Sunday, May 22, 2011

Inniskillin Discovery Series Zinfandel, Okanagan Valley DVA

Zinfandel is one of the earliest recorded grape varietals for viticulture in the world... anthropologists have discovered evidence that places the first Zinfandel wines at approximately 6000 BC.

   Six millenia of winemaking using just one varietal would lead one to think that it must be an incredibly popular varietal. Why haven't you heard of it before? Well it all likelihood it's because Zinfandel wasn't always and isn't always called by that name. In the Puglia region of southern Italy it's known as Primitivo, and it Croatia (from whence it is believed to have originated) it is known by the impressive title Crljenak Ka┼ítelanski. And that's just the main names; Zinfandel actually has over 20 synonyms many of which bear absolutely no resemblance to the original.

   So what's the story behind this grape? Well Zinfandel is thought to have been brought across to North America from Austria when the Austrian Empire held territory in Croatia (early 1800's). At that time, much American viticulture was centered around the Boston area (yes seriously) and done in greenhouses. And so began the American saga of the mighty Zin which went on to be planted to much success in California in the mid-1800's and then ripped out during the Prohibition Era of the 1920's and then replanted during the great growth period of Californian winemaking in the 1970's and 80's.

   But who would think it would grow well in British Columbia? A serious question, worthy of serious consideration and a serious answer: No One. That's right, no one. When winemaking truly began to flourish in British Columbia in the 1990's, and the growth of new wineries was so remarkable that even the mighty John Schriener ( is known to have said on more then one occasion "It's growing so fast that even I find it hard to keep up." At that point in BC's winemaking - no one believed that Zinfandel could truly be grown to any great success in this climate.
Bear Cub vineyard near Osoyoos, British Columbia

   No one should have told that to Inniskillin wineries *( or their winemaker in the Okanagan Valley, Sandor Mayer. Vincor, which owns Inniskillin wineries, planted their first Zin vines at the Bear Cub vineyard near Osoyoos in 1999 and in 2002 they released their very first (small lot) vintage through their Discovery Series. The Discovery Series was started, in their words, with the express purpose of cultivating grape varietals not typically grown in the Okanagan. These releases are usually small in nature, and designed more to enlighten us to possibilities rather then a money-making scheme (in my eyes).

   Well, although this wine is much more in keeping with a cold-climate wine then the fully intense flavors I'm used to from California's Santa Clara Mountains AVA, or the Dry Creek AVA, it is full of nuanced flavors, structure and balance. This is certainly it's own rendition of a classic grape passed down to us from the dusty past, and one that I'm very glad Inniskillin wineries and Sandor Mayer have taken the time to - discover again.

2005 Inniskillin Okanagan "Discovery Series" Zinfandel
$29 CAD    *** Very Good Value ***

vine age:         10 years
fermentation:   on the skins for 14 days
maturation:      11 months in 60% French and 40% American oak
production:     550 cases
  • visual:   clear; fully intense garnet core with substantial cherry/brick rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ intense and developed aromas of worn leather, dried blackberries and black raspberries, pink peppercorn and light Thai chili spice, some warm winery spice like baked cinnamon
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ (red and black currant) acids, moderate (slightly green and grippy) tannins, moderate+ alcohol, moderate body, moderately intense and developed flavors that mimick well the nose with especially focus on the red and black currants, and soft cherry end notes. Very good balance and structure, medium- length
  • conclusion:   if you have it - drink it now. The winemaker has stated that he believes this wine was best before 2010, but I find it still has some life left in it, just not for long. Lively acids, but the tannins are dying and the concentration is fading. Drink before the end of summer 2011
  • PAIRINGS:   rich red wine for rich red meat. Consider any of your braised meat dishes like beef stroganoff as the cream will soften the acids and the fresh dill will bring a fading wine back to life
   Primitivo, Zinfandel, I don't think it much matters what you call it.... people around the world have been enjoying this wine for thousands of years, and now BC winemakers are starting to let the terroir here express itself in a new and exciting way; through a venerable and well deserving grape. Thanks again Inniskillin ~!

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cantina di Venosa, Aglianico

Aglianico is one of those rare and slightly obscure varietals that too infrequently make the light of day in a place like Vancouver, British Columbia, over 9000 km away.

   Aglianico is both the name for the volcanic soil and the grape which is grown to greatest success upon it... indeed, the most prized vineyards in the province of Potenza, Italy are in the Vulture area; standing in the shadow of the extinct volcano by the same name. And Aglianico has been grown here for not just years, or even centuries, but millenia: thousands of years. Originating in Greece (presumably), the grape has had a long and illustrious career here in the south of Italy, even becoming part of the world's original First Growth wine: Falernian.

