Archive for the '3.0 stars' Category

Summerhill Winery Cipes Pinot Noir Rose NV and 2007 Robert Bateman Organic ‘Get To Know’ Merlot

Summerhill Winery Cipes Pinot Noir Rose NV

It’s that time of year – when you may be looking to have  glass of celebratory bubbly, but don’t want to break your newly minted 2011 budget. Well, there are a number of decent sparkling wines out there in the under-$30 range that can fit the bill. If you’re a fan of rosé wines, this one may just be the ticket.

Summerhill Winery, near Kelowna, crafts this wine from certified organic 100% Pinot Noir grapes. In the glass, this has a nice salmon-rosé colour, with a nose of light strawberry and citrus. A sip has a mouthful of fine bubbles and light berry fruit with a crisp citrus/green apple edge to the finish.

Hmmm, it’s quite nice. What we have here is actually a pretty solid sparkler for the money. It has more depth to its flavours than some of the cheaper Cavas from Spain or Proseccos from Italy – as well it should, as it costs ~ $10 more.

$29.95 and according to the winery, it’s available at private BC wine stores and restaurants, Alberta wine stores and restaurants, and Saskatchewan and Manitoba in limited quantities.

3 1/2 stars

2007 Robert Bateman Organic ‘Get To Know’ Merlot

OK, so here it goes. I’m a bit torn on how I feel about this wine. To be honest, I expected to not like it… and at first I didn’t. It’s a bit too full and round for me. It feels like the wine has been tampered with to achieve a too-full level of ripeness and booze (it clocks in at 15%) – but if the winery is to be believed, it was made with, “Minimal intervention winemaking…”.

If that’s true, then this is a decent BC Merlot, made with 100% organic grapes grown in Kaleden, which is south of Penticton in BC’s Okanagan valley. The nose is full of blackberry, currant and vanilla. The flavours are a robust and full mix of what the nose hinted at.

I’m guessing there are plenty of folks out there who would really like this. For me, it’s a bit too far on the ripe side. It needs a bit more complexity to keep my mouth interested. Having said that, it is a full-bodied red with ripe fruit and some nice tannins on the finish that would allow it to pair quite nicely with some hard cheeses or a good steak.

$29.95 and it’s available at private BC wine stores and restaurants, Alberta wine stores and restaurants, and Saskatchewan and Manitoba in limited quantities.

3 stars

Note: $1 donation with the sale of each of these for every bottle sold supports ‘Get to Know your Wild Neighbours’ non‐profit organization. I received both these bottles as samples.

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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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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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2007 Blue Mountain Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley

Given that the last couple of Chardonnays I’ve had have come from France’s outstanding Tissot winery, this wine had a tough act to follow. To move from having those fresh in my taste sense memory into this bottle was a bit of a shock, but we’re also talking about 2 Chardonnays that sell for over $60 (CDN) being compared to one 1/3 that price. Having said that, this wine didn’t make my mouth happy in the way a really good Chardonnay can.

I’m not saying it’s a badly made wine… or that was unpleasant to drink – just that it does nothing to stand out, even in this price range. There was nothing at all memorable about it. It had a pleasant crisp edge that shows it would pair decently with food. The nose had a nice dose of light citrus and minerality. A sip showed a slight edge of green bitterness on the thin body and led to a light clean and crisp finish.

It’s a decent wine… just not, in my opinion, memorable.

~$2o at private wine shops here in BC.

3 stars

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2007 Marqués de Vitoria ECCO Tempranillo, Rioja

I was sent this as an agent’s sample, so when we headed out to Graham’s last Saturday, I thought I’d take it along and get his opinion on it as well.

$15.95 at LDB stores here in BC.

2.5 stars

3 stars

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2004 Wild Bunch Red, California

Sean invited me to be a guest author on Over the last few years, I have learned quite a lot about wines from all sorts of people in the industry, as well as from amateurs like myself, who have the enthusiasm and curiosity to try something new and exciting. I truly enjoy a nice wine on its own, with simple pairings of cheese and charcuterie, or with delicious meals, often prepared by me. I cook with wine, use it to make sangria, drink it with friends, at gallery openings, at private tastings… I have had the pleasure to enjoy some outstanding bottles from cellars all over the world (I tend to bring back a bottle or two when I travel in Europe…), but I never frown upon something new, simple and cheap. It’s always a nice surprise to find a great new wine of good value! Especially if you like to sip it while adding it to your recipe at the same time…

This wine was surprisingly enjoyable considering its great price and the fact that I picked it out by the colourful fun label… It comes across as off-dry, with a soft unsophisticated nose and a delightfully joyful mouth with sweet Morello cherry notes and peppery finish.

