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A great Malbec, if…

27 Oct

20111027-004317.jpgHumberto Canale Estate Malbec 2008
Alto Valle del Río Negro, Patagonia, Argentina

So, this is a new (to me) Malbec from the most southerly wine-growing region in Argentina. Patagonia lies more than 990 miles (1600 kms) south of the much more famous Mendoza and is a considerably cooler climate than the major regions to the north. In the early 20th century, Humberto Canale imported vine cuttings from Bordeaux and established the first commercial winery in the region^.

I found myself with a bottle of Humberto Canale Estate Malbec 2008 from that most southerly region and wondered about how it might differ from wines from its northern Argentine neighbours. When I finally got around to opening it, I found a complex, nuanced wine with blackberry, cocoa, mint, smoked meat, and a host of other intriguing flavours. The profile and structure reminds me more of premium high-altitude Mendoza wines than the ubiquitous fleshy, sweet-fruit reds that currently flood our wine shops. So, is this a great-value wine? Good question, as I no longer have pricing info. I’ll get back to you on that, but for now, I will say that this is either an excellent sub-$20 wine or a less-exciting buy, it’s value inversely related to price.

BC Pinot Blanc

26 Oct

20111026-233412.jpgPeller Estates Family Series Pinot Blanc 2009
VQA Okanagan Valley, BC

BC makes good Pinot Blanc. Many Okanagan Valley Pinot Blanc wines are of very good quality and well-priced, relative to other white wines from BC and elsewhere. I would like to see greater focus and emphasis on this variety. Winemakers should aim for ripe fruit, balanced acidity and moderate alcohol. Tonight’s example, Peller Estates Family Series Pinot Blanc 2009, displays decent fruit-acid balance, but with pronounced (14%) alcohol. There are better examples, but at $12.99, this should be a popular choice.

Lingerings of VPIWF: More Malbec wines you should try

24 May

Malbec: VPIWF left me somewhat smitten with the grape.

Malbec, also known as Auxerrois, Côt, and about 1,000 other synonyms, is a black grape variety that tends to produce inky, violet-black, tannic wines. The thick-skinned variety traditionally used to add colour and tannic structure to Bordeuax wines has found a home in Mendoza, Argentina, where it is used for everything from rosé wine, to simple, mass-produced red table wine to supremely rich and concentrated luxury wines of world-class calibre.

The main aromas of Malbec include cherry, raspberry and plum, dried fruits, blue flowers like violets, coffee and chocolate, leather and balsamic. Ageing in oak contributes vanilla aromas and flavours.

Doña Paula ‘Paula’ Malbec 2008, Mendoza, Argentina $16.99
Lighter-bodied than expected. Varietally correct nose of plum, dark berries, violets, tar and spice.  Satisfying fruit, well-balanced acid & tannins. Excellent value.

Bleasdale Second Innings Malbec 2007, Langhorne Creek, Australia $17.99
Expected a full-force plush Aussie fruit bomb, but this wine is actually quite elegant and well-structured for the price. A food wine, to be sure, with acid and tannin for red meat and subtle Langhorne-esque herbal notes.Bodega Sottano Malbec 2008, Mendoza, Argentina $19.99
Big nose on this one: all the requisite dark berries and fruits, plus licorice, root beer, tar, violets, earth and cracked pepper, all of it distinct and concentrated, but perfectly balanced.  The fruit is mouth-filling, the tannins soft and long, and the acidity provides just enough zing to invite the next sip. Serious Malbec for $20.

Luis Felipe Edwards Family Reserve Malbec 2008, Colchagua, Chile $19.99
The lone Chilean offering stands up to the Argentine competitors without denying its origins.  Chile’s Malbec wines offer fruit, spice and aromatics in a leaner, meaner package. The LFE Family Reserve has an intense, Cabernet-like nose of dark fruits, brambleberry tart, black currant black licorice, tar, toffee, mint, dill and subtle floral notes. The palate is a super-concentrated melange of sticky-sweet fruits like blackberry preserve, a bright berry acidity on the mid-palate and grippy bittersweet chocolate tannins on the finish. Dispite its weight and dense black fruits it remains more austere, less ‘obvious’ than most Malbecs. One step left from Argentina on the Old World:New World spectrum. *My value-for-money pick. I’ll buy this again!

