Here in Vancouver the rainy season has begun.
Sure, sure - we'll still see a smattering of sunny autumn days, but once the clouds start to roll in regularly - it's on.
I just tried the 2016 CVNE Monopole Viura from Rioja as raindrops were pelting our windows, and it was as if the sun broke through on my palate.
Fresh-blooming jasmine, gardenia and elderflower fill the aromatics, with fresh-squeezed lime, pomelo, and blood orange carrying the palate along a mineral core and generous acidity.
If you're anywhere around the world where the rain or snow will fall hard over the next little while and you need respite from it all? In case of emergency: twist cap.
Here in Vancouver it's around 23 bucks at places like Marquis Wine Cellar and Everything Wine. Elsewhere around the world, give it a whirl on Wine Searcher.
While "Cellier des Princes 'Les Vignes du Prince' Vielles Vignes Côtes du Rhône" may not exactly roll off the tongue with ease, the way the wine pleases the palate is effortless. Gobs of purple fruit, violets, and cardamom sail out of the glass with buoyancy and charm; hard to believe it packs a hefty 14.5% alcohol.
Here in Vancouver, it's well under 20 bucks at private stores like Legacy and Everything Wine. Elsewhere around the world, it's likely to be even less (he sighs, while swirling his glass).
A very good friend of mine, the inimitable Jake Skakun of Toronto's Grey Gardens, casually mentioned something to me at least 10 years ago when we were working together in Vancouver. We were tasting a new listing we'd just added to the wine program, I *think* it was a Zinfandel from Hendry, and he mentioned a toasty gingerbread note he often gets from the variety.
Now, I don't often taste Zinfandel, but it's a comment that always stuck with me.
I recently received a sample of Rust Wine Co.'s 2014 Zinfandel from the Golden Mile Bench in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. The vines were planted in 2002, so they've had a good amount of time to establish themselves, but I was still VERY, VERY APPREHENSIVE about how a local Zinfandel would play.
(For those not from around these parts, the region's a literal desert, with cacti, rattlesnakes, and a GDD higher than Napa; this wouldn't be the most unlikely variety to work here.)
The aromatics? BOOM! Jake's gingerbread notes wafted HARD. Currants, mulberries, blackberries and cocoa nestled well in polished tannins, while pitch-perfect acidity kept things lifted with charm.
There's a balance here; it's by no means sweet or cloying. Yeah, it's boozy (the label has it at 14.9% alcohol) - but here in Vancouver, we have a long, dark and rainy winter coming soon enough....
A premium, perennial British Columbian classic: the 'Nota Bene' Bordeaux-inspired red blend from Black Hills Estate Winery has always delivered quality and elegance. The soon-to-be released 2016 vintage (a mix of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc) continues the trend, offering sage-dusted black and red currants, plums, espresso and finesse at a $59 price. There is solid value here; the wine is both drinkable and age-able, and carries a good deal of complexity. In a local climate where premium wines can come out of the gates at ridiculous prices like, oh, $165 a pop, this gem at 60 bucks can almost be seen as a steal. Look for it to be released from the winery on September 1st.
Tucked in with this sample-drop was a new-to-me label from the winery, the 2016 Ipso Facto. This turns out to be the second edition of this wine, a broad-shouldered, Syrah-forward red, balanced with 25% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Now, I'm a big Syrah fan, and inclined to go in that direction rather than a Bordeaux-ish route on most occasions.
In my (yes, biased) opinion, the Ipso Facto is the superior wine of the two. Hey - the Nota Bene's no slouch, at all, but holy shit!
The fresh violets and forest floor aromatics! The mulberries, cocoa, mint, and fresh-cracked pepper! The well-integrated tannins! That drop of balsamic reduction on the finish! Spirited and tasty, I'm now pining for cold and rainy winter days so I can swaddle myself in the stuff.
ALSO: at $49, it's $10 less than the Nota Bene, and that's juuust enough coin to get some awesome charcuterie to go with it.
