September 8, 2016 § Leave a comment
The main thrust of this blog is to weed through the masses of under $20 wines to find the true values. Having said that, every so often I come across a wine that is over $20, that grabs my attention and excitement. This is one of those wines.
Released to the market in the last week the Black Hills 2014 Syrah. Black Hills has a long history of producing great wines including Nota Bene, so I was really looking forward to tasting this year’s release of the Syrah.
I will cut right to the chase, I was totally enthralled with this wine. I was expecting a meaty, leathery Syrah with some big aggressive tannins; after all it is a new release. What If found was a wine with wisdom beyond its years.
Deep purple in the glass and ripe fruit aromas with hints of smoked meat and tobacco leaf. The palate was deep and engaging with a finish that showed finesse and the quality of the fruit.
I could easily see purchasing this wine as a gift or for a special evening like a date night or celebrating one of life’s victories. I’m even motivated to get on the Black Hills mailing list, and get myself a case as I don’t think this will last long in the market, even though the price will be $35-$45 in private stores… if you can find it.
Price ~ $35-$45
Score ~ 8.9/10 Points – Best Buy
The reason I would buy a case of this as I would be really curious to see how this wine develops over time. The vineyards for this wine are primarily sandy which is great for fully developing fruit flavours and ripening, but makes developing the acidity necessary for aging a challenge. When I taste this the acid is bright and lively, and I suspect that this wine will age well.
As for food, we had this with a pork roast and root vegetables and it was awesome. The fats in the pork roast allowed the fruit and savoury flavours in the wine to shine through.
Grapes ~ Syrah
Availability ~ Fine Wine Stores, Restaurants, Winery
Store Section ~ BC, VQA
Next Up: Tasting Aged Wines
July 1, 2016 § Leave a comment
If you don’t have time to read this post, then simply drop everything and run out and buy as much of this win as you can!
It is the end of the school year and we always give our kids teachers the gift of a bottle of wine. As it happens we needed to stop at the grocery store on the way home, so I decided to pop into the store 2 doors down from the grocery store. Truth is that the store is not my normal haunt so I was curious to see what I was going to find.
I came across a number of ‘Blow Out’ wines, so I checked the vintages, looked to see who the importer was/is (often found on the back label), and any other information like blend, or viticultural info; anything that could tell me if this wine was a blow-out due to quality or overstocking.
I focussed on the Red Boot Italian Red. The importer was Freehouse Wine & Spirits, a very well respected importer known for finding exceptional quality, that has since merged with Icon Wine & Spirits. When importers merge there are often products that get blown out for a variety of reasons, quality issues are rarely one of them. So I decided to pick up a bottle.
Price ~ $9.99
Score ~ 9.2/10 Best Buy
The colour is a dark inky red and the nose show ripe cherry, currant and black plum. The palate is dense yet fresh (wine is at its peak right now) and wonderfully silky. The finish is medium length with lots of ripe fruit and hints of savoury spices. Seriously this wine has the quality of $18-$22 Toscana wines. I truly loved it!
I loved it so much I started asking around to stores to see who actually carried it as I know that the Freehouse/Icon merger was at least 6 months back. So far I could only find it at the 4 Mile Liquor Stores. I understand they have about 16 cases in total, 10 at their Admirals Store and 6 in Colwood.
As for food pairing this would would be a treat if you are grilling just about anything. Burgers, Chicken, Ribs, Lamb, etc. It would also go with some fine Parmesano or Gruyere.
As I said at the top of the post, get on your horse and buy as much of this as you can, you won’t be sorry and these are the last cases available.
Grapes ~ Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot
Store Section ~ Italy & on display
Availability ~ very limited, so far I could only find this at the 4 Mile Liquor Store in Colwood & on Admirals.
June 17, 2016 § Leave a comment
One of the things about the wine business is that it is a business of passion. I can tell you there isn’t a lot of money in it, and if you were to ask anyone involved they are not in it for the money, they are in it because they love it. So it is sad when you hear that a talented, passionate importer has decided to pack up and move to a different industry because he can’t make ends meet. The silver lining however is that he has reduced the prices on a number of products in his portfolio. Including the Alba de los Infantes 2009 Gran Reserva.
