Chateau Des Charmes 2008 Estate Bottled Pinot Noir - 86pts

Chateau Des Charmes 2008 Estate Bottled Pinot Noir (St. David's Bench) Niagara Peninsula - Ontario

Availability: Direct from the winery here
Cost: $14.55
Alcohol: 13%
Production: 1847 cases
Date Tasted: December 23rd, 2011

Tasting Notes: Think you need to try 100s of lesser-known red Burgundy to find the right bargain-priced, Old World styled, Pinot Noir? Think again. his straight-forward and pleasing Pinot is sourced from multiple winery run vineyards around the St. David's Bench escarpment. Clear, opaque, dark purple in colour, this masculine Pinot offers a medium intense, red fruit nose heavily influenced by the oak treatment and regional mineral character. The bone-dry palate follows with slightly course tannins, mouth cleansing acidity and lingering mineral and oak flavours on the moderate finish. Could use a touch more sugar to balance the acid and tannins, yet, the finished wine stays true to the winery's Old World roots. Drink now-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Young and Wyse Collection 2010 Merlot - 86pts

Young and Wyse Collection 2010 Merlot (East Bench Osoyoos) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here and VQA stores
Cost: $19.90
Alcohol: 13.6%
Production: 1400 cases
Date Tasted: December 17th, 2011

Tasting Notes: The aromatic, floral and red fruit nose reminds one of a cool-climate Cabernet Franc from the Loire Vally, but the blackberry flavoured, medium-everything palate is pure Merlot. The cold, late-budding 2010 vintage created some imposing winemaking challenges including a struggle towards ripeness and plenty of residual acid. A focus on balance was needed and is mostly achieved here. Prune aromas and flavours penetrate the fruit-forward, yet, overly juicy presentation on the nose and palate while muted savoury characters of cedar, spice, oak, minerals and tobacco play a supporting role only. Drink mid-2012-2015.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2010 IconWines.ca

Young and Wyse Collection 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon - 87-88pts

Young and Wyse Collection 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (Osoyoos) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from the winery here
Cost: $26.90
Alcohol: 13.3%
Production: 1848 cases
Date Tasted: December 16th, 2011

Tasting Notes: The Young and Wyse Collection 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is the first, to my knowledge, “big” red wine (Cabernet, Syrah, Meritage blend) to be released in BC from the cool 2010 season and offers an intriguing look at what we can expect this vintage to reveal of itself via the thicker-skinned red grapes famous the world over for high tannins and bold, dark fruit flavours. Thus far, the late-starting and cool-summered 2010 growing season has produced some excellent white whites and Pinot Noir that were saved by a long, mild-mannered Autumn, but expectations for wines produced from BC’s sun-loving grapes have been tempered.

The result, from this first example, is of an impressively complex vintage, possibly due to longer hang-time than typical, with an unique savoury flavour profile of tobacco leaf, bitter mocha, licorice, pine sap, Christmas spice and cassis fruit, but one that may too easily be dismissed as “unripe”. The tannins are a bit green but the winemakers have made the most of this by focusing their efforts on presenting a Pinot-like expression of subtle complexity rather than over-the-top extraction and body. A cool, masculine Cabernet to be sure. Could use another 6-12 months in the bottle before opening. Drink mid-2012-2014.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Valle Las Acequias 2006 Malbec - 87pts

Valle Las Acequias 2006 Malbec (Medrano) Mendoza - Argentina

Availability: BCLDB Signature Stores
Cost: $20
Alcohol: 13.8%
Date Tasted: September 16th, 2011

Tasting Notes: The nose offers juicy black berry and cranberry aromas with notes of licorice, spice and minerals. The palate is smooth and easy-drinking with some residual sugar adding body and richness. Smoky, intense and very fruity (mostly dark fruits). Not very complex, but a focused wine that knows itself well. Enjoy this wine now and over the couple of years as the acidity and tannins are such that the wine should continue to keep. Drink 2011-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Norman Hardie 2009 Unfiltered County Pinot Noir - 88pts