   Now Aglianico has found a new champion in Cantina di Venosa, a co-operative started in the 1950's in the Aglianico del Vulture D.O.C. which gained it's D.O.C. status in 1971. The grape is certainly the backbone of their production as the vineyards have an unobstructed view of the not-so-distant volcano. Since the 50's the co-operative has grown from only a handful of members to over 500, and yet has remained true to it's original mandate of preserving quality over quantity, and protecting the uniqueness of their prized varietal.

2007 Vignali  Aglianico del Vulture D.O.C.
$30 CAD (not widely available)   *** Very Good Value ***

vine age:          10 to 20 years old
fermentation:   7-8 days in stainless steel to dryness; malolactic in stainless steel
maturation:    French barriques and Solvenian 50 hl barrels for 12 months
decanting:   one hour should be sufficient
  • visual:   clear; moderate garnet core with distinct cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; moderately intense and developing aromas of leather, red and black berries, savory vanilla and dried herbs (thyme, rosemary, bay leaf)
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ (crabapple/red currant) acids, moderate+ to full (chalky/grippy) tannins, moderate+ alcohol, moderate body, moderate+ intense and developing flavors that mimick the nose. Very good balance and structure, moderate(+) length
  • conclusion:  drinking well now with a good concentration of flavors and will develop for the next 2 years... drink 2012-2016
  • PAIRINGS:   big flavors like this will work well with big food flavors; when I think of the region I naturally think of grilled sausage which also works because the naturally fattiness will balance the moderate acids in the wine
2007 Venosa "Terre di Orazio" Aglianico del Vulture
$35 CAD (not widely available in BC)   *** Very Good to Excellent Value ****
vine age :       15 to 30 years old
fermentation :  8 to 10 days in stainless steel; malolactic in stainless steel
maturation :   15 months in French barriques and Slovenian 750 L casks
  • visual :   clear; pale garnet core with substantial cherry rim
  • nose :   clean; moderate+ intense and still developing aromas very similar to above but with spicy peppercorn endnotes and slightly hot alcohol
  • palate :   clean; dry, fully intense (red currant) acids, moderate+ (smooth/velvety) tannins, moderate+ alcohol, moderate+ body, moderate+ intense and developing flavors with the same notes as the nose and with the same end palate of spicy peppercorns. Excellent structure and balance with medium+ length
  • conclusion :   this is an excellent wine waiting to happen... great concentration of flavors with lively acids and smooth tannins make me think this will drink best in 3 to five years. Drink 2015-2020 and beyond
  • PAIRINGS :   this wine wants the best red meat possible... consider dry rubbed ribeye steak with savory herbs and white truffle roast potato .... ribeyes have the fat to balance the acids, savory herbs will emphasize the light herbaceousness in the wine and the truffled fungal notes will emphasize through contrast
the view from Vulture volcano (courtesy Wikipedia)

   As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Melange Noir, Mt. Boucherie estate winery

In a place where winemaking is a relatively new process, and most vineyards are keeping their history in years rather then decades or centuries, the Gidda family and Mt Boucherie estate winery are making their mark ( .

Mt Boucherie vineyard in West Kelowna
   1968 was the inaugural year that saw them growing grapes for winemaking and now, over 40 years later, brothers Nirmal and Kaldeep are continuing to grow the family passion to greater heights. Although their state-of-the-art facility for processing, fermenting and bottling wine is in West Kelowna, British Columbia, the family now has over 300 acres of vineyards in the West Kelowna area, Okanagan Falls and Similkameen Valley near the township of Cawston. All of their wines are made using 100% estate sourced grapes to ensure quality can be guarded as closely as possible.

location of Cawston, Similkameen Valley DVA
   Cawston has become a recently "hotbed" of viticulture activity and the Gidda family aren't the only ones sourcing new land there. Cawston has a population under 1000 and yet still has 2 fruit processing plants, the newer of which has been built solely for organic produce... the number of wineries and vineyard is growing by double digit percentages as well.

   And what are these new vineyards growing? Well in Westbank one of the grapes of choice is Michurinetz, which is an Eastern European varietal extremely well suited to cold climates; high in acid it is now blended successfully with a varietal like Merlot which will balance the acidity and give some plushness to the thin juice. Michurinetz is also capable of greatness when the vines reach maturity, but in their youth can produce wines that are thin and acerbic. Marechal Foch, a hybrid developed in the early 1900's, was named in honor of one of the French generals instrumental in the peace treaty ending the First World War. This varietal also is grown successfully in Westbank and the Similkameen owing to it's cold-weather hardiness and also lends a vibrant acidity to blends...