For those that don’t know for a Spanish wine to be called Gran Reserva is must be aged 2 years in barrel and further 3 years in bottle. What this means is that the wine grower and the wine maker saw something in the quality of the grapes and resulting wine that was special. So special that they decided to assume the added cost of a min. 5 years of ageing.
Typically the price for a Gran Reserva wine from Spain starts at the $22 mark and goes up, way up from there. So when the importer told me what the ‘clearance’ price was I started to salivate. It took a while for me to find some bottles in stores, but when I did I was over the moon.
It is not too often that a wine gets a Best Buy rating from me, as it truly needs to punch well above its weight to do so, but this is one.
Price ~ $12.99
Score ~ 9.3/10 Best Buy
It may only be $13 but please let it breathe for at least 30 minutes. If you do you will be rewarded.
The colour is a dark red/purple and the nose shows bright red and blue berries, with some spice and leather.
The palate shows a ton of fresh fruit, while the texture is supple and richly textured. The finish shows generous berry and black tree fruits along with some sensuous savoury spices.
I know that I will be buying this by the case.
This weekend all the dad’s in the family will be enjoying a barbeque, and that is exactly what I would recommend for this wine. Slow roasted ribs, grilled meats, chicken. This would also be a delight with some medium aged cheeses right up to some top quality manchego.
Grapes ~ Tempranillo, Garancha
Store Location ~ Spain
Availability ~ Limited to private stores. I got mine from Spinnaker’s James Bay.
May 28, 2016 § Leave a comment
I recall a time when I thought beer either can in a bottle with a blue label or a bottle with a red label. In fact there was a time that, like in politics, families were either Labatt Blue or Molson Canadian families. Those times have long since past and the diversity in beer choices rivals that of wine choices.
At the beginning of the craft beer renaissance there was a lot of talk about Belgian beers and Belgian brewing. It was at this time I was introduced to the multi-time World Beer Champion – Gulden Draak.
Price ~ $4.00 (330ml), $8-$10 (750ml)
Score ~ 9.1 Best Buy
Right away you can tell that you are not dealing with your run of the mill brew. At 10.8% alcohol it is a bit of a monster that pours dark brown in the glass. The nose shows caramel and Christmas cake, with generous malty greatness. The palate is big and broad. Caramel, toffee, candied fruit and nuts dominate the flavours, while the finish makes you think of the holidays and is dry.
As much as the above breaks things down, I think the beauty of this beer is in the whole package. There is a whole lot going on and it is all really enjoyable.
I went to the Van Steenberge website and found a very cool looking cocktail of all things – replace the Irish Whisky in an Irish Coffee with Gulden Draak. This is now on my list of things to do.
As for food pairings, this would be ideal with stews, hearty meat based pastas, smoked cheeses, and, yes chocolate.
January 2, 2016 § Leave a comment
Well another holiday season has come and gone and all that remains are the memories and the bills that will arrive shortly. To that end this show is all about bill buster wines. Each wine featured is under $10 because after all why give up one of life’s great pleasures when all you have to do is reduce expense?
Episode 11 – Link to Podcast
Segment 2 ~ Red Wines Under $10
Masia F Vino Tinto Tempranillo (Spain) – $9.99 (Private Stores Only)
I have mentioned this one before and ounce for ounce it is the best bill buster value on the market. The wine shows balance, ripe fruit, spice and a long finish.
McGuigan Black Label (Australia) – $9.99
This wine has been available forever in BC and as such it often gets overlooked. This is a blend that includes Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and offers ripe juicy flavours with a round texture on the palate.
Bleasdale Langhorne Crossing Red (Australia) – $9.99
A wine that has been delighting palates across BC for a couple of decades now. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Malbec is medium bodied and offer plenty of juicy fruit and lovely spices.
Segment 3 – White Wines
White wines are typically less expensive than reds. This is a simple function of supply and demand. The demand for white wine is not as great as it is for Red, and there is more supply than demand. The other function here is that white wines have a perception of not being as complex as reds and thus shouldn’t drive as great a price.
