glazed scones.
Near-perfect is the way to describe this luscious icewine: the combination of the strong 2012 vintage, an early freeze, and the precise handling techniques learned over many winters by winemaker Randy Picton and his crack team resulted in an exceptional bottle. Yellow-gold awash with green glints, it appears incandescent in a small wine glass. The nose is a revelation of jasmine, ripe apple, apricot, linden, and herbal honey. It smells rich, exotic and concentrated, so do pay attention and swirl and sniff for as long as you can before sipping. In the mouth there's a rush of lime curd, white peach and fangipani, nimbly balanced by nervy acidity and succulent sweetness. The finish is long and thrilling. At 9% alcohol and 275 grams of sugar, it is both unctuous and graceful. Sweet pairings: Key lime tart, black Thai rice pudding with coconut and mango, or green apple sorbet. Savoury: foie gras profiterole, candied bacon, or barely-sweet blue cheesecake.
December 12, 2013
The hurly-burly of mid-December is upon us – entertaining, shopping, wrapping, baking, dining, drinking, and general merry-making. Here are two wines, a gorgeous winter white and a stunning cru Beaujolais, to uplift dinner this weekend
Vermentino is one of Italy's characterful white grapes, grown in a wide expanse from Corsica winding up the western edge of the peninsula through coastal Tuscany and stretching up to Liguria. The Argiolas family have cultivated vermentino since the early 1900s, in sloping vineyards on wind-buffeted, sun-drenched Sardinia. The Costamolino drinks dry and savoury with intriguing floral, herbal, honeyed, and saline aromas and flavours. Like so many Italian whites it has great mouth presence-a grippy, palate-coating quality that invites robust food flavours. Make a winter salad of tangerine or blood orange and fennel salad with a few razorthin slices of red onion and peppery olive oil. Artichokes will flatter this wine as well, so de-choke and steam fresh ones to dunk in aioli, or strew marinated artichokes over pizza dough, sprinkle with capers and cheese, and bake.
Growers like M. Lapierre affirm how truly great the wines of Beaujolais can be. From a fine "cru" village, Lapierre Morgon is a global reference for naturally made wine, producedwithout herbicides, pesticides, or synthetic chemicals of any kind. The Lapierre family have been farming organically since 1981; in 2003 they made the transition to biodynamics. Their wines are complex, powerful, and capable of great age. A pure expression of gamay grown on granite, the 2012 Morgon is Beaujolais at its fragrant, stony best. That means heady floral scents with ripe dark cherry and earthy aromas and a dry palate that shows piercing berry flavours with spice, gamey notes, and distinct minerality. Refreshing and wondrously balanced with agile tannins, it has all the elements of a brilliant food wine-acidity, structure, and intense flavour. Pair with a juicy roast pork loin, or try your hand at classic braised rabbit with Dijon mustard.
December 5, 2013
Welcome to another 12 months of weekly picks as we taste our way through 110 terrific results of our 10th Annual Awards. In late October, 17 judges were cloistered in the Pavilion in Stanley Park for three days, evaluating over 800 wines from 17 countries. Wines were grouped into style categories, just the way we think about and buy wine. You'll find our winners organized into 10 groups: sparkling, light white, medium white, rich white, rosé, light red, medium red, rich red, dessert, and fortified wines. This logical, intuitive sorting of wine by style makes is easy to pair to your mood, and with food.
A good place to start is our Best of Show wine. Three high-calibre wines were on the final ballot and this astonishing Le Mesnil Champagne was the celebrated winner. Are we being elitist choosing a grand cru bubbly for our Best of Show wine? We think not and this is why: our awards are for you, the reader. We select the most delicious, most varied, and best value wines so that you can save money and buy wisely. When you are spending more money, you want to be confident of a great experience. A grand cru Champagne for $55? Too good to be true, but here it is.
There are only 17 villages with grand cru status in chilly Champagne, and fruit from these deep chalk terroirs present extra finesse and higher expression. Although a non-vintage bubbly, 80 percent of Le Mesnil's blend is from the highly-rated 2008 vintage. It's an all-chardonnay brut, with proper nutty, brioche aromas of bottle fermented and aged champagne. The palate is fresh and racy with flavours of apples, citrus, and minerals punctuated by lively bubbles and pillowy mousse. The combination of richness, high acidity, and bubbly texture are central to this wine's pairing dexterity. From potato chips (try tossing them in truffle oil) to eggs Benedict to spot prawns or schnitzel, champagne's complexity and sharp beam of acidity embraces a broad ingredient spectrum. Give it a try with pulled pork sandwiches or take-out Peking duck. How to serve? Give it a good chill and don't fuss too much about glassware – many top champagne houses recommend a regular white wine glass for multi-layered fizz like our Best of Show Le Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut. We hope you to love it as much as our judges did. It's an astounding value, and smart drinkers will stock up for the year.
November 28, 2013
In just a few days, on December 2, our exciting 2014 Wine Awards results will appear here in the Fix. You'll find 110 new wines for another year of tasting and learning, with delights from France, Italy, Australia, B.C, and other superior regions that span the wine world.
That makes this review the very last of the 2013 awards!
Pacific Breeze Winery is an interesting project that trucks fruit to B.C. from other places-like Carneros, California, in the case of this appetizing chardonnay. The wines are made in New Westminster, B.C., and you can taste and buy them at the "garagiste" winery just a 10 minute walk from the Skytrain station. Our judges loved the tropical citrus and pineapple aromas and flavours of this creamy medium-weight chard. It's clean and fresh with a warm embrace of oak and spice, but the purity of Carneros fruit keeps this wine linear and vibrant. Try their reds as well, if you visit. Cook some salmon or boneless chicken breast en papillote with some paper-thin sliced potatoes, plus other veg of your choice, plenty of herbs, and a generous knob of butter.
November 21, 2013
United States +193391
If ever there was a weekend for a muscular red with sleek dark fruit, a toned core of acidity, and wel-conditioned tannins, this is it. It's Grey Cup time and even though our men in orange are not centenders, it should be a ripper in Regina. Stay cosy inside watching 48 athletes chase a frozen pigskin while you eat prime rib sandwiches or lambgyros. Beer is for the regular season – the championship game deserves big red wine and no one does big better than California. Beringer has been a wine force since 1876 and was a pioneer in Knights Valley, a warm pocket in eastern Sonoma County. It's a special place for Bordeaux grapes and this potent blend (about even thirds cab, cab franc, and merlot) erupts with crushed blackberries and plums, spice, cedar, and fragrant vanilla.Intense and meaty, it has broad-shouldered tannins that are firm but supple from the stellar 2009 vintage. Slosh around in a decanter or very large glass to aerate before toasting your Grey Cup champions.
November 14, 2013
Merlot is simply magnificent in the South Okanagan, especially when from a site that's as well-situated and well-endowed as Diamonback Vineyard on the elite Black Sage Bench. Wine lovers can unfailingly trust charismatic winemaker Sandra Oldfield for generous, polished rich reds that express place in an admirable way. Though Tinhorn is famed for great cabernet franc, this Oldfield Series merlot is just as fine. Inviting aromas of fruitcake, mocha, and a botanical note give way to flavours of summer pudding fruits, chocolate, spice, and toasty oak. Broad-shouldered tannins drink smooth and textured and demand deeply flavoured food like Moroccan lamb tagine, mole short ribs, or some intense game sausages spiced with juniper. Ad if your local store has rolled over to the 2010 vintage, you'll love that just as much.
November 7, 2013
One of the most consistent, delicious, and characterful reds of Italy, Masi's Campofiorin is also about as autumnal as you could hope for an under-$20 wine. Although not apparent from the name, it's a valpolicella from the rolling hills around Venice, and features a trio of native grapes: corvina, molinar, and rondinella. This supervenetian, an instant success since its debut vintage in 1964, uses a portion of dried grapes for extra depth and intensity. Bursting with dark cherry and spice flavour, the fruit-robed tannins drink smooth and velvety. Mellow is the word, and you'll find this wine flatters beef stew, pork ragu, or a classic Venetian porcini risotto.
October 30, 2013
All Hallows' Eve needs a wine with a dark and brooding side, a hint of mystery, plus an element of surprise. Brother wine to the beloved Metricup Road chardonnay (a medium white winner in our competition), this serious Evans & Tate shiraz meshes inky fruit with intriguing earthy minerality and the delightful ambush of succulent acidity. The breezy maritime climate of Margaret River is responsible for the perfume, fine tannins, and bright acid that shiraz fruit acquires in this unique environment. It's not the stereotypic hot-climate shiraz juggernaut, but rather a plummy, silky, elegant interpretation of the grape. Try with lamb tacos, beef and stilton pie, or ove-roasted ribs.
No wine better captures the spirit of the Vancouver Magazine Wine Awards better than Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, an honourable and much-loved Catalan sparkling wine that has been on our winning list for years. It over-delivers in value and interest – you'll have to visit this website on December 1 to see if our panel of 17 terrific wine experts choose it yet again in the blind-judged 10th annual awards.
October 23, 2013
This perennial best buy is one of the world's classic wine brands. In the Penedes region of northeastern Spain, the traditional method of producing sparkling wine via fermentation and ageing in bottle is applied to indigenous Catalan grapes (xarel-lo, macabeo, and parellada). The result is Cava, a unique regional specialty. Segura Viudas Brut is archetypal: green-apple crisp, lemony fresh, dry as a bone, and begging for garlicky prawns, salty olives, or Serrano ham.
How do you measure a decade? By 1,000+ diverse and delicious wine recommendations taht we have brought to you, our lyoal readers, since 2004. Our 10th wine awards competition is just a few days away and this chief judge and 18 experts are salivating at the prospect of evaluating hundreds of wines to select another years' worth of imbibing. Results will be proudly posted on this site on December 1.
October 17, 2013
This is a highly appetizing rich red that started with the idea of food first. Steak, to be precise. You've got to appreciate a winemaker who values agrilled porterhouse before his own vinous creation. Hamish MacGowan clearly loves to eat, and this purpose-built cabarnet gets structure, fruit depth, and complexity from vineyards in five regions. To enhance the dense but subtle flavours of beef, MacGowan stuffs his Angus the Bull cab chock-full of dark berry fruit, gorgeous spice, and minty chocolate notes. Like a good food wine it possesses refreshing acidity, well-poised oak, and tannins that are ripely assertive. Australia deserves our attention allover again and this wine (the last several vintages have garnered big scores) will enhance a juicy steak, braised beef stew, roasted prime rib or even a decadent Black Angus meatball sandwich.
October 10, 2013
These cool, crisp fall days with watery sunshine and mauvey twilight makes me thirsty for sake. Not quite beer or wine, sake is brewed in a complex parallel fermentation involving highly polished rice, water, an enzyme-rich mold called koji, and yeast. A little higher in alcohol than wine (13 to 16 percent), sake has textural richness, subtle flavours, and fabulous pairing possibilities. Our competition views sake as the equal of wine and our judges loved the delicate silvery cast with gentle essence of iris, winter melon, and coconut water of this ginjo-level sake. It has a full, seamless palate that wavers between botanicalfennel and cucumber to lively citrus, and its waxy mouthfeel deserves rich flavours such as cold avocado soup, spicy sushi, scallop sashimi, or creamy risotto crowned with feathery fennel fronds.
October 3, 2013
New Zealand +459636
Reporting this week from Blenheim, New Zealand, provides a perfect opportunity to recommend this luscious savvy from the varied, stony soils that define the complex Marlborough region. The big surprise when you tour this stunning region (about one-third of NZ's grapes grow here) is how varied the topography is. Old river bed vineyards, rolling slopes, and breezy valleys all feature significant soil, rainfall, and temperature variance. There's nuance, subtlety and sub-regional identity that emerges as you tour and taste with an open mind and sharp palate. The Mud House 2011 blends a couple of the sub-regions to fuse the linear savoury fruit of Awatere with aromatic, more tropical hues of the Wairau Valley. The result is a succulent, pure fruit-driven white with cleansing citrusy acidity and classic Malborough vivacity. Try with a blue cheese souffle, preserved lemon ceviche, or leek and thyme risotto.
September 26, 2013
This wine critic, on assignment in Australia, is drinking the new kool aid from Down Under-an amazing array of wonderful whites, reds, and fortifieds that bust the stereotype of bland critter wines in an emphatic way. Australia's diverse terroir is so well expressed in her wines (as our Best of Show winner perfectly illustrates) but tradition is not forgotten either, and this silky fortified tawny from Wolf Blass is a charming and affordable sip—either with a slight chill, over ice cream, or beside a roaring fire.
Australia has a grand tradition of fortified wine making. In fact, for most of Oz's history, fortifieds were the dominant style. Wolf Blass's Red Label Tawny is a classic example: a delightfully old-fashioned blend of 13 grape varieties (although mostly shiraz, grenache, and mourvedre) fortified with grape spirit and matured for many years in magnificent old oak vats. Over the decades the wine gently mellows, acquiring a captivating ruby-amber colour and all the splendid aromas of age—plums, raisins, roasted nuts, and treacle. It's a deliciously warming after-diner drink on its own, but it also deserves to be enjoyed in the classic Aussie fashion—drizzled lavishly over ice cream.
September 19, 2013
Your first glass of nebbiolo truly marks the beginning of Fall. The autumnal flavours of braises, hearty soups and all things funghi provides a perfect reason to try this sleek and fragrant Piedmontese red. Nebbiolo wines couple high raspy acidity with fierce tannins that are tempered by dark and tarry fruit. Abundant structure and edge will slice through a meaty braise. Pour this exotic wine into a very large glass, swirl, inhale, and succumb to the mellow spirit of Fall. Bresato, porcini pasta, or ragu.
September 12, 2013
Last week we featured a sleek Tuscan rich red and here is another smooth and mellow wine to help us ease into the crisper days and cooler nights of fall.
United States +479337
Zinfandel is such an interesting and versatile grape, capable of making a range of styles from sweetish whites, cheerful reds, dense and spicy reds, to robust, port-style wines. Old vines can intensify depth and persistence of flavour, as the Kenwood Old Vine Lodi zin proves. This spicy red is relaxed and unfussy with red plum, cherry, and vanilla flavours and warm, suave tannins. A few years of bottle age add complex notes like leather and cedar and the very well-behaved 13.5% alcohol is perfect for food like chili or any meat dripping with smoky BBQ sauce. Also surprisingly delicious with Chinese take-out.
September 5, 2013
As we gear up for the 2014 Wine Awards, the entries will be flooding in until the midnight deadline on Sept. 6th. Seventeen judges are getting ready to yet again flex proboscis and palate as we assemble another terrific list of 100+ wines for you to enjoy all year long. The evenings have a distinct chill now, and we welcome the earthy, mellow wines of autumn. Try this year's Best of Category Medium Red with some nutty squash ravioli, braised lamb shank, or wild mushroom flan.
It points to quality when two category winners share a stable, and exciting that they are so different. Alongside our Light Red winner (Gabbiano's Chianti Classico), our Medium Red category's victor – the Chianti Classico Riserva – shows a more modern interpretation of the canon, with a splash of merlot joining the single vineyard sangiovese and newer French oak adding toasty lustre to smooth, forward fruit. Lively acidity, firm tannins, and emphatic finish make it a sensational food wine for fall flavours.
August 29, 2013
Labour Day may signal the end of summer and back to school for the young'uns, but there's an upside: September will likely usher in spectacular weather to add to the immaculate sunshine we've enjoyed so far. We should not forget the origins of Labour Day either: back in 1872 The Trade Unions' Act was passed giving unions the power to demand a 54-hour workweek. Let's celebrate our well-earned holiday with some tasty wine and food.
Bit of a quirky name and label, but you'll be as impressed as our Wine Awards judges were with the apple-y freshness and crunch of this aromatic white from the Kaleden area. Unadorned and pure, it smells and tastes of Granny Smiths and Anjou pears with a touch of herbal honey. Dry with spritely acid and admirable balance, it's a great food wine made by equally great folks. Crisp enough for oysters on the half shell or ground turkey and sage in a juicy burger. For a fish pairing, try grilled pink or spring salmon with a delicate herb and lemon zest marinade. It's white that you can drink long after Labour Day.
Argie malbec gets all the press fuss, but there is some stellar cabernet sauvignon grown at altitude in the stony soils of the Andean foothills. Bountiful sun and fresh breezes cooled by snowfields high above the vineyards give this elegant cab wonderfully ripe cassis and raspberry fruit with a hint of grilled pepper and chocolate. Firm, smooth tannins, dense fruit, and toasty oak add hefty muscle to this rich red. Consider strip steak with arugula pesto, herb marinated lamb chops, or skewered grilled veg and rice pilaf for a meatless yet cab-worthy dinner. Finish with last-of-the-season blueberries and ice cream or aged cheddar.
August 22, 2013
Cue the reds! These last few summer weeks call for some hardcore time at the grill, and these red wines will handle the smoke and heat of a good BBQ fire.
This flavoursome red owes its quality to high altitude, low rainfall, old, gnarled vines anchored in cobbley, limestone soils, and the meshing of winemaking modernity and tradition. Toro is a region that is on fire – extremes of climate, extremely fashionable, and supremely good wines. The local grape, Tinta de Toro (the local name for tempranillo), boasts ample, dark fruit, licorice and spice, ripe and fleshy tannins, and the sweet burnish of six months in American oak casks. Perfect with baby back ribs, butterflied leg of lamb, or merguez sausages on your charcoal fire.
Malbec from Argentina can be terrific with food, especially when it has solid architecture, balance, and length – all features of this vigorous and stylish wine. Decero wines display the complexities of the Remolinos Vineyard's quality equation of sunny days, cool nights, altitude, fresh winds, and a lengthy growing season. Perfumed nose and vivid red fruits offer the kind of restrained elegance that sets it apart from other Mendoza Malbecs. Firmly structured for a prime cut of beef – take the time to make a tangy chimichurri sauce – and bold enough for a smoky bacon cheeseburger with carmelized onions and garlic.
August 15, 2013
If you are in the Whistler area this Saturday, August 17th, consider joining the tumult of cheese-chasing. The 6th Annual Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival involves hurtling down Blackcomb Mountain attempting to snag an 11-pound wheel of cheese (BC's Cracked Pepper Verdelait if you must know) for bragging rights. Admission and the Gondola are free and costumes are heavily encouraged – the cheesier the better. Both fermented products, wine and cheese are a natural duo. Most folks suppose that red is the choice, but cheese and wine pros more often admire white matches.
United States +534230
Chardonnay with a gentle embrace of oak is what you'll find in this reliable classic from California. Lush, fruit-forward melon, peach, and citrus flavours are fresh, clean, and trimmer than ever and finished with a zing of spicy oak. Lemony acid deftly balances this chard and is the key to harmony with a camembert or brie.
Thank you, Spain, for doing the cellaring for us. The tradition of ageing wines in barrel and then bottle and only releasing to market when ready to drink is a special treat. The Anciano Tempranillo is a Rioja-style wine (but from the region of Valdepeñas), and offers a chance to taste a silky, wood-burnished red with wonderfully mature characters for a bargain price. The flavours are like cherry fruit leather with spice and cedary layers. Note the mellow texture, balanced with enough acidity to bridge well with firm cheese like manchego cheese, a nutty cheddar, or cave-aged gruyère.
August 8, 2013
This wine critic is chilling in the North Shuswap, bobbing on a colourful floatie reading trashy novels, running on the quiet rolling roads every day, grilling fresh and local goodies every night, and sipping lots of chilled wine-white, pink, and red. I adore light reds that are chilled a touch cooler than body temperature-it brightens charming fruit, freshens acidity, and gives edge to docile tannins. What do I mean by a chill? Well, about an hour in the fridge will do, or 15 minutes in a brimming bucket of ice and water. This is cooler than what is referred to as cellar temperature, which is ideal for all reds, particularly medium and heavyweight wines. Typical cellar temperature is about 12 to 15°C, but we want these juicy reds at about 6 to 8°C.
Soft summer-pudding fruits, a lick of spice, and a smoooooth texture that is extra thirst quenching when chilled: this ultra-consistent red blend from eastern Spain is as great with robust tapas as it easy on your budget. Buy by the case and take a moment to admire the excellent label, too.
