This past Wednesday was a pretty decent day of wine, including one that received a perfect 100-pt score! @LarianaCellars @HartfordWines @checkmatewinery

I don’t think there is much doubt that we’ve been drinking more wine while in quarantine, but in the past week or so, for whatever reason, I haven’t really been feeling it. That’s not so say we’ve been drinking NO wine, just less than normal.

On Wednesday, we made up for it in spades, not just in quantity, but in quality.

We started off the evening with a lovely red to pair with our dinner, Black Pepper Beef and Cabbage. The meal was FAN-TAS-TIC. Recipe here if you care to try it. It was a good pairing, but not a great one; it didn’t make the food or wine better, but they didn’t get in each others’ way, either.

Lariana Cellars 2016 Carmenere

After dinner, we decided on a Chardonnay. But not just any Chardonnay, one that John Schreiner had recently given the coveted 100-point score to. This is the second consecutive vintage of this wine that has received this honor. We decided to try it head-to-head with a Chardonnay from one of our favorite California producers. We had tried and reviewed that wine before, about 2.5 years ago. Surprisingly, it didn’t change much in that time.

I have never given a table wine 100 points. Would this be the first time? Nope.

Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2016 Little Pawn Chardonnay

Hartford Family Winery 2014 Stone Côte Vineyard Chardonnay

A beautiful night of wine, to be sure, but my search for the elusive 100-point table wine continues!

Next up: Lots more random reviews of stuff we have been enjoying in the last few weeks. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Wine tasting during a pandemic, and a trip to @GlassHouseWine!

Ah, COVID-19. You are, for lack of a more eloquent phrase, a royal pain in the ass.

As we slowly open up our businesses and try to get out of the house a little more, it’s natural to want to get back to some of the things that bring us pleasure. For my wife and I, one thing at the top of our list is getting together with our good friends and hitting up some wineries, whether those be local or up in the Okanagan. Here’s the catch, and it’s a big one: Neither of us is likely to survive COVID-19. So……to say we have to be very careful is an understatement.

My wife has a pre-existing medical condition (asthma) AND an auto-immune disease. I have severe sleep apnea, which was just announced in a study to be a serious contributor to death from COVID-19. It wouldn’t make me more likely to GET the virus, but if I get it, I’m in real trouble. My wife would be at high risk to get the virus, since her immune system is basically non-existent, and if she gets it, well…….not a good thing.

So, for the most part, we are quarantined. When we do go out, we are very careful, and we will have to continue to be so until this virus is wiped out or a vaccine is available.

Does that mean we can’t do anything fun? No, it’s just a question of choosing the right activities. A walk with the dog along the river, enjoying a scenic drive, a picnic in an uncrowded park, or, as I took in yesterday, a wine tasting.

BC’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has called the risk of transmitting COVID-19 outdoors “negligible” and “infinitesimally small”. A recent study of cases in China found a total of ONE outbreak (which caused two cases) linked to outdoor transmission. Although there is little doubt that we don’t know everything about this virus yet, it seems as if enjoying the outdoors, as long as you take some elementary precautions, is very safe.

One of our very good friends lost her job due to COVID, as did I, so we decided it was a great opportunity to head out to the newly-reopened Glass House Estate Winery in Langley. It is about a 40-minute drive from my place, and only about 15 minutes for her. We decided it would be safest to go during a weekday, to minimize the number of guests that we might have to interact with. Oh, and it was somewhat satisfying to go wine tasting while our spouses were working, to earn the money to pay for the wine we were about to buy 🙂

Unlike a lot of wineries open in the Okanagan, they are not currently taking reservations; but we know someone there, and they knew we were coming and what time we would be there. They are in an excellent position for “pandemic tasting”, in that their space is huge. If you want to do a typical wine tasting, they have a large indoor area and tasting bar. If, like us, you want more than that, they have a patio with 8-10 tables, well spaced apart. And, if that’s not enough, they have a large open grassy area with a bunch of picnic tables, where you can take some wine and have yourself a little picnic. They currently have a small “shared plates” menu, but they are expanding that to include burgers and the like in the near future.

