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April 24, 2014

This week at our 25th annual Restaurant Awards, we celebrated the remarkable caliber, depth and breadth that is our sparkling dining scene. Eight hundred trade cheered, hugged and toasted one another as over 45 gold and Best of Awards were bestowed with pomp and circumstance. The next month of FIX wine picks will fête the major winners with wines that relate in a vinous way.

 

DOG POINT SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012

$28.99

New Zealand +389528

 

Best Casual, Best New, and Best Restaurant awards for The Farmer's Apprentice caused as much of a stir at this magazine's 25th Annual Restaurant Awards on Tuesday as did Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc when it came out of the gates. Both are iconoclast, both are tiny in size, both have a remarkable pedigree, and both are making waves. Chef David Gunawan's unexpected, spontaneous flavours and textures are underpinned by phenomenal technique that allows him to render simplicity from complexity. So too is Dog Point, a Marlborough winery that sprang from ex-Cloudy Bay talent. Old vines, fine Marlborough terroir, and the courage to be different marked the genesis for this globally admired, astonishing sauvignon blanc. What's familiar is the lush citrus, tropical guava, and spine-tingling acidity. What are unexpected are the flinty struck-stone nose, the mouth-coating emollience, the mineral framework, and a long riveting finish that makes one aware more of place than grape and redefines "classic" Marlborough. Choose a Burgundy glass, fill modestly, and swirl with abandon to release the complex aromas. And try with our Ingredient of the Year: steamed gooseneck barnacles with lemon aioli.

 

MISSION HILL FAMILY ESTATES QUATRAIN 2009

$50.00

B.C. +840389

 

Best Upscale (for the third year running) was peerless Hawksworth, with its sense of occasion, composed style, dedicated wine team, and service that is as smooth, seamless, and refined as burnished gold. Just as polished is Mission Hill's Quatrain, a stylish blend that begins in low-yielding vineyards that provide pristine fruit allowed to turn itself into wine under the watchful eye of (New Zealander) John Simes. Syrah is always a major component, along with Bordeaux grapes, proving yet again what a superlative addition Okanagan syrah is to a blend. There's a depth charge of rich black fruit in the 2009 Quatrain, with layers of resinous herbs, fragrant spice, and gorgeous roasted mocha barrel notes. Potent and sleek, it has impressive freshness and structure, suave tannins, and a majestic finish that will lift any prime roast of meat. In wine-classification terms, Hawksworth and Quatrain are both "first growths." (If the 2010 is on the shelf instead of the 2009, you will love this elegant vintage just as much.)

 

April 17, 2014

The Easter long weekend is really code for feasting--and, of course, rebirth, reunion, relaxing, reading, revelling... You may have a little cooking to pull off as well, and you'll need some wine to ensure you look like a pro. Easter mains range from ham and lamb to fish so here are two versatile wines that will embrace a range of flavours (and make you look good in the process). April 17 is not only the eve of the long weekend but International Malbec Day, and there are hundreds of global celebrations for this Bordeaux grape that has so happily transplanted around the world. Our delightful best rosé is made from Naramata-grown malbec and syrah.

 

DEVIL'S LAIR MARGARET RIVER CHARDONNAY 2011

$41.99

Australia +54344*

*available at private wine stores

Winning Best Rich White two years in a row in our International Wine Awards is an emphatic quality statement for this leading estate in western Australia. The fine 2011 Margaret River vintage was warm and dry, giving this elegant chardonnay added white peach and exotic citrus intensity. The forward fruit is sharply countered by nervy acidity and well-framed with spicy French oak. Tight and structured, it will age well and flatter food like grilled or oven-baked salmon or halibut, Easter ham, or foie gras parfait if you plan to really fuss.

 

 

POPLAR GROVE ROSÉ BLANC DE NOIRS 2012

$24.90

B.C. +71720*

*available at private wine stores

Lush and dryish, our top rosé is made from gorgeously ripe malbec and syrah berries grown on elite Naramata Bench terroir. Inviting aromas and flavours of strawberry, pink grapefruit, and Turkish delight swell in the mouth and end on a note of vivid acidity and a hint of sweetness. Chill well and pair with smoky ham, grilled leg of lamb, or any fish you care to throw at it. This is ultra-adaptable food rosé.

 

April 10, 2014

Looks like we're in for some balmy spring temperatures this weekend, and the parks, seawalls, and sidewalks should be crammed with happy people relishing the warm sun. Dinner at my house will be an easy composed dinner salad (featuring grilled prawns, local blue cheese, bacon, avocado, and Green Goddess dressing) so that outdoor time can be prolonged.

 

WOLF BLASS GOLD LABEL CHARDONNAY 2012

$22.99

Australia +122697

If you haven't tasted a gorgeously oaked chardonnay in a while (shame on you!), try this stylish, restrained beauty with weekend dinner. Delicate gold in the glass, it presents the nose with citrus, baked apple, and custard notes that make the palate salivate. After a good slosh in the mouth, note the chiselled acidity (from cool-climate Adelaide Hills vineyards) and flavours of apple, lemon curd, and pear stippled with lovely vanilla and oak spice notes. The oak is effortlessly integrated, adding texture, depth, and structure and just a hint of buttery flavour to carry the prawns, bacon, and avocado in a Cobb-ish salad. There are 549 units in 41 stores, so head to a BCL near you for this extremely well-priced gem.

 

LA VIEILLE FERM CÔTES-DU-VENTOUX ROSÉ 2012

$12.99

France +559393

This is a bombshell wine for 13 bucks. A steal. It's made by a famous family (famille Perrin of Château de Beaucastel fame), it uses organic grapes, and it's a faithful dry rosé that absolutely sings with food. Grown on the rugged, low slopes of Mont Ventoux (yes, you've seen this fearsome mountain on the Tour de France), grenache, cinsault, and syrah grapes are fermented on the skins until tulip pink. Aromas of fennel, strawberry, and dusty minerals set the palate scene for appealing savoury herbal flavours with a hint of pink grapefruit, spice, and a saline finish. A crisp and dry rosé, it evokes a southern Rhone sunny day and will complement the blue cheese and herbal green onion-y tang of the Green Goddess dressing. (Surf the web for a recipe if you've not made this for decades!)

 

April 3, 2014

You've probably noticed that our city is exploding with powder-pink cherry blossoms. Did you know that cherry trees (in particular the Prunus serrulate ‘Kwanzan' species) are the most common of the 130,000 street trees on Vancouver roads? Although we enjoy splendid arboreal diversity, ornamental cherry and plum comprise one-third of the trees that decorate our neighbourhoods, sparked in the 1930s when the mayors of Kobe and Yokohama gifted us with 500 Japanese cherry trees. April marks the seventh annual Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, and there are 1,300 official viewing sites, haiku odes, musical theatrical performances, and origami folding events (Vcbf.ca) around town. Our petal infatuation has inspired these wine choices that display cherry aromas and the kind of perfume that stirs the soul in exactly the same way as a tree-lined street flaunting clouds of blossoms.

 

OYSTER BAY SPARKLING CUVÉE ROSÉ

$24.99

New Zealand +772079

 

A chilled flute of ballerina-pink bubbles will bring a smile to any face. The soft cherry and strawberry aromas will delight the nose, and ripe berry flavours refreshed by a zap of citrus will tickle the palate. Oyster Bay is renowned for well-priced wines from the clean, green islands of New Zealand, and head winemaker Michael Ivicevich (who is as fresh-faced, personable, and skilled as can be) combines pinot noir from sunny Marlborough with chardonnay from cool Hawke's Bay, tank-ferments the blend, then ages briefly on the lees for just a hint of toasty character. The result is a dry sparkler with intense flavours, spritely acidity, and a boney (as the Kiwis say when they mean stoney or mineral) finish. Have it as a pre-dinner apéritif or whip up some shrimp with a piquant Creole rémoulade sauce and toast the detonating blossoms.

 

FAIVELEY PINOT NOIR PAULÉE 2010

$21.99

France +142448

 

Good news for us is that there are 558 bottles of this charming and well-priced Bourgogne through 55 provincial LDB stores. Even better news is how well this juicy pinot is blossoming with a couple of years in the bottle. From the lovely, fresh, and tiny-cropped 2010 vintage and a domaine that is reborn, you'll find aromas of red fruits, lilac, and forest floor, with flavours of pure red raspberry fruit, lip-smacking acidity, and lithe tannins. Keep the food simple (like the sound of hanger steak and a crispy potato pancake or fennel-marinated pork chop?), use a large glass, and pour a few degrees under room temperature for maximum pleasure.

 

March 27, 2014

Pinot noir in California has been on an interesting trajectory since the first bottlings back in the 1960s. Like Cali chardonnay, pinot has been around the block, from clunky and fat with lashings of new oak to trim and elegant and raised in neutral barrels. Now there is an emphatic focus on regional identity, and the wines that express this best have a degree transparency that allows site to speak. Two of our competition winners are lovely examples of eloquent pinot noir from distinct regions. 

 

SCHUG CARNEROS ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2010

$36.99

USA +79624

 

Walter Schug is one of California's famed winemakers, celebrated as the genius behind Joseph Phelp's mighty cabernet-based Insignia. In 1980 Schug set his sights on pinot noir from cool, foggy Carneros. Eight vineyards contribute fruit to the 2010, giving the kind of clonal diversity and complexity we expect from great pinot. Black cherry fruit with ample spice, and cleansing acidity combines power and delicacy in that ineffable Burgundian way. The 2010 vintage was a doozy, combining a cool spring and terrific late summer heat spikes that kept vintners on their toes. This is the kind of pinot that handles grilled fish nicely (the flavour added through grilling is key to the pairing) and fresh halibut with a sweetish hoisin glaze will nicely balance the ripe fruit core.

 

RODNEY STRONG RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY PINOT NOIR 2010

$27.99

USA +545343*

*available at private liquor stores only

 

There is a special lineage behind this seductive pinot noir. Head vintner Rick Sayre started with Rodney Strong in 1979, bringing expertise instilled in him by the great André Tchelistcheff, America's most influential post-prohibition winemaker. Attention to detail like picking times and oak balance were cornerstones of Tchelistcheff's teachings, and over 30 years of tribal knowledge of his vines in the Russian River ensure that Sayre's pinots are something special. The Russian River Valley experiences cool fog, warm sunshine, and chilly nights, resulting in wines with generous fruit, brisk acidity, and firm structure. This perfumed, back-fruited, spicy pinot delivers the power expected from Russian River, with smooth tannins and a hint of woodsy undergrowth emerging. It's for lamb or beef with some sautéed wild mushrooms on the side.

 


March 20, 2014

STAG'S LEAP WINERY NAPA CHARDONNAY 2011

$37.99

USA +476440*

*available at private wine stores

 

 

In the rolling countryside of Napa where mustard jauntily fills the rows between old gnarled vineyards, premium wines are a way of life. Chardonnay from Napa got us hooked on luscious full-bodied whites decades ago, and they still do it better than most when the terroir is fine, the winemaker is French, and the chardonnay is from Stags' Leap Winery. Winemaker Christophe Paubert (ex Gruaud-Larose and Château d'Yquem) builds this chardonnay in layers, using fermentations in new oak, seasoned oak, and steel tanks and keeping acids rapier-sharp with no malo. The result is an incredibly fragrant rich wine with aromas and flavours of tropical fruit, white peach, custard, and lemon oil. Silky in the mouth, it has weighty fruit concentration and an acid verve that has to be tasted to be believed. The cooler 2011 vintage was ideal for elegant Napa chard, and this wine can take on lemon risotto, halibut with a tangy beurre blanc, or simply a triple cream cheese like l'Explorateur or Saint André.


 March 13, 2014

Mid March is a bit of a no-man's land: spring officially begins next week, but summer feels far, far away; the Canucks are feebly freefalling; and the Easter long weekend is still three weeks in the distance. Never mind -- busy yourself making this easy lamb roast* and try it with two of our most interesting red winners. Choose a two kilo leg of lamb, make 12 deep slits, and stuff each one with half a peeled garlic clove and an anchovy fillet. Next, massage the leg with chopped rosemary, olive oil, and liberal amounts of salt and pepper and let sit for half a day. Place on rack in roasting pan and roast at 425 F for 20 minutes then for 40-45 minutes at 350 F for medium rare. Meanwhile in a skillet sauté 12 peeled garlic cloves until very soft but not browned and put in bowl. Remove the lamb to a platter to rest, put the roasting pan on a hot burner, and pour in a large glass of dry white wine, scraping all the lovely brown bits, reducing by half. Add this to the garlic cloves, season with salt to taste, and mash together. Slice the roast, drizzle with the garlicky sauce, and scatter with finely chopped parsley. In Provence this is called gigot d'agneau à l'aillade-simply leg of lamb with garlic sauce. Don't get squeamish and omit the anchovy! They melt into nothingness and become an essential but nonfishy dimension of umami. Perfect for our two wines.

 

 

SOKOL BLOSSER DUNDEE HILLS PINOT NOIR 2010

$39.99

USA +608786

 

Since 1971 the pioneering Sokol Blosser family has tilled the red volcanic loams of the Dundee Hills where pinot noir buries its roots deeply and offers up some of the most perfumed and elegant of all Oregon's wines. Son Alex tended the vines for years, and now makes the wines; his innate understanding of inscrutable pinot shows in the pure-fruited clarity of our winner. The 2010 vintage stretched nerves with cool and gloomy weather, but careful canopy management and a blessedly dry-ish, warm autumn has yielded a classic and age-worthy vintage. It's also added structure and freshness to this fragrant pinot, which combines violets, brisk red cherry fruit, fleshy tannins, and a charming earthy aspect. French oak adds a spicy note and deepens the complex flavours for a perfect fit with the lamb. Consider buying a few bottles to lay down for 10 to 15 years. Alex Sokol Blosser was in town this week and we discussed the remarkable age-worthiness of cooler vintages like 2007, 2010, and 2011.

 

EAU VIVRE CABARNET FRANC 2011

$22

B.C. +321554

 

Do yourself a favour and get on the Similkameen train. This stunning, tiny valley is the next big thing in B.C. wine. Rugged, extreme, isolated, and full of hearty individuals (like owners Dale Wright and Jeraldine Estin) with a common vision, there is a distinct lightness, freshness, and mineral spine to the best wines from this cleft in mountains to the west of the Okanagan. Eau Vivre has made waves, winning two coveted Lieutenant Governor's Awards (in 2012 and 2013 for the 2009 and 2010 pinot noir)-the first LGs for the Similkameen. A brilliant victory, and talented new winemaker Anthony Buchanan plans to keep the excellence flowing. Cabernet franc is a natural with lamb, especially when its floral perfume, gorgeous smoky herbs, and cassis fruit are as present and emphatic as in this 2011. Yes, it's rich and well spiced with oak barrel flavours, but it is also elegant, beautifully balanced, and marked with the distinct dusty minerals of eloquent Similkameen terroir.

*NB: recipe is adapted from Mireille Johnston's Cuisine of the Sun, 1976

 

 

March 6, 2014

This week-post wine festival, and as a survival tactic for spring drizzle -- I've got pot pie on my mind. Golden, flaky pastry crimped with fork or artful fingers concealing tender chicken with six veg, thyme, and silky béchamel; or red-wine-braised short ribs with pearl onions; or perhaps shrimp, scallops, and crab trio moistened with creamy sauce and a drop of Pernod under a puff pastry dome. Be fancy or be simple, you'll find that a well-made, generously stuffed pot pie is a joy to make and sublime to eat for weekend supper. Open a favourite cookbook, scan a magazine, or click the web to find deep-dish inspiration. And don't be intimidated by pastry -- it's more forgiving than you think. (I use Martha Stewart's classic pâte brisée.) Here are two pot-pie-worthy wines that I'll be drinking this weekend.

 

DOMAINE LAROCHE SAINT MARTIN CHABLIS 2011

$25.95

France +123877

With its driving acidity, mineral framework, and crisp apple-y fruit, chablis has all the makings of a fine seafood pot pie wine. The Laroche Saint Martin has clinical chablis aromas and flavours of citrus and pears with dusty chalk minerals and a touch of brine. Sufficient concentration of fruit, modest complexity, and creamy texture from lees aging confer firm structure on the charming, well-priced, and representative chardonnay from the distinct terroir of Chablis. Add a little sautéed leek and lemon verbena to the seafood-and-cream pie filling for exquisite harmony.

 

DE ANGELIS ANGHELOS MARCHE ROSSO IGT 2009

$37

Italy +626259

 

Worthy of a prime-steak-and-Stilton pie, or the braised short rib version, this is a magnificent mid-weight red wine from the little-known Marche region, on the back of the knee of Italy's boot. Established in the 1950s, Tenuta de Angelis has done much to put this Adriatic region on the map. Chalky, sun-drenched hillsides tempered by cool winds from the east ensure grapes ripen fully but preserve fresh acid. The Anghelos is a stylish blend of native montepulciano, bringing bold acid, cherries, pungent balsam, and smoky meat to curranty, firm cabernet sauvignon, and a spicing of sangiovese. The wine smells of ripe plums, cherries, and cassis, lifted by flowers and cigar box, and the palate is at once richly fruity, savoury, and woodsy with smooth tannins, mouth-coating body, and a generous length. Old World earthiness deserves a large-bowl glass, a rustic pot pie made with top quality ingredients, and a few chunky candles.

 

February 27, 2014

Like the idea of tasting more than 700 wines in three short hours? It's time for the Vancouver International Wine Festival, which for 36 years has been one of the most celebrated consumer wine festivals in the world. It's fitting that such a warm and jovial reunion of the world's foremost winemakers, owners, growers, and export pros should happen annually in Vancouver, as we are widely admired as a population of educated, adventurous, discerning wine drinkers. And we drink more than the country average of 15 litres of wine per capita (B.C. is closer to 17) as well as paying the highest prices for what we pour into the glass. This year, France is the featured theme region and sparkling wines the global focus. Here are two French wines from our awards that will get your palate calibrated for the Festival Tasting room, on until Saturday evening, March 1.

 

CHARLES DE CAZANOVE BRUT PREMIER CRU N/V

$49.99

France +420315

 

The history of this old estate, founded in 1811, is colourful: the 1873 Brut was served to Edward VII before he signed the "Entente Cordiale" in 1904, Prince Metternich of Austria, and three Third Republic French presidents. This lively, elegant Champagne is also the bubbly du jour at the Cannes film festival, and the house of Cazanove has generally supported the arts for decades. The Premier Cru Brut uses fruit from some of the 44 designated villages, where fine limestone terroir delivers fruit with finesse and high expression. Half pinot noir and half chardonnay, it yields aromas that meld lemon, red currant, and minerals with lovely bread from years on the lees. The flavours combine fresh citrus and wild berry with a hint of earthiness and a long dusty chalk finish. The bubbles are fine and swell in the mouth, finishing fine and fresh. It's a great oyster wine, but the high percentage of pinot noir adds richness for crab cakes, tuna sashimi, or (my secret favourite) a grilled cheese sandwich made with aged cheddar, the best French bread, and lots of butter in the cast iron pan for the toasting.

 

BROTTE LA FIOLE CÔTES-DU-RHÔNE 2011

$18.99

France +194498

 

There are times when only a chewy, earthy red will do. When the weather is cool and dinner is heartwarming, this is the wine you need. Maison Brotte is centred in the majestic region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where stout ramparts crown the hills and rounded river stones dot the flat vineyard land. The climate is fairly extreme here, with sizzling summers, cold winters, and the relentless, howling wind of the region known as the mistral. In such an environment vines struggle, their low-trained gnarled trunks bent by gusts, desiccated by summer heat. Côtes du Rhone is a sprawling appellation that accounts for the bulk of Rhone wine, where spicy grenache, meaty syrah, and other rugged reds blend, creating robust, herb-scented reds. The La Fiole is a great deal, and for under $20 you get a crimson glass of red berry and spice aromas, bracing acidity, deep raspberry and kirsch flavours, and a warm assertive finish. Yes it's a light red, but it has great presence and is best for rustic pairings like tapenade and crunchy baguette, caramelized onion and herbes de Provence pizza, or used by the bottle for braising a roast.

 

February 20, 2014

Reporting from the sunny foothills of Mendoza, I've been busy tasting hundreds of diverse malbecs, quality cabernets, exciting red blends, and aromatic torrontés at the 2014 Argentine Wine Awards. The vineyards are ruggedly beautiful and yield wines with intense ripe fruit and a strong stamp of terroir. More than ever, in fact. There is a big shift going on in Argentina. You could call it a winequake in this seismic part of the world. The days of soupy, sweet, anonymous malbecs are waning as a new breed of winemakers focuses on lighter, fresher wines with less oak and extraction, and greater fruit purity and sense of identity. Beyond terroir-driven malbecs, the exciting wines here are blends (usually malbec with strong doses of cabernet sauvignon, franc, bonarda, or syrah); cabernet francs, bonardas, and some wonderfully chewy, inky tannats. Torrontés is a moving target, but the best are aromatic and succulent with exotic kumquat citrus flavours.

 

ALTOS LAS HORMIGAS CLASICO MALBEC 2012

$15.99

Argentina +522888

There is a rock star team behind this refined malbec, which has caught the attention of the wine world, winning award after award. The team includes Chilean terroir-hunter Pedro Parra and winemaker Alberto Antonini, recently named to a list of the top 10 global consultant. It's fragrant and juicy, with fresh blueberry flavours, fine acidity, fleshy tannins, and a long mineral finish. Not only did the Vancouver Magazine International Wine Awards judges love it, it was named best malbec in the world (under ₤15) in what is arguably the most influential wine competition, the Decanter World Wine Awards. Definitely grill a steak for this beauty, or fresh chorizo sausages, or thyme-marinated chicken. (Both Pedro and Alberto are involved in a B.C. winery, Okanagan Crush Pad, and they are very excited about the future of our winelands.)

 

POGGIOTONDO BIANCO 2012

$14.99

Italy +137570

 

This light white, out of this world in value, is not from Argentina, but it is made by the maestro of our feature malbec. Alberto Antonini's Poggiotondo estate is located in the Tuscan hills west of Florence, near the village of Vinci, where da Vinci was born. The hilltop vineyard is full of calcium-rich fossils that contribute crisp acidity to this delicious blend of indigenous Mediterranean grapes vermentino, malvasia, and ansonica. It's a minerally dry white that you can deploy like chablis, with fresh citrus, almond blossom, and a honeyed note. It's light and lively but with depth of flavour and finishes on a botanical, saline note that connects effortlessly to linguine vongole, lemon and herb-marinated chicken, or cacio e pepe, a soothing pasta dish sauced with plenty of freshly ground black pepper, pecorino cheese and fruity olive oil.

 

February 13, 2014

Valentine's Day already? Don't stress-Cupid's never far away when you've got the right wine (and chocolates, and roses, and a heart bursting with amour). There's nothing like bubbly to stimulate the appetite, pique the senses, and loosen the moment.