B.C. +457275 ★
A wine so juicy and energetic, you'll have trouble keeping it in the glass. Platinum Bench winery made a strong statement with its 2011 debut vintage-no surprise given the quality of vines it commands on the elite Black Sage terroir. Peppery with edgy red fruit and a mineral glint, it has the kind of proper raspy acidity of gamay from Beaujolais. Chill it down and have a summer picnic of pâté, soft cheese, baguette, Dijon mustard, and cornichons.
August 1, 2013
There's just one word for wine this long weekend: rosé. It's time to celebrate both B.C. and Pride, and there are fireworks to watch and gatherings to host. The weather often acts up during our summer triple headers (a reminder that we're a hardy, outdoorsy people), and a little rain in the forecast is just another reason to chill with rosé wines. Pink is one of the most fuss-free wine styles, and it goes happily with most foods and most moods. So whether you're BBQ-ing outdoors or simply making a platter of thick and hearty sandwiches, try one of these home-grown heros. A note about vintage: our award-winning rosés may have rolled over to the 2012 vintage on the shelf of your favourite store, but I guarantee you'll love them as well. Chill 'em up good, as they say.
With a cool label and lovely apricot hue, this Salt Spring Island wine is full of surprises. Made by great folks who are trying to interpret and celebrate the growing region near Ganges, the 2011 blends mostly island-grown pinot noir and zweigelt (with a little boost from Kelowna fruit). The pinot brings charming floral/berry aromas and cranberry fruit flavours, and the zwiegelt contributes lively acidity and leafy/peppery spice. Not entirely bone dry, it flirts with a subtle fruity finish but there's plenty of structure and crispness to go along with your picnic Niçoise salad.
JoieFarm needs no introduction-it was a firm favourite straight out of the gates (about 10 years ago now) and their aromatic whites, juicy reds, and purpose-made rosé all balance on clarity and freshness. And the rosé is most definitely built for food. Raspberry in colour, there's a perfumed parade of berry aromas dusted with spice, herbs, and attractive leafyness. Gamay and pinot noir are the most predominant of this four-grape blend, and they contribute peppy red-fruit flavours, mouthwatering succulence, and vinous texture. Dry on the finish for your muffuletta sandwich or prosciutto and arugula pizza-on-the-grill.
July 25, 2013
Last week, I recommended two antipodean pinot noir wines for salmon, and now it is chardonnay's time in the spotlight. Burgundy's great white grape is the most planted premium variety around the world for several reasons: it adapts easily to many climates and soils, and is highly malleable in the hands of winemakers. Yes, chardonnay is back (it never went away, really) and is a brilliant choice for Ocean Wise BC salmon or halibut. Here are two of my faves from a pair of great winemakers who intimately understand, respect, and adore chardonnay.
Howard Soon is a legend in B.C. For 30 years he has felt the Okanagan sun, dug his hands into the soils, and chewed innumerable grapes. He knows his vineyards like the back of his hand and it shows in the natural, honest expression of Sandhill wines. The Chardonnay 2011 fruit comes from the Sandhill Estate Vineyard near Oliver in the South Okanagan, (farmed by two other gents who are just as legendary as Howard). In the ultra-cool 2011 growing season, everyone had to bring their ‘A' game, and Sandhill did. In this vintage, you'll find scents of ripe orchard fruit, crème brûlée, and oak spice with peach, and a lush, tropical pineapple-y note on the palate. Mid-weight but with huge flavour, it drinks rich and balanced with acid, fruit, and oak in perfect pitch. The assertive finish is ideal for cedar-plank salmon served with a tart peach salsa or grilled halibut finished with lemon-basil vinaigrette.
I've tasted the evolution of Mission Hill's flagship white Perpetua with a lot of pleasure over the years, and seen it flourish into the elegant and stylish wine that it is today. Winemaker John Simes was lured to the Okanagan over 20 years ago from New Zealand, and has worked relentlessly to uplift its wine quality ever since. Here's the quality equation: ripeness from the Osoyoos Bench, complexity from three top clones, and stately architecture from Simes' intuitive skill. The Perpetua truly fits the bill for rich white with a compelling gold hue and a nose that makes lovers of gorgeously oaked chardonnay sigh with satisfaction: exotic citrus, tropical lifts, white peach, and vanilla pod. The most defining feature of its flavour is electric limey acidity intensely layered with nectarine, custard, and fine minerals, finishing smoothly with subtle oak spice. Weighty fish preparations are in order here, so bacon-wrapped grilled Sockeye salmon or halibut finished with hazelnut browned butter.
July 18, 2013
Got salmon? Get pinot. Noir, that is. There are multiple members of the pinot family (gris, blanc, meunier…) but the noble black variety makes sensationally good wines for fish, and salmon in particular. Remember that tannins and oily fish can create an unwelcome, metallic, fishy interaction and that's why low tannin wines are best. This is where pinot noir comes in, with softer tannins than many reds and a blade of acidity to cut salmon's unctuous richness.
So many things are special about this lovely pinot. It's from a winery founded in 1985 by one James Halliday: lawyer, wine maker, famous wine writer, and judge. He chose the foggy, chilly hills just north of Melbourne with clay/sandstone/red volcanic soils where tightly-planted vineyards climb from 50 to 400 metres. With plenty of rainfall (for Australia) and weather that's a bit warmer than Burgundy, this is classic terroir for pinot noir and chardonnay. Our gem has gorgeous pinot floral perfume plus ripe cherries, spice, and a correct gamey whiff. The flavours are pure and persistent with red berry fruit, savoury herbs, a fine mineral spine, and mild but structured tannins. The cooler 2011 vintage ensures that there is plenty of crisp, salmon-friendly acidity and a modicum of new French oak backstops the finish with subtle spice. A savoury salmon preparation will help expose the fruit in this Yarra Valley star, so consider a soy or miso marinade with ginger and citrus zest.
New Zealand +217307
Our 2013 Wine Awards featured two light red winners from Villa Maria – both pinots and both great New Zealand ambassadors. You'll know the Cellar Selection by the posh gold label and the arresting nose of dark plumy fruit, smoky spice, and forest floor. The mouth is full and rich with concentrated red/black fruit, bright acidity, and soft, plush tannins. Complexity comes from low-yielding vineyards in Marlborough's elite Awatere and Wairau Valleys, where the wine is gently fermented and aged in both new and seasoned French barrels. Layered and elegant with a silky texture, this fruit-packed pinot invites more robust salmon dishes like a salty-sweet-smoky BBQ rub or a dried sour cherry marinade.
July 11, 2013
I'm fond of saying that women and intelligent men drink rosé. Pink wines are arguably the most adaptable food wines on the planet because they combine red wine structure with white wine freshness. They come in a range of styles from fruity with a touch of sugar on the finish to savoury and bone dry. Europeans drink them year round and we should too. Here is a pair of pinks to bring out the best in summer dining.
Tavel is a rosé specialist area in the southern Rhône Valley, known for crafting dry, structured, and ageable wines from robust vines that subsist in stone/sand/clay soils throughout drought, intense sun, and fierce winds. Domaine Lafond chooses seven red and white varieties for maximum heft and complexity (grenache 60%, syrah 10%, carignan 5%, along with clairette, picpoul, bourboulenc, and mourvèdre), and gives them a few days of colour-infusing skin-soak before pressing and cool fermentation. The result is a gorgeous pale cherry hue, aromas of flowers, herbs, and red berries with an emphatic spicy, savoury palate. This rosé has power too, with a grippy mouthfeel, and an earthy, dry finish that couldn't be more perfect with lemon and herb marinated grilled whitefish, simple pasta tossed with olives, capers, and oil, or arugula and prosciutto pizza.
The secret to this appetizing rosé is the quality of cabernet franc farmed by Tinhorn Creek and transformed into a feisty, flavourful wine that will charm even the grumpiest anti-pink holdout. Yes it is true that there are wine drinkers who dismiss all rosés, but thankfully global sales of this style are on the rise. Sandra Oldfield brings her boisterous intellect to this wine, and the innocent pale pink colour belies intense cherry fruit tinged with BC black sage and the dusty minerals of south Okanagan vineyards. Great structure and persistence on the dry finish begs for a West Coast match of steamed dungeness crab with garlicky aioli or grilled sockeye salmon coated thickly with mashed sundried tomatoes and tapenade.
July 4, 2013
Two food-demanding Euro wines for your weekend pleasure from the sunny lands of Spain and Greece, where winemaking is an ancient art.
This fresh, clean wine from a small domaine shows how truly elegant cava can be. Remarkably, the Cusiné family has been farming organically in Penedès since 1790. The splendidly unpronounceable Catalan trio of Parellada, Xarel-lo, and Macabeo grapes provide a lovely mix of apple/pear, lemon, herbal, and mineral aromas and flavours, and traditional-method fermentation in bottle brings toasty richness and a creamy texture. This is definitely not Champagne, but in the best possible way, as it boasts its own unique Mediterranean warmth and charm. It deserves to be served in a lovely garden. Savoury food is in order, so try with flash grilled calamari (marinate in oil, garlic, parsley, and a squeeze of lemon for a few hours first) or a platter of Serrano ham, crunchy green olives, and manchego cheese.
Greek wines can be utterly astonishing. This ancient land full of indigenous grapes has entered a new phase in its wine culture and thrilling wines from the new Greece are slowly trickling to market. This wine represents the crossroads: a characterful native grape from the region of Naoussa made in the traditional style but pure, clean, and fresh. Xynomavro (kzee-no-mav-ro) is a black grape that offers bright cherry fruit with earthy undertones, firm tannins, and crisp, rasping acidity. This keeps our tangy red on the lighter side, inviting a chill and cuisine like grilled chicken breasts marinated in oregano and olive oil, and creamy Macedonian feta (form into small pucks, roll in crushed nuts, fry till golden) with arugula and herbal vinaigrette.
June 27, 2013
O Canada! The long weekend is here. How will you celebrate? I'm planning to take advantage of the fair weather (the forecast is superb), a hot grill, farm-to-table food, and wine from our own back yard. Here are two B.C. winners from our 2013 Wine Awards that will keep the patriotic feelings flowing.
Our judges loved the balance of slowly ripened cool-climate fruit, subtle high-end clovey oak notes and well-etched acidity in this stylish chardonnay. SpierHead is part of the FabFive wineries along the East Kelowna trail making head-turning wines right now, especially pinot and chard. Vibrant, succulent, and layered, this beauty adapts perfectly to herby stuffed mushrooms, pasta tossed with fresh peas and cream, or pizza made with local blue cheese and pear.
If you have game, duck, or wild boar sausages ready to grill this weekend, you need this big, fleshy, meaty red. Another stunner from the genius hands of wine maker Randy Picton, merlot (69%), cabernet sauvignon (28.5%), and a hint of cabernet franc combine in a heady blend that demands hearty food. The cooler 2008 vintage adds fresh acidity and structured tannins to this top-drawer meritage, and you get a lot of wine for the price. Venison burgers with bacon, aged Canadian cheddar and grilled onions will do, or for a veggie choice, garlic and oil-brushed portobello mushroom skewers.
June 20, 2013
I've been in Niagara-on-the-Lake all week judging the National Wine Awards of Canada and contemplating Riesling. It's such an expressive grape for Canada, and both Ontario and B.C. make versions that articulate subtle nuances of regionality. Whether eye-poppingly tart and dry or fruity and medium sweet, riesling is the perfect way to usher in the solstice. Here are two tastes of Okanagan summer.
This single-site, tiny production beauty shows off riesling's ability to be gossamer-light and sledgehammer-intense at the same time. Floral and mineral delicacy meets powerful green apple, lime, and peach flavours launched on the palate with a piercing attack of nervy acidity. Remarkably focused, it swells in the mouth finishing largely dry but with a fruity intensity that can handle rich foie gras pâté, spicy barbecued baby back ribs, or a mild curry.
We admire the way Summerhill takes a different path with this unapologetically off-dry riesling. Made in the tradition of Germany's Mosel region, it balances terrific citrus and apple flavours with an acid that tames the lush honeyed sweetness into submission. The result is a succulent riesling that quivers with fruity tension, all at only about 8.5% alcohol. It's marvelous with food that has a touch of sweetness like honey garlic chicken wings or grilled peaches and mascarpone. The vintage may have rolled on a year or two since our 2013 Wine Awards, but the newer harvests are just as fine as our winner.
June 13, 2013
Celebrate our Top Chef with top wines…
Are you a Top Chef Canada addict? I sure am. This Monday was a nail-biter as the three awesome finalists faced off in Calgary… and our very own home-grown talent won it all. Product Development Chef Matthew Stowe works beside Iron Chef Rob Feenie at Cactus Club restaurants and his five-course West Coast dinner convinced the uncompromising judging panel to give him the top prize. Let's raise our brimming glasses of B.C. wine to Cloverdale's Chef Matthew Stowe.
This off-the-charts food-worthy white wine from Road 13 flaunts an exotic blend of Rhone grapes. Intoxicating aromatics of jasmine, peaches, and fragrant botanicals tease the senses and a rich, round, and creamy palate stays beautifully balanced and refreshed with fruit-coated acidity. Flavours of orange, vanilla and spice make this a natural for exotic dishes like curried cauliflower soup (like the one Chef Matt concocted to wow the judges in Episode 6), crab bisque, or chicken tagine with apricots and almonds.
This enticing red blend has a heck of a pedigree. This second label wine of Black Hill's Nota Bene is concocted from barrels that fall just short of the lofty quality of the cultish flagship, and so are unleashed on the winery cellar hands who work their hides off to produce a distinctive blend. The grapes are merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and cab franc, and you'll love the sweet summer berry flavours, ample spice, and suede-smooth tannins. Dry and medium bodied, this one is for immediate drinking while your Note Bene does its aging magic in the cellar. To match? A platter of beef sliders, duck breast with berry demi, or merguez sausage kebabs.
Note that both wines may have moved on to a new vintage since our 2013 Wine Awards, but are every bit as good as our winning bottles.
June 6, 2013
A toast to June…
Looks like fair weather for the weekend so don't miss the chance to grill spot prawns, or fish, or scallops, or oysters… anything from the sea. This extreme value bubble may leave you gasping – and then sprinting to the store for more. Cava is sparkling wine from Spain using characterful native grapes and bottle fermented in the Champagne method. Sometimes the noble chardonnay is deployed to add finesse and structure to this sparkler and this is what distinguishes the Anna de Codorniu. From one of Spain's dynastic wine families, this fizz blends 70 per cent chard with the local grapes and is aged for a year or so. Aromas and flavours of apples, limes, and biscuit with a creamy texture and zingy acidity give it the needed persistence for grilled oysters on the half shell with a cucumber mignonette, salmon with tarragon crème fraîche, or spot prawns tossed in olive oil and lemon zest, and singed on the barbie.
Quaffing a frosty tumbler of rosé will make you feel like summer is finally here, and this sprightly sangiovese pink is versatile as all get out. With flavours of fresh cherries, a dusting of spice, and a pleasantly bitterish finish that is emphatically dry, this bottle is made for sturdy herb-marinated grilled chicken or cumin-rubbed pork tenderloin. Looking more like a pale red than a rosé, this Abruzzo bargain combines red wine structure with white wine freshness. You may even blush at the indecent value…
May 30, 2013
British Columbian wines will shine brightly next week as new vintages are released at the Bloom BC VQA Spring Release Tasting. The afternoon session is for trade and media only, but the evening offers a great public event and fundraiser for the Arts Club theatre company, ChefMeetsBCGrape, which takes place at the Convention Centre from 7-9:30 pm. Both Red Rooster and Nk'Mip Cellars will be pouring at the evening affair. For tickets, visit: Artsclub.com
RED ROOSTER RIESLING 2011
Yet another appealing winner from winemaker Karen Gillis at Red Rooster. Over the years she has truly transformed the wine quality and style at this Naramata property, focusing on purity, elegance, and sheer deliciousness. Karen's light touch and great respect for aromatics shines through inthe 2011 riesling – it's fragrant and fresh with white flowers, peachy flavours, and a fruity, juicy finish. Obvious minerality comes from Hidden Terrace Vineyard soils, and a terrific tangy finish shows off luscious citrus fruit and racy acidity. Maui ribs, orange peel beef, pork chipotle burgers – riesling is a great meat wine. And best of all, it is on sale at the BC Liquor stores for $14.99 until June 22nd. Run, don't walk, for a case (or three).
Syrah is a rising star in our warmer wine regions. From France's Rhone Valley, the syrah grape needs sunny dry weather and poor soils to beget top wines. In Canada, the southern Okanagan is ideal. Randy Picton is the wine maestro at Nk'Mip (which has snagged Best BC Winery in several recent important competitions) and he has a knack for imbuing his wines with New World fruit generosity and Old World structured style and restraint. You'll find gorgeous peppery, plummy fruit in the top tier 2009 Syrah Qwam Qwmt along with classic smoked meat, orange peel, and herbal notes. On the lean side, the tannins are firm but riper than the previous vintage and the bright acidity gives the wine great edge. Meat is in order – either a charcuterie platter, a heap of grilled lamb sausages, or a smoked side of brisket.
May 23, 2013
EAT! Vancouver 2013 Food and Cooking Festival kicks off tomorrow at BC Place, celebrating all things food, cooking and drinking. Food Network celeb chefs including our very own Rob Feenie of Cactus Restaurants plus Fable talent and Top Chef finalist Chef Trevor Bird will duke it out on the culinary stage. You'll be inspired to cook up a storm! As you do, enjoy a couple of relaxing glasses of these winning wines.
This stately chard just won a coveted Gold medal at Decanter World Wine Awards in London, England and it is an absolute stunner. Quails' Gate is one of BC's truly great estates and head winemaker Grant Stanley's intuitive touch with chardonnay and pinot noir grapes is astonishing. Ripe citrus, peaches, and spice flavours adorn an aristocratic structure built from French oak barrel fermentation, careful lees contact, full malo, and ageing in new and used casks. The cooler 2010 vintage keeps the acidity soaring through a luxuriant, complex finish. This chardonnay deserves some plush seafood like spot prawns in a creamy pasta sauce or Dungeness crab cakes.
Also a famed estate in the Okanagan Valley, Tinhorn Creek wines are made by one of BC's most loved wine personalities, Sandra Oldfield. She's smart, exuberant, and opinionated and her wines mirror her individuality and extroverted style. Cabernet franc is without question a star grape in the Okanagan, and fruit for this winner comes from heat-drenched Diamondback Vineyard on elite Black Sage Bench. The result is high-octane dark fruit, floral scents, graphite, and sweet herbal aromas and flavours. With firm but ripe tannins, spice from a year in oak casks, plus the fresh acidity of the cooler 2010 vintage, this beauty is ideal with a juicy lamb burger or fennel roasted pork belly.
May 16, 2013
Spot prawn madness continues! We know you haven't even come close to eating your fill of our world famous shrimp with the distinctive spots on the first and fifth abdominal segments (check it out!). The upcoming long weekend will present multiple opportunities to flex your culinary muscles and eat your body weight in spot prawns. Here's something to wash them down…
Wine lovers understand that lightness is a virtue. Chablis truly is the benchmark for this style, and our repeat Light White category winner displays precise citrus, tangy apple fruit, leesy complexity, plus a steeliness courtesy of the cooler 2010 vintage. This bottle is delicate yet intense with a lingering chalky, lemony finish with sufficient vibrancy for pungent garlic and parsley sautéed spot prawns. Toss raw prawns, heads and all, into a pan where slivered garlic and chopped fresh Italian parsley have had a few minutes to sizzle in butter. Toss till glistening over robust heat for half a minute then decant a glass of dry white wine into the pan and let bubble violently for another minute until the prawns begin to blush pinkly. Have crusty bread ready with a giant glass of the chilled Chablis and commence to rip and tear and sip.
Rosé with a fruity dimension is a natural choice for dinner-sized Cobb salad – a dish that compels you to scarf both prawns and bacon in the same sitting. The Mission Hill Five Vineyards Rosé charms with watermelon hue, wild berry scents, and a flamboyant palate of luscious red fruit. A spike of acidity and dryish finish lends this rosé weight and freshness for the bacon, avocado, blue cheese, and veg of a classic Cobb salad. Use the wine in the vinaigrette for extra pairing harmony. Simply brush unpeeled spot prawns with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and broil for a minute or two until firm and pink. Let cool, peel, and compose the salad. Chill the rosé and pour into a casual tumbler as the French do.
