Archive for the 'NZ Wine' Category

2007 Kim Crawford SP Central Otago Pinot Noir, Rise-and-Shine Creek

Are you looking for an affordable New World Pinot Noir? Think cherry Cola. Well, this may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Cherry Cola, fig and plum hit you in the nose when you take a sniff. The flavours are round, ripe and sexy. There’s dark cherry, blackberry and that cherry Cola the nose hinted at along with a dusty mineral finish that lasts a minute.

What does it all mean? Well, in short it’s a pretty simple, but very tasty New Zealand Pinot Noir that makes me yearn for an Old World quaff, but also makes me feel guilty for digging the flavours. The fruit is sweet and dusty… and I like it. It’s definitely not a Burgundy, but it makes my mouth happy.

All in all, it’s a great sipper on its own, but I’d look elsewhere for a really good food-pairing wine.

$34.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

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The 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is on this week, and it’s always a fun time to sample a huge variety of wine from around the world and a great chance for some brief interactions with some cool people in the industry.

There is a LOT of information out there about “how to” with the fest – usually with valuable information like don’t wear perfume or cologne, dark clothing is advisable, eat before, spitting is completely acceptable and advisable, leave the giant bag at the coat check, etc…

That said, let’s look at what’s in the room. Once you enter and grab your glass – something sparkling is always a great way to toast the evening and get a nice fresh “zing” on the palate. Don’t miss:

  • Champagne: de Venoge, Lanson, Nicholas Feuilliatte
  • Prosecco: Catina Breganze
  • Franciacorta: Ca’ del Bosco

From there, the host countries have some fun stuff in both white and red. For New Zealand, most have some exposure to the Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough. That said, give some of the Pinot Gris a go. Of course the Otago Pinots are don’t misses, and keep your eye out for the odd Riesling or a Bubble of some sort as this can be where the real gems hide.

We’ll be checking out (at a bare minimum):

  • Ata Rangi
  • Spy Valley
  • Two Paddocks

With Argentina, the dominant grape will of course be the Malbec, but keep your eye out for the whites – there are some interesting Sauv Blancs, Pinot Gris, and the signature Torrentes which can really be unique while being in a great price bracket. The Syrahs and Bordeaux blends will certainly show well.

Not to be missed are:

  • Bodega Catena Zapata
  • Bodegas y Vinedos Renacer (killer value Malbecs)
  • Tomas Achaval
  • Valentin Bianchi

Rosé is the feature “variety” if you will, and a couple of likeable choices include:

  • Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato
  • Lanson Rose Brut

If you are getting late into the evening and are at the point that it’s time to hit the “can’t miss” booths, here are a few:

  • Altesino – Brilliant Super Tuscan sips.
  • Damilano – Good things from the glory that is Piedmont. Try the Cannubi Barolo and taste what it’s all about.
  • Louis Latour – Corton Charlemagne – need we say more?
  • Michael David Vineyards – Intense California wines from the Lodi region.
  • Panther Creek – Great Pinots from Oregon.
  • Penfolds – Classics from Australia.
  • Poplar Grove – Quality BC vino.
  • Ravenswood – Look for the single vineyard Zins.
  • Seghesio – More great Zinfandels. Try the Home Ranch.
  • Torres – Excellent Spanish staples – mmm Priorat!
  • Vina Errazuriz – One of the first and finest Chilean Wineries to arrive in BC.

To cap off the evening, it’s gotta be all about the port. Most of the room will head for Taylor Fladgate (great stuff), but look for Quinta De Passadouro and see if Penfolds has their “Grandfather Tawny.”

It should be a great week, and it will be interesting to experience the new Convention Centre as a venue. If you are on Twitter, watch the hashtag #vpiwf and offer up the gems you find- we will! Remember – Sip, spit and move the heck out of the way so others can get in for a taste. 🙂


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2008 Wild Rock Cupids Arrow Pinot Noir, Central Otago

12272007.jpgThis wine is hitting the spot tonight – and for good reason. It’s a really well-made bottle of Pinot for the money. Most Pinots from New Zealand’s Central Otago region start at roughly the $50 CDN price range, so it’s refreshing to see this on the shelves for less thank $30.

I’m going to make this relatively quick, so let’s get down to it. The nose has really nice briary red fruit with an edge of dark dried cherry and rhubarb. The flavours are really in-your-face. There’s a big schwack of juicy dark cherry followed up by a bunch of rhubarb/briary spice and solid, but forgiving tannins. It’s a satisfying bottle of wine.

