Archive for the 'Under-$30 Challenge' Category

2008 Haden Fig Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

This is the second in the collection of Pinot Noir I brought back from my recent trip down South of the border. This wine is described as “a blend of 5 sustainably, organically, or biodynamically farmed vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley.” This piqued my interest as I’ve done a bit of reading and chatting about “natural” and “honest” wines, including Alice Feiring’s book.

This wine is certainly unique, and really likable. I popped it open and poured a bit for a swirl and sip. I should have been a little less enthusiastic and decanted as I quickly got a “sediment seasoned” sample (an unintentional alliteration). Not to worry though.

The nose on this wine is full of dusty black cherry with some musk and a hint of violet. Very interesting. On the palate the first that jumped up was tart cranberry and some seriously bracing acidity. It kind of makes you say “whoa” then you just want to sip it again. The finish had some green stalk and tart currant along with some nice pepper and sweet spice tones.

I sampled this again the next day and the acid had lessened and the flavors began to match the nose much directly with a very nice balance of fruit and acidity right through to the finish. Good stuff.

This is another gem in my mind. A really honest and authentic wine that has been allowed to just “be” without a great deal of manipulation. A good friend, this wine is. We all need more like it.

$21.99 at Esquin Wine Merchants.

4 stars

No comments

2006 EIEIO Cuvee I Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

My recent trip to Esquin Wine Merchants in Seattle enabled me to stock up on my supply of Oregon Pinots among other treasures. Our ongoing discussion of value Pinot Noir is here in spades.

The first one I picked up is EiEiO’s 2006 Cuvee I. On sale for $19.99, it fit nicely into the budget. EiEiO is a small winery located near Carlton, Oregon producing Pinot and Chardonnay to a total of about 1800 cases. Based on previous tastes of their wines, I was really looking forward to sipping and savoring it. I was not disappointed at all.

It may be purely anecdotal, or my shopping habits, but it seems that Oregon Pinots are moving towards a more finessed and elegant style from the bold boozy fruit bombs I remember from a few years back. A few swirls brought some barnyard and red fruit with some meaty and clay elements. It reminded me of a hybrid of some the things I like about some Burgundian and Russian River Pinots.

I gave it a little time and as we sipped, it just got better and better. I loved the rhubarb with some red currant and cherry notes backed up by a nice chalky transition into the firm acidity in a medium long finish. The currant and lingered and it balanced the nice tart finish from the acidity.

This is a really tasty treat and a great value to boot. (Some catchy packaging as well, with the notes to “Old Macdonald” scribed on the cork). This is the kind of offering I long for up here!  More Pinots to follow…

$19.99 at Esquin Wine Merchants in Seattle.

4 stars

No comments

2005 Di Majo Norante Contado Aglianico, IGT

I paid a visit to the LDB Specialty Store in Surrey/Delta near my Mom’s place a couple of weekends ago and their product consultant, Jo-Ann suggested this wine. Being the Aglianico fan that I am, I thought I’d give it a try. For $20, what was there to lose?

Well, here’s where I give a big shout-out to Jo-Ann. This is a helluva’ value for the money. Since I’ve had it, I’ve been trying to find more. Graham grabbed me a few bottles out in the ‘burbs, but you’ll have to either have a search on the BC LDB site or ask your local retailers.

This wine comes from Italy’s small Molise wine region, which is sandwiched between Abruzzo to the north and Puglia and Campania to the south. The nose is really beautiful. It has licorice, pepper, violet and smokey dark cherry. A taste gave me a complex mix of everything the nose hinted at along with a brown sugar edge to the dark cherry fruit and a long nicely tannic and mineral-laced finish.

It’s dark, complex and well-made… and is a gold medal value find (if you can get your hands on it).

$19.90 here in BC at LDB stores.

4 stars

3 comments

2005 Azienda Veglio Michelino e Figlio Langhe Nebbiolo

When I picked this wine up the other night, I mistakenly thought it was the Mauro Veglio “Angelo” Nebbiolo I’ve been looking for since I had it at L’Altro Buca last year. Not so much.

This turns out to be a Nebbiolo from a lower-end producer… and is definitely not as good as the Mauro Veglio wine. A web search yielded that this wine retails for only 2,90 Euros, making the price here in Vancouver sting a bit.