Hardy’s Riesling-Gewurztraminer (Australia) – $8.99
One of the most popular white blends and certainly the most popular Australian wine on the market today, and it is no wonder. Ripe, juicy fruit, vibrant, clean with just a hint of spicy character. This wine puts a smile on any ones face.
Millstream Chenin Blanc (South Africa) – $9.99 (BC Liquor Stores Only)
I know I said Millstone on the show and for this I beg your forgiveness and please don’t take my mistake out on this wine as this wine deserves your attention, especially as a bill buster.
Vibrant, ripe fruit seems to explode onto the palate. Well, balanced, dry and an awesome introduction to Chenin Blanc if you have not tried it before.
Cono Sur Bicicleta Gewurztraminer (Chile) – $9.49
Very aromatic and expressive. Ripe generous fruit flavours that feature lychee nut and melon. Floral elements come alive. The wine is off-dry, meaning that it is a little sweeter than bone dry, which is really better shows the true nature of this wine.
Count Karolyi Gruner Veltliner (Hungary) – $9.99
Gruner is primarily found in Austria, however Hungary produces some incredible wines that if they were from Germany, France or Italy, the price would be at least $3-$4 more per bottle.
A vibrant wine that shows orange blossom, white peach, delicious apple and floral elements. A very easy wine to love and a great bill buster.
Segment 4 ~ Box Wines
Although the wines above will only set you back $10 or less (not including tax), some of the best value comes from boxed wines. Boxed wines have a reputation for being plonk. This is patently untrue. Boxed wines last longer not only because there is more wine in them but because the design of the bag in the box prevents oxygen from damaging the wine over time. Although they require a greater upfront cost, they actually save you money when you divide out the cost by regular bottles.
Hardy’s Riesling-Gewurztraminer 3L (Boxed Wine Section) – $31.99 (BC Liquor Stores Only)
I have described this wine above so I will keep these comments to the value. As noted above the regular bottle cost is $8.99, however if you purchase this by the box the cost per regular bottle is $8.00.
Vina Borgia Garnacha 3L (Spain) – $34.99 (Private Stores Only)
Garnacha or Grenache is a great easy to love wine. Ripe raspberry and black cherry, very soft, almost no pucker (tannin), with just a touch of black pepper spice.
If you divide this out the cost per regular bottle is $8.74.
Best Buy of the Week ~ Masia F Vino Tinto Tempranillo
The house wine and the world’s only 7 star hotel is still the best bill buster wine available in BC.
Have a Great Week
the Dork UnCorked
December 22, 2015 § Leave a comment
When I say the word Shiraz what do you think of? Probably Yellow Tail right? I have a very clear recollection of the Aussie wave that hit our shores in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Every Shiraz coming into the market seemed to fit a very thin taste spectrum. I remember thinking that could be a big mistake. As it turned out, like most things, people tired of the same flavour and body and started to migrate to Malbec thus insuring the rapid decline of Australian wine fortunes in BC.
The fact is that only those Shiraz’s manufactured to taste the same year after year do. 99% of Shiraz made in Australia is not manufactured and actually reflects the region and winery it comes from.
I know that the Grey Label is outside of the $20 but holy crap does it represent a great value. Close your eyes here comes some dorky terms – very well balanced, bright acidity, dense flavours and aromas from start to finish. This is the whole package and thoroughly enjoyable.
Price ~ $29-$33
Score ~ 9.3/10 Best Buy
Unscrew the cap and let this wine breathe for a few minutes (10-15) and you will be well rewarded. Stick your nose right in the glass and take a deep breathe. What you will notice is the scent of blueberry, blackberry, ripe plum, black cherry, black pepper, violets, lavender, and just a hint of cured meat. I know, I know it seems like there couldn’t be all that, but there is.
The palate is bright yet full and ripe and the finish is juicy with just a kiss of spice and sultry smoke.
Grapes ~ 100% Shiraz
Store Section ~ Australia
Availability ~ Both government and private stores.
Food ~ Roasted or grilled lamb, Duck, even Turkey, Aged Cheddar.
