Chateau Des Charmes 2009 Rosé Sparkling Wine - 89pts

Chateau Des Charmes 2009 Rosé Sparkling Wine (Niagara-on-The-Lake) Niagara Peninsula - Ontario

Availability: Direct from the winery here and LCBO stores
Cost: $28.95
Alcohol: 13%
Production: 249 cases
Date Tasted: November 28th, 2012

Tasting Notes: This holiday season when you're thinking bubbles you'll want to consider this crowd-pleasing rosé from Chateau Des Charmes made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Produced in the traditional method with an off-dry palate bursting with cran-apple, cherry and nice yeast flavours all well balanced by mouth-watering acidity keeping the texture vibrant and refreshing. Enjoy on its own or serve as a warm-up wine with light appetizers for your festive seasonal feast. Drink now-2014.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Painted Rock Estate Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon - 91pts

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

Availability: Contact winery here
Cost: $40
Alcohol: 14.5%
Date Tasted: November 26th, 2012

Tasting Notes: The winemaking team at Painted Rock know how to construct the bouquet of their wines using carefully attuned vineyard practices and a thoughtful (and expensive) oak program. The resulting wines express varietal, terroir and vintage characteristics wrapped lovingly in the sweet, vanilla-spice embrace of French oak. Divine.

The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is no different, reflecting the cooler ripening season with its menthol-herbal notes and classic Cabernet aromas of cassis, blackberry and cola. Sweet black licorice, cocoa powder and light tobacco aromas add complexity while slate and wet stone notes add a sense of place.

The youthful palate is not quite as complex as the nose with a leaner texture than the ultra-ripe 2009 version, yet, the balance, length and depth remain well executed and an absolute pleasure to enjoy. Serve this beauty with an assortment of fine, high-cocoa chocolate, a notebook and a Thesaurus opened to the page featuring synonyms for delicious. Drink 2012-2017.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Generation Seven Wines 2012 Nouveau - 87pts

Generation Seven Wines 2012 Nouveau (Niagara-On-The-Lake) Niagara Peninsula - Ontario

Availability: Direct from Chateau Des Charmes here
Cost: $11.95 (Ontario)
Alcohol: 13%
Date Tasted: November 22nd, 2012

Tasting Notes: Produced as an ode to Beaujolais Nouveau, this charming Gamay Noir from Chateau Des Charmes' 2nd label, Generation Seven, is immediately engaging when you get your first sniff of the vibrant raspberry jam and maraschino cherry aromas on the playful nose. Fruity and bright on the ultra-youthful, low-tannin palate, staying true to the varietal with nice spice and a hint of cured meat flavours beneath the prominent red fruit. A wine to be enjoyed in its youth, by the case throughout the holiday season - incredible value! Drink 2012-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Painted Rock Estate Winery 2011 Chardonnay - 93pts

Painted Rock Estate Winery 2011 Chardonnay (Skaha Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here and private wine shops
Cost: $30
Alcohol: 14.3%
Date Tasted: November 21st, 2012
Winner: 2012 Icon Wine of the Year

Tasting Notes: This beautiful, bar-setting Chardonnay effortlessly combines the inherent crispness and pure fruit expression of an un-oaked example with the elegant texture and rich body derived from 100% new French Oak. Intense and concentrated with lush, tropical, melon and stonefruit characters supported by a vibrant backbone of citrus acidity and a long, long, balanced finish of tangy, green apple, tangerine and brioche flavours.

Light caramel, vanilla spice and oak notes add complexity and depth to the sublime palate which avoids the perils of over-oaked, butter-bomb Chardonnay by limiting the secondary malolactic fermentation to only 20% of the barrels used in the final blend and by integrating the oak influence so completely, you barely know it's there.
Ready to be enjoyed today, yet should hold for many years without the fear of spoilage thanks to the use of a screw-cap enclosure. Drink 2012-2016+
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

SpierHead Winery 2010 Vanguard - 88pts

SpierHead Winery 2010 Vanguard (East Kelowna) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here and VQA stores
Cost: $29.90
Alcohol: 13.9%
Production: 265 cases
Date Tasted: November 14th, 2012

Tasting Notes: This is the winery's flagship release, a New World ode to Bordeaux with a final blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc offering a lovely, impressively ripe nose of cassis, blackberry, sweet pepper, spearmint and light, toasted oak aromas. The palate that follows doesn't match the diversity of the nose but does keep to the house style of a restraint, elegant presentation, though, a little more tannin and intensity would be welcomed. Lively acidity, medium tannins and a good balance of dark fruit, charred oak and lingering spice on the finish makes the Vanguard an excellent match for prime rib with all the fixin's. Another 6 months of bottle age is prudent here but don't hold beyond 4 or 5 more years. Drink 2013-2015.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