 

LOUIS BUILLOT 'PERLE D'AURORE' CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE ROSÉ BRUT N/V

$26.99

France +494856

What's not to love about this expressive pinot noir bubbly from the revered terrain of Burgundy? It's a pretty shade of pink, it froths and foams with excitement in the glass, and it bursts with raspberry and redcurrant flavours. The term "crémant" refers to a wine made in the Champagne method but not from the Champagne region, with bottle fermentation that gives a lovely yeasty, creamy-moussed wine. It's softly dry with well-tempered acidity and best served with savoury treats like cheese fondue (a romantic sharing dish), oysters on the half-shell with pomegranate mignonette, or even retro bacon-wrapped scallops.

 

DEVIL'S LAIR FIFTH LEG RED 2011

$15.99

Australia +112094

Plush and uplifting, this affordable red from breezy Western Australia seduces with plums and mocha, and smooth texture. Serious red grapes merlot, cab, and shiraz provide a surge of dark brambly fruit, and a layer of spicy oak completes this handsome red. Ex-Penfolds winemaker Oliver Crawford has put this innovative estate-a repeat winner in our annual wine awards for this and the majestic best Rich White Devil's Lair chardonnay-on the wine map. Serve with simple grilled lamb chops, heart-shaped meatballs and spaghetti, or just in a large glass by the fire.

 

February 6, 2014

Big Night is big fun, big food, and big wine. (There's a chance a ticket for tomorrow night is still available here). It's a big deal too, as it celebrates the best of Vancouver dining, uniting winning restaurants from the 24th annual Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards with the best of the best from our 10th annual international wine awards. Dress up, sample Cioppino's beef and chorizo cannelloni with a stylish super-Tuscan or Hawksworth's sunchoke soup with caviar and grand cru Champagne, and mingle with several hundred lovers of fine food and wine. Here are two other category champs that will sparkle at Big Night 2014.

 

POPLAR GROVE ROSÉ BLANC DE NOIRS 2012

$24.90

B.C. +71720*

*available in private wine stores

It's well-established that women and smart men drink rosé frequently. We love it for its versatility when pairing with food, for the variety of its hues-from pomegranate to palest powder-puff pink-and for its exciting range from soft and fruity to grippy, bone-dry, and serious. This winner of Best Rosé is lush and dry-ish, made from gorgeously ripe malbec and syrah berries grown on elite Naramata Bench terroir. Inviting aromas and flavours of strawberry, pink grapefruit, and Turkish delight swell in the mouth and end on a note of vivid acidity and a hint of sweetness. Chill well and pair with watermelon, feta, and olive salad or smoked-salmon pizza. Rosé consumption is projected to rise over the next two years-get ahead of the trend now.

 

THORN-CLARKE SHOTFIRE QUARTAGE 2010

$26.99

Australia +94433

Our Rich Red winner shows a cooler and more refined aspect of the Barossa Valley. Four bold grapes from three different sites harmonize with stylish power, though cabernets sauvignon and franc dominate, assuring blackcurrant, cedar, and spice flavours and bright acidity. A year in large French casks adds a dimension of glossy oak, and velvety tannins prolong a seductive finish. It's worth lauding Thorn-Clarke for admirable consistency: Rich Red is a large, competitive category at our awards, and this handsome blend has made the list multiple times. Brilliant with prime rib or roasted leg of lamb or venison sausages.

 

January 30, 2014

This weekend is bookended by two diverse celebratory events: Chinese New Year (January 31) and the 48th Super Bowl (February 2). Both are great occasions/excuses for eating and drinking well. White aromatics are the safe pours for the incredible panoply of flavours that distinguish the eight branches of regionally distinct Chinese cuisine. And while riesling and gewürztraminer and similar fruity whites do a bang-up job of taming heat and embracing exotic ingredients, the right kind of pinot noir can also dance with the Dragon. Pinot that juggles vivid fruit with earthy umami and cleansing acidity is best, so look for cooler-climate New World origins. Save the boldly oaked, higher alcohol versions for your next hip of beef.

 

MARISCO VINEYARDS THE NED PINOT NOIR 2012

$20.99

New Zealand +617530

 

There are so many reasons to love this knockout New Zealand pinot. Let's start with the winemaker, a guy born and bred in Marlborough and one who considers himself a regional pioneer. Brent Marris picks prized fruit for The Ned pinot from the Southern Valleys (a gravelly/clay terroir within Marlborough with the best conditions for this capricious grape), and his nuanced winemaking keeps the fruit forward, the spice overt, and the wood subtle by aging in large French oak casks. With lifted floral aromas and dark cherry flavours layered with smoke and spice, this complete pinot also has a lively herbal aspect and a tart edge of acidity. Best of all, a savoury earthy core that binds it to umami-rich dishes like crispy duck with pancakes, crystal chicken, or stir-fried mushrooms with oyster sauce. And the name, you ask? The Ned is a 900-metre peak in Marlborough that Brent conquered as a youngster.


NK'MIP CELLARS TALON 2011

$22.99

BC +374884


As part of Cascadia, the Seattle Seahawks are our adopted NFL team. They sport the snazziest uniforms in the league, the smartest quarterback, the priciest defensive squad, and a fun-loving coach whom all the players call "a big kid." It's possible that I love sports just as much as wine, and I can't wait for kickoff on Sunday. I'll be drinking this Thunderbird of a wine with my chili verde and fresh tortillas, shrieking in support of the Seahawks. Cabernet sauvignon is joined by an almost equal amount of syrah plus a quartet of other juicy red grapes, elevating this muscular wine to the starting roster. Bold plummy fruit, strapping vanilla oak, and grilled herbs finish big and round in the mouth. It's a confident, winning red and I'm just as sure the right team will win.

 

January 23, 2014

Why can't haggis be as good looking as Robbie Burns? Then we might more eagerly await its annual appearance on Robbie Burns Day. (Saturday marks his 255th birthday.) Did you know there are more statues of the handsome Scot erected around our planet than of any other writer? The world's favourite poet has an iPhone app, has graced the front of a Coke bottle, and had at least 12 children with four different mothers.... If you are in the haggis frame of mind (and all our best butchers will stock them this weekend), try these two wines with the "Great Chieftain o' the Puddin-race"-and neeps and tatties too, of course.

 

TRIVENTO AMADO SUR  2012 

$16.95

Argentina +568238

This hearty malbec (70 percent) gets a shot in the arm from juicy bonarda and sturdy syrah grown in very different regions of Argentina. The result is the expected fruit-forward glass of perfumed blueberry/plummy flavours that we adore in malbec, but brightened nicely with cherries, deepened with spice and smoke, and buttressed by lean tannins. It's a true meat wine, an outstanding value, and a fitting match for haggis's gamey nature.


BERONIA RIOJA RESERVA 2008

$24.99

Spain +216770


Always a solid reflection of its region and style, this rioja has been Best of Show in previous Vancouver magazine International Wine Awards competitions, and usually stars on the winners' list every year. Beronia Reserva 2008 is no exception, this vintage offering plenty of fruit layered with cedary oak and tempered by brisk acidity. Mellow leathery notes add interest to the creamy oak character, and this Rioja Reserva manages to be round, supple, edgy, classic, and modern all at once. It has the heft haggis needs and deserves, but if you are feeling like a braised lamb shank instead, this is still the ticket. Drinks deliciously now, but will develop for a few years yet.

 

 

January 16, 2014

Dine Out has become a beloved happening here in Vancouver, and from January 17 to February 2 you can sample prix-fixe menus at new places you've been dying to try ($18 offered by 62 restaurants, 129 options for $28, and 63 priced at $38.) Like the idea of 50 chefs making one big bowl of soup? The dining festival launches with a cauldron featuring 50 different ingredients tossed into the pot by 50 top chefs. Julian Bond, Vanmag's first Mentorship Award recipient, orchestrates proceedings as his Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts students prepare and cook the fusion brew.
And when you are not dining out, here are two bottles to savour at home.

 

THORNHAVEN GEWURZTRAMINER 2012

$17.90

BC +468850

Here's a cozy winter white full of lychee, exotic citrus, and spice for great food-pairing options. Thornhaven Winery, perched high on the bluffs above Summerland, offers one of the most breathtaking views over Okanagan Lake. The vineyards feel the fresh breezes that help keep the acidity alive in gewurztraminer, which tends toward fatness. This one is distinctly fruity but balanced with sufficient tang to counter the tropical peachy flavours. Pouring with dishes that are a touch sweet themselves is key to maintaining harmony, so try homemade fried rice with Chinese sausages or honey-and-chili-glazed pork chops or barbecued pork, crunchy shrimp, sweet peas, and a little hoisin.

 

LAS MORAS RESERVE TANNAT 2012

$14.99

Argentina +104018

 

This wine, brimming with personality and flavour, captured our judges' taste buds yet again. Tannat is an interesting French grape responsible for the historically famous wines of Madiran, in the southwest corner of France. Tannat's tannins can be quite ferocious, but in Argentina's warm climate they become meltingly supple. Finca Las Moras is based in the rugged San Juan region, and these grapes grow at altitudes where slow ripening and full flavour are assured. A year in French oak adds chocolate-y richness to intense cassis and black plum, giving body and a smouldering finish. Try your hand at a classic cassoulet, with earthy beans, duck confit (it's easier to make than you think) and porky sausages, or complement tannat's smoky side with the best bacon money can buy on a juicy burger. Tannat vineyards are springing up in B.C. and California, and the grape's high antioxidant components may prompt even more interest (having more pips than most wine grapes, it has greater amounts of polyphenols, procyanidins, flavonoids, and resveratrol).

 

January 8, 2014

As we confront post-holiday belt-tightening of all kinds, barnstorming bargains are what we need. Maybe our meals get a little leaner, our appetites a little lighter (from self-imposed dieting or sheer gustatory overload), but we still need wine to wash down those comforting (budget) winter stews and soups. Here are two best-value picks that are easy on the wallet yet big in the glass.

 

CALONA VINEYARDS ARTIST SERIES UNOAKED CHARDONNAY

$12.99

BC +364323

Without the makeup of oak to hide behind, unwooded chardonnay must have ripe, healthy, quality fruit backed up by respectful, clean winemaking. Calona hits the target squarely with freshness, balance, and attractive orchard fruit. It's a naked expression of Okanagan pear, apple, and citrus with inflections of sage and honey. There's also juicy acidity and decent length to punch through a root veg bake, chunky leek-and-potato soup, or crusty-melty brie panini.

 

LOUIS BERNARD CÔTES DU RHÔNE ROUGE 2011

$14.99

France +581645

 

Like plummy? Like silky? Like a smashing deal? You can tuck this red away for a few years and have it improve, so buy lots of this classic Côtes du Rhône and look like a hero. It's been around forever and never lost the plot of kirschy grenache, peppery syrah, and feral mourvedre grown in various plots in the complex geology of the southern Rhone valley. Smells of herbs and lavender, pure plum and cherry, with background smoke and pepper. The palate is smooth with dark fruit, spice, and tannins that show well (given the odd ripening cycle of the decent 2011 vintage), and there's enough acid for freshness and sufficient fruit for a few years of bottle evolution. But it's so gulpable now: drink deeply with grilled merguez and barley soup, bacon-wrapped roast chicken, or pizza with heavily smoked sausage.

 

December 19, 2013

One of the best things about the holiday season is having a few days off-to sleep in, laze around, and prepare a lingering brunch with indulgent treats and glass or two of ambrosial sweet wine. Invite family and friends, dust off the waffle iron, season the pancake skillet, and get creative with an enticing festive brunch menu. Remember this rule of thumb: the wine must be as sweet as, or sweeter than, the dessert for optimal harmony (unless it is a savoury pairing, like icewine and foie gras, and you can happily contrast sweet, savoury, and salty). Think also about the weight of the pairing-thick-textured and intense wines can handle richer food.

 

INNOCENT BYSTANDER MOSCATO 2012

$19.99

Australia +861723

 

This moscato, our best of dessert wine category winner, is heavenly. Innocent Bystander is a cutting-edge winery in the Yarra Valley just an hour from one of the hippest cities on the planet, Melbourne. The Innocent Bystander team lavish massive effort and respect on the black and brown muscat grapes grown along the banks of the Murray River. The beer-capped bottle, arty label, and hot pink colour are delectable eye candy. You'll be tempted by the dreamy nose of wild strawberry, tangerine, and white flowers, and tangy berry and rose petal jam flavours will awaken your palate. Semi-sparkling with fizzy-foamy bubbles, it has a charming creamy mouthfeel. With delicacy, lightness, and moderate sweetness (5.5% alcohol and a 2 rating on the BCLDB sweetness scale), this juicy beauty pairs with lychee or peach waffles, rose petal jam and brie French toast, or orange-glazed scones.

 

NK'MIP CELLARS QWAM QWMT RIESLING ICEWINE 2012

$60.00

B.C +988535


Near-perfect is the way to describe this luscious icewine: the combination of the strong 2012 vintage, an early freeze, and the precise handling techniques learned over many winters by winemaker Randy Picton and his crack team resulted in an exceptional bottle. Yellow-gold awash with green glints, it appears incandescent in a small wine glass. The nose is a revelation of jasmine, ripe apple, apricot, linden, and herbal honey. It smells rich, exotic and concentrated, so do pay attention and swirl and sniff for as long as you can before sipping. In the mouth there's a rush of lime curd, white peach and fangipani, nimbly balanced by nervy acidity and succulent sweetness. The finish is long and thrilling. At 9% alcohol and 275 grams of sugar, it is both unctuous and graceful. Sweet pairings: Key lime tart, black Thai rice pudding with coconut and mango, or green apple sorbet. Savoury: foie gras profiterole, candied bacon, or barely-sweet blue cheesecake.

 

December 12, 2013

The hurly-burly of mid-December is upon us - entertaining, shopping, wrapping, baking, dining, drinking, and general merry-making. Here are two wines, a gorgeous winter white and a stunning cru Beaujolais, to uplift dinner this weekend

 

ARGIOLAS COSTAMOLINO VERMENTINO DI SARDEGNA 2012

$19.99

Italy +457945

 

Vermentino is one of Italy's characterful white grapes, grown in a wide expanse from Corsica winding up the western edge of the peninsula through coastal Tuscany and stretching up to Liguria. The Argiolas family have cultivated vermentino since the early 1900s, in sloping vineyards on wind-buffeted, sun-drenched Sardinia. The Costamolino drinks dry and savoury with intriguing floral, herbal, honeyed, and saline aromas and flavours. Like so many Italian whites it has great mouth presence-a grippy, palate-coating quality that invites robust food flavours. Make a winter salad of tangerine or blood orange and fennel salad with a few razorthin slices of red onion and peppery olive oil. Artichokes will flatter this wine as well, so de-choke and steam fresh ones to dunk in aioli, or strew marinated artichokes over pizza dough, sprinkle with capers and cheese, and bake.

 

M. LAPIERRE MORGON 2012

$34.95

France +141366


Growers like M. Lapierre affirm how truly great the wines of Beaujolais can be. From a fine "cru" village, Lapierre Morgon is a global reference for naturally made wine, producedwithout herbicides, pesticides, or synthetic chemicals of any kind. The Lapierre family have been farming organically since 1981; in 2003 they made the transition to biodynamics. Their wines are complex, powerful, and capable of great age. A pure expression of gamay grown on granite, the 2012 Morgon is Beaujolais at its fragrant, stony best. That means heady floral scents with ripe dark cherry and earthy aromas and a dry palate that shows piercing berry flavours with spice, gamey notes, and distinct minerality. Refreshing and wondrously balanced with agile tannins, it has all the elements of a brilliant food wine-acidity, structure, and intense flavour. Pair with a juicy roast pork loin, or try your hand at classic braised rabbit with Dijon mustard.

 

 December 5, 2013

Welcome to another 12 months of weekly picks as we taste our way through 110 terrific results of our 10th Annual Awards. In late October, 17 judges were cloistered in the Pavilion in Stanley Park for three days, evaluating over 800 wines from 17 countries. Wines were grouped into style categories, just the way we think about and buy wine. You'll find our winners organized into 10 groups: sparkling, light white, medium white, rich white, rosé, light red, medium red, rich red, dessert, and fortified wines. This logical, intuitive sorting of wine by style makes is easy to pair to your mood, and with food.

A good place to start is our Best of Show wine. Three high-calibre wines were on the final ballot and this astonishing Le Mesnil Champagne was the celebrated winner. Are we being elitist choosing a grand cru bubbly for our Best of Show wine? We think not and this is why: our awards are for you, the reader. We select the most delicious, most varied, and best value wines so that you can save money and buy wisely. When you are spending more money, you want to be confident of a great experience. A grand cru Champagne for $55? Too good to be true, but here it is.

 

CHAMPAGNE LE MESNIL BLANC DE BLANCS GRAND CRU BRUT

$54.99

France +546390


There are only 17 villages with grand cru status in chilly Champagne, and fruit from these deep chalk terroirs present extra finesse and higher expression. Although a non-vintage bubbly, 80 percent of Le Mesnil's blend is from the highly-rated 2008 vintage. It's an all-chardonnay brut, with proper nutty, brioche aromas of bottle fermented and aged champagne. The palate is fresh and racy with flavours of apples, citrus, and minerals punctuated by lively bubbles and pillowy mousse. The combination of richness, high acidity, and bubbly texture are central to this wine's pairing dexterity. From potato chips (try tossing them in truffle oil) to eggs Benedict to spot prawns or schnitzel, champagne's complexity and sharp beam of acidity embraces a broad ingredient spectrum. Give it a try with pulled pork sandwiches or take-out Peking duck. How to serve? Give it a good chill and don't fuss too much about glassware - many top champagne houses recommend a regular white wine glass for multi-layered fizz like our Best of Show Le Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut. We hope you to love it as much as our judges did. It's an astounding value, and smart drinkers will stock up for the year.

 

 November 28, 2013

In just a few days, on December 2, our exciting 2014 Wine Awards results will appear here in the Fix. You'll find 110 new wines for another year of tasting and learning, with delights from France, Italy, Australia, B.C, and other superior regions that span the wine world.

That makes this review the very last of the 2013 awards!

 

PACIFIC BREEZE WINERY CHARDONNAY 2010 

$24.99

B.C. +98012

 

Pacific Breeze Winery is an interesting project that trucks fruit to B.C. from other places-like Carneros, California, in the case of this appetizing chardonnay. The wines are made in New Westminster, B.C., and you can taste and buy them at the "garagiste" winery just a 10 minute walk from the Skytrain station. Our judges loved the tropical citrus and pineapple aromas and flavours of this creamy medium-weight chard. It's clean and fresh with a warm embrace of oak and spice, but the purity of Carneros fruit keeps this wine linear and vibrant. Try their reds as well, if you visit. Cook some salmon or boneless chicken breast en papillote with some paper-thin sliced potatoes, plus other veg of your choice, plenty of herbs, and a generous knob of butter.

 

November 21, 2013

BERINGER KNIGHTS VALLEY MERITAGE 2009 

$33.99

United States +193391

 

If ever there was a weekend for a muscular red with sleek dark fruit, a toned core of acidity, and wel-conditioned tannins, this is it. It's Grey Cup time and even though our men in orange are not centenders, it should be a ripper in Regina. Stay cosy inside watching 48 athletes chase a frozen pigskin while you eat prime rib sandwiches or lambgyros. Beer is for the regular season - the championship game deserves big red wine and no one does big better than California. Beringer has been a wine force since 1876 and was a pioneer in Knights Valley, a warm pocket in eastern Sonoma County. It's a special place for Bordeaux grapes and this potent blend (about even thirds cab, cab franc, and merlot) erupts with crushed blackberries and plums, spice, cedar, and fragrant vanilla.Intense and meaty, it has broad-shouldered tannins that are firm but supple from the stellar 2009 vintage. Slosh around in a decanter or very large glass to aerate before toasting your Grey Cup champions.

 

November 14, 2013

TINHORN CREEK VINEYARDS OLDFIELD SERIES MERLOT 2009

$28.99

B.C. +153213

Merlot is simply magnificent in the South Okanagan, especially when from a site that's as well-situated and well-endowed as Diamonback Vineyard on the elite Black Sage Bench. Wine lovers can unfailingly trust charismatic winemaker Sandra Oldfield for generous, polished rich reds that express place in an admirable way. Though Tinhorn is famed for great cabernet franc, this Oldfield Series merlot is just as fine. Inviting aromas of fruitcake, mocha, and a botanical note give way to flavours of summer pudding fruits, chocolate, spice, and toasty oak. Broad-shouldered tannins drink smooth and textured and demand deeply flavoured food like Moroccan lamb tagine, mole short ribs, or some intense game sausages spiced with juniper. Ad if your local store has rolled over to the 2010 vintage, you'll love that just as much.

 


 November 7, 2013

MASI CAMPOFIORIN 2010

$19.99

Italy +155051

 

One of the most consistent, delicious, and characterful reds of Italy, Masi's Campofiorin is also about as autumnal as you could hope for an under-$20 wine. Although not apparent from the name, it's a valpolicella from the rolling hills around Venice, and features a trio of native grapes: corvina, molinar, and rondinella. This supervenetian, an instant success since its debut vintage in 1964, uses a portion of dried grapes for extra depth and intensity. Bursting with dark cherry and spice flavour, the fruit-robed tannins drink smooth and velvety. Mellow is the word, and you'll find this wine flatters beef stew, pork ragu, or a classic Venetian porcini risotto.


 October 30, 2013

EVANS & TATE METRICUP ROAD SHIRAZ

$19.99

Australia +587469

 

All Hallows' Eve needs a wine with a dark and brooding side, a hint of mystery, plus an element of surprise. Brother wine to the beloved Metricup Road chardonnay (a medium white winner in our competition), this serious Evans & Tate shiraz meshes inky fruit with intriguing earthy minerality and the delightful ambush of succulent acidity. The breezy maritime climate of Margaret River is responsible for the perfume, fine tannins, and bright acid that shiraz fruit acquires in this unique environment. It's not the stereotypic hot-climate shiraz juggernaut, but rather a plummy, silky, elegant interpretation of the grape. Try with lamb tacos, beef and stilton pie, or ove-roasted ribs.

 

 

No wine better captures the spirit of the Vancouver Magazine Wine Awards better than Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, an honourable and much-loved Catalan sparkling wine that has been on our winning list for years. It over-delivers in value and interest - you'll have to visit this website on December 1 to see if our panel of 17 terrific wine experts choose it yet again in the blind-judged 10th annual awards.

 

October 23, 2013

SEGURA VIUDAS BRUT RESERVA NV 

$16.99

Spain +158493

 

This perennial best buy is one of the world's classic wine brands. In the Penedes region of northeastern Spain, the traditional method of producing sparkling wine via fermentation and ageing in bottle is applied to indigenous Catalan grapes (xarel-lo, macabeo, and parellada). The result is Cava, a unique regional specialty. Segura Viudas Brut is archetypal: green-apple crisp, lemony fresh, dry as a bone, and begging for garlicky prawns, salty olives, or Serrano ham.

 

 

How do you measure a decade? By 1,000+ diverse and delicious wine recommendations taht we have brought to you, our lyoal readers, since 2004. Our 10th wine awards competition is just a few days away and this chief judge and 18 experts are salivating at the prospect of evaluating hundreds of wines to select another years' worth of imbibing. Results will be proudly posted on this site on December 1.

