Tag Archives: wine reviews

Reviewed: Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz Viognier (2005)

13 Apr

The iconic producer Wolf Blass has been making some of Australia’s best, and most-awarded, wines since its inception in 1973.  Early on, Wolf Blass recognized the marketing value of a range of wines in distinct tiers, from everyday to luxury.  Right in the middle of the 8-tier range lies the Gold Label:

The wines created for the Gold Label range are an ever-evolving proposition: emerging varieties, groundbreaking techniques, and the most progressive regional styles are incorporated into the range as they become available. All vineyard parcels are kept separate until final blending and bottling and production levels are dictated by vintage quality. [1]

I recently tasted the 2005 Adelaide Hills Shiraz Viognier from the Wolf Blass Gold Label series of wines:

Wolf Blass Wines
Gold Label Shiraz Viognier 2005

Adelaide Hills, Australia
15% alcohol/volume
$33.99 at Everything Wine (not available at BCLS)

Beautifully bold colour in the glass with a black cherry core and a ruby/violet meniscus.

The nose is intense and Shiraz-dominated, with big, bold blackberry pie filling, cassis, wood smoke, and cured meat. The Viognier offers only a touch of a violet/floral component and hints of dried peach and apricot jam.

The palate is full-bodied and lively, with brambly berry jam, spicy sausage, cherry cola, anise, menthol and white pepper. The finish is long and sweet, with subtle tannins and good acidity. It has the structure to age longer, but must be very near its peak at this point.

I greatly enjoyed this wine with wild mushroom, herb and sherry soup, but it would also be delicious with lamb dishes, duck sausage, and other earthy, rustic fare.

For more information on Shiraz/Viognier blends, from Côte-Rôtie to Australia, check out the new post by Bitch Casserole‘s Ruby Bricks.


W(h)ining: Aromatic Whites and a Toast to the Spring Season

25 Mar

I was delighted to pour a flight of three aromatic white wines on Sunday to celebrate the first day of spring.  I was a bit apprehensive, though, that many of my tasting-bar customers would be less than excited by the offering of all white, off-dry wines.  But the intense fragrance and vibrant, mouthwatering, palate of wines poured from unassuming, Alsatian bottles, pleasantly surprised many folks who might normally shy away from this style of wine.

I’ve noticed that a majority of consumers drink only red, or very little white, and almost everyone, it seems, is afraid of a touch of sweetness in their wine.  I’m not sure if it’s the memory of sugary, flavourless, mass-produced American White Zinfandel circa 1980, or the surprisingly explosive sweetness of that first sip of quality icewine, but it seems to me there is a general reluctance to try off-dry, or, as many people mistakenly call them, ‘sweet’ wines.  An off-dry wine, unlike a sweet wine such icewine, late harvest wine, or port, has just a touch of residual sugar, and, if made to my liking, a good amount of mouthwatering  acidity to balance the sweetness; indeed, this is precisely the difference between an exquisite off-dry Gewürztraminer, and an unpalatably cloying wine of the 80s blush variety.  Acidity in off-dry wine is kind of like a squeeze of lemon in a recipe; it brightens the flavours of the wine, adds a bit of tartness to balance the sweetness, and provides a clean finish to a round palate.

Now, to answer the obvious question I’ve neglected thus far:  What is an aromatic wine?  Wines that are considered ‘aromatic’ exhibit an intense nose, or fragrance, of flowers, fruit, and spices that come from the grape itself, Vinification, by contrast, or the winemaker’s tinkering, produces what we call the bouquet rather than the aroma of the wine.  The bouquet of a Syrah might exhibit characteristics of vanilla and smoke from the oak barrels it is aged in, for example, and its aroma might show luscious black fruit and white pepper.

Some wine varieties (or grapes) considered aromatic are Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, and Pinot Blanc, although wines from these grapes do not always exhibit the intense nose characteristic of an aromatic wine, and sometimes wines can be aromatic even if they’re not made from grapes that are typically considered ‘aromatic.’

The wines I poured on Sunday, however, were all exceptional examples of aromatic wines, and perfect for welcoming the spring season, with their bright aromas of fresh fruit and flowers. 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

Reviewed: Foxtrot Chardonnay (2008)

24 Aug

Foxtrot Vineyards' label - art by Michael Halbert

Foxtrot Vineyards' label - art by Michael Halbert

Foxtrot Vineyards’ first-ever Chardonnay is from the 2008 vintage.  Grapes are sourced from two Naramata vineyards, one 35 years old (85%) and the other 5 years old (15%).  The nose is ripe and intense, with lots of apple and pear on the nose and distinct smoky, meaty notes, plus mineral, yeast and iodine. The rich palate has nice viscosity, subtle vanilla-oak and plenty of lemony acidity.  Among the very best BC Chardonnays I’ve tasted and possibly the most Burgundian of all. Superb first effort. 93 points

In three vintages, Swedish-born Torsten Allander and winemaking-son Gustav have established themselves as ultra-premium Pinot Noir specialists from Foxtrot’s tiny 3.5-acre Naramata vineyard.