Like I said when I reviewed the 2006 vintage of this wine, it’s a tidy little bargain for the money. If you’re a Pinot fan, and especially if you like Oregon Pinots or have founds ones from New Zealand you’ve liked, you really should give this wine a go.

$29 in LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars


2008 Babich Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough

07082009aThis wine is summer refreshment in a glass. It’s full of zingy grapefruit citrus and tropical fruit tastiness. It has an intense crispness that is very food-friendly… or if you just want a patio sipper, it does the trick there as well – all for the very reasonable $16.99 price tag (here in Canada). I’ve been a fan of this wine for years and have to admit that I find its cousin, the more concentrated Black Label Reserve a bloody tasty treat.

The regular Marlborough version is a treat in its own way. It has a nose that’s full of grapefruit and some pear. A juicy sip shows all that grapefruit, passion fruit and pear with an herbal edge to the mineral-laced finish. This is a wine that drinks like pop – especially on the warm days/night of Summer… and for the very reasonable price tag, how can we resist?

An A+ for value on a very tasty bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

$16.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

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Vinifico on D3 TV

Last Friday, my colleague at Sitemasher, Shannon Yelland and I paid Clinton Kabler a visit at D3 Security Management Systems to appear with him in an episode of their D3TV video blog. We talked business and, just as importantly – wine.

Clinton had picked up 2 bottles of wine to taste while we chatted – both are available at Marquis Wine Cellars here in Vancouver:

  • 2007 Churton Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough Valley – I didn’t pick up on it initially, but I think this wine was slightly corked… and I mean slightly. It had just enough of that TCA sharpness on the edge. It became more apparent as the wine warmed up. Although it was not at all unpleasant, I’d like to give this wine another shot sometime soon (not rated due to TCA). $29 at Marquis.
  • 2007 Domaine du Joncier Lirac Rosé from France’s Southern Rhône – this was bloody tasty. I’ve actually bought the wine since and will again over the summer. It had a load of bright berry flavours (raspberry and cranberry came to the front). Clinton got bubblegum in there as well… and I can’t say I disagree. Tasty stuff! (**** stars). $24.50 at Marquis.

Here’s the video:

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2008 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough

05132009It’s no secret. Year in and year out, this is one of my favourite white wines out there. I don’t really care about the price. It’s got  tonne of flavour and an incredibly well-balanced citrus acidity that makes it one of the best white wines to pair with food this side of a great Riesling. I came across it years ago while working at Dundarave Wine Cellar in West Vancouver and have been hooked on it (and hooking others on it) since.

This is a lip-smackingly delicious wine, folks. Like I said about the 2007, this has a nose that is all about the zingy grapefruit, grass and stone. What really makes it for me are the flavours of lime, tropical fruit, grapefruit and grass. The finish lengthens that with stone and more of that lingering tropical fruit. What a value.

Just so you can see what I’m talking about, try whipping up this guacamole recipe and pairing it with some good tortilla chips and a bottle of this wine.

My guacamole: (crush up and mix all ingredients in a bowl)

  • 2 ripe avacadoes
  • 1 clove of garlic (diced)
  • the juice of 1 lime
  • 1 vine tomato (roughly diced)
  • a handful of fresh cilantro
  • some good salt

.. or, if you live in  BC, it’s spot prawn season. There are a tonne of recipes out there that would make this wine a magic match for our local bounty.

Go find this wine. Go.

$21.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 1/2 stars


2008 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough

Here I am in Maui sipping away – another badly-framed video:

~$16 USD here on Maui.

4 1/2 stars


2008 – My Favourites in Wine and Music

It’s the time of year that the “best of” lists make their appearances. Despite what some folks may say, these lists are pretty fun to put together and it’s always good to hear what others liked the most in the past year. What better thing to do on a snowy Saturday than to sit down and make my list? 🙂

Music and wine are a natural match. I’m a music freak/I’m a wine geek. Almost every memorable bottle of wine I’ve had over the years was drunk while music was playing. With that bond in mind, I thought for fun that I’d put together a list of my most memorable albums of the year and pair them with the wines I loved most in 2008 (in no particular order and based only on full bottle samples).

mgmt12000 Paitin Barbaresco, Sori Paitin paired with Oracular Spectacular” by MGMT
I’ll lead off with this one because they were both my top choices for the year. The wine was memorable in a way no other matched and the album still gets regular play. There’s more going on with both than you get at first taste or listen. They both just get better as you go. The wine was, in a word, stellar. The album had standout tracks such as “Time to Pretend”, “Kids” and “Electric Feel” – great stuff.

