WTN: Wines enjoyed during my trip to Vancouver

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WTN: Wines enjoyed during my trip to Vancouver

Postby Bruce Hayes » Mon Jul 24, 2006 5:51 pm

My wife and I just returned from 11 days in Vancouver. We both had a blast. We saw the sights, ate in some very fine restaurants and drank some very fine (in almost all cases) wines.

I had made a decision before we left that, whenever possible, I would drink BC wines and I would like to thank fellow board members who provided me with suggestions on what to look for.

The bad news is that some of the wines enjoyed are produced in such small quantities, that they are impossible to purchase at retail. Perhaps next time we should spend a couple of weeks in the Okanagan.

All wines, unless otherwise noted, are from the Okanagan Valley. I have listed them here in the order in which they were consumed.

Treana 2002 (Central Coast, California): Had this on the plane going out to Vancouver. Had a difficult time reading the bottle on the flight attendant’s cart, so I am unsure of the blend, other than to note the back label stated that the blend varies by vintage. A quick look on their Web site tells me that this wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
Very dark color in the glass.
A rich nose of cedar, berry, chocolate and smoke.
Very big and rich in the mouth, with juicy berry and black cherry, smoky, cedar, chocolate, black licorice.
Long finish of cedar and chocolate.

Blue Mountain Brut NV: Doughy and yeasty nose.
Good mousse.
Nutty, creamy, lemon, with a crisp finish.

Township 7 Syrah 2003: Smoky, spicy cherry and chocolate on the nose.
Quite rich and thick, cherry, tarry, smoky, peppery and spicy. Some light toast-charring is evident. Good, clean acidity on the finish. An impressive winery. Only 357 cases of the Syrah were produced.

La Frenz Semillion 2004: Crisp, refreshing, good acidity, lemon-lime fruit. Took on a pleasing creaminess as it warmed. Paired very well with richly flavoured Malaysian food.

Summerhill Cipes Brut NV: Nutty nose.
Yeast, good acidity, very refreshing, lemon, vanilla and a hint of sherry.
This was our favourite sparkling wine of the three we tried.

Laughing Stock Pinot Noir 2004: Every now and again a wine comes along that provides a drinking experience that will be remembered for many years to come. This was one such wine.
Very light color, almost like a rose.
An incredible nose: floral, spicy, perfumed, cherry, earth and smoke.
Rich cherry and strawberry, crème brulee, quite well balanced oak, some charring and smoke.
The wine continued to evolve and reveal different aspects throughout the evening.
A rich and creamy wine, but one which is, at the same time, supported on a deceptively delicate structure.
The story, as told to us by our waiter, is that two stock brokers who made a fortune in the markets, retired and set up this winery. Only 75 cases of the Pinot Noir were produced.

Mission Hill Pinot Noir Reserve 2004: Made the “mistake” of having this after the Laughing Stock. Simply no comparison.
Much, much darker color in the glass.
Spicy, cherry fruit, more of a tart edge and much denser and duller than the previous wine, Dense, dumb and plodding with no sense of finesse.

Hester Creek Cabernet-Merlot 2004: Actually when I looked at the back label it stated there was also some Cabernet France included in the blend.
Light cherry color.
Light in the mouth, tangy acidity, some juicy cherry with a bitter bite toward the end. Okay, but rather non-descript.

Wild Goose Pinot Gris 2005: Creamy, spicy and good citrus fruit on the nose.
Crisp and refreshing, bursting with juicy orange, tangerine, lemon and peach fruit, spicy, showing a bit of creaminess as it warmed. A delicious wine.

La Frenz Viognier 2005: Spicy, citrus fruit on the nose.
Quite rich and full in the mouth, orange and tangerine fruit, good acidity, some creaminess. Very impressive. Powerful without being overwhelming, as some viognier can be. Creamy, with good fruit on the finish.

