BC Critics’ Picks May 2014
Our monthly Critics’ Picks column is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics, wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution channel of the BCLDB or VQA stores. But are all currently available for sale in BC. Here are 20 wines we’re excited to share this month. Click on the links or bottle images to find out more.
Cheers, Treve Ring
Anthony Gismondi’s Pacific Rim Summer Whites
It’s a big wine world out there with limitless options for the curious. This month I propose five very different wines, all made in the western reaches of North America that will transport you into summertime. In this case the task is to be cool, white, refreshing and food-friendly. Freshness as in acidity is a must, wood is tolerated but not necessary. Finally a sense of minerality or electricity to raise it above the ordinary was my goal to make this month’s picks.
We begin with the latest Domaine Drouhin Arthur Chardonnay 2012. This Willamette Valley will grab you attention first with its floral, nutty lees nose and then its fresh and creamy green apple, citrus and nectarine skin flavours. Oregon has the potential to make the best chardonnay in North America and this is one to watch. Halibut anyone?
Just up the road in Washington State, Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling 2012 comes in a slimmed down version with floral, lime juice notes. Is Ernie Loosen’s riesling work at Eroica trickling down to CSM, you bet it is. Love the watery, quaffing edge with candied red apple and lime flavours. For lighter summer style foods.
Every vintage of Mission Hill Select Lot Sauvignon Blanc 2011 has been a head turner. Love the crisp, juicy, elegant styling, bright fruit and a wonderful nervous tension that brings it altogether. I’m thinking a Cobb salad is the ticket here. A little further south and west Clos du Soleil Grower’s Series Baessler Pinot Blanc 2013 is a Similkameen star mixing honey, citrus, pears all with a stony mineral ending. Try it with you favourite sashimi.
Now south to California where the Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2012 is perhaps the best they have made. Fruity, stony and flecked with dried herbs it cause the all-important saliva flow that you can’t control. It’s a sure sign of minerality and freshness. Complex and food friendly, pair this with ahi tuna dishes. Life doesn’t get better.
The Unexpected from DJ Kearney
This month I have chosen wines that surprise and delight and show a different side of a wine, grape or place. Take Cherveny, for example, a little known appellation in the watery, dulcet Loire Valley. We expect dry crisp wines defined by the absence of oak and the Puzelat-Bonhmme Cherverny 2011 conforms to that ideal, but it offers two chance delights: a sauvignon blanc wine that shows subtlety seldom seen, and a historic grape, Menu Pineau (an ancient Loire grape that’s related to Gouais Blanc) which adds a little fat to sauvignon’s lean frame.
Portugal truly owns ‘unexpected’. This country is ascending, and with her 250+ indigenous grapes it is THE place to seek drinking adventures and discoveries. Luis Pato has been giving us remarkable wines for decades now (lavishing respect and care on the Baga grape, for example) and tasted blind, I guarantee you’ll be all over the French map with the Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Vinho Branco 2012 which shows a little Burg-ish and a little Rhone-ish.
It’s an unexpected treat when a $15-ish wine punches far above its weight, and that’s what you can expect from the great Brent Marris’ new vintage of The Ned Waihopai River Sauvignon Blanc 2014. A warmer growing season, 2014 saw full flavour development arrive at fairly low sugars, giving the wines a completeness and succulence that’s really compelling.
If you’ve been drinking Nederburg wines like I have for decades, the quality of the Nederburg The Motorcycle Marvel 2010 will be in step with your expectations, but if not, get ready for a dense and harmonious Rhone-y wine that’s brambly, wild and full of South African character.
Finally, illustrious Penfolds, so famous for shiraz wines like the powerful Grange and thoroughbred St. Henri, is also responsible for some majestic cabernet sauvignon. There’s the wondrous Bin 707, of course, and the more affordable Bin 407 which both immortalize cabernet, but new to the shelves is Penfolds Bin 9 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, surprising with earthy, savoury restraint.
Old Favourites from Rhys Pender MW
There are some wines in the world that you just keep going back to because they are just so eternally satisfying and so rarely disappointing. One of my favourites is Chablis. It is racy, steely, tastes like oyster shells and is immensely refreshing. The Domaine Christian Moreau 2012 Chablis Vaillon 1er Cru is a textbook example of this most electric wine style.
