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
June 28, 2016 § Leave a comment
Have you ever watched the move My Summer In Provence? Every scene that involves a meal has a bottle of Rosé. It makes perfect sense because Rosé can be incredibly refreshing and wonderfully versatile. In fact Rosé goes with a broader spectrum of foods than does white (I know I know I am generalizing). So when the temperature rises to above 20C and the grass starts to bleach out, I get a craving for rosé.
As I strolled through my local wine shop I saw a signficant increase in the number of rosés from Provence, which is classic. Prices ranged from $15-$25 which is what I expected, but then I say a lonely wine from Gascogne. Not your typical rosé hotbed and you know how I love to find great values where they are unexpected, so I grabbed a bottle of the Domaine de Pellehaut 2015 Rosé.
Price ~ $18.99
Score ~ 8.1 Over Delivers
If you follow me on Instagram (rod_phillips) you no doubt saw the photo I took of the wine. The colour is a deep rose, and the nose shows bright fruit of strawberry, raspberry. and currants, while the palate is fresh, alive and bursting with finesse and elegance. The finish shows all the fruit and is dry. It is not possible to not want more of this wine, as evidenced by my instagram photo. This is a highly shareable wine and my recommendation would be to have 6-10 bottles kicking around for when friends drop by as one will not be enough.
Grapes ~ I had to do some research for this one as the label doesn’t really tell you anything. Tannat, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon & Malbec
Store Section ~ France
Availability ~ Private Stores only
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 13, 2016 § Leave a comment
I’m a big fan of pro-cycling and one of my favourite races of the year is happening right now; Giro D’Italia. In light of this I tend to lean towards Italian food and Italian wines.
The first Italian stages of this year’s Giro D’Italia are down in the south of Italy so I thought I would start my Giro with a fine, dark, sultry, vivacious red that naturally hails from the south; Cusumano Nero D’Avola.
Price ~ $19
Score ~ 8.2 Over Delivers
Immediately there is a difference. There is a glass cork that allows you to reseal the bottle, assuming you don’t finish it.
Pour the wine into your glass and as it tumbles you can already sense the intensity of the aromas, colour, and indeed what the flavour will be like.
The nose is bursting with dark fruits, ripe plums, blackberries, savoury spices. It’s kind of like fresh blackberry pie with some plum and blueberry thrown in.
The palate is rich, full and indicative of the sun drenched vintages that are very common in Sicily, Calabria and Puglia. The finish is long and juicy. I really loved this wine.
This would be an ideal match for a grilled marinated hunk of meat, anything with BBQ sauce on it. Beer But chicken seems to have a particular affinity for this wine.
Grapes ~ 100% Nero D’Avola
Store Section ~ Italy
Availability ~ both private and public stores.
The Dork UnCorked
PS- below is a link to the Wine Folly book on Amazon. Yes this is an affiliate program and it helps us keep the blog going, having said that I highly recommend this book and use it myself. It is colourful easy to read book that you can have a resource. Enjoy.
March 22, 2016 § Leave a comment
2015 is the most anticipated vintage in recent memory. The world over 2015 was one of the best vintages, so as I was strolling through the ‘candy’ store looking for a Pinot Noir I spied a 2015 and grabbed it.
The reason we are seeing 2015 light bodied red wines from South America, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia is because the growing season is opposite to ours in the southern hemisphere. Medium and full bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz & Malbec will likely appear in a couple of years. Expect to see 2015 whites and rosés from the northern hemisphere in the next few months.
The Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir has consistently over delivered for as many vintage as I can remember, so my expectations were kind of high. Not only was I expecting a strong showing due to consistency, but add on the 2015, and I was expecting a lot.
The good news this wine does totally over deliver for the price. Amongst Pinot Noirs of this price range, this would easily be in my top 2. I’m not so sure the quality of the vintage showed through as much as I was expecting, but given my overall enjoyment of the wine I would say the 2015 is a testament to the truly high quality for the price of previous vintages.
Price ~ $11
Score ~ 7.7/10 Over Delivers
The nose shows cherry, cola and strawberry, while the palate has a lovely silky texture. As for the finish there is some fresh cherry and black pepper just to entice you into a second glass.
I would pair this with a nice gouda cheese, grilled or roasted poultry, pasta marinara.
Grapes ~ 100% Pinot Noir
Store Section ~ Chile
Availability ~ Both Private and Public Stores.
the Dork UnCorked
PS – to keep things rolling I have signed onto acting as an affiliate for items that I think are truly noteworthy, remarkable and consistent with my values. If you don’t please click on the following, take a look and if you purchase, they send a commission that would be greatly appreciated.
