Stratus Vineyards 2009 Red - 90+pts

Stratus Vineyards 2009 Red (Niagara-On-The-Lake) Niagara Peninsula - Ontario

Availability: Not yet released. Direct from winery here and select LCBO stores
Cost: $44
Alcohol: 13%
Date Tasted: December 22nd, 2012

Tasting Notes: Lean, layered and smoky, the 2009 edition of the Stratus Vineyards' signature blend is comprised of 43% Cabernet Franc, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Syrah, 13% Petit Verdot, 4% Tannat and 1% Merlot. An altogether different wine than previous vintages yet recognizable by its impressive use of each varietal component. The Cabernets provide structure and finesse while the trio of Syrah, Petit Verdot and Tannat provide ample spicy notes on both the intriguing nose and smoke-infused, medium-bodied palate. This is not a "big red" blend but rather a nuanced wine offering layers of plum, blackberry, coffee grinds, green pepper and light tobacco characters.

May not hold and evolve quite like the amazing 2007 and 2005 vintages, though, mid-term aging and development should be expected. Drink 2014-2018.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

On a side note: This youthful wine has thus far only been released to purchasers of "futures" which the winery makes available each year for their signature white and red blends.

Calliope Wines 2011 Riesling - 85pts

Calliope Wines 2011 Riesling (Okanagan Valley) BC

Availability: Direct from the winery here and VQA stores
Cost: $12-14
Alcohol: 13%
Date Tasted: December 20th, 2012

Tasting Notes: Produced by Burrowing Owl, Calliope Wines offer a budget-wise alternative to the cult-favourite wines produced at the iconic South Okanagan winery. This easy-drinking Riesling combines an off-dry, effervescent entry of green apple and lime margarita flavours with a tart, mineral, crisp finish with a hint of tangerine. Drink 2012-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Tantalus Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir - 87-89pts

Tantalus Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir (East Kelowna) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here and select VQA stores
Cost: $29.90
Alcohol: 13.4%
Production: 550 cases
Date Tasted: September 17th, 2012

Tasting Notes: This single-vineyard Pinot Noir strives to express terroir first and foremost and tends to succeed every year with a consistent profile of blended bright fruits and earth notes on the nose followed by a nicely layered, albeit very dry palate of raspberry, spice, mushroom and mineral flavours. Balance is a bit sharp and austere, though more time in the bottle should foster further cohesion. Drink mid-2013-2016.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Arrowleaf Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir - 87pts

Arrowleaf Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir (Lake Country) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from the winery here
Cost: $17.99
Alcohol: 13%
Production: 965 cases
Date Tasted: September 17th, 2012

Tasting Notes: A classic and unpretentious Pinot Noir offering a delicate nose of cherry-cola aromas followed by an easy-drinking, light-bodied palate of bright red fruits, smooth, soft tannins and light forest floor flavours. Straight-forward Pinot but no element is out of place or out of sync. Supremely well-priced for the quality on offer. Early drinking recommended. Drink 2012-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Upper Bench Estate Winery 2011 Chardonnay - 86pts

Upper Bench Estate Winery 2011 Chardonnay (Naramata Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from the winery here
Cost: $24.90
Alcohol: 13.4%
Production: 324 cases
Date Tasted: December 17th, 2012

Tasting Notes: Opens with attractive aromas of apple, white peach, vanilla bean and a hint of caramel. The palate that follows, though quite intense and lively, finds its ratio of fruit-to-oak leaning too far towards oak who's effect is not subdued by the medium-ish weighted body and watery texture. The finish is moderate with lingering spice and lime rind notes. Pair with citrus-dressed fish. Drink 2012-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Black Hills Estate Winery 2010 Nota Bene - 91-92pts

Black Hills Estate Winery 2010 Nota Bene (Black Sage Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Sold out at the winery. Some VQA and private wine shops have it in stock
Cost: $54-60
Alcohol: 14%
Date Tasted: September 21st, 2012

Tasting Notes: A blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc, all sourced from the winery's home vineyard on Black Sage road, the 2010 Nota Bene embraces the cool weather of the vintage offering more herbal characters than in previous years which add a nice expression of time and place to the traditional profile of youthful and brooding dark berry fruit.

