Thursday, July 1, 2010

Desert Hills, Black Sage Bench

Desert Hills Estate Winery ( ) was kind enough to send me some of their recent award winning wines. Wow, what a treat! True enough, Canada (and BC) are producing some excellent wines these days... truly artisan craftsmanship all across the country. But - but these really were lovely wines.

Starting with the Viognier, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I don't have alot of experience with them, and what little I do have is most recently because of John Clerides @ Marquis Wine Cellar ( ) and his passion for Alban estates ( ). John Alban makes wines in the Rhone style, and I will have to take everyones word for that because I really can't remember the last time I had a Rhone Viognier... but I know I like John Alban's Viogniers. Rich stonefruit flavors and a bouquet of flowers, that is how I know this varietal. Desert Hills version is quite different:

2009 Viognier
*winner gold @ The All Canadian Wine Championship 2010
13.3%, $20 approximately *Very Good Value
  • pale gold straw color
  • moderately intense nose of waxy-petroleum, orchard fruit especially rich pear, hints of chamomile, austere terroir
  • moderate+ acids, palate is a match for the nose, with intense flavors of lime & grapefruit showing throughout
  • very long structure, good balance and light to medium body - this wine does best when served at cellar temperature or just below
Loved the wine; a completely new style of Viognier for me! Austere acids and light-medium body made me think this could be an instant Summer hit. Absolute perfect pairing with salmon, we ended up having it with braised chicken with fresh herbs & loved every drop.

Next was the Pinot Gris that we've had before, and enjoyed every time. We had friends over for dinner last night, and one friend is a vegetarian... thus I made a roast acorn squash stuffed with wild rice pilaf mixed with BC chevre (goat's cheese). On the side was a compote of cranberry, orange and caramelized onions, and grilled asparagus with grilled field tomatoes tossed in olive oil and balsamic reduction. Ah - to savor fine food in the company of good people (or is that good food in fine company?)... we had a fire in the outside fireplace and loved the balance of wine & food.

2008 Pinot Gris
*award winner in 3 competitions 2010
14%, $20, *Very Good Value*
  • moderate- intense nose of pineapple, citrus & candied fruit
  • moderate++ acids, balanced by moderate intense palate of green apples, bright lemony citrus and a minerality reminiscent of Muscadet or Alvarino
  • light to medium body, very long structure, very good balance - once again I would (and do) serve at or just below cellar temperature
This wine adores chevre! Anything goat cheese will be an instant success with this wine.

2007 Small lots Cabernet-Merlot
*gold medal @ Tasters Guild International 2010
14%, $25, **EXCELLENT Value**
  • deepest plum color, minimal brick rim
  • fully intense bouquet of leather, gamey meat, blackberries, hot alcohol, dark chocolate
  • moderate acids, moderate++ tannins, moderate+ intense flavors that match the nose: dark chocolate shows through especially well with a herbaceous finish
  • moderate+ body, great structure and great balance
In My Humble Opinion, a brilliantly crafted Rhone-styled blend. It has everything you could want in a $40 for $25... need I say more? Try it with a free-range beef tenderloin or even grilled merguez sausage.

2009 Gamay Noir
**Best of Class, gold, Los Angeles Wine & Spirit Competition 2010
14%, $20, **great value**
  • moderate garnet centre
  • moderate+ intense nose of heirloom tomatoes, old fashioned black licorice, leather & garrigue (savory herbs)
  • moderate++ acids, moderate+ tannins, moderately intense flavors that mimic the nose. Emphasis is tomatoes in all their glory & savory herbs
Great wine, much improved by serving it as my friend and colleague Sebastian LeGoff does: slightly chilled, it tames the acids down a shade to allow the fruit to show through. And what wonderful acids - and what wonderful fruit... a pleasure to drink on it's own: try it as we did with a roasted pepper & roma tomato pasta, or sitting on the deck with a little charcuterie of sausages, cheeses & olives!

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