We were seated at the end of the patio, nowhere near the other guests. Our servers all wore masks and gloves whenever they were near anyone. We never felt unsafe for even a second.

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Charcuterie board, $29. Delicious.

Let’s get to the wine!

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Glass House Estate Winery 2017 Lustrum

It’s a real treat to have a winery producing wines of this quality less than an hour away from Chilliwack. When my wife has some time off, I’ll take her for a tasting and I know that we will both feel perfectly safe. I will investigate the other Fraser Valley wineries as well and see which ones can accommodate outdoor tastings.

Next up? More random stuff that I’ve been drinking this week, including a bunch of Okanagan wine. Stay tuned!

 

Another post of random updates, including some good stuff, some REALLY good stuff, and one more “best of the best”, a world-class Zinfandel from @hartfordwines.

Hope everyone is staying safe and preparing to get back to whatever our “new normal” is going to be in the wake of this pandemic. Lots of BC wineries are open now and lots more opening up in the near future, so if you are so inclined, get out there and support them. At a socially responsible distance of course!

Let’s get right to the reviews, starting with some Okanagan wine:

Black Swift Vineyards 2017 Vintoro Chardonnay

Checkmate 2015 Capture ChardonnayCulmina 2016 En Coteaux RieslingTerravista Vineyard 2018 FandangoSilkscarf 2015 Cabernet Franc

Some stuff from Australia and Chile:

Viña Errazuriz 2015 Costa Wild Ferment ChardonnayWolf Blass 2015 Gold ChardonnayTahbilk 2008 Marsanne

And down the coast, we visit Oregon and California:

Soter 2015 Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot NoirJoseph Phelps 2015 Pastorale Vineyard ChardonnayJoseph Phelps 2014 Pastorale Vineyard Pinot Noir

And, leaving the best for last, this is what all Zinfandel should taste like. This is the second consecutive vintage of this wine to achieve this high score. Hopefully once the borders open I will be able to get some more of this!

Hartford Family Winery 2015 Highwire Vineyard Zinfandel

That’s it for today, and I am caught up on old reviews.

Next up: This Wednesday, I will be visiting a local winery for a tasting, and you can expect a full report on that later this week! Stay tuned!

 

 

 

A bunch of random stuff we have been enjoying over the last few months, including a beauty from Argentina that makes the “best of the best” list!

Finally have time to catch up on reviews of some really good stuff we have been enjoying over the past several weeks/months. Starting with BC, let’s get right to it!

 

Burrowing Owl 2013 Cabernet SauvignonCedarcreek 2018 Platinum Border Vista Sauvignon BlancLa Stella 2012 AriosoLaughing Stock 2016 ChardonnayQuails' Gate 2013 Old Vines FochRoche 2016 Tradition ChardonnaySummerhill 2018 EhrenfelserThe Hatch 2019 Gobsmacked Sweet P

Here is an example of what a huge difference a vintage can make. This is a wine that usually shows beautifully year after year, but quite a difference in these two vintages for my palate!

Le Vieux Pin 2015 Syrah Cuvée VioletteLe Vieux Pin 2016 Syrah Cuvée Violette

And, a few beauties from other parts of the wine world. Try to find this one from Argentina if you can!

Cheval des Andes 2013

Chateau Montelena 2012 Chardonnay 11.49.36 AMJoseph Phelps 2014 Freestone Vineyards Pinot NoirTrefethen 2014 MerlotPaul Hobbs 2014 Richard Dinner Vineyard Cuvée Agustina Chardonnay

That’s it for now! Next up, lots more random stuff, as I am going to catch up on all my reviews in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Reports on two virtual tastings @BlackHillsWine ! Lots of fun!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will know that it’s a bit of a challenge to attend wine tastings these days. OK, it’s impossible.

