Gold Hill Winery 2009 Syrah - 88pts

Gold Hill Winery 2009 Syrah (Golden Mile Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery gate. Website info here
Cost: $27
Alcohol: 14.9%
Date Tasted: May 29th, 2012

Tasting Notes: If you're looking for a Syrah with something to say, something loud, then this is the Syrah for you. Big, bold and boisterous with good intensity on the nose and palate that will pair beautifully with your next rack of BBQ ribs.

Cherry cola candy, tangy blackberry, white pepper, vanilla and oak spice notes greet you on the nose. Hints of cured meats and coffee grinds follows on the full-bodied, dry palate adding depth to the concentrated dark fruit and spicy licorice flavours. May lack the refinement of the valley's best Syrah, but the Gold Hill Winery release shows great promise, especially for cooler vintages like 2010 when we'll get a better sense of the effect the vineyard's terroir has on the finished wine. Has the tannins and acid to last another 3-4 years comfortably and an extra year in the bottle would be ideal. Drink 2013-2016.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright Icon Wines 2012

SynchroMesh Wines 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé - 89pts

SynchroMesh Wines 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé (Okanagan Falls) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here
Cost: $20
Alcohol: 12.6%
Production: 125 cases
Date Tasted: May 8th, 2012

Tasting Notes: A vibrant, yet, gentle nose of sweet red fruit opens the experience of this tasty Pinot Noir rosé from Okanagan Falls winery SynchroMesh. The fruit was sourced from an East Kelowna vineyard and produced using the traditional saignée method to bleed the juice from the grapes allowing for just enough skin contact to leave a light salmon colour. Ever-so-slightly off-dry on the rhubarb and strawberry infused palate adding texture and body - but not a girlie, sweet rosé and certainly far from being a push-over. This is a well-made, refined rosé worth attentive exploration. Enjoy this wine over the next 2-3 years. Drink 2012-2015.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright Icon Wines 2012

Fort Berens Estate Winery 2011 Pinot Gris - 88pts

Fort Berens Estate Winery 2011 Pinot Gris (Lillooet) Fraser Canyon - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here
Cost: $17.99
Alcohol: 12.8%
Production: 275 cases
Date Tasted: May , 2012

Tasting Notes: The newly released 2011 edition of the Fort Berens Pinot Gris is remarkably consistent in its lively presentation of ripe pear and tangy citrus fruit despite the dramatic changes to its make-up. The 2010 release was produced from grapes soured from West Kelowna whereas the 2011 fruit comes from both the Black Sage Bench and from the winery's estate vineyard in Lillouet which sees it contribute 35% to the final blend.

The presence of estate fruit from Lillouet may account for the higher degree of acid and it is a welcomed addition. This nearly-dry, mouth-watering and fruit-forward style of Pinot Gris is a joy to drink and a happy alternative to the many meaty and heavy versions produced in BC today. Enjoy this wine in its youth with your favourite shrimp or prawn dish. Drink 2012-2014.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Gold Hill Winery 2011 Pinot Gris - 87pts

Gold Hill Winery 2011 Pinot Gris (Golden Mile Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery gate. Website info here
Cost: $18
Alcohol: 12.2%
Date Tasted: May 25th, 2012

Tasting Notes: This Pinot Gris is produced in a medium-to-full bodied style despite the absence of any oak contact. Fermented in stainless steel to a nearly-dry level with the residual sugars adding texture and body on the palate and enhancing the rich pear and melon fruit flavours. Lime zest acidity helps balance the rich fruit keeping the wine fresh and lively. A nice vein of minerality present on both the palate and nose adds complexity and a sense of place.

A nice addition to the under $20 Pinot Gris category in BC. Enjoy this wine in its youth. Drink 2012-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright Icon Wines 2012

Cameron Hughes Wine 2009 Lot 250 Meritage - 88pts

Cameron Hughes Wine 2009 Lot 250 Meritage (Napa County) California - USA

Availability: Private wineshops in BC
Cost: $18-20
Alcohol: 14.6%
Production: 10,000 cases
Date Tasted: May 23rd, 2012

Tasting Notes: To use a crude analogy, the Cameron Hughes Wine company is the of the wine industry. You know roughly where you're going to stay and the star rating (or the basic provenance in wine terms) but you never know exactly what you're buying until you pay (or taste the wine). This "Lot Series" Meritage is said to come from a Napa Valley Cabernet producer that sells wines priced from $50-200 dollars but was dealt a hand of over-supply in 2009 and sold-off their excess barrels. There is certainly some Napa Valley ripeness at play in the bottle, but the Cameron Hughes wine-finishing team have blended in County fruit to round-out the palate and then returned it to barrel for further aging. The result is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc and 12% Malbec, that is incredibly easy to drink without feeling weak and feeble.