SpierHead Winery 2010 Pursuit - 89pts

SpierHead Winery 2010 Pursuit (East Kelowna) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here and VQA stores
Cost: $21.90
Alcohol: 14%
Production: 375 cases
Date Tasted: November 10th, 2012

Tasting Notes: This is a new wine for East Kelowna's SpierHead Winery which sees a second Bordeaux inspired blend added to its portfolio. An assemblage of 57% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Cabernet Franc, the Pursuit seems to be after a pleasing balance of juicy, dark berry fruit and meaty, menthol cigarette flavours supported by a savoury spine of charred oak and fresh acidity. Lively, relatively light and engaging, this wine fulfills its aim admirably. Will hold for a few years, but best enjoyed in its youth as you're waiting for the winery's slightly more tannic and full(er)-bodied Vanguard to mature. Drink 2012-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Aces Okanagan Estate Winery 2009 Seven Deuce Red - 88pts

Aces Okanagan Estate Winery 2009 Seven Deuce (Osoyoos) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here and VQA stores
Cost: $19
Alcohol: 13.7%
Date Tasted: November 11th, 2012

Tasting Notes: A solid follow-up to the 2008 vintage with a little more complexity on the nose and slightly rounder tannins on the palate. Listed as a Merlot-Shiraz-Cabernet blend, without the percentages of each, the wine exudes the dark berry and cherry characters of Merlot and Shiraz while cool-climate Cabernet grapes contribute notes of dark chocolate and mixed herbs. The overall flavour profile is well supported by its oak treatment (16 months in barrel) and 3 years of age has mellowed the tannins nicely leaving an easy-drinking, red-meat loving blend for any occasion. Drink 2012-2014.
 -  Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2011 Oldfield Series Kerner Icewine - 89-90pts

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2011 Oldfield Series Kerner Icewine (Golden Mile Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here and VQA stores
Cost: $29.99 (200ml)
Alcohol: 13.3%
Date Tasted: November 8th, 2012

Tasting Notes: A remarkably consistent product from Tinhorn that boasts apricot, apple cider, lime and canned peach aromas on the gentle nose and similar flavours on the sweet and tangy palate. It's the juxtaposition of the sugary, fruit puree syrup and mouth-watering acid that makes for the uniquely icewine experience: an intense, lively texture, worth the price of admission. Palate also offers light nut flavours making this year's edition a great pairing for pecan pie or similar desserts. Put this icewine away for a few years and reap the benefits of a richer and more tropical palate. Drink 2012-2017+.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Montaigne 2011 Old Vines Chardonnay - 90+pts

Montaigne 2011 Old Vines Chardonnay (Osoyoos) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Everything Wine. Direct from winery here
Cost: $40-45
Alcohol: 13%
Date Tasted: November 5th, 2012

Tasting Notes: Up front disclosure, this is not a Chardonnay for everyone. It is vastly different from anything else being made in BC today with more in common with still Champagne than a traditional oaked Chardonnay. Bright, dry, but not sharp, with prominent, yeast-y brioche aromas and flavours that one normally associates with the famous French export. Buttery with mountains of melon, pear and mineral characters with a susarrus of controlled oxidation notes - there is a lot going on here.

Produced from single-vineyard sourced fruit from an Osoyoos vineyard by one of the partners in The Alto Wine Group custom crush facility in Okanagan Falls. This micro-label Chardonnay will likely show-up on restaurant wine lists around BC who are always seeking something unique and food friendly - this wine checks both boxes. Drink 2012-2016+.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Fort Berens Estate Winery 2010 Meritage - 90pts

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

Availability: Direct from winery here and VQA stores
Cost: $26.99
Alcohol: 14.5%
Production: 475 cases
Date Tasted: November 1st, 2012

Tasting Notes: What do you do when nature takes away heat units throughout a cool 2010 Summer and Fall? Well, for starters, you don't try and make the same wine you made the previous year when Summer heat waves sent brix levels soaring and delivered ripe, ripe tannins. You try and make the best wine you can with what nature provided and focus on the unique qualities of the vintage. For 2010, that was a longer than normal harvest period with mild Fall conditions allowing berries to hang on the vine into November, in some parts, contributing complex, savoury aromas and flavours like clove, pepper, apple seed and steely minerality. This blend of 65% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc has plenty of classic dark berry and plum characters to compliment the austere elements making the 2010 Meritage is an intriguing contrast to the winery's ripe 2009 edition, and, equally impressive. Drink 2012-2016.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012