A bunch of random stuff, including another “best of the best” Chardonnay, and an Okanagan Wine Club pack!

I know, I know, I promised that my next blog entry would be a continuation of our last Okanagan trip at Burrowing Owl. If I can ever find my damn notes, it will be next. But we’ve been drinking some great stuff this summer, and you need to know about it!

If you are not familiar with the Okanagan Wine Club (and you live in Canada), you should be.

Okanagan Wine Club Home Page

Basically, you can sign up (for free), get offers of great packs of wine from the top BC producers (some of them incredibly small and hard to get). There is no cost except for the wine that you buy, and once you buy just ONE pack, you become a VIP, which entitles you to earlier access to future packs. There is also a special Facebook group dedicated to VIP’s. Check it out.

Anyhoo, I bought a pack recently from a winery I was totally unfamiliar with, called Winemaker’s Cut. Here are my thoughts on those wines (3/4 of them, anyway, the Pinot Noir is still in my cellar), plus a bunch of other stuff. Enjoy!

Winemaker's Cut 2018 Gruner VelitlinerWinemaker's Cut 2018 RoséWinemaker's Cut 2018 Sauvignon Blanc

Some other BC beauties:

Culmina 2018 R&D RoséLariana Cellars 2012 TwelveLe Vieux Pin 2012 Equinoxe Cabernet Franc

Quails' Gate 2013 The Boswell SyrahTinhorn Creek 2012 Oldfield Series MerlotTinhorn Creek 2017 Pinot Gris

How about a couple gorgeous white Bordeaux?

Chateau De Fieuzal 2012 Pessac-Léognan BlancChateau Malartic Lagraviere 2015 Pessac-Léognan Blanc

Down the coast we go to our friends in California for some stunners:

Domaine de la Cote 2014 Pinot NoirHartford Court 2014 Fog Dance Vineyard ChardonnayHartford Court 2015 Stone Côte ChardonnayRobert Mondavi 2014 Reserve Pinot Noir

Nickel & Nickel 2015 CC Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon

And, last but not least, a perennial favorite ‘cheapie’ from New Zealand.

Whitehaven 2018 Sauvignon Blanc.png

That’s it for today! If I can find the Burrowing Owl notes, that will be next. If not, we will move on to the next stop on that tour, an early morning visit to Moon Curser!

A short interruption in the Okanagan trip report. Vegas calls! Some incredible food and wine was consumed!

So, you may not have heard, but there are a couple of decent restaurants in Las Vegas. And, one day, I am hoping to have eaten in them all.

OK that’s probably impossible, especially since we keep going back to our favorites. But on this trip, we did branch out a bit.

But before we even got to Las Vegas, we had a couple of hours to kill in SeaTac so we headed on over to our favorite airport haunt, Vino Volo, for a snack and a few wine flights. We were very sad to see a sign on their board informing us that this particular location is closing in less than a month! Although it is going to be replaced by another wine bar, we really like this location, which was the first Vino Volo in the country. Sad to see it go.

To the wine! All of it from Washington State.

Kerloo Cellars 2018 Blue Mountain Vineyard Grenache BlancTranche 2016 Pape BlancWT Vintners 2017 Gruner Veltliner

Rasa Vineyards 2013 Vox Populi MourvedreDoubleback 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

Leonetti Cellars 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

Pretty good way to spend an hour in an airport, amiright???

We actually picked up a bottle of the Grenache Blanc to enjoy in our hotel room. Since we were already through security, we were able to take in on the plane in our carry on luggage.

To Vegas now, where we had three wonderful meals, accompanied by some spectacular wine.

Meal 1: Gordon Ramsay Steak, Paris Las Vegas

I had eaten here once, many years ago, and really enjoyed it. This was my wife’s first visit.

It seems like every time to come to Vegas, we have one of the great meals of our lives. This trip was no exception, and this was the meal. It was nearly perfect, from the wine to the staff to the food. Ironically, the only food item that wasn’t perfect was Ramsay’s specialty: Beef Wellington. It was good, but I’ve had better (in fact, I have made better). The rest of the meal, however, was sublime.

