British Columbia Critics’ Picks August 2016
Drink Ahead to Fall
How does the saying go: Minds that think alike, drink alike? Or is it the other way round – minds that drink alike, think alike? Either way, it seems the WineAlign West crew is already starting to think ahead, and drink ahead to fall. Richer reds are making their first appearance in many weeks, while the whites are all structured and savoury enough to take on some heartier foods. And the fizz selected? Serious stuff. Bring it, September. We’re ready, with a case of serious (and delicious) wines like these.
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.
Champagne Bollinger 2005 La Grande Année is only made in the best years, and while 2005 doesn’t fit that accolade, Bollinger tends to overcome most obstacles of weather. It was disgorged in 2014 after eight years on lees, so it is ready to go. There is more sugar ripeness and less acidity, which is why it’s drinking well now and will likely age faster than the norm. When you find yourself losing faith in wine, this champagne will recharge your batteries.
The Two Hands Garden Series is a six-shiraz-set bottled to expose the terroir of individually approved South Australia wine regions. Two Hands 2013 Bella’s Garden Shiraz makes up the largest production, and since the inception the use of new oak has fallen, setting this wine free. It’s not for the timid and it could use a few years in bottle, but many will enjoy the rambunctious new world fruit now, served with a well-seasoned leg of lamb. Bring on the fall.
When I last visited the folks who make Domini De La Cartoixa 2013 Formiga De Galena, a blend of garnacha, samsó and syrah, I was blown away by its intense stony, black fruit aromas and similar smoky, savoury, black cherry fruit flavours. Terrific value here in what is a serious, modern, organic red made in an old school way.
Rhys Pender, MW
I started last month’s critics’ picks bemoaning the fact that summer had somehow seemed to disappear with chilly autumn like nights and cool days. August has seen summer come back full throttle with rarely a day in the Okanagan and Similkameen under 30 degrees over the last few weeks. The grapes are moving along quickly as a result and harvest has started for many wineries already.
When the apéro hour hits in this warm weather, a crisp white is calling and I’ve picked two wines that fit the bill well. The first is the Culmina 2015 Unicus Gruner Veltliner. There is very little gruner in BC but this shows its potential. Crisp, mineral, varietally correct and super refreshing, showing the power and freshness that BC whites can achieve. A little ceviche or a fresh green salad wouldn’t go astray.
We don’t always think of Chardonnay as crisp and refreshing but most modern Chardonnay is going down that path, particularly those from cooler parts of Australia. The BK Wines 2013 One Ball Single Vineyard Chardonnay from Kenton Valley in the Adelaide Hills is just that – restrained, refined, crisp and fresh with plenty of complexity from the lees aging and subtle use of oak. A bit of grilled white fish with some brown butter would be a perfect match.
When the night cools off but it is still perfect BBQ weather and warm enough to do some star gazing, a complex, rustic and savoury red is the perfect match. The Fontodi 2012 Chianti Classico Chianti Classico will not disappoint. There is plenty of savoury complexity to think about while on shooting star watch.
Any excuse is a good excuse to drink Champagne, and if you pick a good, dry, crisp one with a decent amount of autolysis it will taste good out of any vessel, from a surreptitious water bottle, a tumbler, a plastic cup or maybe even a proper wine glass or flute. If you are on the beach, the boat or the campsite just remember to bring a bubbly stopper to keep those bubbles fresh between pours. One that never disappoints and that I have probably tried out of all those vessels and more is the Pol Roger N/V Réserve Brut Champagne. One of the best in my mind, it has plenty of autolysis richness as well as providing great refreshment.
Three mesmerizing wines that I want to drink again and again, all memorable because of texture, mineral force and the characters behind them. If one of wine’s gifts is to distract, relax and stimulate, then these three are richly endowed with vinous powers.
Acústic Cellers 2012 Blanc may need a scuttle around a few private wine stores, but it’s a fatty/stony/salty marvel for Mediterranean halibut or Iberian ham and well worth the hunt. Thanks to Monsant’s Albert Jané Ubeda for this heroic white.
I drank three bottles of Les Pavillons du Chateau d’Arlay 2014 Rosé in a row (well not drank drank, but you know, opened three to try with three dinner pairings) and applauded the triumph of texture and terroir. To me, the Jura is a powerfully eloquent terroir, and this innocent-looking rosé packs a whallop of fruit and mineral heft. It’s a blend of two Jurassien red grapes: pinot noir for curranty fruit and silky mouthfeel, and trousseau for a spicy weight. Comte Alain de la Guiche is visiting Vancouver in October, and I hope that helps ensure that we have a constant flow of Arlay wines.
And then the Pencopolitano. I drank this wine with Pedro Perra, and I’m always prepared for his wines to be full of soul. After more than a decade of digging calicatas across the globe – from Burgundy and Barossa to the Okanagan and Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley – Chilean geologist Pedro Parra is well established as the world’s leading expert on the influence of rocks and soil on wine quality and character. He is still young, but he continues to rise inexorably through Decanter’s annual Power 50. Now he has started a project in his home region of southern Chile that focuses on terroirs, not just grape varieties. Pencopolitano is a different kind of ‘field blend’, celebrating the heritage of dry-farmed bush vines from old vineyards scattered across the isolated and impoverished regions of Itata and Cauquenes. Five grapes, powerful terroir, venerable vines, old oak and concrete, and Pedro’s inimitable winemaking. Like I said in the beginning, mesmerizing.
When I look back at the last month of tasting and think about the wines that stood out, excited and impressed me, a duo of local talents quickly come to mind, co-incidentally both from the Okanagan Valley. You may need to drive to the Naramata Bench to pick them up, but, it’s worth it.
The Terravista 2015 Fandango stands alone in all the ways, starting with its singular blend of Albariño and Verdejo from the granitic soils of their Naramata Bench estate. Concentrated, focused and vibrant, with perfumed lime oil, mandarin, gooseberry and yellow plum along a raft of fine ginger spicing. Dialed in.
While Lock & Worth is located on the Naramata Bench, near Terravista, the grapes for their 2015 Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon are from a graveled site near Oliver. Seventeen year-old-year old vines make up this 77/23 sauvignon blanc/semillon blend, resulting in medicinal herbs, meadow grass, lemon thistle, hay and vibrant citrus acidity streaming through the lees-lined palate. Tighter and more linear than the 2014 now, this has the structure to reward with a few years in your cellar (if you can wait that long). Amazing value.
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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