Norman Hardie 2009 Unfiltered County Pinot Noir (Prince Edward County) Ontario 
Availability: Direct from the winery here
Cost: $35
Alcohol: 11.5%
Date Tasted: September 10th, 2011

Tasting Notes: A muted, masculine nose of oak, stewed raspberry and vanilla aromas with a fine vein of sweetness. The dry, medium-intense palate follows with an Old World expression of minerals and oak with red fruit characters playing second fiddle. A light mouth feel with bright cranberry tartness, light tannins and lingering raspberry seed flavour on the moderate finish. Drink 2011-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Mission Hill Estate Winery 2005 Oculus - 91pts

Mission Hill Estate Winery 2005 Oculus (Kelowna) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Sold out. Contact winery direct for library release
Cost: $70-90 est
Alcohol: 13.5%
Date Tasted: December 16th, 2011

Tasting Notes: From the cellar. A blend of 42% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvigno, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot, the Mission Hill Oculus has lofty goals. Priced like a mid-range Bordeaux import, this dense, concentrated wine should knock your socks off with bold fruit, sublime French oak and effortless elegance. But a focus on longevity, with seemingly unnaturally high tannins, makes for a wine whose purpose is unclear. A cellar-dweller for sure, but eventually it must be opened and when it is the wine struggles in the glass, pleading to be returned to a cool, dark room where it may return to its hibernation. Three-plus hours of decanting helps to reveal the brooding, intense and worldly nose but the palate never fully awakens from its slumber and remains tight, closed off.

The nose alone is worth the effort and perhaps another year or two in the cellar will allow the palate to "finish", but I wouldn't bet on it. Best to enjoy it for what is now. Drink now-2015
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Fort Berens Estate Winery 2010 Chardonnay - 87pts

Fort Berens Estate Winery 2010 Chardonnay (Lillooet) Fraser Canyon - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here
Cost: $18
Alcohol: 13.8%
Production: 435 cases
Date Tasted: December 17th, 2011

Tasting Notes: A nice, warm nose of candied fruit, ripe pears, apple cider and candy floss aromas greets you at-first-sniff. The dry, vibrant palate follows with rich orchard fruit flavours and mouth-watering acidity. A touch of tropical fruit notes linger on the long finish. Could've benefited from a little more oak contact and a splash of extra body but the mostly-unoaked presentation should appeal to the ABC crowd. Drink 2011-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Chateau Des Charmes 2008 ‘Old Vines’ Riesling - 89pts

Chateau Des Charmes 2008 ‘Old Vines’ Riesling (St. David's Bench) Niagara Peninsula - Ontario

Availability: LCBO Vintages
Cost: $16.95
Alcohol: 12%
Production: 1088 cases
Date Tasted: December 10th, 2011

Tasting Notes: At three years of age this refreshing Riesling from St. David's Bench producer Chateau Des Charmes has developed a lovely gold hue and a burgeoning bouquet of lemongrass, hay, juicy apricots and Asian pear aromas. The mouth-watering palate follows with off-dry levels of residual sugar balancing the tart citrus and green apple flavours perfectly. A medium-plus bodied Riesling, mostly due to the sugar levels, yet, never feels heavy or "fat" due to the leaning qualities of the acid and mineral notes. The finish is long with lingering lemon and pear flavours. Drink now-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe 2006 "La Crau" Châteauneuf-du-Pape - 93+pts

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe 2006 "La Crau" (Châteauneuf-du-Pape) Rhone Valley - France

Availability: BCLDB
Cost: $75
Alcohol: 14.5%
Date Tasted: November 27th, 2011

Tasting Notes: If you wanted to see what all the fuss was about and try a top-end Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe "La Crau" is the wine for you. It's not the most exotic or cutting edge example from the trendy Southern Rhone region, but it may be the wine that best delivers a textbook rendition of the garrique and warm stone infused blend balanced with juicy dark fruit characters.