May 9, 2013
Ready to gorge on creamy-crunchy pink morsels of spot prawn goodness? Hope so, because the season officially opens today and you don't want to miss out. Did you know that these prawns start life as a male, then become female for the last of their four years of life? Ninety percent of spot prawns are frozen and shipped to Japan which leaves only a bit for us, but the 80-day season leaves plenty of time to try new recipes and wine pairings. Delicate and sweet of flavour and firm but creamy of texture, spot prawns mingle effortlessly with wine.
The 250-year-old house of Lanson meshes over 50 individual wines of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier to build complexity and structure in this terrific-value sparkler. After three years of bottle ageing, the result is magic: yeasty, toasty, nutty, proper Champagne with vibrant acidity, rich flavours, and a long, dry finish. This is a dreamy pairing with a richer preparation of spot prawns like fragrant green Thai curry with plenty of lemongrass, lime juice, and coconut milk.
United States +600676
Think of fine sake like wine when it comes to matching with dinner. Sake is brewed in a complex multiple parallel fermentation process involving highly polished rice, an enzyme-rich mold called ‘koji', yeast, and water. A little higher in alcohol than wine (13-16%), sake has textural richness, subtle flavours like cucumber, melon, and fennel, and the pairing possibilities are fabulous. This hip bottle is made in Oregon by American sakemaster Greg Lorenz from Sacramento-grown rice. The term Genshu means that the sake is undiluted making it strong and rich. Spot prawn tartare with a touch of ponzu and sesame oil with a delicate cucumber pickle will have the requisite weight and cool, botanical character for the Baby G sake.
May 2, 2013
New Zealand Wine producers staged a show this past Monday that dazzled the senses and uplifted spirits in the wine community. The New Zealand Wine Fair showcased an unparalleled diversity of micro-climates, soil types, and fresh maritime climates that account for the purity, ripeness and elegance of NZ wines. Spanning over 10 degrees of Southern Hemisphere latitude, this 2,000 kilometre-long duo of islands features Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and aromatic whites as benchmark styles. Here are two of our favourites to get you hooked on Kiwi freshness.
New Zealand +171801
Fruit from stony vineyards in the breezy reaches of Marlborough is picked early when the balance of succulent fruit and limey acid is perfectly poised. Fermented to just 8.5%, some natural grape sugar remains, creating an off-dry mouthful of lime sherbet, Granny Smith apple, and apricot flavours. Despite the sweetness code of 4 in the BCLDB stores, plenty of lip-smacking acidity balances this luscious Riesling so immaculately that the final impression is merely a phantom fruitiness. Intense and peppy enough for first-of-the-season Spot Prawn ceviche with massive amounts of lime, Thai chilies, and cilantro, or simply as a chilled, low-ish alcohol glass of what the Forrest Doctors prescribe…
One of the most celebrated wineries in NZ is family-owned Villa Maria. Affable yet dignified Sir George Fistonich (knighted for his contribution to the NZ wine industry) pressed his first grapes in 1961 from just an acre of vines. Millions of cases later, he continues to raise the bar – especially for Marlborough Pinot Noir. This screw-capped beauty from the cool-but Pinot-perfect 2010 vintage detonates with ripe cherry and raspberry aromas and flavours with a note of game and grilled herbs. Gentle on the tannins and back-stopped with zingy acidity, you'll love this with a grilled rack of lamb marinated in garlic and rosemary or a simple salmon burger with a soy glaze.
April 18, 2013
Who's the year's Best Chef? Which Vancouver restaurant will win the coveted Restaurant of the Year honour? Who are the ace front-of-house pros? Monday, April 22nd marks the 24th annual Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards and all of Vancouver's hospitality professionals are on the edge of their seats awaiting the results. Follow the awards on Twitter or the brand new @vanmag_com Instagram page! Results will also be posted on Facebook and www.vanmag.com moments after the big reveal.
Let's celebrate British Columbia's remarkable restaurant culture with a pair of wines that demand (and deserve) food. Both are major winners in our 2013 Annual Wine Awards and both are the kinds of wine that come to life in a special way when paired with a range of food flavours.
If ever there was a wine to woo us back to the joys of gently oaked chardonnay, this is it. Serene, cool-climate grapes from maritime Margaret River reveal appetizing citrus and apple fruit, with glorious notes of spicy oak that swirl kinetically with chiseled acidity. Nimble on the palate with focused flavour and finesse, this graceful Chard is part of Australia's emerging regionality narrative. Think chicken with tarragon cream sauce, wild salmon with lemon and capers, or the #1 Aussie choice, shrimp on the barbie (or, closer to home, think spot prawn season starting in a few weeks….).
One of two big winners from Gabbiano this year, the juicy, earthy Chianti epitomizes light red with its floral, tea, and cherry flavours, vibrant acidity and mild, dry tannins. Tuscany excels at pleasingly refreshing wines and Castello di Gabbiano adheres to typical methods that yield charming drinkability – gentle extraction of fruit and tannins, aged in old casks rather than new. Chianti Classico is the historic zone where Sangiovese grapes flourish on chalky soils, giving this winner a lovely, dusty, Old World finish. Enjoy with funghi pizza, bucatini with fava beans and guanciale, or freshly made stirred polenta with herbs and grilled spring veg.
April 11, 2013
Icewine is the famous wine export from Canada, and Mission Hill's offerings are celebrated globally. In an exacting process, ultra-ripe grapes must freeze on the vine at – 8 degrees C before gentle pressing (removing the frozen water content of the grape) and chilly fermentation. The resulting concentrated grape nectar is sugary sweet but wonderfully tangy. Riesling's bracing acidity and powerful aromatics are perfect for this role, and the 2011 edition detonates with white blossoms and stonefruit aromas. Lemon curd and apricot flavours, creamy-thick texture and lingering finish. Serve chilled in a small wine glass with some swirling room and pair with a savoury paté (doesn't have to be foie gras, but why not?) or a glam dessert of Baked Alaska. A cool throwback, these are so easy when you make individual ones:
Find a recipe for Swiss meringue and whisk till glossy. On a sheet pan lined with parchment, place a cookie or a round of pound cake and cover with a scoop of quality ice cream. Load meringue into a piping bag (or use a knife tip) and pipe swirls or stars to completely cover ice cream and cookie base. Freeze for several hours. Then, minutes before serving, pop them under the broiler (at least 8 inches away) until golden. Pour the icewine and enjoy the magic combination of flavours, temperatures and textures.
April 4, 2013
The inaugural Times of India Film Awards are being hosted by our fair, oceanside city this weekend, and hundreds of millions of people will be watching from India and beyond. The airport arrivals lounge has already seen a glam parade of Bollywood stars and the Oscar-like awards are huge deal for film, for India, and for BC. Let's raise our glasses to a country with a deep and enduring film tradition and some of the tastiest cuisine on the planet. These winning wines are gorgeous with the robust, exotically spiced dishes of India's distinct gastronomic regions.
Like the sound of a juicy apricot and apple flavoured wine with a lick of honey and stones on the finish? This fruity/steely Riesling from the Mosel region is a touch off-dry (that's what the word ‘Feinherb' is meant to convey), which welds it to spicy food in a profound way. It's assertive enough for a dish like a Delhi/Mogul style Murgh Korma where chicken is gently simmered in yogurt almond sauce imbued with cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, garam masala and ginger. Golden raisins compliment the touch of sweetness, and suave, Riesling fruit calms the food's feisty cayenne heat.
Plush reds with vivid fruit and gentle tannins are a natural with piquant flavours. Masi is one of the Veneto's tiptop producers and this Rosso is crafted from a classic trio of Valpolicella grapes. The famous vineyards have been farmed by the poet Dante's family since the 1200s. Try this handsome red, bursting with cherry and lusty spice alongside simple and more-ish koftas – ground lamb, ginger, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, chili and cilantro morsels that bubble away in a fragrant tomato-based sauce. Basically, these are meatballs (lambballs) that can star at dinner along with spinach-y saag, curried roasted cauliflower and Basmati rice. The food and the wine will be warm, generous and satisfying in your mouth.
March 28, 2013
As we prepare to enjoy one of the most gorgeous Easter long weekends in recent memory, here are two festive wines for your family feast
Rose wines are some of the most adaptable on the planet. This sparkling Crémant Rosé from Burgundy combines freshness, fruit, and zest that brings food to life. Celebrate the long, sunny Easter weekend with a verdant spring scallop appetizer. Purée sweated shallots, garlic, and green onions with 2 cups spring peas (frozen will do) and 1 cup chicken broth. Darkly sear scallops and serve atop pea purée with oven-crisped pancetta.
Quails' Gate is the Pinot leader here in BC and the Stewart Family Reserve 2009 is an ultra-serious wine. Special clones, old vines, luscious oak and winemaker Grant Stanley's immense skill add up to a triumphant wine for Easter lamb. For a herb-crusted leg or rack, finely chop some fresh rosemary, thyme, and Italian parsley and mix with minced garlic and Dijon, smear on the lamb, and BBQ or bake till rare. Cool-climate Pinot + herby lamb = Easter magic.
March 21, 2013
The vernal Equinox (March 20th this year) is an annual tipping point when we leave the wintry confines of dark months behind and are happily decanted into brighter, sunnier, (slightly) warmer days. Scents of blossoms, moist earth and optimism pervade body and soul, and we need ethereal, verdant, cleansing wine in our cups to welcome the first days of spring.
Few things taste more of spring than Riesling – especially when it's from a great German vintage and gushing with juicy citrus and lip-smacking acidity. More dry than sweet, green apple flavours and slate parade across the palate with rainwater freshness. Carbon-neutral packaging is a bonus. For a fine spring menu: sauté a couple of tender pork chops with apples and a few slivers of onion, steam some fava beans or haricots verts, and enjoy with chilled Gruen Riesling.
Built for spring, this spritely, woodsy red wine made from Piedmont's celebrated Nebbiolo grape sports crunchy red fruit flavours, a brisk spike of acidity and edgy tannins. While Nebbiolo can make bold, full-bodied wines, this charmer is on the lighter side, which makes it an adaptable food partner. The Ricossa line always offers great value and authenticity. Try this fresh red with a creamy, cheesy spring risotto with sautéed fiddleheads, cardoons, or grilled baby artichoke swirled in at the last minute.
March 14, 2013
I'm drinking my way up and down the Rhône River this week, which makes it a good time to try one of our characterful French red winners at a hearty Sunday dinner.
Thirty B.C. was a long time ago. That's when the Romans planted the first vines in the stony Rasteau soils of the Southern Rhône Valley, likely to make sweet white wines. Still famous for both red and white fortified dessert wines known as vin doux naturel, Rasteau is also one of the much-admired Côtes du Rhône villages with a reputation for heady, spicy Grenache-based dry reds. The mighty fine Cave de Rasteau co-operative was founded in 1925 by 60 farmers, and its wines are consistent reflections of the region's dry, cobbly soils, brisk wind, and garrigue scent. This La Domelière 2010 has luscious dark berried fruit, licorice spice, and smoky grilled herbs with fresh acidity and slightly chewy tannins. The sensational 2010 vintage is one for the cellar, but so pleasingly ripe that you'll have trouble resisting it now. A jolt of Syrah and Mourvèdre adds architecture to the Grenache's broad and spicy personality, making this a natural for herbes de Provence marinated kebabs, juicy bacon burgers, or roast lamb with garlic and anchovies.
March 7, 2013
We’re still California dreamin’….The Vancouver International Wine Festival may be over, but it is not forgotten. Our wine stores are brimming with expressive bottlings that articulate sub-regions, grape varieties and craftsmanship in a special way. Drink up and bring a bit of vinous sunshine into your life
United States +354993
No, this wine is not related to the awesome sports car. But it is a Cali classic that mingles sauvignon blanc fruit from various sites in Sonoma County and is given an oak kiss to tame the pungency of the vivacious French grape. The cool-ish 2011 vintage is extra-concentrated and displays tropical green tangy fruit, ripe citrus, and succulent melon aromas and flavours. The ‘fumé' refers to the smoky, toasty nuance from a portion of older French barrel fermentation which broadens the palate without tasting oaky. Bake a goat cheese and leek tart, toss fresh greens with grapes, walnuts, and a herbal vinaigrette made with the wine instead of vinegar. Give just a brief chill to the wine before you imbibe.
United States +79624
There are 178 bottles of this magical pinot in the BCLDB system, so run, don’t walk to try a bottle or three. Walter Schug is one of California’s famed wine makers, celebrated as the genius behind Joseph Phelp’s mighty cabernet-based Insignia. In 1980 Walter set his sights on pinot noir from cool, foggy Carneros. Eight vineyards contribute fruit to the 2009 giving the kind of clonal diversity and complexity we expect from great pinot. Dark cherry fruit with ample spice, overt mineral spine, and cleansing acidity combines power and delicacy in that ineffable Burgundian-esque way. Silky texture, too, and why not pop a bottle away for a few years to that you can savour the earthy/gamey/forest floor bouquet that will emerge. If you have not tried searing a duck breast before, this is the time to start. Preheat oven to 400F. Dry the breasts, score the fat with a sharp paring knife in a criss-cross pattern and season well with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet (not non-stick!) over medium high heat and sear skin-side down for 5-6 minutes to render some fat. Pour off fat, turn breasts over and sear for another minute before popping pan in the hot oven to cook for another 7-9 minutes until medium rare (or more if you prefer). Let duck rest for 5-10 minutes and whip up a quick pan sauce with some shallots, wine, and stock—whisking in a few knobs of cold butter to thicken and make glossy. Add any of the duck juices that ooze from the resting breasts, of course. Serve the Schug Carneros pinot at a little below room temperature—popping into the fridge for 10 minutes will do the trick.
February 28, 2013
Vancouver's International Wine Festival is in full swing, and we are basking in the warm and relaxed glow of Californian wines. The 35th edition of our famous wine festival sports 175 wineries from 15 nations, with 62 representing the theme region of sunny California. Here are two of the judges' California favourites from Vancouver magazine's own 2013 Wine Awards.
United States +303990*
Is this is too good to be true? Honest to goodness, real deal pinot from California for 22 bucks. How do they do it? First off, it's the Central Coast origin: in the Santa Lucia Highlands north of Santa Barbara, cool air flowing inland from the chilly Pacific Ocean creates the moderate conditions that are perfect for pinot. The result is this lip-smackingly juicy berry-flavoured marvel. Raspberries, Bing cherries, currants (even huckleberries!), of course—but just the right addition of mushroomy earthiness, too. At the price, this is barbecue pinot par excellence, or try with a California pizza topped with smoked chicken, caramelized onions, and wilted greens.
*Only available in private wine stores
United States +232371*
Louis M. Martini has a long and glorious history in BC. It was one of the first old Napa family names to enter the market, and for many years Martini cab was the go-to standard best buy in the province. It is has been less prominent in recent years, but this bottle is a very welcome reminder of the good old days. 2007 was a great vintage in Napa, and it shows: this vintage is bursting with classic Napa ripeness, combining concentrated blackcurrant, creamy vanilla, and brambly/earthy aromas and flavours. Delicious now, but in the manner of the epic Martinis of the past, it will age gracefully for many years. Excellent value and a worthy partner for steak and stilton pie or beef and barley stew with mushrooms.
*Only available in private wine stores
February 21, 2013
Risotto is one of the Italy’s great gifts to humankind. Simple, filling, satisfying, and so very flattering to wine. Wine is also vital to risotto’s depth of flavour and balance, and the quality that you use matters. Most often it’s dry white, but sparkling and red have their occasion too. Other essential ingredients include Arborio rice (or better yet, carnaroli or vialone nano which have an even higher starch content), parmigiano reggiano, good broth or stock, olive oil or butter (or both), onion, and any additions like saffron, peas, asparagus tips, herbs, porcini or truffles for starters. Technique matters too, as does a hefty-bottomed pot and stout wooden spoon. The risotto should slump in the bowl, each grain suspended in fragrant, starchy robe. Try these wines to try with your next risotto – and remember to toss a glass into the pot too.
This noble house is admired for stylish, elegant wines at a remarkable price. Cordon Bleu Brut blends pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier, which adds up to a bold spine of acidity swathed in gorgeous red berry fruit flavours and hints of nuts and toast. Fresh in the mouth with soft foamy mousse, it’s a fitting match for the richness of risotto. If you are feeling flush, buy two bottles and use one in place of stock for a decadent occasion and the other to drink icy cold.
The iconic wine of the Veneto in northeastern Italy, Amarone is a dense, chewy melange of native red grapes made extra potent because they are dried for a few months before fermentation. This intense flavour and texture makes for a huge-bodied dry wine with velvety black fruit, spice, mocha, and dried funghi. Exotic and beguiling, the Italians call it a vino di meditazione – meditation wine. The 2007 vintage inherits its complexity from seven characterful grape varieties and four years in barrel. Try a Venetian version of risotto that uses a bottle of Amarone as the cooking liquid. The rice becomes garnet red and profoundly infused with wine-y essence. The only wine that befits this powerful, earthy wonder, is another bottle of Tedeschi Amarone.
EXTRA: To see a risotto master at work, watch this video of La Quercia’s chef Lucais Syme
February 14, 2013
Need wine for your night of amour? There’s still plenty of time to pop into the store and grab one or both of our St. Valentine’s picks. Whether you are headily in love or single and searching, a little wine always helps to sharpen Cupid’s arrows.
Want kisses in a bottle? Ripe wild strawberries anointed with a cloud of tangy crème fraiche describes the flavours of this tender and inviting rosé bubble. Made in the heart of Burgundy from pinot noir (80%) and gamay, this wine is cheeky with red fruit, dusty yeast, pillowy mousse, and an ever-so-off-dry finish that will get you in the mood for cooking, dining, and more. Chill well and try with Brie fondue, blue cheese and pear tartlets, or Coquilles St Jacques
19 CRIMES SHIRAZ DURIF
If voluptuous and velvety is your style then saddle up and try this broad-shouldered and spicy Shiraz. Embracing potent Durif (a relative of Syrah and generally known as Petite Syrah) this is a satiating, mouth-fillingly rich red. With plush tannins, this balanced, ripe, and handsome Australian will be a lusty partner for robust short ribs, lamb shank, or pepper-crusted beef tenderloin with a chocolate port sauce. To spice up the evening even more, look for three different labels that list 19 various crimes (“punishable by transportation”) that were committed by Australia’s early “settlers.”
February 6, 2013
Have you got your ticket to Big Night? Our annual wine and food love-in is the double celebration of Vancouver Magazine’s 23rd Annual Restaurant Awards AND 9th annual International Wine Awards. Top chefs like David Hawksworth, Vikram Vij, and Hidekazu Tojo have conjured up new and delightful dishes to match the best of category wines in a glam evening of sensory enchantment. In hungry anticipation of Big Night 2013, this week's wine pick is the Best of Show.
Great wines have a story to tell. The best reveal their story with multiple voices – those of the grape, geography, vineyard, soil, climate, farmer, and winemaker, all sounding in harmony. Our 2013 Best of Show winner is a riveting chardonnay that does all of this and more – and the ‘more’ is the truly exciting part, because this is a New World wine that demonstrates that grape variety can be a point of departure rather than a destination. Although this is certainly a chardonnay, other aspects – the distinctiveness of vineyard site, soil, and weather – transport the wine to another level. This is a wine of place, and the awareness of place is where wine is going next – especially in Australia.
Our winner comes from Margaret River, a cool, marine influenced region in Western Australia. It's a peaceful place with pristine beaches, legendary surf, and a slow, easy way of life. The Devil’s Lair 2009 (named for an ancient cave where remains of a prehistoric Tasmanian tiger were mysteriously found) is pale gold with inviting aromas of citrus, white flowers, exotic oak, and mineral. The palate is concentrated with flavours of peach and lime, and charged with high-pitched acidity. Fermented and aged in cask, the oak melts into the wine adding structure, texture and subtle richness. Elegant and refined, it’s a pure expression of the unique climate and terroir of Margaret River. This wine makes an important statement for Australian wine, its highly diverse regions and growing number of wines that speak eloquently of people and place. As for food pairings, such depth of flavour, zingy acidity yet creamy texture, invites rich cuisine like pasta with cream sauce or steamed Dungeness crab with lemongrass butter.