 

October 17, 2013

ANGUS THE BULL CABARNET SAUVIGNON

$21.99

Australia +110510

 

This is a highly appetizing rich red that started with the idea of food first. Steak, to be precise. You've got to appreciate a winemaker who values agrilled porterhouse before his own vinous creation. Hamish MacGowan clearly loves to eat, and this purpose-built cabarnet gets structure, fruit depth, and complexity from vineyards in five regions. To enhance the dense but subtle flavours of beef, MacGowan stuffs his Angus the Bull cab chock-full of dark berry fruit, gorgeous spice, and minty chocolate notes. Like a good food wine it possesses refreshing acidity, well-poised oak, and tannins that are ripely assertive. Australia deserves our attention allover again and this wine (the last several vintages have garnered big scores) will enhance a juicy steak, braised beef stew, roasted prime rib or even a decadent Black Angus meatball sandwich.

 

 

October 10, 2013

YOSHI NO GAWA GOKU-JO GINJO 

$17.99

Japan +735191

These cool, crisp fall days with watery sunshine and mauvey twilight makes me thirsty for sake. Not quite beer or wine, sake is brewed in a complex parallel fermentation involving highly polished rice, water, an enzyme-rich mold called koji, and yeast. A little higher in alcohol than wine (13 to 16 percent), sake has textural richness, subtle flavours, and fabulous pairing possibilities. Our competition views sake as the equal of wine and our judges loved the delicate silvery cast with gentle essence of iris, winter melon, and coconut water of this ginjo-level sake. It has a full, seamless palate that wavers between botanicalfennel and cucumber to lively citrus, and its waxy mouthfeel deserves rich flavours such as cold avocado soup, spicy sushi, scallop sashimi, or creamy risotto crowned with feathery fennel fronds.

 

 

 October 3, 2013

MUD HOUSE WINES SAUVIGNON BLANC 

$19.99

New Zealand +459636

Reporting this week from Blenheim, New Zealand, provides a perfect opportunity to recommend this luscious savvy from the varied, stony soils that define the complex Marlborough region. The big surprise when you tour this stunning region (about one-third of NZ's grapes grow here) is how varied the topography is. Old river bed vineyards, rolling slopes, and breezy valleys all feature significant soil, rainfall, and temperature variance. There's nuance, subtlety and sub-regional identity that emerges as you tour and taste with an open mind and sharp palate. The Mud House 2011 blends a couple of the sub-regions to fuse the linear savoury fruit of Awatere with aromatic, more tropical hues of the Wairau Valley. The result is a succulent, pure fruit-driven white with cleansing citrusy acidity and classic Malborough vivacity. Try with a blue cheese souffle, preserved lemon ceviche, or leek and thyme risotto.

 

 

September 26, 2013

This wine critic, on assignment in Australia, is drinking the new kool aid from Down Under-an amazing array of wonderful whites, reds, and fortifieds that bust the stereotype of bland critter wines in an emphatic way. Australia's diverse terroir is so well expressed in her wines (as our Best of Show winner perfectly illustrates) but tradition is not forgotten either, and this silky fortified tawny from Wolf Blass is a charming and affordable sip—either with a slight chill, over ice cream, or beside a roaring fire.

WOLF BLASS RED LABEL TAWNY 
$20

Australia +4861

Australia has a grand tradition of fortified wine making. In fact, for most of Oz's history, fortifieds were the dominant style. Wolf Blass's Red Label Tawny is a classic example: a delightfully old-fashioned blend of 13 grape varieties (although mostly shiraz, grenache, and mourvedre) fortified with grape spirit and matured for many years in magnificent old oak vats. Over the decades the wine gently mellows, acquiring a captivating ruby-amber colour and all the splendid aromas of age—plums, raisins, roasted nuts, and treacle. It's a deliciously warming after-diner drink on its own, but it also deserves to be enjoyed in the classic Aussie fashion—drizzled lavishly over ice cream.

★ Only available in private wine stores

September 19, 2013

 

MATTEO COREGGIA ROERO NEBBIOLO 2009 
$27

Italy +152819

Your first glass of nebbiolo truly marks the beginning of Fall. The autumnal flavours of braises, hearty soups and all things funghi provides a perfect reason to try this sleek and fragrant Piedmontese red. Nebbiolo wines couple high raspy acidity with fierce tannins that are tempered by dark and tarry fruit. Abundant structure and edge will slice through a meaty braise. Pour this exotic wine into a very large glass, swirl, inhale, and succumb to the mellow spirit of Fall. Bresato, porcini pasta, or ragu.

 

September 12, 2013

 

Last week we featured a sleek Tuscan rich red and here is another smooth and mellow wine to help us ease into the crisper days and cooler nights of fall.

 

KENWOOD VINEYARDS YULUPA OLD VINE LODI ZINFANDEL 2008
$19.49
United States +479337

 

Zinfandel is such an interesting and versatile grape, capable of making a range of styles from sweetish whites, cheerful reds, dense and spicy reds, to robust, port-style wines. Old vines can intensify depth and persistence of flavour, as the Kenwood Old Vine Lodi zin proves. This spicy red is relaxed and unfussy with red plum, cherry, and vanilla flavours and warm, suave tannins. A few years of bottle age add complex notes like leather and cedar and the very well-behaved 13.5% alcohol is perfect for food like chili or any meat dripping with smoky BBQ sauce. Also surprisingly delicious with Chinese take-out.

★ Only available in private wine stores
 

 

 

September 5, 2013

 

As we gear up for the 2014 Wine Awards, the entries will be flooding in until the midnight deadline on Sept. 6th. Seventeen judges are getting ready to yet again flex proboscis and palate as we assemble another terrific list of 100+ wines for you to enjoy all year long. The evenings have a distinct chill now, and we welcome the earthy, mellow wines of autumn. Try this year's Best of Category Medium Red with some nutty squash ravioli, braised lamb shank, or wild mushroom flan.

 

CASTELLO DI GABBIANO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2008
$25
Italy +479337

 

It points to quality when two category winners share a stable, and exciting that they are so different. Alongside our Light Red winner (Gabbiano's Chianti Classico), our Medium Red category's victor - the Chianti Classico Riserva - shows a more modern interpretation of the canon, with a splash of merlot joining the single vineyard sangiovese and newer French oak adding toasty lustre to smooth, forward fruit. Lively acidity, firm tannins, and emphatic finish make it a sensational food wine for fall flavours.

★ Only available in private wine stores
 

 


August 29, 2013

 

Labour Day may signal the end of summer and back to school for the young'uns, but there's an upside: September will likely usher in spectacular weather to add to the immaculate sunshine we've enjoyed so far. We should not forget the origins of Labour Day either: back in 1872 The Trade Unions' Act was passed giving unions the power to demand a 54-hour workweek. Let's celebrate our well-earned holiday with some tasty wine and food.

 

KRAZE LEGS THE BEE'S KNEES PINOT BLANC 2011
$19
B.C. +136929

 

Bit of a quirky name and label, but you'll be as impressed as our Wine Awards judges were with the apple-y freshness and crunch of this aromatic white from the Kaleden area. Unadorned and pure, it smells and tastes of Granny Smiths and Anjou pears with a touch of herbal honey. Dry with spritely acid and admirable balance, it's a great food wine made by equally great folks. Crisp enough for oysters on the half shell or ground turkey and sage in a juicy burger. For a fish pairing, try grilled pink or spring salmon with a delicate herb and lemon zest marinade. It's white that you can drink long after Labour Day.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

BODEGA SANTA ANA LA MASCOTA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010
$20
Argentina +641688

 

Argie malbec gets all the press fuss, but there is some stellar cabernet sauvignon grown at altitude in the stony soils of the Andean foothills. Bountiful sun and fresh breezes cooled by snowfields high above the vineyards give this elegant cab wonderfully ripe cassis and raspberry fruit with a hint of grilled pepper and chocolate. Firm, smooth tannins, dense fruit, and toasty oak add hefty muscle to this rich red. Consider strip steak with arugula pesto, herb marinated lamb chops, or skewered grilled veg and rice pilaf for a meatless yet cab-worthy dinner. Finish with last-of-the-season blueberries and ice cream or aged cheddar.

 

 

 

 

August 22, 2013

 

Cue the reds! These last few summer weeks call for some hardcore time at the grill, and these red wines will handle the smoke and heat of a good BBQ fire.

 

 

ELIAS MORA TORO 2009
$20
Spain +119677

 

This flavoursome red owes its quality to high altitude, low rainfall, old, gnarled vines anchored in cobbley, limestone soils, and the meshing of winemaking modernity and tradition. Toro is a region that is on fire - extremes of climate, extremely fashionable, and supremely good wines. The local grape, Tinta de Toro (the local name for tempranillo), boasts ample, dark fruit, licorice and spice, ripe and fleshy tannins, and the sweet burnish of six months in American oak casks. Perfect with baby back ribs, butterflied leg of lamb, or merguez sausages on your charcoal fire.

 

DECERO MALBEC REMOLINOS VINEYARD 2009
$23
Argentina +119586

 

Malbec from Argentina can be terrific with food, especially when it has solid architecture, balance, and length - all features of this vigorous and stylish wine. Decero wines display the complexities of the Remolinos Vineyard's quality equation of sunny days, cool nights, altitude, fresh winds, and a lengthy growing season. Perfumed nose and vivid red fruits offer the kind of restrained elegance that sets it apart from other Mendoza Malbecs. Firmly structured for a prime cut of beef - take the time to make a tangy chimichurri sauce - and bold enough for a smoky bacon cheeseburger with carmelized onions and garlic.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 15, 2013

 

If you are in the Whistler area this Saturday, August 17th, consider joining the tumult of cheese-chasing. The 6th Annual Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival involves hurtling down Blackcomb Mountain attempting to snag an 11-pound wheel of cheese (BC's Cracked Pepper Verdelait if you must know) for bragging rights. Admission and the Gondola are free and costumes are heavily encouraged - the cheesier the better. Both fermented products, wine and cheese are a natural duo. Most folks suppose that red is the choice, but cheese and wine pros more often admire white matches.

 

BERINGER FOUNDERS' ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2010
$19.99
United States +534230

 

Chardonnay with a gentle embrace of oak is what you'll find in this reliable classic from California. Lush, fruit-forward melon, peach, and citrus flavours are fresh, clean, and trimmer than ever and finished with a zing of spicy oak. Lemony acid deftly balances this chard and is the key to harmony with a camembert or brie.

 

ANCIANO VALDEPENAS 10 YEAR TEMPRANILLO 2001
$15.99
Spain +789354

 

Thank you, Spain, for doing the cellaring for us. The tradition of ageing wines in barrel and then bottle and only releasing to market when ready to drink is a special treat. The Anciano Tempranillo is a Rioja-style wine (but from the region of Valdepeñas), and offers a chance to taste a silky, wood-burnished red with wonderfully mature characters for a bargain price. The flavours are like cherry fruit leather with spice and cedary layers. Note the mellow texture, balanced with enough acidity to bridge well with firm cheese like manchego cheese, a nutty cheddar, or cave-aged gruyère.

 

 

August 8, 2013

 

This wine critic is chilling in the North Shuswap, bobbing on a colourful floatie reading trashy novels, running on the quiet rolling roads every day, grilling fresh and local goodies every night, and sipping lots of chilled wine-white, pink, and red. I adore light reds that are chilled a touch cooler than body temperature-it brightens charming fruit, freshens acidity, and gives edge to docile tannins. What do I mean by a chill? Well, about an hour in the fridge will do, or 15 minutes in a brimming bucket of ice and water. This is cooler than what is referred to as cellar temperature, which is ideal for all reds, particularly medium and heavyweight wines. Typical cellar temperature is about 12 to 15°C, but we want these juicy reds at about 6 to 8°C.

 

BODEGAS CASTANO LUJURIA MONASTRELL MERLOT 2011
$9.98
Spain +77149

Soft summer-pudding fruits, a lick of spice, and a smoooooth texture that is extra thirst quenching when chilled: this ultra-consistent red blend from eastern Spain is as great with robust tapas as it easy on your budget. Buy by the case and take a moment to admire the excellent label, too.

 

PLATINUM BENCH GAMAY NOIR 2011
$19.90
B.C. +457275 ★

A wine so juicy and energetic, you'll have trouble keeping it in the glass. Platinum Bench winery made a strong statement with its 2011 debut vintage-no surprise given the quality of vines it commands on the elite Black Sage terroir. Peppery with edgy red fruit and a mineral glint, it has the kind of proper raspy acidity of gamay from Beaujolais. Chill it down and have a summer picnic of pâté, soft cheese, baguette, Dijon mustard, and cornichons.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

 

August 1, 2013

 

There's just one word for wine this long weekend: rosé. It's time to celebrate both B.C. and Pride, and there are fireworks to watch and gatherings to host. The weather often acts up during our summer triple headers (a reminder that we're a hardy, outdoorsy people), and a little rain in the forecast is just another reason to chill with rosé wines. Pink is one of the most fuss-free wine styles, and it goes happily with most foods and most moods. So whether you're BBQ-ing outdoors or simply making a platter of thick and hearty sandwiches, try one of these home-grown heros. A note about vintage: our award-winning rosés may have rolled over to the 2012 vintage on the shelf of your favourite store, but I guarantee you'll love them as well. Chill 'em up good, as they say.

 

MISTAKEN IDENTITY VINEYARDS ROSE 2011
$19.90
B.C. +554642

With a cool label and lovely apricot hue, this Salt Spring Island wine is full of surprises. Made by great folks who are trying to interpret and celebrate the growing region near Ganges, the 2011 blends mostly island-grown pinot noir and zweigelt (with a little boost from Kelowna fruit). The pinot brings charming floral/berry aromas and cranberry fruit flavours, and the zwiegelt contributes lively acidity and leafy/peppery spice. Not entirely bone dry, it flirts with a subtle fruity finish but there's plenty of structure and crispness to go along with your picnic Niçoise salad.

 

JOIEFARM WINERY ROSE 2011
$20.90
B.C. +511469

JoieFarm needs no introduction-it was a firm favourite straight out of the gates (about 10 years ago now) and their aromatic whites, juicy reds, and purpose-made rosé all balance on clarity and freshness. And the rosé is most definitely built for food. Raspberry in colour, there's a perfumed parade of berry aromas dusted with spice, herbs, and attractive leafyness. Gamay and pinot noir are the most predominant of this four-grape blend, and they contribute peppy red-fruit flavours, mouthwatering succulence, and vinous texture. Dry on the finish for your muffuletta sandwich or prosciutto and arugula pizza-on-the-grill.

 

 

July 25, 2013 

 

Last week, I recommended two antipodean pinot noir wines for salmon, and now it is chardonnay's time in the spotlight. Burgundy's great white grape is the most planted premium variety around the world for several reasons: it adapts easily to many climates and soils, and is highly malleable in the hands of winemakers. Yes, chardonnay is back (it never went away, really) and is a brilliant choice for Ocean Wise BC salmon or halibut. Here are two of my faves from a pair of great winemakers who intimately understand, respect, and adore chardonnay.

 

SANDHILL ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2011
$18

B.C. +541193

Howard Soon is a legend in B.C. For 30 years he has felt the Okanagan sun, dug his hands into the soils, and chewed innumerable grapes. He knows his vineyards like the back of his hand and it shows in the natural, honest expression of Sandhill wines. The Chardonnay 2011 fruit comes from the Sandhill Estate Vineyard near Oliver in the South Okanagan, (farmed by two other gents who are just as legendary as Howard). In the ultra-cool 2011 growing season, everyone had to bring their ‘A' game, and Sandhill did. In this vintage, you'll find scents of ripe orchard fruit, crème brûlée, and oak spice with peach, and a lush, tropical pineapple-y note on the palate. Mid-weight but with huge flavour, it drinks rich and balanced with acid, fruit, and oak in perfect pitch. The assertive finish is ideal for cedar-plank salmon served with a tart peach salsa or grilled halibut finished with lemon-basil vinaigrette.

 

MISSION HILL FAMILY ESTATE PERPETUA CHARDONNAY 2009
$40

B.C. +174060

I've tasted the evolution of Mission Hill's flagship white Perpetua with a lot of pleasure over the years, and seen it flourish into the elegant and stylish wine that it is today. Winemaker John Simes was lured to the Okanagan over 20 years ago from New Zealand, and has worked relentlessly to uplift its wine quality ever since. Here's the quality equation: ripeness from the Osoyoos Bench, complexity from three top clones, and stately architecture from Simes' intuitive skill. The Perpetua truly fits the bill for rich white with a compelling gold hue and a nose that makes lovers of gorgeously oaked chardonnay sigh with satisfaction: exotic citrus, tropical lifts, white peach, and vanilla pod. The most defining feature of its flavour is electric limey acidity intensely layered with nectarine, custard, and fine minerals, finishing smoothly with subtle oak spice. Weighty fish preparations are in order here, so bacon-wrapped grilled Sockeye salmon or halibut finished with hazelnut browned butter.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 


 

July 18, 2013 

 

Got salmon? Get pinot. Noir, that is. There are multiple members of the pinot family (gris, blanc, meunier...) but the noble black variety makes sensationally good wines for fish, and salmon in particular. Remember that tannins and oily fish can create an unwelcome, metallic, fishy interaction and that's why low tannin wines are best. This is where pinot noir comes in, with softer tannins than many reds and a blade of acidity to cut salmon's unctuous richness.

 

COLDSTREAM HILLS YARRA VALLEY PINOT NOIR 2011
$29.99

Australia +330811

So many things are special about this lovely pinot. It's from a winery founded in 1985 by one James Halliday: lawyer, wine maker, famous wine writer, and judge. He chose the foggy, chilly hills just north of Melbourne with clay/sandstone/red volcanic soils where tightly-planted vineyards climb from 50 to 400 metres. With plenty of rainfall (for Australia) and weather that's a bit warmer than Burgundy, this is classic terroir for pinot noir and chardonnay. Our gem has gorgeous pinot floral perfume plus ripe cherries, spice, and a correct gamey whiff. The flavours are pure and persistent with red berry fruit, savoury herbs, a fine mineral spine, and mild but structured tannins. The cooler 2011 vintage ensures that there is plenty of crisp, salmon-friendly acidity and a modicum of new French oak backstops the finish with subtle spice. A savoury salmon preparation will help expose the fruit in this Yarra Valley star, so consider a soy or miso marinade with ginger and citrus zest.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

 

VILLA MARIA CELLAR SELECTION PINOT NOIR 2009
$34.99

New Zealand +217307

Our 2013 Wine Awards featured two light red winners from Villa Maria - both pinots and both great New Zealand ambassadors. You'll know the Cellar Selection by the posh gold label and the arresting nose of dark plumy fruit, smoky spice, and forest floor. The mouth is full and rich with concentrated red/black fruit, bright acidity, and soft, plush tannins. Complexity comes from low-yielding vineyards in Marlborough's elite Awatere and Wairau Valleys, where the wine is gently fermented and aged in both new and seasoned French barrels. Layered and elegant with a silky texture, this fruit-packed pinot invites more robust salmon dishes like a salty-sweet-smoky BBQ rub or a dried sour cherry marinade.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

 

 

July 11, 2013 

 

I'm fond of saying that women and intelligent men drink rosé. Pink wines are arguably the most adaptable food wines on the planet because they combine red wine structure with white wine freshness. They come in a range of styles from fruity with a touch of sugar on the finish to savoury and bone dry. Europeans drink them year round and we should too. Here is a pair of pinks to bring out the best in summer dining.

 

DOMAINE LAFOND ‘ROC-EPINE' TAVEL 2011
$23

France +110411

Tavel is a rosé specialist area in the southern Rhône Valley, known for crafting dry, structured, and ageable wines from robust vines that subsist in stone/sand/clay soils throughout drought, intense sun, and fierce winds. Domaine Lafond chooses seven red and white varieties for maximum heft and complexity (grenache 60%, syrah 10%, carignan 5%, along with clairette, picpoul, bourboulenc, and mourvèdre), and gives them a few days of colour-infusing skin-soak before pressing and cool fermentation. The result is a gorgeous pale cherry hue, aromas of flowers, herbs, and red berries with an emphatic spicy, savoury palate. This rosé has power too, with a grippy mouthfeel, and an earthy, dry finish that couldn't be more perfect with lemon and herb marinated grilled whitefish, simple pasta tossed with olives, capers, and oil, or arugula and prosciutto pizza.

 

 

TINHORN CREEK OLDFIELD SERIES 2BENCH ROSÉ 2011
$23

B.C. +176750

The secret to this appetizing rosé is the quality of cabernet franc farmed by Tinhorn Creek and transformed into a feisty, flavourful wine that will charm even the grumpiest anti-pink holdout. Yes it is true that there are wine drinkers who dismiss all rosés, but thankfully global sales of this style are on the rise. Sandra Oldfield brings her boisterous intellect to this wine, and the innocent pale pink colour belies intense cherry fruit tinged with BC black sage and the dusty minerals of south Okanagan vineyards. Great structure and persistence on the dry finish begs for a West Coast match of steamed dungeness crab with garlicky aioli or grilled sockeye salmon coated thickly with mashed sundried tomatoes and tapenade.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

 

July 4, 2013 

 

Two food-demanding Euro wines for your weekend pleasure from the sunny lands of Spain and Greece, where winemaking is an ancient art.

 

PARÉS BALTÀ ORGANIC CAVA BRUT
$20

Spain +366872

This fresh, clean wine from a small domaine shows how truly elegant cava can be. Remarkably, the Cusiné family has been farming organically in Penedès since 1790. The splendidly unpronounceable Catalan trio of Parellada, Xarel-lo, and Macabeo grapes provide a lovely mix of apple/pear, lemon, herbal, and mineral aromas and flavours, and traditional-method fermentation in bottle brings toasty richness and a creamy texture. This is definitely not Champagne, but in the best possible way, as it boasts its own unique Mediterranean warmth and charm. It deserves to be served in a lovely garden. Savoury food is in order, so try with flash grilled calamari (marinate in oil, garlic, parsley, and a squeeze of lemon for a few hours first) or a platter of Serrano ham, crunchy green olives, and manchego cheese.


 

BOUTARI NAOUSSA 2008
$16

Greece +23218

Greek wines can be utterly astonishing. This ancient land full of indigenous grapes has entered a new phase in its wine culture and thrilling wines from the new Greece are slowly trickling to market. This wine represents the crossroads: a characterful native grape from the region of Naoussa made in the traditional style but pure, clean, and fresh. Xynomavro (kzee-no-mav-ro) is a black grape that offers bright cherry fruit with earthy undertones, firm tannins, and crisp, rasping acidity. This keeps our tangy red on the lighter side, inviting a chill and cuisine like grilled chicken breasts marinated in oregano and olive oil, and creamy Macedonian feta (form into small pucks, roll in crushed nuts, fry till golden) with arugula and herbal vinaigrette.