Ripe black cherry and blackberry fruit dominate the sweet nose and smooth palate. Some pepper and pencil shaving notes add complexity and help ground the fruit characters. The finish is long and balanced with lingering tartness that is very refreshing and mouth watering. Hold for 3+ years if you want, but there's no need as this excellent blend is ready to go now. Drink now-2015.

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Sandhill 2009 Small Lots Program Block 11 Chardonnay - 91pts

Sandhill 2009 Small Lots Program Block 11 Chardonnay (Oliver) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Limited. 2010 vintage now available here
Cost: $30
Alcohol: 13.5%
Production: 190 cases
Date Tasted: May 23rd, 2012

Tasting Notes: Born from the hot 2009 vintage and sourced from the Southern Okanagan where Chardonnay can become fat and one-dimensional, the Sandhill "Block 11" Chardonnay remains graceful in its delivery of ripe Orchard fruit with generous acid grounding the fullness on the palate. Peaches and cream with a touch of buttered popcorn and light oak flavours aplenty, yet the texture never feels heavy and offers a lively mouth feel with good complexity and balance. The finish is long and intense with satisfying tartness lingering amongst tropical fruit notes. A quality Chardonnay to be savoured slowly, on its own. Drink now-2015.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Fairview Cellars 2009 The Bear - 92+pts

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

Availability: Limited. Private wine shops and as a library release from winery
Cost: $34.90
Alcohol: 14.9%
Production: 400 cases
Date Tasted: May th, 2012

Tasting Notes: 2009 was a good year for Bordeaux varieties in the Okanagan with both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot turning in some ultra-ripe performances. These varieties take center stage in the 2009 edition of Fairview Cellars' signature blend "The Bear" with Merlot providing plenty of berry fruit aromas and flavours and the Cabernet contributing gorgeous dark fruit and licorice puree characters. The addition of oak and mocha notes from the barrel aging process and from the terroir (Golden Mile Bench) makes for a complex trifecta of sweet berry fruit, intense dark fruit preserves and serious savoury notes.

Lovers of wines with a refined bite (fine tannins and mouth-watering acidity) will adore this vintage of The Bear. As for development, the sky's the limit. I look forward mightily to re-tasting this wine in two year intervals over the next eight as it melds and evolves. Drink mid-2013-2020.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Eagle Bluff Estate 2010 Crooked Post Pinot Noir - 90+pts

Eagle Bluff Estate 2010 Crooked Post Pinot Noir (Okanagan Falls) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Contact winery directly here
Cost: $29.90
Alcohol: 13.1%
Production: 90 cases
Date Tasted: May 6th, 2012

Tasting Notes: Produced by Fairview Cellars, not as a "second label" or inferior brand, but rather with a singular identify, separate from Fairview which is best known for big red blends and crisp Sauvignon Blanc. The 2010 release takes an impressive leap forward from the previous two vintages toward a more classic, elegant and delicate, medium-bodied Pinot Noir presentation as winemaker Bill Eggert gets more familiar with the "heartbreak grape." No juice was bled off from the must to intensify the colour, resulting in a lighter Pinot in appearance, but one that delivers a full spectrum of flavours ranging from forest floor to juicy plum and raspberry fruit.

As the Eagle Bluff Estate property ramps-up production, Eggert will switch to estate fruit for this label, likely begining with the 2012 vintage. This lovely Pinot is well balanced and drinking beautifully now, yet, should hold for the next 3-4 years. Further development is likely, but, thus far unproven. Drink now-2016.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Mezzacorona 2011 Pinot Grigio - 84pts

Mezzacorona 2011 Pinot Grigio (Vigneti Delle Dolomiti) Trentino-Alto Adige - Italy

Availability: BCLDB and Private wine shops
Cost: $10-12
Alcohol: 12.5%
Date Tasted: May 17th, 2012

Tasting Notes: Pinot Grigio has found a home in Italy's most northern wine producing region and many of the world's best valued examples of the variety (same grape as Pinot Gris) originate from there. To be sure, there is nothing complex or terribly unique about this wine but is it a good drink with some decent typicity for the variety that will make for a happy addition to any sunny deck? Yes. Clean, crisp and loaded with citrus fruit zest and light mineral notes- well worth the ten $ it will cost to open. Enjoy this wine in its youth. Drink now- 2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Fairview Cellars 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon - 91-93pts