January 31, 2013
It’s a shame that our Seattle Seahawks are not in New Orleans this weekend, but doubtless many of us will be partaking in the Super Bowl revelry just the same. So as our almost-local San Francisco 49ers take on the Baltimore Ravens, here are a few super-charged wines to help you cheer them on.
MASI MASIANCO 2011
Masi is a distinguished producer in northeastern Italy that specializes in killer reds, but this tricked-up Pinot Grigio shows skill with white wines too. For this blend, a Pinot Grigio is stainless steel fermented, and then blended with 25% Venetian native Verduzzo, from grapes that have been dried for three weeks on wooden racks, then fermented in in steel before being transferred to wooden barrels for finishing. This process builds an elegant dry white that combines a framework of freshness, minerality, and brisk acid, filled in with peachy fruit from the dried Verduzzo grapes. Creamy yet crisp and savoury, and a worthy companion for baked Brie or crudités with artichoke dip. The 2011 is one of the best versions yet. Game on.
This cheerful red blend is closely related to 2013’s Best of Show winner (Devil’s Lair Margaret River Chardonnay 2009), and is a textbook example of Australia’s dexterity in all styles of vinification. Slowly ripened in Western Australia, Cab, Shiraz and Merlot band together in a delicious siege on your taste buds. Soft and supple plummy flavours get a boost of tangy verve from Margaret River’s breezy coastal conditions, and a spicy dash of oak completes the package. Chicken wings and burgers at half time?
January 24, 2013
"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!"
And so it is time to eat haggis and toast Robbie Burns. While you are enjoying Burns’ immortal poem "Address to a Haggis", consider wine choices for this king of the sausage family. A mix of sheep parts and oatmeal, haggis is seasoned liberally with black pepper and tastes savoury, nutty and peppery. It’s also far more scrumptious than you might think.
This familiar winner from Spain captured the judges’ hearts with perfumed scents, cheerful red berry fruit, zesty acidity, and a grippy finish that welcomes food – even Haggis. Rioja’s noble Tempranillo grape is blended with a peppy kick of Garnacha and made in the proper saignée style (with juice “bled” from red winemaking). Rosado is taken seriously in Spain, and we should pay attention to the fact that pinks make terrific meal partners. This splendid 2011 vintage has the heft to manage the funk and texture of haggis, but will also be a pleasing partner to pork tacos, spicy curry, or crab cakes.
For the second year in a row, Painted Rock’s aristocratic Syrah is our Best Rich Red. It’s a muscular wine with pent-up black fruit, cracked pepper, grilled herbs, and brawny tannins lacquered with generous oak. While ripe and easy to drink now, you could also wait for gamey, leathery complexity to appear in a few years. When the haggis is gone, sync it with blackened steak or braised short ribs.
January 17, 2013
As great as it would be, you probably can’t try a new Dine Out menu every night of the week. Fortunately, you can still make dinner at home a fresh experience with this week’s lively wine picks
New Zealand +916346
Give your taste buds a jolt with this high-spirited and tangy sparkler from beloved winery Oyster Bay, famous for well-priced wines from the clean, green islands of New Zealand. This is a trim and pure all-Chardonnay bubbly. Top clones are sourced from the stony terroir of the North Island's Hawke’s Bay region, giving a mineral frame, lively acidity, and freshness. There is a gentle, leesy character, crunchy apple, and lip-smacking citrus flavours that mesh together in a dry, admirable finish. Sip as an aperitif or put to work with sautéed prawns, crab salad, or fish and chips.
Yes, it’s made from pinot noir grapes, but to think of this wine as simply ‘a pinot’ is to completely, utterly, miss the point. This is French country wine par excellence, made by a lovely family in the idyllic village of Chavignol, where the wine can be as delectable as the world-renowned goat’s cheese (and is not always sauvignon blanc). Fragrant, juicy, woodsy and minerally, this is a classic cool-climate red; a delicious surprise at an unbelievable price. While wonderfully adaptable, you could certainly do worse than pair it with a perfectly grilled Oyama sausage. It nearly goes without saying that salmon is also a natural.
January 10, 2013
This week, go Old-World with a bright and grippy white from Georgia (not the state, the country), and a warm and budget-friendly Spanish red
When was the last time you had a wine from Georgia? Not the American southern state, but the Eastern European country, where archaeological discoveries confirm that wine has been produced for 8,000 years. What’s old is new again and this characterful white will increase your wine IQ for a mere $11.90. The grape, native to Georgia, is Mtsvane (say Mitts-vah-nay), which means “new, young and green.” Earthy, savoury, and slightly nutty (think of a decent, dry Soave), this wine has bright acidity, nice botanical flavours, and a dry, grippy finish. It will pair well with a simple dinner of roast chicken and a Georgian walnut sauce called ‘Satsivi’, which blends nuts, cinnamon, saffron, chili, fried onions, garlic, and stock. There are currently only 673 bottles of this outlier wine at BCLDB stores, and they may go fast…
Like our judging panel, you will be seduced by this luscious, medium-bodied red. Spain nails great-value wines that punch above their weight, and this bottle has extravagant plummy, raspberry fruit flavours and mellow, oaky warmth. The Zaco, made by noted Bodegas Bilbianas, one of Rioja’s oldest and most celebrated estates, charms with new world fruit-forwardness and old world dusty appeal. Plan a low-budget but satisfying dinner of arroz con chorizo y pimentos which combines short-grained rice, Spanish sausage, canned tomatoes, smoked paprika, onion, and garlic. Easier to make than paella and a natural with this pleasing Iberian red.
January 3, 2013
Wines that won’t break the bank….
Happy New Year, and let’s raise our glasses to value-priced wines. And to keeping the good times rolling with great food, drink, friends, and family. Here's a duo of wines to fuel the fires.
Want a mouthful of Spring? For 14 bucks you can have it. From one of the great houses in France (the huge Lurton family owns many fine Bordeaux chateaux plus wine estates around the world) comes this cheerful and frisky dry white. It displays trademark nervy herbacious sauvignon blanc flavours, but there is also warmth and generosity in the full mouthfeel and lingering finish that comes from the Mediterranean sun. Toss a salad with fresh greens, walnuts, green grapes, tangy cheese like chevre or feta, and whisk a vinaigrette using a little of the wine in place of the acid. Serve with steaming vegetable soup and crunchy baguette for a budget and diet-conscious mid-week dinner. Go on, have another glass.
Call it Monastrell in Spain, call it Mourvèdre, call it Mataro in Australia. This chewy, characterful grape stars in Spain’s arid, incendiary regions like Yecla (say -Eek-la). Old vines, limestone soil, and abundant sunny heat allow this fussy ripener to go the distance to plummy, earthy perfection. We call this a light red because of the gentle tannins, but the flavours are not the least shy and retiring. Meatloaf wine par excellence, so bake a deluxe version. Try a blend of ground beef and pork, really fresh breadcrumbs, plenty of dried herbs, then wrap the meat in smoked bacon and baste with good barbecue sauce. Pour a big tumbler and chow down.
December 20, 2012
Just five more sleeps til the reindeer hooves dust the rooftops and a day of family gathering, holiday cheer and traditional dinner favourites dawns. Whether you are of the turkey, duck, goose, or roast beef persuasion, dinner needs a rich red wine with fruit and texture to compete with bold traditional sides like Brussels sprouts, pungent herbal stuffing, crispy-crunchy roast potatoes, and sweet-tart cranberry sauce. A white wine choice also needs weight and shape, and can be equally pleasing.
If ever there was a wine to woo us back to the joys of gently oaked chardonnay, this is it. Serene, cool-climate grapes from maritime Margaret River reveal appetising citrus and apple fruit, with glorious notes of spicy oak that swirl kinetically with chisled acidity. Nimble on the palate, with focused flavour and finesse, Evans + Tate are part of the exciting regional Australian story. The deep fruit in our Best of Medium White category will gladly meet and greet a roast bird, or if you prefer, a platter of sauteed shrimp to start a holiday feast.
Supporting our local wines is an easy and giving thing to do‹especially when the wine is a sensuous merlot generously layered with dark fruitcake flavours, gingerbread spice, and aromatic French oak. CedarCreek is a benchmark B.C. winery, anchored in the sunny sloping lakeside land close to Kelowna. Twenty-five years of getting to know the complex terroir and singular Okanagan climate has allowed the Fitzpatrick family to craft expressive and authentic regional wines. Winemaker Darryl Brooker and viticulturalist Merle Lawrence (who' been working the vineyards for 20 years) selected choice low-cropped clones for this top-range Platinum Merlot, treated them to a languorous fermentation, then straight to posh French oak barrels for 20 months of finishing school. Dark perfumed fruit with notes of chocolate and toasted spice give way to mouth-filling flavours of wild blueberry and ripe plums, exotic barrel notes and a smooooooth, polished finish. Rich and refined, this is definitive Christmas dinner wine‹turkey, duck, goose, or prime rib.
We confess to a boo-boo. The January/February 2012 Wine Awards print issue show a beautiful shot of the wrong wine! While CedarCreek¹s Merlot is a charming and pleasure-packed red, the stately and top shelf Platinum label is the wine that the Judges selected as a Rich Red winner. Many apologies to our friends at CedarCreek Estate Winery.
December 13, 2012
Spanish sherry is simply one of the world’s most remarkable wines and it’s finally enjoying a resurgence in admiration and popularity. In the late ’70s, two hundred million bottles were sent around the globe; in the ’80s, fashion shifted from fortified to drier table wines like Chardonnay and Cabernet. Sherry offers an astonishing array of styles, from briny and yeasty Fino, to delicate and floral Manzanilla sherry from coastal Spain, to robust and rich Oloroso wines, to decadently sweet and viscous PX. While Fino sherry needs to be consumed quickly (like white wine), Oloroso wines are sturdy and a bottle can be opened and enjoyed for many weeks, letting you have a little civilized tipple every evening. Sherries make for brilliant food partners: try chilled Fino with oysters on the half shell, Oloroso with roasted chestnuts, tangy chorizo, salty aged cheddar, or French Onion soup, and you will die for PX poured thickly over eggnog ice cream.
To taste our fortified winner is to understand why Spanish sherry was the most consumed and most imitated wine in the world for centuries. Wines from the white Palomino grape are fortified, blended, and aged dynamically in big casks, developing complex flavours. The Nutty Solera is an Oloroso sherry style, with a touch of sweetness to counter the savoury tang. A natural with roasted nuts, charcuterie, and aged or creamy cheese, but also try with Asia lettuce wraps or baked cauliflower and cheese.
Welcome to another 12 months of weekly picks as we taste our way through 106 terrific winning wines for 2013. In late October, 16 judges were cloistered at the Vancouver Club for three days, evaluating nearly 700 wines from 17 countries. Wines were grouped into style categories, just the way we think about and buy wine. You’ll find our winners organized into 10 groups: sparkling, light white, medium white, rich white, rose, light red, medium red, rich red, dessert, and fortified wines. This logical, intuitive sorting by style makes is easy to pair to your mood, and with food. Let’s kick off the 2013 results with our Best of Show winner—a stunner from Western Australia that deserves a fabulous and festive dinner of steamed crab and butter, tender pan-fried oysters or succulent roasted chicken.
November 28, 2012
Next Thursday we reveal the winning wines from our most recent 2013 competition (the actual on-line reveal is December 1), and this column will decant another year of exciting and delicious wines for you to try – and food pairings too. For the final pick of the 2012 competition, we shine the spotlight on Sake…. hopefully you tried the Osake Junmai Nama that was recommended a few months ago, and here is another
Artisan SakeMaker Osake Junmai Nama Genshu 2011 B.C. $21.90 +580183
We’re lucky to have many sakes to choose from in B.C., and even more remarkable that there is a sake maker on Granville Island. Masa Shiroki is the craftsman behind the Junmai Nama Genshu 2011, and in this town, it is worth having a working knowledge of sake and how to deploy it with food. So plan a visit to Railspur Alley. This Junmai Nama Genshu is made from highly polished rice, unpasteurized (that’s what “nama” means), and has a glorious wine-like fragrance with hints of exotic fruit and a nutty, yeasty complexity. In the mouth it has tremendous presence with savoury and botanical flavours, creamy texture and the kind of weight and persistence that can take on charcuterie, pan-seared salmon, or mushroom risotto. Masa likes this distinctive sake with duck pate, duck sausage, or duck prosciutto, so head to Granville Market, pick up some duck, and see what you think. Do not heat this sake; serve it with a slight chill in a small wineglass.
November 22, 2012
Wild mushroom season is upon us and the markets are laden with scented treasures plucked from moist forest floors. Brush funghi with a dry cloth or very soft brush to remove any soil and then consider soup, risotto, ragout, creamy pasta sauce, or a rich mushroom sauce for veal for dinner this weekend. Earthy whites can make good wine companions, but Pinot Noir’s wild, woodsy character is an undeniably blissful match.
The Olsen family’s main business is grass seed, and it’s a little known fact that this is Oregon’s main cash crop. More widely known is Oregon's famous Pinot, and there are five generations of farming experience (grapes and grass!) behind the Viridian Pinot Noir. Vibrant cherry and currant aromas and flavours are chased by complex scents of undergrowth, saddle leather, and tea leaves. It’s this earthy facet of Pinot, combined with juicy acidity, that connects to funghi so kinetically. Moderate but edgy tannins and a nice silky finish also complements the mouthfeel of mushrooms. Treat yourself to a globe shaped Pinot glass, pour just a finger or two, swirl, and inhale deeply.
VOLCANIC HILLS SYRAH 2009
Since opening its spacious timbered premises in 2009, Volcanic Hills has earned a reputation for rock-solid wines that are well-priced and satisfying to drink. Their inviting syrah shows the exciting potential for this Rhone grape in the Okanagan Valley. Darkly coloured with a fragrant nose of ripe cherry, cracked black pepper, it offers similar fruity/spicy flavours with a nice chewy texture, brisk acidity and a touch of grilled herbs on the finish. Game is always lovely with Syrah, but a deeply flavourful black bean chili (use sausage, beef or chicken) with plenty of toasted cumin and cardamom and cornbread will make a hearty Sunday dinner.
November 8, 2012
On this weekend of remembrance, let’s don our poppies, dwell on how lucky and thankful we are, and gather those near and dear to us for a delicious meal.
Perhaps dinner will start with a crisp salad greens with fat nuggets of local goat’s cheese, toasted pecans, and a tangy tarragon vinaigrette. An equally crunchy, clean Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand will be a memorable match. This vigorous white, a wine so fresh it should be slapped, comes not from Marlborough (a famous region for Sauv Blanc on the South Island) but the top quality terroir of Hawkes Bay on the North Island. The much-admired Matua Valley’s Sauvignon is laden with melon, gooseberry, and citrus aromas and flavours, with a nice tropical character. A spine of fresh acidity and minerality gives this wine a distinct steely structure that makes it a terrific food wine.
If a meaty pot roast is bubbling away in a heavy pot in the oven, then consider this deeply flavourful reserve Shiraz from a limestone-based region in South Australia called Padthaway. Here, optimally ripe Shiraz vines gain extra mineral complexity yielding a structured wine that’s chock-full of plummy fruit, appealing cracked pepper, and minty lifts. Bold flavours, full-body, supple tannins, and plenty of exotic oak character define this sensual, mouth-filling Shiraz.
November 1, 2012
This weekend we snatch back an hour of daylight as clocks are wound back an hour. Dinner this weekend should be autumnal, comofrting, and made with wine in mind . . .
Red Côtes du Rhône wines are like a cozy blanket for the mouth. Soft, warm, yielding and thick with flavour, they really are the perfect autumn comfort wine. Côtes du Rhône Villages wines are blends headlined by Grenache with jolts of Syrah and/or Mourvedre plus a few other characterful grapes. This wine, called Gratitude, comes from the special village of Plan de Dieu where stony terroir and luminous sunshine guarantee grapes that are fully ripe and firmly structured. Rich plum flavours are brightened by fresh acidity, kicked with spice, licked with dusty minerality and plump with the generous, round tannins we expect from southern Rhône wine. Solid value, and all you have to do is decided between saucisson Lyonnaise with roasted root vegetables, a Moroccan chicken tagine with tender couscous, or perhaps a rich fondue of Beaufort and Tomme cheese into which you can dip hunks of crusty bread or thick slices of your favourite smoky grilled chorizo.
October 25, 2012
A delicate dusting of snow on the Lions signals the emphatic change of the seasons and the time for mellow, autumnal wines is now. It’s hard to beat Spanish reds for soul-warming character and palate-pleasing flavour. The Ebano 6 is an ideal way to complement the lamb stew or cheesy baked eggplant you will make this weekend. It is a modern iteration of wine from Ribera del Duero, an elite region in the country’s northern plateau. Rocky terrain, blistering summers and frigid winters challenge the tempranillo grape, which stars in the Ebano 6. Raspberry and plum flavours with spicy notes from a few months in French oak casks makes this wine big on fruit with gently buffed tannins. Snow on the mountains, Hallowe’en around the corner, crimson leaves on the ground – yes this is the time for Spanish reds.
October 18, 2012
This weekend, 16 of B.C.'s top palates are tuning up for the Vancouver Magazine 9th Annual International Wine Awards judging next week. Five sommelier-of-the-year winners, two Masters of Wine, the best educators, writers and top wine buyers comprise our extraordinary panel of judges. Not just that, but 8 crack backroom staff, most of them certified sommeliers, are resting up, sharpening their corkscrews and ironing polishing cloths as their work is just as important as the judges'. The competition takes place at the genteel Vancouver Club, where the wines are evaluated blind with immense concentration and relish.
To celebrate the impending competition (look for the results in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue), two of the slam-dunk favourites are featured here, as we look forward to the intense event at the Vancouver Club next week.
Although the average price of our winning wines is closer to the $25 dollar mark, it is always gratifying when a sure-fire bargain shines year after year. Long Flat is a 40-year-old brand that believes that wine is a simple pleasure. No fuss, no big outlay, just dang delicious wine for a fair price. Long Flat wines are ultra-reliable and the Cab Shiraz blend combines dusty blackcurrant and spicy plum flavours with a minty note. Value can come at any price, and Long Flat is just right.
This Tuscan red wine also overdelivers in every department for its price. The prestige of the Antinori family, the experience and intimate knowledge that comes from 26 generations of working the Tuscan lands is all poured into this beautifully balanced, earthy red wine. A lithe blend of 55 percent Sangiovese with Cab, Merlot and a shot of Syrah, treated to a year in oak casks, it drinks like a Ferrari but is priced like a Ford. Really. And it ages well, it's a joy to drink alone, and it partners seamlessly with food like meats, mushrooms, or cheese. Our judges adored this superlative vintage, but you will also enjoy the current release of Villa Antinori. We hope to see it in the next competition!
October 11, 2012
Drink this wine because JoieFarm is one of B.C.'s very special wineries tucked into the thith of elite Naramata Bench. Drink it because of the love that Michael Dinn and Heidi Noble pour into their celebrated wines. Drink it because it's perfectly, more-ishly, sensationally delicious.
B.C. +882027 *only available in private wine stores
The aromatic nose surges with white flowers, peaches, grapes, and herbal notes, just as an exotic white blend should do. The mélange centres on 43 percent Gewurztraminer, 38 percent Riesling, 14 percent Pinot Auxerrois and 5 percent Pinot Gris and rich tropical notes and heady aromatics are always deftly balanced. Succulent citrusy acidity, overt minerality, and dewy freshness keep this off-dry fruity wine tight and tidy. You will find the current 2011 vintage on the shelves now which has a touch more Riesling in the blend giving lovely lipsmacking acidity. On the menu this weekend should be Choucroute Garnie, an Alsatian classic that marries sauerkraut, smoked pork, pungent spices, and wine in an incredibly way. Browse the internet for a recipe, shop for bacon, sausages, kassler (heavily smoked porkchops), and jarred sauerkraut on Granville Island, buy several bottles of JoieFarm's A Noble Blend, and spend the weekend cooking up a storm.