 

 

 

 

June 27, 2013 

 

O Canada! The long weekend is here. How will you celebrate? I'm planning to take advantage of the fair weather (the forecast is superb), a hot grill, farm-to-table food, and wine from our own back yard. Here are two B.C. winners from our 2013 Wine Awards that will keep the patriotic feelings flowing.

 

SPIERHEAD WINERY CHARDONNAY 2010
$22

B.C. +166140

Our judges loved the balance of slowly ripened cool-climate fruit, subtle high-end clovey oak notes and well-etched acidity in this stylish chardonnay. SpierHead is part of the FabFive wineries along the East Kelowna trail making head-turning wines right now, especially pinot and chard. Vibrant, succulent, and layered, this beauty adapts perfectly to herby stuffed mushrooms, pasta tossed with fresh peas and cream, or pizza made with local blue cheese and pear.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

 

NK'MIP CELLARS QWAM QWMT MERITAGE 2008
$30

B.C. +985697

If you have game, duck, or wild boar sausages ready to grill this weekend, you need this big, fleshy, meaty red. Another stunner from the genius hands of wine maker Randy Picton, merlot (69%), cabernet sauvignon (28.5%), and a hint of cabernet franc combine in a heady blend that demands hearty food. The cooler 2008 vintage adds fresh acidity and structured tannins to this top-drawer meritage, and you get a lot of wine for the price. Venison burgers with bacon, aged Canadian cheddar and grilled onions will do, or for a veggie choice, garlic and oil-brushed portobello mushroom skewers.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

 

 

 

June 20, 2013 

 

I've been in Niagara-on-the-Lake all week judging the National Wine Awards of Canada and contemplating Riesling. It's such an expressive grape for Canada, and both Ontario and B.C. make versions that articulate subtle nuances of regionality. Whether eye-poppingly tart and dry or fruity and medium sweet, riesling is the perfect way to usher in the  solstice. Here are two tastes of Okanagan summer.

 

MISSION HILL FAMILY ESTATE MARTIN'S LANE RIESLING 2011
$25

B.C. +128215

This single-site, tiny production beauty shows off riesling's ability to be gossamer-light and sledgehammer-intense at the same time. Floral and mineral delicacy meets powerful green apple, lime, and peach flavours launched on the palate with a piercing attack of nervy acidity. Remarkably focused, it swells in the mouth finishing largely dry but with a fruity intensity that can handle rich foie gras pâté, spicy barbecued baby back ribs, or a mild curry.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

SUMMERHILL PYRAMID WINERY ORGANIC RIESLING 2010
$19.95

B.C. +130575

We admire the way Summerhill takes a different path with this unapologetically off-dry riesling. Made in the tradition of Germany's Mosel region, it balances terrific citrus and apple flavours with an acid that tames the lush honeyed sweetness into submission. The result is a succulent riesling that quivers with fruity tension, all at only about 8.5% alcohol. It's marvelous with food that has a touch of sweetness like honey garlic chicken wings or grilled peaches and mascarpone. The vintage may have rolled on a year or two since our 2013 Wine Awards, but the newer harvests are just as fine as our winner.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

 

 


June 13, 2013 

 

Celebrate our Top Chef with top wines...

Are you a Top Chef Canada addict? I sure am. This Monday was a nail-biter as the three awesome finalists faced off in Calgary... and our very own home-grown talent won it all. Product Development Chef Matthew Stowe works beside Iron Chef Rob Feenie at Cactus Club restaurants and his five-course West Coast dinner convinced the uncompromising judging panel to give him the top prize. Let's raise our brimming glasses of B.C. wine to Cloverdale's Chef Matthew Stowe. 

 

ROAD 13 VINEYARDS JACKPOT VIOGNIER ROUSSANNE MARSANNE 2011
$29

B.C. +782848

This off-the-charts food-worthy white wine from Road 13 flaunts an exotic blend of Rhone grapes. Intoxicating aromatics of jasmine, peaches, and fragrant botanicals tease the senses and a rich, round, and creamy palate stays beautifully balanced and refreshed with fruit-coated acidity. Flavours of orange, vanilla and spice make this a natural for exotic dishes like curried cauliflower soup (like the one Chef Matt concocted to wow the judges in Episode 6), crab bisque, or chicken tagine with apricots and almonds.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 


CELLAR HAND PUNCH DOWN RED 2010
$24.90

B.C. +200931

This enticing red blend has a heck of a pedigree. This second label wine of Black Hill's Nota Bene is concocted from barrels that fall just short of the lofty quality of the cultish flagship, and so are unleashed on the winery cellar hands who work their hides off to produce a distinctive blend. The grapes are merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and cab franc, and you'll love the sweet summer berry flavours, ample spice, and suede-smooth tannins. Dry and medium bodied, this one is for immediate drinking while your Note Bene does its aging magic in the cellar. To match? A platter of beef sliders, duck breast with berry demi, or merguez sausage kebabs.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

Note that both wines may have moved on to a new vintage since our 2013 Wine Awards, but are every bit as good as our winning bottles.

 

 

 

June 6, 2013 

 

A toast to June...

 

ANNA DE CODORNIU BRUT CAVA
$16

Spain +156075

Looks like fair weather for the weekend so don't miss the chance to grill spot prawns, or fish, or scallops, or oysters... anything from the sea. This extreme value bubble may leave you gasping - and then sprinting to the store for more. Cava is sparkling wine from Spain using characterful native grapes and bottle fermented in the Champagne method. Sometimes the noble chardonnay is deployed to add finesse and structure to this sparkler and this is what distinguishes the Anna de Codorniu. From one of Spain's dynastic wine families, this fizz blends 70 per cent chard with the local grapes and is aged for a year or so. Aromas and flavours of apples, limes, and biscuit with a creamy texture and zingy acidity give it the needed persistence for grilled oysters on the half shell with a cucumber mignonette, salmon with tarragon crème fraîche, or spot prawns tossed in olive oil and lemon zest, and singed on the barbie.



LEVANTE ROSATO 2011
$14

Italy +166777

Quaffing a frosty tumbler of rosé will make you feel like summer is finally here, and this sprightly sangiovese pink is versatile as all get out. With flavours of fresh cherries, a dusting of spice, and a pleasantly bitterish finish that is emphatically dry, this bottle is made for sturdy herb-marinated grilled chicken or cumin-rubbed pork tenderloin. Looking more like a pale red than a rosé, this Abruzzo bargain combines red wine structure with white wine freshness. You may even blush at the indecent value...

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

 


May 30, 2013 

 

British Columbian wines will shine brightly next week as new vintages are released at the Bloom BC VQA Spring Release Tasting. The afternoon session is for trade and media only, but the evening offers a great public event and fundraiser for the Arts Club theatre company, ChefMeetsBCGrape, which takes place at the Convention Centre from 7-9:30 pm. Both Red Rooster and Nk'Mip Cellars will be pouring at the evening affair. For tickets, visit: Artsclub.com

 

RED ROOSTER RIESLING 2011
$16.99

BC +984773

Yet another appealing winner from winemaker Karen Gillis at Red Rooster. Over the years she has truly transformed the wine quality and style at this Naramata property, focusing on purity, elegance, and sheer deliciousness. Karen's light touch and great respect for aromatics shines through inthe 2011 riesling - it's fragrant and fresh with white flowers, peachy flavours, and a fruity, juicy finish. Obvious minerality comes from Hidden Terrace Vineyard soils, and a terrific tangy finish shows off luscious citrus fruit and racy acidity. Maui ribs, orange peel beef, pork chipotle burgers - riesling is a great meat wine. And best of all, it is on sale at the BC Liquor stores for $14.99 until June 22nd. Run, don't walk, for a case (or three).

 

 

NK'MIP CELLARS QWAM QWMT SYRAH 2009
$34.99

BC +530717

Syrah is a rising star in our warmer wine regions. From France's Rhone Valley, the syrah grape needs sunny dry weather and poor soils to beget top wines. In Canada, the southern Okanagan is ideal. Randy Picton is the wine maestro at Nk'Mip (which has snagged Best BC Winery in several recent important competitions) and he has a knack for imbuing his wines with New World fruit generosity and Old World structured style and restraint. You'll find gorgeous peppery, plummy fruit in the top tier 2009 Syrah Qwam Qwmt along with classic smoked meat, orange peel, and herbal notes. On the lean side, the tannins are firm but riper than the previous vintage and the bright acidity gives the wine great edge. Meat is in order - either a charcuterie platter, a heap of grilled lamb sausages, or a smoked side of brisket.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

 

 

May 23, 2013 

 

EAT! Vancouver 2013 Food and Cooking Festival kicks off tomorrow at BC Place, celebrating all things food, cooking and drinking. Food Network celeb chefs including our very own Rob Feenie of Cactus Restaurants plus Fable talent and Top Chef finalist Chef Trevor Bird will duke it out on the culinary stage. You'll be inspired to cook up a storm! As you do, enjoy a couple of relaxing glasses of these winning wines.

 

QUAILS' GATE WINERY STEWART FAMILY RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2010
$35

BC +639641

This stately chard just won a coveted Gold medal at Decanter World Wine Awards in London, England and it is an absolute stunner. Quails' Gate is one of BC's truly great estates and head winemaker Grant Stanley's intuitive touch with chardonnay and pinot noir grapes is astonishing. Ripe citrus, peaches, and spice flavours adorn an aristocratic structure built from French oak barrel fermentation, careful lees contact, full malo, and ageing in new and used casks. The cooler 2010 vintage keeps the acidity soaring through a luxuriant, complex finish. This chardonnay deserves some plush seafood like spot prawns in a creamy pasta sauce or Dungeness crab cakes.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

TINHORN CREEK VINEYARDS CABERNET FRANC 2010
$20

BC +530717

Also a famed estate in the Okanagan Valley, Tinhorn Creek wines are made by one of BC's most loved wine personalities, Sandra Oldfield. She's smart, exuberant, and opinionated and her wines mirror her individuality and extroverted style. Cabernet franc is without question a star grape in the Okanagan, and fruit for this winner comes from heat-drenched Diamondback Vineyard on elite Black Sage Bench. The result is high-octane dark fruit, floral scents, graphite, and sweet herbal aromas and flavours. With firm but ripe tannins, spice from a year in oak casks, plus the fresh acidity of the cooler 2010 vintage, this beauty is ideal with a juicy lamb burger or fennel roasted pork belly. 

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

 

 

May 16, 2013 

 

Spot prawn madness continues! We know you haven't even come close to eating your fill of our world famous shrimp with the distinctive spots on the first and fifth abdominal segments (check it out!). The upcoming long weekend will present multiple opportunities to flex your culinary muscles and eat your body weight in spot prawns. Here's something to wash them down...

 

LA CHABLISIENNE LA PIERRELÉE CHABLIS 2010
$27.99


France +359844

Wine lovers understand that lightness is a virtue. Chablis truly is the benchmark for this style, and our repeat Light White category winner displays precise citrus, tangy apple fruit, leesy complexity, plus a steeliness courtesy of the cooler 2010 vintage. This bottle is delicate yet intense with a lingering chalky, lemony finish with sufficient vibrancy for pungent garlic and parsley sautéed spot prawns. Toss raw prawns, heads and all, into a pan where slivered garlic and chopped fresh Italian parsley have had a few minutes to sizzle in butter. Toss till glistening over robust heat for half a minute then decant a glass of dry white wine into the pan and let bubble violently for another minute until the prawns begin to blush pinkly. Have crusty bread ready with a giant glass of the chilled Chablis and commence to rip and tear and sip.

 

MISSION HILL FIVE VINEYARDS ROSÉ 2011
$14.99

B.C. +601161

Rosé with a fruity dimension is a natural choice for dinner-sized Cobb salad - a dish that compels you to scarf both prawns and bacon in the same sitting. The Mission Hill Five Vineyards Rosé charms with watermelon hue, wild berry scents, and a flamboyant palate of luscious red fruit. A spike of acidity and dryish finish lends this rosé weight and freshness for the bacon, avocado, blue cheese, and veg of a classic Cobb salad. Use the wine in the vinaigrette for extra pairing harmony. Simply brush unpeeled spot prawns with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and broil for a minute or two until firm and pink. Let cool, peel, and compose the salad. Chill the rosé and pour into a casual tumbler as the French do.

 


 

May 9, 2013 

 

Ready to gorge on creamy-crunchy pink morsels of spot prawn goodness? Hope so, because the season officially opens today and you don't want to miss out. Did you know that these prawns start life as a male, then become female for the last of their four years of life? Ninety percent of spot prawns are frozen and shipped to Japan which leaves only a bit for us, but the 80-day season leaves plenty of time to try new recipes and wine pairings. Delicate and sweet of flavour and firm but creamy of texture, spot prawns mingle effortlessly with wine.

 

CHAMPAGNE LANSON BLACK LABEL BRUT
$64.99


France +41889

The 250-year-old house of Lanson meshes over 50 individual wines of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier to build complexity and structure in this terrific-value sparkler. After three years of bottle ageing, the result is magic: yeasty, toasty, nutty, proper Champagne with vibrant acidity, rich flavours, and a long, dry finish. This is a dreamy pairing with a richer preparation of spot prawns like fragrant green Thai curry with plenty of lemongrass, lime juice, and coconut milk.

 

SAKE ONE BABY G JUNMAI GINJO GENSHU
$19.99

United States +600676

Think of fine sake like wine when it comes to matching with dinner. Sake is brewed in a complex multiple parallel fermentation process involving highly polished rice, an enzyme-rich mold called ‘koji', yeast, and water. A little higher in alcohol than wine (13-16%), sake has textural richness, subtle flavours like cucumber, melon, and fennel, and the pairing possibilities are fabulous. This hip bottle is made in Oregon by American sakemaster Greg Lorenz from Sacramento-grown rice. The term Genshu means that the sake is undiluted making it strong and rich. Spot prawn tartare with a touch of ponzu and sesame oil with a delicate cucumber pickle will have the requisite weight and cool, botanical character for the Baby G sake.

 

 

 

May 2, 2013 

 

New Zealand Wine producers staged a show this past Monday that dazzled the senses and uplifted spirits in the wine community. The New Zealand Wine Fair showcased an unparalleled diversity of micro-climates, soil types, and fresh maritime climates that account for the purity, ripeness and elegance of NZ wines. Spanning over 10 degrees of Southern Hemisphere latitude, this 2,000 kilometre-long duo of islands features Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and aromatic whites as benchmark styles. Here are two of our favourites to get you hooked on Kiwi freshness.

 

FORREST THE DOCTORS' RIESLING 2011
$20.00

New Zealand +171801

Fruit from stony vineyards in the breezy reaches of Marlborough is picked early when the balance of succulent fruit and limey acid is perfectly poised. Fermented to just 8.5%, some natural grape sugar remains, creating an off-dry mouthful of lime sherbet, Granny Smith apple, and apricot flavours. Despite the sweetness code of 4 in the BCLDB stores, plenty of lip-smacking acidity balances this luscious Riesling so immaculately that the final impression is merely a phantom fruitiness. Intense and peppy enough for first-of-the-season Spot Prawn ceviche with massive amounts of lime, Thai chilies, and cilantro, or simply as a chilled, low-ish alcohol glass of what the Forrest Doctors prescribe...

 

VILLA MARIA PRIVATE BIN PINOT NOIR 2010
$23.99

Italy +254508

One of the most celebrated wineries in NZ is family-owned Villa Maria. Affable yet dignified Sir George Fistonich (knighted for his contribution to the NZ wine industry) pressed his first grapes in 1961 from just an acre of vines. Millions of cases later, he continues to raise the bar - especially for Marlborough Pinot Noir. This screw-capped beauty from the cool-but Pinot-perfect 2010 vintage detonates with ripe cherry and raspberry aromas and flavours with a note of game and grilled herbs. Gentle on the tannins and back-stopped with zingy acidity, you'll love this with a grilled rack of lamb marinated in garlic and rosemary or a simple salmon burger with a soy glaze.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

 

 

April 18, 2013 

 

Who's the year's Best Chef? Which Vancouver restaurant will win the coveted Restaurant of the Year honour? Who are the ace front-of-house pros? Monday, April 22nd marks the 24th annual Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards and all of Vancouver's hospitality professionals are on the edge of their seats awaiting the results. Follow the awards on Twitter or the brand new @vanmag_com Instagram page! Results will also be posted on Facebook and www.vanmag.com moments after the big reveal.


Let's celebrate British Columbia's remarkable restaurant culture with a pair of wines that demand (and deserve) food. Both are major winners in our 2013 Annual Wine Awards and both are the kinds of wine that come to life in a special way when paired with a range of food flavours.

 

EVANS & TATE METRICUP ROAD CHARDONNAY 2009
$19.99

Australia +379149

If ever there was a wine to woo us back to the joys of gently oaked chardonnay, this is it. Serene, cool-climate grapes from maritime Margaret River reveal appetizing citrus and apple fruit, with glorious notes of spicy oak that swirl kinetically with chiseled acidity. Nimble on the palate with focused flavour and finesse, this graceful Chard is part of Australia's emerging regionality narrative. Think chicken with tarragon cream sauce, wild salmon with lemon and capers, or the #1 Aussie choice, shrimp on the barbie (or, closer to home, think spot prawn season starting in a few weeks....).

 

CASTELLO DI GABBIANO CHIANTI CLASSICO 2008
$19.99

Italy +497337

One of two big winners from Gabbiano this year, the juicy, earthy Chianti epitomizes light red with its floral, tea, and cherry flavours, vibrant acidity and mild, dry tannins. Tuscany excels at pleasingly refreshing wines and Castello di Gabbiano adheres to typical methods that yield charming drinkability - gentle extraction of fruit and tannins, aged in old casks rather than new. Chianti Classico is the historic zone where Sangiovese grapes flourish on chalky soils, giving this winner a lovely, dusty, Old World finish. Enjoy with funghi pizza, bucatini with fava beans and guanciale, or freshly made stirred polenta with herbs and grilled spring veg.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

 

 

April 11, 2013

 

MISSION HILL FAMILY ESTATE RIESLING ICEWINE
$59.99

BC +240127

Icewine is the famous wine export from Canada, and Mission Hill's offerings are celebrated globally. In an exacting process, ultra-ripe grapes must freeze on the vine at - 8 degrees C before gentle pressing (removing the frozen water content of the grape) and chilly fermentation. The resulting concentrated grape nectar is sugary sweet but wonderfully tangy. Riesling's bracing acidity and powerful aromatics are perfect for this role, and the 2011 edition detonates with white blossoms and stonefruit aromas. Lemon curd and apricot flavours, creamy-thick texture and lingering finish. Serve chilled in a small wine glass with some swirling room and pair with a savoury paté (doesn't have to be foie gras, but why not?) or a glam dessert of Baked Alaska. A cool throwback, these are so easy when you make individual ones:

Find a recipe for Swiss meringue and whisk till glossy. On a sheet pan lined with parchment, place a cookie or a round of pound cake and cover with a scoop of quality ice cream. Load meringue into a piping bag (or use a knife tip) and pipe swirls or stars to completely cover ice cream and cookie base. Freeze for several hours. Then, minutes before serving, pop them under the broiler (at least 8 inches away) until golden. Pour the icewine and enjoy the magic combination of flavours, temperatures and textures.

 

 

 

April 4, 2013

The inaugural Times of India Film Awards are being hosted by our fair, oceanside city this weekend, and hundreds of millions of people will be watching from India and beyond. The airport arrivals lounge has already seen a glam parade of Bollywood stars and the Oscar-like awards are huge deal for film, for India, and for BC. Let's raise our glasses to a country with a deep and enduring film tradition and some of the tastiest cuisine on the planet. These winning wines are gorgeous with the robust, exotically spiced dishes of India's distinct gastronomic regions.

 

PETER & PETER ZELLER RIESLING FEINHERB 2011
$16.99

Germany +17699

Like the sound of a juicy apricot and apple flavoured wine with a lick of honey and stones on the finish? This fruity/steely Riesling from the Mosel region is a touch off-dry (that's what the word ‘Feinherb' is meant to convey), which welds it to spicy food in a profound way. It's assertive enough for a dish like a Delhi/Mogul style Murgh Korma where chicken is gently simmered in yogurt almond sauce imbued with cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, garam masala and ginger. Golden raisins compliment the touch of sweetness, and suave, Riesling fruit calms the food's feisty cayenne heat.

 

MASI SEREGO ALIGIHERI POSSESSIONI ROSSO 2010
$16.99

Italy +447326

Plush reds with vivid fruit and gentle tannins are a natural with piquant flavours. Masi is one of the Veneto's tiptop producers and this Rosso is crafted from a classic trio of Valpolicella grapes. The famous vineyards have been farmed by the poet Dante's family since the 1200s. Try this handsome red, bursting with cherry and lusty spice alongside simple and more-ish koftas - ground lamb, ginger, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, chili and cilantro morsels that bubble away in a fragrant tomato-based sauce. Basically, these are meatballs (lambballs) that can star at dinner along with spinach-y saag, curried roasted cauliflower and Basmati rice. The food and the wine will be warm, generous and satisfying in your mouth.

 

 

 

 

March 28, 2013

As we prepare to enjoy one of the most gorgeous Easter long weekends in recent memory, here are two festive wines for your family feast

 

LOUIS BOUILLOT CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE ROSÉ
$25.95

France +494856

Rose wines are some of the most adaptable on the planet. This sparkling Crémant Rosé from Burgundy combines freshness, fruit, and zest that brings food to life. Celebrate the long, sunny Easter weekend with a verdant spring scallop appetizer. Purée sweated shallots, garlic, and green onions with 2 cups spring peas (frozen will do) and 1 cup chicken broth. Darkly sear scallops and serve atop pea purée with oven-crisped pancetta.

 

QUAILS' GATE WINERY STEWART FAMILY RESERVE PINOT NOIR 2009
$45

BC +639658

Quails' Gate is the Pinot leader here in BC and the Stewart Family Reserve 2009 is an ultra-serious wine. Special clones, old vines, luscious oak and winemaker Grant Stanley's immense skill add up to a triumphant wine for Easter lamb. For a herb-crusted leg or rack, finely chop some fresh rosemary, thyme, and Italian parsley and mix with minced garlic and Dijon, smear on the lamb, and BBQ or bake till rare. Cool-climate Pinot + herby lamb = Easter magic.

★ Only available in private wine stores

 

 

 

March 21, 2013

The vernal Equinox (March 20th this year) is an annual tipping point when we leave the wintry confines of dark months behind and are happily decanted into brighter, sunnier, (slightly) warmer days. Scents of blossoms, moist earth and optimism pervade body and soul, and we need ethereal, verdant, cleansing wine in our cups to welcome the first days of spring.

 

GRUEN RHEINGAU RIESLING 2011
$17.99

Germany +698944

Few things taste more of spring than Riesling - especially when it's from a great German vintage and gushing with juicy citrus and lip-smacking acidity. More dry than sweet, green apple flavours and slate parade across the palate with rainwater freshness. Carbon-neutral packaging is a bonus. For a fine spring menu: sauté a couple of tender pork chops with apples and a few slivers of onion, steam some fava beans or haricots verts, and enjoy with chilled Gruen Riesling.