Acknowledgements: Stacey Brennan, Pam Sanderson, Ernest Sargent, Brianna Kirby, Jami Wood, Karin Kallio, Angela Phillips, Patti Raffle.
the Dork UnCorked
December 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
Episode 7 – Link to Podcast
Segment 1 ~ In the News
Strange bedfellows kissed and made up this week in the form the BCGEU & the BCPLSA (BC Public Liquor Stores Association). The two organizations announced that they believe that recreational marijuana retailing should be restricted to liquor stores, if and when it becomes legal to do so.
Segment 2 ~ Brown Baggin’ It
A fun Christmas Party idea is to do a Brown Bag event.
The host supplies brown lunch bags. As guests bring their entries they put their bottle in a bag and number it. Throughout the evening guests taste the wines and rate which is their favourites. At a specific time the wines are revealed and prices stated. Invariably there are many surprises.
I suggest that you limit the price to something like under $20. If you will have both red & white entries it is best to have two competitions, one for red and one for white.
Segment 3 ~ Recommended Wines for Brown Baggin’ It
Terre Prosecco ~ $18 and a brilliant palate cleanser and crowd pleaser. Only available in private stores. Top pick by Dork UnCorked’s Sparkling Wine Correspondent Stacey Brennan of the Hillside Liquor Store (across from Hillside Mall on North Dairy).
Surprises make this event fun so I often enter wines that very few people are aware off, but offer incredible value. Here are a few suggestions for both red and white.
Masia F Vino Tinto Tempranillo (Spain) ~ $10 private stores only
Periquita (Portugal) ~ $10 both private and public stores
The Den Pinotage (South Africa) ~ $15 private stores only
Hester Creek Pinot Gris (BC) ~ $16 750ml $44 3L (750ml equivalent – $11)
Matua Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) ~ $17 private stores only
Aveleda Vinho Verde (Portugal) ~ $15 private stores only
Segment 4 – Best Buy of the Week
This weeks Best Buy is the Francois Lurton Les Fumees Blanches. On sale at government stores in Dec. for $11.99 this is a killer white wine. Look for it in the French section.
Next Week – Grannies Shortbread
November 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
Episode 5 – Link to Podcast
Segment 1: Beaujolais Nouveau
The first wine of the vaunted 2015 vintage. Critics are saying that 2015 is the vintage of a century no matter if the wine is from BC, California, or Europe. This years Beaujolais Nouveau is a harbinger of the wines to follow.
Beaujolais is a region in France and is the southernmost area of the famous Burgundy Appellation. All the red wines from the region must be made of 100% Gamay Noir and all the grapes must be hand harvested.
Recommended Wine: Georges DuBoeuf Paper Label ~ $18.49
Segment 2: In the Shadow of Stardom
It’s really about basic economics of supply and demand. Those regions that are world famous only produce so many bottles but have huge demand. Regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Napa Valley have no trouble in selling their wines at top dollar each and every year. However there are many more regions and wines around the world that exist in the shadows of stardom.
Recommended Regions for Value:
Italy – Umbria, Sicily, Marche, Puglia, d’Abruzzo
France – Languedoc, Provence
Other Europe – Portugal, Croatia, Hungary, Greece
California – Lodi, Paso Robles
Other World – South Africa, Chile, Argentina
Other BC – Similkameen, Kamloops
Specific Wines Mentioned – Periquita (Portugal), Painted World (South Africa), Masia F (Spain)
Segment 3 – Carmenere
Thought to have vanished from the world after phylloxera destroyed thousands of acres of vineyard in the Europe in the 1860’s, and one of the original 6 Bordeaux grapes, Carmenere was only recently rediscovered as being alive and well in Chile.
In the late’s 90’s Alvaro Espinoza noticed that certain vines in the blocks of Merlot were consistently ripening later each year. He had the DNA analyzed and it was found that the mystery vines were indeed Carmenere.
Recommended Wines – Falernia Carmenere ($17.99), Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Block 12 Carmenere ($34.99), Terra Andina Carmenere-Syrah ($9.99-$10.99)
Segment 4 – Best Buy of the Week
June 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
It’s the end of the school year and time to get gifts for our kids very deserving teachers. I happily take on this challenge but was faced with an interesting challenge. What wine do you get for someone whose wine tastes you are not sure of?