Cedar Creek Great Ranch Pinot Blanc Vineyard 2004 and Cedar Creek Chardonnay 2003: Terrible. Disgusting. Both were incredibly cloying, with sweet vanilla, caramel and brown sugar. How can anyone in their right mind do such a thing to good grapes. I took notes on both wines, but I can’t be bothered going into details. Avoid. :-(

Gehringer Brothers Dry Rock Vineyard Merlot 2004: Wow. A rich nose of smoke and chocolate. Rich, forward berry and black cherry fruit, smoky, chocolate and very spicy. A wine that impresses.

Jackson Triggs Shiraz 2003: JT has become a bit of a joke here in Ontario. Nice to see they are doing more serious and better things in BC. Very spicy and peppery on the nose.
Rich berry fruit, peppery, spicy, a hint of menthol, thick and rich. Quite impressive.

Winchester Sharp Rock Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004: Interesting as this is a blend of Pinot Noir grapes from Okanagan and Vancouver Island vineyards. I was unaware that any grapes were being grown on the island.
Dark red in the glass.
Rich, fleshy cherry and strawberry fruit, peppery, tangy acidity, smoke.

Township 7 Late Harvest Pinot Blanc 2003: Golden color in the glass.
Honey and old cheese on the nose. Yeah, it seemed strange to me as well.
Honey, rather grapey, spicy, with an acidic twang on the finish.

Sumac Ridge Stellar’s Jay Brut NV: Coppery, light pink color.
Tangy, smoky, nutty with good clean acidity. Clean and refreshing, with an annoying bitter lemon bite on the end.

Joie Unoaked Chardonnay 2005: One of the stranger wines I enjoyed during our trip. A blend of Chardonnay, Chardonnay Musque and 10 per cent botrysized Pinot Blanc. Told you this was strange.
Loads of pepper, spice and lemon on the nose.
Very peppery, good acidity, lemon rind, lightly nutty, some creaminess as it warmed. Lemon rind and perfume on the finish. The aggressive pepperiness and very tart lemon rind would, had I tried this in a blind test, have lead me away from guessing Chardonnay.

Quail’s Gate Limited Release Pinot Noir 2004: Inky nose.
A deep, dark wine, smoky black cherry fruit, incredibly thick and concentrated in the mouth.

Black Hills Winery Note Bene 2004: Tied with the Laughing Stock Pinot Noir for the best red of the trip. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (46 per cent), Merlot (36) and Cabernet Franc (18). The wine was decanted.
Red licorice and spice on the rich nose.
Mocha, creamy and rich, black and red licorice, good black cherry fruit, smoky, soft and silky. The wine continued to evolve throughout the course of the evening. What surprised me was how delicate and refined the wine was. For all its power, it was not overwhelming.
By the way, the wine was enjoyed with two 10 oz steaks, done to perfection. A perfect match.

Golden Mile Cellars Pinot Noir 2004: Rich cherry fruit, smoky, some vanilla, with an earthy (almost dirty) bite.

Blasted Church Pinot Gris 2005: Rich citrus nose.
Spicy, creamy, pear, lemon and lime, very clean and refreshing, with good acidity.

Burrowing Owl Syrah 2003: Another top red of the trip.
The wine was decanted.
Dark, saturated black in color.
Smoky, tarry and smoked meat on the nose.
Rich and thick, tarry, plummy blueberry and cherry fruit, mocha, peppery and silky smooth. A rather sweet and incredibly long finish. An amazing wine.
My wife and I enjoyed this in the company of a non-wine geek and she was mightily impressed.

La Frenz Montage 2004: This wine ties with the Joie Chardonnay (see above) as one of the strangest wines of our trip. A blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The wine was decanted.
Very dense red color.
Lots of smoke, spice and roasted walnuts on the nose.
Cherry fruit, earthy, with a pronounced acidic tang and some beet-like vegetation that didn’t fade throughout the course of the evening. A full wine but not what I would call rich, as it kept it acidic and veggy edge all evening.
Still not sure what to make of the wine. It never really, as far as I am concerned, showed its Cabernet-Merlot side and I am still not sure I enjoyed it.