Quite fruit-forward and assessable in its presentation, diminishing no degree of elegance and complexity. Massive concentration on both the nose and dry palate offering prune, celery, licorice, lavender and tobacco leaf characters. Built for the long haul with strong, yet, fine tannins and perfect acidity. Best enjoyed after another 1-2 years in bottle. Drink 2013-2020.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Domaine de Ferrand 2007 Chateauneuf-du-pape - 95-96pts

Domaine de Ferrand 2007 Chateauneuf-du-pape (Chateauneuf-du-pape) Rhone Valley - France

Availability: Limited. Private wine shops
Cost: $90
Alcohol: 14.5%
Date Tasted: November 27th, 2011

Tasting Notes: The subtle, developing bouquet delights with boysenberry liqueur, warm stones, pine sap, anise, dark chocolate, sweet cherry tomato and a hint of menthol.

The dry palate follows with otherworldly concentration where a single drop on your tongue unlocks the sensual character within offering welcomed continuity of flavour from the nose with added tobacco leaf and fine tannins. The liqueur-like texture is deep and very elegant.

Certainly not your typical Chateauneuf-du-pape with the garrique and dark berry fruit playing second fiddle to the unique liqueur and vegetal flavours. The perfectly balanced finish goes on and one. Drinking beautifully now, but for optimum enjoyment (and at this price a good practice to follow) allow for another 2 years of bottle age prior to opening.
Drink 2014-2022.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Herder Winery and Vineyards 2009 Estate Pinot Noir - 91+pts

Herder Winery and Vineyards 2009 Estate Pinot Noir (Keremeos Upper Bench) Similkameen Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here
Cost: $35
Alcohol: 13.2%
Production: 68 cases
Date Tasted: December 4th, 2011

Tasting Notes: This excellent Pinot begins with a warm, concentrated and extremely expressive nose full of ripe cherry, French Vanilla, barnyard and tart cranberry aromas. Similar flavours follow on the dry, harmonious, well-balanced palate with an emphasis on a fruit-forward, refined presentation and fine, integrated medium tannins. Residual medium intense acid is spot on.

This wine follows in the footsteps of the amazing Blackwood Lane example which defies comparison to the famous Pinot Noir producing regions of the world and delivers a uniquely BC product. Enjoy now or cellar for potential development. Drink 2012-2017.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Top 25 Rated Wines of 2011

The following wines received the 25 highest scores by IconScores.ca reviewer Liam Carrier during the calendar year of 2011. Release date was not considered with some wines from the cellar and special tasting events. For the list of our Top 25 Wines of 2011, where more than simply the tasting score is considered, please visit the main IconWines.ca site.

#1
Glaetzer Wines 2009 Amon-Ra - 97+pts
To write that this wine is complex is an understatement. The nose starts with ripe cherry, floral, white pepper, cinnamon, orange zest and warm oak aromas and then, given ample time to open-up, later evolves into a rich milk chocolate seductress.
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#2
Domaine de Ferrand 2007 Chateauneuf-du-pape - 95-96pts
The dry palate follows with otherworldly concentration where a single drop on your tongue unlocks the sensual character within offering welcomed continuity of flavour from the nose with added tobacco leaf and fine tannins. The liqueur-like texture is deep and very elegant.
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#3
Blackwood Lane 2007 The Referènce - 95+pts
Using all five Bordeaux red varietals and an intricate barrel-aging program, the Blackwood Lane 2007 The Referènce challenges the common meaning of the word "complex".