2005 Melange-Noir summit reserve, Mt. Boucherie estate winery
West Kelowna, Okanagan Valley DVA, British Columbia
$22 CAD   *** Very Good Value ***

varietals:         100% estate grown Marechal Foch, Michurinetz, Merlot and Gamay Noir. 14% ABV
fermentation:   cold soak, then 7 days warm ferment
maturation:     19 months new and used French oak
  • visual:   clear; fully intense purple-garnet with cherry-brick rim
  • nose:   clean; fully intense and developed aromas of blackberries, dried saskatoons, dark cocoa, black florals, black cherries and cherry blossoms, black raspberry compote
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ (red/black currant) acids, moderate (green, grippy) tannins, moderate+ alcohol, moderate body, moderately intense and developed flavors of red and black currant, raspberry compote, blackberries, old leather, red and black cherries. Good balance, very good structure, medium length
  • conclusion:   drink now to 2013; will not develop further and is already losing concentration of flavor
  • PAIRINGS:   vibrant acids want some fat; I would use this for it's Gamay Noir and pair with boeuf bourguignon because the cream will balance the acids and the dried red berry flavors and aromas will love some red meat - consider using venison is you're daring and I think it will pay off~!

view from Mt Boucherie winery deck
   An interesting blend from an established BC winery, this was a unique experience. Paired with the right food I believe this wine can truly sing, but I would really like to come back and try it again when the vines have had a chance to develop further.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Charming Gruner Vetliner, Laurenz V

Laurenz Moser's grandfather once told him "Concentrate on the important tasks in life and do them well. The art of good Gr├╝ner Veltliner is to cultivate perfect grapes and simply not ruin them in the cellar!"
Add caption

   I am fortunate enough that I too spent time with my grandfather, and he as well shared much the same philosophy with me: what you do, do well. One would think that this philosophy is redundant; that all people must think and feel much the same. But the bitter truth in life, and in winemaking, is that not everyone does.

   How powerful it is then, as a writer and  wine steward, to see a resurgence in quality (as opposed to quantity). There was a time in the wine-world, not so long ago, when quality truly was hit-or-miss, and an aficionado had to be well versed in the market to avoid the pitfalls. These days, one can almost (stress almost) pick any bottle of wine off of a shelf in a reputable winestore and be pleasantly surprised.

   Part of the reason for this is winemakers like Laurenz Moser V. and his grandfather, professor Dr. Larurenz Moser III (who systematically re-invented grape trellising and revolutionized that part of the industry right across Europe).  Gruner Vetliner (known as GruVe to the hips kids in Vienna) is the only grape that Laurenz V works with and work with it he does; releasing five different examples of the most important grape in Austria.

2005 "Charming" Gruner Vetliner by Laurenz Moser V
Kamptal region, Austria
$30 CAD   **** EXCELLENT VALUE ****

soil:   granite, gneiss, mica-slate
vines:   2/3rds are over 30 years old
maturation:   100% steeltank (stahltank), kept on the lees as long as possible
  • visual:   clear; medium intense gold-hay core with slight watery rim
  • nose:   clean; medium+ intense still developing aromas similar to Riesling; light petrol, plastic, but with a rich exotic fruit background of pineapple and caramel, strong mineral backbone running throughout, finish of small wildflowers
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ (crabapple and red currant) acids, moderate+ alcohol, moderate+ body, moderately intense and developed flavors that mimick the nose quite well, emphasis on crabapple and red currant to open the palate with racy minerality throughout and a distinct pineapple/apricot finish
  • conclusion:   this wine has reached it's zenith; enjoy now to 2014 as the concentration of flavors is rich, the acids have lots of life. I would assume that by 2015 it will be starting it's decline. Will not improve with aging
  • PAIRINGS:   want simple pleasure? pair this with raclette which is a beautifully browned and bubbling cheese symphony... the the acids will keep the fatty cheese from overpowering and the light aromatics will balance the heaviness from the raclette as well

the vineyards in KAMPTAL
   Laurenz Moser V is the fifth generation of Mosers to enter the world of winemaking since 1125. How fantastic for him then, to sit in the vineyard with his twin daughters and watch as they too learn the words of their great-grandfather:

   "What you do in life is worth doing well."