Fairview Cellars 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Golden Mile Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Limited. Private wine shops and library release
Cost: $39.90
Alcohol: 14.7%
Production: 160 cases
Date Tasted: May 18th, 2012

Tasting Notes: 2009 was a great year for the Fairview Cabernet vines. The hotter than average vintage ripened the thick skinned grape perfectly creating a dense, powerful and layered cool-climate Cabernet Sauvignon bursting with dark blue fruits and savoury black licorice on the seductive nose and intense palate. 18 months of French oak contact has left its mark and the wine entered the bottle needing more time to meld and mellow yet the refinement is there and hints of future development dance around on the textured palate. A touch of spice and cassis puree lingers on the long, mouth-watering finish.

BC Cabernet Sauvignon are rarely so ripe and complex. This 2009 edition of the Fairview Cellars release displays the unique regional balance of dense, full-bodied blue fruit and savoury minerality    without the jammy, sticky fruit notes of warmer-climate areas. Decant for several hours if you can't wait to open a bottle. Otherwise give it at least another year in the cellar. Drink late-2013-2019.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

On a side note: Look for a true "reserve" version of this wine to be released in late 2012 or early 2013 that has seen an extra 12 months in new French oak. A sample of this wine revealed the tannins to have rounded elegantly, making it more suitable for early consumption and likely an even longer life.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2011 Oldfield Series 2Bench White - 90pts

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2011 Oldfield Series 2Bench White (Golden Mile Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here, BCLDB and VQA stores
Cost: $22.99
Alcohol: 12.4%
Date Tasted: May 1st, 2012

Tasting Notes: Maybe you're relaxing on your patio or deck and desire a cool refreshment of the vino variety. Maybe you've grown tired of the cheap imports that, although are refreshing, leave you wanting something with more depth - something that asks more questions than it answers - something more challenging. Then this is the refreshing, nearly full-bodied white wine for you.

Both opulent, with rich orchard fruit by the bushel, and light with delicate, aromatic notes'a'plenty. Melon, grapefruit and minerals round out the flavour profile with a touch of lingering spice on the long finish. Just delicious! Drink now- 2014.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Fairview Cellars 2011 Sauvignon Blanc - 90pts

Fairview Cellars 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (Golden Mile Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Contact winery directly here
Cost: $19.90
Alcohol: 12.8%
Production: 600 cases
Date Tasted: May 10th, 2012

Tasting Notes: The Fairview Cellars' crisp and citrus-y Sauvignon Blanc, the only white wine produced at the Golden Mile Bench winery, sees its production more than triple for the 2011 vintage as fruit from a third local vineyard has now been added to the final blend. The multi-vineyard approach works for Sauvignon Blanc which layers the unique characteristics of each vineyard creating a final product more complex than its individual parts. An approach also employed to great success by Naramata Bench's La Frenz Winery in the production of their excellent 2011 Sauvignon Blanc.

In comparison, the La Frenz wine is rich with tropical fruit layers whereas the Fairview version is more austere and lean, yet both possess such purity of fruit that Sauvignon Blanc may be remembered as the white varietal of the vintage.

As total production for this refreshing and crisp wine jumps from 190 cases in 2010 to 600 in 2011, you should have an easier time sourcing it at VQA and private wine stores. Also, seafood restaurants would be wise to take on this wine as a buy-the-glass option to accompany any oyster dish. Buy this wine by the case and enjoy it all summer long, you will not be disappointed. Drink now-2014.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Bodegas Rafael Cambra 2010 El Bon Homme - 87pts

Bodegas Rafael Cambra 2010 El Bon Homme (Valencia) Spain

Availability: Limited in BC
Cost: $15-20
Alcohol: 14%
Production: 2083 cases
Date Tasted: May 2nd, 2012

Tasting Notes: This playful and cheerful blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Monastrel is paired well with its equally playful marketing and branding. Released with three different labels, this wine is presented as a nicely balanced combination of fruit-forward aromas and flavours with light earth and mineral notes adding complexity. Blackberry, stewed plum, peat, menthol and dried rock characters galore framed by strong, rough tannins. Good weight and length add a welcomed counterpoint of refinement to the in-your-face, ultra-ripe fruit. Mouth-watering acidity keeps the dry palate fresh and helps make the wine very food-friendly. Drink now-2014.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Fairview Cellars 2010 Two Hoots - 88-89pts

Fairview Cellars 2010 Two Hoots (Golden Mile Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Contact winery directly here
Cost: $24.90
Alcohol: 13.3%
Production: 600 cases
Date Tasted: May 6th, 2012