#4
Viña Montes 2006 Montes Folly - 95pts
For wine drinkers who believe the world's best Syrah can only be made in the Rhone and Barossa Valleys, I offer for your consideration the amazing, refined and effortlessly elegant Montes Folly: a true Chilean icon.
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#5
Blackwood Lane 2004 Alliance - 95pts
This Cabernet Sauvignon-leading blend is still years away from its peak as the wine has aged beautifully and effortlessly. Shouldn't peak until 2014 and then hold for further 5 years.
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#6
Painted Rock Estate Winery 2009 Red Icon - 93-94pts
The 2009 is a harmonious blend of 30% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot and 1% Syrah delivering massive complexity and concentration that never overloads the dry palate rather evolves slowly in the glass to reveal layers of the flavour profile.
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#7
Fairview Cellars 2009 The Wrath - 92-94pts
Intense, brooding and fantastically complex, this wonderful wine offers loads of dark fruit and French oak at the core of its flavour profile.
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#8
Domaine de Vieux du Telegraphe 2006 La Crau Chateauneuf-du-pape - 93+pts
If you wanted to see what all the fuss was about and try a top-end Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe "La Crau" is the wine for you. It's not the most exotic or cutting edge example from the trendy Southern Rhone region, but it may be the wine that best delivers a textbook rendition of the garrique and warm stone infused red blend.
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#9
Viña Montes 2006 Purple Angel - 93+pts
A concentrated, dense and brooding monster of a Carmenère (with 8% Petit Verdot) from Chile's Viña Montes. 18 months in new French oak imparts perfectly integrated tannins and lovely oak notes to the nose and palate.
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#10
Chateau Giscours 2005 Grand Vin - 93pts
The superb, well rounded 2005 vintage sees 60% Cabernet Sauvignon blended with 32% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot yielding a wine with rounded tannins, a chalky texture and a long, balanced finish.
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#11
Franciscan Estate 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon - 92-93pts
An extracted powerhouse of a Cabernet Sauvignon-heavy blend with 13% Merlot, 3% Syrah and 1% Petit Verdot which retains its feminine charm with intense dark fruit and spot-on oak treatment characters.
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#12
Eroica 2008 Riesling - 92-93pts
Great concentration and focus on both the intense nose and off-dry palate with abundant citrus, herbs and stonefruit characters. The Eroica, Italian for "heroic", is an epic wine that all Riesling lovers must try.
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#13
Mission Hill Estate Winery 2004 Oculus - 92-93pts
Right Bank Bordeaux is served well in tribute with a brooding, Merlot driven blend (74% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot) with a dusty nose of dark fruit, toasted oak and licorice, but not in an organic, effortless way.
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#14
Laughing Stock Vineyards 2009 Portfolio - 91-93pts
The final blend of 36% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 14% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot was aged in French oak (60% new) for 19 months prior to bottling resulting in a structured wine with big, coarse tannins and loads of character.
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#15
Black Hills Estate Winery 2009 Nota Bene - 92+pts
The fruit characters on the gorgeous nose and juicy, sublime palate are the ripest since the 2003 vintage - the year of the devastating forest fires that hit Kelowna.
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Fairview Cellars 2009 The Wrath - 92-94pts

Fairview Cellars 2009 The Wrath (Golden Mile Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from the winery here. Private wine shops
Cost: $65
Alcohol: 14.6%
Production: 250 cases
Date Tasted: November 23rd, 2011

Tasting Notes: This single vineyard, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine comes from a Golden Mile Bench property separate from the Fairview Cellars home vineyard. Intense, brooding and fantastically complex, this wonderful wine offers loads of dark fruit and French oak at the core of its flavour profile. Big tannins, big mouth feel, big nose, big presence... big everything! Yet, amazingly the wine remains refined and very smooth. Well balanced and beautifully long. For fun story behind the name and label is covered here.

Enjoy this wine after a couple of years of bottle aging. Drink late-2013-2019.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Herder Winery and Vineyards 2009 Estate Chardonnay - 90pts

Herder Winery and Vineyards 2009 Estate Chardonnay (Keremeos Upper Bench) Similkameen Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here
Cost: $35
Alcohol: 13.2%
Production: 109 cases
Date Tasted: December 4th, 2011

Tasting Notes: This gold-hued Chardonnay enjoys a lovely kiss of French oak from 16 months in upright barrels, custom to the Herder facility. The result is a soft, lush and elegant example of the Burgundian white grape with expressive tropical and orchard fruit on the lightly candied nose and the concentrated palate. A full bodied Chardonnay with just enough acid to add extra dimension to the lush mouth feel and liven up the long finish. A satisfying all-spice taste lingers. Good "bones" and quality fruit should promote a long life with some development. Drink early-2012-2016.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Herder Winery and Vineyards 2008 Josephine - 91-92pts