October 4, 2012
Our benevolent, sunny September weather has helped summer linger and is it hard to believe that the Thanksgiving Long Weekend is here already. Quick history lesson: always the second Monday in October, Canadian Thanksgiving Day can be traced back to 1578 and the epic third voyage of English explorer Martin Frobisher. Fourteen ships endured calamitous storms, icebergs, and separation to finally and miraculously gather together on the shores of Frobisher Bay, holding a communion of thanksgiving. After Confederation, the holiday was observed annually in October and harvest celebrations, parades, football games, retail sales, family huddles, and bountiful meals now define the three day weekend. And the feasts deserve some special wine
Austria +458067 *only available in private wine stores
Austria's great white hope is the marvelous Grüner Veltliner grape. Widely planted in vineyards in the eastern part of mountainous Austria, Grüners are spicy, minerally, dry wines that make terrific partners for food. Laurenz V sources fruit from the elite Kamptal region, where hard granitic soils, cooling night winds and vineyards along the Danube River create ideal slow-ripening conditions. The Friendly is one of 7 wines made by Laurenz V, and you'll find lovely appley fruit, zippy acidity, a distinct stoney aspect, and best of all, Grüner's trademark spicy verve. Imagine white pepper, a hint of vanilla with creamy mouthfeel and a dry, dry finish—just the thing for turkey or baked ham.
One of the most decorated wines not just from B.C. but all of Canada. This gorgeous high-end Pinot Noir is worth every penny. And why not splurge on the family and the posh free-range turkey that you've ordered? Stewart brothers Ben and Tony and crack wine-maker Grant Stanley lavish care on their French clone Pinot vineyards that just might be the prettiest in the valley. Several features make this reserve Pinot special: old vines—averaging 24 years of age—give intensity and concentration to the spicy cherry/plum fruit; the special volcanic terroir on Boucherie mountain vineyards gives a fine mineral character to the Pinot; the sensitive use of French oak barriques, of which only 40 percent are new, allowing the pure fruit to star; and finally, the skill and palate of winemaker Grant Stanley. Expect a compelling nose of dark fruit, a hint of spicy vanilla from the barrels, and best of all, an earthy, gamey character that is the hallmark of wonderful Pinot with a touch of age. Medium tannins with a silky texture make this a wonderful food wine, and if you make a wild mushroom stuffing for the turkey, you will not regret it. Polish your biggest glasses and pour a few ounces in each, allowing breathing and swirling space so that the ethereal bouquet of this wine can bewitch.
September 20, 2012
Signalling the end of summer and carefree holidays, September can feel like a month of Mondays. Let's drink some soothing wine and enjoy the lingering good weather
New Zealand +288795
Chardonnay from the clean, green islands can get overlooked, given the runaway success of Sauvignon Blanc, which is a shame, because New Zealand makes sensational wines from this Burgundian grape. The Stoneleigh is a colossal value and you get a lot of wine for your buck, heaps of succulent nectarine and citrus flavours, gently kissed by French oak for added spice and depth. Fresh, fruity and minerally as well, as the name suggests. Squash risotto with a little pumpkin seed oil drizzled on top will make a casual Friday night dinner and a fitting partner to one of our rich white winners.
This Rioja, always an artfully made Spanish wine, has been best of show in previous competitions, and usually stars on the winners' list every year. Beronia Reserva is an example of a wine with the clear identity of a special place. In the classic Rioja tradition it is profoundly anti-modern wine mellowed by many years ageing in American oak barrels, giving it creamy texture and lashings of vanilla in addition to bright raspberry flavours. Supple, round, mellow, it needs lambchops if you are still in the mood for grilling, otherwise throw a lamb shoulder in a pot, toss in vegetables, a bottle of the Beronia, and braise away.
September 13, 2012
Even though there is a distinct nip in morning and evening air, you can keep the freshness of summer alive on your palate with our white pick, or embrace the fall chill with our red
New Zealand. +300368
This crisp charmer from the Emerald Islands is a quintessential Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, opulent with tropical guava, kiwi, grapefruit, and sweetherbs kept vital and trim with citrusy acidity and an elegant mineral finish. Try this with Julia Child's classic chicken tarragon: massage skinless, boneless breasts with oil and season well, strew fresh tarragon sprigs on bottom of pan, arrange chicken atop, cover with more tarragon fronds, place lid on pan and oven bake until cooked but juicy. Remove chicken and most of the tarragon, deglaze pan with a glass of the Whitehaven, add a dash of cream, season, reduce til thick-ish, and pour over the tender breasts.
This rich red has been on our winner's list many, many times, confirming that across vintages it shows like a thoroughbred. And our judges are not the only fans; the Wine Advocate's Robert Parker Jr. hails Thorn-Clarke as "the greatest red wine values in the marketplace." From old vineyards in South Australia's elite Barossa Valley, the Shotfire brims with plummy fruit, exotic spices, dark chocolate and has the kind of suave tannins, firm structure and lingering finish of a pedigreed champ. It's time to braise again, so buy a choice cut of beef or pork and make the best pot roast known to mankind. The Shotfire Shiraz deserves nothing less.
September 6, 2012
Back to school, back to work, back to reality. 'Nuff said. We need some wine…
Aristocratic is the right word for this stately Okanagan Chardonnay. From French clones planted on some of the most beautiful lakeside vineyards ever seen (anywhere in the world!), this rich white gets the full spa treatment. Top drawer French oak barrel fermentation, lees contact, malo, then more time in bottle for harmonizing integration. The result is pure luxury: peach and citrus flavours, lashings of clove and toasty butter, creamy texture and majesterial weight. The kind of wine that needs Dungeness crab risotto, seared halibut with citrus beurre blanc, or some decadent triple cream cheese and roasted nuts.
This gulpable Zinfandel delighted the judges with its raspberry fruit, gentle spice, and overall depth of flavour and finesse. Sebastiani know wine, and they know Zinfandel from farming it for over 100 years in Sonoma, surviving Prohibition and depression. Part of the secret of this wine’s delicious complexity is the blend: 79 percent Zin with the balance and juiciness coming from Petite Syrah, Barbera, and Syrah. Also part of its Euro structure is the 100 percent Hungarian oak used—both new and used. This high-quality oak has the twin merits of resembling French oak’s subtle and refined flavours at half the price of a Gallic barrel. Try this rich Zinfandel with a fat, liberally peppered pork chop, your favourite baby back ribs or sausage pizza.
August 30, 2012
Labour Day reminds us that it's our duty to put our feet up, exhale deeply, and slowly ease the troubles away this
long weekend. Close your eyes and dream of dinner—something effortless like beercan chicken and a veggie pack, with plump local blueberries for dessert.
This fresh and fruity white proves yet again that happiness does not have to be complicated. The screw-capped, cobalt blue bottle offers fragrant, peachy scents with the mineral, limey promise of Mosel wines. Once you have drunk deeply, you will notice apricot and sweet citrus flavours, adroitly balanced by spritely acidity. Yes, it is off-dry, but at 10.5 percent alcohol it is highly thirst-quenching and also allows you to pour on the heat-fruity wines and chili are made for each other. Try this easy brining method before you BBQ the chicken: combine 1/4 cup kosher salt and 1/8 cup sugar per one litre of cold water. Add many generous dashes of hot wing sauce like Frank's. Immerse one or two chickens (double the brine recipe for 2 birds) and brine for at least one hour and no more than 12. Heat BBQ to high, dry chicken well, paint with more hot sauce and prop chicken up on an open can of beer (take a big gulp of the beer first). Turn one side of the grill to low and place the birds on that side, with the rest of the grill at medium. Close lid and cook chicken until 165 C internally or the juices run clear. Could take 45-60 minutes depending on the size of chicks and the heat of your grill. Brush from time to time with more hot sauce. Chill the Notorious Rooster Riesling and drink it as you eat the juicy, spicy chicken. NOTE: there are over 1,000 bottles of this gorgeous quaffer in the BCLDB system, so go pick up a case.
B.C. +133371 *only available in private wine stores
This West Kelowna winery is worth seeking out, especially for their earthy, woodsy Pinot Noirs. A tiny Quonset hutted operation, the wines are as honest and authentic as the laidback owners, Steve and Kirsty Dale. Organic is the watchword at Rollingdale, and the pure raspberry fruit, forest floor, and spicy flavours are nicely layered and sneakily complex in the 2007 Pinot Noir. More savoury than fruity, this wine needs the umami factor of an Asian flavoured beer can chicken. Make the brine bath but add star anise, peppercorns, and a few dashes of soy sauce. Whisk up a glaze using ponzu, soy, or teriyaki sauce plus a dash of sesame oil and paint the chicken from time to time as it moistily roasts on the covered grill. Pour the Rollingdale Pinot into a large bowled glass, spend a few moments inhaling the complex nose, then enjoy with the chicken. By the way, the veggie pack is simply thinly sliced potatoes, leeks, peppers, whatever you like, layered with herbs, drizzled with olive oil or butter, generously salt and peppered, double wrapped tightly in heavy foil (make it thin-ish and magazine-sized) and cook on the hotter side of the grill, turning pack every time you baste the beercan chicken.
August 16, 2012
MusicFest 2012 is in full-throttle mode now, and hugely talented, ultra-cool Pink Martini will rock the Orpheum theatre on Friday night. Hope you've got your tickets, and it not, invite some friends over, queue up the music, and get ready to swing. Whether you throw together burgers and a salad, or take-out Thai or shawarma, these two wines will make you want to sing and dance…and eat, too.
B.C. +680827 *only available in private wine stores
How much decadence can you handle?? This exotic white detonates with rose petal, lychee, kumquat, baking spice, and Meyer lemon aromas and flavours. The opulent, rich palate is boosted with a little sweetness, but wonderously balanced with natural acidity for a cleansing, food-welcoming finish. Give this perfume-bomb a bit of a chill, pour a lavish glass and pair with spicy fish tacos, spring rolls, or a thick slice of rich pate. Always a sell-out, the 2011 vintage is just as dazzling.
Australia +11391 *only available in private wine stores
How much spice can you handle? And how much plush cherry flavour can you cope with? This suave number from the miraculous climate and distinct soils of South Australia's McLaren Vale over-delivers Shiraz's peppery zip and colossal berry fruit. Coats the mouth like melted chocolate and deserves some robust food like beef curry, blackened chicken, or the best pork carnitas you can get your hands on.
August 9, 2012
Today local javelin star Elizabeth Gleadle strides to the centre of Olympic Stadium and launches the 600 gram metal spear. Having nailed a place in the final round of just 12 athletes with a thrust of 60.26 m, she is Canada's record holder (61.15 m) and an awesome, powerful athelete. Let's toast Canada's first female javelin Olympian since 1988 with some equally athletic, winning wine. And if this is not Liz's time, the 23-year-old, 6' 1" muscle-bound UBC kinesiology student, who trains in Lethbridge, Alberta, can aim for Rio 2016.
This utterly delicious sparkling wine from Lake County's 30-year-old Gray Monk Winery mingles Pinot Blanc and aromatic Chardonnay Musqué for their premium Odyssey range. Spend a moment inhaling the gorgeous scents of apricot, apple, and brioche before you swallow a fruity mouthful of creamy bubbles that finishes crisp and dry. Clean, pure, balanced and sneakily complex, this statuesque traditional Brut will match a tangy lemon kale and feta frittata or spicy prawn fried rice.
Is Cabernet Franc the Okanagan's best red grape? This wine might convince you, just as it has many B.C. wine critics. Native to Bordeaux and parent of high achiever Cabernet Sauvignon, Franc brings exotic inky scents, blackcurrant fruit, fleshy tannins and overall spicy-savoury intrigue to red wines. Hester Creek's splendid Reserve Cab Franc gains extra dimension and complexity from 40+-year-old vines. Inviting floral aromas with classic graphite notes join elegant cassis and plum flavours, juicy cool-climate acidity, and robust tannins. Ageworthy and layered with toasty French oak, this rich red winner deserves a fine peppersteak, pasta with sausage and grilled peppers, or lamb kebabs..
August 2, 2012
Another long weekend beckons and the weather is teasingly gorgeous… let's hope it holds as we celebrate British Columbia Day across the province on Monday, August 6th. Get outdoors – camping, hiking, houseboating or just as far as the garden and plan some tasty local food and wine from our own backyard, of course. Did you know that there are 209 wineries, hundreds of grape growers, and 60+ grape varieties (led by Merlot and Pinot Gris) dotted over 9,800 acres in 5 distinct regions (the Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, and the Gulf Islands)? While our annual wine production in wee in global terms (1.5 million cases compared to New Zealand's 23 million cases, for instance), B.C. makes a thrilling array of styles that are pleasing palates and turning heads everywhere.
B.C. is justly famous around the world for luscious ice wine. Optimally ripe clusters bursting with rich flavours and bracing acidity eventually freeze on the vine (rules state that the temperature must be at least -8°C), concentrating the essence of fruit and terroir. Aboriginal Nk'Mip Cellars has supremely talented Randy Picton guiding the wines to excellence. This perfumed Riesling icewine from the South Okanagan displays layers of peach, honey, and baked apple around a tantalizing spike of lemon-lime acidity. Ultra-adaptable with food, its unctuous sweetness and opulent weight will take on the savoury richness of foie gras pâté. This wine really is dessert-in-a-glass, but cheesecake, lemon tart, or a B.C. cheese plate will do it justice..
One of the heavy hitters in Canada, Jackson-Triggs makes sensational wines in both Ontario and B.C. The Gold Series is the premium tier, and if the word "SunRock: is on the label, you're in for something very special. This famous vineyard yields consistently fabulous slow-ripened fruit luxuriating in intense sun by day, and gently cooled by nighttime Osoyoos Lake breezes. Transplanted Aussie Brooke Blair, gifted red winemaker at J-T, lets the fruit and vineyard speak eloquently in this wine, sensitively supported with the best French oak barrels. Concentrated plummy fruit, black pepper spice, and smoky herbal aromas and flavours set your palate up for suave tannins, juicy acidity, and a complex, lengthy finish. Make a point of supporting our local farmers and grill beef, duck, or lamb plus herb-marinated veggies like eggplant, baby potatoes, and thick onion slices that are popped on the hot grill to cook while the protein rests. Decant the Shiraz to let it open up an hour before, and pour into oversized glasses that give plenty of swirling room.
July 26, 2012
Abright flame will soon glow from the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, London as 80,000 avid fans take in the Opening Ceremonies, and millions more tune in around the world. A couple of gold-medal deserving wines will help us cheer our Canadian stars as they strive for Olympic victory.
This luscious southern Italian beauty showcases one of the great but unsung white grapes of the world. At home in the volcanic soils of the Campanian countryside, Falanghina is an ancient grape that makes fragrant wines with exotic citrus notes, waxy body, and an alluring smokey aspect. Our winner from Terradora (vastly experienced Mastroberardino family members are behind this stunner) has white blossom scents, flavours of honey, melon, peach pit, and citrus with weight from creamy lees and a complex mineral twang on the finish. Nutty, fresh, herbal, savoury, fruity-this wine weaves its way through a range of flavours, keeping you on your wine-drinking toes. Try with proper Neapolitan Pizza (Naples is the capital of Campania) given a bianco treatment or fennel and sausage pasta or grilled firm fish with a Romesco sauce (a piquant red dip, marinade, or sauce that features ground almonds, roasted red peppers, breadcrumbs and lashings of top olive oil). Serve the Terradora with just a slight chill and prepare to be seduced by Falanghina.
B.C. +864496 *only available in private wine stores
A famous English critic once suggested that wine's first duty is to be red. This aristocratic BC wine is a fitting choice for sipping as you watch Olympic rowing at Eton Dorney, the Marathon finish on the Mall, or Dressage at Greenwich Park. The English often prefer their reds to be Claret, meaning a Cabernet-dominant Bordeaux blend, and this rich Okanagan red delivers opulent fruit, muscular tannins and majestic structure. Skaha Bench-grown Cabernet Sauvignon shows saturated crimson colour with dense flavours of cassis, mocha, mint, and toasty vanilla and a lengthy, bold finish. Decant well (don't be delicate-give it an energetic slosh) and if you cannot find the 2008, the 2009 is also hall-of-fame quality. Mixed grill or a couple of racks of lamb will help this cellar-worthy red unfurl its gorgeous fruit..
July 19, 2012
Simply delicious wines for summertime food is what we crave now, wines with high refreshment quotient and colossal flavour.
USA +176537 *only available in private wine stores
An unusual partnership of two French grapes proves triumphant in this lush white from California. Chenin Blanc injects dazzling acidity and citrus/honeydew melon fruit while Viognier adds aromatic swank and rich mouthfeel. The fine folks at Pine Ridge (who are well known for a range of AVA-specific reds) cool-ferment for freshness and use steel tanks to keep the focus on crisp fruit character. Robust food is the call here, to match the enticing bold wine flavours, like jerk chicken or watermelon, feta, olive, and mint salad.
NEW ZEALAND +149740 *only available in private wine stores
A crack team spins top quality organically farmed fruit into remarkably pure wine from sunny Nelson, NZ. The Tussock Pinot Noir (named for the silvery grass that adorns the living roof of the striking winery) shows dark plum and crushed blackberries with notes of fennel and forest floor. Concentrated and spicy with mid-range supple tannins and a gloss of French oak (only 30 percent new) makes this a superb pairing for grilled B.C. salmon with sundried tomato pesto or black bean sauce or simply marinated with good olive oil and plenty of fennel fronds.
July 12, 2012
Tour de France, Tour de Vin. As the famed tour enters its second week, only 175 cyclists remain, heroically pedalling over the 3,000 kilometers of the world's most watched bicycle race. Even though Canada's top tour contender Ryder Hesjedal is out after a harrowing crash, the excitement is intense and views of bucolic French wine country add extra relevance to wine lovers. Now in the French Alps, the intrepid racers are following the majestic Rhone River, which has its headwaters in Switzerland, slicing through tough granite bedrock, winding its way to the waiting Mediterranean. Celebrate the Tour de France with two wonderful French wines as you follow along this weekend.
A confession: Chenin Blanc is my favourite white grape—for its ripping acidity; for its honey-drizzled tree-fruit flavours; for its ability to transmit the stony terroir of its Loire Valley homeland. The words "demi-sec" are a tip off that this astonishing-value white is slightly off-dry, which makes it a brilliant food wine as well as a delectable stand-alone sipper. Imagine a spritely floral nose of delicate elderflower, honeyed flavours of citrus, crisp apple, and quince paste, dazzling acidity that tempers the hint of sweetness, and a mineral-laced, lingering finish. Do not hesitate to pair this French beauty with savoury foods like juicy porkchops and grilled peaches, or spicy Thai beef salad.
This venerable estate is a precious jewel in the Southern Rhône Valley. Making wine since 1570 (actually since 109 AD when it was a Roman villa complete with vineyard), Château de Saint Cosme (the "s" is silent, so say "comb"), is anchored in the sublime limestone terroir of the Gigondas appellation. Spicy Grenache dominates the blend (there is seriously old vine fruit in this vintage), along with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault for a complexly layered and ageable wine. You'll find crushed strawberries, white pepper, smoked resinous herbs, and a glinting mineral character, along with modest silky smooth tannins and an unadorned elegance that is the trademark of winemaker-savant Louis Barruol. If our 2008 winner is sold out, choose the '09 or the '10 as this wine is a rock solid star in any vintage. Some succulent southern ribs will pair happily, as will rosemary-marinated, grilled leg of lamb, or some oozing, stinky French cheese.
July 5, 2012
Need a reason to indulge in a morning glass of wine? Even though Canadians Raonic, Pospisil, Nestor and Wozniak have bowed out of tennis' defining championship, the finals await us this weekend—albeit it terribly early in the morning here on the Best Coast. Consider some cucumber sandwiches, waffles with strawberries and cream for brekkie, and a frothy glass of fruity fizz—it's the weekend, afterall.
This soft sparkler proves that happiness does not have to be complicated. A delicious blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, tasting of berries and cream, with a foamy texture and flirty, easy-going quality that is just what the morning demands. Yellowglen is an Aussie house that specializes in sparkling wines, from ultra-serious and vintage editions, to this spectacular-value bubble. Powder-puff pink, it looks as charming as it tastes, and will tickle your tastebuds along with waffles, local strawberries and raspberries with pillows of whipped cream-and the Wimbledon Championship finals.
