Blackwood Lane 2006 The Referènce - 95+pts

Blackwood Lane 2006 The Referènce (Langley) Fraser Valley - BC

Availablity: Private wines shops. Direct from winery.

Cost: $90 (winery gate) $105 (private shops)

Alcohol: 14.2%

Date Tasted: March 27th, 2010

Tasting Notes: Aromas of cassis, pencil shavings, baked blueberries, graphite, slate, tobacco and baking spice are so intense they seem to fill-up the room. Concentrated flavours of dark fruits, cherry nibs and savory toasted-oak greet you on the full-bodied palate whose exquisite, silky-smooth texture simply makes you smile. A very long, balanced finish completes the experience.

The backbone of this free-run juice, Bordeaux-style blend is the fabulous and refined Cabernet Sauvignon from the U2 block of the Nk'Mip vineyard in Osoyoos grown under the direction of Sam Baptiste. The winemaker, Charles Herrold, then adds elements of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot to the blend as a master painter would mix oils on his palate to create the perfect colour. To complete his masterpiece, only new French oak from four of the best forests is used and the wine is aged separately. Each forest imparts a unique characteristic to the final blend.

This attention to detail and use of elite components is all done to add complexity to the wine. Time must be taken with this wine to fully appreciate the complexity as it changes in the glass revealing hidden layers and clues to its secrets. It's an experience to drink The Referènce, Canada's most expensive, and possibly best, table wine.

This elegant wine has been structured to last a long time with its good acidity and fine tannins. However, you may find it hard to lock up in your cellar and forget about it - this wine, once tasted, stays on your mind. If you do choose to cellar, have confidence that it will last 10+ years. Drink now through 2018.
 - Liam Carrier

Nine North Wine Co 2006 Hullabaloo - 87pts

Nine North Wine Co 2006 Hullabaloo (Napa Valley) California - USA

Availability: Select BCLDB sotes and fine wine shops.

Cost: $20-25

Alcohol: 14.6%

Date Tasted: March 27th, 2010

Tasting Notes: Zinfandels are a love'em or hate'em sort of wine - the Woody Allen of the wine world one might say. Personally, I love Zins (and Woody - although completely unrelated) but judging Zins is tough. Some standouts offer great complexity and the elite single-vineyard variety can offer a sense of place (often a warm and cozy place). However, many Zins are blended and their grapes are picked from multiple vineyards which dilutes the complexity, leaving us to judge the quality of the source fruit and the vinification.

This Zinfandel, named Hullabaloo, from Napa Valley vintners Nine North Wine Co is a wine that does not offer layers of complexity or a sense of place but it does come from excellent fruit that was handled skillfully. A classic Zinfandel in both aroma (boysenberry, dark cherries, nibs, anise and white pepper) and taste (red and dark berries with lingering spice). A solid wine that Zin lovers will enjoy - others may not. Drink now through 2014.
 - Liam Carrier

Yalumba 2005 Shiraz-Viognier - 88pts

Yalumba 2005 Shiraz-Viognier (Barossa Valley) South Australia - Australia

Availability: Select fine wine shops.

Cost: $22-25

Alcohol: 14.5%

Date Tasted: March 27th, 2010

Tasting Notes: A big and bold Shiraz from Australia's Barossa Valley producer Yalumba. The intense bouquet of cedar, white pepper, light perfume, green pepper, mocha and milk chocolate are dominated by loud and large dark fruits. The concentrated, but not jammy, dark fruit is carried through to the dry and full-bodied palate. Flavours of toasted oak, light stone and black pepper add complexity to this wine that would do a grilled peppercorn-encrusted streak justice.

Blended with 5% Viognier for added complexity on the nose, this wine has aged effortlessly in the five years since it was harvested with its solid acidity and good tannin structure and should continue to hold in the bottle for another 2-3 years. Drink now through 2013.
 - Liam Carrier

See Ya Later Ranch 2008 Riesling - 87pts

See Ya Later Ranch 2008 Riesling (Okanagan Falls) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Widely available.

Cost: $14.99 (2008 vintage on sale currently)

Alcohol: 14%

Date Tasted: March 26th, 2010

Tasting Notes: If you like well-balanced, nicely-perfumed and tartly-acidic Rieslings with a bit of residual sugar, then this offering from See-Ya-Later Ranch will suit you well, and at a good price to boot.

Straight-forward and easy drinking, this wine doesn't offer the complexity of some of BC's top Rieslings (like Joie Farm or Tantalus) but it does offer solid, food-enhancing, quench-fulfilling, unpretentious, mouth-watering tastiness. This is an excellent hot summer deck or food wine that could be paired with more complex, spicy food and make that dish better. Drink now through 2012.