The “Angelo” Nebbiolo was rich, fragrant and delicious. This one? Well, it has some of the nice Nebbiolo notes on the nose – the floral and light berry notes with a bit of citrus, but the flavours don’t keep up their end of the bargain.

In the mouth, it’s quite thin and ends with a bitter note. There are some of those nice Nebbiolo flavours – the cherry brandy and a bit of the walnut I love from the grape… but it kinda’ peters out. I have to say I’m disappointed in the wine. It’s not terrible, but definitely not what I was expecting.

I had been on a roll with the value wines, so I was due for a miss. All in all, I’d give it a pass.

~$27 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

2.5  stars

No comments

2008 Calafate Pinot Noir Gran Reserva Bodegas Universo Austral – Patagonia, Argentina

With the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival nearing, we are seeing more wines from the feature nations (Argentina and New Zealand) arriving. This is a trend that meshes nicely with under $30 challenge with some good value Malbecs and blends arriving. (From what I’ve seen however there is a decided void in any Argentine whites arriving thus far).

Oddly enough, the first wine of this series I tried was this Pinot Noir. I am recognizing that my quest for a value Pinot under $20 is a bit of a Willy Loman pipe dream, but this one is a surprise in the right direction.

Hailing from Patagonia in Southern Argentina, this wine is a full and balanced offering that is really enjoyable. The nose has some nice spice – cloves and peppercorns with green pepper hints and some plum. On the palate is where the surprise really came home. A bright balance of nice tart cranberry balanced well by some plum and a bit of orange zest toward the back had me wanting more. The finish had some nice floral hints with some veggie/rhubarb and some cracked pepper. Nicely balanced and a decent length for the money.   All in all, you’ve got a tasty sip with this one.

Given the price and flavor value, it reminded me of the Casa Viva Pinot we had a few years ago during our WSET course that stood up against a Domaine Drouhin that was four times the price. Palate shift and experience might change that now, but that said, this is still darn tasty.

This is nice effort that for $17.99 I will definitely try again. Perhaps also to give a second go around to confirm, but also because I found it to pair really well with mushroom risotto.

I like surprises.

$17.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

No comments

2007 Château de Paraza Minervois Cuvée Spéciale

Holy value alert! Along with a 2005 Di Majo Norante Contado Aglianico (review coming soon) I had a week ago, this is the best red wine value I’ve come across since I started the under-$30 challenge a while back.

This wine from Minervois, in the heart of France’s Languedoc region, is  just plain tasty. It’s a blend of Syrah (40%), Grenache (40%) and Mourvèdre (20%).

A sniff gives up some vanilla from the oak along with ripe red cherry and black pepper. A big ‘ol sip of this medium-coloured red shows juicy ripe blackberry, red cherry and plum fruit, licorice, black pepper and a nice minerality on the medium finish. It just feels good and rich in the mouth, unlike many reds in this price range.

It’s a heckuva’ value, folks. It may not blow you away, but I’m thinking it will make you raise your eyebrows and go, “Mmmm.” Not many red wines under $20 will do that these days.

$17.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

No comments

2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc with D3TV

Yesterday, I headed over to the offices of D3 Security Management Systems to sit down with Clinton Kabler and taste a couple of wines. First up is this delicious Sauvignon Blanc.

$29 at Marquis Wine Cellars.

4 stars
(maybe even 4.5 – buy a bottle and decide for yourself)

No comments

2008 Tantalus Vineyards Riesling, Okanagan Valley

After Taste BC 2010, I was determined to try to taste more of my home province’s wine over the next while. While there, we tasted a few wines in the under-$30 range that I figured needed a closer look. So, yesterday on my way home I dropped by Taylorwood Wines in Yaletown and grabbed this one, Tantalus’ 2007 Old Vines Riesling and the 2008 8th Generation Dry Riesling. They’re next in the series, but for now, let’s get down to this wine.

It’s worth noting that according to Tantalus’ web site, the 2008 growing season saw Tantalus Vineyards transition to organic vineyard practices. As a result, you can feel better about what you’re drinking from them and how they’re making their wines.

The nose was a zesty mix of lime, honey and stone, with a touch of petrol. A sip gave a burst of zingy lime, peach and a medium-long finish of stone and a bit of that petrol I mentioned. This is a heckuva’ Riesling for BC. I’m not sure I would have guessed that it was from here if I had tasted it blind. That’s not a bad thing.

