Archive for the 'Semillon' Category

Tasting – Marquis Wine Cellars presents Buty Winery at C Restaurant

First things first… I’d like to thank John Clerides and the staff at Marquis Wine Cellars for putting on this great tasting. The food and wine pairings at C Restaurant made my day.

From the left, that’s Graham, Caleb (the winemaker and co-proprietor at Buty), John and me (sporting a bit of a winter beard).

Last summer, when Graham and I were down in Walla Walla for the Wine Bloggers’ Conference, we ran into John and as I’ve already written, he said, “Do you guys want to taste something great? Come with me.” We headed out to Walla Walla’s airport wine area and made our way into Buty Winery’s tasting room. What we tasted were some of the highlights of the weekend.

So, when John decided to bring some of the Buty wines into his shop I was pretty stoked. I’ve grabbed a few bottles of the Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and  Muscadelle blend over the last month or so.

I’ll run through what was being poured, with a bit of a review of each wine. So, let’s go. Here’s they are:

  • 2009 Beast Sphinx Semillon
    This was the surprise of the tasting for me. It was a medium-bodied mouthful of honeyed lemon and mineral. So tasty. (4 stars – $24.99)
  • 2009 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc/Muscadelle
    Personally, I love this wine. It has a crisp acidity that makes it a great food pairing wine along with beautiful melon, noney, citrus and stone flavours. What’s not to love? (4-4.5 stars – $31.99)
  • 2009 Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay
    Wow. This was another surprise for me – and was a perfect pairing for the delicious C Restaurant-prepared lobster. It had a really nice citrus-edged crispness with nice tropical and stone minerals on the finish. More Chablis than slutty Chardonnay. Very nice. (4-4.5 – $45.99)
  • 2008 Beast Wildebeest Red Wine
    This blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah and 10% Malbec adds up to a really tasty deep cherry, berry fruit-driven wine with a pepper-edged mineral finish. Nice. (3.5-4 stars – $32.99)
  • 2009 Merlot & Cabernet Franc
    Well now… another surprise. I really liked this. It had wonderful dark fruit and a flintiness on the finish that I find really appealing, especially on elegant Washington State reds. (4.5 stars – $48.99)
  • 2008 Columbia Redviva
    Wow. This is the winner. This blend of 52% Syrah and 48% Cabernet Sauvignon was definitely the standout of the tasting for me. In a word, this wine is elegant. It has a tonne of dark red fruit, but not in an over-ripe sort of way. The berry fruit is almost perfect. So good! (4.5 – $59.99)
  • 2009 Redviva of the Stones
    This wine is a blend of 79% Syrah and 21% Cabernet Sauvignon. To me, this one needed a bit of time. It was pretty closed up. I’m thinking in a year or so its dark fruit and minerality will be more in balance. (4-4.5 stars – $59.99)

It was great to see Caleb again. I always love seeing talented folks who are passionate about what they’re doing. All wines are of course available for purchase or order from Marquis Wine Cellars. Head on over to their site for the contact information.

The folks at C Restaurant deserve a special mention for the fabulous food. Everything was delicious and reminded me that I should head there soon for my seafood fix. Amazing stuff.

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A visit to Hester Creek Estate Winery

A couple of weeks ago, I received a pretty tempting invite – to fly with a few other writers up to the Okanagan Valley for the day to visit, tour and taste at Oliver’s Hester Creek Estate Winery. It’s not often that offers like that come along, so I jumped at the chance. I thought it would be great to check out the new winery they had built and to taste the wines they’ve been turning out.

Hester Creek has an interesting story. The winery’s 75 acres is located on the Golden Mile near Oliver, where hot days and cool nights present almost perfect growing conditions for grapes. It was Joe Busnardo, an Italian immigrant who first planted grapes on the site 1968. Oddly enough, he chose Trebbiano as the first varietal to go into the ground – and some of those original plantings are still around in the winery’s vineyard. They’re thick and gnarled, but turn out a surprisingly tasty wine (more on that in a bit). Joe sold the winery in 1996 and relocated the Divino Estate Winery to the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.

From 1996 to 2002, the winery was owned by a local group, headed by winemaker Frank Supernak. They renamed the winery after a creek flowing on the border of the winery’s land. The vineyards had been left in pretty rough shape, but the group did its best over the next 6 years to make a go of it. Unfortunately, they ran out of money and the winery ended up in receivership. Quite the tale for such a good piece of land.