 

 

MGM MONDO DEL VINO RICOSSA BARBARESCO 2009
$21.99

Italy +929406

Built for spring, this spritely, woodsy red wine made from Piedmont's celebrated Nebbiolo grape sports crunchy red fruit flavours, a brisk spike of acidity and edgy tannins. While Nebbiolo can make bold, full-bodied wines, this charmer is on the lighter side, which makes it an adaptable food partner. The Ricossa line always offers great value and authenticity. Try this fresh red with a creamy, cheesy spring risotto with sautéed fiddleheads, cardoons, or grilled baby artichoke swirled in at the last minute.

 

 

 

March 14, 2013

I'm drinking my way up and down the Rhône River this week, which makes it a good time to try one of our characterful French red winners at a hearty Sunday dinner.

 

CAVE DE RASTEAU LA DOMELIÈRE CÔTES DU RHÔNE
$19.99

France +645655

Thirty B.C. was a long time ago. That's when the Romans planted the first vines in the stony Rasteau soils of the Southern Rhône Valley, likely to make sweet white wines. Still famous for both red and white fortified dessert wines known as vin doux naturel, Rasteau is also one of the much-admired Côtes du Rhône villages with a reputation for heady, spicy Grenache-based dry reds. The mighty fine Cave de Rasteau co-operative was founded in 1925 by 60 farmers, and its wines are consistent reflections of the region's dry, cobbly soils, brisk wind, and garrigue scent. This La Domelière 2010 has luscious dark berried fruit, licorice spice, and smoky grilled herbs with fresh acidity and slightly chewy tannins. The sensational 2010 vintage is one for the cellar, but so pleasingly ripe that you'll have trouble resisting it now. A jolt of Syrah and Mourvèdre adds architecture to the Grenache's broad and spicy personality, making this a natural for herbes de Provence marinated kebabs, juicy bacon burgers, or roast lamb with garlic and anchovies.

 


 

March 7, 2013

We’re still California dreamin’….The Vancouver International Wine Festival may be over, but it is not forgotten. Our wine stores are brimming with expressive bottlings that articulate sub-regions, grape varieties and craftsmanship in a special way. Drink up and bring a bit of vinous sunshine into your life

 

FERRARI-CARANO FUME BLANC 2011
$24.99

United States +354993

No, this wine is not related to the awesome sports car. But it is a Cali classic that mingles sauvignon blanc fruit from various sites in Sonoma County and is given an oak kiss to tame the pungency of the vivacious French grape. The cool-ish 2011 vintage is extra-concentrated and displays tropical green tangy fruit, ripe citrus, and succulent melon aromas and flavours. The ‘fumé' refers to the smoky, toasty nuance from a portion of older French barrel fermentation which broadens the palate without tasting oaky. Bake a goat cheese and leek tart, toss fresh greens with grapes, walnuts, and a herbal vinaigrette made with the wine instead of vinegar. Give just a brief chill to the wine before you imbibe. 

 

SCHUG CARNEROS PINOT NOIR 2009       
$36.99

United States +79624

There are 178 bottles of this magical pinot in the BCLDB system, so run, don’t walk to try a bottle or three. Walter Schug is one of California’s famed wine makers, celebrated as the genius behind Joseph Phelp’s mighty cabernet-based Insignia. In 1980 Walter set his sights on pinot noir from cool, foggy Carneros. Eight vineyards contribute fruit to the 2009 giving the kind of clonal diversity and complexity we expect from great pinot. Dark cherry fruit with ample spice, overt mineral spine, and cleansing acidity combines power and delicacy in that ineffable Burgundian-esque way. Silky texture, too, and why not pop a bottle away for a few years to that you can savour the earthy/gamey/forest floor bouquet that will emerge. If you have not tried searing a duck breast before, this is the time to start. Preheat oven to 400F. Dry the breasts, score the fat with a sharp paring knife in a criss-cross pattern and season well with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet (not non-stick!) over medium high heat and sear skin-side down for 5-6 minutes to render some fat. Pour off fat, turn breasts over and sear for another minute before popping pan in the hot oven to cook for another 7-9 minutes until medium rare (or more if you prefer). Let duck rest for 5-10 minutes and whip up a quick pan sauce with some shallots, wine, and stock—whisking in a few knobs of cold butter to thicken and make glossy. Add any of the duck juices that ooze from the resting breasts, of course. Serve the Schug Carneros pinot at a little below room temperature—popping into the fridge for 10 minutes will do the trick.

 

 

 

February 28, 2013

Vancouver's International Wine Festival is in full swing, and we are basking in the warm and relaxed glow of Californian wines. The 35th edition of our famous wine festival sports 175 wineries from 15 nations, with 62 representing the theme region of sunny California. Here are two of the judges' California favourites from Vancouver magazine's own 2013 Wine Awards.

 

MACMURRAY RANCH CENTRAL COAST PINOT NOIR 2009
$21.95

United States +303990*

Is this is too good to be true? Honest to goodness, real deal pinot from California for 22 bucks. How do they do it? First off, it's the Central Coast origin: in the Santa Lucia Highlands north of Santa Barbara, cool air flowing inland from the chilly Pacific Ocean creates the moderate conditions that are perfect for pinot. The result is this lip-smackingly juicy berry-flavoured marvel. Raspberries, Bing cherries, currants (even huckleberries!), of course—but just the right addition of mushroomy earthiness, too. At the price, this is barbecue pinot par excellence, or try with a California pizza topped with smoked chicken, caramelized onions, and wilted greens. 

*Only available in private wine stores

 

LOUIS M. MARTINI NAPA VALLEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007         
$29.95

United States +232371*

Louis M. Martini has a long and glorious history in BC. It was one of the first old Napa family names to enter the market, and for many years Martini cab was the go-to standard best buy in the province. It is has been less prominent in recent years, but this bottle is a very welcome reminder of the good old days. 2007 was a great vintage in Napa, and it shows: this vintage is bursting with classic Napa ripeness, combining concentrated blackcurrant, creamy vanilla, and brambly/earthy aromas and flavours. Delicious now, but in the manner of the epic Martinis of the past, it will age gracefully for many years. Excellent value and a worthy partner for steak and stilton pie or beef and barley stew with mushrooms.

*Only available in private wine stores

 

 

 

February 21, 2013

Risotto is one of the Italy’s great gifts to humankind. Simple, filling, satisfying, and so very flattering to wine. Wine is also vital to risotto’s depth of flavour and balance, and the quality that you use matters. Most often it’s dry white, but sparkling and red have their occasion too. Other essential ingredients include Arborio rice (or better yet, carnaroli or vialone nano which have an even higher starch content), parmigiano reggiano, good broth or stock, olive oil or butter (or both), onion, and any additions like saffron, peas, asparagus tips, herbs, porcini or truffles for starters. Technique matters too, as does a hefty-bottomed pot and stout wooden spoon. The risotto should slump in the bowl, each grain suspended in fragrant, starchy robe. Try these wines to try with your next risotto – and remember to toss a glass into the pot too.

 

CHAMPAGNE DE VENOGE CORDON BLEU BRUT SELECT NV
$59.99

France +207134

This noble house is admired for stylish, elegant wines at a remarkable price. Cordon Bleu Brut blends pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier, which adds up to a bold spine of acidity swathed in gorgeous red berry fruit flavours and hints of nuts and toast. Fresh in the mouth with soft foamy mousse, it’s a fitting match for the richness of risotto. If you are feeling flush, buy two bottles and use one in place of stock for a decadent occasion and the other to drink icy cold.

 

TEDESCHI AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO DOC 2007
$54.99

Italy +110312

The iconic wine of the Veneto in northeastern Italy, Amarone is a dense, chewy melange of native red grapes made extra potent because they are dried for a few months before fermentation. This intense flavour and texture makes for a huge-bodied dry wine with velvety black fruit, spice, mocha, and dried funghi. Exotic and beguiling, the Italians call it a vino di meditazione – meditation wine. The 2007 vintage inherits its complexity from seven characterful grape varieties and four years in barrel. Try a Venetian version of risotto that uses a bottle of Amarone as the cooking liquid. The rice becomes garnet red and profoundly infused with wine-y essence. The only wine that befits this powerful, earthy wonder, is another bottle of Tedeschi Amarone.

 

EXTRA: To see a risotto master at work, watch this video of La Quercia’s chef Lucais Syme  

 

 

 

February 14, 2013

Need wine for your night of amour? There’s still plenty of time to pop into the store and grab one or both of our St. Valentine’s picks. Whether you are headily in love or single and searching, a little wine always helps to sharpen Cupid’s arrows.

 

LOUIS BOUILLOT CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE ROSÉ PERLE D'AURORE
$23.95

France +494856

Want kisses in a bottle? Ripe wild strawberries anointed with a cloud of tangy crème fraiche describes the flavours of this tender and inviting rosé bubble. Made in the heart of Burgundy from pinot noir (80%) and gamay, this wine is cheeky with red fruit, dusty yeast, pillowy mousse, and an ever-so-off-dry finish that will get you in the mood for cooking, dining, and more. Chill well and try with Brie fondue, blue cheese and pear tartlets, or Coquilles St Jacques

 

19 CRIMES SHIRAZ DURIF
$17.99

Australia +200717

If voluptuous and velvety is your style then saddle up and try this broad-shouldered and spicy Shiraz. Embracing potent Durif (a relative of Syrah and generally known as Petite Syrah) this is a satiating, mouth-fillingly rich red. With plush tannins, this balanced, ripe, and handsome Australian will be a lusty partner for robust short ribs, lamb shank, or pepper-crusted beef tenderloin with a chocolate port sauce. To spice up the evening even more, look for three different labels that list 19 various crimes (“punishable by transportation”) that were committed by Australia’s early “settlers.”

 

 

 

February 6, 2013

Have you got your ticket to Big Night? Our annual wine and food love-in is the double celebration of Vancouver Magazine’s 23rd Annual Restaurant Awards AND 9th annual International Wine Awards. Top chefs like David Hawksworth, Vikram Vij, and Hidekazu Tojo have conjured up new and delightful dishes to match the best of category wines in a glam evening of sensory enchantment. In hungry anticipation of Big Night 2013, this week's wine pick is the Best of Show.


DEVIL'S LAIR MARGARET RIVER CHARDONNAY 2009
$41.99

Australia +543447

 

Great wines have a story to tell. The best reveal their story with multiple voices – those of the grape, geography, vineyard, soil, climate, farmer, and winemaker, all sounding in harmony. Our 2013 Best of Show winner is a riveting chardonnay that does all of this and more – and the ‘more’ is the truly exciting part, because this is a New World wine that demonstrates that grape variety can be a point of departure rather than a destination. Although this is certainly a chardonnay, other aspects – the distinctiveness of vineyard site, soil, and weather – transport the wine to another level. This is a wine of place, and the awareness of place is where wine is going next - especially in Australia.
 
Our winner comes from Margaret River, a cool, marine influenced region in Western Australia. It's a peaceful place with pristine beaches, legendary surf, and a slow, easy way of life. The Devil’s Lair 2009 (named for an ancient cave where remains of a prehistoric Tasmanian tiger were mysteriously found) is pale gold with inviting aromas of citrus, white flowers, exotic oak, and mineral. The palate is concentrated with flavours of peach and lime, and charged with high-pitched acidity. Fermented and aged in cask, the oak melts into the wine adding structure, texture and subtle richness. Elegant and refined, it’s a pure expression of the unique climate and terroir of Margaret River. This wine makes an important statement for Australian wine, its highly diverse regions and growing number of wines that speak eloquently of people and place.  As for food pairings, such depth of flavour, zingy acidity yet creamy texture, invites rich cuisine like pasta with cream sauce or steamed Dungeness crab with lemongrass butter.
 

 

 

January 31, 2013

It’s a shame that our Seattle Seahawks are not in New Orleans this weekend, but doubtless many of us will be partaking in the Super Bowl revelry just the same. So as our almost-local San Francisco 49ers take on the Baltimore Ravens, here are a few super-charged wines to help you cheer them on.

 

MASI MASIANCO 2011
$17.99

Italy +244681

Masi is a distinguished producer in northeastern Italy that specializes in killer reds, but this tricked-up Pinot Grigio shows skill with white wines too. For this blend, a Pinot Grigio is stainless steel fermented, and then blended with 25% Venetian native Verduzzo, from grapes that have been dried for three weeks on wooden racks, then fermented in in steel before being transferred to wooden barrels for finishing. This process builds an elegant dry white that combines a framework of freshness, minerality, and brisk acid, filled in with peachy fruit from the dried Verduzzo grapes. Creamy yet crisp and savoury, and a worthy companion for baked Brie or crudités with artichoke dip. The 2011 is one of the best versions yet. Game on.

 

DEVIL'S LAIR FIFTH LEG RED 2010
$17.99

Australia +112094

This cheerful red blend is closely related to 2013’s Best of Show winner (Devil’s Lair Margaret River Chardonnay 2009), and is a textbook example of Australia’s dexterity in all styles of vinification. Slowly ripened in Western Australia, Cab, Shiraz and Merlot band together in a delicious siege on your taste buds. Soft and supple plummy flavours get a boost of tangy verve from Margaret River’s breezy coastal conditions, and a spicy dash of oak completes the package. Chicken wings and burgers at half time?

 

 

January 24, 2013


"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!"


And so it is time to eat haggis and toast Robbie Burns. While you are enjoying Burns’ immortal poem "Address to a Haggis", consider wine choices for this king of the sausage family. A mix of sheep parts and oatmeal, haggis is seasoned liberally with black pepper and tastes savoury, nutty and peppery. It’s also far more scrumptious than you might think.


MARQUES DE CACERES ROSADO 2011
$16.99

Spain +361188

This familiar winner from Spain captured the judges’ hearts with perfumed scents, cheerful red berry fruit, zesty acidity, and a grippy finish that welcomes food – even Haggis. Rioja’s noble Tempranillo grape is blended with a peppy kick of Garnacha and made in the proper saignée style (with juice “bled” from red winemaking). Rosado is taken seriously in Spain, and we should pay attention to the fact that pinks make terrific meal partners. This splendid 2011 vintage has the heft to manage the funk and texture of haggis, but will also be a pleasing partner to pork tacos, spicy curry, or crab cakes.

 

PAINTED ROCK SYRAH 2009
$40

BC +130989

For the second year in a row, Painted Rock’s aristocratic Syrah is our Best Rich Red. It’s a muscular wine with pent-up black fruit, cracked pepper, grilled herbs, and brawny tannins lacquered with generous oak. While ripe and easy to drink now, you could also wait for gamey, leathery complexity to appear in a few years. When the haggis is gone, sync it with blackened steak or braised short ribs.

 

 

January 17, 2013

As great as it would be, you probably can’t try a new Dine Out menu every night of the week. Fortunately, you can still make dinner at home a fresh experience with this week’s lively wine picks

 

OYSTER BAY SPARKLING CUVEE BRUT
$24.99

New Zealand +916346

Give your taste buds a jolt with this high-spirited and tangy sparkler from beloved winery Oyster Bay, famous for well-priced wines from the clean, green islands of New Zealand. This is a trim and pure all-Chardonnay bubbly. Top clones are sourced from the stony terroir of the North Island's Hawke’s Bay region, giving a mineral frame, lively acidity, and freshness. There is a gentle, leesy character, crunchy apple, and lip-smacking citrus flavours that mesh together in a dry, admirable finish. Sip as an aperitif or put to work with sautéed prawns, crab salad, or fish and chips.

 

VINCENT DELAPORTE SANCERRE ROUGE 2011
$24.99

France +849422

Yes, it’s made from pinot noir grapes, but to think of this wine as simply ‘a pinot’ is to completely, utterly, miss the point. This is French country wine par excellence, made by a lovely family in the idyllic village of Chavignol, where the wine can be as delectable as the world-renowned goat’s cheese (and is not always sauvignon blanc). Fragrant, juicy, woodsy and minerally, this is a classic cool-climate red; a delicious surprise at an unbelievable price. While wonderfully adaptable, you could certainly do worse than pair it with a perfectly grilled Oyama sausage. It nearly goes without saying that salmon is also a natural.

 

 

 

January 10, 2013

This week, go Old-World with a bright and grippy white from Georgia (not the state, the country), and a warm and budget-friendly Spanish red

TELAVI WINE CELLAR MARANI MTSVANE 2010
$11.90

Georgia +838466

When was the last time you had a wine from Georgia? Not the American southern state, but the Eastern European country, where archaeological discoveries confirm that wine has been produced for 8,000 years. What’s old is new again and this characterful white will increase your wine IQ for a mere $11.90. The grape, native to Georgia, is Mtsvane (say Mitts-vah-nay), which means “new, young and green.” Earthy, savoury, and slightly nutty (think of a decent, dry Soave), this wine has bright acidity, nice botanical flavours, and a dry, grippy finish. It will pair well with a simple dinner of roast chicken and a Georgian walnut sauce called ‘Satsivi’, which blends nuts, cinnamon, saffron, chili, fried onions, garlic, and stock. There are currently only 673 bottles of this outlier wine at BCLDB stores, and they may go fast…

 
VINO ZACO TEMPRANILLO 2008
$17.99


Spain +537399

Like our judging panel, you will be seduced by this luscious, medium-bodied red. Spain nails great-value wines that punch above their weight, and this bottle has extravagant plummy, raspberry fruit flavours and mellow, oaky warmth. The Zaco, made by noted Bodegas Bilbianas, one of Rioja’s oldest and most celebrated estates, charms with new world fruit-forwardness and old world dusty appeal. Plan a low-budget but satisfying dinner of arroz con chorizo y pimentos which combines short-grained rice, Spanish sausage, canned tomatoes, smoked paprika, onion, and garlic. Easier to make than paella and a natural with this pleasing Iberian red.

 

 

January 3, 2013

Wines that won’t break the bank….

Happy New Year, and let’s raise our glasses to value-priced wines. And to keeping the good times rolling with great food, drink, friends, and family. Here's a duo of wines to fuel the fires.

 

FRANCOIS LURTON LES FUMEES BLANCHES SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011 
$13.99

FRANCE+472555

 

Want a mouthful of Spring? For 14 bucks you can have it. From one of the great houses in France (the huge Lurton family owns many fine Bordeaux chateaux plus wine estates around the world) comes this cheerful and frisky dry white. It displays trademark nervy herbacious sauvignon blanc flavours, but there is also warmth and generosity in the full mouthfeel and lingering finish that comes from the Mediterranean sun. Toss a salad with fresh greens, walnuts, green grapes, tangy cheese like chevre or feta, and whisk a vinaigrette using a little of the wine in place of the acid. Serve with steaming vegetable soup and crunchy baguette for a budget and diet-conscious mid-week dinner. Go on, have another glass.

BODEGAS CASTANO MONASTRELL 2011
$11.97

SPAIN+731620

 

Call it Monastrell in Spain, call it Mourvèdre, call it Mataro in Australia. This chewy, characterful grape stars in Spain’s arid, incendiary regions like Yecla (say -Eek-la). Old vines, limestone soil, and abundant sunny heat allow this fussy ripener to go the distance to plummy, earthy perfection. We call this a light red because of the gentle tannins, but the flavours are not the least shy and retiring. Meatloaf wine par excellence, so bake a deluxe version. Try a blend of ground beef and pork, really fresh breadcrumbs, plenty of dried herbs, then wrap the meat in smoked bacon and baste with good barbecue sauce. Pour a big tumbler and chow down. 

 

 


 

December 20, 2012

Just five more sleeps til the reindeer hooves dust the rooftops and a day of family gathering, holiday cheer and traditional dinner favourites dawns. Whether you are of the turkey, duck, goose, or roast beef persuasion, dinner needs a rich red wine with fruit and texture to compete with bold traditional sides like Brussels sprouts, pungent herbal stuffing, crispy-crunchy roast potatoes, and sweet-tart cranberry sauce. A white wine choice also needs weight and shape, and can be equally pleasing.

EVANS AND TATE METRICUP ROAD CHARDONNAY 
$19.99

AUSTRALIA+379149

If ever there was a wine to woo us back to the joys of gently oaked chardonnay, this is it. Serene, cool-climate grapes from maritime Margaret River reveal appetising citrus and apple fruit, with glorious notes of spicy oak that swirl kinetically with chisled acidity. Nimble on the palate, with focused flavour and finesse, Evans + Tate are part of the exciting regional Australian story.  The deep fruit in our Best of Medium White category will gladly meet and greet a roast bird, or if you prefer, a platter of sauteed shrimp to start a holiday feast.

CEDARCREEK ESTATE WINERY PLATIUNM MERLOT
$34.99

BC+573683

Supporting our local wines is an easy and giving thing to do‹especially when the wine is a sensuous merlot generously layered with dark fruitcake flavours, gingerbread spice, and aromatic French oak. CedarCreek is a benchmark B.C. winery, anchored in the sunny sloping lakeside land close to Kelowna. Twenty-five years of getting to know the complex terroir and singular Okanagan climate has allowed the Fitzpatrick family to craft expressive and authentic regional wines. Winemaker Darryl Brooker and viticulturalist Merle Lawrence (who' been working the vineyards for 20 years) selected choice low-cropped clones for this top-range Platinum Merlot, treated them to a languorous fermentation, then straight to posh French oak barrels for 20 months of finishing school. Dark perfumed fruit with notes of chocolate and toasted spice give way to mouth-filling flavours of wild blueberry and ripe plums, exotic barrel notes and a smooooooth, polished finish. Rich and refined, this is definitive Christmas dinner wine‹turkey, duck, goose, or prime rib.

We confess to a boo-boo. The January/February 2012 Wine Awards print issue show a beautiful shot of the wrong wine! While CedarCreek¹s Merlot is a charming and pleasure-packed red, the stately and top shelf Platinum label is the wine that the Judges selected as a Rich Red winner. Many apologies to our friends at CedarCreek Estate Winery. 

 

 

 

 December 13, 2012

Spanish sherry is simply one of the world’s most remarkable wines and it’s finally enjoying a resurgence in admiration and popularity. In the late ’70s, two hundred million bottles were sent around the globe; in the ’80s, fashion shifted from fortified to drier table wines like Chardonnay and Cabernet. Sherry offers an astonishing array of styles, from briny and yeasty Fino, to delicate and floral Manzanilla sherry from coastal Spain, to robust and rich Oloroso wines, to decadently sweet and viscous PX.  While Fino sherry needs to be consumed quickly (like white wine), Oloroso wines are sturdy and a bottle can be opened and enjoyed for many weeks, letting you have a little civilized tipple every evening. Sherries make for brilliant food partners: try chilled Fino with oysters on the half shell, Oloroso with roasted chestnuts, tangy chorizo, salty aged cheddar, or French Onion soup, and you will die for PX poured thickly over eggnog ice cream.