Township 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2003: Very dense, dark color.
Black cherry and smoky on the nose.
Dark cherry, coffee, vanilla, smoke, blackcurrants and a hint of barrel charring.
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Re: WTN: Wines enjoyed during my trip to Vancouver

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Jul 24, 2006 9:19 pm

Bruce, welcome to the "I love BC wines" club. Wonder who tipped you off about the La Frenz semillon!!? Lucky you to try the Viognier, in my dreams that one. Guess all the onlookers will be here shortly!!!! Great notes, you lucky dog.
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Re: WTN: Wines enjoyed during my trip to Vancouver

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Jul 25, 2006 9:45 am

I have never come across Laughing Stock winery so did a search.......

http://www.gismondionwine.com/article.php?key=687

So thanks Bruce for the heads up. Who else is trying these wines?
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Re: WTN: Wines enjoyed during my trip to Vancouver

Postby CraigW » Tue Jul 25, 2006 11:50 am

Bruce, great to hear you had a nice time.

Township 7 is a good find. Not unlike Lake Breeze in their limited availability and quality. And that you found so many opp's to drink La Frenz is wonderful. My favorite shop in Calgary is stocked up on La Frenz and they have a reserve chardonnay I'm tempted to sink $30 into. It's nice to read about the variety you sampled - you went out of your way to try new things.

But - what did you take home with you? :)

My problem with Laughing Stock - as with many "high-end" BC wines, is the cha-ching. LS is overrated for what you get... I know, I know, broken record... But come on - $35 for a chard? $45 for a "futures" meritage, from a winery that's only two years old?


In my opinion, seekers of great value coming out of BC should definitely check out JT's recently begun project, SunRock Vineyards. Not unlike the Delaine coming out of Ontario, but the SunRock locale has serious heat - the vineyard is perfectly located and they take every ounce of advantage out of it. The wines are reasonably priced ($20-$30) and whether it be chardonnay or shiraz, they deliver.
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Re: WTN: Wines enjoyed during my trip to Vancouver

Postby Ruth B » Tue Jul 25, 2006 11:59 am

Wow,
You sampled a few wines that we just can't find on this side of the border (as in provincial border between Alberta and BC!) or at least not ones I have seen. I'll keep an eye for the 'Laughing Stock' too! Gheringer Brothers also make a fabulous ice wine.

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Re: WTN: Wines enjoyed during my trip to Vancouver

Postby Jenise » Tue Jul 25, 2006 1:01 pm

Wow, you certainly tasted a nice array of wines, Bruce. I'm impressed that you got to as many of the wines as you did, including some that are nearly impossible to obtain like the Nota Bene. Strange about the Montage--makes me wonder what went wrong in 04. You would not have the 03 strange in any way, I promise!

Township 7--I have tasted in their tasting room twice and found the wines both inconsistent and tending toward huge oak and sweetness. Not my style, so not one I'd recommend. I laughed at your descriptions of the Cedar Creeks. I'm not a fan--their pinot's a yes, but nothing else and I found their whites as odd as you did. This is typical of something I found in a lot of the BC wineries, that within a given winery it was often as if the reds and the whites were made by two different people. I'm glad you were impressed with the BO and the NB, and not impressed with the Hester Creeks, as nothing I've tasted at the latter should impress any geek. Forgive me, but I call their wine "blue hair style"--big, easy flavors.

Anyway, glad you had a great trip. Next time, be sure to make sure you leave enough time for an offline.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN: Wines enjoyed during my trip to Vancouver

Postby Bruce Hayes » Tue Jul 25, 2006 1:33 pm

Craig W:

I had wanted to pick up a few of my top wines from the trip but they were all very limited production, so I had to "settle" for a variety others. I supposed I could have purchased some other BC wines, but I wanted to stick to the ones I had tried and knew I liked.

I went to Marquis Wine Cellars on Davie Street and came out with:

Kracher Chardonnay TBA 2002 (Number 2)
Cuilleron Roussilliere NV Mout De Raisins Partiellement Fermente
Rockford Riesling 2001 Eden Valley
Two Hands Yesterday's Hero (Grenache) 2004
Guillemot-Michel Quintaine Macon-Villages 2003
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Re: WTN: Wines enjoyed during my trip to Vancouver

Postby CraigW » Tue Jul 25, 2006 1:46 pm

I understand...

