British Columbia Critics’ Picks July 2015
Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks 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 through BCLDB or VQA stores. All are currently available for sale in BC.
It’s always interesting lacing this column together and seeing what my colleagues have been enjoying over the past month. While we are all in contact regularly, we rarely get the chance to catch up in person, let alone taste together. Already in this month we’ve crossed time zones and terroirs from BC to Washington to California to Greece. Our picks often show some overlap, even when our paths do not. Natural wine, cellar dwellers, France, Italy and one local winery bubble to the fore this month, as does the ever-constant, singular uniting factor – delicious wines.
Cheers ~ TR
July is half over and most of us in the west are waiting, some even praying we will get some rain this month. It’s been warm and dry and the long-term outlook is more of the same. Beer seems like a good option, but a Vancouver Sun undercover story (some people have all the luck) revealed when you order a pint you often receive less than you paid for (seriously, who can you trust?) They still put wine in 750ml bottles so we will stick with that for July. Here’s three solid summer picks to enjoy and remember if the heat is oppressive chill down those reds – they will be all the better for it.
I’m betting Melini isn’t on your Chianti Classico mind most nights but the Melini La Selvanella Riserva Chianti Classico 2010 does the commune of Radda proud. If charcuterie is your thing it’s a perfect summer’s eve wine when the sun goes down. Silk plums.
My white pick will surprise some. Often underestimated by the ill-informed KJ’s calling card chardonnay, Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay Vintner’s Reserve 2013 is in a good space in 2013, now a full thirty years down the road from vintage one in 1983. KJ’s strength is the sheer size of coastal chardonnay vineyards they own in California and the selection of fruit available to chief winemaker Randy Ullom. It is a chardonnay that will please a wide spectrum of tasters.
Closer to home, the race is on in BC to make better merlot. If there is a blueprint for simplicity and complexity I vote for the CedarCreek Merlot 2012. As noted and worth repeating, this is delicious stuff. The real attraction is the soft, silky tannins and the immediate drinkability of this savoury plum scented and flavoured red. Now, sit back and relax and let the summer wash over you before it’s gone.
Rhys Pender, MW
Sometimes a great vintage comes along and you should jump at the chance and stock up your cellar. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to find good cellaring wines either. One of the consistently most interesting and affordable wine regions to find cellar-worthy wines is Rioja. For around $30 there are some seriously good wines. The Muga 2010 Reserva is worth picking up a case to enjoy over the next decade or longer.
Another wine that offers great cellaring potential but is also delicious right now is the complex St. Urbans Hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2011. This wine shows how a light, low alcohol Riesling can still be so powerful. And it just keeps changing in the glass, offering layers of complexity.
More for immediate pleasure to drink now is the Domaine Chante-Perdrix 2012 Châteauneuf-du Pape. This will hold for 5-6 years but it is so good and complex now with so many different flavour elements and is so texturally pleasing that you should just drink it. Well priced for Châteauneuf-du Pape too.
Grenache is one of my beloved grapes. It is capable of transmitting terroir in a special way, matching the violet fragrance and silky texture of great pinot and reaching haunting, earthy complexity with age. Though often dismissed for being hot, simple or good only for bolstering a blend, when grenache is given respect, vine age and a fine terroir, anything is possible. It’s a Spanish grape of course, but here are three diverting French bottles that I’ve enjoyed this week.
The first, Domaine de la Mordorée La Reine des Bois Lirac Blanc 2014 is, to my mind, one of the great whites of France. It’s a concentrated, complex wine that will transform over 5 years (if you can be patient) in your cellar, into a stone-driven treasure.
Provençal rosé is still high up on my playlist, and I love the role that grenache plays in the aptly named Harmonie Rosé 2014 from Château Sainte Rosaline.
Finally a netherworld wine. Ochota Barrels The Green Room 2014 is made by maverick Aussie Tamas Ochota and his anti-establishment, unorthodox methods conjure this Mclaren Vale grenache blend into something remarkable.
One of the most interesting wines I’ve come across this month is an experimental red from CedarCreek and winemaker Darryl Brooker (recently moved over to Mission Hill). The CedarCreek Amphora Wine Project Desert Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is a natural wine, made without any additions (such as sulphur) and left to its own devices in an unlined clay amphora for eight months. The experiment paid off, and I’m looking forward to future ones.
I always enjoy a chance to taste the fresh, alpine-imbued wines from north eastern Italy’s Alto Adige, a region underrepresented on this market. Nals Margreid Galea Schiava 2013 is one such special delight, transmitting 100+ year old schiava vines into a delicately hued, layered and complexed stony light red. A beauty.
It’s always a bonus to come across well-built, affordable wines that excel and excite with short-term cellaring. M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes du Rhône Rouge is a terrific example of this; a $20(ish) dollar red that wears a couple of years age beautifully. I recently cracked the 2012 in my cellar (purchased last year) and was seriously impressed by the progression. This biodynamic grenache/syrah Côtes du Rhone beauty will delight now, and reward later, so stock up.
WineAlign in BC
In addition to our monthly Critics’ Picks report, we also publish the popular shortlist 20 Under $20, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.