So if you can’t go to a wine tasting, why not bring the tasting to you? That’s what Black Hills Estate Winery in Oliver is doing. You pick the wine (there are three packs available: Red, White, Mixed), and they ship it to you and spend an hour on Zoom with you, tasting through the wines. You’ll get led by a knowledgable wine evangelist, and you can bring as many friends as you like (they do not necessarily have to have purchased the pack – the winery requires only 2 packs purchased per session).

A couple weeks ago, we participate in the red wine session, and last night we participated in the white wine session. You can see the various offerings at this link.

We have been club members for years, but this would be the first time we had tasted these specific wines, with the exception of the Nota Bene and the Syrah, which we tasted at last year’s Nota Bene release party. I didn’t review them that evening, but I recall thinking how good the Syrah was, and how big and intense the Nota Bene was. My opinions have not changed.

The other red wine in the pack is the 2018 Carmenere. I am not reviewing that at this time, because I just didn’t like it very much. This is a wine that I usually absolutely love, but this one falls flat, for now. I have this wine in my cellar and I will report on it the next time we open one. I have no doubt it will improve with time; in fact, the bottle that we opened during this tasting did get better when we went back to it the next day, so there is lots of optimism. If you have these, I would definitely let them age for a while.

On to the report!

Black Hills 2017 Nota BeneBlack Hills 2017 Syrah

As for last night’s whites, we opened (and started enjoying) the Alibi about 5 hours before the tasting, and the Viognier about 3 hours before the tasting. Both improved significantly by the time we got the virtual tasting started. The Chardonnay was opened a half hour before the tasting but not poured until it was time to drink it during the event.

Black Hills 2018 AlibiBlack Hills 2018 Viognier

Black Hills 2018 Chardonnay

The winery is making plans to open with limited spaces available, in early June. You will need to make an appointment (or get very lucky if you just drop in), particularly early in the re-opening process, so if you are going to be in the area, give them a call and book your spot.

As a bonus review, when pulling the 2018 Viognier out of our wine fridge, I noticed that we had a couple bottles of the 2017 in there, so today we cracked that one open to see the difference…..and it’s a completely different wine.

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That’s it for today! Coming up, a bunch of random stuff we have been enjoying over the past few weeks/months.

BC Rosé, part deux, some more pink to drink!

As of right now, I have tasted through all the rosé that I have had delivered during this pandemic (and some that were here before that). Here is part two of the report.

Still a few 2019’s to come….have not yet heard release information for a couple perennial favorites, Black Hills and Culmina. I’ve been told that Black Hills new vintage is going to be COMPLETELY different than what they have done in the past. No more Pinot Noir rosé, it has been replaced with a Provence-style rosé featuring Rhône varietals. Exciting!

OK, on to today’s report. There are some beauties in here!

The Hatch 2019 Rose AhtowCedarcreek 2019 RoséQuails' Gate 2019 RoséClos du Soleil 2019 RoséHester Creek 2019 Rosé Cabernet FrancLittle Engine 2019 RoséPainted Rock 2019 RoséQuails' Gate 2019 Lucy's Block Rosé

Up next: Got lots of great stuff to report on, so stay tuned!

A special bottle with a special story from a special winery, a story of patience, and lots of other random stuff.

I am not the most patient person on the planet. In fact, I am probably closer to the other end of the spectrum. I want what I want, and I want it right freaking now. It has always been that way, and I can’t imagine it will change at this point in my life.

So, that kind of attitude really doesn’t work well in the world of fine wine. It needs to age, and since not many wineries do that for you (at least, not enough), you need to do it. That takes patience.

We have been buying wine for, I dunno, around a decade. I started up this blog in 2013, which was probably not long after we began our journey into wine, so it’s probably slightly less than a decade, in fact. But in that time, we have amassed quite a collection. The fruits of our labours, and the patience we have shown, are really starting to pay off.