Herder Winery and Vineyards 2008 Josephine (Keremeos Upper Bench) Similkameen Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here and select VQA stores
Cost: $50
Alcohol: 14.8%
Production: 265 cases
Date Tasted: November 29th, 2011

Tasting Notes: In style and in composition, Herder's "Josephine" confidently conveys the essence of a fruit-forward leaning, Right Bank garagiste wine all the while keeping to its Similkameen roots. A blend of 81% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Cabernet Franc, it offers a lovely balance of bold, concentrated dark berry puree characters and savoury, earthy cedar notes with plenty of new French oak tannins and flavours. Lively acidity keeps the mouth-feel fresh and the long finish speaks to the quality of the grapes. An excellent drink.

This wine is built for the long haul and will settle into your cellar nicely, waiting patiently for you to call upon it. But don't make the call for another 2-3 years for best results. Drink 2013-2018.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Monthly Picks: December 2011

December is about getting together with loved ones and celebrating any number of special holidays or simply the successful completion of another year. Think of this month's picks as a possible shopping list for the multitude of parties I hope you get yourself invited to over the next 4 weeks.

Henry’s Drive Vignerons 2009 Morse Code Shiraz - $14
A touch of sweetness resides on the tart, yet mild-mannered palate but rest assured we're miles from Yellowtale territory here. Enjoy as a satisfying Tuesday night treat.
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Errazuriz 2007 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc - $14
intense nose of apricot, lemon and honey is followed by and equally intense, watery-textured sweet palate of honeyed citrus flavours. Enjoy nearly all of the intensity of an icewine without the palate coating heaviness and at a fraction of the price.
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Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2009 Merlot - $19
Acidity and tannin levels seem higher than previous vintages adding a bit of extra umph to the finished wine and some extra longevity for those of you buying by the case.
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Montes 2009 Limited Selection Cabernet Carmenere - $20
Despite a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Carmenere, it is the once-thought-to-be-eradicated 6th Bordeaux varietal Carmenere whose candied fruit and spice characters dominate the intense nose.
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Young and Wyse Collection 2010 Amber - $20
Crisp citrus acidity, in turn, balances the fullness on the palate resulting in a very tasty wine with a moderate-plus finish and excellent texture.
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Meyer Family Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir - $25
A very well put together Pinot with some classic Burgundian flavours and upfront, juicy red fruit flavours. A fine mineral vein runs through the flavour profile adding depth and intrigue.
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JoieFarm 2009 PTG - $27
Classic Pinot barnyard/austerity meets familiar Gamay fruity/spice - a unique wine for BC consumers who likely have rarely tasted an authentic "Passetoutgrain" from France for which this wine is in homage.
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Painted Rock Estate Winery 2010 Chardonnay - $30
The best Chardonnay yet from Painted Rock is chalk full of character with a lovely, sensual balance of oak and sweet orchard fruit on the nose and palate.
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Brancaia 2008 Tre - 90pts

Brancaia 2008 Tre (Rosso) Tuscany - Italy

Availability: BCLDB Signature stores
Cost: $32
Alcohol: 13.5%
Date Tasted: November 26th, 2011

Tasting Notes: For Tuscany powerhouse Brancaia, the name of the winery's third label is actually a reference to the trio of grapes used for this elegant, New World leaning charmer. Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon were blended to create a complex wine that that evokes both serious, cellar-dwelling savers and laid-back, food-friendly sippers.

The nose offers a wide spectrum of aromas from candied raspberry to savoury earth and seductive smoke. The palate is dry but an abundance of ripe fruit flavours hovering above classic Italian vegetal notes creates the perception of sweetness at first sip. Strong mineral and scorched earth flavours are also present.