Finca Decero Remolina Vineyard Malbec 2008, Mendoza, Argentina $25.99
Talk about “Old World meets New World”, this is one solid Malbec that shows its feminine side with swirling floral notes and lifted aromatics.  The structure is sound, yet delicate; the fruit big, yet soft. From a young vineyard (Decero means “from scratch”) high in Mendoza, this producer shows real promise.

Mapema Malbec 2008, Mendoza, Argentina $26.99
After 34 years as chief winemaker at Catena, Jose “Pepe” Gallante is now making world-class (and well-priced) Malbec for his new venture “Mapema”. The high altitude, fresh air and intense sun of the vineyard in Consulta, Mendoza have contributed to the formation of a profound Malbec.  Twelve months in new French oak has produced a wine with aromas of black cherry, combined harmoniously with fine notes of chocolate and tobacco, a rich fruit character, and smooth tannins.

#VPIWF: The 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival in Tweets

21 Apr

How much has the (Vancouver) wine world really embraced twitter? This post is a bit of an experiment in the matter, and depends wholly on Twitter users for the quality of its content.

I’ve added a new feed (right sidebar) so you can follow along in real-time with all the action of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival (#VPIWF), courtesy Vancouver’s most hardcore wine-geek tweeps.

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Please note, this post is a WIP: I will compile interesting tweets from various VPIWF events in this post as the festivities continue.

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» Diva(s) at the Met

What happens when a group of women get together? They talk wine, of course! Host Daenna Van Mulligen (aka Wine Diva) will introduce you to an international group of winemakers, proprietors and industry principals, who will share not only the wines they represent, but also the stories of their journey as a woman in the grape trade. After, schmooze and enjoy a selection of small bites prepared to match each wine by Diva at the Met Chef Dino Renaerts. Diva(s) at the Met

TheWineDiva Trying to get to my Divas at the Met event #vpiwf but the 4/20 pot protest has shut down traffic- great- come early. You’ll be stuck too

rtay Heading to the Metropolitan Hotel for Diva(s) at the Met, my first official @PlayhouseWine fest event of what will be a very boozy week.

lfroese Food porn: canapes from Divas at the Met MMMMMMMMM #vpiwf #wine @thewinediva http://tweetphoto.com/19277394

TheWineDiva Divas at the Met 2010 has wrapped. Inspiring women, stories and wine. I am awed-thanks to all you wine divas out there!! #vpiwf

» Canadian Wine Summit as interpreted by @yaffler

The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is pleased to announce a very special dialogue about Canadian wine issues as part of the Trade Days Conference.  What is Wine Brand Canada?   Is it Icewine internationally?  How does Cellared in Canada fit in?  How relevant are issues regarding sustainability?

Master Sommelier John Szabo moderates the morning, in-camera Strategy Session (9:30 – 11:30 am) featuring presentations by Mike Weir Wine, Tinhorn Creek, LCBO, Vincor, Brock University, Flat Rock Cellars, Andrew Peller and Mark Anthony Brands. The Canadian Wine Summit

Yaffler Interesting perspectives in this morning’s Canadian Wine Summit. Although As in all things, the big producers dominated proceedings #VPIWF

Yaffler Purpose of this morning’s Canadian Wine Summit: define winebrand Canada. Initial ideas: focus on diversity & sustainability. #VPIWF

Yaffler But before understanding & defining winebrand Canada, should everyone agree on just what it means to be Canadian in a general sense #VPIWF

Yaffler Key Canadian #wine asset is wine tourism. Vital to building the brand & creating emotional ties #VPIWF

Yaffler The big 3 want cooperation in building winebrand Canada. But only on their terms… #VPIWF Continue reading

W(h)ining: Australia Learns by Rôtie with Shiraz-Viognier

13 Apr

Three Rhône wines, one from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation, that are all blends of red and white grape varieties.

I remember the first time I stumbled across an Australian bottle brandishing the Shiraz-Viognier label, and in my youthful ignorance, I was thrilled to have discovered what I thought was a whimsical Aussie conception.  Mixing red and white wines?  This must be a new idea!  After the initial embarrassment of eagerly sharing my brilliant discovery with a wine-guru confidante, who informed me of my mistake, and then eventually acquiring some formal sommelier education of my own, I came to learn that blending red and white wines, and often cofermenting the different grapes,  is a French winemaking tradition.