We definitely have another local legend on our hands.
Here in British Columbia, we're practically the newest of the New World when it comes to having a modern wine industry. It wasn't until the latter-1980's/early-1990's that we focused on Vinifera varieties, with mostly hybrids being the <cough> benchmarks until that time.
On the Naramata Bench in the Okanagan Valley, Ross Hackworth's Nichol Vineyards has been a pioneering winery since the first vines were planted by the Nichol family in 1989.
As long as I can remember, their Pinot Gris has looked like what you see in this picture. A good dose of skin contact gives it that lovely salmon/orange-y hue, bringing a little texture to the palate in the process.
In my sommelier-on-the-floor days (late-90's/early-2000's), I distinctly recall MANY a conversation when bringing it to a table, guests immediately crying, "WE DIDN'T ORDER A ROSÉ!!!"
You see: most people weren't into drinking pink wines at the time, and orange wines weren't really a thing.
This wine stayed true, though. Vintage after vintage, always looking like this, food-friendly and super-delicious.
So, here we are at a time when wines fitting this palette jump off of many shelves with ease. It's hand-picked with 36 hours of skin contact, fermented in a combo of stainless steel and neutral French oak. Peaches, pink grapefruit, lemongrass, and charm.
This wine is a joy and a pleasure, as it has been for quite a while. If you find yourself around these parts, do give it a whirl...
The son of legendary Argentinean winemaker Susana Balbo, José Lovaglio's Vaglio line of wines are bottled tributes to local terroir. This 2016 Selección Regional Malbec from Valle de Uco and Mendoza carries a nice elegance, with well-woven red and purple berry fruit lifted by a nice clutch of basil and lemon balm. A mere 13% alcohol, it won't bog you down, and it's certainly ripe for summer barbecues. As much as I enjoy the flavour profile, I particularly admire the lightweight packaging: a rarity for a country that prides itself on thick-glassed, ultra-heavy bottles to express a premium profile. Lots of deliciousness at a lower carbon footprint; I'll happily take it.
Here in Vancouver, it's widely available at BC Liquor Stores for 22 bucks; it can be tracked down elsewhere via Wine-Searcher.
We were a few days into lengthy seminars and events at Barolo's Collisioni Festival last month, and on the day I met the couple in this pic, the mercury kept rising, fast and furious. It was so hot; sweltering, even. When sitting through the seventh hour of daily wine seminars, and the 43rd-odd wine of the day is being presented - it can be a challenge for winery proprietors to keep an audience engaged.
Yeah, the room was full of some of the best sommeliers, retailers, and media from around the world; we do this for a living, and due diligence is both required and expected. At the same time we're human, we get tired, we get distracted; it happens.
So. When this does happen, it always goes a long way when the proprietor of a winery or a winemaker presenting does so with ENERGY, and keeps things bright with key info we want to know, not droning on too much about minutia, and - well - it helps when the wines they're presenting are good, too.
Enter Daniele Lenuzza and Tanika Paris-Lenuzza of Vigna Lenuzza in Italy's DOC Friuli Colli Orientali (kinda upper-hamstring of the boot of Italy). "Like a breath of fresh air," they say, and that they were. They were excited about what they were sharing, it showed, and it was contagious. Not to be ageist, but they had a palpable youthful energy about them, and I can assure that it was very welcome in our hot and sunny room.
The property has been in Daniele's family for three generations, though he and Tanika have taken the reins in recent years, since a short time after they met in her native South Africa while he'd studying winemaking down there. Their passion for honest, authentic wine equals their obvious adoration for each other; there's an clear mutual giddiness and admiration they carry, even when chatting to a room full of global wine professionals about their wines.
And, OH, their wines!
They are hands-off wines of place. I'm afraid to say minimal intervention, because I don't want Natural Wine Haters to get all scaredy-pants about 'em. They've just received their organic certification, and they indeed employ native yeast fermentation, use minimal preservative sulfur, yadda, yadda, yadda...
