December 19, 2008

Doña Paula Malbec 2007

This one showed up at our Christmas party - didn't see who brought it, but thanks very much. This is a new one for me, I've never even heard of the winery before. So let's pour a glass and write as we go....

Well: nice label, classy. Terrific deep garnet red colour. Smells amazing - rich, peppery and berries, but mostly earthy. First sips are similarly impressive: full and complex but not big and chewy, with a nice long black pepper finish. Somewhere between a good pinot noir and a jammy cabernet, a really nice Malbec (and I've had some pretty mediocre - OK, crappy - ones). I'm not sure what if anything you would eat with this, maybe something mild to contrast the robustness of the wine. Second glass and the mineral notes are coming through too. A nice one for tasting, an impressive one to give as a gift. Again, to the anonymous party guest who brought this - thanks!

89 points. A gift, but I'd guess around $20.

December 11, 2008

Lindemans Cawarra Cabernet Merlot 2007

I'm not a huge fan of the mega-producers of the wine world (Mondavi for example), but I will happily buy a bottle of Lindemans anytime. It's pretty much guaranteed to be an above-average wine for a good price.

Here's the skinny on the name "Cawarra" from Lindemans itself: "The LINDEMANS Cawarra Range is a tribute to the vision of Dr Henry J Lindeman, who in 1843, purchased a property in the Hunter Valley named 'Cawarra' (an Aboriginal word meaning 'beside running water') and planted his first vines." OK, that doesn't really do anything for me, but the wine, as usual, is pretty good.

This is a very mellow red, easy to drink any maybe a little thin. It's got a plum colour and taste, and some backbone with a high alcohol content. It wants to be in the "very good" category, but falls a bit short although just barely. This would be a good complement for lasagna or Greek food, where you really want just a decent red to slurp. It's not blowing my mind, but it's quite good. Slurpable. I wouldn't buy it at $20, but for the nine bucks or whatever it was, it's more than a good value. I'm reading these comments, and I think it's a little better of a wine than I'm making it sound. Unlike many single-digit reds, I'm very much looking forward to another glass. I'd prefer this to the Sonora Ranch below, for example. I doubt we'll need to re-cork the bottle before we go to bed.

82 points. Under $10.

November 7, 2008

Therapy Vineyards Marcus Ansems Shiraz 2006

This is one of our favorite places in the Okanagan. Therapy is just up the road from Kettle Valley in Naramata, and they really go to town on their branding with wine names such as "Freudian Sip", "Super Ego" and "Pink Freud". But there's more steak than sizzle here: all their wines are fantastic. Last year we made our annual pilgrimage to the valley, where we usually haul back a couple of cases back, choosing a bottle or two from each winery. Last year, we liked so much at Therapy we shipped a case.

Part of this case was the now-opened Marcus Ansems Shiraz 2006. It doesn't have the usual Rorschach-test inkblot label the winery is known for. In fact, when I pulled it off the shelf I was surprised to find it was from Therapy, which is only listed on the back label. For whatever reason, this one is branded differently.

When I was a kid we had a cottage in Muskoka, and I remember there were plenty of chokecherry bushes around. I don't recall ever seeing a chokecherry since. To me, chokecherry is like a small, bitter cherry, and this was the first thing that popped into my head sipping this wine. It's fairly "thin" for a shiraz, not jammy but with plenty of berry flavour and very dry. I think I'm getting some cloves too. Therapy's website's notes also reference black pepper (which I can see) and chocolate (which I can't, but that's just me).

I just finished a couple of slices of McCain Delissio pizza before uncorking this one. I'm guessing this shiraz would be appropriate for pretty much any food that would traditionally go with "red wine", probably something like a lamb roast would be great, but it didn't clash with the pizza either. I'm onto glass #2 and it keeps getting more interesting. This is a great wine.

If you ever get a chance to visit Naramata, I highly recommend you get some Therapy.

93 points. $32 from the vineyard's wine shop.

October 17, 2008

Golden Mile Cellars Chardonnay 2006

Golden Mile Cellars is one of the first places we visited years ago, and we happened to show up in the first week the winery was open. The building looks like a medieval castle for some reason. It's been sold since then. The new owners must be a little embarrased about the castle thing, since there isn't a single photo of the building out of a couple dozen on the website. I dunno, I think it's kind of cool.

This winery is now called Road 13. There's a good radio show with Terry David Mulligan called The Tasting Room which just happens to air on the local sports talk station for some reason. Anyway, the former mountie and Good Rockin' Tonite host did a full hour from the rebranding party from the winery a few months ago. Long story short, "golden mile" is the name of the geographic region roughly between Oliver and Osoyoos, but the local winemakers weren't able to market the region a la Naramata Bench since there was some confusion between the area and the winery. So the winery, Golden Mile Cellars, gave up the name. I expect we'll see some Golden Mile Region tourism pamphlets next time we visit.

This wine won a couple of medals in Okanagan festivals. I definitely get a buttery but fairly crisp dry (grapefruit?) flavour. The wine is high in alcohol. Drinkable on its own, it will be great with any seafood and has enough backbone to stand up to a strong curry. All in all, pretty much what you want in a good chardonnay.

87 points. Under $20 from the winery.