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Terre delle Falcole, Chianti Classico

I love ambition in a wine-maker and, if truth be known, I really admire ambition in anyone (but most especially in someone who can please my over-demanding palate).

   How then can I not admire a man from Cleveland, Ohio who decides that he should move to Italy to make wine>? Incredible as it may seem, that is exactly what Frank Grace did in 1996; investing in a property in Tuscany with his German business partner and opening Il Molino di Grace under the direction of noted Italian wine-maker Franco Bernabei (
Il Molino di Grace, Tuscany

   By the year 2000, Frank and his team had achieved the impossible: rated the Winery of the Year by Wine and Spirits Magazine ( Frank and Franco were at the top of world. Their 2000 vintage of Sangiovese, known as "Gratius" even received the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri  award, which is the most prestigious wine award in Italy. What does one do at this point?

   Buy some more land, and start a new label of course~! Hence the label Terre delle Falcole (land of the Falcon) which is oh-so-dramatic. Using the same knowledge that had catapulted them to the top of their field in next to no-time, Frank and Franco set about trying to develop the nuances of their terroir and, as we have seen many brilliant winemakers do, let the land express itself.

   Bravo gentlemen.

2003 Chianti Classico, Terre delle Falcole
(it is both the region of Tuscany (DOCG) and the name of the wine)
$20 USD, $30 CAD

     *** Very Good Value ***

varietal:      100% Sangiovese
maturation: 12 months French barriques, Slavonian oak casks and stainless steel
vinification:18-20 days,at between 29 C to 31C, malolatic fermentation
  • visual:   clean; incredible fully intense violet-garnet core with slight cherry-brick rim (the color is deeper because of the high temperature of vinification)
  • aroma:   clean; moderate+ intense and developed aromas of worn leather, dried blueberries and blackberries, cassis or black currants, light perfumed black florals such as irises-roses-and mild exotics, mild wintery spices such as clove and nutmeg, baked earth
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate++ (red currant) acids, moderate (slightly grippy) tannins, moderate+ body, moderate alcohol, moderate+ intense and developed flavors that mimick well the nose; emphasis on the berry first on the palate, with the long slow revealing of winter spices on baked terra cotta. Excellent balance and structure, medium+ length
  • conclusion:   drink now to 2014... still has lively acids, rich tannin and good concentration of flavor but will not improve with further aging
  • PAIRINGS:    when in Rome >>>> and so when in Tuscany, eat Tuscan food. Try this with a simple grilled flatbread with savory herbs, cheese and field fresh tomatoes. Try it with a pan-seared anchovy pasta with too much garlic (there is never too much garlic)... this wine has layers to play off~!

    Il Molino (in the fog)
    An excellent wine already, I can't wait to try further releases from this winery as their work will only develop into further layering and deeper concentrations. Already a very good value for the region, this is a lovely expression of both Sangiovese and the Chianti Classico DOCG.
    As always, I look forward to your comments and questions...
    CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chateau LaFleur Saint-Jean, Pomerol, Bordeaux

There was once a wise man I met who said "Never save your prized bottles of wine for too long..."
Chateau LaFleur Saint-Jean, Pomerol, Bordeaux
   His thinking, if I remember, was that one can in fact save those prized bottles of wine until they become prized bottles of vinegar. Hardly a fitting ending for a wine that one might cherish and hold dear, looking at fondly in the wine cellar for months or years thinking "One day it will be the right day - but not today"

   The wise man would say that a good episode of Castle might be cause enough for celebration with a great bottle of wine, and tonight was such a night.

   My mother-in-law and sister-in-law were at the house for dinner, we had my wife's birthday a week ago, the mother's birthday is also coming around the corner and Mother's Day soon to be celebrated for the first time in our house. Definitely time for some wine.

   Chateau LaFleur Saint-Jean is a modest vineyard of about 1.2 hectares in Pomerol, Bordeaux, France. The main varietal grown is Merlot, although there is a small amount of Cabernet Franc as well (about 10%). The wine is much sought after in Belgium and Germany, and has acquired a following in England as well... in North America it is rather unknown which is a shame considering the quality. If one could judge the quality of the wine only by the quality of the neighbours, one needs only learn that LaFleur Saint-Jean is almost cheek-to-cheek with Chateau Petrus to understand what lies beneath the surface.