Foxtrot Vineyards Chardonnay 2008 $54.99 Everything Wine
Foxtrot Vineyards Pinot Noir 2006 $60.99 Everything Wine

Tahbilk Marsanne (2007)

20 May


Tablas Creek Vineyard has given Marsanne a new home in Paso Robles, California

Marsanne, the most widely planted white grape of the northern Rhone Valley, has a long history– not in single varietal bottlings, but rather as a blending grape. In Hermitage, Marsanne is blended with Roussane to produce the white wine of the appellation; in our opinion, white Hermitage is one of the most overlooked great wines of the world. Incidentally, along with Roussane, up to 15% of Marsanne can be added to the red wines of Hermitage under AOC regulations. For a stellar example of white Hermitage, try Chave’s Hermitage Blanc.

Apart from these origins in the Rhone, Marsanne plantings have expanded in Australia, so much that now 80% of the world’s Marsanne is grown there. The grape was first planted in Australia in 1860, and while most of these original vines are gone, the wines in the vineyard of Chateau Tahbilk, in Victoria, are among the oldest in the world, dating to 1927.

A number of challenges in viticulture stand in the way of single varietal Marsanne exploding in popularity. The grape is highly sensitive to extreme temperatures: when the climate is too warm, Marsanne is short on acidity, limiting its ability to age well; when climate is too cool, the wines tend to be neutral and uninteresting. One strategy employed by winemakers is to harvest Marsanne just before it hits full ripeness, in order to retain some acidity.

from http://www.wineaccess.com/

Tahbilk Marsanne 2007tahbilk marsanne
Central Victoria, Australia
$17.99 Everything Wine

This unusual variety is rarely seen outside of blended whites from the Rhone Valley, and it’s even more unusual to find it without any of its typical partners like Rousanne, Viognier or Grenache Blanc. The Marsanne grape typically offers bright aromas of citrus, quince and honeysuckle with mineral, almond and a rich, slightly oily mouthfeel. Tahbilk specializes in Rhone varieties, and its 2007 Marsanne offers those expected elements, plus tropical pineapple and lime aromas, white peach and apricot flavours and crisp acidity. The palate is rich and full, but not from barrel fermentation. A great unoaked white for the brave or curious or as a good alternative to Viognier. 88 points

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

Soaring Eagle Pinot Noir (2005)

11 May


Holman Lang Wineries
Soaring Eagle Estate Winery
Pinot Noir 2005
VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
$21.90 Winery Direct (current release: 2007 vintage)

Suprisingly saturated colour for a Pinot Noir with a warm, dark cherry-red hue. The nose is richer than expected, too, with spicy plum, black cherry, and earth notes. The palate is reminiscent of a recently-tasted Sonoma Pinot: rich and warm with dried berry, cherry preserve, fruitcake, chocolate and coffee. Still, the fruit and acid are unmistakably BC, and are nicely complemented by soft tannins and creamy vanilla oak. An unusually full and round Pinot that will satisfy the red drinker who usually favours BC Merlot, Chilean Carmenere or even an Argentine Malbec. 89 points

Best Pinot Noir
Okanagan Wine Festival 22
nd Annual Peoples Choice Awards, 2006.

Day 2: the wine developed mature aromas of mineral and herbs. The palate became richer and reminiscent of mature Aussie Shiraz, with chocolate, black fruits, smoke and mint. I must re-state the suprising richness of this humble BC Pinot Noir. Stellar value. I truly hope that future vintages offer similar quality.

Soaring Eagle wines are produced from hand selected bunches of grapes grown on the Naramata Bench. This is truly single-vineyard, low-yield production, ensuring the best possible quality in the bottle. Soaring Eagle resides in one of the most picturesque locations on the Naramata Bench and will certainly become known for the rare scenic beauty of its surroundings.

Winemaker Bernhard Schirrmeister has created a riper, fuller style of wine using later harvesting, barrel ageing and lees contact to enhance but not to interfere with what nature provides.


Dr. Loosen Rieslings

9 May

Ürziger Würzgarten Vineyard (The Spice Garden of Ürzig)

Ürziger Würzgarten Vineyard (The Spice Garden of Ürzig)

Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2007
Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany
$29.99 BCLS, Everything Wineloosen ws kabinett

The blue slate soils of the incredibly steep Wehlener Sonnenuhr Vineyard in Mosel add distinct minerality to its wines. The intense nose of Loosen’s WS Kabinett shows lime zest, grapefruit, honey, slate and peach juice. The palate is off-dry, with lots of citrus and zingy acidity. Pair this low-alcohol (7.5%) wine with all kinds of rich and spicy German fare. 90 points

Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 2007
Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany

$41.99 BCLS, Everything Wineloosen uw spatlese

From the “Spice Garden of Ürzig” comes this delicious late-picked Riesling. Its intense nose shows floral aromas, tropical fruit, mineral and clover honey. Richer and more concentrated on the palate, with passionfruit, mango and a distinct spicy kick, followed by mouthwatering acidity. 92 points

Elephant Island Cherry Wine

5 May


Elephant Island Orchard Winescherry
Cherry 2006
Naramata Bench, BC
$16, Winery Direct

Brick-cherry red in the glass. The nose is somewhat austere, with dried red berry, leather, earth and spice. The cherries come through more on the palate, which is rich and just off-dry with strawberry preserve, black cherry, cola and mint. A very pleasant wine that would be well-suited to slightly spicy bean-based dishes, Mediterranean tapas or pork tenderloin. Elephant Island’s Bordeaux-trained winemaker, Christine Leroux, makes fine “traditional” wines from fruit other than grapes. 88 points – Great value