This meal, in fact, featured one of the great food and wine pairings of my life.

We started off with a couple glasses of Hartford Family Winery Chardonnay, to pair with our first courses. They were their entry-level Chard, which are always the same year after year and always very good. This one sells for around $45/bottle in stores, which is about 1/3 of what most of their single-vineyard Chardonnays sell for, so there is a huge step up in quality to their best examples. Regular readers of this blog will know how highly we value Hartford’s wines.

For the main event, we ordered this beauty:

Marchesi Antinori 2015 Tignanello.PNG

What a treat. Glad that we have a couple of these in our cellar!

Earlier I mentioned the most perfect pairing I have ever experienced, and this is the wine. It was absolutely made to go with our dessert, Ramsay’s legendary Sticky Toffee Pudding. PER-FEC-TION.

Taylor Fladgate 30 Year old Tawny

So, that was a pretty good way to start the trip. I mentioned the staff, and I could not have been more impressed with our waiter and his assistant. Not only were they there when we needed them, friendly and funny, they were efficient beyond belief. There was a table of 12 right behind us; when the guests left, they had that table stripped down and re-set in about 3 minutes. And they did not HAVE to be that quick – there was nobody waiting for that table, which sat empty for about an hour. It was a level of professionalism that enhanced an already fantastic evening.

One down, two to go.

The next evening, a trip across the street to Joe’s Steak and Stone Crab, in the Caesar’s Palace Forum Shops. I have previously eaten here twice, my wife just once, and neither of us have been here in years. We have always had good meals here, but with just SO many great eateries in this town, it slipped through. Until now.

Another terrific meal! My wife had chicken and I had a beautiful Filet Mignon with a lobster tail. Pretty traditional, I admit, but it paired very well with our wine choice.

Leonetti Cellars 2013 Sangiovese.PNG

For meal #3, after a long day at the pool in the scorching hot (115 degrees) sun, we stayed in the Paris Las Vegas and decided to try a little Italian place we had never been to called Martorano’s. Our waiter was a first class wine guy, and he was just as disappointed as we were when the first bottle that we ordered, a lovely 2004 Brunello, was oxidized. So, we went back to a different vintage of a new favorite:

Marchesi Antinori 2014 Tignanello

Another great meal and another great wine, although it didn’t come close to living up to the excellence of the ’15.

Well, that’s it, not a bad weekend of food and wine!

Next up! Back to the Okanagan trip, and a visit to Burrowing Owl!


Tasting notes from a visit to a perennial favorite, @MaverickWinery!

After the epic Carmenere tasting, we decided we had time to hit one or two more wineries before calling it a night and retiring to our beach-front Townhouse at the Watermark. Our friends suggested Maverick Estate Winery, and we hadn’t visited them for a year or so, so it was an easy choice. Let’s see how these wines turned out!

Maverick 2018 Origin

Screenshot 2019-08-10 08.47.18


Maverick 2018 Pinot GrisMaverick 2017 ChardonnayMaverick 2017 Pinot NoirMaverick 2016 RubeusMaverick 2016 Bush Vine Syrah

That’s it for now! Next up, we continue the tour with our last stop of the night, at Burrowing Owl!

Also, we just returned from Vegas where MUCH amazing wine was sampled! Full reviews of all of it coming up as well.


Black Hills Carmenere – 12 year vertical!

So this is why we didn’t have time to make a few more stops on the road up here: a 2PM appointment with this fabulous event.

The first of it’s kind! I suspect they may do this again a few times, although apparently some of the older vintages are down to their last few bottles.

2019-06-14 14.14.15
Black Hills Carmenere X 12!


2006: Leather, pepper, tobacco leaf and golden raisins on the nose. The palate is more herbaceous than fruity at this point, but it still shows some black plum and a touch of black pepper. This won’t get any better, but it’s still showing well. 91.

