British Columbia Critics’ Picks July 2016
A Mixed Case of Favourites
This column is always the most interesting to put together each month because it reflects what wines we’re really keen on: wine that has left the palate, but lingers in the mind. Yes, we’re a right team of wine geeks and we taste thousands of bottles each year, but wine continues to surprise and move us all the time. When I sit down to write this column, it’s easy to come up with wines that were memorable over the past month. The hard part is picking just a few specials to share. We hope you enjoy this mixed case of our recent favourites as much as we did.
Cheers ~ TR
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. All are currently available for sale in BC – through BC Liquor Stores, private wine shops or direct from the wineries. Inventory is also available when linked to BCLDB stores.
Rhys Pender, MW
I’m not sure exactly what happened to summer but it somehow has seemed to disappear since the dizzying highs of 38 and 39 degrees in early June. Still, the weather is warm enough that most evenings, when the hour for wine comes about, I am craving a flavoursome white wine. There seems to be plenty of very good white wines around right now and the prices are quite reasonable for the intensity, power and flavour you get.
My first pick is one of the first of its kind in BC, the Stag’s Hollow 2015 Albariño Shuttleworth Creek Vineyard from the Okanagan Valley is complex, savoury, intense, crisp and has a lovely phenolic grip. Very serious wine for $25 and a great food pairing choice for everything from seafood to roast chicken.
As I write this, I am also prepping for a panel discussion I will be part of at Riesling Rendezvous, a bi-annual event celebrating the deliciousness of riesling. So I have Riesling on the brain and I have recently tasted two delicious wines from different corners of the globe.
The St. Urbans-Hof Old Vines Riesling from Mosel, Germany is always a very tasty wine but for me the 2014 vintage is the best yet. This is complex, intense, fresh and just keeps unfolding and is a great example of the off-dry style of Riesling.
From the other side of the world and the Clare Valley comes a new wine to BCLDB shelves, the Two Hands 2015 The Wolf Riesling. This is classic Clare Valley with its lime juice and zest, power and minerality in the bone dry, racy style.
And just to finish off, I saw a t-shirt recently (thanks Rémy) that summed up riesling to perfection. It said simply “If you don’t like Riesling, you are a f@#king idiot.” I couldn’t agree more.
Three diverse wines caught my fancy this week. The white is a salute to the late great Etienne Hugel, whose family has, since 1639, interpreted Alsace’s complex, rolling terroir. He was a great friend of wine, and it’s a relief to know that his legacy is in the capable and determined hands of offspring Charlotte and Jean-Frédéric. There are many profound wines in the Hugel et Fils stable, but the most humble, if that is the right word, is the softly fruity Gentil Hugel 2014 blend. I tasted it recently with Jean-Frédéric, who declared it “Alsace in a glass.” No argument here.
I chose the Bodega del Abad Gotín del Risc 2012 because of the eye-candy rhinestone and pink petal label – a catchy look for an esoteric grape from a small, rugged region in north west Spain called Bierzo. Solid, well-oaked bold red for those who like fruit and oak richness, with no added sugar.
And finally, a wine I have not stopped thinking about since tasting it at the 2nd Judgment of B.C. on the 21st of June, 2016. It’s Thomas Bachelder’s Oregon Pinot Noir 2012, as juicy, pure and soaring as pinot in the Willamette gets. It ranked second out of twelve impressive wines in a benchmark tasting that compared six local pinot noir wines, with six globally acknowledged standards. It tastes utterly effortless in the mouth, a true indicator that a great deal of work went into its creation.
I’ve just returned from a road trip to Willamette Valley before up to Seattle for Riesling Rendezvous, tasting beautiful wines along the way from our Oregon neighbours to the south. I’d love to write about all of them here, but NEARLY NONE of them are available in BC, sadly. Sigh – it’s worth the border crossing and a few nights’ cabin rental to head south this summer and see what about our vintner kin are doing in the Willamette (The Eyrie Vineyards, Goodfellow Family Cellars, Brooks Winery, Beckham Estate, Division Wine Co. are must-stops). In addition to DJ’s stellar Bachelder pick above, seek out Domaine Drouhin Laurène Pinot Noir 2012 for classic earthy Burgundian-meets-scented Dundee Hills pinot.
Up at Riesling Rendezvous, Rhys and I started each morning with a tasting of 20 Rieslings blind. The first day was devoted to dry Riesling, while the second day was a flight of 20 sweet Rieslings (of course, the debate is never ending about where to draw that line). Rieslings from all over the world were in the lineup, including ones from our own Okanagan backyard. The Tantalus Vineyards 2013 Old Vines Riesling impressed the crowd with its dry, earthy potency, lime zest vibrancy and herbal texture. In the sweet lineup, Martin’s Lane Naramata Ranch Vineyard Riesling 2014 was a surprise, showing ripe peach, pear butter, mango and pulpy mandarin. And Synchromesh 2015 Storm Haven Vineyard Riesling astounded the tasters with its nimble balance of 45.8 g/l RS with 11.1 TA and 2.8 pH in a tidy 8.9% alcohol package.
A couple of nights ago I cracked into a bottle from one of my favourite Aussie producers and enjoyed it greatly over two evenings (restraint)! Ochota Barrels 2014 I am the Owl Syrah is whole bunch, without additions, rested ten months in French barrique, this is as pure and patient view of cooler climate Oz syrah that you will find. Try and enjoy this beguiling wine slowly, even though it’s so easily smashable.
Also exceptionally drinkable, and cellar-able, is the new vintage of A.A. Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc. The 2015 Secateurs, his “entry-level” is from selected old bush vines on granite slopes in South Africa’s Swartland, and lures with precise lemon zest vibrancy, savoury broken stones, roasted nut, medicinal lemon balm and gentle honeycomb. 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 Rhys Pender’s BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential critic.
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