My answers are below and they all share a similar trait; they are fruit driven, silky with soft tannins and are complex. I know the last one is usually lost on most people, but what complexity does is never lost. Complexity simplifies the taste experience. That’s right simplifies it. In a moment a fruit driven, soft tannin, complex wine provides all that the drinker will want. They don’t have to dive into the details to know they enjoy it.
Ca’ Montebello Barbera – Italy (click on the name to go to the original review)
Score: 7.9 Over Delivers and I Love It!
Price: ~$13.99 to $15.99
Barbera by nature is very juicy with big grapey and plum flavours. The Ca’ Montebello has a wonderful silky finish and has delightful complexity as a result of the bright acidity and flavour nuances of dried herbs and pepper. Letting it breathe is advised but not necessary.
Score: 7.4 Good Drop – I Like It
Price: ~ $16.29-$17.99
The Australians are famous for making hedonistic crowd pleasing wines and the Penfolds winery has lead the way for years. The Shiraz-Cab is big richly flavoured, juicy with flavours of black fruits, red berries, and plums. There is a spicy back end that features baking spices. The finish is juicy and soft making it an ideal gift for those whose palate you are not familiar with.
Score: 9.3/10 Best Buy & WOW!!
Price: $17.99 (only available at Everything Wine)
This may seem like an odd choice given that the grapes are not household names, however the Italians have long known the pleasures of hedonistic food and wine and I think these two grapes embody their centuries of practice. Dark fruit of crushed ripe plums, blackberries, cherries with nuances of savoury spices and the delicate scent of freshly wrapped cigars.
Aveleda Vinho Verde – Portugal
Score: 8.9 Over Delivers & I Love It!!
Price: $14.99 – $15.99
This wine is vibrant and alive and I guarantee that every sip brings on a smile no matter the experience of the palate. From northern Portugal this wine has a little bubble (frizzante) with white peach and pear flavours. Chill this down and this will please anyone.
Painted Wolf Chenin Blanc – South Africa
Score: 848/10 Over Delivers & I Love It!
Part of the reason why I love this wine as a gift is because that is how I discovered it. The wine is fresh and alive with great complexity just like the Cape that it hails from. Pear, apple, honeydew melon and brisk freshness. Your gift goes a little further as every bottle means a donation to save the wild Painted Dogs of southern Africa.
June 18, 2015 § Leave a comment
Can you believe the weather we have had? Two years ago we were talking ‘June’-uary and now this. Wow!
It is no surprise that the number of grills being fired up each evening have increased significantly and I would imagine that the number will increase 10 fold on Father’s Day (forecast for the Victoria area 21C with a few clouds). With this in mind here are my Top Wines for the Barbie that are Under $20 and currently available in the market. Enjoy and please wear an apron, no need in showing up at work on Monday with 3rd degree burns in unmentionable places.
Best BBQ Wine for Steak
Tinto Negro Malbec – Over Delivers & I Love It! Score ~ 7.8/10
$13.79 – $14.99
Sorry Alberta but I have to say that the best steak I have ever had in my wine driven travels has been in Argentina. Juicy, thick and so amazingly flavourful that it made be jump up and do the Tango, not that anyone else in the restaurant recognized it as the tango- just some gangly gringo gyrating away.
Part of the reason Argentine steak is so good is because it’s paired with Argentine Malbec. Big, robust, juicy, layered with savoury herbs, black pepper and lavender. Grab a bottle or 10 of the Tinto Negro and I promise you will Love It!
Original Review: TintoNegro Malbec
Best BBQ Wine for Salmon
This category was tough so I took the easy way out and chose two wines that are equally awesome and a great pairing but deliver a totally different flavour experience.
Casa Viva Pinot Noir – Best Buy & WOW!! ~ 9.1
Silky, cherry explosion with hints of cola and pepper. This wine has it all and is such a great value that I’m surprised that more stores, and by extension, people haven’t found its beauty. When paired with Salmon there is a flavour marriage that is greater than the sum of its parts with the added bonus of a silky seductive finish that relaxes the mind and body.