PS: I'm looking forward to tasting the next vintage to see if the extra heat and sunshine of 2009 has added a touch of complexity to the solid base of this enjoyable Riesling. For more information on See-Ya-Later Ranch wines visit their website at
 - Liam Carrier

Rollingdale Winery 2007 Pinot Noir Ice Wine - 93-94pts

Rollingdale Winery 2007 Pinot Noir Ice Wine (West Kelowna) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here
Cost: $69.90 (200 ml)
Alcohol: 12%
Date Tasted: March 20th, 2010

Tasting Notes: Pinot Noir is an unusual choice to use as the source grapes for an ice wine as the fragile berries are not ones to like the extreme cold needed to make the world famous sweet wine (-8 degrees C). However, in the hands of the Rollingdale winemaking team under the direction of Steve Dale, it delivers big.

Massive concentration of fruit aromas and flavours (apricot jam, strawberry, fuzzy peaches candy and raspberry cremesicle) are nicely contrasted with impressively high acidity. This leads to a very long, balanced and satisfying finish.

Minute skin contact and stainless steel fermentation result in an eye-catching strawberry-amber colour to this exquisite wine rather than a more traditional Pinot Noir colour like Garnet. This just adds to the uniqueness of the wine, one that will be the talk of any dinner party you take it to. Ready to enjoy now or lay down for up to 10 years to build further complexity. Drink 2010-2020. Ordering info at
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2010

Rollingdale Winery 2007 "La Gauche" Cabernet Sauvignon - 91+pts

Rollingdale Winery 2007 "La Gauche" Cabernet Sauvignon (West Kelowna) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here
Cost: $39.90
Alcohol: 12.5%
Date Tasting: March 20th, 2010

Tasting Notes: Rollingdale is a relatively new and little-known Okanagan Valley producer from West Kelowna who source grapes from top Valley growers to craft unique and sometimes exquisite wines. The name of their Cabernet Sauvignon-heavy meritage blend, "La Gauche", is a clever homage to the Left Bank of the Gironde river in Bordeaux (the firm also produce a Merlot-heavy "La Droit") and clearly the wine is structured to emulate those superb Médoc beauties. The most impressive thing, however, is not the creative marketing but that they have managed to pull it off. The palate, especially, successfully mimics the terroir-driven character of an Old World wine while the nose remains grounded in New World brightness and flare.

Intense aromas of mocha espresso, cherry nibs, dark berries, cassis and licorice on the nose are followed by meaty flavours of leather, oak, earthy minerality and vanilla with a touch of dark fruits on the palate. Moderate alcohol, high acidity and integrated tannins contribute to a medium-bodied palate. A medium-plus finish with lingering spice completes the experience.

This wine has been built to age and should do so nicely. At three years old, it's still showing a bit young. Give it another two years in your cellar to maximize enjoyment. Drink 2011-2016.
- Liam Carrier ©copyright 2010 (with Hugh Carter)

JoieFarm 2009 A Noble Blend - 90pts

Joie Farm 2009 A Noble Blend (Naramata Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery (online). Fine wine shops
Cost: $24 (winery website), $27-30 (wine shops)
Alcohol: 12.5%
Date Tasted: March 19th, 2010

Tasting Notes: I love Gewurztraminers made from grapes grown on the Naramata Bench of BC's Okanagan Valley. The bench gets great sun exposure but never gets too hot with cool breezes from the massive Okanagan Lake keeping the grapes from ripening too early: perfect conditions. This white blend from fan-favourite (and restaurant-favourite) winery Joie Farm has everything a great BC Gewurztraminer should have and more. They achieve "more" by adding elements from other varietals that also do well on the bench.

The final blend is an homage to Alsace "Gentil" wines composed of Alsatian varietals Gewurztraminer (60%), Pinot Gris (20%), Pinot Auxerrois (12%) and Riesling (8%). The end result is a beautiful wine that sings a seductive, feminine song in the glass.

Aromatic aromas of concentrated lychee fruit, Asian pear, crushed flowers and light spice with a subtle minerality. The medium-minus bodied palate offers a gentle mouth feel, a touch of residual sugar and flavours of tropical fruit essence and savoury spices with high-minus grapefruit acidity. A long, balanced finish with lingering spice completes the experience. Drink now through 2012.
- Liam Carrier ©copyright 2010

Stratus Vineyards 2006 White - 92.5pts

Stratus Vineyards 2006 White (Niagara-On-The-Lake) Niagara Peninsula - Ont

Availability: Direct from winery (shipping available)

Cost: $44

Alcohol: 13.5%

Date Tasted: March 13th, 2010

Tasting Notes: Candied apricots dominate the high intensity nose whose concentration of fruit and floral aromas rival those of a top quality ice wine. This superb white blend form Niagara-On-The-Lake producer Stratus Vineyards is a compelling mix of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Semillon and Viognier, all estate grown. The winery doesn't list the quantities of each but my guess is that stainless steel Sauvignon Blanc and new(ish) oak Chardonnay contribute the most as you get great aromas and flavours from both.

The other varietals add layers of complexity of which this wine has in abundance. It will open up and evolve in the glass, if you take your time with it and I suggest you do. Enjoy on its own or with a simple white sauce pasta or fish course. Drink now through 2014-15.