GONZALEZ BYASS NUTTY SOLERA OLOROSO SHERRY 
$16.99

SPAIN+35204

To taste our fortified winner is to understand why Spanish sherry was the most consumed and most imitated wine in the world for centuries. Wines from the white Palomino grape are fortified, blended, and aged dynamically in big casks, developing complex flavours. The Nutty Solera is an Oloroso sherry style, with a touch of sweetness to counter the savoury tang. A natural with roasted nuts, charcuterie, and aged or creamy cheese, but also try with Asia lettuce wraps or baked cauliflower and cheese.

 
 
 
December 6, 2012

Welcome to another 12 months of weekly picks as we taste our way through 106 terrific winning wines for 2013. In late October, 16 judges were cloistered at the Vancouver Club for three days, evaluating nearly 700 wines from 17 countries. Wines were grouped into style categories, just the way we think about and buy wine. You’ll find our winners organized into 10 groups: sparkling, light white, medium white, rich white, rose, light red, medium red, rich red, dessert, and fortified wines. This logical, intuitive sorting by style makes is easy to pair to your mood, and with food. Let’s kick off the 2013 results with our Best of Show winner—a stunner from Western Australia that deserves a fabulous and festive dinner of steamed crab and butter, tender pan-fried oysters or succulent roasted chicken.

 

 

 

November 28, 2012

Next Thursday we reveal the winning wines from our most recent 2013 competition (the actual on-line reveal is December 1), and this column will decant another year of exciting and delicious wines for you to try - and food pairings too.  For the final pick of the 2012 competition, we shine the spotlight on Sake…. hopefully you tried the Osake Junmai Nama that was recommended a few months ago, and here is another

ARTISAN SAKEMAKER OSAKE JUNMAI NAMA GENSHU 2011 
$21.90

B.C.+580183

Artisan SakeMaker Osake Junmai Nama Genshu 2011  B.C.  $21.90 +580183

We’re lucky to have many sakes to choose from in B.C., and even more remarkable that there is a sake maker on Granville Island. Masa Shiroki is the craftsman behind the Junmai Nama Genshu 2011, and in this town, it is worth having a working knowledge of sake and how to deploy it with food. So plan a visit to Railspur Alley. This Junmai Nama Genshu is made from highly polished rice, unpasteurized (that’s what “nama” means), and has a glorious wine-like fragrance with hints of exotic fruit and a nutty, yeasty complexity. In the mouth it has tremendous presence with savoury and botanical flavours, creamy texture and the kind of weight and persistence that can take on charcuterie, pan-seared salmon, or mushroom risotto. Masa likes this distinctive sake with duck pate, duck sausage, or duck prosciutto, so head to Granville Market, pick up some duck, and see what you think. Do not heat this sake; serve it with a slight chill in a small wineglass. 

 

 

 

November 22, 2012

Wild mushroom season is upon us and the markets are laden with scented treasures plucked from moist forest floors. Brush funghi with a dry cloth or very soft brush to remove any soil and then consider soup, risotto, ragout, creamy pasta sauce, or a rich mushroom sauce for veal for dinner this weekend. Earthy whites can make good wine companions, but Pinot Noir’s wild, woodsy character is an undeniably blissful match.

OLSEN FAMILY VINEYARDS VIRIDIAN PINOT NOIR 2008 
$24.99

U.S.A.+266551

The Olsen family’s main business is grass seed, and it’s a little known fact that this is Oregon’s main cash crop. More widely known is Oregon's famous Pinot, and there are five generations of farming experience (grapes and grass!) behind the Viridian Pinot Noir. Vibrant cherry and currant aromas and flavours are chased by complex scents of undergrowth, saddle leather, and tea leaves. It’s this earthy facet of Pinot, combined with juicy acidity, that connects to funghi so kinetically. Moderate but edgy tannins and a nice silky finish also complements the mouthfeel of mushrooms. Treat yourself to a globe shaped Pinot glass, pour just a finger or two, swirl, and inhale deeply.

 

 

 
November 15, 2012

VOLCANIC HILLS SYRAH 2009
$27.90

B.C.+180372

Since opening its spacious timbered premises in 2009, Volcanic Hills has earned a reputation for rock-solid wines that are well-priced and satisfying to drink.  Their inviting syrah shows the exciting potential for this Rhone grape in the Okanagan Valley. Darkly coloured with a fragrant nose of ripe cherry, cracked black pepper, it offers similar fruity/spicy flavours with a nice chewy texture, brisk acidity and a touch of grilled herbs on the finish. Game is always lovely with Syrah, but a deeply flavourful black bean chili (use sausage, beef or chicken) with plenty of toasted cumin and cardamom and cornbread will make a hearty Sunday dinner.

 

 

 

November 8, 2012

On this weekend of remembrance, let’s don our poppies, dwell on how lucky and thankful we are, and gather those near and dear to us for a delicious meal.

MATUA VALLEY HAWKES BAY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2010
$16.99

France +309575

Perhaps dinner will start with a crisp salad greens with fat nuggets of local goat’s cheese, toasted pecans, and a tangy tarragon vinaigrette. An equally crunchy, clean Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand will be a memorable match. This vigorous white, a wine so fresh it should be slapped, comes not from Marlborough (a famous region for Sauv Blanc on the South Island) but the top quality terroir of Hawkes Bay on the North Island. The much-admired Matua Valley’s Sauvignon is laden with melon, gooseberry, and citrus aromas and flavours, with a nice tropical character. A spine of fresh acidity and minerality gives this wine a distinct steely structure that makes it a terrific food wine.


HENRY'S DRIVE VIGNERONS PILLAR BOX RESERVE SHIRAZ 2008
$24.99

Australia +485623

If a meaty pot roast is bubbling away in a heavy pot in the oven, then consider this deeply flavourful reserve Shiraz from a limestone-based region in South Australia called Padthaway. Here, optimally ripe Shiraz vines gain extra mineral complexity yielding a structured wine that’s chock-full of plummy fruit, appealing cracked pepper, and minty lifts. Bold flavours, full-body, supple tannins, and plenty of exotic oak character define this sensual, mouth-filling Shiraz. 

 

 

 

November 1, 2012 

This weekend we snatch back an hour of daylight as clocks are wound back an hour. Dinner this weekend should be autumnal, comofrting, and made with wine in mind . . .

CHATEAU LA COURANCONNE GRATITUDE PLAN DE DIEU COTES DU RHONE-VILLAGES 2010
$23.96
France +840801

Red Côtes du Rhône wines are like a cozy blanket for the mouth. Soft, warm, yielding and thick with flavour, they really are the perfect autumn comfort wine. Côtes du Rhône Villages wines are blends headlined by Grenache with jolts of Syrah and/or Mourvedre plus a few other characterful grapes. This wine, called Gratitude, comes from the special village of Plan de Dieu where stony terroir and luminous sunshine guarantee grapes that are fully ripe and firmly structured. Rich plum flavours are brightened by fresh acidity, kicked with spice, licked with dusty minerality and plump with the generous, round tannins we expect from southern Rhône wine. Solid value, and all you have to do is decided between saucisson Lyonnaise with roasted root vegetables, a Moroccan chicken tagine with tender couscous, or perhaps a rich fondue of Beaufort and Tomme cheese into which you can dip hunks of crusty bread or thick slices of your favourite smoky grilled chorizo.

 

 

 

October 25, 2012 

EBANO VINEDOS Y BODEGAS - EBANO 6 2008 
$34.99
Spain +156166 

A delicate dusting of snow on the Lions signals the emphatic change of the seasons and the time for mellow, autumnal wines is now.  It’s hard to beat Spanish reds for soul-warming character and palate-pleasing flavour.  The Ebano 6 is an ideal way to complement the lamb stew or cheesy baked eggplant you will make this weekend.  It is a modern iteration of wine from Ribera del Duero, an elite region in the country’s northern plateau.  Rocky terrain, blistering summers and frigid winters challenge the tempranillo grape, which stars in the Ebano 6.  Raspberry and plum flavours with spicy notes from a few months in French oak casks makes this wine big on fruit with gently buffed tannins.  Snow on the mountains, Hallowe’en around the corner, crimson leaves on the ground – yes this is the time for Spanish reds.

 

 

 

October 18, 2012

This weekend, 16 of B.C.'s top palates are tuning up for the Vancouver Magazine 9th Annual International Wine Awards judging next week. Five sommelier-of-the-year winners, two Masters of Wine, the best educators, writers and top wine buyers comprise our extraordinary panel of judges. Not just that, but 8 crack backroom staff, most of them certified sommeliers, are resting up, sharpening their corkscrews and ironing polishing cloths as their work is just as important as the judges'. The competition takes place at the genteel Vancouver Club, where the wines are evaluated blind with immense concentration and relish.
To celebrate the impending competition (look for the results in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue), two of the slam-dunk favourites are featured here, as we look forward to the intense event at the Vancouver Club next week.

LONG FLAT RED CABERNET SAUVIGNON SHIRAZ 2009

$9.99

Australia +212373 

Although the average price of our winning wines is closer to the $25 dollar mark, it is always gratifying when a sure-fire bargain shines year after year. Long Flat is a 40-year-old brand that believes that wine is a simple pleasure. No fuss, no big outlay, just dang delicious wine for a fair price. Long Flat wines are ultra-reliable and the Cab Shiraz blend combines dusty blackcurrant and spicy plum flavours with a minty note. Value can come at any price, and Long Flat is just right.


ANTINORI VILLA ANTINORI TOSCANA 2006

$26.99

Italy +104885
 

This Tuscan red wine also overdelivers in every department for its price. The prestige of the Antinori family, the experience and intimate knowledge that comes from 26 generations of working the Tuscan lands is all poured into this beautifully balanced, earthy red wine. A lithe blend of 55 percent Sangiovese with Cab, Merlot and a shot of Syrah, treated to a year in oak casks, it drinks like a Ferrari but is priced like a Ford. Really. And it ages well, it's a joy to drink alone, and it partners seamlessly with food like meats, mushrooms, or cheese. Our judges adored this superlative vintage, but you will also enjoy the current release of Villa Antinori. We hope to see it in the next competition!

Find more best-value medium red wines

 

 

October 11, 2012

Drink this wine because JoieFarm is one of B.C.'s very special wineries tucked into the thith of elite Naramata Bench. Drink it because of the love that Michael Dinn and Heidi Noble pour into their celebrated wines. Drink it because it's perfectly, more-ishly, sensationally delicious.

JOIEFARM A NOBLE BLEND 2010

$23.95

B.C. +882027 *only available in private wine stores

The aromatic nose surges with white flowers, peaches, grapes, and herbal notes, just as an exotic white blend should do. The mélange centres on 43 percent Gewurztraminer, 38 percent Riesling, 14 percent Pinot Auxerrois and 5 percent Pinot Gris and rich tropical notes and heady aromatics are always deftly balanced. Succulent citrusy acidity, overt minerality, and dewy freshness keep this off-dry fruity wine tight and tidy. You will find the current 2011 vintage on the shelves now which has a touch more Riesling in the blend giving lovely lipsmacking acidity. On the menu this weekend should be Choucroute Garnie, an Alsatian classic that marries sauerkraut, smoked pork, pungent spices, and wine in an incredibly way. Browse the internet for a recipe, shop for bacon, sausages, kassler (heavily smoked porkchops), and jarred sauerkraut on Granville Island, buy several bottles of JoieFarm's A Noble Blend, and spend the weekend cooking up a storm.

Find more best-value light white wines

 

October 4, 2012

Our benevolent, sunny September weather has helped summer linger and is it hard to believe that the Thanksgiving Long Weekend is here already. Quick history lesson: always the second Monday in October, Canadian Thanksgiving Day can be traced back to 1578 and the epic third voyage of English explorer Martin Frobisher. Fourteen ships endured calamitous storms, icebergs, and separation to finally and miraculously gather together on the shores of Frobisher Bay, holding a communion of thanksgiving. After Confederation, the holiday was observed annually in October and harvest celebrations, parades, football games, retail sales, family huddles, and bountiful meals now define the three day weekend. And the feasts deserve some special wine

LAURENZ V FRIENDLY GRüNER VELTLINER 2010

$19.99

Austria +458067 *only available in private wine stores

Austria's great white hope is the marvelous Grüner Veltliner grape. Widely planted in vineyards in the eastern part of mountainous Austria, Grüners are spicy, minerally, dry wines that make terrific partners for food. Laurenz V sources fruit from the elite Kamptal region, where hard granitic soils, cooling night winds and vineyards along the Danube River create ideal slow-ripening conditions. The Friendly is one of 7 wines made by Laurenz V, and you'll find lovely appley fruit, zippy acidity, a distinct stoney aspect, and best of all, Grüner's trademark spicy verve. Imagine white pepper, a hint of vanilla with creamy mouthfeel and a dry, dry finish—just the thing for turkey or baked ham.

Find more best-value medium white wines

QUAILS GATE WINERY STEWART FAMILY RESERVE PINOT NOIR 2008

$45

B.C. +639658
 

One of the most decorated wines not just from B.C. but all of Canada. This gorgeous high-end Pinot Noir is worth every penny. And why not splurge on the family and the posh free-range turkey that you've ordered? Stewart brothers Ben and Tony and crack wine-maker Grant Stanley lavish care on their French clone Pinot vineyards that just might be the prettiest in the valley. Several features make this reserve Pinot special: old vines—averaging 24 years of age—give intensity and concentration to the spicy cherry/plum fruit; the special volcanic terroir on Boucherie mountain vineyards gives a fine mineral character to the Pinot; the sensitive use of French oak barriques, of which only 40 percent are new, allowing the pure fruit to star; and finally, the skill and palate of winemaker Grant Stanley. Expect a compelling nose of dark fruit, a hint of spicy vanilla from the barrels, and best of all, an earthy, gamey character that is the hallmark of wonderful Pinot with a touch of age. Medium tannins with a silky texture make this a wonderful food wine, and if you make a wild mushroom stuffing for the turkey, you will not regret it. Polish your biggest glasses and pour a few ounces in each, allowing breathing and swirling space so that the ethereal bouquet of this wine can bewitch.

Find more best-value light red wine

 

 

September 20, 2012

Signalling the end of summer and carefree holidays, September can feel like a month of Mondays. Let's drink some soothing wine and enjoy the lingering good weather

 

STONELEIGH MARLBOROUGH CHARDONNAY 2010

$15.99

New Zealand +288795

Chardonnay from the clean, green islands can get overlooked, given the runaway success of Sauvignon Blanc, which is a shame, because New Zealand makes sensational wines from this Burgundian grape. The Stoneleigh is a colossal value and you get a lot of wine for your buck, heaps of succulent nectarine and citrus flavours, gently kissed by French oak for added spice and depth. Fresh, fruity and minerally as well, as the name suggests. Squash risotto with a little pumpkin seed oil drizzled on top will make a casual Friday night dinner and a fitting partner to one of our rich white winners.

Find more best-value rich white wines

 

 

GONZALEZ BYASS BERONIA RESERVA 2006

$25.99

Spain +216770
 

This Rioja, always an artfully made Spanish wine, has been best of show in previous competitions, and usually stars on the winners' list every year. Beronia Reserva is an example of a wine with the clear identity of a special place. In the classic Rioja tradition it is profoundly anti-modern wine mellowed by many years ageing in American oak barrels, giving it creamy texture and lashings of vanilla in addition to bright raspberry flavours. Supple, round, mellow, it needs lambchops if you are still in the mood for grilling, otherwise throw a lamb shoulder in a pot, toss in vegetables, a bottle of the Beronia, and braise away.

Find more best-value light red wine


 

September 13, 2012

Even though there is a distinct nip in morning and evening air, you can keep the freshness of summer alive on your palate with our white pick, or embrace the fall chill with our red

 

WHITEHAVEN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2010

$19.99

New Zealand. +300368

This crisp charmer from the Emerald Islands is a quintessential Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, opulent with tropical guava, kiwi, grapefruit, and sweetherbs kept vital and trim with citrusy acidity and an elegant mineral finish. Try this with Julia Child's classic chicken tarragon: massage skinless, boneless breasts with oil and season well, strew fresh tarragon sprigs on bottom of pan, arrange chicken atop, cover with more tarragon fronds, place lid on pan and oven bake until cooked but juicy. Remove chicken and most of the tarragon, deglaze pan with a glass of the Whitehaven, add a dash of cream, season, reduce til thick-ish, and pour over the tender breasts.

Find more best-value medium white wines


THORN-CLARKE SHOTFIRE SHIRAZ 2008

$25.99

Australia +94342
 

This rich red has been on our winner's list many, many times, confirming that across vintages it shows like a thoroughbred. And our judges are not the only fans; the Wine Advocate's Robert Parker Jr. hails Thorn-Clarke as "the greatest red wine values in the marketplace." From old vineyards in South Australia's elite Barossa Valley, the Shotfire brims with plummy fruit, exotic spices, dark chocolate and has the kind of suave tannins, firm structure and lingering finish of a pedigreed champ. It's time to braise again, so buy a choice cut of beef or pork and make the best pot roast known to mankind. The Shotfire Shiraz deserves nothing less.

Find more best-value rich red wine


September 6, 2012

Back to school, back to work, back to reality. 'Nuff said. We need some wine...

 

 

QUAILS' GATE STEWART FAMILY RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2009

$29.99

B.C. +639641

Aristocratic is the right word for this stately Okanagan Chardonnay. From French clones planted on some of the most beautiful lakeside vineyards ever seen (anywhere in the world!), this rich white gets the full spa treatment. Top drawer French oak barrel fermentation, lees contact, malo, then more time in bottle for harmonizing integration. The result is pure luxury: peach and citrus flavours, lashings of clove and toasty butter, creamy texture and majesterial weight. The kind of wine that needs Dungeness crab risotto, seared halibut with citrus beurre blanc, or some decadent triple cream cheese and roasted nuts.

Find more best-value rich white wines


SEBASTIANI SONOMA COUNTY ZINFANDEL 2009

$20

USA +37275 
 

This gulpable Zinfandel delighted the judges with its raspberry fruit, gentle spice, and overall depth of flavour and finesse. Sebastiani know wine, and they know Zinfandel from farming it for over 100 years in Sonoma, surviving Prohibition and depression. Part of the secret of this wine’s delicious complexity is the blend:  79 percent Zin with the balance and juiciness coming from Petite Syrah, Barbera, and Syrah. Also part of its Euro structure is the 100 percent Hungarian oak used—both new and used. This high-quality oak has the twin merits of resembling French oak’s subtle and refined flavours at half the price of a Gallic barrel. Try this rich Zinfandel with a fat, liberally peppered pork chop, your favourite baby back ribs or sausage pizza.

Find more best-value rich red wine


August 30, 2012

Labour Day reminds us that it's our duty to put our feet up, exhale deeply, and slowly ease the troubles away this
long weekend. Close your eyes and dream of dinner—something effortless like beercan chicken and a veggie pack, with plump local blueberries for dessert.

NOLLEN NOTORIOUS ROOSTER RIESLING 2010

$13.99

Germany +426536 

This fresh and fruity white proves yet again that happiness does not have to be complicated. The screw-capped, cobalt blue bottle offers fragrant, peachy scents with the mineral, limey promise of Mosel wines. Once you have drunk deeply, you will notice apricot and sweet citrus flavours, adroitly balanced by spritely acidity. Yes, it is off-dry, but at 10.5 percent alcohol it is highly thirst-quenching and also allows you to pour on the heat-fruity wines and chili are made for each other. Try this easy brining method before you BBQ the chicken: combine 1/4 cup kosher salt and 1/8 cup sugar per one litre of cold water. Add many generous dashes of hot wing sauce like Frank's. Immerse one or two chickens (double the brine recipe for 2 birds) and brine for at least one hour and no more than 12. Heat BBQ to high, dry chicken well, paint with more hot sauce and prop chicken up on an open can of beer (take a big gulp of the beer first). Turn one side of the grill to low and place the birds on that side, with the rest of the grill at medium. Close lid and cook chicken until 165 C internally or the juices run clear. Could take 45-60 minutes depending on the size of chicks and the heat of your grill. Brush from time to time with more hot sauce. Chill the Notorious Rooster Riesling and drink it as you eat the juicy, spicy chicken. NOTE: there are over 1,000 bottles of this gorgeous quaffer in the BCLDB system, so go pick up a case.

Find more best-value light white wines


ROLLINGDALE PINOT NOIR 2007

$20

B.C. +133371 *only available in private wine stores
 

This West Kelowna winery is worth seeking out, especially for their earthy, woodsy Pinot Noirs. A tiny Quonset hutted operation, the wines are as honest and authentic as the laidback owners, Steve and Kirsty Dale. Organic is the watchword at Rollingdale, and the pure raspberry fruit, forest floor, and spicy flavours are nicely layered and sneakily complex in the 2007 Pinot Noir. More savoury than fruity, this wine needs the umami factor of an Asian flavoured beer can chicken. Make the brine bath but add star anise, peppercorns, and a few dashes of soy sauce. Whisk up a glaze using ponzu, soy, or teriyaki sauce plus a dash of sesame oil and paint the chicken from time to time as it moistily roasts on the covered grill. Pour the Rollingdale Pinot into a large bowled glass, spend a few moments inhaling the complex nose, then enjoy with the chicken. By the way, the veggie pack is simply thinly sliced potatoes, leeks, peppers, whatever you like, layered with herbs, drizzled with olive oil or butter, generously salt and peppered, double wrapped tightly in heavy foil (make it thin-ish and magazine-sized) and cook on the hotter side of the grill, turning pack every time you baste the beercan chicken.

Find more best-value light red wine


August 16, 2012

MusicFest 2012 is in full-throttle mode now, and hugely talented, ultra-cool Pink Martini will rock the Orpheum theatre on Friday night. Hope you've got your tickets, and it not, invite some friends over, queue up the music, and get ready to swing. Whether you throw together burgers and a salad, or take-out Thai or shawarma, these two wines will make you want to sing and dance...and eat, too.

DESERT HILLS GEWURZTRAMINER 2010

$19.91

B.C. +680827 *only available in private wine stores

How much decadence can you handle?? This exotic white detonates with rose petal, lychee, kumquat, baking spice, and Meyer lemon aromas and flavours. The opulent, rich palate is boosted with a little sweetness, but wonderously balanced with natural acidity for a cleansing, food-welcoming finish. Give this perfume-bomb a bit of a chill, pour a lavish glass and pair with spicy fish tacos, spring rolls, or a thick slice of rich pate. Always a sell-out, the 2011 vintage is just as dazzling.

Find more best-value medium white wines


FOX CREEK RED BARON SHIRAZ 2010

$20

Australia +11391 *only available in private wine stores
 

How much spice can you handle? And how much plush cherry flavour can you cope with? This suave number from the miraculous climate and distinct soils of South Australia's McLaren Vale over-delivers Shiraz's peppery zip and colossal berry fruit. Coats the mouth like melted chocolate and deserves some robust food like beef curry, blackened chicken, or the best pork carnitas you can get your hands on.

Find more best-value rich red wine


August 9, 2012

Today local javelin star Elizabeth Gleadle strides to the centre of Olympic Stadium and launches the 600 gram metal spear. Having nailed a place in the final round of just 12 athletes with a thrust of 60.26 m, she is Canada's record holder (61.15 m) and an awesome, powerful athelete. Let's toast Canada's first female javelin Olympian since 1988 with some equally athletic, winning wine. And if this is not Liz's time, the 23-year-old, 6' 1" muscle-bound UBC kinesiology student, who trains in Lethbridge, Alberta, can aim for Rio 2016.