Original Review: Casa Viva Pinot Noir
Bright, vibrant strawberry freshly picked. Add a hint of black pepper and a fresh crisp texture and you have a refreshing glass of luxury. This wine enlivens the palate and when paired with fresh west coast salmon right off the barbie… sky rockets in flight! (If you are over the age of 40 you are now singing the song in your head).
Original Review: Domaine Houchart Cotes de Provence Rosé
Best BBQ Wine For White Line Fish (Halibut, Cod)
$13.29 – $14.99
Tis the season for fresh, right off the line Halibut and it is sooo good. Our local cod has to be some of the best in the world as well and both are readily available at your local grocer or, if you’re in the Victoria area, head down to Fisherman’s Wharf and get some right from the boat.
For me this wine had so much going on. It is fresh, it is vibrant, it won’t rip your tongue out with ripping acidity, it has bright stone and tropical fruits along with hints of cut grass and asparagus. Chill it down, not to cold otherwise you cover up the fruit and complexity. My rule of thumb is that if there is condensation on the bottle when it comes out of the fridge, it’s too cold. Wait 8 minutes and then enjoy.
Original Review: Lurton fumees blanches Sauvignon Blanc
Best BBQ Wine For Chicken
$10.99 – $11.99
I don’t care if you are doing Beer Butt chicken or simply grilling some chicken thighs, legs and/or breasts, there is not a better value on the market than this wine. Many un-oaked wines are one dimensional and lacking in character. To produce a world class wine un-oaked wine it’s all about the vineyard. This wine is unoaked and shows incredible depth, layers of flavours, juicy fruit, spice. When all put together in the glass that sits besides a plated graced with chicken right from the barbie, it is heaven. I guess this is what the Sommelier at the world’s only 7 star hotel (Bariq Al Arab, Dubai) saw to, as the Masia F is their house wine.
Original Review: Masia F Vino Tinto
Best BBQ Wine for Burgers (Beef)
$10.99 – $11.99
I picture a big thick burger made of ground Angus beef, slathered with your grandmother’s secret BBQ sauce, a generous amount of melted cheese (Cheddar, Gruyere, Cambazolla are my faves), thick cut fresh tomatoes, caramelized onions and maybe some mushrooms, mustard, ketchup all within a fresh Pretzel bun… salivation nation! The only thing that makes this better is when it is paired with the right, juicy, bold wine that features dark fruits, red berries, black and white pepper and a supple finish… and that wine is the Terra Andina Carmenere – Syrah.
Original Review: Terra Andina Carmenere Syrah
Best BBQ Wine For Shellfish (Crab, Prawns, Lobster)
$14.99 – $15.99
Walk through any grocery store this weekend and you will find that they all have fresh Spot Prawns. It is a great time of year for those that love great flavour experiences. Spot Prawns on the barbie with a glass of chilled BC Pinot Blanc is a reward usually reserved for solving cancer or the federal debt, but is available to you just for grocery shopping or working with gravity to put your but in a chair.
Original Review: Mission Hill ‘5 Vineyards’ Pinot Blanc
Best BBQ Wine for Baby Back Ribs
Making Baby Back Ribs on the BBQ is an art. An art that brings people to their knees in joy and has humbled many a chef. Timing, temperature and patience are all necessary. A wine, seemingly, specifically crafted for this dish, is the Fascino Passo. This wine is a blend of Negramaro and Primitivo which juicy, richly textured flavours of black and blue berry’s, savoury spices and, yes, cigar box. The grapes are first air dried to intensify their character, then the wine is barrel aged for at least 2 years, followed by 1 year bottle age before release. When opening this wine you want to give it some time to breathe or better yet, run it through your Vinturi. Timing & Patience.
Original Review: Fascino Passo
PS- Hey- You’ll likely notice that in each of the red wine posts suggest letting the wine breathe to get the most out of it. There is an alternative that you will see that I mention. It is for a product that I use myself and absolutely standby its value – the Vinturi Wine Aeratorworks and if you buy it via the link I get a little back that helps pay for the costs associated with the blog. It’s not much, but every little bit helps. The ‘Essential Red’ is all you really need.
The Dork UnCorked.