Spain can always be relied upon to give us a gargantuan diversity of wines, but also some of the ripest, roundest, most satisfying of all vinous experiences—usually at unbeatable prices, too. Vina Zaco Tempranillo is a modern-styled wine made at a venerable Riojan house, Bodegas Bilbainas, crafted by a young winemaker from an aged single vineyard in the elite Rioja Alta. Dripping with ripe dark berried fruit, gorgeously scented and delightfully full and fresh in the mouth, this shapely red is a testament to the pedigree of the terroir and Tempranillo grape. Nine months in mixed oak barrels gives this plush beauty, complex with leather, espresso, and earthy notes, a mouth-coating firmness that will nicely flatter juicy lamb burgers with Romesco sauce (make this robust sauce by pureeing pimento, chilies, almonds, bread, seasonings, and olive oil and use instead of ketchup) that are smoking on the grill for Sunday lunch. And be sure to play (or watch) a tennis match in the morning.
June 28, 2012
Our nation is a youthful 145 years old this weekend, and if the Fathers of Confederation smile on this milestone, we just might have a day or three of decent weather. If, though, we're doomed to the more typical curse of rainy Vancouver long weekends, then we have more than enough reason to kick back indoors with some great Canadian wine and food.
B.C. +128298 *only available in private wine stores
Canada is a land forged by pioneers, so it's fitting that truly trailblazing wine comes from the rugged East Kooteney hills that heave up around Creston. The winery is named for the founder of the region, one charismatic and wealthy W.A. Baillie-Grohman, who admired the agricultural potential and the abundance of mountain goat hunting opportunities (hence the goat on the label) around Kootenay Lake, even enticing good friend President Teddy Roosevelt to join the fun. The Baillie-Grohman Winery's Pinot Gris 2010 is a peachy, juicy, well-textured white that gets bright acidity from a mountain environment, minerality from a stony terroir, and richness and complexity from partial fermentation in neutral oak casks. Take advantage of the bountiful halibut catch and pair this frontier Pinot Gris with a seared filet crowned with zesty melon salsa.
B.C. +229096 *only available in private wine stores
Pink wine is a patriotic way to salute our heritage, and the watermelon-hued, fruit-packed, off-dry rosé from the beautiful vineyards of See Ya Later Ranch sets off fireworks in the mouth. This wine is named Nelly for a long gone pup, but it's also a solid pioneering-sounding name. Centered on juicy, lip-smacking gamay grapes, there are enlivening additions of gewürztraminer, Riesling, and pinot noir. Succulent ripe summer berries squeezed with fresh lime sums up the flavours nicely, and a chili-rubbed pork tenderloin tossed on a smoking charcoal grill will collaborate happily with this charming B.C. rosé.
Italy +177204 *only available in private wine stores
A new frontier in wine country that demands attention is the steep-sided Similkameen Valley, a spur off the Okanagan Valley. Its extreme climate-with intense sun, cool desert nights, and hard cobble soils-is proving superb for Bordeaux grapes, and the artisanal Clos du Soleil's vanguard (or should we say vinguard?) Signature is a very, very special Rich Red. The founders are also special (four affable couples, including locals Spencer Massie and Bonnie Henry), all true wine lovers who were sensible enough to bring winemaker talent Ann Sperling onboard. The Signature blend is a tightly structured mélange of Merlot (52%), Cabernet Sauvignon (26%), Cabernet Franc (13%), and Malbec (9%) that is generously ripe and lavishly oaked for 18 months (80% French and 20% American small casks). With pure cassis fruit, a correct hint of cigar box, and plump wonderfully smooth tannins, this small production wine (just 275 cases) has all the requirements for aging. The bargain price also allows you to buy as much as you can find-and if our 2008 winner is not on hand, you can rest assured that the 2009 is also a stunner. A prime cut of meat is in order here, simply grilled and unadorned so as to let the wine in your glass be the sauce. Decant for an hour or so before, and heartily toast the pioneers of this Similkameen estate.
June 14, 2012
Italy +426692 *only available in private wine stores
This is classic summer bubble: not too fizzy, not too sweet, just right for relaxing on the deck or in the garden. Fresh, lively, and full of ripe peach flavours, it also has a surprising and supremely satisfying zap of minerality in the finish that makes it great with food. Prosciutto and melon is an obvious pairing, but Vietnamese spring rolls or grilled Thai chili basted prawns would be at least as good.
Italy +138651 *only available in private wine stores
Some people say size doesn't matter. What do they know? This is an idea whose time has definitely come. What you get here is a lovely three-litre boxful of juicy, gutsy, great-value Italian red in a convenient (and carbon footprint reducing!) package. This is seriously interesting wine from two ancient Mediterranean grape varieties in A sensible bag-in-box format. With the advent of barbecue season, no fridge should be without one.
May 31, 2012
This silky textured, white pepper and kirschy bomb is priced right for a crowd; order a few rustic pizzas with extra olives and anchovies.
Deep in the Lanquedoc is a highly-respected wine co-operative called Mont Tauch, formed by 250 growers back in 1913; wine was made and the farmers shared the profits. There still exist dozens of excellent wine collectives in southern France that give growers a place to bring their small-grape harvests. One such grower is Farmer Robert, and his established vineyards in rocky Fitou contribute the Grenache grapes for this mid-weight wine. Never, ever fall into the trap of judging a wine by its colour. The translucent strawberry hues of this wine are pale because Grenache is a lightly- pigmented, thin-skinned grape (like Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo). If the colour is innocent, the palate is not, delivering a mouthfull of raspberry and cherry flavours, with plenty of spice and dried herbs. The finish is warm and soft with a silky feel and a grinding of white pepper.
May 24, 2012
The calendar says it's supposed to be spring: if you're not really feeling it, at least you can console yourself with wines from sunny places.
A blend of spicy Grenache Blanc and Marsanne, Mythique Blanc is from lavishly sunny Languedoc-and it lives up to its roots. The colour is lemony and very Mediterranean; the aromas and flavours are floral, citrusy, and savoury, evoking visions of olive groves above the sea and open-air village markets full of ammunition for the picnic of the century. Enough weight and intensity for a delicious lunch of Niçoise salad and crusty bread.
Spain +43109 *only available in private wine stores
Warm, herbal, and silky, here is another glorious paean to sunny weather. From the elite granite and slate terroir of Monsant, this generous red blends ultra-ripe Syrah, Garnacha, and Carinena. Full in the mouth with summer pudding fruits, sweet herbal character, and spicy finish, it gets a little palate boost from three months on oak. A bevy of grilled lamb chops should be on the menu, well marinated in garlic and rosemary before a smoky sear over hardwood charcoal.
May 17, 2012
More wines for a long weekend and even more spot prawns as the season’s bounty continues.
B.C. +820696 *only available in private wine stores
As Champagne lovers know, northern-grown fruit is ideal for sparkling wine, which needs plenty of crisp acidity to provide vibrancy on the palate and freshness on the finish. The Okanagan has a well-established track record with fresh sparkling wines, but this one is very special. Road 13's gnarled 45 year old Chenin Blanc vines are the oldest vinifera vines in the valley. They produced a low yield of very intensely flavoured fruit, with classic green apple and mineral flavours, absolutely perfect for bubble. With its snazzy crown cap and miniscule production, this ridiculously refreshing wine has developed an instantaneous cult following. The wine's weight and acidity is sheer perfection with a platter of boiled spot prawns dipped into melted butter…and might as well start out the repast with a mess of fresh BC oysters on the half shell.
May 10, 2012
It's officially the season for live, local, and sustainable spot prawns, but this little window into heaven doesn't stay open long. So eat the little critters, drink this made-to-match indigenous Pinot Gris, and be merry.
B.C. +128298 *only available in private wine stores
Here is the perfect outside-the-box wonder wine to confound your wine snob friends. Baillie-Grohman is a pioneering winery in the spectacularly beautiful Creston Valley, 350 kilometres east of the Okanagan and well over 700 kilometres from the coast. The Purcell and Selkirk mountain ranges produce an Okanagan-like rain shadow effect, and nearby Kootenay Lake moderates temperatures as the Okanagan lakes do. And with stony, limestone-laced post-glacial soils, the grape-growing conditions here are in the realm of too-good-to-be-true. By fermenting half of the wine in barrel, Kiwi winemaker Dan Barker has deftly balanced fruit, lees, and oak flavours to produce a complex wine with mouth-filling richness and apple/lime freshness, perfect for whenever the sun finally shines. Foodwise, this adaptable white will match decadent prawn pasta with lemon and thyme cream sauce.
May 3, 2012
Any excuse for Mexican food is not to be missed, and Cinqo de Mayo, Mexico's official celebration day of heritage and pride is this Saturday. If your tastebuds crave scallop ceviche, fish tacos, enchiladas, or mole, either get busy in the kitchen or plan some take away from Doña Cata (our Best of the Americas winner for this year's restaurant awards) and choose some wine for smoke and heat.
B.C. +16584 *only available in private wine stores
Wines with fruity character pair brilliantly with incendiary food that also has a touch of sweetness. One of the judges' favourite aromatic blends is the Young & Wyse Amber 2010, a tempting and succulent blend of Viognier, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Fragrant flowers, ripe stone fruit, and jazzy citrus flavours finish crisp, dry, and wonderfully balanced. There is plenty of Okanagan character as well, with a pungent sagey note. Mash up a giant bowl of guacamole with extra cilantro and fresh lime.
Don't worry if you have never heard of Tannat before (it is a southwestern French grape that makes the famous wines of Madiran)—just buy it and try it. The dazzling sun and arid Argentine climate ensures perfect ripeness, and the tannins are as supple and sweet as the slow-cooked pork in your taco. Dark berry fruit, rich oak, and mouth-coating density will meld seamlessly with mole, chipotle, and robust Mexican flavours.
April 26, 2012
New Zealand +128074
Spring is a perfect time for lithe, fresh Pinot Noir and there is a glorious little celebrity Pinot from New Zealand on our winner's list. It's called Two Paddocks Picnic Pinot Noir and it comes from the Central Otago region on the green, rugged south island. The three-vineyard blend features raspberry and dark cherry aromas and flavours with the unmistakable woodsy, forest-floor notes of proper Pinot. Mild tannins give this wine a soft texture, countered by bright acidity and a delicious juicy finish. The celebrity owner is suave and talented Sam Neill, so load the DVD with Dead Calm or Jurassic Park, grill some salmon, pour the Pinot, and enjoy dinner-and-a-movie this weekend.
April 19, 2012
This reviving, uplifting, thirst-quenching crisp red wine is not only a delight to drink, but is highly adaptable with food. Australia is famous for full-throttle reds and elegant whites, but many regions in this vast island are ideal for quixotic Pinot Noir. Yering Station winery dates back to the 1800s and was the first operation in the cool, foggy Yarra Valley. The charming Little Yering Pinot exudes raspberries, sweet herbs, woodsy notes, and cleansing acidity. The mild tannins allow cool-climate fruit to star. Grill some lamb burgers or sear a herb-marinated salmon steak for a fine match.
April 12, 2012
April 17 is International Malbec Day. Once a staple in a red Bordeaux blend and still the backbone of the black tannic wines of Cahors, it's now a minority player in its native France. Not so in Argentina, however, where Malbec has flourished since the 1860s, carpeting the plateaus, valleys, and mountainslopes of Mendoza's wine region in particular. (Argentina has six times France's acreage.) Full-bodied, velvet-textured wines with creamy blueberry fruit and supple tannins have become colossal consumer favourites, catapulting Argentina to the head of the sales charts. Such an eloquent and convincing wine ambassador for Argentina surely deserves a day of recognition.
Over a thousand kilometres north of Mendoza City, amongst sky-high red mountains, is the breathtakingly beautiful wine region of Cafayate. Poised 1,700 metres high, the Amalaya Vineyard yields superbly ripe and balanced fruit due to dry, endlessly sunny weather with chilly acid-preserving nights. Amayala's 2009 red blend features 75% malbec with a bolstering of syrah, cabernet, and tannat. Pure red-berry fruit, petals, and toast mark the nose, and rich strawberry and plum layered with spicy French oak the flavour. Precision farming, fermentation in smooth concrete vessels, and 10 months in oak lend dimension, depth, and finesse to this Malbec blend. Deserves a choice prime rib roast with all the trimmings.
This perfumed, crimson-hued Malbec explores the elevated, rocky terroir of the Uco Valley, Argentina's answer to Napa. Many of the country's most prestigious, high-scoring wines get their lustrous concentration from a combination of soils, sunshine, and elevation in this special microclimate. Doña Paula's 2009 Estate Malbec bursts with signature violet and spice aromas, and the palate is drenched with plummy, juicy fruit. Uco's distinctive minerals and graphite, smooth tannins, and refreshing acidity add up to a compelling finish. Aging in new and used French oak barrels gives this wine ample structure for a grilled striploin steak anointed with Argentina's zingy chimichurri sauce.
April 5, 2012
Wines for a long (and hopefully sunny) Easter Weekend need to be fresh, and show a touch of weight and texture, to take on classic holiday dishes like baked ham, scalloped potatoes, and steamed asparagus. And if ever we needed a wine for chocolate, this is surely the time.
Gewürztraminer is an exotic grape, striking in its range of aromas and flavours. In Alsace it makes famous wines- from bone-dry to unctuously sweet-and it's trotted around the world to Germany, Italy, and Chile. Locally, one of the best Gewürztraminers comes from Thornhaven Winery, high on the slopes of Little Giant's Head Mountain near Summerland. The 2010 shows captivating aromas of rose petals, lychee fruit, and honey, plus a touch of the sausage meat that marks wonderful examples. The palate bursts with luscious flavours of orange peel, peaches, and spice, mouth-filling and textured. Off-dry, but with a vibrant citrusy tang to cut the richness of baked or smoked ham while matching its weight.
Sweet, mouth-coating, and intensely flavoured, chocolate-one of the trickiest foods to pair-needs a wine with concentration, sweetness, and staying power. One of the most marvellous wines for chocolate is Elephant Island Frambiose. The charming and wholesome Halladays (Del and Miranda) run this Naramata gem, specializing in pristine fruit wines. The Framboise 2010 explodes with piercing essence of raspberry, lovely rich sweetness, and a lipsmacking tartness. Give it a sight chill before sipping along with premium Easter eggs, cocoa-dusted truffles, or chocolate bread pudding with bittersweet chocolate sauce and fresh raspberries.
March 29, 2012
Finally, Vancouver has really great pizza, and our zesty red wine picks are designed to be sipped casually with a tasty slice to go. Toss a salad first, then pick up a pizza from one of the proper wood-fired joints (our current fave is the recently opened Via Tevere, just off the Drive at Victoria and William. It hits all the right notes with a blistered, pliable crust, not too thin, not too thick, and definitely not over-sauced).
You get lots of wine for your money here. Piedmont's Barbera grape can be relied upon to delight the senses with an easy balance of fruit, gentle tannins, and brisk acidity. Our value-driven Ricossa delivers abundant ripe cherry and raspberry fruit, baking spice and a Spring-like woodsy character. Round and sweet in the mouth, it finishes smoothly and freshly.
Another brilliant value Italian red, this time from the south. Puglia forms the high heel of Italy's stylish boot, and is sunny and dry with plenty of limestone, which vines love. Farnese is the sort of wine that you purchase by the case, either for a crowd, or to have on hand when the mood calls for a giant tumbler of satisfying, casual red to wash down the pizza. This Primitivo (the grape is closely related to Zinfandel) overflows with dark plummy fruit leather, spicy warmth, and soft texture. Sprinkle the dried chili flakes lavishly on your pizza and put out the fire with lively southern wine.
March 22, 2012
The first day of spring has finally brought lighter, brighter skies and a bounce to our step. Even as hail and freezing rain burst from the heavens, the cherry blossoms are detonating. We need uplifting wine, fresh and vital, to match the smell of new life and hope in the air.
Riesling epitomizes spring. CedarCreek's well-priced and well-balanced rendition shows the precision new winemaker Darryl Brooker has brought to this venerable winery. More focused and drier than ever, the 2010 Riesling smells of petals, peaches, and a whiff of Okanagan sage. Juicy citrus, crunchy apple, and peach flavours are taughtly balanced with fresh acidity. A light but luscious touch of sweetness on the finish opens up a world of food-pairing opportunities, like Thai green curry, fragrant with coconut milk and lime leaf.
Italy +632141 (only available in private wine stores)
Sprightly, earthy, and tangy, this light red has been on our winners' list for years. On the ruggedly scenic central-east coast of Italy known as Le Marche, the breeze-blown limestone hills create a special environment for montepulciano and sangiovese grapes. Scents of wild red berries, forest floor, and spice prepare the palate for tart cherries, fresh herbs, and spiced tea. Mild tannins and crisp acidity keep this charmingly rustic red light on its toes, and ideal for a spring dinner of pepperoni pizza or spaghetti and herby meatballs. Chill slightly for extra thirst-quenching appeal.
March 15, 2012
Think positive. All this rain and recent chilly temperatures at sea level mean terrific conditions on the the local mountains. In celebration of silver linings, an après-ski theme…..
The charm of Pinot Gris lies in its succulent combination of tangy citrus with apple, pear, and peach, all honey-drizzled with honey. And thanks to massively talented winemaker Karen Gillis, this thirst-quenching medium white achieves freshness, balance, and purity. Dry but full of ripe sweet stonefruit and crisp acidity, this Okanagan Pinot Gris will revive body and soul after an energetic day on the slopes. Of course you planned ahead and a cauldron of pasta e fagioli is waiting to be served with crusty bread and a simple green salad. Don't know the soup affectionately named pasta fazool? It's a hearty meal of cannellini beans, pasta, stock, herbs, and tomato paste made even richer with pancetta, sausage, or meatballs. Anoint each steaming bowlful with good olive oil and a pile of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and wash down with the chilled Pinot Gris.
A hands-down winner in the medium red category, this wine won raves from our judges for its fruit depth, velvety structure, and great value. Tannat's tannins can be quite ferocious (the grape is responsible for the historically famous wines of Madiran in the southwest corner of France), but in Argentina's sunny and warm climate, they become meltingly supple. Finca Las Moras is based in the rugged San Juan region, and this Tannat is grown in high-altitude vineyards where slowly ripened fruit detonates with sweet plums and blackcurrant. A year in French oak adds a chocolatey richness, giving body and a smooth finish. Braised meaty short ribs are the perfect pairing, especially if the braise includes red wine, good beef stock, and a few chunks of bittersweet chocolate. Whip up some creamy mashed potatoes or polenta, and pour a generous goblet of Tannat.
March 8, 2012
Looks like we're in for a solid week of rain and heavy skies, so might as well make the most of it with some comforting wine and food—and maybe a little spring cleaning so that when the sun does agree to shine, we are not stuck indoors, mop in hand..
Mudgee is a name to watch for. Tucked away in New South Wale's Central Ranges, this rolling countryside was named Nest of Hills by the Aboriginal people. High altitude (we're talking 500 to 1,000 metres, so imagine vineyards planted close to the top of Grouse Mountain) makes Mudgee distinct, and it has gained a reputation for slow-ripened and structured Cabernet, Shiraz, and Chardonnay. The Robert Oatley Chardonnay shows the finesse and minerality this region is famous for, plus assertive citrus, peachy fruit, and the kiss of French oak barrels. Impeccably balanced and astonishing for the price, this wine deserves a good dinner. Choose a plump roasting chicken, fill the cavity with a lemon or two, make a paste of butter, herbs, and lemon zest, and smear it under and over the skin. Roast the bird, carve, and moisten with the pan drippings. Serve the Chardonnay with a slight chill and dig in.
The name Vino Nobile refers to the fact that this wine was beloved of the movers and shakers of medieval Tuscany, and this wine is indeed noble. One of the oldest wines of Italy, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (named for the nearby town) features a clone of Sangiovese called Prugnolo Gentile, plus a couple of other local red grapes—Canaiolo Nero and Mammolino. The house of Avignonesi's style is stately and structured, and its wines age superbly. The nose captivates with dark cherries, bergamot, and tanned leather, and the palate is richly complex, with plums, licorice, spice, and a mellow, woodsy intrigue. Worth every penny and more, this wine is built for food, so indulge in a prime cut of beef accompanied by an earthy wild-mushroom ragout.