GRAY MONK ODYSSEY WHITE BRUT 2008

$24.99

B.C. +711218

This utterly delicious sparkling wine from Lake County's 30-year-old Gray Monk Winery mingles Pinot Blanc and aromatic Chardonnay Musqué for their premium Odyssey range. Spend a moment inhaling the gorgeous scents of apricot, apple, and brioche before you swallow a fruity mouthful of creamy bubbles that finishes crisp and dry. Clean, pure, balanced and sneakily complex, this statuesque traditional Brut will match a tangy lemon kale and feta frittata or spicy prawn fried rice.

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HESTER CREEK RESERVE CABERNET FRANC 2008

$26.99

B.C. +467332
 

Is Cabernet Franc the Okanagan's best red grape? This wine might convince you, just as it has many B.C. wine critics. Native to Bordeaux and parent of high achiever Cabernet Sauvignon, Franc brings exotic inky scents, blackcurrant fruit, fleshy tannins and overall spicy-savoury intrigue to red wines. Hester Creek's splendid Reserve Cab Franc gains extra dimension and complexity from 40+-year-old vines. Inviting floral aromas with classic graphite notes join elegant cassis and plum flavours, juicy cool-climate acidity, and robust tannins. Ageworthy and layered with toasty French oak, this rich red winner deserves a fine peppersteak, pasta with sausage and grilled peppers, or lamb kebabs..

Find more best-value rich red wine


August 2, 2012

Another long weekend beckons and the weather is teasingly gorgeous... let's hope it holds as we celebrate British Columbia Day across the province on Monday, August 6th. Get outdoors - camping, hiking, houseboating or just as far as the garden and plan some tasty local food and wine from our own backyard, of course. Did you know that there are 209 wineries, hundreds of grape growers, and 60+ grape varieties (led by Merlot and Pinot Gris) dotted over 9,800 acres in 5 distinct regions (the Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, and the Gulf Islands)? While our annual wine production in wee in global terms (1.5 million cases compared to New Zealand's 23 million cases, for instance), B.C. makes a thrilling array of styles that are pleasing palates and turning heads everywhere.

NK'MIP CELLARS QWAM QWMT RIESLING ICEWINE 2010

$59.99

B.C. +988535

B.C. is justly famous around the world for luscious ice wine. Optimally ripe clusters bursting with rich flavours and bracing acidity eventually freeze on the vine (rules state that the temperature must be at least -8°C), concentrating the essence of fruit and terroir. Aboriginal Nk'Mip Cellars has supremely talented Randy Picton guiding the wines to excellence. This perfumed Riesling icewine from the South Okanagan displays layers of peach, honey, and baked apple around a tantalizing spike of lemon-lime acidity. Ultra-adaptable with food, its unctuous sweetness and opulent weight will take on the savoury richness of foie gras pâté. This wine really is dessert-in-a-glass, but cheesecake, lemon tart, or a B.C. cheese plate will do it justice..

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JACKSON-TRIGGS OKANAGAN GOLD SERIES SHIRAZ 2008

$34.99

B.C. +365635
 

One of the heavy hitters in Canada, Jackson-Triggs makes sensational wines in both Ontario and B.C. The Gold Series is the premium tier, and if the word "SunRock: is on the label, you're in for something very special. This famous vineyard yields consistently fabulous slow-ripened fruit luxuriating in intense sun by day, and gently cooled by nighttime Osoyoos Lake breezes. Transplanted Aussie Brooke Blair, gifted red winemaker at J-T, lets the fruit and vineyard speak eloquently in this wine, sensitively supported with the best French oak barrels. Concentrated plummy fruit, black pepper spice, and smoky herbal aromas and flavours set your palate up for suave tannins, juicy acidity, and a complex, lengthy finish. Make a point of supporting our local farmers and grill beef, duck, or lamb plus herb-marinated veggies like eggplant, baby potatoes, and thick onion slices that are popped on the hot grill to cook while the protein rests. Decant the Shiraz to let it open up an hour before, and pour into oversized glasses that give plenty of swirling room.

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July 26, 2012

Abright flame will soon glow from the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, London as 80,000 avid fans take in the Opening Ceremonies, and millions more tune in around the world. A couple of gold-medal deserving wines will help us cheer our Canadian stars as they strive for Olympic victory.
 

TERRADORA FALANGHINA 2010

$19.99

ITALY +144790 

This luscious southern Italian beauty showcases one of the great but unsung white grapes of the world. At home in the volcanic soils of the Campanian countryside, Falanghina is an ancient grape that makes fragrant wines with exotic citrus notes, waxy body, and an alluring smokey aspect. Our winner from Terradora (vastly experienced Mastroberardino family members are behind this stunner) has white blossom scents, flavours of honey, melon, peach pit, and citrus with weight from creamy lees and a complex mineral twang on the finish. Nutty, fresh, herbal, savoury, fruity-this wine weaves its way through a range of flavours, keeping you on your wine-drinking toes. Try with proper Neapolitan Pizza (Naples is the capital of Campania) given a bianco treatment or fennel and sausage pasta or grilled firm fish with a Romesco sauce (a piquant red dip, marinade, or sauce that features ground almonds, roasted red peppers, breadcrumbs and lashings of top olive oil). Serve the Terradora with just a slight chill and prepare to be seduced by Falanghina.

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PAINTED ROCK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008

$39.99

B.C. +864496 *only available in private wine stores
 

A famous English critic once suggested that wine's first duty is to be red. This aristocratic BC wine is a fitting choice for sipping as you watch Olympic rowing at Eton Dorney, the Marathon finish on the Mall, or Dressage at Greenwich Park. The English often prefer their reds to be Claret, meaning a Cabernet-dominant Bordeaux blend, and this rich Okanagan red delivers opulent fruit, muscular tannins and majestic structure. Skaha Bench-grown Cabernet Sauvignon shows saturated crimson colour with dense flavours of cassis, mocha, mint, and toasty vanilla and a lengthy, bold finish. Decant well (don't be delicate-give it an energetic slosh) and if you cannot find the 2008, the 2009 is also hall-of-fame quality. Mixed grill or a couple of racks of lamb will help this cellar-worthy red unfurl its gorgeous fruit..

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July 19, 2012

Simply delicious wines for summertime food is what we crave now, wines with high refreshment quotient and colossal flavour.
 

PINE RIDGE CHENIN BLANC VIOGNIER 2010

$23.99

USA +176537 *only available in private wine stores

An unusual partnership of two French grapes proves triumphant in this lush white from California. Chenin Blanc injects dazzling acidity and citrus/honeydew melon fruit while Viognier adds aromatic swank and rich mouthfeel. The fine folks at Pine Ridge (who are well known for a range of AVA-specific reds) cool-ferment for freshness and use steel tanks to keep the focus on crisp fruit character. Robust food is the call here, to match the enticing bold wine flavours, like jerk chicken or watermelon, feta, olive, and mint salad.

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WOOLLASTEN ESTATES TUSSOCK PINOT NOIR 2007

$29.99

NEW ZEALAND +149740 *only available in private wine stores

A crack team spins top quality organically farmed fruit into remarkably pure wine from sunny Nelson, NZ. The Tussock Pinot Noir (named for the silvery grass that adorns the living roof of the striking winery) shows dark plum and crushed blackberries with notes of fennel and forest floor. Concentrated and spicy with mid-range supple tannins and a gloss of French oak (only 30 percent new) makes this a superb pairing for grilled B.C. salmon with sundried tomato pesto or black bean sauce or simply marinated with good olive oil and plenty of fennel fronds.

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July 12, 2012

Tour de France, Tour de Vin. As the famed tour enters its second week, only 175 cyclists remain, heroically pedalling over the 3,000 kilometers of the world's most watched bicycle race. Even though Canada's top tour contender Ryder Hesjedal is out after a harrowing crash, the excitement is intense and views of bucolic French wine country add extra relevance to wine lovers. Now in the French Alps, the intrepid racers are following the majestic Rhone River, which has its headwaters in Switzerland, slicing through tough granite bedrock, winding its way to the waiting Mediterranean. Celebrate the Tour de France with two wonderful French wines as you follow along this weekend.

 

DOMAINE DU CLOS DU BOURG CHENIN BLANC DEMI SEC 2010

$15.99

France +126508

A confession: Chenin Blanc is my favourite white grape—for its ripping acidity; for its honey-drizzled tree-fruit flavours; for its ability to transmit the stony terroir of its Loire Valley homeland. The words "demi-sec" are a tip off that this astonishing-value white is slightly off-dry, which makes it a brilliant food wine as well as a delectable stand-alone sipper. Imagine a spritely floral nose of delicate elderflower, honeyed flavours of citrus, crisp apple, and quince paste, dazzling acidity that tempers the hint of sweetness, and a mineral-laced, lingering finish. Do not hesitate to pair this French beauty with savoury foods like juicy porkchops and grilled peaches, or spicy Thai beef salad.

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CHATEAU DE SAINT COSME GIGONDAS 2008

$42.99

FRANCE +39909

This venerable estate is a precious jewel in the Southern Rhône Valley. Making wine since 1570 (actually since 109 AD when it was a Roman villa complete with vineyard), Château de Saint Cosme (the "s" is silent, so say "comb"), is anchored in the sublime limestone terroir of the Gigondas appellation. Spicy Grenache dominates the blend (there is seriously old vine fruit in this vintage), along with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault for a complexly layered and ageable wine. You'll find crushed strawberries, white pepper, smoked resinous herbs, and a glinting mineral character, along with modest silky smooth tannins and an unadorned elegance that is the trademark of winemaker-savant Louis Barruol. If our 2008 winner is sold out, choose the '09 or the '10 as this wine is a rock solid star in any vintage. Some succulent southern ribs will pair happily, as will rosemary-marinated, grilled leg of lamb, or some oozing, stinky French cheese.

 

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July 5, 2012

Need a reason to indulge in a morning glass of wine? Even though Canadians Raonic, Pospisil, Nestor and Wozniak have bowed out of tennis' defining championship, the finals await us this weekend—albeit it terribly early in the morning here on the Best Coast. Consider some cucumber sandwiches, waffles with strawberries and cream for brekkie, and a frothy glass of fruity fizz—it's the weekend, afterall.

 

YELLOWGLEN PINK

$12.99

Australia +89268

This soft sparkler proves that happiness does not have to be complicated. A delicious blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, tasting of berries and cream, with a foamy texture and flirty, easy-going quality that is just what the morning demands. Yellowglen is an Aussie house that specializes in sparkling wines, from ultra-serious and vintage editions, to this spectacular-value bubble. Powder-puff pink, it looks as charming as it tastes, and will tickle your tastebuds along with waffles, local strawberries and raspberries with pillows of whipped cream-and the Wimbledon Championship finals.

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VINA ZACO TEMPRANILLO 2007 

$18.99

SPAIN +537399

Spain can always be relied upon to give us a gargantuan diversity of wines, but also some of the ripest, roundest, most satisfying of all vinous experiences—usually at unbeatable prices, too. Vina Zaco Tempranillo is a modern-styled wine made at a venerable Riojan house, Bodegas Bilbainas, crafted by a young winemaker from an aged single vineyard in the elite Rioja Alta. Dripping with ripe dark berried fruit, gorgeously scented and delightfully full and fresh in the mouth, this shapely red is a testament to the pedigree of the terroir and Tempranillo grape. Nine months in mixed oak barrels gives this plush beauty, complex with leather, espresso, and earthy notes, a mouth-coating firmness that will nicely flatter juicy lamb burgers with Romesco sauce (make this robust sauce by pureeing pimento, chilies, almonds, bread, seasonings, and olive oil and use instead of ketchup) that are smoking on the grill for Sunday lunch. And be sure to play (or watch) a tennis match in the morning.

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June 28, 2012

Our nation is a youthful 145 years old this weekend, and if the Fathers of Confederation smile on this milestone, we just might have a day or three of decent weather. If, though, we're doomed to the more typical curse of rainy Vancouver long weekends, then we have more than enough reason to kick back indoors with some great Canadian wine and food.

 

BAILLIE-GROHMAN ESTATE WINERY PINOT GRIS 2010

$21.99

B.C. +128298 *only available in private wine stores

Canada is a land forged by pioneers, so it's fitting that truly trailblazing wine comes from the rugged East Kooteney hills that heave up around Creston. The winery is named for the founder of the region, one charismatic and wealthy W.A. Baillie-Grohman, who admired the agricultural potential and the abundance of mountain goat hunting opportunities (hence the goat on the label) around Kootenay Lake, even enticing good friend President Teddy Roosevelt to join the fun. The Baillie-Grohman Winery's Pinot Gris 2010 is a peachy, juicy, well-textured white that gets bright acidity from a mountain environment, minerality from a stony terroir, and richness and complexity from partial fermentation in neutral oak casks. Take advantage of the bountiful halibut catch and pair this frontier Pinot Gris with a seared filet crowned with zesty melon salsa.

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SEE YA LATER RANCH NELLY 

$16.99

B.C. +229096 *only available in private wine stores

Pink wine is a patriotic way to salute our heritage, and the watermelon-hued, fruit-packed, off-dry rosé from the beautiful vineyards of See Ya Later Ranch sets off fireworks in the mouth. This wine is named Nelly for a long gone pup, but it's also a solid pioneering-sounding name. Centered on juicy, lip-smacking gamay grapes, there are enlivening additions of gewürztraminer, Riesling, and pinot noir. Succulent ripe summer berries squeezed with fresh lime sums up the flavours nicely, and a chili-rubbed pork tenderloin tossed on a smoking charcoal grill will collaborate happily with this charming B.C. rosé.

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CLOS DU SOLEIL SIGNATURE 2008

$38.90

Italy +177204 *only available in private wine stores

A new frontier in wine country that demands attention is the steep-sided Similkameen Valley, a spur off the Okanagan Valley. Its extreme climate-with intense sun, cool desert nights, and hard cobble soils-is proving superb for Bordeaux grapes, and the artisanal Clos du Soleil's vanguard (or should we say vinguard?) Signature is a very, very special Rich Red. The founders are also special (four affable couples, including locals Spencer Massie and Bonnie Henry), all true wine lovers who were sensible enough to bring winemaker talent Ann Sperling onboard. The Signature blend is a tightly structured mélange of Merlot (52%), Cabernet Sauvignon (26%), Cabernet Franc (13%), and Malbec (9%) that is generously ripe and lavishly oaked for 18 months (80% French and 20% American small casks). With pure cassis fruit, a correct hint of cigar box, and plump wonderfully smooth tannins, this small production wine (just 275 cases) has all the requirements for aging. The bargain price also allows you to buy as much as you can find-and if our 2008 winner is not on hand, you can rest assured that the 2009 is also a stunner. A prime cut of meat is in order here, simply grilled and unadorned so as to let the wine in your glass be the sauce. Decant for an hour or so before, and heartily toast the pioneers of this Similkameen estate.

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June 14, 2012

ADAMI BOSCO DI GICA PROSECCO

$23.99

Italy +426692 *only available in private wine stores

This is classic summer bubble: not too fizzy, not too sweet, just right for relaxing on the deck or in the garden. Fresh, lively, and full of ripe peach flavours, it also has a surprising and supremely satisfying zap of minerality in the finish that makes it great with food. Prosciutto and melon is an obvious pairing, but Vietnamese spring rolls or grilled Thai chili basted prawns would be at least as good.

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IL CONTE PRIMITIVO NEGROAMARO 2010

$41.95

Italy +138651 *only available in private wine stores

Some people say size doesn't matter. What do they know? This is an idea whose time has definitely come. What you get here is a lovely three-litre boxful of juicy, gutsy, great-value Italian red in a convenient (and carbon footprint reducing!) package. This is seriously interesting wine from two ancient Mediterranean grape varieties in A sensible bag-in-box format. With the advent of barbecue season, no fridge should be without one.

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May 31, 2012

This silky textured, white pepper and kirschy bomb is priced right for a crowd; order a few rustic pizzas with extra olives and anchovies.

 

FARMER ROBERT GRENACHE NOIR 2008

$14.99

France +175034

Deep in the Lanquedoc is a highly-respected wine co-operative called Mont Tauch, formed by 250 growers back in 1913; wine was made and the farmers shared the profits. There still exist dozens of excellent wine collectives in southern France that give growers a place to bring their small-grape harvests. One such grower is Farmer Robert, and his established vineyards in rocky Fitou contribute the Grenache grapes for this mid-weight wine. Never, ever fall into the trap of judging a wine by its colour. The translucent strawberry hues of this wine are pale because Grenache is a lightly- pigmented, thin-skinned grape (like Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo). If the colour is innocent, the palate is not, delivering a mouthfull of raspberry and cherry flavours, with plenty of spice and dried herbs. The finish is warm and soft with a silky feel and a grinding of white pepper.

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May 24, 2012

The calendar says it's supposed to be spring: if you're not really feeling it, at least you can console yourself with wines from sunny places.

 


MYTHIQUE BLANC LANGUEDOC 2010

$16.99

France +169730

A blend of spicy Grenache Blanc and Marsanne, Mythique Blanc is from lavishly sunny Languedoc-and it lives up to its roots. The colour is lemony and very Mediterranean; the aromas and flavours are floral, citrusy, and savoury, evoking visions of olive groves above the sea and open-air village markets full of ammunition for the picnic of the century. Enough weight and intensity for a delicious lunch of Niçoise salad and crusty bread.

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CELLARS CAN BLAU KIA 2009

$15.99

Spain +43109 *only available in private wine stores

Warm, herbal, and silky, here is another glorious paean to sunny weather. From the elite granite and slate terroir of Monsant, this generous red blends ultra-ripe Syrah, Garnacha, and Carinena. Full in the mouth with summer pudding fruits, sweet herbal character, and spicy finish, it gets a little palate boost from three months on oak. A bevy of grilled lamb chops should be on the menu, well marinated in garlic and rosemary before a smoky sear over hardwood charcoal.

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 May 17, 2012

More wines for a long weekend and even more spot prawns as the season’s bounty continues.

 

ROAD 13 SPARKLING CHENIN BLANC 2008

$34.99

B.C. +820696 *only available in private wine stores

As Champagne lovers know, northern-grown fruit is ideal for sparkling wine, which needs plenty of crisp acidity to provide vibrancy on the palate and freshness on the finish. The Okanagan has a well-established track record with fresh sparkling wines, but this one is very special. Road 13's gnarled 45 year old Chenin Blanc vines are the oldest vinifera vines in the valley. They produced a low yield of very intensely flavoured fruit, with classic green apple and mineral flavours, absolutely perfect for bubble. With its snazzy crown cap and miniscule production, this ridiculously refreshing wine has developed an instantaneous cult following. The wine's weight and acidity is sheer perfection with a platter of boiled spot prawns dipped into melted butter...and might as well start out the repast with a mess of fresh BC oysters on the half shell.

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May 10, 2012

It's officially the season for live, local, and sustainable spot prawns, but this little window into heaven doesn't stay open long. So eat the little critters, drink this made-to-match indigenous Pinot Gris, and be merry.

BAILLIE-GROHMAN PINOT GRIS 2010

$21.99

B.C. +128298 *only available in private wine stores

Here is the perfect outside-the-box wonder wine to confound your wine snob friends. Baillie-Grohman is a pioneering winery in the spectacularly beautiful Creston Valley, 350 kilometres east of the Okanagan and well over 700 kilometres from the coast. The Purcell and Selkirk mountain ranges produce an Okanagan-like rain shadow effect, and nearby Kootenay Lake moderates temperatures as the Okanagan lakes do. And with stony, limestone-laced post-glacial soils, the grape-growing conditions here are in the realm of too-good-to-be-true. By fermenting half of the wine in barrel, Kiwi winemaker Dan Barker has deftly balanced fruit, lees, and oak flavours to produce a complex wine with mouth-filling richness and apple/lime freshness, perfect for whenever the sun finally shines. Foodwise, this adaptable white will match decadent prawn pasta with lemon and thyme cream sauce.

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May 3, 2012

Any excuse for Mexican food is not to be missed, and Cinqo de Mayo, Mexico's official celebration day of heritage and pride is this Saturday.  If your tastebuds crave scallop ceviche, fish tacos, enchiladas, or mole, either get busy in the kitchen or plan some take away from Doña Cata (our Best of the Americas winner for this year's restaurant awards) and choose some wine for smoke and heat.

YOUNG & WYSE AMBER 2010

$19.90

B.C. +16584 *only available in private wine stores

Wines with fruity character pair brilliantly with incendiary food that also has a touch of sweetness. One of the judges' favourite aromatic blends is the Young & Wyse Amber 2010, a tempting and succulent blend of Viognier, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Fragrant flowers, ripe stone fruit, and jazzy citrus flavours finish crisp, dry, and wonderfully balanced. There is plenty of Okanagan character as well, with a pungent sagey note. Mash up a giant bowl of guacamole with extra cilantro and fresh lime.

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FINCA LAS MORAS TANNAT 2008

$14.99

Argentina +104018

Don't worry if you have never heard of Tannat before (it is a southwestern French grape that makes the famous wines of Madiran)—just buy it and try it. The dazzling sun and arid Argentine climate ensures perfect ripeness, and the tannins are as supple and sweet as the slow-cooked pork in your taco. Dark berry fruit, rich oak, and mouth-coating density will meld seamlessly with mole, chipotle, and robust Mexican flavours.

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April 26, 2012

TWO PADDOCKS PICNIC PINOT NOIR 2008

$26.99

New Zealand +128074

Spring is a perfect time for lithe, fresh Pinot Noir and there is a glorious little celebrity Pinot from New Zealand on our winner's list. It's called Two Paddocks Picnic Pinot Noir and it comes from the Central Otago region on the green, rugged south island. The three-vineyard blend features raspberry and dark cherry aromas and flavours with the unmistakable woodsy, forest-floor notes of proper Pinot. Mild tannins give this wine a soft texture, countered by bright acidity and a delicious juicy finish. The celebrity owner is suave and talented Sam Neill, so load the DVD with Dead Calm or Jurassic Park, grill some salmon, pour the Pinot, and enjoy dinner-and-a-movie this weekend.

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April 19, 2012

YERING STATION LITTLE YERING PINOT NOIR 2009

$15.99

Australia +616110

This reviving, uplifting, thirst-quenching crisp red wine is not only a delight to drink, but is highly adaptable with food. Australia is famous for full-throttle reds and elegant whites, but many regions in this vast island are ideal for quixotic Pinot Noir. Yering Station winery dates back to the 1800s and was the first operation in the cool, foggy Yarra Valley. The charming Little Yering Pinot exudes raspberries, sweet herbs, woodsy notes, and cleansing acidity. The mild tannins allow cool-climate fruit to star. Grill some lamb burgers or sear a herb-marinated salmon steak for a fine match.