(BTW did you know that studies estimate that 90% of all wine purchased in the USA is consumed WITHIN 24 HOURS??? That is awful. We have so much more work to do in educating the wine-drinking public).

Yesterday, I ventured out of the house to our offsite cellar. We had 6.5 cases of wine that needed to go in, through our various spring wine clubs and not to mention the wine we bought at the Vancouver International Wine Festival just before we ended up quarantined due to COVID-19. I don’t leave the house that often these days, but with some simple precautions, I am pretty unlikely to catch the virus dropping off and picking up wine at our cellar. It’s unlikely that I’ll run into any people there (and I didn’t), and the wine itself has been in the cellar since long before COVID-19 existed. And since I didn’t have room in our storage lockers to put 6.5 cases in, well, a bunch of “ready in 2020” wine had to come out.

Five cases, in fact, came home with me. This is where the patience is paying off. Many of these bottles have been in the cellar for many years, and looking at the vintages that are coming out….2010, 2011, 2012, 2013…..these wines will have aged beautifully. And I’m not just talking about those ‘special’ bottles either, a lot of the wines we brought home yesterday are just your everyday, easy drinking wines that might be fine to consume at their release date, but they’ll be much, much better now.

The only downside, of course, is that it’s not like I had room in our wine fridges for 5 cases of wine! Far from it. This is what the wine room looks like now.

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All the wine you see in these pictures is “overstock” LOL. The fridges are jam-packed, not to mention there are 4-5 bottles of rosé and white in our actual fridge. You can probably tell that we have not been entertaining for quite a while!!

Why all this talk about patience? Well, another instance of patience paid off last night, as we cracked open our first bottle of wine from Leonetti Cellar. We have tasted a few of their wines at tastings and had a couple bottles at restaurants in Vegas, but this is the first one we had opened at home. We spent 2-3 years on the waiting list just to be able to buy wine from them, and until last night, everything had gone into the cellar (and nothing had yet come out). This particular bottle came aged already, and although it would undoubtedly got even better with more time, you gotta drink this stuff sometimes, right?

Leonetti Cellar 2014 Aglianico

Also yesterday, we enjoyed these two beautifully aged BC Chardonnays. The 2013 came home from the cellar with me yesterday, while the 2015 is actually the current vintage, as Checkmate does a bit of the aging for you!

Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2015 Knight's Challenge Chardonnay

Quails' Gate 2013 SFR Chardonnay

Incidentally, my wife, who’s palette I totally respect, thought I transposed the scores on these two wines; she enjoyed the Checkmate just a tad more.

Oh, and speaking of drinking beautifully aged wine, from time to time you might get lucky and find a winery that is pulling some very old stuff from their cellar and putting it on sale. That was the case with this bottle that we bought recently. It was so good, we had to buy a couple more.

Tinhorn Creek 2007 Oldfield's Collection 2Bench White

And to finish up this report, a bunch of random stuff we have enjoyed in the past weeks, including another off-the-charts-delicious Pinot Noir from Hartford.

Castiglion del Bosco 2010 Campo del Drago Brunello di Montalcinod'Arenberg 2016 The Hermit CrabHartford 2014 Far Coast Vineyard Pinot NoirHartford 2015 Dina's Vineyard Zinfandel

That’s it for today, coming up soon is part 2 of the BC rosé report, plus a ton of other random stuff to report on. I have pages and pages of reviews to prepare and submit. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Rosé all day! All week! All year! Just drink it all the time!

Full disclosure: We are not really “drink rosé in the spring and summer” people. We tend to drink it all year round. Having said that, this is the time of year that the new ones start to hit the pavement. Below, a bunch of BC rosés that we have been enjoying so far this spring.

Consider this “part one” of the BC rosé report, as I have a lot more to taste and review.

First, a few from last year that you can still find.