There isn’t much dimension or depth, but this wine certainly doesn’t lack a juicy punch. Perfect for drinking on its own or with any food you decide to have on a warm evening in company of friends.

$10.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

3 stars

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2005 Ferrari Carnaro Siena, Sonoma County

01252007.jpgWell, after finally making it to Sonoma, we realized that, flight delays and smelly rental cars aside, it’s time for some wine – let’s face it, that is why we’re down here this weekend.

Man, I have to say it’s great when your Safeway card knocks $5 off a bottle of wine. We picked this one up because Sean had seen previous vintages and had wanted to give it a try. The important caveat here is that we had been savouring some Orin Swift “The Prisoner” prior to opening this (notes to follow).

The colour is dark ruby red with some nice pepper and dark plum on the nose (showing both the Sangiovese and Cab right from the start), but the middle just didn’t follow up. There’s a bit of chocolate and some raspberry that arrives with a few good sips along with green tea and spice… however it seems to sag a bit at this point. The finish has some nice spice and hint of caramel.

Not bad on the whole, but we expect a little more at this price point.

$26 USD.

3 stars

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Wine – 2005 Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir, Central Coast

11132007.jpgOK, I admit it… occasionally I buy a wine because of the label. This one uses a painting by the French painter, G. Massias. I should know better, but dammit I’m both a cycling and an art geek. This bottle offered me a sucker’s trifecta – it’s a reasonably-priced Pinot Noir, it’s got a great label and that label featured a bike

Well… how was the wine? It wasn’t bad. After about 2 hours of air, the initial oak chip smell dissipated a bit and a nice nose of cherry syrup came up in front of the oak, but just barely. With some grilled pork, the last 2 glasses were positively tasty.

The colour is a light red; regular for a Pinot. The nose was initially a hot bunch of cherry juice-soaked oak chips. There was just too much of the oak. The food mellowed it a bit, but don’t buy this wine unless you like some wood with your wine (get your mind out of the gutter). The flavours were dominated by spicy oak and juicy cherry with some strawberry. Again that mellowed with time (and food), but it lacked balance… but for $23 here in BC, it was decent.

Will I buy it again? Maybe not, but I liked some of the flavours.

~ $23 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

3 stars

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Wine – 2005 Falesco Umbria Merlot, IGT

I picked this wine up last week after reading that Robert Parker gave it (or a previous vintage) a big rating. I was in the mood for a lush and tasty red… and let’s face it, tht’s pretty much all that Parker gives the big ratings to.

Well, what can I say? Not so much. It didn’t really do anything for me. Yep, it was red (a deep, dark red) in colour. It honestly looked better than it tasted.

The nose had some coffee, black cherry, licorice and an edge of brown sugar, but was on the weaker side. The flavours were edged with tight tannins that grip the tongue (even after hours of air), followed by medium-long finish with coffee-tinged dark fruit. It was just unbalanced and ultimately not so satisfying.

For the money, I’d give it a pass. OK, but not great.

$26.95 in LDB stores here in BC.

3 stars

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Wine – 2005 Villard Estates Expresión Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

07172007.jpgFor the past few weeks, Tuesday night has turned into sushi night (from KOKO Japanese Restaurant on East Hastings here in Vancouver – if you’ve never been, you have to go; it’s been in the same family for 25 years and the quality is GREAT… thanks to my friend Erin for introducing me to it!). I pick up the food, bring it home and we have it with a bottle of wine. I’m liking this new ritual.

Anyhoo… what the sushi calls for is a wine that matches well with the fish, but it also runs into our personal desire(s) to have it grab us by our taste buds and make us buy it again. Although this wine was decent, it’s not one that we’ll be buying again anytime soon.

It has the regular SB pale, almost clear straw yellow colour. Its nose is actually the best part of the experience – it shows a tonne of citrus and tropical fruit as well as a bit of heat from the 14% booze.

It’s when the wine reaches your mouth that it disappoints… it just lacks that certain “oomph” at which the nose hinted. There is the mineral-laced fruit and a nice honey-tinged finish, but the wine lacked that middle structure – the zip and zing that the best Sauvignon Blancs have.

It is good, but there are a lot of other SB’s I’d rather be pairing with my meals. For the money, I’m still all over the 2006 Babich or the Brumont Gros Manseng-Sauvignon (I have to review the 2006 here soon).

$20 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

3 stars

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