Archive for the '$16 – 20' Category

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

1 comment

Tasting Mexican Wine: San Lorenzo and Monte Xanic

Mexican wine is something I haven’t devoted much time to up to this point in my wine journey. Over the years, I have tasted a few of the LA Cetto wines, but that had pretty much been it. So, when I received an email through this site from Eduardo Ramirez asking if I’d like to try a few Mexican wines, I jumped at the chance. I met Eduardo a while later to chat about the wines he represents and to accept 4 samples.

The first two represent the value line from Casa Madero, which at close to 500 years old, is apparently the oldest operating winery in the Western hemisphere. These value wines are named for the original San Lorenzo Winery, which was founded in its current location in Central Mexico in 1597.

Here’s what I tasted:

2009 San Lorenzo Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay & Colombard: This is an interesting blend of 50% Chenin Blanc, 25% Chardonnay, and 25% Colombard. The nose is a mix of lemon, apricot and flinty stone, which lead to a really nice mix of flavours that finish with the whole citrus-melon-flinty stone thing going on. It’s a very nice sipper and went really well with a simple dish of grilled halibut with lemon. It’s a solid value at $17-20 here in Vancouver.
3 1/2 stars

2008 San Lorenzo Cabernet Sauvignon – Tempranillo: This is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Tempranillo. It has a nose that gives up a bit of red cherry/berry fruit, and a bit of tar and mineral. A sip had me thinking of dusty dark cherries and an earthy bitterness that led out to a medium finish with decent tannins. Not complex, but a nice sipper, especially for the money ($19.90 here in BC).
3 stars

Now onto the Monte Xanic wines. According to their site, the name, “Xanic” originates with the Cora Indians who continue to inhabit parts of Nayarit on Mexico’s Pacific coast, and means, “Flower which blooms after the first rain.” The winery was founded in 1987 in response to the recent opening of the border to foreign wines, which many deemed superior to Mexican wine. The owners of Monte Xanic set out to prove they could make wines to compete with any of the wines from outside Mexico.

While they may not be up there with the world’s best wines, they are doing a respectable job.

2008 Monte Xanic Chenin Colombard The nose has a honeyed edge to lemony citrus and pear and is a blend of 95% Chenin Blanc and 5% Colombard. The flavours are all about exactly what the nose hinted at… the medium-bodied pear and lemon have a light coating of honey and the finish goes on for a minute with a crisp and flinty minerality that I really like. This is a very tasty and well-made wine. I think it would be delicious with some grilled salmon. It retails in Vancouver for $24.
4 stars

2006 Monte Xanic Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot: This one is a blend of 60% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. To me, the nose on this wine is a bit like sniffing the venerable “oak monster” itself. It mellows with some air, but this is definitely a case of a wine-maker choosing the new oak route. The nose has powerful vanilla, mocha and berry aromas – more a sign of the oak than the grapes. The flavours of the grapes do come through with delicious dark berries along with the oak-influenced vanilla spice. I liked it, but would like to see less of the new oak. In Vancouver, it retails for $36.
3 1/2 stars

All in all, I would say that I was both surprised and impressed by the wines – surprised that a white blend was my pick of the group and impressed with the overall quality of the wine. Check them out if you feel like trying a few of the wines of Mexico.

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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).

3 comments

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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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

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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

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

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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

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Wines under $30 challenge

Over the last few months, I’ve had a few comments and emails from folks who read this blog pointing out that I seem to have gotten off-track from this site’s original goal.

When I first started Vinifico, I was determined to search out those really good wine finds in the $20 – $50 range. More expensive wines are great and everything – as well they should be – but the sweet spot for shoppers, at least in BC, is probably in the under-$30 range and I wanted to search those out.

I’m listening – and so is my wallet (I’ve recently done a New Year’s budget) – so for the next couple of months, I’ve put forth a challenge to only have reviews of wines in that wine pricing sweet spot. I’m looking forward to new finds and to re-visiting new vintages of old value favourites. At the end of this, I’ll post a top 10, as well as a bottom 10. That should be in early March.

Let the challenge begin.

4 comments

2008 Bodegas Renacer Punto Final Malbec

10082009It’s been a while since I’d had a Malbec. My barbeque choices have centered on Cabs, Zins and the like. I picked this one up a while back – the value of Argentinean reds being pretty good and at about $6 off, worth a go.

I had a nice peppercorn steak grilling, so I popped this open and gave it a swirl. Right off the first sniff, it was not what I was expecting. 98% Malbec with 2% Cab Franc, it has some of the earthy Malbec I knew, but some nice tar and black cherry, maybe even a bit cranberry as well. A couple of sips brought some nice meaty cherry, and earthy mineral but also a bit of heat and anise for good measure. The steak really balanced this off, and the pairing really worked for me.

The finish was nice, medium length with some more mineral and pretty tight tannins. I would definitely decant this one next time for that and the unfiltered aspect. It definitely got me thinking it’s time for a few more Malbecs. I’d buy it again – a good value at its regular price – a great deal at $15.99.

$15.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

3 1/2 stars

2 comments

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