To make a relatively long story a bit shorter, in 2004 the winery was acquired while in receivership by BC businessman, Curt Garland – and the turnaround began. Mr. Garland set about making the winery live up to its potential. He hired wine-maker Rob Summers in 2006, planted new vines in the vineyards, replaced old overhead systems with drip irrigation, constructed a new winery building and tasting room and really rounded out the project by building B&B style villas on the hill overlooking the winery and vineyards. The place is pretty state-of-the-art… and beautiful.

A lot of our visit was spent in winery’s main building. Here’s a summary of what we did:

  • We ate a beautiful Vegetable Pave (paired with the 2008 Pinot Gris), crafted by Chef Roger Planiden in their modern demonstration kitchen. This was built to hold cooking classes and small events at the winery.
    • 2008 Pinot Gris ($16.99) – very nice with a light minerality to the crisp citrus and peach flavours. It paired very well with the Pave. 3.5 stars
  • We then moved to their dining room, where we had an incredibly tasty meal of prosciutto-wrapped chicken in a blackberry reduction.
    • 2008 Cabernet/Merlot Blend ($15.99) -velvety cherry and berry flavours made this a surprisingly good pairing with the meal. 3.5 stars
  • Dessert was a delicious Chocolate Crème Brûlée with berries.
    • 2006 Reserve Merlot ($25.99) – very herbal, with nice ripe cherry/berry and coffee flavours. Silky tannins finish things off. 4 stars

After a tour of the winery’s inner workings, we ended up in the upstairs Board Room, where we tasted through much of the current Hester Creek line-up:

  • 2008 Trebbiano ($18.99) – this really surprised me. I didn’t expect to like it, but I did. A lot. It’s the perfect light summer aperitif wine that has enough zippy citrus acidity to stand up to olives and other light fare. I’ve since bought a bottle to enjoy at home. 4 stars
  • 2008 Pinot Blanc ($15.99) – another solid white. This food-friendly PB has really nice acidity to its peach, melon and apple flavours. 3.5 – 4 stars
  • 2008 Semillon/Chardonnay ($15.99) – this 50/50 blend offers up better than expected flavours of grapefruit, melon, apple and honey. It had a nice long mineral-edged finish. 3.5 stars
  • 2008 Merlot ($16.99) – soft tannins edged the ripe red cherry/berry fruit. 3.5 stars
  • 2006 Reserve Merlot ($25.99) – see the notes above…
  • 2006 Reserve Cabernet Franc ($25.99) – this proved to be my favourite of the reds we tasted. The nose had an herbal edge to the coffee, leather and dark cherry aromas. A sip showed ripe cherry, earth, dark chocolate and firm tannins to the herbal finish. I’ve since had another chance to taste it and liked it both times. 4 stars
  • We also had the chance to taste the 2008 vintage of what the folks at the winery refer to as “Italian Merlot“. They currently use it for blending, but we tasted a sample of it for interest’s sake. I really liked it. I thought it was Dolcetto-like in its earthy and herbal ripe red berry nose and in its flavours which gave me ripe and earthy red berry fruit with a long and mineral and pepper-edged finish. 4 stars

After the more formal tasting in the Board Room, a few of us were joined by wine-maker, Rob Summers at the counter in the tasting room. He started opening bottles (and boxes) for us to try. He’s an enthusiastic guy – and that rubs off. He wanted to share with us what he had been up to at the winery. It was cool to taste the difference between the 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, made by wine-making consultant Eric von Krosigk and the 2006, made by Rob. The 2005 was extremely vegetal. The 2006 had a much fruitier edge. Having said that, they’ll no longer be making a single-varietal Cabernet Sauvignon. Instead, those grapes will be used for blending.

All in all, I was quite impressed. It had been years since I had tried a wine from Hester Creek – and there was a reason for that. I hadn’t liked the wine that had come from there. Not so any more. With the new facilities and plantings, it’s now up to the wine-making team to run with it and show what they can do. Fortunately, from what I tasted, they’re well on their way.

If what they’re trying to do is position themselves as a value winery with approachable wines for the everyday consumer, I’d have to say that they’re hitting the mark. The wines are not necessarily ones that you would choose to sit in your cellar, but they are very affordable and approachable wines to drink today.

They definitely sit on some good land and from what I heard last Wednesday, could be aiming at the higher market some time in the near future with a smaller production Reserve wine… and let’s hope that wine-maker Rob Summers makes that happen. It would be fun to see what they could do with the resources they have.

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Best Damn Tasting Ever! presented by the Seacove Group and New World Wines

OK, so I’ve been really bad with posting lately… and rightfully so. I’ve got a life and a full-time, outside wine job. I’ve been feeling badly about the lack of posts, so I’ve resolved to writing at least a few of ’em a week for the next while. Not only does that accomplish the more-posts-in-a-month goal, but it also makes me document the wine I drink, which was the original idea behind this site.

