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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Painted Rock Estate Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon - 91-92pts

Painted Rock Estate Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Skaha Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Very limited. Contact winery here
Cost: $40
Alcohol: 14.3%
Production: 150 cases
Date Tasted: October 20th, 2011

Tasting Notes: This Cabernet Sauvignon from Painted Rock Estate Winery presents the fabled Bordeaux varietal in its near-ideal, cool-climate form: fully ripe tannins and expressive dark fruit characters that benefit greatly from the élevage program of 100% new French oak resulting in a cool, refined and complex wine of distinction. "Big" without being jammy and over extracted. The smoky texture adds a little extra flare and the long, long balanced finish speaks to the quality of the vineyard and winemaking. Drinking well now but I recommend another 6 months of bottle time to allow the tannins to soften and integrate a tad bit more. Should develop into a stellar wine over the next two years. Drink mid-2012-2016+.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011

Monthly Picks: November 2011

November is the month of remembrance. Hey, remember when wine critics were tauting BC Syrah as the next "it" grape for the Province? Yeah, Cabernet Franc kicked its ass... but I digress and offer you a bit of both for this month's picks.

Fort Berens Estate Winery 2009 Cabernet Franc - $25
Easy-going tannins help create a soft, silky texture in the mouth. Produced from fruit grown on the Black Sage Bench in the southern Okanagan. A Sunday roast Cabernet Franc.
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River Stone Estate Winery 2009 Cabernet Franc - $26
This Cabernet Franc makes an unexpected homage to the Australian modus operandi of producing big, juicy and ever-so-sweet reds.
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Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2008 Oldfield Series Syrah - $30
Medium-plus bodied Syrah with a healthy dose of spice and dark cherry characters both on the pleasantly layered nose and dry, complex palate.
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SpierHead Winery 2009 Cabernet Franc - $30
The delicate nose will entice you with ample potpourri and crushed fresh flower aromas followed by a full-ish, buttery palate of dark and red berry flavours with enough of an acid kick to keep the mouth feel fresh, vibrant and not overly creamy. The finish is long and complex with some lingering spice and fruit puree.
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Blackhills Estate 2009 Syrah - $35
The winery made its name with a big red blend but has recently been branching out to see what else their Black Sage Bench vineyard can grow. First Syrah is solid and worth a try.
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Cassini Cellars 2009 Cabernet Franc - $TBA
Oak treatment has helped structure the wine with firm tannins adding depth and longevity. The finish is long and very satisfying with lingering cinnamon stick characters.
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Painted Rock Estate Winery 2010 Chardonnay - 91pts

Painted Rock Estate Winery 2010 Chardonnay (Skaha Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here. Private and VQA wine shops
Cost: $30
Alcohol: 13.8%
Date Tasted: October 20th, 2011

Tasting Notes: Overlooking beautiful Skaha Lake is the picturesque and perfectly contoured Painted Rock estate vineyard. Planted mostly to red varietals, the vineyard also yields an excellent Chardonnay which has been very consistent in its first two vintages. For 2010, with the age of the vines maturing, the familiarity of the winemaking team with the vineyard improving and the late ripening fruit, the Chardonnay takes a tasty step forward in quality and composition.

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. Vanilla, peaches, gala apples and brioche notes add complexity. The finish is refined, concentrated and long. Ready to go now and will hold for many years. Drink 2011-2015.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2011