March 1, 2012
The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is in full tilt now (February 27th to March 4th at the new Vancouver Convention Centre, Playhousewinefest.com ), and the Chileans are pleasing palates around the city with ripe, pure-fruited and plush wines that are simply irresistible. Chile is a virtual viticultural island, with vineyards protected by the arid Atacama Desert to the north, the formidable icefields to the south, the Humboldt-chilled Pacific Ocean to the west, and the soaring Andes to the east, crowned by almost 7,000 metre high Mt. Aconcagua. Vines were first planted here in the mid 1500's, and the vineyard area is comparable to Bordeaux in size.
Delicacy and intensity strike a perfect balance in our versatile best-of-category dessert winner. Concentrated and sweet from extra hang-time, familiar Sauvignon Blanc flavours of tangy citrus, guave, and dried herbs join honey, apricot, and pear. Zippy acidity keeps the sweetness in check, refreshing each silky mouthful. Food wise, you can be daring here: try with savoury food like a sweet/salty Thai pork curry or ripe blue cheese fondue.
Chile's marquee red grape Carmenere gets supreme pampering in Erraziriz' high altitude vineyard (570 M) under the watchful eye of Mt. Aconcagua. Here, Carmenere can do what is most essential for this vine – mature slowly and thoroughly. An ultra-late ripener, this Bordeaux renegade benefits from long hang-time and expert canopy management. The Errazuriz Singe Vineyard Carmenere gets that and more, and the wine shows lush black currant fruit, warm spice, a delightful herbal note, and trademark graphite and tobacco. Rich and full in the mouth, with extra sweetness from a year in barrel (33% new and 80% French, 20% American oak), the tannins are supple and plump. Try this wine with butter chicken or lamb rogan josh. Owner/President Eduardo Chadwick will be pouring his wines in the Festival Tasting room March 1, 2, 3.
February 16, 2012
The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is just around the corner (February 27th to March 4th at the new Vancouver Convention Centre, Playhousewinefest.com ) and the theme region for this year celebrates the great wines of Chile. Uniquely endowed with remarkably different environments for the vine, Chile offers a delicious spectrum of grapes, wine styles, and value. Sustainable and organic farming are becoming the norm for this beautiful country where Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc are the most-planted grapes.
Viognier is not widely planted yet, but this finicky Rhône white grape seems quite at home in Chile's dry gravels, schist, and granitic soils. Cono Sur's Viognier is simply one of the best value wines of the world, year after year. Exotic lily, tangerine peel, and apricot scents with a round and succulent dry palate of tropical fruit, freshly balanced with limey acidity. Pour a chilled glass to remind yourself that spring is just around the corner. Cono Sur winemaker Matias Rios will be pouring his wines at the Playhouse Wine Festival in the Tasting Room.
Errazuriz is one of the great pioneer wineries in Chile. Established in 1870, foresighted Don Maximiano headed north to the Aconcagua Valley, planted Cabernet Sauvignon and thus was born one of the great icon wines of Chile. Some of the fruit from the famed Don Maximiano vineyards goes into this colossal value Cab, adding extra richness and complexity. Pure cassis, fragrant herbs and sweet oak spice aromas give way to dark cherry and plum flavours, supple, plump tannins and coastal Chile's trademark brisk and cleansing acidity. Drinks beautifully now, but is a secretly good ager. Owner/President Eduardo Chadwick will be pouring his wines in the Festival Tasting room March 1, 2, 3.
February 9, 2012
Pucker up, it's Valentine's Day! Whether you are headily in love or single and searching, a little wine is necessary to sharpen Cupid's arrow and celebrate this day of love.
Our first wine for romance is a prettily pink dry sparkling rosé from a warm, dry pocket of northern France. Alsace has a fine reputation for aromatic whites, but Pinot Noir basks in solar bliss here, making delicious sparkling wine. The word "crémant" refers to a wine made in the Champagne method, but not from the Champagne region, with bottle fermentation that gives a lovely, yeasty, creamy-moussed wine. Lucien Albrecht is one of the venerable estates here (15th century), and its Crémant Rosé is 100% Pinot Noir crammed with raspberries, strawberries, and spice. Fresh acidity, aromas and flavours of brioche, and a dry, savoury finish welcome a rich pâté or mixed charcuterie platter to start off your salute to love.
This velvety Spaniard is a perfect Valentine's Day red: smooth, silky, and—yes, there's no getting away from it—voluptuous. For Valentine's points it's from Navarra, an unspeakably romantic region full of castles on rugged, wind-swept hilltops and ancient towns along the pilgrim's road to Santiago de Compostela. Soundtrack choice: the stunning 300-year-old guitar music of Santiago de Murcia. Fireplace optional, but highly recommended. Get some lamb shanks braising and nip out and buy a few branches of spring blossoms for the table.
February 2, 2012
Dry and savoury, this stimulating southern Rosé combines lightness with full flavour. Wild berries meet herbal flavours and white pepper notes for a Rosé that is delish to sip on its own, but emphatic enough for food. Made from the classic trio of Cinsault (50 percent), Grenache (30 percent), and Syrah. Lifts steamed mussels, crab cake, or fiery chipotle pork burgers.
January 26, 2012
Let's raise our glasses to Australia Day, celebrated annually on January 26th, commemorating the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788. Eleven square riggers set sail from England, established a penal colony and claimed the land in the name of King George III. Vines were planted by these first settlers and viticulture slowly but surely blossomed in the nearby Hunter Valley, just north of Sydney Cove. Since then vines have spread south- and westwards across the continent, and Australia now ranks 7th in world wine production, flanked by Argentina and Chile. The focus in Australia today is on the premium end of the spectrum, with wines magnificently expressive of Oz's diverse winegrowing regions, microclimates, and geologic nuance. Of course the Australian Open finals are this weekend, giving us extra inspiration to sip from down undah. We might even forgive Lleyton Hewitt for eliminating our young tennis star, Milos Raonic. Maybe…
Margaret River is one of Australia's astonishingly cool regions, in both senses of the word. Cool, as in hip, because this off-the-beaten-path western region (well known to surfers), has a fanatical following of wine lovers; and cool as in chilly, because the surrounding oceans keep temperatures moderate, and breezes stiff. That results in wines that have slowly and perfectly ripened fruit with elegant lines and well-etched, fresh acidity. Evans & Tate Metricup Road is a lovely expression of sensitively French-oaked Chardonnay, with scents of peaches, baked apples, and crisp citrus, melon and shortbread flavours. This fruit bounty is kept nicely tight and trim with tangy acidity and fine minerals, reflecting the Margaret River climate and terroir. And all this for under $20. Shrimp on the barbie, of course, or lemon-squeezed grilled fish.
One of the acknowledged value wines of the world, the Gamekeeper's Reserve is also a delicious example of Oz's two signature red grapes, Shiraz and Grenache, grown in South Australia's Barossa region. Perhaps it is the splash of Portugal's famous Port grape Touriga Nacional that makes this 2010 edition so plummy. The emphasis is on gloriously ripe fruit, with intense aromas of dried blueberries, plums, juicy currants, and a menthol note. Flavours unfurl in the mouth, with dark fruit compote and warm spice. This dry red has gentle tannins and a lush/juicy texture. Meant for drinking in its jubilant youth, it will keep you company watching tennis or, if it is time for food, with a heroically big bacon mushroom cheeseburger.
January 19, 2012
Monday, January 23rd, China time (Tuesday, January 22nd, Pacific time) marks the start of Chinese New Year and ushers in the Year of The Dragon. An auspicious, noble creature, the Dragon is the mightiest of the Chinese zodiac signs, and symbolizes character traits of dominance and ambition. Passionate risk-takers, they live their lives in grand fashion, and often by their own rules. Wines can be like Dragons too, and we have picked two wines that smack you around the chops, latch on to your tastebuds, and simply will not let go … in the best possible way, you understand.
A feminine, Dragon-like wine, this Viognier shows off a perfumed nose with honeysuckle and apricot scents. Stonefruit, mixed dried peel, and spice-box flavours swell in the mouth, with an oily texture and warm, savoury finish. Viognier is an aromatic grape at home in the Rhone Valley and the south of France, and this bargain comes from the sunny Languedoc. Well made, well priced, and tasty with Chinese New Year dinner leftovers.
Every year it seems that a wine from the privileged SunRock Vineyard appears on our winning list. Last year it was the 2007 Syrah, and this year, the 2007 Meritage captured our judges' palates. And no surprise, given how consistently fabulous the fruit is from SunRock Vineyard, where it soaks up glorious sun by day, and is gently cooled by nighttime Osoyoos Lake breezes, a couple hundred feet below. The 2007 Meritage sports ultra-ripe Merlot (50%), Cabernet Franc (40%) and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in flavourful oak barrels for 18 months. Dense, dried berried fruit, exotic spice, and the smoothest tannins imaginable. Big and full in the mouth with a finish as long as a dragon's tail.
January 12, 2012
Our two picks this week are comforting cold weather wines to sip whilst you browse recipes, forage for dinner in the fridge, or simply kick back and order some good Chinese take-away.
Hedonistically aromatic, good Gewürztraminer smells of lychee, peaches, oranges, and rosewater. The flavours are just as exotic, with added spice, honey and an intriguing sausage or bacon fat character. This Alsatian beauty delivers textbook Gewürztraminer character in a rich and creamy winter white. Absolutely built for pork, whether it's pan-fried chops, plump bangers and mash, or a spicy Chinese pork dish.
If you love your wines big, bold, and bossy, then this exuberant Sonoma red is for you. One of our Rich Red winners, Tribunal scored points with the judges for its explosive fruit and powerful structure. Marvellously ripe fruit is a chewy blend of 32% Syrah, 28% Zin, 13 % Petite Sirah, 9% Sangiovese, 7% Grenache, 5% Barbera, 3% Cab Franc, 2% Primitivo, and 1% Merlot (whew), that luxuriates in barrel for 15 months. Ready to drink with some robust eats like meatball pizza, mole shortribs, Cajun blackened steak, or take-out orange peel beef.
January 5, 2012
Happy New Year and let's raise our glasses to eating, drinking and living well for another year. Killer-value wine is what we need now, to stave off vague feelings of buyer's remorse after the holidays, and our two penny-pinching picks deliver phenomenal taste and value.
Argentina +167262 (ONLY AVAILABLE IN PRIVATE WINE STORES)
Mendoza-based Finca La Chemiza pays tribute to a pick-up style of polo with this casual, frisky aromatic white. The grape, Torrontés, is a true Argentine native (a chance crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Mission) with marvellous rose petal and mandarin peel aromas. Fruity/dry, the limey acidity keeps orange creamsicle flavours lively and fresh from front to back. Chill throughly, sip gratefully, then sit back and congratulate your perspicacious economy. Maybe even enjoy a frosty glass at 10 am this Saturday morning to help you through Canucks v Boston (with a cheesy, herbal omelette, of course)!
Farnese stormed the market years ago with a bargain priced Sangiovese, and since then, B.C. wine lovers have embraced the Primitivo just as enthusiastically. Clever genetic sleuthing has uncovered that Primitivo and Zinfandel are clones of the same variety, and certainly there is a strong family resemblance of plummy, figgy fruit and attractive spice. The 2009 Farnese Primitivo is fruit-forward, nicely balanced and oh-so-easy to drink. Buy some lean ground beef or pork for your favourite meatloaf recipe, wrap the loaf in bacon and bake, then serve with mashed spuds and steamed veg. The Primitivo will obligingly do its job.
December 22, 2011
Aren't you clever? You've shopped, wrapped, prepped and primped and are ready for the happy onslaught of family, food, and merriment. All that remains is to select choice wines and shuck a few dozen oysters (for the Chablis, of course).
For 90 years, 300 growers in chilly Chablis have been contributing Chardonnay fruit to the La Chablisienne co-operative, one of many venerable and fine wine-making collectives in Europe. The excellent 2009 vintage gives the La Pierrelée admirable concentration, finesse and ageability. Citrus and chalky scents prepare the palate for taught acidity, green apple and lemon flavours, and a stoney, lingering finish. Ultra-correct Chablis for a remarkable price and a natural with local oysters on the half shell—truly one of the world's great wine and food pairings. The chilled, briney, creamy oysters temper the wine's vigorous acidity and counter the steely nature of Chablis. There is also a heavenly matching of terroir as the vines' roots luxuriate in ancient chalky soils formed when blizzards of oysters clouded the Jurassic seas.
Italy +118687 (ONLY AVAILABLE IN PRIVATE WINE STORES)
If you're of the prime-rib-for-holiday-dinner-not-turkey persuasion, our medium red category winner is what you need. Mellow, firm, and earthy, this mature Italian red hails from Apulia on the heel end of Italy's boot. The grape is the ancient Aglianico (say ah-lee-ahn-eeko) that flourishes in volcanic soils of the Castel del Monte region. Aglianico can have quite muscular tannins and a few years of time in the bottle softens the structure, bringing the wine into balance. Developed, complex scents of plums and leather together with mature, silky tannins and a long, spicy finish need the simplicity of a beef roast with natural pan jus.
December 15, 2011
The Holiday season is at full boil now, with the first Hanukkah candle waiting to be lit on December 20th, and Christmas and Kwanzaa just a dozen days away. This is a good time to lay in a few cases of exceptional value wines that thrilled our judges, as well as a few special bottles for special meals. Go ahead and have a festive splurge.
Western Australia is fast gaining a superstar reputation for stylish Chardonnay, and this beauty from Evans & Tate speaks to the uniquely cool and breezy maritime climate of Margaret River. Acids stay brisk and fresh in this environment, and the Metricup Road Chard features lemon and apply fruit with crunchy crispness, that perfectly balances touch of rich oak and toast. It all adds up to an elegant white for just $20, and a tasty pairing for potato latkes, baked brie, or coconut-crusted prawns.
Big, rich and red scarcely does justice to this suave and handsome wine from Grant Burge in South Australia's Barossa Valley, one of our rich red winners. The "holy trinity" refers to the dynamic trio of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre that pays tribute not only to these grapes' long heritage in OZ, but also to the famous blends of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the southern Rhone. Sweet dark berries, mellow spice, and floral lifts grace this refined wine's nose, and the palate features concentrated ripe-fruit flavours, mineral complexity, and lingering silk-textured finish. Brilliant with a perfectly juicy turkey, or roasted leg of lamb (and the price has recently dropped by $3!)
December 8, 2011
‘Tis the season for entertaining with a little glitter, flamboyance and indulgence. Set an elegant table, polish the crystal stemware, light the candles, and serve our Best of Category rich white and rich red wines with dinner. Fuss in the kitchen a little—you, your guests, and the wines deserve it.
B.C. +580910* (ONLY AVAILABLE IN PRIVATE WINE STORES)
This luxurious Chardonnay truly defines rich white. Pampered fruit from the Castle Vineyard is lavished with new French oak, lees contact, and gentle handling once in the winery. It smells of peaches, lemon curd, and clove spice (evoking thoughts of Meursault), with flavours of baked apples, tropical hints, brioche and minerals. Our best of category rich white has just the right balance of decadence and finesse, and is full-bodied and lusciously textured to match pan-seared scallops with Chablis cream sauce, or lobster thermidor.
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Elite Painted Rock crafts winner after winner and this quality Syrah is a testament to both the vision of winemakers John & Trish Skinner and the special environment of Skaha Lake’s east shore. Powerfully built with 18 months in new oak, this wine has distinctive violet, dense black fruit, herbal, savory, meaty notes and the kind of mineral twang, rugged tannins, and fresh acidity of classic Rhone Syrah. The best of old and new world style with rich fruit, firm structure and glorious stamp of terroir. For dinner, serve duck breast with an intense, woodsy porcini demi sauce with a few dried cherries and sage leaves tossed in as you sauté the mushrooms. Juniper-marinated, bacon-wrapped venison loin would be fitting as well.
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December 1, 2011
Welcome to another 12 months of weekly picks as we taste our way through 109 terrific winning wines from the 2012 Wine Awards Competition. In late October, 16 judges were cloistered at the Vancouver Club for three days, evaluating over 800 wines from 16 countries. Wines were grouped into style categories, just the way we think about and buy wine. You’ll find our winners organized into 10 groups: sparkling, light white, medium white, rich white, rose, light red, medium red, rich red, dessert and fortified wines. This logical, intuitive sorting of wine by style makes is easy to pair to your mood, and with food. Drink up!
A good place to start is our Best of Show wine, a cru Beaujolais full of finesse, exuberant juicy fruit, and lithe structure. Ruby-hued with floral scents, dark cherries, herbal and earthy lifts, the dry palate shows piercing berry flavours with spice, gamey notes and distinct minerality. Refreshing and wonderfully balanced with agile tannins, it has all the elements a brilliant food wine needs—acidity, structure and intense flavour. Gamay is the cheerful grape of Beaujolais, and there are 10 cru villages that give us wines with deeper flavour, firmer body and greater complexity than basic Beaujolais. Our winner is from the cru of Brouilly (say brew-yee), and try it this weekend with roasted pork loin, a cheesey potato gratin and sautéed red cabbage.
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November 17, 2011
Wines for a Grey (Cup) Day
NEW ZEALAND +100594
For kick off, pour the punchy, zingy Kim Crawford Saugivnon Blanc from New Zealand’s championship Marlborough region where the cool but sunny climate slowly ripens fruit to perfection. Expect a wallop of tropical fruit like luscious guava and kiwi, a jolt of jalapeño pepper finishing with a kick of tangy lime. This is a muscular white wine with the kind of intensity that smacks you around the chops and keeps you on your feet cheering. Also very refreshing with hot wings and artichoke dip.
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At half time crack open a broad-shouldered red like local star Nk’Mip (say inn-ka-meep) Qwam Qwmt Meritage 2008. The vintage started off a bit like the BC Lions’ season, dismal and worrisome, but ended up balanced and triumphant, at least for wineries with a good game plan in the vineyard. This athletic red blend lines up Merlot (69 percent) with Cabernet Sauvignon (28.5 percent) and a spicy punt of Cab Franc (2.5 percent). Premium fruit is drafted for the Qwam Qwmt (call it Q2) which luxuriates in barrel for a season and a half before bottling. Rich plum, cassis, and chocolate flavours with lifts of mint and tobacco storm the palate with grippy tannins and a winning finish. A serious and talented teammate for the prime rib roasting in your oven for the post-game show. Go Lions!
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November 17, 2011
McLaren Vale Shiraz is prized for its purity and fresh elegance, and The Wolf Blass shows why. Generous, spicy wine with slowly ripened fruit, brisk acidity, plush tannins, and the lustre of toasty oak is complete enough for sipping beside the fire but robust enough for grilled chops.
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The Sonoma Chardonnay is beloved for its exuberant character and admirable consistency over the decades. Coastal fruit with bright natural acidity gets some barrel fermentation and some cool stainless steel contact that results in balanced oak influence that does not obscure the vibrant forward fruit.
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This deeply-fruited wine is a pure expression of the Sicilian Nero d’Avola grape from cutting-edge Cusumano. Bursting with plummy, peppery fruit, the tannins are sweet and round. Bacon-topped meatloaf is in order.
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Established in the 1950s, Campo Viejo deftly mixes tradition and modernity in pure-fruited, blended (Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo) wines aged gently in oak. In Spain where ageing wine is a moral imperative, “crianza” refers to wines that have aged for at least two years, with at least six months in oak barrels. This crianza gets 12 months burnishing in barrels, and a year harmonizing in the bottle before it appears on store shelves. Smooth-textured red wine with cherry fruit, woodsy flavours, and vanilla notes.
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November 3, 2011
The clocks adjust back this weekend and that means a precious extra hour of braising time. The days are short, crisp and chilly, inviting the unhurried cooking of a hunk of meat in a gargantuan, heavy tightly-lidded pot. Enamelled cast iron is best, but a good stainless Dutch oven is just fine, too. Throw in your choice of meat (brown it nicely first), potatoes, veg, and the vital braising liquid—wine. It should have brisk acidity and lighter tannins (when heavily tannic, oaky wine reduces and astringency is also concentrated). A ladle of stock added to the caldron is also a good idea. An important rule of thumb for cooking with wine: when wine is a major ingredient in a dish (as it is for braising), it should be good. Here are some lip-smackingly award winners for both drinking and braising.
