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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 Grüner 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.
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.
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.
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.
Last, but not least, a little dessert wine.
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!
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:
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.
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.
Now, onto the last couple big reds, both from Okanagan grapes.
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!
So, things have been not-so-great on the “mothers” front for us lately. As I mentioned previously, my mother-in-law passed away a few weeks back, and my Mom has Alzheimer’s and has deteriorated to the point that we had to move her to a full-time care facility. Now, in the grand scheme of things, this is a very good thing; she will be safer there and will be well cared for. However, she spends all day, every day, waiting for us to come and get her to take her “home” (back to her last place). She is miserable.
Anyway, this has caused an unusual amount of stress in the household, so a couple weeks ago our dear friend decided that to get away from it for a while, we should all go to Blackwood Lane in Langley for “pizza on the patio!”. What a great idea….and we decided to make a day of it, and do something we have been talking about for years but have never got around to: a little Fraser Valley wine tour!
We started off at the closest winery that was open at 11 AM, which was Township 7. We have been to the Township 7 in the Okanagan once but this was our first visit to their Langley location. One thing I noticed right away was that they have reserved the best parking spots for their Club members. A cool perk for those loyal to you. Other wineries should do this!
They had 6 wines for us to taste, let’s see how it went!
So that was it for our first winery on this little impromptu trip. You may have noticed that NONE of the grapes in any of these wines are actually grown in the Fraser Valley. That would change, soon, as this trip unfolds.
Next up: To Abbotsford we go, our first visit to a really new player in the game, Seaside Pearl!
In Vegas for 6 magnificent nights last week, and we decided to make our last dinner of the trip, our “date night”, particularly special. It turned into the most expensive dinner we have ever had, which was pretty much 100% because of the wine.
We started at the bar, while we waited for our table, with a couple glasses of this little gem.
For appetizers, my wife chose a salad while I had lobster bisque. To accompany those, we bought a half-bottle of this. The Eiffel Tower has the most incredible selection of half-bottles that I have ever seen.
Now, for the main event, and pairing with a couple of Filet Mignons (both so big we could not possibly eat them all), how about a 33-year old Bordeaux??
We finished off the meal with a sublime chocolate soufflé, and then rolled ourselves out the door back to our hotel. What a meal, and a perfect way to end a simply spectacular vacation. Cannot wait to go back.
Up next: Lots of random stuff we’ve been drinking to update you on. Stay tuned!
Well I had this blog post about 90% done last weekend and was all ready to get the VIWF finally finished when we suddenly lost my mother-in-law, making blog posts seems pretty unimportant. As if that wasn’t enough, I came home from the hospital with the flu. I cannot remember ever being that sick. My wife, who had JUST got over that same flu she picked up in the same hospital, while visiting her mother a few days earlier, did yeoman’s work taking care of me and nursing me back to health, all while dealing with the loss of her mother. I am a very lucky man.
Life goes on. And so does the blog. Let’s get to it.
We tried hard to get to at least one booth from every represented country, and I think we did a pretty good job. One year it would sure be nice to taste everything at the Festival, but in order to do that, I’m pretty sure we would need a time machine. We even picked up our first-ever bottles from Croatia and Romania. To the wine!
Familia Zuccardi 2016 Q Malbec – 90
Familia Zuccardi 2017 Q Chardonnay – 89
Familia Zuccardi 2016 Tito Zuccardi Paraje Altamira – 92
Familia Zuccardi 2014 Jose Zuccardi Malbec – 92
Barossa Valley Estate 2016 Shiraz – 92
Barossa Valley Estate 2016 GSM – 88
Barossa Valley Estate 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon – 91
Barossa Valley Estate 2015 E&E Black Pepper Shiraz – 94
Ville Le Calvane 2013 Colli della Toscana Centrale Borro del Boscone – 88
Ville Le Calvane 2011 Toscana Matriarca – 88
Ville Le Calvane 2016 Chianti Colli Fiorentini Quercione – 88
Ville Le Calvane 2011 Super Tuscan Oltre Strade – 87
Real Companhia Velha 2015 Evel Tinto – 87
Real Companhia Velha 2015 Touriga Nacional – 89
Real Companhia Velha 2016 Evel Branco – 86
We spent enough time tasting wine from France this year that I am going to give them their own blog entry. Also, there are some pretty spectacular rosés in here, including my new all-time favorite. To the wine!
Table #108 – Borie-Manoux
Château Morillon 2015 Bordeaux – 87
Château Herve-Laroque 2010 Fronsac – 90
Table #109 – Calvet
Calvet NV Crèmant de Bordeaux Rosé – 87
Table #110 – Chartron et Trébuchet
Chartron et Trébuchet 2016 Mâcon-Villages – 88
Chartron et Trébuchet 2017 Pouilly-Fuissé – 89
Table #112 – Les Grand Chais de France
Domaine de la Baume 2017 Viognier – 88
S de la Sablette Rosé – 90
Domaine de la Baume 2017 Pinot Noir Rosé – 87
Château de la Galinière 2017 Rosé – 91
Table #113 – Château Minuty
Minuty 2017 M de Minuty – 88
Château Minuty 2017 Prestige – 89
Table #115 – Ulysse Cazabonne
OK that’s it for France. Can’t wait to really dig into their wines at next year’s VIWF!
For now, just one more blog post to finish it off, as we tour around the rest of the world. Coming up!
Interesting host region for us this year: We already know a ton about California wine. We have belonged to four California wine clubs (three in Napa, one in Sonoma) and we frequently buy wine from California and have it shipped to our package place in Sumas and drive it across the border. So, we figure this week would be about finding some new wineries we weren’t familiar with, and maybe finding some gems that we have previously overlooked. It seems unlikely that we are going to suddenly discover something completely new and different, but you never know.
As in previous years, I will give just my scores for a bunch of the wines (let’s face it, if I did an in-depth review of every wine I tasted I wouldn’t be finished in time for NEXT YEAR’S festival), and full reviews of everything we bought, or wanted to buy but was sold out, and a few other interesting wines as well. Here we go!
I will post the table name and number, which are in alphabetical order. Some booths have labels that may seem out of place but I assure you they are not. A lot of times they have subsidiary labels (ie Silver Oak and Twomey). There were 53 California tables. If a table number is missing, we just didn’t get there.
Don Sebastiani & Sons 2016 Gunsight Rock – 88
Don Sebastiani & Sons 2016 B Side Chardonnay – 88
Don Sebastiani & Sons 2016 B Side Pinot Noir – 88
Don Sebastiani & Sons 2016 Crusher Petit Sirah – 87
Table 8: Duckhorn Wine Company
Duckhorn Vineyards 2016 Napa Valley Chardonnay – 88
Duckhorn Vineyards 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 89
Paraduxx 2015 Napa Valley Proprietary Red Wine – 89
Table 9: Gallo Signature Series
We had the most lovely chat with winemaker Gina Gallo. Yes, Gallo. THAT Gallo.
Don’t let the name “Gallo” scare you off; they make a lot of great wine in addition to the entry-level Ernest and Julio Gallo stuff that comes in boxes and tastes closer to turpentine than fine wine. There is a market for that stuff (OBVIOUSLY), but they also make a million other wines, many of which are of excellent quality. And Gina was a delight….knowledgeable and giving and so pleasant. I think she would have chatted with us for an hour if we didn’t have other wines to taste!
Gallo Signature Series 2016 Russian River Valley Chardonnay – 88
Gallo Signature Series 2016 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir – 90