Ready to drink now and will hold for another 3-5 years due to the mouth watering acidity and medium, soft tannins. Drink 2011-2016.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Herder Winery and Vineyards 2010 Three Sisters - 88pts

Herder Winery and Vineyards 2010 Three Sisters (Keremeos Upper Bench) Similkameen Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here and select VQA stores
Cost: $20
Alcohol: 12%
Date Tasted: November 28th, 2011

Tasting Notes: A lovely blend of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Viognier that may not possess the most expressive nose but who's sumptuous orchard fruit, tangy citrus and lush passion fruit-filled palate more than makes up for the muted first impression. Light gold in colour, the wine is refreshing with just enough acidity to balance the fullness in the mouth. The finish goes on and on. Would make a fine match for rosemary infused roasted turkey at Christmas. Enjoy this wine right away or over the next two years. Drink 2011-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Note: Fans of this wine should try the Young and Wyse Collection "Amber" blend of Viognier, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. A similarly rich yet refreshing white blend. See details here

Fairview Cellars 2009 Bucket O' Blood - 89pts

Fairview Cellars 2009 Bucket O' Blood (Golden Mile Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Sold out at the winery. Private wine stores in BC
Cost: $27-32
Alcohol: 14.1%
Date Tasted: November 26th, 2011

Tasting Notes: The name of this Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Fairview Cellars is a reference to an old watering hole in the 1800s winery namesake of Fairview Townsite. Loaded with both Cabernet and Syrah character, the nose is robust and complex with layers of bright red and blue fruit with notes of mint, white pepper, vanilla and oak. The concentrated and slightly tart, full-bodied palate follows with intense dark cherry and blackberry fruit with some supporting, savoury elements from the oak treatment and the Golden Mile Bench terroir. A fabulous BBQ wine best paired with tangy ribs.

Winemaker and proprietor Bill Eggert always lists the "Best After" date on his wines and for the BoB he recommends waiting until December 2013. Personally, with the tannins already being fairly manageable I don't think you have to wait that long for optimum enjoyment. Drink late-2012-2015.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Castaño 2009 Lujuria - 86pts

Castaño 2009 Lujuria (Yecla) Valencia-Murcia - Spain

Availability: Widely available at BCLDB stores
Cost: $10
Alcohol: 13.5%
Date Tasted: November 25th, 2011

Tasting Notes: Yes, this is a $10 bottle of wine that you will actually want to buy and will likely enjoy - and not just for its value. A pleasant, unimposing wine that certainly over-delivers for the price. There's a touch of sourness on the nose like some unsweetened cranberries and rhubarb were mixed in with a berry medley puree with a hint of prune and scorched earth in the background. The dry palate is easy going and fresh with the faintest perception of sweetness from the concentrated red berry flavours. Nice spice lingers on the palate and surprisingly long finish.

A blend of Merlot and Monastrell, this soft-tannin wine is built to be enjoyed in its youth. Stelvin cap enclosure helps lock in the freshness. Drink now-2012.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Unconventional Wisdom 2010 Told You So - 87pts

Unconventional Wisdom 2010 Told You So (Naramata Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Directly from the winery here
Cost: $22.50
Alcohol: 13.9%
Production: 110 cases
Date Tasted: November 21st, 2011

Tasting Notes: Popular Naramata Bench fruit winery, Elephant Island, is getting in on the vitis vinifera act with two new table wines; one red and one white. The "Told You So" white is their easy-going, floral-nosed Viognier with 10% Sauvignon Blanc added for some extra green apple acidic bite. With time to open up, the nose blossoms with notes of mandarin orange and honey - a nice preface for the ever-so-slightly sweetened and fruity palate to follow.

Although medium-plus bodied with some lushness in the form of tropical fruit flavours, the overall effect is one of an unimposing, mild-mannered wine offering decent complexity but lacking intensity. The concentration will come as the youthful vines mature - good promise on display with this inaugural release. Enjoy this wine in its youth paired with some spicy Asian food. Drink now-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Unconventional Wisdom 2009 Naysayer - 87pts

Unconventional Wisdom 2009 Naysayer (Naramata Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Directly from the winery here
Cost: $24.50
Alcohol: 14.9%
Production: 200 cases
Date Tasted: November 17th, 2011

Tasting Notes: Produced from what I expect are fairly youthful vines, the focus of this Cabernet Franc from Elephant Island's second label "Unconventional Wisdom" is rightfully on creating an easy-drinking, crowd-pleasing red wine that offers decent typicity for the variety and doesn't bother aspiring to rabbit-hole-like complexity.