Bing cherry, herbs, and fennel spice refreshes this ultra-versatile Italian red that has a touch of toasty oak, but just the right amount for braising. This satisfying wine is made from the sprightly Montepulciano grape by a respected co-operative with 1,200 members in the hilly Abruzzo.
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Dry, fruit-forward Valpolicella that is well-built and well-priced gets its high-octane kick from fermenting partially dried local grapes, plus a dose of merlot. This wine, with its compelling sweet-sour notes with dried leathery fruit, will warm you from deeply within, and is best for robust braises like lamb or game.
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This elegant new Tuscan red has an impeccable aristocratic angle. Made by Tenuto San Guido’s Marchese Nicolo Incisa della Rochetta of Tenuta San Guido (Sassicaia) in close collaboration with his friend Baron Alessandro de Renzis Sonnino at his Castello Sonnino (whew), it’s a luxurious blend of Sangiovese and Merlot. Lush dark fruit, leathery/spicy complexity, vibrant acidity, and polished tannins—it will elevate any prime cut (wild boar or venison) in your braising pot, as well as make you feel positively blue-blooded as you sip contentedly along.
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October 27, 2011
Henry’s Drive Piller Box Red wine is a brilliant choice for the Halloween weekend. It is full of fun and surprise with a wallop of ripe Shiraz/Cab/Merlot fruit and structure that sneaks up on you. Well-built with bright acidity and soft, seamless tannins, you can sip this pleasure-packed wine all night long while you shell out to the trick-and-treaters. Part of an excellent stable of wines from this imaginative Padthaway winery; the brand pays tribute to Australia’s colourful post-delivery past.
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October 20, 2011
This weekend, 16 of B.C.’s top palates are tuning up for the Vancouver Magazine 8th Annual International Wine Awards judging next week. Five sommelier-of-the-year winners, two Masters of Wine, the best educators, writers, and top wine buyers comprise our extraordinary panel of judges. Not just that, but 8 crack backroom staff, all of them certified sommeliers, are resting up, sharpening their corkscrews, and polishing glasses—their work is just as important as the judges’. To celebrate the impending competition (look for the exciting results in our January/February 2012 issue!) two of the slam-dunk favourites are featured here, as we look forward to the intense event at the Vancouver Club next week.
B.C. +622241 (RESTRICTED LISTING)
Nichol 9 Mile Red is a wine-freak favourite, largely because it includes an ultra-cool, ultra-arcane grape, St. Laurent. Now, this funky grape is usually found in Austria, the Czech Rebublic, and environs, but it feels right at home on the Naramata Bench, and loves its partnership with Pinot Noir in the 9 Mile Red. The wine bursts with raspberry and spice, with well-behaved, moderate tannins, juicy acidity and a charming herbal, earthy character. Warming and reviving all at once and ideal with grilled cheese made with cave-aged gruyere, or smoked paprika-rubbed pork tenderloin.
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Think of this woodsy, fragrant Nebbiolo wine as baby Barolo. Gattinara is a region in Piedmont, just north of the village of Barolo, and the wines are just as delightful but always less expensive. The Travaglini bottle is eye-catchingly askew, and the juice inside boasts rose petal, forest floor and dark plum scents with firmly structured tannins, high acidity and flavours of dark fruit, spices with savoury, meaty notes and a very persistant, haunting finish. This is traditional wine built for food: robust dishes like braised veal cheeks and pasta, venison roast, or strong, aged cheese. Mushroom dishes of any sort (wild mushroom ragout, dense mushroom demi sauce, porcini risotto) are perfect Nebbiolo foils, as is anything truffly.
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October 13, 2011
An autumn white wine that will revive the palate and stimulate the sensesl for an unbeatable price is Chateau Bonnet. Succulent flavours of citrus and herbs vibrates with lemony acid and a dusting of minerals. Fresh and crunchy, this Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend from Bordeaux is a global standard. Try with goats cheese and apple salad.
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October 6, 2011
Riesling is often the perfect choice when wine needs to weave its way through a cornucopia of flavours. The Wolf Blass Yellow Label is sourced from two of the best regions for Riesling: the Clare and Eden Valleys. Dry but loaded with succulent fruit, it smells of lime and white blossoms, and tastes of crunchy green apples with a big squeeze of lemon. Generous fruit balanced with terrific acidity allows this wine to take on the turkey and gravy as well as Brussels sprouts sautéed with smoky bacon.
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This juicy-jammy gem has the fruit intensity, supple tannins, and creamy texture to please red wine lovers as they tuck into mashed sweet potatoes, sage and onion stuffing, and the obligatory cranberry sauce. Inviting scents and flavours of blackberry, mulled-wine spice and herbal lifts with nicely complex earthy notes on the finish that will pair happily with Thanksgiving turkey or duck. Truly delicious Shiraz from the Barossa region that, year after year, captivates our judges.
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September 22, 2011
The many faces of Shiraz will be our FIX picks for the next couple of weeks as we ease into an autumnal, mellow wine mood. This globally planted noble French grape, (Shiraz, Syrah—it’s the same stuff) is packed with dense and chewy dark fruits, firm tannins and refreshing acidity. The styles shift widely depending on growing environment and winemaking, making Syrah/Shiraz wines always interesting to drink. And as for food, pretty much anything goes from barbecue, roasted or braised meats, charcuterie, intense veggie dishes, cheese…
South Africa +699429
This remarkably-priced Shiraz dazzles with cheerful berry fruit, proper black pepper spice, and a hint of smoke. A touch of oak turns up the fruit volume and the Cape’s warm and sunny climate ensures that the tannins are amiably soft. Go South Africa!
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September 15, 2011
Sipping gentle, frothy moscato d'asti is most definitely habit-forming. One of our 7 sparkling wine winners is Marenco Moscato d'Asti Scrapona 2009, and if the extravagant scents of peach, rose petal, and fruit salad don't seduce you, you'd better check your pulse. Just as beguiling are the flavours of orange creamsicle and grape jelly, sweetly mouthfilling and foamy. The finish is long with a refreshing tide of acidity that emerges from the ripe fruitiness. Beloved in Italy, this is perfect anytime-wine, and especially suited for weekend breakfast or brunch (5.5% alcohol) with waffles, local peach or nectarine compote and marmalade-glazed bacon.
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Chardonnay is a natural white for salmon, and the Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County 2008, which won our rich white category this year, is a superb match. Floral aromas of jasmine and Tahitian vanilla suggest a tropical feel that continues with flavours of ripe apples, kumquat, and pineapple. Succulent and weighty in the mouth with smoke and toasty barrel lifts, this Sonoma gem really fits the bill of rich white wine. You could even whip up a lemony beurre blanc sauce for extra dazzle—the wine and the fish will love it.
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It’s hard to imagine a more delicious value Aussie chardonnay than the Bin 222. Brimming with pineapple, juicy citrus, custard apple and a kiss of oak, it really delivers refreshment and pleasure. Trimmer and more stylish than ever before, chill it down and partner with salmon burgers and peach salsa.
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In the parched, high-altitude corner of southeast Spain old monastrell vines cling to life, laboring to produce a few bunches of ultra-concentrated grapes. Bodegas Castaño’s Hécula is a violet-scented, chewy red wine ripe with blueberry and grilled herb flavours, ample body and supple tannins. A perennial best-buy around the world, this Castaño monastrell is gregarious and easy to drink, and just the ticket for an end-of-summer backyard burger bbq.
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Chile +257170 (Only available in private wine stores)
The (too-good-to-be-true) warm weekend ahead demands some fresh and tasty outdoor eating with stellar local specialties. How about goat's cheese salad (crisp greens, green grapes, pecans, massive nuggets of BC goat's cheese and a tangy vinaigrette) paired with Chile's signature grape, Sauvignon Blanc? The Cono Sur Organic is an absolute steal, delivering tangy grapefruit and apple flavours, and lip-smacking acidity with great persistence from one of the most beautiful, flower-strewn organic vineyards ever.
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B.C. +229096 (Only available in private wine stores)
Next course, Dungeness crab (simply boiled or chunky crab cakes), piquant aioli, and butter for dunking paired with a juicy BC rosé. See Ya Later Ranch Nelly is a cheerful dry blend of gamay for structure and crunchy red fruit, and aromatic white grapes for perfume and peppy acidity. Its jewel tones look inviting in the glass and watermelon, cherry, citrus, and spice flavours will refresh your palate after every crab claw.
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August 18, 2011
B.C. +239111 (Only available in private wine stores)
Lamb is in the air as summer days dwindle inevitably towards Labour Day. Lamb's gamey flavours and tender texture invites so many red wines, but a meaty, herbal syrah is especially good. Naramata's Nichol Vineyards made their name ages ago with killer syrah—due in no small measure to having old syrah vines (the first and oldest in Canada), a distinct granitic terroir and winemaker Ross Hackworth's intuitive understanding of this Rhone grape. Concentrated, dark red-fruited flavours with roasted meat notes and smoked herbal lifts, the 2008 syrah has the cracked pepper and streamlined structure evocative of French versions, with the fruit generosity and smooth tannins from a Naramata summer. A year in French oak lends even more spice and complexity. This Canadian standard deserves a butterflied leg of lamb rubbed with garlic and dried sage or rosemary, marinated in red wine overnight and grilled over charcoal until pink.
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August 11, 2011
Optima (like Scheurebe, Sieggerebe, and Ehrenfelser) is one of the early-ripening Riesling-derived crosses that Okanagan winegrowing pioneers such as Quails' Gate Stewart family first planted. Its luscious peach-apricot aromas and flavours make it a perfect late harvest dessert wine. Try it very well chilled with a bowlful of ripe Okanagan peaches drizzled with BC wildflower honey.
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August 4, 2011
Gray Monk's George and Trudy Heiss are true pioneers of winemaking in the Okanagan Valley. One of the first estate wineries to open decades ago, Gray Monk's white wines define freshness, balance, and fruit purity. Particularly admired for their Odyssey series Pinot Gris wines, the brut bubble version is a BC superstar. The inviting scents of blossoms, peaches and herbs joins nectarine, cream, and lemon curd flavours. Dry, minerally, and tangy with lovely Gris weight. Try this pairing: Stuff halved peaches with marscapone cheese filling, wrap in prosciutto, and grill lightly. Pour a generous glass of the brut and dig in.
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July 28, 2011
BC's very own day to celebrate stretches our weekend into three glorious days for patriotic eating and drinking—hopefully with a little real deal summer weather. If not, get a dose of liquid sunshine in the form of Inniskillin Discovery Series Chenin Blanc. This grape belongs to the "A" team of vinifera grapes, at home in the Loire Valley and a few other outposts like South Africa, Argentina, and California. BC has several worthy versions and the Discovery Series from Inniskillin is a tasty interpretation by winemaker Sandor Mayer. Chenin's unforgettable trait is ripping acidity, and in this case, it's nicely coated with peaches, pear, honey, and herbs for a truly refreshing summer wine. A lick of minerality and an intriguing mushroom note is part of the pleasure too. Try with baked brie or country paté.
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A quintessential BC dinner features salmon and pinot noir. The salmon can be grilled, baked, poached, or planked, with flavourings ranging from smokey rub to dilly herbs or soy ginger glaze, and BC pinot noir will take it on. This top-drawer bottling from Nk'Mip (inn-ka-meep) is front-loaded with ripe cherries and black raspberries, and back-stopped with lustrous oak and spice with the sort of smooth moderate tannins that work easily with fish. It's bold and elegant at the same time, with an obvious earthy Burgundian note from winemaker Randy Picton who knows and loves his pinot.
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July 21, 2011
These two white wines are our picks to slake thirst this weekend, as we pretend to be in the grips of a devilish heatwave. Made by two wine pioneers, one Italian and the other Ontarian, they personify purity and integrity whilst delivering great pleasure and refreshment.
Some of the world's greatest wines are born in ancient seabeds, formed by the life and death of primordial ocean creatures. Blizzards of sea plants and mollusks' remains are accreted over the millennia, forming Alto Adige's mighty Dolomites, and the Terra Alpina vineyards sit atop an ancient uplifted reef, or "riff." This elegant, terroir-driven Pinot Grigio is seriously structured with pear and citrus flavours swirling around a backbone of savoury minerality. Hints of almond and blossoms, together with a creamy palate weight, elevate this wine above the norm and invites shellfish, light pastas, or grilled chicken for pairing. And should you need one last endorsement, Terra Alpina is masterminded by one of Italy's top producers, Alois Lageder.
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Paul Bosc is a charismatic, unstoppable force in Ontario, and has been inspiring the Niagara wine industry for decades. A true trailblazer, Chateau des Charmes' stable of wines offers great consistency and quality across the range. Chardonnay Musqué is just as it sounds: a musky, ultra-floral, peachy clone of Chardonnay that pumps up the grape's aromatics. Spiced fruit and intense orange blossom scents adorn the nose, and lovely pure orchard and citrus flavours, kept vital and fresh without any oak, are glorious in the mouth. Plenty of body and texture to partner grilled salmon or pork chops with a nectarine lime salsa.
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Vancouver's Folk Fest love-in brings 70 hours of world, folk, and roots music—plus mellow moods and kumbaya—to eight outdoor locations this weekend. One of the very best going, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival lures impressive gigs from around the globe. Sounds like a perfect time to imbibe eclectically and try something unfamiliar and delicious.
Georgia +485045 (Available in private wine stores only)
Archaelogical evidence suggests that Georgia was the cradle of wine production about 7,000 years ago, and today there is still a lively, quality industry. Saperavi is the local, darkly stained red grape that's useful for withstanding cold winters and a short growing season; as well as for delivering ample acid, alcohol, and tannin for deep, long-lived wines. Impenetrably crimson in colour, the Marani Saperavi shows off dark-berried, woodsy notes with a distinct earthiness and spice—rather like a combination of syrah and cab franc aromas. It's not unusual to encounter sweet-ish Georgian red wines, but this one is dry and savoury with plumy, dried cherry flavours, medium grippy tannins, and very bright, juicy acidity. You feel like you're sipping something truly meaningful and drinking in the ages. Firm enough for meat, but also hums along with veggie cuisine. Kumbaya, baby.
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July 7, 2011
France +106997 (Only available in private wine stores)
Try this utterly delicious apéritif over the weekend as you watch heroic cyclists battle French terrain in the Tour de France's second of four weeks. Pineau des Charentes belongs to a category of wine known as vin de liqueur, blending grape juice from the Cognac region with aged brandy. A respected Cognac house, Château de Beaulon uses sauvignon blanc and semillon juice for the base, adding aged cognac for depth and richness. It's slightly off-dry, contains 17% alcohol, and bursts with grape and honey flavours lifted by the spicy warmth of Cognac. This apéritif should be served at 8°C or poured over an ice cube or two, and you may even add a splash of soda and a twist of orange peel. One taste and you'll see why Pineau des Charentes is the wine lover's favourite pre-dinner tipple.
June 23, 2011
School's out for summer and one of the world's great sporting events is in mid-stroke this weekend. If Wimbledon's signature Pimm's Cup is not your thing, then these two wine picks will serve up big refreshment and grand slam pleasure—plus they're a great way to kick off summer family fun.
If wine is about stories, the Oatley wine family has a long one, going back almost 200 years in Australia. This crisp white embodies both Australian generosity and winemaking skill. Hard to imagine a more thirst-quenching chard than this tropical fruit bomb that combines succulent limey acidity with extravagant melons, peaches, and figs with a lush, creamy texture from a kiss of oak. Lots of wine for a terrific price.
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Rosé really is the colour of summer and is unquestionably the most versatile wine style for food. This screw-capped beauty from a trio of southern French grapes exudes fresh strawberries and spice with an overt mineral underlay from the stoney soils of Ventoux. Fruity but finishing dry, this perennial favourite rosé is made with care by the famed Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel.
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June 16, 2011
Wines for the summer solstice should be as uplifting as that day is long. June 21st is the official date for the longest day of the year, but the ones leading up to la nuit blanche are especially luminous at the 49th parallel. Even at 10:30pm you can read a newspaper outside, garden, or just sit on the porch sipping a civilized glass of wine and feeling closer to the ancients.
New Zealand +160325
Sileni was a pal of the wine god Bacchus, so it's fitting that we should drink this lively Sauvignon Blanc at this auspicious celestial time. From Hawke's Bay in New Zealand's north island, pungent gooseberry meets tropical passionfruit dusted with minerals and a squeeze of limey citrus. Clean, green, and pristine like New Zealand itself, and perfect for the lingering twilight skies.
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B.C. $17.99 +530725
Merlot has always been at the top of the red wine pleasure chart, and this full-bodied, stylish offering combines bold South Okanagan fruit, distinct terroir, and Sandra Oldfield's intuitive wine making. The result is a layered, dark-berried wine with notes of chocolate, spice, and floral lifts. Round tannins, toasty flavours, and a plush texture make this a good merlot for sipping alone or for accompanying a late-night steak sandwich.
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June 9, 2011
Local heroism is our theme here as we champion two BC picks for weekend sipping. Although our wine production is miniscule in global terms (10,000 acres and about 1 million cases), our wine regions are developing an identity and style that is special.
Some of the oldest vines in the Okanagan are these Chenin vines, and they give forth a beguiling wine of great concentration and structure. Orchard fruit with notes of honey and quince are layered with admirable minerality and balanced with ripping acidity—Chenin Blanc's signature. This contributes to great structure and freshness (and ageability) making this a brilliant food wine for grilled pork chops, weighty pastas like carbonara, and rich sablefish. Exotic Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese flavours are also naturals for this magnificent Okanagan white. Small production, but worth seeking out.
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B.C. $40 +182477
There are so many great people in the Okanagan, but David and Cynthia Enns stand out (and so do their wines). Portfolio is a Bordeaux-style blend that knits together ripe and severely selected Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Scents of dark cassis, chocolate with notes of graphite, and petals and sage define the nose while the palate shows lush, dark berry fruit, mocha, and fine-grained, supple tannins kept trim with fresh acidity. This pedigreed red deserves a superb cut of dry aged prime beef.
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June 2, 2011
Australia +651919 (Available only in private wine stores)
This Chardonnay vibrates with laser-beam acidity and tangy lemon, apple, and pear fruit. Add honey, creamy lees, and subtle barrel character and you have a stunner. A serious drinker now, but there is complexity to come with a few years of bottle age. Serve with sablefish with beurre blanc, pan-fried sole, or seared spot prawns
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May 26, 2011
Wines for a Stanley Cup run should involve something uplifting, aspirational, and perhaps, just perhaps (because we daren't get ahead of ourselves), celebratory. Our men in white, blue, and green on well-honed blades wielding well-taped sticks have given us thrill after thrill through three playoff series in the sport so embedded in our Canadian psyche. Four wins to go to snag the hardware—it's guaranteed to be exciting and may even be excruciating, so here are two wines to help calm the nerves as we watch and cheer with hope and pride.
A floral, richly yeasty nose, lively acidity, and a broad-shouldered palate of apple, lemon, and stones define this elegant and well-priced champagne. Rather like Daniel's skilled hands, Raymond's fleet feet, Roberto's steel nerves, and Kessler's athletic perseverance, the Lanson Black Label Brut will heighten your senses from whistle to whistle. And it might come in handy for celebratory toasting.
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A local hero is just the ticket for sipping while we cheer on the home team, and Painted Rock Winery has become an Okanagan superstar with the speed of a Salo slapshot. This gorgeous Euro-styled Merlot shows off dark-berried fruit flecked with spice and pungent BC herbs, tannins that are firm yet suave, and a long savoury finish. Good-looking, well-built, and elegant, like Alex Burrows in a designer suit.
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May 19, 2011
There's not much of the Ehrenfelser grape left on the planet, so BC's vineyards should be preserved as national treasures. But since they're not, our support of all Ehrenfelser wines may help dissuade any further uprooting. Gray Monk's Ehrenfelser has much to offer: it's a Riesling cross, so a familiar slash of citrus acidity refreshes honeysuckle, peach, and pink grapefruit flavours. Gorgeous alone and sensational with Asian flavours.
Lush scents of orange peel, apricot, white blossoms, and a distinctive BC herbal lift define the nose of this attractive Ehrenfelser with expansive stonefruit, citrus, and spice flavours in the mouth. Light alcohol and an enduring fruity finish make this aromatic white perfect for lemongrass chicken, Thai prawns, coconu