tvontheradio2001 Yalumba The Octavius, Barossa Old Vine Shiraz paired with Dear Science,” by TV on the Radio
What can I say about these two?.. This was what I popped open on my fortieth birthday and TV on the Radio have put out three of my favourite albums. Both have layers and layers and make you think as much as they are just plain good. The more you taste the wine, the more it comes alive – the same goes for the album. It requires multiple listens to worm its way into your consciousness… and I’m glad it did. Standout tracks include “Halfway Home”, “Golden Age” and “Dancing Choose”.

boniver2003 Russell Creek Winemakers Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley paired with For Emma, Forever Ago” by Bon Iver
This is one of my favourite Washington State wineries, owned by a cantankerous and interesting guy, Larry Krivoshein. I bought this wine at his tasting room in Walla Walla and really liked talking and tasting with him. Both the album and the wine are the work of solitary guys in relatively remote locations – Justin Vernon in a remote Wisconsin cabin during a cold winter and Larry down in Walla Walla (seriously, do the drive some time). Both of them doing it their way. In 2008 they both put out products worthy of praise and enjoyment. Standout tracks on the intimate and beautiful album are “Skinny Love”, “The Wolves (Act I And II)” and “Blindsided”.

m831997 Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico paired with Saturdays = Youth” by m83
Both the wine and the album had many layers… Hell, the wine was in the running for my wine of the year. Everyone who knows me knows that I love the Amarone.. and this is a helluva’ bottle of the Amarone. The wine was absolutely seductive – with raisins, plums, cherries, brandy and spice in its flavours. The album? Amazing. m83, aka Anthony Gonzalez, pulls off stuff you wouldn’t think anyone is trying these days. It’s symphonic in parts, with a sense of pop melody that leaves many of the songs in your head long after you’ve given it a listen. It’s also a “grower”, which is a good thing – it’s one of those albums you like more with each listen because you’re getting more from it. Strong stuff. I’d say it’s in my top 3 albums of the year. Tracks such as “Graveyard Girl”, “Kim & Jessie” and “Couleurs” help show why this album made my list.

elbow1999 H. Billiot Millésime Champagne paired with The Seldom Seen Kid” by Elbow
Classics… that’s what both of the wine and the album strike me as. The Billiot is amazing… and to me, is what a Champagne should be – toasty, complex and sexy, with an everlasting finish. The flavours were all about baked apples, along with some peach, honey and ginger spice. Onto the album – Elbow is one of those bands about whom I constantly marvel they’re not more popular. The singer, Guy Garver has an amazing voice that sounds like Peter Gabriel on a bender… and they consistently record strong albums. Great songs on the album are “Grounds For Divorce”, the cheery, hopeful and amazing “One Day Like This” and “The Fix” which just begs to open a British gangster film. I may have listened to this more than any other album this year.

fleetfoxes1998 Castello di Verduno Barolo, Massara paired with Fleet Foxes” by Fleet Foxes
Both of these choices were unexpected finds in 2008. I stumbled on the wine while having lunch in Verduno, Italy. It may have been the setting, but I loved this wine. The Marsala sherry, nuts, leather, cherry and flowers led to a sexy cherry brandy finish. Likewise for the album. At first it struck me as too softly harmonic and folksy (very Simon & Garfunkel-y)… but the more I listened to it, the beauty of the music won me over. It’s a mellow-day album that will leave you in a better mood for having heard it. I can’t say there are standout tracks. It’s a complete and round achievement that stands as an album.

hercules2005 Mazzocco Sonoma Zinfandel Pony, Dry Creek Valley & 2004 Mazzocco Stone Ranch Zinfandel, Alexander Valley paired with Hercules and Love Affair” by Hercules and Love Affair
These choices represent the good-times party choices of the year. If you’re at a party and drag these wines out, anyone who likes wine (especially a great Zin) will love them… and the album will get their booties moving. Both the Mazzocco Zins are made in that crushed blackberry syrup and briar style with balanced structures and finishes. Winemaker Antoine Favero does a great job there. I think they were my favourite Zins of the year – and that’s saying a lot. The Hercules album has the fantastic tune “Blind” that Pitchfork chose as their track of the year. I have to admit, it is pretty bloody good.