Tasting Notes: The 2010 version is a very different beast compared to recent blockbuster releases of Two Hoots with the 2008 and 2009 both presenting an initial "needs time in the cellar" reception to the first drops of the Cab-Merlot blend hitting your palate. Ripeness was achieved as the baked blackberry aroma filled nose and the expressive blue fruit and light oak palate can attest, but, the 2010's initial impression is milder and more subtle with a lighter bodied palate and less pronounced tannins. However, despite being more approachable in its youth, this wine would also benefit from a long rest in the bottle to fully evolve and meld, yet, can be drunk confidently right away if you can't wait. Drink late-2013-2017.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Fairview Cellars 2010 Cabernet Franc - 89-90pts

Fairview Cellars 2010 Cabernet Franc (Golden Mile Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Contact winery directly here
Cost: $26.90
Alcohol: 13%
Production: 280 cases
Date Tasted: May 6th, 2012

Tasting Notes: A cool, but long 2010 growing season has given birth to a low alcohol and nuanced Cabernet Franc that offers a warm, feminine nose of violets, mandarin peel, ripe blackberry, boysenberry and soft oak aromas. A smooth mouth feel awaits on the dry, medium-bodied palate that offers fine, mannered tannins and delicate layers of berry fruit and mineral flavours. The acid is mouth watering but well balanced and far from tart. Reminiscent of a Pinot Noir crossed with a Cabernet Sauvignon. Enjoy this wine on its own or with roasted red meats. Drink mid-2013-2017.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Stoneboat Vineyards 2010 Chorus - 89pts

Stoneboat Vineyards 2010 Chorus (Black Sage Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: VQA stores and select BCLDB stores
Cost: $17.90
Alcohol: 12.1%
Production: 1352 cases
Date Tasted: May 1st, 2012

Tasting Notes: For the 2010 vintage, Stoneboat's always popular white blend 'Chorus' comprises 24% Pinot Blanc, 23% Schonburger, 18% Muller Thurgau, 18% Kerner, 13% Pinot Gris and 4% Viognier. The tangy-sweetness of the Schonburger and the lush fruit of the Pinot Blanc lead the way with the remaining varieties adding complexity to the expressive nose and crisp, nearly-dry palate. Consumption of this beauty need not be restricted to sunny patios, but it is recommended. Pairs well with a fennel and Mandarin orange spinach salad. Drink now-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

La Frenz Winery 2011 Sauvignon Blanc - 90pts

La Frenz Winery 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (Naramata Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Available direct from the winery here. Or, private wine shops like Marquis Wine Cellars
Cost: $22
Alcohol: 12.5%
Date Tasted: April 24th, 2012

Tasting Notes: Year-in, year-out the La Frenz Sauvignon Blanc is a top medal contender in every competition it enters. The 2011 release may be the winery's best yet with a rich offering of citrus and tropical fruit flavours and aromas. The balance of residual sugar-to-rich fruit-to-crisp acidity is nearly perfect and makes for a lovely, mouth-watering mouth feel.

The 2011 edition has no Semillon added (a common blending partner for Sauvignon Blanc, usually added to increase body and depth of flavour) and was produced from a blend of fruit from five vineyards: all but one from the Naramata Bench. The result is surprisingly complex and lush and makes for an excellent sipping wine all by itself. However, if food is a must, then try a French tart of goats cheese and cherry tomatoes. Drink 2012-2015.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Cellar Besllum 2008 Montsant - 91+pts

Cellar Besllum 2008 Montsant (Montsant) Spain

Availability: BCLDB stores
Cost: $19.99
Alcohol: 14%
Date Tasted: March 24th, 2012

Tasting Notes: According to the label, 'Besllum' means "a ray of bright light coming through a small opening in a dark background." A beacon or a godly alert perhaps, I don't know, but what I do know is that the Montsant region of Spain is producing some amazing wines of late that won't make a huge dent in your pocketbook.

This offering, a blend of equal parts Carignan and Garnache, has plenty of character on the layered nose and smooth palate. Smoke, cured meats, strawberry, cranberry and leather make up an eclectic mix of aromas for the developed bouquet. The dry palate will open up beautifully when decanted properly, producing an array of flavours, similar to the nose, with added bitter chocolate, ripe red fruit and savoury spice notes. The tannins are fine and well balanced with good acidity resulting in a silky texture and long finish. Enjoy this wine on its own or with a spiced-up Sunday roast. Drink 2012-2016.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012