2007: Dusty sage, black raspberry, some other black fruits hanging around on the nose. The palate is juicy and still quite fresh – blackberry, raisins, licorice flavors come through. Peaking now. Delicious. 92.

2008: Red raspberry, white pepper and jalapeño on the nose. Black fruit dominates the palate which still features grippy tannins. This has more time left in it and might even get a touch better. 90.

2009: Red fruit, cigar box and leather on the nose. Strawberry, cranberry, tobacco leaf on the palate. Long finish. Peaking now. 91.

2010: Herbaceous nose, with some red fruit, vanilla and oak poking through the herbs. Dark chocolate, oak, jalapeño on the palate. Delicious now and still has lots of legs left to step up to another level. 92.

2011: Red fruit, green pepper, plum and cassis on the nose. Blueberry and cassis on the palate. Acidity seems high and the finish is fairly short. Drink now. 88.

2012: Red fruit, dusty notes of thyme and sage on the nose. Blackberry, green pepper and a touch of white pepper on the palate. Long, lovely finish. Has another 5-7 years in it. 92.

2013: Aromas of chocolate, oak and forest floor. Herbs and green pepper on the palate. Very short finish. This was the only vintage I didn’t like that much upon release, and it has not changed my mind. In fact, it has probably regressed. 85.

2014: Lighter nose of red fruit and a touch of black pepper. I actually preferred this vintage upon release, which is not to say it’s not still excellent, but it might have shut down a bit. It will be interesting to see this one in a few more years. 92.

2015: Black cherry, black raspberry, plum, smoke, black olive aromas. Menthol, herbs, red cherry and just a hint of the smoke that overwhelmed the Okanagan valley in 2015. Should still age beautifully. 92.

2016: Green pepper, funky mushroom and red fruit on the nose. Blackberry, cranberry, smoke and a hint of cigar box. Tannins are silky smooth. This one can go another 5-8 years at least. 92.

2017: This is a beast. A BEAST. Hot in every sense of the word, with thyme and sage on the nose and palate. Joined by a hint of black pepper, mint and strawberry. I wouldn’t touch this for at least 3 years, and it probably needs closer to 10. Tons of potential for a great wine, though. 90++.


As you can see from my scores, it wasn’t easy to pick my favorite vintage, it was a six-way tie. When it came right down to it, I went with the 2007 in a photo finish. Perhaps it was a nostalgic vote, as I had never tasted a Carmenere that was well over a decade old. What a treat!

Legendary BC wine critic and writer John Schreiner was also in attendance, and it happened that the next day we would run into him at Lariana Cellars, where he would mirror my sentiments about this initial event: A real treat for all concerned, and we should all be aging our Carmenere longer than we think !

Next up: We had one or two more wineries in us this day, and we would head up the road to Maverick Estate Winery!

Short Okanagan jaunt begins with our second visit to @LiberFarmWinery!

Finally getting around to reviewing all the wine we enjoyed on our little 3-day excursion to Oliver and Osoyoos. Driving up through the Similkameen, we usually stop at 2-3 wineries here but didn’t have time for that today, as we had an appointment to get to.

We stopped at Liber and pulled out a little picnic lunch, to enjoy while Mike, the owner, winemaker and just about everything else (he was out in the field chasing away varmints when we arrived!), took us on a tour of his new wines. Here we go!

Liber Farm & Winery 2018 Hello SunshineLiber Farm & Winery 2018 Everyday ChardonnayLiber Farm & Winery 2018 Sauvignon Blanc SemillonLiber Farm & Winery 2018 Estate RoséLiber Farm & Winery 2017 Let Me Be Franc

The next two wines are not even available for sale yet; one just bottled, the other one still in barrel. Prices are approximate.

Liber Farm & Winery 2017 RebelLiber Farm & Winery 2018 Viognier (Barrel Sample)

So that’s it for today! As I mentioned last year when we visited for the first time, I highly recommend visiting these guys any time you are in, or driving through, the Similkameen.

Next up: Our “appointment” that we had to get to was a pretty special event, a first-ever 12-year vertical of Black Hills Carmenere! Stay tuned, you don’t want to miss this one!