For many wine neophytes, like myself some years ago, French wine is a bit of a mystery because it does not label grape varieties, although this is changing to meet demands of new world consumers.  The Rhône valley, in the South of France, produces many blends of both red and white varieties, including some familiar Côtes-du-Rhône wines, and the Côte-Rôtie is only one of several Rhône appellations renowned for them.  In fact, the Côte-Rôtie is the original Shiraz-Viognier producer; these two varieties are, indeed, the two grapes of the appellation, but here the red variety goes by its original moniker, Syrah.

Three wines from the Côte-Rôtie, all Syrah-Viognier blends. The Rostaing (center) is worth $140 and the two Guigal wines (right and left) are both over $450 each.

While there are many Côtes-du-Rhône bottles available at varying prices at most wine shops, Côte-Rôtie wines available in BC are not for everyday sipping.  Also bear in mind, reader, that only some wines from the South of France are blends of both red and white varieties, if this post has influenced your shopping list.

Most red and white blends, like Shiraz/Syrah-Viognier, contain only a small amount of white, and French wines follow strict regulations; AOC law permits only 5% of white wine in Côtes-du-Rhône red blends, for example, and Côte-Rôtie Syrah-Viognier wines can include as much as 20% of the white variety.  But just a touch of Viognier goes a long way.  This unique variety typically adds a delightful perfume of stewed apricot and floral notes and softer palate to red grape varieties… Read more…

What Joe’s Digging: Aussie Grenache

6 Feb

Grenache Noir grapes

Every so often I get on these kicks where I get a bit obsessive about a particular grape or region or producer.  These days I can’t get enough Grenache. More specifically, I’ve been sipping a number of Australian Grenache wines – and enjoying them quite a bit.

While not considered a “Noble” variety, Grenache is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world and an integral part of wines from the Southern Rhone, especially Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas.  Grenache is also widely planted in Spain, where its known both as Garnacha and as Alicante, and also pops up in Italy as Cannonau.  Australia is the only New World wine region where Grenache has taken a serious hold, and where some of the world’s best examples are now produced.

In the glass, Aussie Grenache wines often take the appearance of Pinot Noir: pale strawberry-red with subtle violet hues.  Aromas, too, lean towards the light, and delicate.  Bright red berry, floral notes and hard candy are common.  The palate, however, is another story: big, rich mouthfeel is commonplace, and alcohol contents above 14% is the rule.  This dichotomy is what currently attracts me to these wines.  Light, bright and elegant for summer barbeques, but with enough fullness and complexity to stand up to grilled meats and the hardcore red-wine drinkers that eat the grilled meats. Continue reading

BC Wineries: the WCBC list

16 Jan

Vineyard at Quail's Gate Winery, West Kelowna (courtesy Wine Country BC)

Visit Wine Country BC (and on Twitter) for news, info, podcasts and everything BC Wine!  You’ll find informative and truly useful stuff, like this nearly-exhaustive list of BC Wineries and their websites:

Big list of Wineries and their Websites

Posted by winecountrybc on January 1, 2010

Here’s a list of the 150+ wineries that are currently producing and releasing wines in BC as of now (January 2010). If there are any that I’ve missed, please let me know. The wineries are all listed alphabetically and a few have been grouped together at the end of the list under their respective corporate umbrella. Much more info on each of these wineries will follow soon. Until then, happy clicking. Continue reading

Reviewed: Calvet Reserve de L’Estey Medoc (2005)

12 Jan

Calvet Reserve de L'Estey Medoc 2005

Warm and very dry, 2005 was one of the greatest vintages of recent decades in Bordeaux.  So, I was happy to discover a case of ’05 mixed in with the 30-odd cases of 2006 Calvet Reserve de L’Estey Médoc we received in the fall of 2009.  I picked up a bottle and stashed it for the holidays, only opening it recently.

My expectations were not particularly high.  First, this is not a premium Bordeaux:  at $25 it comes in at the value end of the Bordeaux spectrum (in BC).  Second, J. Calvet is not a producer best-known for ultra-high quality wines.  Third,  Calvet is actually a Saint-Émilion producer.  This wine, a Médoc, must be made from purchased grapes – certainly not their ‘flagship’ product.  All my hopes rested on the vintage:  it’s ’05, so it has to be good, right?