This is a fun wine with fun packaging that is well worth a try for its juicy, ripe red fruit characters on the pleasing nose and vibrant palate. A touch "hot" in its balance, this Cabernet Franc is enhanced with 8% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon to help round out the fruity palate and add a little structure - but not too much. It has just enough tannins and extraction for lovers of bold reds and for red meat pairings, without the hassle of waiting for your wine to mellow in the cellar. Drink now-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Henry’s Drive Vignerons 2009 Morse Code Shiraz - 86pts

Henry’s Drive Vignerons 2009 Morse Code Shiraz (Padthaway) South Australia - Australia

Availability: Widely available at private and BCLDB stores
Cost: $14
Alcohol: 14.5%
Date Tasted: November 10th, 2011

Tasting Notes: At first glance, just another brand-driven Aussie Shiraz. Upon further investigation one discovers a tasty, fruit-driven, ripe and extracted, but not over done, Aussie Shiraz that over delivers for the price with nice mixed-berry, eucalyptus and licorice characters. A touch of sweetness resides on the tart, yet mild-mannered palate but rest assured we're miles from Yellowtail territory here. Enjoy as a satisfying Tuesday night treat or let it accompany you to your next BBQ. Drink now-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Snap Dragon Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon - 85pts

Snap Dragon Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma Valley) California - USA

Availability: Widely available at private and BCLDB stores
Cost: $12-16
Alcohol: 13.5%
Date Tasted: November 12th, 2011

Tasting Notes: If you like big California Cabs with loads of ripe, dark fruit aromas and flavours with a little residual sugar left in the balance to offset the tannins and acid, than you'll be wise to add this well-priced wine to your rotation. If you're looking for a Cabernet Sauvignon that speaks to its origins and sips the sweet nectar of fine French oak, then you'll want to pass. More character than your standard Yellowtail-inspired fruity Cab Sauv with a quaffable nose of cassis puree and violets. Drink now-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery 2008 Cabernet Franc - 88pts

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery 2008 Cabernet Franc (Black Sage Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Sold-out at the winery. Fall 2011 release at BCLDB stores.
Cost: $33
Alcohol: 14.9%
Date Tasted: November 7th, 2011

Tasting Notes: The nose of this Cabernet Franc is undeniably Burrowing Owl with its warm fruit puree, tart prune and scorched earth aromas. The Black Sage Bench property produces some of the best Cab Franc year-in, year-out with the 2008 release being another solid addition.

Large and loud which should appeal to the lovers of "Big Reds" - an appropriate style for the sun-soaked Black Sage Bench vineyard that produces the fruit. Contrasts nicely with the funk-filled Golden Mile Bench Cab Francs from across the valley, offering abundant dark cherry, sweet tobacco, chocolate and rhubarb flavours. Bright acidity accompanies the concentrated fruit and moderate finish. The tannins are a bit green and the palate is a bit "hot" overall with the balance, yet the wine remains very approachable and satisfying. Drink 2011-2014.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Meyer Family Vineyards 2010 Mclean Creek Road Chardonnay - 91pts

Meyer Family Vineyards 2010 Mclean Creek Road Chardonnay (Okanagan Falls) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here
Cost: $35
Alcohol: 13.5%
Production: 216 cases
Date Tasted: November 7th, 2011

Tasting Notes: As the vines of the Mclean Creek Road Vineyard in Okanagan Falls mature and develop, the Chardonnay produced there is fast becoming the winery's hallmark - its unique addition to the crowded market of high-end BC Chardonnay. Miles from the winery's roots in Naramata Bench, both geographically and stylistically, its combination of light Oak charm and Chablis-like focus make the Mclean Creek Road Vineyard offering one of the more interesting of its class.