Chateau Lafite Rothschild, anyone???

So, yeah, this happened.

Not going to go into great detail about how this bottle fell into my lap, but it did, and we were damn sure not going to let it go to waste. So, a select handful of friends and my wife’s family were invited over to enjoy this special occasion.

To paraphrase Sideways: “The day you open a 1995 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, THAT’S the special occasion!”.

Amen to that.

Since a bottle of wine doesn’t go very far 9-ways, I planned a menu of food and other wines to fill out the evening. We were calling this the third of our “big hunks of meat” nights, but it was obviously more than just that.

We started with some assorted Charcuterie, paired with two wines recently reviewed from our Fraser Valley trip.

Singletree 2017 Victory

Glass House 2018 Madeline Angevine

Next up, a recipe from Chrissy Teigen’s book called “Perfect Seared Scallops”. Were they perfect? Not sure I’d go that far, but they were pretty damn good. For this one, we pulled out the first bottle of table wine to ever get a perfect 100-point score from a major critic:

Checkmate 2015 Little Pawn Chardonnay

With our next course, Brown Butter Risotto with BC Spot Prawns (delicious!), we selected an underrated California Chardonnay, and also cracked open a Magnum of a BC Pinot that I reviewed a few years ago (and it has definitely evolved to the high end of my range!).

Girard 2015 Chardonnay

Quails’ Gate 2013 Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir

For the main event (hey, it’s OK to have the main event in the middle of the night!), I cooked Filet Mignon with a simple Creamy Mushroom Sauce (by FAR, my favorite dish of the night), and it paired beautifully with the rest of the above Pinot Noir, AND…..drumroll please……the First Growth Bordeaux!


Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1995 Pauillac

After finishing up my review of this one, I feel like I need a cigarette.

Kidding. Kids, don’t smoke.

Kids: Also, don’t read wine blogs.

On to the next course, Balsamic Beef Short Ribs that had been developing in our Instant Pot (Slow cooker selection) for most of the day. They were pretty good, but I am just not a huge fan of short ribs. Just too fatty. To go with this, we selected a rarity: A BC Sangiovese!

Summerhill 2013 Sangiovese

Next up was some Flat Iron Steak, covered in a red chimichurri sauce. Very tasty! I didn’t even know that red chimichurri was a thing. To compliment this one, we went with two very different vintages of a BC favorite.

The oldest vintage I have reviewed a couple of times, and I stand by the fact that although it is still very good, it is on the decline.

Black Hills 2008 Nota Bene

We had never tasted the newest vintage (except as a barrel sample) until tonight.

Black Hills 2016 Nota Bene

On to dessert, a simple plate of cheese, nuts, and homemade blood orange gelato (IN-CRE-DI-BLE!!!), two very different wines!

Moulin Touchais 1997 Coteaux du Layon

Taylor Fladgate 20 Year old Tawny Port

What a night! Writing this has made the memories flood back and I think I need to lay down 🙂

Next up! Still a ton of random bottles to update you on, but last weekend we were up in the Okanagan for a few days, with two huge events to tell you about. First a 12-year vertical of Black Hills Carmenere, and then the annual Nota Bene Release Party! Not to mention we also got to tour a handful of other wineries. It was a great weekend, and I’ll start that report soon!



Finishing up the Fraser Valley tour with pizza, a patio, and some incredible wine @Blackwoodlane!

To the main event of this little trip. We were so pleasantly surprised with the overall quality of the wine on this trip! No surprises here, though, where we KNEW the wine was going to be fantastic.

Isn’t it nice when a winery does the bulk of the aging for you? That is the case here, where Proprietor Carlos Lee never releases a wine before it’s time. The wines below are all current vintage, not library wines. Let’s get to it!