The wines are sound and consistent, though; fresh and bright, as well. This includes their pitch-perfect Schioppettino, a recently resurrected red indigenous variety that's medium-bodied, harbouring plenty of violets, rose petals, plums, and pepper.
On the white side, their Ribolla Giallas and Friulanos are floral, fruity and nutty in their respective, charming ways; fresh-as-a-daisy and calling for fish on the table.
While I'm currently crushed their wines aren't available in my home market here in Vancouver, you can bet I'm mentioning them to a handful of local importers and keeping my eyes wide open for them when travelling abroad.
If this is the first, it won't be the last you hear of them. Like them on Facebook or follow them on Instagram, and do opt for any sips which may come your way...
Yeah, yeah, yeah... You've tried a bunch of Prosecco, made a call on whether you like the stuff or not, and if you're a fan - you've already decided which one is your favourite.
There's one more you need to try.
I recently had another visit with Alpha Box & Dice 'Zaptung' NV Prosecco out of Murray Darling, Australia. Holy moley, it's some tasty stuff!
So, yeah, it's not an Italian Prosecco. Why then, can Aussies call it Prosecco if that's name of the iconic Italian region and original home of the Glera-based fizz? Well, it's kind of a long story, but the gist is the Glera variety used to be widely known as Prosecco, so there's a bit of a grey area with the whole thing.
At a mere 5 g/l of residual sugar, the wine's quite dry, with a nice lemon pith grip for texture, carrying splashes of peaches, limes and yellow grapefruit. Clocking in at 11% alcohol, it makes a mighty-fine brunch wine.
To find a bottle near you, track it down on Wine-Searcher.
Oh, and if you want the authentic Alpha Box & Dice experience while swirling it in your glass, here's a Cellar Door Spotify Playlist by family proprietor Dylan Fairweather:
When my friend, the excellent wine writer Elaine Chukan Brown of Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews, posted on Facebook that she’d be releasing thousands of ladybugs into a vineyard today, I have to admit I was stung with envy. Fortunately, modern technology enabled me to get the scoop by texting her, and I was immediately transported to the setting of her whimsical day:
“Grgich Hills Estate does all organic farming and uses biological pest controls instead of spraying. Last night they released 35,000 ladybugs to combat mealy bugs. They asked me if I’d like to help them spread some today. They spread several different species of ladybug at different parts of the season as different means of combating the mealy bugs, which are a pest in Napa Valley (and elsewhere). The goal is not to eradicate any particular pest, but to foster healthy biological balance instead. The shredded paper is to help transport them but also means you can spread them without squishing them and then the paper just degrades.”
Cool, right? And how was YOUR morning?
I enjoyed a little lunch yesterday at Gotham in Vancouver, courtesy of The Wine Syndicate, Bodega Renacer’s British Columbian importer. Across the table from me was Pato Reich, the son of Patricio Reich (who’s the founder and proprietor of Renacer).
We were on the patio, in the blazing-hot summer sun. (Yes, it happens in Vancouver!)
While our cannonball into glasses of 2015 Punto Final Chardonnay hit the (juicy, citrusy) spot, I braced myself for the coming big, bold reds.
The Malbecs? Delicious! Totally enjoyable and on-point. A bit of a chill was put on them and they showed well.
It may be sacrilege to say so, but it wasn’t a Malbec from this lauded, family-run Argentinian winery that blew me away the most.
The Renacer 2015 Punto Final Cabernet Sauvignon was a goddamned showstopper. It carried all the things I love in a good Cab: earthy red and black fruit, a splash of mocha notes, a lift of eucalyptus, and a shaving of pencil lead (seriously, I love that).
Here in Vancouver, it’s a measly 20-odd bucks at private stores like Firefly. Go get it, and throw something awesome on the barbecue.