2003 Chateau LaFleur Saint-Jean
Pomerol, Bordeaux, France
Francois Janoueix, owner
95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc
$225 CAD (if you can find it)
          WORLD CLASS WINE 98 Points-
soil:   thin topsoil of silt, red gravel with rich iron content below
          the "high plateau" of Pomerol
vines: 50 years and older
maturation: 18 months in French oak
  • visual:   clean; light+ garnet core with substantial cherry/brick rim
  • nose:     clean; fully intense and still developing bouquet of leathery venison meat, red and black currants, dark red raspberries, dark red roses, wild thyme and bay leaf, rich ferric notes almost reminiscent of parts of Chateauneuf du Pape, long mellow cherry liquor finish with a hint of green peppercorn
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ (vibrant red currant) acids, moderate+ (chewy) tannins, moderate+ to fully intense (and still developing) flavors much the same as the nose with the red berries much more prominent. Excellent balance, stunning structure and very very long length
  • conclusion:   this wine is still drinking as a young wine - it is said to be a very ageable Pomerol, and now I agree 100%... great concentration of flavors with racy acids and well structured tannins - drink 2015(18) to 2025
  • PAIRINGS:   pan seared venison tenderloin (in duck fat) with oven roast pearl onion and fresh thyme compound butter... the wild meat will play delightfully off the wildness of the Bordeaux flavors and will love the dark berries, a touch of duck fat will balance the acids and the slight saltiness of it enhances everything, the roast onions are sweet to contrast the tart currants in the wine and the thyme brings the slight garrigue back into focus
Chateau LaFleur Saint-Jean and neighbours

   Perhaps a small winery, but one worthy of notice. The wines invariably reach scores over 90, and Francois Janoueix is being hailed as the man who took a beautiful heritage house - modernized the wine facilities, and meshed them seamlessly together into one incredibly package.

    As always, I look forward to your questions and comments.
    CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Durigutti Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina

Mendoza, Argentina is a desert... it's an extreme continental climate with earth-scorching hot summer days and winds that blow the dry soil to the four winds.

   In Lujan de Coyo DOC, an area within Mendoza, some would say that the most important aspect to their winemaking is not then the terroir, but rather the viticulturist. It is the decision on training, irrigation and canopy management... to the extent that I have hear winemakers talk about the difference in only a few degrees of aspect (the slope of the vineyard) as they calculate down to the minute just how much extra sunlight that few degrees will allow. These winemakers know their land, and they know how to make a rather harsh environment work for them. They know how to work with their land.

   Such is certainly the case with Hector Durigutti, who has spent more then 20 years in the industry, working his way around the world as a consultant. Now he and his brother Pablo have created a world class establishment in what some people would argue is some of the finest winemaking land in Mendoza: Familia Durigutti ( )

   Hector and Pablo state in their website that their overriding philosophy is that of "young eonologists involved in the joy of incorporating modern variants to the elaboration of wine". I cannot pretend to fully understand what that means, but I can definitely pick out a few key words: joy. Anytime I hear a winemaker talk about their joy, I know that I'm probably in for a treat. I genuinely believe that anyone who works hard at what they do, and do it with real joy, will be successful.

    But don't take my word for it~! Success has already come for the Durigutti brothers as Hector was awarded the oenology award by the Association of Argentinian Sommeliers in June 2009. Wine Spectator ( ) has listed several Durigutti vintages in their top 100 wines, including this 2008 Malbec as #74 and with 90 points. I unfortunately don't have this available in British Columbia, but in the USA this is running $15 USD per bottle and under - a Stunning Value.

2008 Durigutti Malbec
Agrelo, Lugan de Coyo DOC, Mendoza Province, Argentina
$15 USD (most states),    **** EXCELLENT VALUE ****
N/A in BC, available in limited quantities in Alberta
  • visual:   clean; fully intense black-garnet core with slightest cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ to fully intense youthful aromas of red cherry, cherry blossom, red raspberry, light red currant, star anise (some will say asian spice) - almost licorice root, some light yet pungent dark florals like irises/dark rose
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ red cherry acids(slightly exuberant), moderate+ slightly chewy tannins, moderate+ alcohol, moderate+ (supple) body, moderate+ to fully intense youthful flavors mimicking the nose with emphasis on the cherry notes, fig compote and leathery end palate. Very good to excellent balance, excellent structure, medium+ length
  • conclusion:   drinking well now - I would still cellar for best results. Drink 2012-2015/18. Very good concentration of flavors and rich tannins well integrated
  • PAIRINGS:   great Malbec calls for great steak - a bit of acid in this wine so use steak with some fat or else finish with butter. The rich berry notes will play well off venison, as will the asian spice~!
Hector and Pablo Durigutti

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!    SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!