Culmina 2018 SaignéeQuails' Gate 2018 RoséBlack Hills 2018 Rosé

And here are a few new ones:

La Stella 2019 LastellinaLe Vieux Pin 2019 Vaila

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Not a bad bottle in the bunch. I sure love a good rosé.

Up next: Got a bunch of random bottles to report on, and in the not-too-distant future, a bunch more 2019 BC rosés in part 2!

 

VIWF, part 4, the main event, Dine Italia!!

Hope all my readers are safe and hunkered down with a tremendous amount of wine to get you through. We are going to be in this for a while.

Dine Italia is the best event of the VIWF, every year, and the event we look forward to most. It sells out in minutes every year, and one of these times we are not going to be lucky enough to get tickets, but that hasn’t happened yet. Knock on wood.

I would be remiss in not mentioning how incredibly lucky we all were, looking back. Spending a week in close quarters with wine producers and workers from all over the wine world, including France and Italy, which as we all know, have been absolutely devastated by this virus. At Dine Italia, I sat right next to Andrea Bermond Des Ambrois, the Export manager from Gancia wines. We talked, we shook hands, and we ate our meals shoulder to shoulder. Chilling.

To the food and wine we go!

Note – in cases where the price listed is followed by a ?, it means I am not sure where you could find this wine, but the price listed was given to us by the winery itself. It is likely a suggested retail price.

RECEPTION

CORNETTO DI SALMONE

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Smoked salmon, mini sugar cone, finger lime-fennel crème fraiche, yuzú caviar

This is not totally my thing, I am not a huge fan of caviar OR smoked salmon, but it was still pretty darn tasty. It was paired with a wine we have had before, albeit I can’t remember exactly where.

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PRIMO

TUNA TARTARE

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Yellow fin, pickled cucumber, watermelon radish, sea asparagus, spicy aioli

For the first time in the history of this event, they served me something I couldn’t even try. I don’t like raw fish, I don’t like tuna cooked or not, I despise cucumber and I would rather eat dirt than watermelon. Not exactly a “Dean” dish. No biggie, it was bound to happen. Others enjoyed it.

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SECONDO

GARGANELLI AL FUNGHI

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Garganelli pasta, mushroom mélange, truffle tea, grand padano crisps

It’s not unusual to have a pasta dish with mushrooms, but this is probably the first time I’ve had a mushroom dish with pasta. The mushrooms were the star here, and while mushrooms are not my favorite thing in the world, they can be delightful when done right. THIS was done right.

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TERZO

INVOLTINI DI VITELLO

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Aged milk fed veal, aged parmigiana reggiano, spinach, balsamic Cipollini, Jerusalem artichoke chips, Valpolicella jus

OH. MY. GOD. This was, probably, the best thing I have ever had here. It was unanimous amongst our group, this was just superb. The flavors melded perfectly, and it was paired beautifully with two excellent wines.

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QUARTO

FILETTO ETRUSCA

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Sous vide Alberta Angus reserve been tenderloin, fontina scallop potato, crispy sage, aged balsamic

Another really special dish, paired with two fabulous wines.

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QUINTO

FORMAGGIO E DOLCE

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Taleggio, Vermeer, Aged Asiago, Cranberry raisin crisp, fresh fruit, candied nuts, essence honey & Vanilla bean custard, fresh strawberry compote, strawberry – chocolate tuilé

A perfect way to finish off a fantastic meal. Two wine pairings with this as well, one of which was a lot more successful than the other.

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Well, that’s it for today and this officially closes off the 2020 Vancouver International Wine Festival for me. Here’s hoping that the friends we have made at this event year after year are all OK, and that our lives get back to normal before next year’s festival, which is being hosted by South America! Very much looking forward to it.

Next up: Tons of random stuff to report on, and I am starting to taste through the new BC rosés that I have received so far, and will do a special entry featuring a bunch of those. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!