October 15, 2008

Red Rooster Chardonnay 2006

OK, very briefly: what sticks with me is the pear flavours and the balanced acidity. This one has no oak (not that I mind some oak) nor does it have that buttery character - it's more like a sauvignon blanc than a chardonnay. It would go well with brie cheese or maybe even sushi, but would be just fine with any typical white-wine food I would guess. Just finished the last glass (well, ONE of us did), wish I had more.

88 points. Bought at the winery for about $18 if I remember.

September 29, 2008

Sonora Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon

I think Sonora Ranch is Mission Hill's cheapo label. I've been looking for confirmation on the internet, but it seems to be a state secret. Nothing on the bottle gives it away either - it's a product of the "Artisan Wine Co." from Oliver (their website is particularly thin and uninformative). Mission Hill is not in Oliver, but I still believe Sonora Ranch is MH's way to pawn off their low-grade product.

Well, wherever it's from, it's cheap and it's good. There is no year on the label, so I'm guessing it's a mix of different "vintages" (using that term loosely). But you know what - it's not bad at all. Despite a hint of grape jelly, it's a fresh and full-bodied cab that probably wouldn't do well in a blind tasting but is still pretty good and very drinkable. I'm on my second glass, just to back up that last point. A little too jammy to be confused with the big dogs, but it has pretty good balance and enough body to hold it's own.

And when you factor in the price, it's a damn good deal. Cheap reds can be a real crapshoot, but this one is pretty reliable. Good with pizza or spaghetti and meatballs.

81 points. $8.50.

September 27, 2008

Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer 2007

When we go to the Okanagan, we rarely stop at Tinhorn Creek. The reason is it's so easy to get their wine here in Alberta, and you pretty much know all of it will be very good. But if you've never been to the winery before it's definitely worth a visit.

Usually, all I can remember about a wine is the winemaker and the grape(s), if that. I generally don't pay too much attention to differences year to year, although I probably should start. There was a TC gewurz from 2003 or 2004 that was absolutely head and shoulders above anything else they've ever done. If we saw it on the shelf in the store we'd buy a couple of bottles, but it was hard to find. It was exceptional.

This 2007 is faintly reminiscent, a very nice drinkable wine but not a real showstopper. It has a fantastic bouquet that always reminds me instantly of early May in the "Golden Mile" between Oliver and Osoyoos. It smells very floral, spicy, fresh, a little sweet (more like honey instead of that musky lychee), and that's how the wine tastes to me as well. I don't think this one is a gold medal winner, but I'd sure love to find a bottle of it in the back of the fridge anytime. It's probably ideal as an almost-ice-cold drink on an almost-too-hot summer afternoon, but it's a cool fall day today and I don't see anyone complaining.

The worst thing about this wine is the blurb on the back label. "If this wine were human, it wouldn't wait for a special occasion to buy fresh flowers. It would listen to jazz in the car, full blast with the windows down. It would wear faded jeans. It would meet up with friends - in the hot tub. It would know that a sunny day is a good day - and that a sunny day with a good book is a perfect one." I don't mind anthropomorphizing a wine to describe its character, but c'mon. One point penalty for making me feel like a dorky loud-jazz-listener.

88 points. $16 at Superstore.

Nichol Vineyard Cabernet-Syrah 2004

This is the one we brought to the same dinner (see below), so we had two outstanding BC reds tonight.

We bought this from the vineyard a couple of years ago. I don't think we got to taste it then, but the two or three we did sample at Nichol were amazing so we purchased this one on spec. One of the guests was surprised at the blend of Cab and Syrah, but I think I've seen that before. In any event, it's a good mix, more assertive than the Burrowing Owl we also had but not too much. This wine probably goes best with a slab of beef of some kind, which fortunately we had this evening. It's been a few hours so my taste memory is a little poor; I can't throw around too many high-falutin' adjectives about it right now. Although I will say it had a great structure, maybe because it actually sat on our wine shelf for two years. I preferred this over the Burrowing Owl: it had a little more boldness to it, although both were mature, confident wines.

I think Nichol must be one of the best and most overlooked winemakers in the Okanagan. It might be due to the winery being located at the end of the road in Naramata, so you really have to go looking for it.

92 points. I think we paid about $30-35 for this one a couple of years ago. Life is good.

Burrowing Owl Meritage 2005

Brought by some friends to dinner tonight. I wish we drank like this all the time. I could get used to it, but would probably end up in the poorhouse in a year or two.

From BOV's website: 2005 Meritage - Aromas of heady, smoky, mixtures of violets, cassis, blackberry, plums, vanilla, cloves, and toasty oak. On the palate, the wine is firm yet subtle, offering big, rich flavours, seamless texture and tremendous persistence of flavours.

I don't know which year we drank, but from the different tasting notes on their website I'm guessing the 2005. It wasn't too big and bold, and had a good - OK, great - balance. I've had a few different Burrowing Owl that ranged from really good to Oh My God, and this one was up there in a subtle but substantial way. A great partner to our meat-and-potatoes, but would probably be good with most anything remotely savoury, or on its own.

Remember: rhymes with "heritage". Nothing French about it.

91 points. Price unknown, but likely over $40.


Hi there. This is all about wines we have experienced. It's mostly for our own use, to remember what we've drank and enjoyed, but feel free to browse. Any pretentious-sounding description is purely accidental.