February 14, 2016 § Leave a comment
This is a rare find (bottom shelf Everything Wine French Section). I say this with the power of hindsight as I hadn’t noticed the vintage on the bottle until after I got home and when I went looking for where it is available, I found bubkus.
It seems that a few years back it received lots of attention from the press and broad distribution in both government and private stores. However, as far as I can tell, I may have gotten one of the last bottles available in the market. I’m counting my lucky stars.
Price ~ $14
Score ~ 7.7/10 Over Delivers
The wine opens with juicy ripe raspberry, plum and blueberry fruits on the backdrop of earthy spice and licorice. Very hedonistic. The palate is soft and without angles, but still maintaining freshness despite it being 7 years old. The finish is loaded with ripe fruits, spice and is silky.
Wines at this price point are rarely this fresh after 4 years let alone 7. Typically these wines are meant for early consumption and thus this was a rare treat. I would have scored it higher if it was more widely available.
Grapes ~ 100% Grenache
Store Section ~ France
Availability ~ Everything Wine
the Dork UnCorked
February 6, 2016 § 1 Comment
What are you going to do for Valentine’s Day this year? Share a romantic morsel or two at home after the kids go to bed. Perhaps enjoy an evening with some chocolate and a glass of wine? Maybe you are planning on going out for dinner. Episode 15 is all about Valentine’s Day, the best wine values for the occasions above.
Segment 1 ~ Shout Outs
Vancouver International Wine Festival – Feb. 20-28, 2016
The Vancouver International Wine Festival is the largest and best attended this side of the Missippi. Harry Hertsheg and his team put on a phenomenal week that includes tasting seminars, winemaker’s dinners and, of course, massive tastings for both consumers and trade.
There will be close to 200 wineries participating which give you a chance to taste over 800 wines.
Click on the link above for details.
Wine Folly – The Essential Guide to Wine by Madelaine Puckette and Justin Hammack
This book is a colourful and easy to follow guide to wine that is used by the trade and those looking to get a greater understanding on the world of wine. I highly recommend it.
Segment 2 ~ Wine & Chocolate
It may seem counter intuitive to pair chocolate with wine, but the right pairing can make the sirens sing.
A classic wine pairing for chocolate is a Port of Tawny Port.
For a Tawny Port look for the Penfolds Club 24 from Australia. About $22/bottle and only found in private stores it is a great value. If you like Fruit & Nut, Almond or Hazelnut infused chocolate, this combination is a winner. Another fantastic option is the Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny ($37)
Chocolate seems to have been made for port. A couple of Port’s that over deliver for the price are the Quinta do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage ($27/bottle) and the Graham’s 6 Grapes ($24/bottle).
Port and Tawny Port are fortified wines which mean they higher alcohol levels than table wines, so if you are looking for some pairing for some table wines lets start with those that go best with Dark Chocolate.
Dark Chocolate Pairing
Dark Chocolate loves Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage (hybrid grape of Pinot Noir and Cinsault).
Here are some of my faves for Dark Chocolate that are currently available:
Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia) – $18 available in most government and private stores.
Pey La Tour Bordeaux (France) – $18 available in most government and private stores.
The Den Pinotage (South Africa) – $14 available in private stores only.
For milk chocolate I tend towards juicier wines with soft tannin and a sweeter finish. Although the best pairing for Milk Chocolate is a Port. Here are a couple of table wines for your pleasure.
Apothic Red (California) – $16 available in both private and public stores.
Dream Wines Red Blend (California) – $17 available in both private and public stores.
Segment 3 ~ Special Wines Just for the Two Of You
I know the purpose of the blog is to find the best values under $20, but sometimes you just want to share a special bottle of wine, and Valentine’s Day seems to be the perfect occasion to share something special with someone special. Here are a few choices.
The Colour of Valentines- Rosé
Blue Grouse 2014 Rosé ($18) is made right here on Vancouver Island and is truly a great find.
Celebrate with Bubble
One of the most romantic wines on the market is the Veuve Cliquot (just have your partner say the name and you will know what I mean) – $75 Sparkling Wine or Champagne Section in both public and private stores.
If $75 is out of your price range try the Perseus Sparkling Chardonnay ($22), made in the Okanagan and one of the best Sparkling wines on the market. Available in private stores only.
The King of Red Wines
Cabernet Sauvignon is perhaps the most noble of the noble grapes and here are a couple that are sure to please when the light do down low.
Beringer Knight Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $35 – California section in both public and private stores.
Mission Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $25-$30 – BC VQA section found in only select government and private stores.