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April 12, 2012

April 17 is International Malbec Day. Once a staple in a red Bordeaux blend and still the backbone of the black tannic wines of Cahors, it's now a minority player in its native France. Not so in Argentina, however, where Malbec has flourished since the 1860s, carpeting the plateaus, valleys, and mountainslopes of Mendoza's wine region in particular. (Argentina has six times France's acreage.) Full-bodied, velvet-textured wines with creamy blueberry fruit and supple tannins have become colossal consumer favourites, catapulting Argentina to the head of the sales charts. Such an eloquent and convincing wine ambassador for Argentina surely deserves a day of recognition.

 

BODEGAS AMALAYA VINO TINTO DE ALTURA 2009

$19.99

Argentina +168294

Over a thousand kilometres north of Mendoza City, amongst sky-high red mountains, is the breathtakingly beautiful wine region of Cafayate. Poised 1,700 metres high, the Amalaya Vineyard yields superbly ripe and balanced fruit due to dry, endlessly sunny weather with chilly acid-preserving nights. Amayala's 2009 red blend features 75% malbec with a bolstering of syrah, cabernet, and tannat. Pure red-berry fruit, petals, and toast mark the nose, and rich strawberry and plum layered with spicy French oak the flavour. Precision farming, fermentation in smooth concrete vessels, and 10 months in oak lend dimension, depth, and finesse to this Malbec blend. Deserves a choice prime rib roast with all the trimmings.


DONA PAULA ESTATE MALBEC

$19.99

Argentina +731291

This perfumed, crimson-hued Malbec explores the elevated, rocky terroir of the Uco Valley, Argentina's answer to Napa. Many of the country's most prestigious, high-scoring wines get their lustrous concentration from a combination of soils, sunshine, and elevation in this special microclimate. Doña Paula's 2009 Estate Malbec bursts with signature violet and spice aromas, and the palate is drenched with plummy, juicy fruit. Uco's distinctive minerals and graphite, smooth tannins, and refreshing acidity add up to a compelling finish. Aging in new and used French oak barrels gives this wine ample structure for a grilled striploin steak anointed with Argentina's zingy chimichurri sauce.

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April 5, 2012

Wines for a long (and hopefully sunny) Easter Weekend need to be fresh, and show a touch of weight and texture, to take on classic holiday dishes like baked ham, scalloped potatoes, and steamed asparagus. And if ever we needed a wine for chocolate, this is surely the time.

THORNHAVEN GEWURZTRAMINER 2010

$17.90

B.C. +731661

Gewürztraminer is an exotic grape, striking in its range of aromas and flavours. In Alsace it makes famous wines- from bone-dry to unctuously sweet-and it's trotted around the world to Germany, Italy, and Chile. Locally, one of the best Gewürztraminers comes from Thornhaven Winery, high on the slopes of Little Giant's Head Mountain near Summerland. The 2010 shows captivating aromas of rose petals, lychee fruit, and honey, plus a touch of the sausage meat that marks wonderful examples. The palate bursts with luscious flavours of orange peel, peaches, and spice, mouth-filling and textured. Off-dry, but with a vibrant citrusy tang to cut the richness of baked or smoked ham while matching its weight.

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ELEPHANT ISLAND FRAMBOISE 2010

$19.99

B.C. +734277 (private stores)

Sweet, mouth-coating, and intensely flavoured, chocolate-one of the trickiest foods to pair-needs a wine with concentration, sweetness, and staying power. One of the most marvellous wines for chocolate is Elephant Island Frambiose. The charming and wholesome Halladays (Del and Miranda) run this Naramata gem, specializing in pristine fruit wines. The Framboise 2010 explodes with piercing essence of raspberry, lovely rich sweetness, and a lipsmacking tartness. Give it a sight chill before sipping along with premium Easter eggs, cocoa-dusted truffles, or chocolate bread pudding with bittersweet chocolate sauce and fresh raspberries.

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March 29, 2012

Finally, Vancouver has really great pizza, and our zesty red wine picks are designed to be sipped casually with a tasty slice to go. Toss a salad first, then pick up a pizza from one of the proper wood-fired joints (our current fave is the recently opened Via Tevere, just off the Drive at Victoria and William. It hits all the right notes with a blistered, pliable crust, not too thin, not too thick, and definitely not over-sauced).

RICOSSA BARBERA D'ASTI 2009

$15.99

ITALY +457135

You get lots of wine for your money here. Piedmont's Barbera grape can be relied upon to delight the senses with an easy balance of fruit, gentle tannins, and brisk acidity. Our value-driven Ricossa delivers abundant ripe cherry and raspberry fruit, baking spice and a Spring-like woodsy character. Round and sweet in the mouth, it finishes smoothly and freshly.

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FARNESE PRIMITIVO PUGLIA 2009

$9.99

Italy +619163

Another brilliant value Italian red, this time from the south. Puglia forms the high heel of Italy's stylish boot, and is sunny and dry with plenty of limestone, which vines love. Farnese is the sort of wine that you purchase by the case, either for a crowd, or to have on hand when the mood calls for a giant tumbler of satisfying, casual red to wash down the pizza. This Primitivo (the grape is closely related to Zinfandel) overflows with dark plummy fruit leather, spicy warmth, and soft texture. Sprinkle the dried chili flakes lavishly on your pizza and put out the fire with lively southern wine.

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March 22, 2012

The first day of spring has finally brought lighter, brighter skies and a bounce to our step. Even as hail and freezing rain burst from the heavens, the cherry blossoms are detonating. We need uplifting wine, fresh and vital, to match the smell of new life and hope in the air.

CEDARCREEK ESTATE WINERY RIESLING 2010

$17.90

B.C. +217166

Riesling epitomizes spring. CedarCreek's well-priced and well-balanced rendition shows the precision new winemaker Darryl Brooker has brought to this venerable winery. More focused and drier than ever, the 2010 Riesling smells of petals, peaches, and a whiff of Okanagan sage. Juicy citrus, crunchy apple, and peach flavours are taughtly balanced with fresh acidity. A light but luscious touch of sweetness on the finish opens up a world of food-pairing opportunities, like Thai green curry, fragrant with coconut milk and lime leaf.

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DEANGELIS ROSSO PICENO DOC 2009

$14.97

Italy +632141 (only available in private wine stores)

Sprightly, earthy, and tangy, this light red has been on our winners' list for years. On the ruggedly scenic central-east coast of Italy known as Le Marche, the breeze-blown limestone hills create a special environment for montepulciano and sangiovese grapes. Scents of wild red berries, forest floor, and spice prepare the palate for tart cherries, fresh herbs, and spiced tea. Mild tannins and crisp acidity keep this charmingly rustic red light on its toes, and ideal for a spring dinner of pepperoni pizza or spaghetti and herby meatballs. Chill slightly for extra thirst-quenching appeal.

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March 15, 2012

Think positive. All this rain and recent chilly temperatures at sea level mean terrific conditions on the the local mountains. In celebration of silver linings, an après-ski theme.....

RED ROOSTER PINOT GRIS 2010

$17.99

Australia +533174

The charm of Pinot Gris lies in its succulent combination of tangy citrus with apple, pear, and peach, all honey-drizzled with honey. And thanks to massively talented winemaker Karen Gillis, this thirst-quenching medium white achieves freshness, balance, and purity. Dry but full of ripe sweet stonefruit and crisp acidity, this Okanagan Pinot Gris will revive body and soul after an energetic day on the slopes. Of course you planned ahead and a cauldron of pasta e fagioli is waiting to be served with crusty bread and a simple green salad. Don't know the soup affectionately named pasta fazool? It's a hearty meal of cannellini beans, pasta, stock, herbs, and tomato paste made even richer with pancetta, sausage, or meatballs. Anoint each steaming bowlful with good olive oil and a pile of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and wash down with the chilled Pinot Gris.

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FINCA LAS MORAS RESERVA TANNAT 2008

$14.99

Italy +104018

A hands-down winner in the medium red category, this wine won raves from our judges for its fruit depth, velvety structure, and great value. Tannat's tannins can be quite ferocious (the grape is responsible for the historically famous wines of Madiran in the southwest corner of France), but in Argentina's sunny and warm climate, they become meltingly supple. Finca Las Moras is based in the rugged San Juan region, and this Tannat is grown in high-altitude vineyards where slowly ripened fruit detonates with sweet plums and blackcurrant. A year in French oak adds a chocolatey richness, giving body and a smooth finish. Braised meaty short ribs are the perfect pairing, especially if the braise includes red wine, good beef stock, and a few chunks of bittersweet chocolate. Whip up some creamy mashed potatoes or polenta, and pour a generous goblet of Tannat.

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March 8, 2012

Looks like we're in for a solid week of rain and heavy skies, so might as well make the most of it with some comforting wine and food—and maybe a little spring cleaning so that when the sun does agree to shine, we are not stuck indoors, mop in hand..

ROBERT OATLEY MUDGEE CHARDONNAY 2009

$19.99

Australia +118505

Mudgee is a name to watch for. Tucked away in New South Wale's Central Ranges, this rolling countryside was named Nest of Hills by the Aboriginal people. High altitude (we're talking 500 to 1,000 metres, so imagine vineyards planted close to the top of Grouse Mountain) makes Mudgee distinct, and it has gained a reputation for slow-ripened and structured Cabernet, Shiraz, and Chardonnay. The Robert Oatley Chardonnay shows the finesse and minerality this region is famous for, plus assertive citrus, peachy fruit, and the kiss of French oak barrels. Impeccably balanced and astonishing for the price, this wine deserves a good dinner. Choose a plump roasting chicken, fill the cavity with a lemon or two, make a paste of butter, herbs, and lemon zest, and smear it under and over the skin. Roast the bird, carve, and moisten with the pan drippings. Serve the Chardonnay with a slight chill and dig in.

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AVIGNONESI VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO DOCG 2008

$43.99

Italy +551366

The name Vino Nobile refers to the fact that this wine was beloved of the movers and shakers of medieval Tuscany, and this wine is indeed noble. One of the oldest wines of Italy, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (named for the nearby town) features a clone of Sangiovese called Prugnolo Gentile, plus a couple of other local red grapes—Canaiolo Nero and Mammolino. The house of Avignonesi's style is stately and structured, and its wines age superbly. The nose captivates with dark cherries, bergamot, and tanned leather, and the palate is richly complex, with plums, licorice, spice, and a mellow, woodsy intrigue. Worth every penny and more, this wine is built for food, so indulge in a prime cut of beef accompanied by an earthy wild-mushroom ragout.

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March 1, 2012

The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is in full tilt now (February 27th to March 4th at the new Vancouver Convention Centre, Playhousewinefest.com ), and the Chileans are pleasing palates around the city with ripe, pure-fruited and plush wines that are simply irresistible. Chile is a virtual viticultural island, with vineyards protected by the arid Atacama Desert to the north, the formidable icefields to the south, the Humboldt-chilled Pacific Ocean to the west, and the soaring Andes to the east, crowned by almost 7,000 metre high Mt. Aconcagua. Vines were first planted here in the mid 1500's, and the vineyard area is comparable to Bordeaux in size.


CONCHA Y TORO LATE HARVEST SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007

$14.99

Chile +1628

Delicacy and intensity strike a perfect balance in our versatile best-of-category dessert winner. Concentrated and sweet from extra hang-time, familiar Sauvignon Blanc flavours of tangy citrus, guave, and dried herbs join honey, apricot, and pear. Zippy acidity keeps the sweetness in check, refreshing each silky mouthful. Food wise, you can be daring here: try with savoury food like a sweet/salty Thai pork curry or ripe blue cheese fondue.

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VINA ERRAZURIZ SINGLE VINEYARD CARMENERE 2009

$22.99

Chile +139782

Chile's marquee red grape Carmenere gets supreme pampering in Erraziriz' high altitude vineyard (570 M) under the watchful eye of Mt. Aconcagua. Here, Carmenere can do what is most essential for this vine - mature slowly and thoroughly. An ultra-late ripener, this Bordeaux renegade benefits from long hang-time and expert canopy management. The Errazuriz Singe Vineyard Carmenere gets that and more, and the wine shows lush black currant fruit, warm spice, a delightful herbal note, and trademark graphite and tobacco. Rich and full in the mouth, with extra sweetness from a year in barrel (33% new and 80% French, 20% American oak), the tannins are supple and plump. Try this wine with butter chicken or lamb rogan josh. Owner/President Eduardo Chadwick will be pouring his wines in the Festival Tasting room March 1, 2, 3.

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February 16, 2012

The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is just around the corner (February 27th to March 4th at the new Vancouver Convention Centre, Playhousewinefest.com ) and the theme region for this year celebrates the great wines of Chile. Uniquely endowed with remarkably different environments for the vine, Chile offers a delicious spectrum of grapes, wine styles, and value. Sustainable and organic farming are becoming the norm for this beautiful country where Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc are the most-planted grapes.


CONO SUR VIOGNIER 2009

$10.99

Chile +566836

Viognier is not widely planted yet, but this finicky Rhône white grape seems quite at home in Chile's dry gravels, schist, and granitic soils. Cono Sur's Viognier is simply one of the best value wines of the world, year after year. Exotic lily, tangerine peel, and apricot scents with a round and succulent dry palate of tropical fruit, freshly balanced with limey acidity. Pour a chilled glass to remind yourself that spring is just around the corner. Cono Sur winemaker Matias Rios will be pouring his wines at the Playhouse Wine Festival in the Tasting Room.

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VINA ERRAZURIZ MAX RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009

$19.99

Chile +287805

Errazuriz is one of the great pioneer wineries in Chile. Established in 1870, foresighted Don Maximiano headed north to the Aconcagua Valley, planted Cabernet Sauvignon and thus was born one of the great icon wines of Chile. Some of the fruit from the famed Don Maximiano vineyards goes into this colossal value Cab, adding extra richness and complexity. Pure cassis, fragrant herbs and sweet oak spice aromas give way to dark cherry and plum flavours, supple, plump tannins and coastal Chile's trademark brisk and cleansing acidity. Drinks beautifully now, but is a secretly good ager. Owner/President Eduardo Chadwick will be pouring his wines in the Festival Tasting room March 1, 2, 3.

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February 9, 2012

Pucker up, it's Valentine's Day! Whether you are headily in love or single and searching, a little wine is necessary to sharpen Cupid's arrow and celebrate this day of love.


LUCIEN ALBRECHT CREMANT BRUT ROSE

$24.99

France +829036

Our first wine for romance is a prettily pink dry sparkling rosé from a warm, dry pocket of northern France. Alsace has a fine reputation for aromatic whites, but Pinot Noir basks in solar bliss here, making delicious sparkling wine. The word "crémant" refers to a wine made in the Champagne method, but not from the Champagne region, with bottle fermentation that gives a lovely, yeasty, creamy-moussed wine. Lucien Albrecht is one of the venerable estates here (15th century), and its Crémant Rosé is 100% Pinot Noir crammed with raspberries, strawberries, and spice. Fresh acidity, aromas and flavours of brioche, and a dry, savoury finish welcome a rich pâté or mixed charcuterie platter to start off your salute to love.

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BODEGAS ARTADI ARTAZURI NAVARRA 2009

$19

Spain +122606

This velvety Spaniard is a perfect Valentine's Day red: smooth, silky, and—yes, there's no getting away from it—voluptuous. For Valentine's points it's from Navarra, an unspeakably romantic region full of castles on rugged, wind-swept hilltops and ancient towns along the pilgrim's road to Santiago de Compostela. Soundtrack choice: the stunning 300-year-old guitar music of Santiago de Murcia. Fireplace optional, but highly recommended. Get some lamb shanks braising and nip out and buy a few branches of spring blossoms for the table.

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February 2, 2012

Boutinot Chat-en-Oeuf Rosé 2010

$12.99

France +823229

Dry and savoury, this stimulating southern Rosé combines lightness with full flavour. Wild berries meet herbal flavours and white pepper notes for a Rosé that is delish to sip on its own, but emphatic enough for food. Made from the classic trio of Cinsault (50 percent), Grenache (30 percent), and Syrah. Lifts steamed mussels, crab cake, or fiery chipotle pork burgers.

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January 26, 2012

Let's raise our glasses to Australia Day, celebrated annually on January 26th, commemorating the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788. Eleven square riggers set sail from England, established a penal colony and claimed the land in the name of King George III. Vines were planted by these first settlers and viticulture slowly but surely blossomed in the nearby Hunter Valley, just north of Sydney Cove. Since then vines have spread south- and westwards across the continent, and Australia now ranks 7th in world wine production, flanked by Argentina and Chile. The focus in Australia today is on the premium end of the spectrum, with wines magnificently expressive of Oz's diverse winegrowing regions, microclimates, and geologic nuance. Of course the Australian Open finals are this weekend, giving us extra inspiration to sip from down undah. We might even forgive Lleyton Hewitt for eliminating our young tennis star, Milos Raonic. Maybe...

 
EVANS & TATE METRICUP ROAD CHARDONNAY 2009

$19.99

France +379149

Margaret River is one of Australia's astonishingly cool regions, in both senses of the word. Cool, as in hip, because this off-the-beaten-path western region (well known to surfers), has a fanatical following of wine lovers; and cool as in chilly, because the surrounding oceans keep temperatures moderate, and breezes stiff. That results in wines that have slowly and perfectly ripened fruit with elegant lines and well-etched, fresh acidity. Evans & Tate Metricup Road is a lovely expression of sensitively French-oaked Chardonnay, with scents of peaches, baked apples, and crisp citrus, melon and shortbread flavours. This fruit bounty is kept nicely tight and trim with tangy acidity and fine minerals, reflecting the Margaret River climate and terroir. And all this for under $20. Shrimp on the barbie, of course, or lemon-squeezed grilled fish.

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ST. HALLET GAMEKEEPER'S SHIRAZ GRENACHE 2010

$15.99

Australia +532176

One of the acknowledged value wines of the world, the Gamekeeper's Reserve is also a delicious example of Oz's two signature red grapes, Shiraz and Grenache, grown in South Australia's Barossa region. Perhaps it is the splash of Portugal's famous Port grape Touriga Nacional that makes this 2010 edition so plummy. The emphasis is on gloriously ripe fruit, with intense aromas of dried blueberries, plums, juicy currants, and a menthol note. Flavours unfurl in the mouth, with dark fruit compote and warm spice. This dry red has gentle tannins and a lush/juicy texture. Meant for drinking in its jubilant youth, it will keep you company watching tennis or, if it is time for food, with a heroically big bacon mushroom cheeseburger.

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January 19, 2012

Monday, January 23rd, China time (Tuesday, January 22nd, Pacific time) marks the start of Chinese New Year and ushers in the Year of The Dragon. An auspicious, noble creature, the Dragon is the mightiest of the Chinese zodiac signs, and symbolizes character traits of dominance and ambition. Passionate risk-takers, they live their lives in grand fashion, and often by their own rules. Wines can be like Dragons too, and we have picked two wines that smack you around the chops, latch on to your tastebuds, and simply will not let go ... in the best possible way, you understand.

 
PAUL MAS VIOGNIER 2010

$13.99

France +15100

A feminine, Dragon-like wine, this Viognier shows off a perfumed nose with honeysuckle and apricot scents. Stonefruit, mixed dried peel, and spice-box flavours swell in the mouth, with an oily texture and warm, savoury finish. Viognier is an aromatic grape at home in the Rhone Valley and the south of France, and this bargain comes from the sunny Languedoc. Well made, well priced, and tasty with Chinese New Year dinner leftovers.

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JACKSON-TRIGGS OKANAGAN SUNROCK VINEYARD MERITAGE 2007

$35

B.C. +985556

Every year it seems that a wine from the privileged SunRock Vineyard appears on our winning list. Last year it was the 2007 Syrah, and this year, the 2007 Meritage captured our judges' palates. And no surprise, given how consistently fabulous the fruit is from SunRock Vineyard, where it soaks up glorious sun by day, and is gently cooled by nighttime Osoyoos Lake breezes, a couple hundred feet below. The 2007 Meritage sports ultra-ripe Merlot (50%), Cabernet Franc (40%) and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in flavourful oak barrels for 18 months. Dense, dried berried fruit, exotic spice, and the smoothest tannins imaginable. Big and full in the mouth with a finish as long as a dragon's tail.

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January 12, 2012

 Our two picks this week are comforting cold weather wines to sip whilst you browse recipes, forage for dinner in the fridge, or simply kick back and order some good Chinese take-away.

 
PFAFFENHEIN GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2009

$19.99

France +612119

Hedonistically aromatic, good Gewürztraminer smells of lychee, peaches, oranges, and rosewater. The flavours are just as exotic, with added spice, honey and an intriguing sausage or bacon fat character. This Alsatian beauty delivers textbook Gewürztraminer character in a rich and creamy winter white. Absolutely built for pork, whether it's pan-fried chops, plump bangers and mash, or a spicy Chinese pork dish.

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TRIBUNAL RED WINE 2009

$19.99

USA +170951

If you love your wines big, bold, and bossy, then this exuberant Sonoma red is for you. One of our Rich Red winners, Tribunal scored points with the judges for its explosive fruit and powerful structure. Marvellously ripe fruit is a chewy blend of 32% Syrah, 28% Zin, 13 % Petite Sirah, 9% Sangiovese, 7% Grenache, 5% Barbera, 3% Cab Franc, 2% Primitivo, and 1% Merlot (whew), that luxuriates in barrel for 15 months. Ready to drink with some robust eats like meatball pizza, mole shortribs, Cajun blackened steak, or take-out orange peel beef.

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January 5, 2012

Happy New Year and let's raise our glasses to eating, drinking and living well for another year. Killer-value wine is what we need now, to stave off vague feelings of buyer's remorse after the holidays, and our two penny-pinching picks deliver phenomenal taste and value.

FINCA LA CHEMIZA POLO AMATEUR TORRONTES 2011

$12

Argentina +167262 (ONLY AVAILABLE IN PRIVATE WINE STORES)

Mendoza-based Finca La Chemiza pays tribute to a pick-up style of polo with this casual, frisky aromatic white. The grape, Torrontés, is a true Argentine native (a chance crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Mission) with marvellous rose petal and mandarin peel aromas. Fruity/dry, the limey acidity keeps orange creamsicle flavours lively and fresh from front to back. Chill throughly, sip gratefully, then sit back and congratulate your perspicacious economy. Maybe even enjoy a frosty glass at 10 am this Saturday morning to help you through Canucks v Boston (with a cheesy, herbal omelette, of course)!

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FARNESE PRIMITIVO PUGLIA 2009

$9.99

Italy +619163

Farnese stormed the market years ago with a bargain priced Sangiovese, and since then, B.C. wine lovers have embraced the Primitivo just as enthusiastically. Clever genetic sleuthing has uncovered that Primitivo and Zinfandel are clones of the same variety, and certainly there is a strong family resemblance of plummy, figgy fruit and attractive spice. The 2009 Farnese Primitivo is fruit-forward, nicely balanced and oh-so-easy to drink. Buy some lean ground beef or pork for your favourite meatloaf recipe, wrap the loaf in bacon and bake, then serve with mashed spuds and steamed veg. The Primitivo will obligingly do its job.

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