The next time you're in BC (and this goes for anyone looking for small-production BC wines) make sure you take a moment to source and visit a local VQA store. They only sell VQA -designated BC wines, but if that's what you were after, I guarantee you could have found at least 80% of that list.

And pertaining to your comment on the Winchester wine - yeah, VI makes wine - none I would consider to be 'excellent' wine, but some definitely make 'very good' wine and they put forth a great effort. The exercise of growing grapes on a moderate-climate, island paradise seems to be what everyone's after these days.

Wines to watch out for on the island are, indeed, Ken Winchester's wines, as well as Venturi-Schulze, Cherry Point, and one of my fave's, Chalet Estate located in Deep Cove, about ten minutes from Victoria's airport.
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Re: WTN: Wines enjoyed during my trip to Vancouver

Postby Bruce Hayes » Tue Jul 25, 2006 2:03 pm

Craig W:

Are there two Deep Coves in BC? You mentioned one on VI, and I visited one on the north shore of Vancouver.
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Re: WTN: Wines enjoyed during my trip to Vancouver

Postby Bruce Hayes » Tue Jul 25, 2006 6:47 pm

Jenise wrote:Wow, you certainly tasted a nice array of wines, Bruce.


It is due, in large part, Jenise, to guidance from you and a few others, such as Bob, who provided me with input for a BOLO (Be on the Lookout) list. I carried it with me to all the restaurants we visited.

The good new is that I had an opportunity to enjoy these wines. The bad news is that when I went to a couple of large wine stores to pick up a few bottles to take home, they informed me that they were all on such tight allocation that the restaurants in which I enjoyed them were about the only place I could get any more.

Oh well.

Thanks.
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Re: WTN: Wines enjoyed during my trip to Vancouver

Postby CraigW » Wed Jul 26, 2006 11:45 am

You know, Bruce, I think there are two. You wouldn't expect that, but I am positive the one on the tip of the Saanich Inlet on Vancouver Island is called Deep Cove (right across from Chalet Estate is a truly fantastic restaurant called the Deep Cove Chalet restaurant).

It's amazing how fast these names slip your memory when you move away, but yeah, I am pretty sure there's a Deep Cove in or near Vancouver too... Near the Burrard Inlet.
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Re: WTN: Wines enjoyed during my trip to Vancouver

Postby Jenise » Wed Jul 26, 2006 12:01 pm

Bruce Hayes wrote:
Jenise wrote:Wow, you certainly tasted a nice array of wines, Bruce.


It is due, in large part, Jenise, to guidance from you and a few others, such as Bob, who provided me with input for a BOLO (Be on the Lookout) list. I carried it with me to all the restaurants we visited.

The good new is that I had an opportunity to enjoy these wines. The bad news is that when I went to a couple of large wine stores to pick up a few bottles to take home, they informed me that they were all on such tight allocation that the restaurants in which I enjoyed them were about the only place I could get any more.

Oh well.

Thanks.


Yeah, one store told me they get just one-to-two cases of each Burrowing Owl for instance. And those sell out in days. Visiting the Okanagan wouldn't be a perfect solution, however--the wineries tend to release one or two wines at a time so they always have something to sell at the cellar door, so say you wanted to taste and select from all BO wines at the winery? Couldn't do it. But you would walk away with something, that's for sure.
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Re: WTN: Wines enjoyed during my trip to Vancouver

Postby CraigW » Wed Jul 26, 2006 12:14 pm

It's one of those scenarios where "if you can't do something well, don't do it at all."

That seems to be the mentality at most BC wine stores. Fact is, with the 21 provincial, privately owned VQA stores, many other privately held wine stores have abandoned trying to compete with them on selection of BC wine because they know they will have a much more successful time selling imports. The BCLDB is a bit of a cross over, because they offer a little bit of everything, but by no means a full selection of either. The BCLDBs are convenience stores selling cold beer, hard liquor and everything in between, while private wine shops will charge a bit more but will usually offer better selection of whatever they consider to be their specialty. It's basically like saying, how do we compete against government stores when we can't charge less than them? Well, you offer better service and better selection: go the extra mile.
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