Another wine that I seem to regularly guzzle with great enjoyment south of the border but don’t seem to find quite enough in Canada is the Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs bubbly from California. Of all the California bubblies I’ve had this seems time and time again to be the best and while not cheap at around $50 it can give most Champagnes a run for their money.
Some things about wine are excessively frivolous, betraying any history a wine or region might have to jump on the latest bandwagon and mimic whatever is the current trend that might short-sightedly sell off a few cases. Thankfully, there are some wines that are like bedrock, wines that plod along successfully using the techniques and following the styles that have always worked, always been admired and always made delicious juice. They don’t have to follow trends because they were good wines in the first place and when you make good wine, you should not change. Penfolds may well be the kings of stubborn-ness to change and for that we are grateful. The Penfolds 2010 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon is a great example giving great bang for its buck, American oak warts and all. It just plain delicious.
Two final wines that I just can’t help splurging on far too often are each classics of Italy and Spain. Barolo is just so charming, in spite of its vigorous tannins and acidity, and even young and rough around the edges it often has so much complexity of flavour and aroma that you can’t just drink it but need to think about it as well. The Luigi Einaudi 2009 Terlo fromBarolo is a great example of this youthful intrigue.
The Muga 2008 Reserva Rioja is also a wine that really works the mind with its complexity, ticking boxes in every tasting sphere from fruits, to plants and the earth and many things in between. The Muga is a fantastic savoury version that will have you wearing out your aroma wheel with overuse.
Treve’s Travels with her Corkscrew
I’ve been on the road much of this month, so my picks were influenced by where I’ve visited and what I’ve tasted en route.
In Penedès, after a long day wandering hillside forest vineyards and navigating the Catalan language, it’s nice to put your feet up and your cares away with a glass of Miguel Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro. This golden elixir has been made by the Torres family since 1946, and this heady, honey blossom sip does double duty as an apres (the Spanish don’t eat dinner until 10pm after all) or dessert wine.
The delicate and sensual Floralis is in stark contrast to the otherworldly landscape of Priorat, and the wild, dramatic reds produced there. Parés Balta Gratavinum 2πr appears on our market from time to time, though sadly, never lasts long because of high demand. The Garnacha and Carignena blend transmits the minerality of Priorat’s soils into a powerful, memorable and long-lasting memory.
A skip across the Tyrrhenian Sea and I was lost amidst the endless rolling hills of Tuscany. Though Barone Bettino Ricasoli (1809 – 1880) is credited with perfecting the ‘recipe’ for Chianti in 1872, his heir, 32nd generation Barone Francesco Ricasoli has continued to search for the secrets to the “mischievous” Sangiovese grape today. In the Ricasoli Colledilá Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010, it is expressed though this single varietal Sangiovese, a pure, structured and regal wine that embraces modernity as well as history. (click here for background on the new Gran Selezione Chianti Classico category)
When have the most beautiful Tuscan grilled bread, olive oil, charcuterie and hunks of cheese in front of you (as is oft the case when travelling the wine roads of Italy), a bottle of Castiglion Del Bosco Rosso Di Montalcino 2011 is exactly what you need. Lively, tight and bright, with sun-warmed cherry and smoked salt, this juicy, everyday red will help inject a little la dolce vita into your day.
It’s always such a massive delight to find a dry, textured, intriguing white blend in a Tuscan sea of reds – especially one that clocks in under $15 back on our BC shelves. The Poggiotondo Bianco Toscana IGT 2013 does exactly that – and more – under the experienced and intuitional hands of Alberto Antonini. The indigenous Vermentino, Ansonica and Malvasia blend is fresh and exciting, full of motion and promise, and calls for the local spot prawns hitting tables across BC this week.
That’s a wrap for this edition of Critics Picks. Check out our Top 20 under $20 coming up in two weeks, and get DJ Kearney’s lowdown on the 2013 vintage in BC, an excellent year after some ups and downs – Treve Ring
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