Archive for the 'Pinot Gris/Grigio' Category

The new lineup from Averill Creek Winery

Back in June of 2010, I tasted my way through Averill Creek Winery‘s lineup, so when they sent me samples from their current vintage I was looking forward to giving them a try. I was also looking forward to getting Graham’s take on the wines, so I set aside a couple of them for him.

I won’t get into the winery’s story. I did that in my last write-up of their wines, so you can always give it a read there. So, onto the wines we go.

apg2008 Pinot Gris: I really like this wine’s acidity… its crispness. Right now I’m sipping it with a bit of soft Gourmelin cheese (French) and it’s a great match. On the nose, the wine has crisp apple, citrus and a bit of flinty rock. A sip gives a rush of the crisp apple-driven acidity followed by some lush pineapple and lemon. The finish is capped with flinty stone and citrus. It’s quite a nice wine, that’ll go with a lot of food. $20 from the winery and at wine shops here in BC. 3.5 stars

Graham sampled the other 2 wines – the 2009 Pinot Grigio and the Marechal Foch-based 2008 Prevost. Here’s what he had to say:

Things have been looking up on some of the wines coming off the island, and I was really interested to give these two a go when we received these samples.

Right off the bat, I liked both of these wines.  They are lean with firm acidity and perhaps best of all food friendly and not trying to be something they’re not.  Not pumped up, over extracted or over-oaked – just nice clean fruit.

pglabelThe 2009 Pinot Grigio is reminiscent of an Italian Grigio.  It begs for some seafood or grilled chicken.  Light citrus and mineral on the nose.  It’s bursting with zingy acidity on the palate. I liked the tart green apple and lime, but wanted a little more before the tight mineral came back in the finish.  I had this with some grilled prawns and the clean style was a great match. $18 from the winery and at wine shops here in BC. 3.5 stars

Prevost-2008The 2008 Prevost was a pleasant surprise for me.  Built around Marechal Foch, which I have found it to be a bit hit and miss in the attempt to be bigger and bolder than it needs to be.  This is no such wine for certain.  The choice to blend as they have with some cab, leads to a different and enjoyable glass of red.

The nose has some cranberry and currant, backed up by a some earthy hints.  A few sips brings some rhubarb and more red currants.  Like the grigio, the Prevost has a prominent acidity that again – I liked.  It paired well with some grilled vegetable pasta.  Again, this is a well-priced choice. $20 from the winery and at wine shops here in BC. 3.5 stars

I would certainly give both of these a go again, particularly as the patio and grill time will soon be increasing.   (What can I say I’m meteorological optimist!)

Give’em a go.

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2009 Road 13 Winery + Vineyard Honest John’s White, Okanagan Valley

It’s been so long between posts… Well, it’s not like I haven’t been drinking wine. It’s just that I’ve just been too busy to sit down and write about them. Hi there. I received this wine as a sample this week, so that’s enough to prompt me back into the blog. Off we go.

Road 13 Winery + Vineyard – this winery dates back to 1998, when it was originally Golden Mile Cellars. I was a closet fan of their wines for years and after the name change and re-focusing on varietals, I’ve been curious to see how things would shape up.

Owners Mick & Pam Luckhurst took over the winery in 2003. Knowing that the “Golden Mile Bench” could be soon BC’s newest viticultural area, they wisely changed the name of the winery a *couple of years ago (*I could be a little off here, but visited them back in 2008 just before the change). According to the winery, the name Road 13 was chosen because, “Road 13 is the location of our winery and two of our vineyard sites: the Home and the Castle.

The blend is, as they say on the label, “Riesling heavy, which is always a good thing…“, and it is. I see this as a patio aperitif sipper that would also pair really well with salads and Asian foods.

What’s it like? Well, a big sniff gives up a floral (that’s the Gewurztraminer peeking through), tangerine citrus and ripe peach nose (from the botrytis-affected Riesling grapes). A sip shows the ripe peach/tangerine thing going on as well as some honeysuckle and mineral. There’s a bracing acidity on the finish that shows the promise of a food-friendly wine.

It’s good. Heck, for the money ($16.99 CDN), it’s really nice. I’ll be pointing folks to it when they ask for something local, good and patio-friendly over the next month or so (hopefully) of our sunny season.

$16.99 winery direct, BCLDB, VQA stores and select private retail and restaurant accounts in BC and Alberta.

3 1/2 stars

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Tasting the Averill Creek Vineyards Line-up

While I was at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival last month, I stopped by Averill Creek‘s table to say, “Hi” to Denis Chen, who I know from Kitsilano Wine Cellars. Well, it turned out he was also the VP Sales and Marketing for the winery and was at the festival pouring their wines. I had a taste and came away impressed. After my chat with Denis, he promised to set up a sample pack for me to review, so here we are.

