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.
Icon Score

#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.
Icon Score
#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.
Icon Score

#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.
Icon Score

#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.
Icon Score

#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.
Icon Score

#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.
Icon Score

#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.
Icon Score

#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.
Icon Score

#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.
Icon Score

#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.
Icon Score

#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.
Icon Score

#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.
Icon Score

#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.
Icon Score

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.
Icon Score

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.
Icon Score

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.
Icon Socre

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.
Icon Score

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.
Icon Score
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.
Icon Score

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.
Icon Score

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.
Icon Score