Blackwood Lane 2015 Vicuna Roja

Blackwood Lane 2014 Cabernet FrancBlackwood Lane 2014 Reserve Merlot


Out onto the patio where we splurged on a bottle of their 2009 Reference, which I had previously reviewed here, last year. It did not disappoint, and it was nice to have a meal at a winery where we could get a bottle of their wine without paying a restaurant “upcharge”. We simply bought the bottle and took it outside to enjoy with our pizza, which was, by the way, awesome. And, even at $150, it’s an excellent value. Where else can you buy wine that is already aged for a decade? Pretty unreal.

Next up: A special night of wine, food, family and friends that saw us taste our first ever FIRST GROWTH BORDEAUX. Yes, you read that right! Stay tuned!


People in Glass Houses shouldn’t throw wine bottles!

OK let’s face it, NOBODY should really be throwing wine bottles.

Our next stop was at Glass House Estate Winery; a family winery that has recently been taken over by the Joseph Richards Group (JRG). Yes, the same JRG that runs all those public houses. You probably have a JRG pub in your neighborhood. We do.

They are as close to the US border as you can get; their address is 0 avenue. In fact, if you head across the street, you will be in the US. You will also be in a forest, a ditch, or a swamp. I don’t recommend trying that out.

Glass House takes a minimalist approach to winemaking, using only free run juice. And no cork here….in fact, no screwcaps either! They use glass stoppers in all their wine, and they have to be the only winery in BC doing this. Culmina uses a glass stopper in their rosé, but I can’t think of any others off the top of my head.

They have a lovely patio, and they are in the process of adding a full menu which they hope to be up and running sometime in June.

As we saddled up to the tasting bar, I hear a familiar voice telling me to make sure I am giving them a good rating! It’s Rob, who was our WSET instructor at Everything Wine last year! He has transitioned to the JRG and is helping them get their wine program up and running at Glass House. Always nice to see a friendly face, and he took over our tasting and made sure we got to taste through their rather large portfolio.

So, let’s get to it! Apologies for the lack of bottle images on most of these, they are just impossible to find and they have nothing on their website.

All of their whites and rosés are from Estate grown grapes (except where noted), and all of the reds are from single vineyards on the Naramata Bench. Also, all of the whites and rosés are priced identically.

Glass House Estate Winery 2017 Muscat Ottonel

Glass House Estate Winery 2017 Viognier

Glass House Estate Winery 2017 Bacchus

Glass House Estate Winery 2017 Pinot Grigio

Glass House Estate Winery 2017 Chardonnay

Glass House Estate Winery 2017 Millefiori

Glass House Estate Winery 2017 Rosé des Pinots

Glass House Estate Winery 2017 Cameo Rosé

Glass House Estate Winery 2014 Pinot Noir

Glass House Estate Winery 2014 Meridian

Glass House Estate Winery 2015 Austellus

And this wasn’t the last wine we tasted, but I left it for last because it was such an unexpected treat.

A little bit about this rare grape:

Madeleine Angevine is a white wine grape from the Loire Valley in France that is also popular in Germany, Kyrgyzstan and Washington State. The early-ripening grape is a cross between Madeleine Royale and Précoce de Malingre grapes that grows well in cooler climates.

I’ve never seen in on any shelf in BC (not that we get a lot of wine from Kyrgyzstan!), but I have seen it on restaurant menus in Seattle. I never paid it much attention. I certainly will now! And I guess if this grape can thrive in Washington State, it stands to reason that it would thrive in a winery just meters away.

Glass House Estate Winery 2017 Madeleine Angevine

So that’s it for this tasting, another impressive winery in the Fraser Valley. Who knew?? We are very much looking forward to our next visit once the restaurant is fully operational.

Next up: We finish off this impromptu wine tour with the reason behind the whole dang thing: Pizza on the patio at Blackwood Lane!

Fraser Valley Wine Tour continues as we try to solve an age old philosophical riddle!

I believe it was Socrates who first posed the question:

“If a SingleTree falls in the forest, and there is nobody there to hear it, how does the Grüner Veltliner taste???”.

Ah yes, ancient philosophy. It always surprises me.