If you’re a Riesling fan and are looking to try more of what BC has to offer, you really should give this wine a try. It’s delicious.

$22.90 at Taylorwood Wines.

4 stars

No comments

Wine and Food Event: Taste of BC 2010

Attending the “Taste of BC 2010” event, put on by Liberty Wine Merchants and benefiting B.C. Children’s Hospital – Oak Tree Clinic, this year for the first time was a really great decision. We’ve had lots of conversations about “palate shift” of late, and I can honestly say I have been seeking the rustic and mineral driven wines versus the over concentrated wines I have been finding locally. The event was a pleasant reminder, if not a reawakening for me about some of the excellent wine being produced in BC. Pair that with some tasty snacks and you have decent evening all around.

In terms of wine, the highlights were:

  • 8th Generation Vineyard – We first tasted their wines at last year’s Playhouse International Festival, and knew we had to seek them out. They had a full spectrum of wines including Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, two Rieslings, Pinot Noir and a Syrah. The whites stole the show, with delicious Rieslings being highlights. The Pinot Gris was also interesting, having spent some time on oak – unusual in my experience for a BC Pinot Gris, but really elegant and tasty. At an average price of about $22, these are real benchmarks for local wine quality/price ratio.
  • La Stella Winery – These were some of the real standouts in my mind. Their Vivace Pinot Gris had amazing grapefruit zest on the nose and some pear and peach. The two reds they were sampling were also superb. The Allegretto Merlot was full and tasty, and the Fortissimo Cab Merlot had excellent pepper and dark fruit. Definitely need to find the Vivace to include in the under $30 challenge.
  • La Vieux Pin Winery – Another highlight. I was cautious upon approaching these wines, as I wondered if they could live up to some of the preaching I had faced on a trip into a local cold beer and wine store. The salesperson there proclaimed them “the best out there, from some of the best Merlot vines in the world” and on and on… Hyperbole aside, these are some excellent wines. The Petit Sigma Blanc was perhaps the highlight of the whites at the event for me. Beautiful floral and citrus, this is an amazing deal at $22. The Belle Pinot Noir was dark and full or earthy plum – an excellent BC Pinot.
  • Meyer Family Vineyards – Brand new for me, I wondered if the hype would live up to the reality. We tasted an excellent Chardonnay (the best BC Chardonnay of the event) and a couple of quality BC Pinot Noirs. The Chardonnay was well balanced and full value for it’s $35 price tag. The pinots were quite different from each other, both with nice structure and red fruit. They’re definitely worth a try if you find them.
  • Tantalus Vineyards – Their 2008 Riesling and 2009 Rosé were both very good. Keep an eye out for them in your local stores.

Other good sips included the Seven Stones Winery Meritage that had a really nice Cabernet Franc backbone and Vista D’Oro’s Walnut Port was a delicious way to end the evening – so tasty!

On the food/pairing front, the smoked sablefish with horseradish cream from Bridges was superb with the Wild Goose Stony Slope Riesling. The oysters from Rodney’s were fantastic and would have been great with the Focus2 Sauvignon Blanc from Twisted Tree (couldn’t carry them over there). Central City Brewing had a maple cheesecake with beer-brined bacon on top. It paired fantastically with a nice breath of air.

A good night full of new tastes and a much more optimistic view on the future of BC wines.

No comments

2003 Campo Alto Crianza, Rioja

Next up in the under $30 challenge is the Campo Alto Crianza. I picked this one up last week, being struck that is always nice to find a reasonably priced bottle that has a few years on it, particularly one from Rioja.

I popped this one, poured and gave it a swirl. Initially the nose was full of dusty violet, dried cranberry and a bit of vanilla. I gave it some time to sit and came back some felt marker had joined the fray. Pretty appealing to me! At that point I figured it was time for a swirl and slurp and I got much more of the vanilla on the palate, perhaps a little too much wood, mixed with tart red currant, a bit of veg. In general this was a nice wine for the money. The finish showed more tart red fruit and a really nice acidity, and was for me the best part.

I enjoy this wine. It’s good value Spanish sip that would certainly please the masses at a dinner or gathering.

$23.99 @ Liberty Wine Merchants here in Vancouver.

3 1/2 stars

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