Segment 4 ~ What To Expect When You Are Dining Out On Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest of the year so if you are thinking of a quiet, slow paced meal, I’m afraid that likely isn’t going to happen. Restaurants will be crowded and to that end many restaurants use a seating system for Valentine’s Day.
Usually the seatings are at 5pm, 7pm and 9pm. The most romantic and leisurely paced is the 9pm.
If you are planning on going out for dinner on Valentine’s Day, then you should call now.
Here are some classic venues here in Victoria that have fantastic food, a romantic ambience and great wine lists.
Il Terrazzo (click the link for details) – Italian inspired. Incredible Wine List, for the best choice let Rob or your server help you make a choice.
Brasserie L’Ecole (click link for details) – French, Belgian inspired. Outstanding Wine List, for the best choice ask Mark.
Cafe Brio (click link for details) – Mediterranean inspired. Fantastic wine lists, for the best choice check with Greg.
Camilles (Click link for details) – West Coast inspired with a huge BC wine list.
Zambris (Click link for details) – Italian inspired with a brilliant wine list. Each server is well trained on the best wine for each dish, but if you can, ask for Frances.
In addition to the above here are a few other great options that you may not have thought of.
Spinnaker’s Gastro Pub – one of the best settings in the city and it is home to the Spinnaker’s Brewery.
Bodega – one my favourite places to steal away for a romantic morsel or two. Spanish tapas with a totally Spanish wine list.
Bubby’s Kitchen – this wonderful neighbourhood bistro in Cook Street Village has a great wine list (Ca Montebello Barbera is a true jewel) and awesome food.
Best Buy of the Week ~ Paul Mas Grenache Noir
This wine is truly a steal at $11. Generous fruit, well balanced and well made, but best suited to have a nibbly with a glass or have it with dinner.
January 9, 2016 § 1 Comment
Primitivo is one of those wines on the market that I think over delivers for the price simply because most people aren’t familiar with what Primitivo is.
Certainly not a household name Primitivo is the European cousin to Zinfandel and offers many of the same juicy, jammy, rich flavours found in California Zinfandel.
Primitivo comes to us from Puglia in Italy (the heel of Italian boot) and gets its name because it is an early ripening grape. The story goes that the first clippings to be planted in Italy were part of the dowry of a Croatian Princess that married a Puglian Prince.
Yes Primitivo wines offer great value and are deserving of your exploration, and you could start with $20 – $30 wines but like every great exploration you don’t reach the summit until you walk the approaches. In other words start with relatively inexpensive wines to see if you like what you taste. The Farnese is one that I would recommend for this task and isn’t a wallet waster.
Price ~ $11.49
Score ~ 8.1/10 Over Delivers
The aromas of this wine betray it’s juicy palate. Brimming with blueberry, blackberry and hints of pastry. The palate is all about flavour and has a soft, easygoing finish. You could call this wine hedonistic and you wouldn’t be wrong.
Food Pairings – Burgers, Turkey, BBQ
Store Section – Italy
Availability – Available in both government and private sector stores.
Let me know what you think.
the Dork UnCorked
Tune into CFAX 1070 Saturday afternoons starting at 2pm for the Dork UnCorked Radio Hour.
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
September 9, 2015 § 2 Comments
Score: 8.8 ~ Over Delivers
There is a great deal of animosity and distrust between private liquor retailers and the government run, BC Liquor Stores, so it isn’t very often that I get a tip on a great buy from a private retailer about a wine than can only be had at BC Liquor Stores.
Based on the recommendation by my colleague I rushed over to the nearest BC Liquor Store that I knew carried the Simple Life Pinot Noir and grabbed a bottle. Man was I happy that I did.
The nose shows cherry, pomegranate, a hint of cola and white pepper, while the palate if richly textured and full of flavour. That said there are a number of Pinot’s under $20 that can produce similar olfactory and taste enjoyment, but to me, the real test comes in the finish. If it shows the silky, seductive finish of top quality Burgundy, New Zealand, BC, Oregon and California Pinot Noir, then deserves high praise indeed.
Although not as pronounced as its brethren in the $25-$45 price range, this Pinot has a wonderful silky finish that puts it, in my opinion, well above other Pinot Noir under and over $20 in terms of value. If I were you I would be buying this wine by the case now so that you have it on hand at Thanksgiving, my Wife’s 40th birthday (yes you are all invited, but you have to bring a bottle of Simple Life Pinot), and Christmas, as I don’t imagine there will be much of it around in a few months.
Purchased From: BC Liquor Stores
Section: California and/or Exclusives
Food: Have this with roasted poultry, mild cheeses like gouda, soups, duck.