Well, now that that’s out there, I’ll get down to the task at hand. A few weeks ago, I received an invite from my friend Paul Watkin, who works with the Seacove Group, a wine agency in town for a tempting-sounding trade tasting being held at the Metropolitan Hotel.

The tasting was put on by the Seacove Group and the New World Wines agencies – and featured a diverse selection of wines from pretty much everywhere. There were wines from Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand, Portugal and the USA. Graham and I made our way around the room and I can honestly say there wasn’t a single wine we didn’t enjoy. Both agencies have some stunners, so I’m just going to give you our top 5’s from each.

Graham’s picks from Seacove:

  • Champagne de Venoge Brut Milliesime 1995 – Stunning length with beautiful citrus and lees.
  • Livon Braide Alte 2006 – Loved this wine.  Superbly crisp with nice pear and lime and solid mineral finish.  I imagined this with mussels or clams.  Mmmmm….
  • Egelhoff Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 – A gorgeous Napa Cab with great black fruit.  This wine was like someone ground a pepper mill over the glass.  Excellent stuff.
  • Chateau des Graviers AOC Margaux “Quintessence” 2001 – Delicious.  Great nose of tea, marker and ground coffee.  Finishes up with some nice graphite and green leaf.
  • Moncellior Pinot Noir 2008 – I really liked this one.  Nice full raspberry nose with great acidity and some nice green stalk on the finish.  This is a great value in the Otago Pinots for $35.

My picks from Seacove:

  • 1995 Champagne de Venoge Brut Millesièmme -Wow. Just wow. So graceful and tasty.
  • 2006 Signorello Winery Padrone – OK, it’s expensive, but it’s also really bloody tasty. Massive black fruit and pepper are followed by equally massive tannins. This one needs time.
  • 2005 Van Zeller Douro CV “Curriculum Vitae” – Elegant dark plum and berry fruit lead to a loooong finish. Pretty wonderful stuff.
  • 2003 Egelhoff Wines Cabernet Sauvignon – Great dark fruit and black pepper flavours made me want to go back for more.
  • 2006 Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional – Dark fruit and chocolate with a finish that lasted minutes. I love this wine.

Graham’s picks from New World Wines:

  • Barnett Vineyards Merlot Spring Mountain 2006 – Amazing spice on this wine.  Anise and Cinnamon with gorgeous red fruit.  Loved it.
  • Darioush Winery Signature Series Shiraz 2005 – Deep intense black fruit with nice black pepper and firm tannins.
  • DeLille Cellars D2 2006 – This was soft and sexy goodness.  Gorgeous red fruit and silky finish.
  • Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz 2006 – Beautiful dark chocolate, black fruit and some nice mint on the finish. – Loved it.
  • Flowers Vineyard & Winery  Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 – Elegant, with beautiful cranberry and currant.  Great length with a bit a brown sugar on the finish.

My picks from New World Wines:

  • 2005 Darioush Winery Signature Series Shiraz – So good! Immense dark fruit, dark chocolate and black tea flavours lead out to a long-long finish.
  • 2006 Barnett Vineyards Merlot Spring Mountain – Dark chocolate and plum fruit with a toasty edge. So good.
  • 2006 Betz Family Clos de Betz – It may be starting to sound like a record on repeat, but dark chocolate and blackberry flavours made me want more.
  • 2006 DeLille Cellars D2 – Mouth-filling dark fruit. Yum.
  • 2004 Lail Vineyards Blue Print – This had a hint of bell pepper to its dark fruit and spice. Bloody good.
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2007 See Saw Wine Company See Saw Semillon – Sauvignon

To be shamelessly cliché, when I found this wine I thought the old Reese’s peanut butter cup commercial where the guy with the peanut butter rounds the corner and collides with the guy eating the chocolate. Bliss ensues. This wine combines two of my favourite things in the world of white wine: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Australian Semillon. How could this possibly fail?

Well the meeting is a positive one as the wine highlights the best traits of both wines. An 85 / 15 split, the first few sniffs are full of grass and lime, followed up by tasty tropical fruit, some guava and a bit of passion fruit/grapefruit on the tongue. The finish has mineral and more of the Semillon’s grassy goodness.

I had this with some light cheese and veg, and also on its own and either way this is a good value find. As it’s in the price range of the Kim Crawford, it’s a reasonable choice if you want a little less “power” on the Sauv Blanc traits and a little more on the green end of things.

4 stars

$19.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

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