The winery offers futures of their flagship Red and White blends for purchase. The 2007 vintage will be released this Spring. To learn more, go to
 - Liam Carrier

LC: 92
HC: 93

Chateau Des Charmes 2008 Riesling - 86pts

Chateau Des Charmes 2008 Riesling (Niagara-On-The-Lake) Niagara Peninsula - Ont

Availability: Direct from winery. LCBO stores
Cost: $12.49
Alcohol: 12.5%
Date Tasted: January 30th, 2010

Tasting Notes: Sweet lychee fruit followed by lemon citrus and earthy minerality with a hint of waxy lipstick are the aromas we got when enjoying this solid and pleasing, dry Riesling from Niagara-On-The-Lake producer Chateau Des Charmes. The medium-bodied palate offers fruit flavours of apricots and citrus but it is a big, masculine minerality which dominates. This pale-straw coloured Riesling is cool customer with great mouth feel, crisp acidity, a lingering finish and is very easy drinking.

At $12.49, this wine is an absolute steal. Make this your go-to standard for the hot summer months of 2010 when you want to forsake all sweet wines. BC Residents: Ask your local BCLDB store to order it in for you.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2010

Cedar Creek Estate Winery 2007 Platinum Chardonnay - 90pts

Cedar Creek Estate Winery 2007 Platinum Chardonnay (Kelowna) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Select BCLDB stores, Direct from winery (limited)

Cost: $30

Alcohol: 13.9%

Date Tasted: March10th, 2010

Tasting Notes: This refined and smooth premium Chardonnay from Cedar Creek Estate Winery is aged in French oak (67% new) for 11 months which shows on both the nose and palate with pleasant, integrated scents of toasted oak and butter. The nose also offers medium intense aromas of melons, lemons, bosc pears, papaya and good minerality.

The fuller bodied palate has classic Chardonnay flavours of pears, apples with the acidity of roasted lemons. The quality of this wine shows, most prominently, in the smooth and balanced long finish which suggests a terroir of cool breezes and well-drained soil. This is an excellent Chardonnay that can be enjoyed on its own and pairs nicely with Lobster Risotto and Amalfi Salad. Drink now through 2012.
 - Liam Carrier
Currently on sale at the winery and at BCLDB stores.

Water Wheel Vineyards 2007 Memsie - 84pts

Water Wheel Vineyards 2007 Memsie (Bendigo) Victoria - Australia

Availability: Select BCLDB stores

Cost: $18.99

Alcohol: 14.5%

Date Tasted: March 11th, 2010

Tasting Notes:  This red blend from the Bendigo region of Victoria state by producer Water Wheel Vineyards is a melange of 70% Shiraz, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot. The intense nose of dark fruit and licorice is inviting and intriguing. The Cab, Malbec and PV combine well with the Shiraz and mellow any hint of strong, classic Shiraz aromas (for better or worse), adding complexity to the bouquet. The palate, however, is far from intriguing and leaves you a bit disappointed. The high alcohol is too much for the fruit flavours and tannins which affects the balance and finish. Drink now.
 - LC

Wynns Coonawarra Estate 2005 Cabernet Shiraz Merlot - 85pts

Wynns Coonawarra Estate 2005 Cabernet Shiraz Merlot (Coonawarra) South Australia - Australia

Availability: Widely available

Cost: $21.99

Alcohol: 13.4%

Date Tasted: March 4th, 2010

Tasting Notes: I fear this wine has suffered from over-cellaring on my part - I missed it's peak which likely would have been in late 2008. A lesson to all, make sure the wines you lay down to age are truly age-worthy. Today, the wine tastes a little tired and muted. No longer a great example of a Cab-Shiraz-Merlot blend from a top Australian producer, Wynns Coonawarra Estate. Yet, it still scores reasonably well considering.

Inky-ruby in colour, this wine offers good fruit aromas of mixed berries and dark cherries with vegetable notes of green peppers. The palate has high acidity that cuts the fruit flavours and mutes the concentration and finish. Pair with food to make the most of this wine; grilled meats are on order. Drink now.
 - LC

Henry's Drive Vignerons 2006 Dead Letter Office - 90pts

Henry's Drive Vignerons 2006 Dead Letter Office (South Australia) Australia

Availability: Widely available

Cost: $30

Alcohol: 15%

Date Tasted: March 8th, 2010

Tasting Notes: A powerful, yet refined wine made of 100% Shiraz sourced and blended, in fine Australian tradition, from two top districts: McLaren Vale and Padthawa (67% & 33% respectively). The resulting wine offers brooding aromas of intense, but not jammy, red and black berries, vanilla, fine oak grain, cherries and light pepper. The creamy-textured palate is a tad hot, but the alcohol is well masked by the cool-berry fruit flavours and pepper-spice. This does not affect the long and well-balanced finish.

The Dead Letter Office is a bit pricey (in Canada, especially), but you do get a lot of refined flavour for the cost. It serves well as a decent entry into the upper-echelon of fine Australian Shiraz which can get expensive quickly but offer so much more than their $10-15 counter-parts.

This Shiraz is ready to drink now and has the quality acid & tannins to last another 3-4 years. Pair with a peppercorn encrusted steak or grilled lamb. Drink now through 2013.
 - LC