Let’s get you some information about the winery. Its owner, Andy Johnston is a British-born doctor who had a practice in Alberta for around 30 years. He prepared for his gig as a winery owner and winemaker by apprenticing in the vineyards of Italy, France, Australia, and New Zealand. After retirement he bought his Cowichan Valley property in 2001.

Averill Creek is definitely an estate producer only. They have roughly 30,000 vines on a 30-acre vineyard in the Cowichan Valley north of Duncan on Vancouver Island. All of Averill Creek’s wines are estate grown and come from this vineyard.

I was supplied with what turned out to be most of their current line-up and have tasted them over the last week or so. Here are my thoughts:

  • 2007 Pinot Gris: A sniff gave up lemon and ripe peach juice drizzled on a rock. The flavours showed some really nice lip-smackingly crisp acidity along with mouth-filling lemon-peach flavours. This, folks, is a really nice food wine, but would also make for a great aperitif on a sunny patio. It’s a solid value ($18). 4 stars
  • 2009 Pinot Grigio: This 100% stainless-steel fermented version is the crisp, quaff-able wine of the portfolio. It’s got a schwack of bracing acidity along with the nice fruit and flinty minerality. You know when you buy a really nice bunch of green grapes, take them home and really enjoy stuffing one after another into your mouth? This is the vinous equivalent ($18). 3.5 stars
  • 2009 Gewurztraminer: This was a very pleasing light and crisp Gewurz. It had soft rose petal and lychee flavours followed up by a honey-edged citrus acidity and a nice mineral edge to the finish. Very nice and another really solid value ($18). 4 stars
  • 2007 Pinot Noir: This is really nice, in that ripe kinda’ way. Think blackberry tea with Chinese all-spice on the finish. The tannins are medium-soft, so this is a bit more of a quaffer than a food-pairing wine. I really enjoyed it though, especially for the price ($28). 4 stars
  • 2007 Prevost: On the nose, I got smoked bacon with a sour cherry edge. That pretty much followed up in the flavours that finished with a peppery edge ($18). 3 stars
  • 2009 Foch’eh: This wine was made using carbonic maceration, which kept the fruit cool and fresh and makes for a very Gamay-like wine, with its really nice bright cherry and strawberry fruit. A very nice simple sipper for summer. Cool it down a touch and enjoy on the patio. Again, another solid value ($18). 3.5 stars
  • 2008 Cowichan Black: This is made from 100% Vancouver Island blackberries and comes in at 16% booze. All in all, it was a bit puzzling to me. A sniff gave me sour, yeasty light berry fruit, but a sip showed some of the ripe blackberry flavours I was expecting… with a bit of a green edge to the finish. It’s decent, but a bit of a novelty wine in an otherwise solid lineup ($18 for 375 ml). 2.5 stars

Overall, I was fairly impressed. If anything, the wines pleasantly surprised me. The line-up is definitely geared towards providing value and they’re really hitting the mark, especially with the Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir. Would I buy them? Yes, I would.

If you’ve never tried wines from Vancouver Island and you want to support the BC wine industry, you should give them a try. They can be found at various wine shops around Vancouver (and the province of BC).

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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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2005 Movia Pinot Grigio, Brda

12152008Well now. I stumbled on this wine while shopping for a Christmas gift for a client of mine – and she’s a big fan of Pinot Gris/Grigio. I’ve had a few over the years that I’ve thought were decent, most notably Alsatian… and even one or two from Northern Italy. I walked into Kitsilano Wine Cellars and Kirk said if that’s what I was looking for, I had to pick this bottle up and give it a try. The grapes are grown in Italy, but then trucked just over the border into Slovenia, where the wine is made. I’ve never had a Slovenian wine. From reading the blog, you may have picked up on the fact that I have a pretty curious palate, so home it came.

Candace and I were cooking up a squash and sage risotto tonight, so I thought this might be a tasty match. Out came the cork and sip after sip gave up a nose that had tropical fruit, melon and stone. A juicy sip gave up all the baked tropical fruit and a flinty melon finish… like eating honeydew and pineapple out of a stone bowl. The finish stayed with me for a while.

What can I say? I really liked this wine – a lot. This ain’t your Momma’s Pinot Grigio. This is complex, tasty and has a finish that keeps your tongue busy. In the past, the Wine Dictator has called this, “The greatest Pinot Grigio from Italy”. I’m not gonna disagree.

Try it.

$37.50 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars

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