On the heels of the very tasty 2009 vintage, the 2010, with its abundant minerality and crisp mouth feel seems to have dialed-in the balance of oak-to-freshness even more acutely. Despite the late ripening in 2010, the grapes managed to retain their acidity and developed more complex character: green apple, lemon, pineapple, spice, hay, butter, lees and oak are all on offer. The wine finishes long with lingering green apple peel and bay leaf flavours. The wine has the acid and concentration to hold nicely over the next 3-4 years but may not evolve much. Drink 2011-2014.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Meyer Family Vineyards 2010 Tribute Series Chardonnay - 90+pts

Meyer Family Vineyards 2010 Tribute Series Chardonnay (Naramata Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here. Select private and VQA stores
Cost: $35
Alcohol: 13.5%
Production: 660 cases
Date Tasted: November 1st, 2011

Tasting Notes: Year-in, year-out the Tribute Series from Meyer Family Vineyards captures the essence of Naramata Bench Chardonnay: an intense and juicy orchard fruit profile with crisp stonefruit notes. The acid is higher in the 2010 release than that of the sublime 2009 vintage, but the oak treatment and malo-lactic fermentation has balanced the tartness with a welcomed creamy texture. Lemon zest and vanilla are perceptible through the long, long finish.

This Chardonnay is an excellent example of a white wine that should not be served too cold. When given a chance to breath and warm-up slightly, the nose will blossom revealing a developing bouquet of pear, brioche and lees. Tasting lovely now and may develop further over the next 2 years as Meyer wines have, thus far, proven to be cellar worthy. Drink 2011-2015.
- Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

On a side note: This year's tribute honours Sonia Gaudet, an amazing paralypian who's Wikipedia page (see here) lists her many international wins for Canada in the challenging sport of wheelchair curling.

Meyer Family Vineyards 2010 Reimer Vineyard Pinot Noir - 91pts

Meyer Family Vineyards 2010 Reimer Vineyard Pinot Noir (East Kelowna) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here
Cost: $40
Alcohol: 13.5%
Production: 196 cases
Date Tasted: October 30th, 2011

Tasting Notes: This delightful purple-ruby hued Pinot Noir begins with a gorgeous nose worth taking the time to enjoy before moving on to the concentrated, tart palate. Rich, round aromas of dark cherry, raspberry seeds, ripe plum, vanilla, dried flowers and a hint of oak mingle nicely in the glass creating a pleasing bouquet that will make you smile.

Similar flavours follow on the palate which starts juicy with the perception of sweetness and finishes very dry with lingering, mouth watering tartness and savoury notes of oak and dusty rocks. Medium-minus tannins compliment and add structure but never take center stage. This is a classic Pinot Noir presentation where the intrigue is provided by the subtle nuances of the components. Enjoy this lovely wine on its own. Drink 2012-2016.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Meyer Family Vineyards 2010 Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir - 88-89pts

Meyer Family Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir (Okanagan Valley) - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here. Select private and VQA stores
Cost: $24.90
Alcohol: 13.5%
Production: 490 cases
Date Tasted: October 29th, 2011

Tasting Notes: This is the second vintage (see 2009) of Meyer's entry-level Pinot Noir and it remains consistent in its delivery of approachable red fruit, cured meat and baking spice aromas. A credit to the blending skills of the winemaking team that despite the cooler 2010 vintage they have pieced together a warm and hearty palate of upfront, juicy red fruit flavours and forest floor notes from grapes sourced throughout the valley. A touch of spice accompanies a lingering and prominent sharpness. If paired with food, the extra tartness will perform its purpose as an excellent palate refresher. Enjoy this wine over the next 2-3 years. Drink 2011-2014.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011 IconWines.ca

Re-tasted on November 29th - Points adjusted.
Not 100% sure if the "improved" appreciation of this wine is due to the second bottle being from an earlier bottling session than the first or if it's more of a slight change in perspective. Whatever the case, this is a very well put together Pinot with more classic Burgundian flavours than first perceived. A fine mineral vein runs through the flavour profile adding depth and intrigue. Very tasty!