So, up the road to SingleTree, a winery I had heard quite a bit about around the ol’ water cooler. Or somewhere. Don’t really remember to be honest but I had heard good things. As we arrive to their quaint little tasting room, we notice they have a bunch of “charcuterie-ish” items for purchase, and since we are hungry, we partake in some meat sticks, crackers and cheese. It’s crowded when we get there, so they set us up on a secondary tasting station across from the main tasting bar, which is fine with us because it gives us plenty of room for our do-it-yourself-charcuterie-board and my notes.

I had been told that they make a good Grüner, but unfortunately it wasn’t open to taste…. until I asked them to open it with a very sad look on my face 🙂 That actually did the trick. It never hurts to ask, and it worked out for everyone. I probably would have bought a bottle anyway, but after tasting it, we ended up with 3, including one from a previous vintage. Let’s see how it all turned out!

Prices include all taxes.

Singletree 2017 Victory

Singletree 2018 Grüner Veltliner

Even my wife, not a huge Grüner fan, really enjoyed this. I mentioned above that we also bought one from last vintage; we didn’t get to taste it at the winery but we opened it up this past weekend. It received a couple awards, including a Double Gold, but honestly I preferred the ’18.

Singletree 2017 Grüner Veltliner.PNG

In keeping with their ability to grow certain types of cool-climate grapes in the Fraser Valley, they also had a bunch of Siegerrebe, a grape rarely found in the Okanagan, and we were fortunate enough to taste two different vintages.

Singletree 2015 SiegerrebeSingletree 2017 Siegerrebe

And, of course, we also bought a 2016 and 2018 untasted, because when are we EVER going to get the opportunity to have a 4-year vertical of Siegerrebe again?

Full report on those after we drink ’em.

Now, onto their reds, none of which are grown in the Fraser Valley. All the fruit comes from the Okanagan.

Singletree 2018 Rosé

Singletree 2016 Pinot Noir

Singletree 2016 Merlot

Singletree 2015 Harness

Last, but not least, a little dessert wine.

Singletree 2015 Late Harvest Kerner

We had a lovely experience here, and are looking forward to our next visit. The staff was friendly and helpful, the owner stopped by to say hello and introduce herself, and the wine was universally of high quality. We left here with a mixed case of wine.

Next up: Our next stop takes us back to Langley, nestled right up against the US border, to a winery that I had barely heard of: Glass House Estate Winery!

Don’t miss this one.

Fraser Valley wine tour, Part 2, our first Abbotsford winery: Seaside Pearl!



What a charming little wine shop. Looks more like a church out of “Little House on the Prairie” than a tasting room! But don’t let the looks fool you, there is plenty of room for a group tasting; the shop is much longer than it is wide. And as you can see, plenty of space to take a bottle outside and enjoy some wine with the beautiful scenery.

All of the wine is made on-site, with grapes from the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan.

The first two wines we tasted were a couple different vintages of a grape I had never heard of. I had to look it up:

Petite Milo

Pink, very early ripening. Cabernet Sauvignon, Riparia and Amurensis cross. Can achieve quite high sugar levels and retain good acidity.
Rates 8 for winter hardiness.

Seaside Pearl 2016 Petit Milo

Seaside Pearl 2017 Petit Milo

Seaside Pearl 2017 Fraser Gold Chardonnay

Seaside Pearl 2017 Sam and Isaac Pinot Gris

The next two wines were exactly the same, but completely different. Let me explain: They make this wine in two styles: One, a mass-produced version for retail (Save-On-Foods) and secondly, a house blend for sale at the winery. Quite a profound difference in the quality.

Seaside Pearl 2016 Landing Road Blend SaveOnFoods version

Seaside Pearl 2016 Landing Road Blend House Blend version

Now, onto the last couple big reds, both from Okanagan grapes.

Seaside Pearl 2016 Lovers Lane Merlot

Seaside Pearl 2016 Engineers Petit Verdot

We thoroughly enjoyed our first visit here, and will be back whenever touring Abbotsford. It’s a delightful site.

Next up: To the winery everyone has been talking about, another newbie in Abbotsford, Singletree!