Well, it was pretty good.  Bright red cherries and red currants introduce themselves on the nose, followed by chocolate, dill, anise and hints of earth.   The palate follows a similar pattern, with bright, ripe fruit up front,  moving into dried herbs, cocoa and long tannins.  An approachable and very quaffable Bordeaux from an excellent vintage.  Now to try that “B” vintage ’06 to compare…

At last check, there were a few ’05 left at Everything Wine (North Vancouver), and plenty of 2006.  $24.99

Bunnell Family Cellar Boushey-McPherson Vineyard Syrah (2006)

17 May


Rattlesnake Mountain, Yakima Valey AVA

Rattlesnake Mountain, Yakima Valley AVA

Yakima Valley Syrah
The first Syrah grapes in Washington were planted in the Yakima Valley in 1986. National recognition for Yakima Valley Syrah, together with wide consumer appeal has lead to a substantial increase in Syrah plantings in the past few years. Syrah is just one of the Rhône varieties sparking new interest in Washington State. A spicy, rich, complex varietal, Syrah grapes turn into big, dark, intensely concentrated wines with aromas and flavors of blackberries, black currants, roasted coffee and leather.

Boushey Vineyards
Boushey Vineyards, owned by Richard (Dick) and Luanne Boushey, are located in the Yakima Valley five miles north of the town of Grandview on the southern slopes of the Rattlesnake Mountains. The vineyards are planted on several sites within a two mile radius; generally south facing slopes varying from 700 to 1200 ft. elevation. The first blocks of grapes were planted in 1980 and the youngest were recently planted in 2003. Dick’s philosophy of grape growing is to compliment mother nature. Occasionally he tries to fool her into thinking she is in control but most of time it is the other way around. Varietals currently grown include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Sangiovese.

thanks to Wine Yakima Valley

The Bunnell Family Cellar
Boushey-McPherson Vineyard Syrah 2006

Yakima Valley, Washington
$42.00 (USD) Winery direct

After stints at Beringer, Kendall-Jackson and Chateau St. Michelle, Ron Bunnell, along with his wife Susan, created Bunnel Family Cellar, specializing in small bunnellBousheyMcPSyrahhandmade lots of wine from Rhône Valley grape varieties. The Boushey-McPherson Vineyard, at 1200 ft. elevation, is one of the highest in the Yakima Valley. It is farmed by Dick Boushey, whose reputation for producing world-class Syrah is already well established. Dick’s expert water management produces uncommonly small berries for Syrah, concentrating the flavor and colour in the wine. This fruit is usually the last Syrah harvested for Bunnell. Extended hang time produces a wine of exceptional complexity, depth and substance. The ’06 offering boasts intense aromas of blackberry, blueberry smoke and cured meat, with pickling spice, licorice and mineral notes. The palate is silky smooth, with creamy vanilla oak framing crème de cassis, cherry cola, peppery spice, rose petal, tar and perfectly integrated tannins and acid. 94 points

Amisfield Central Otago Sauvignon Blanc (2007)

15 May

Amisfield's Central Otago vineyards

Amisfield's Central Otago vineyards

New Zealand = Sauvignon Blanc, right? Check out the Kiwi section of your local wine shop and you’ll see countless Sauvignon wines, with the odd Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling peppered in for good measure. But the vast majority of NZ SBs are from the Marlborough region – that Northeast corner of the South Island where 62% of the island nation’s vineyards are and where Sauvignon Blanc is undisputed King. Head south to Central Otago, home of New Zealands best Pinot Noirs. At 45º South, Central Otago is the southernmost wine growing region in the world. But as far as Canadians know, New Zealand = Sauvignon Blanc, so we still see Sauvignon Blanc wines from Central Otago in our shops, when they arguably create much better Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling. The other thing that New Zealand’s wines are known for is quality. Excellent quality, in fact, in everything they produce and export. The cheapest Kiwi wine in BC is $15.99 and it’s very good. NZ just doesn’t produce the mass <$10 bulk wines that Australia and other regions do. And that’s a good thing.A SB nv

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Amisfield Wine Company

Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Central Otago, New Zealand
$32.99 Everything Wine

Amisfield Wine Company is a small estate winery with a vineyard near Lake Dunstan in Central Otago. They specialize in Pinot Noir, Champagne-method bubblies, and aromatic whites such as the lip-smacking 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. The latter wine is delightfully bright, with intense aromas of gooseberry and boxwood, with subtle floral and mineral notes. The palate is clean and lively, with lime, passionfruit, flint and cut grass. Amisfield claims 10% barrel fermentation in French oak, but it’s hardly noticeable here. There is a touch of roundness in the end palate before a firm streak of acidity sparks your thirst back up. 92 points