neonneon2006 Orin Swift Cellars “The Prisoner” paired with Stainless Style” by Neon Neon
Both of these choices are just plain unique and rock n’ roll. Dave Phinney heads a small (when we visited last January, there were 4 people doing it all) operation that turns out phenomenal wines. I first tried this wine in their offices and then gladly took one to enjoy that night. Graham’s review noted, “the Prisoner has a vibrant blackberry and ripe plum on the bouquet, which opens into briar and with some dark chocolate in the mix.” Loved it. Neon Neon grab you right away with their brand of tense early-80’s musical nostalgia and take it from there. It’s a lot of fun for someone who actually became an adult in the 80’s. I loved the tracks “Dream Cars”, “Belfast” and “Michael Douglas”.

lykkeli2001 Damilano Barolo paired with Youth Novel” by Lykke Li
I loved this wine… it was one of my finds at the Vancouver Wine Fest and was helping me set up for my forthcoming trip to Piedmont at the end of March. Like I wrote back then “…it’s a complex mix of brandied cherry, plums, leather, tar, and spice along with a violet-floral thing going on.” This family-owned winery located near the town of Barolo consistently turns out some of the best values (and wines) from the Langhe. Production on the album is provided by by Bjorn Yttling of Peter Björn and John and are just plain catchy – with Lykke’s sexily fragile voice. Standout tracks are “Dance Dance Dance”, and “Let it Fall”.

cutcopy2007 Seghesio Zinfandel, Sonoma County paired with In Ghost Colors” by Cut/Copy
An amazing wine and an equally impressive album. The Seghesio Zin was tapped by the Wine Dictator as their #10 wine of the year and given a hefty 93 points. I can’t disagree with them much. Personally, I enjoyed the Mazzocco Zins more, but I also loved this wine. We’ve gone through 6 bottles in the last while. It’s got ripe and juicy blackberry fruit long with a form and tannic backbone showing a brambly and spicy finish. Wow. The album is also a “Wow”. I loved it the first time I heard it and have listened to it countless times since then. It’s another 80’s-influenced wonder, is funky as Hell and makes you want to shake your ass. I’m still digging tracks such as “So Haunted”, “Far Away” and “Hearts On Fire”.

frenchkicks2007 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough paired with Swimming” by French Kicks
I’ve drunk a helluva’ lot of this wine this year. It’s amazingly diverse in its food pairings and is mouth-wateringly tasty… and it’s the wine I ordered on my first date with Candace in 2008. We still drink it regularly. It’s got lots of tropical and citrus fruit, with a crisp backbone of acidity. It’s also a pretty amazing deal at $21.99 here in BC making it my value wine of the year. The album. I loved it. It’s one of those albums you put on and like pretty much every track. I’ve listened to it a tonne this year while preparing dinner, driving and working. It stands pretty strongly as an album, but also has great tracks with chiming guitar like “Sex Tourists”, “Abandon” and “Love in the Ruins”.

lsp2005 Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards “Three Hills Cuvée” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley paired with The Age of the Understatement” by The Last Shadow Puppets
OK, last on the list, but certainly not least… I grabbed this bottle on a trip down to the Willamette Valley last year and had been saving it… for a Pinot craving. I popped it open after Candace and I visited Portland in October and it was all it should have been – blackberry, dark cherry, dark chocolate and earthy spice. The album? Again, I loved it. It’s a very stylish side project from the Arctic Monkey’s singer, Alex Turner and  good friend of his, Miles Kane, the guitarist of the Rascals. What they came up with is a stylish and catchy sound that’s like a 60’s garage band that has developed a sudden taste for martinis. I personally think it’s a crime that the amazing tune “My Mistakes Were Made for You” wasn’t the theme for the latest Bond film, “Quantum of Solace”. Other good tracks are “The Age Of The Understatement”, “Standing Next To Me” and “I Don’t Like You Anymore”.

Honourable mentions for wines in 2008 (based on me just really likin’ them):


2006 Composite Pinot Noir, Ara, Marlborough

I made a quick stop at Kitsilano Wine Cellars tonight and had this wine pointed out to me… and y’all now I’m a fan of the Pinot, so I had to give it a try.

I’ve had a couple of Pinots from New Zealand’s Marlborough region that I’ve loved in the last year and I’ve gotta’ say that this is among them. In the glass its colour is incredibly light – bordering on a rosé. A sniff belies its red character. It shows ripe red cherry, cranberry, and a citrus edge. A sip gives up all that fruit with a medium-long mineral-laced finish.

Yum. Tonight, it paired incredibly well with grilled salmon.. and because of its bright acidity, would pair equally well with many foods.

This is a winner folks. If you enjoy Pinot, you really should give it a try. I have to add, that as a design geek, I also love the label. 🙂

$31 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars


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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