The highest ever percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the final blend has yielded a deep and seductive nose of black currant, blackberries, clove, fresh tobacco leaf and ripe, spicy plums. The full-bodied palate that follows may not be as dense as the 2009 vintage, but the depth is impressive and the balanced finish goes on and on with lovely, lingering flavours of mocha and dark fruit puree. Will develop further over the next 3-4 years. Drink 2013-2017.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Also see:
10 Years of Nota Bene

Upper Bench Estate Winery 2011 Riesling - 88+pts

Upper Bench Estate Winery 2011 Riesling (Naramata Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from the winery here
Cost: $21.90
Alcohol: 13.5%
Production: 112 cases
Date Tasted: December 13th, 2012

Tasting Notes: A well-balanced Riesling with a juicy entry of tangerine, kiwi, honeydew and pear fruit flavours that finishes dry due to the prominent, yet, appropriate level of lemon/lime acid. The nose is subtle and closed when chilled but does open up to reveal gentle, engaging aromas of white peach, gooseberry and light kerosene when the wine approaches room temperature - assuming you let it sit in your glass long enough - a tall order. Look for more tropical notes to appear with further aging, though approachable and very tasty today. Drink 2012-2016.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Osoyoos Larose 2009 Petales d'Osoyoos - 90+pts

Osoyoos Larose 2009 Petales d'Osoyoos (Osoyoos Lake) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Widely available in BCLDB stores
Cost: $25
Alcohol: 13.5%
Date Tasted: September 14th, 2012

Tasting Notes: The best Petales since 2006 with a complex profile of dark fruit, toasted oak, sweet anise, and light graphite aromas and flavours. The palate offers well structured, ripe tannins and starts with a very dry, gripping texture that succumbs nicely to the juicy fruit flavours resulting in a balanced wine with a long, decently refined finish. May develop further with mid-range aging possibilities. Drink 2013-2015.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2010

Upper Bench Estate Winery 2011 Pinot Gris - 89pts

Upper Bench Estate Winery 2011 Pinot Gris (Naramata Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from the winery here
Cost: $19.90
Alcohol: 13.6%
Production: 284 cases
Date Tasted: December 11th, 2012

Tasting Notes: A taut, tart, tasty Pinot Gris produced in the Grigio style with no oak contact, no residual sugar and loads of fresh acidity. Think Van Westen Vineyards' Vino Grigio with a hint of lees influence on the nose. Also present are pear, apricot, melon and river stone aromas  followed by a vibrant, intense palate with mineral, honeydew, citrus fruit and sharp pineapple flavours.

Definitely a Pinot Gris that offers a nice contrast to the oaked, full-bodied and nearly off-dry versions that have been popular in BC for years. The Upper Bench release is crisp, focused and supremely refreshing. Drink 2012-2014.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Sumac Ridge Estate Winery 2011 Private Reserve Gewurztraminer - 85pts

Sumac Ridge Estate Winery 2011 Private Reserve Gewurztraminer (Summerland) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: BCLDB and BC VQA Stores
Cost: $13-15
Alcohol: 12.5%
Date Tasted: December 4th, 2012

Tasting Notes: Muted aromatics, light mineral and white pear aromas on the nose. Palate boasts a robust, yet, hollow palate with pear, lychee, honeydew and spice box flavours interrupted by lemon/lime acidity and a short, peppery finish. Decently balanced without too much residual sugar and a good match for extremely spicy fare or rich sushi dishes, but not a Goo to stand on its own. Drink 2012-2013.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

On a side note: Look for a new, modernized label from Sumac Ridge on some bottles of the 2011 vintage (not pictured). The new look greatly improves on the current, outdated labels. Now only if they would drop the ridiculous "Private Reserve" statement from the name...

Cellar Can Blau 2008 Montsant - 90pts

Cellar Can Blau 2008 Montsant (Montsant DO) Tarragona - Spain

Availability: BCLDB stores
Cost: $22-24
Alcohol: 14%
Date Tasted: December 1st, 2012

Tasting Notes: A round, gentle and developed bouquet of dried cherries, bruised plum, smoked meats, lightly toasted oak and spice box aromas. Mature, to be sure, yet still fruity and vibrant - on the similarly flavoured palate as well. Fine, smooth tannins have mellowed nicely leaving a well structured, medium-bodied wine that showcases its natural balance of fruit and savoury characters. Mouth watering acidity keeps the moderate finish refreshing

A blend of 40% Mazuelo (Carrignan), 40% Syrah and 20% Garnacha (Grenache), this wine is ready to be enjoyed now and should hold for another 2-3 years. As with its tasty cousin from Cellar Besllum, pair it with your Sunday roast or enjoy it on its own. Drink 2012-2015.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2012

Top 25 Rated Wines of 2012

The following wines received the 25 highest scores by reviewer Liam Carrier during the calendar year of 2012. Release date was not considered with some wines from the cellar and special tasting events. For the list of our Top 25 Wines of 2012, where more than simply the tasting score is considered, please visit the main site.

Paul Hobbs Winery 2009 Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard - 95-97pts
Dense, complex and focused to the nth degree, this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon single vineyard release nears perfection. A special occasion wine for the celebration you're expecting sometime in 2014 when this wine will start to come into its own.
Icon Score

Mollydooker Wines 2009 Velvet Glove 95-96pts
For a truly iconic and cellar worthy wine, the Velvet Glove Shiraz is surprisingly approachable in its youth. The massive concentration is so well refined and balanced that just a drop on your tongue will express enough character for you to remember that moment forever.
Icon Score

2005 Château Mouton-Rothschild - 95+pts
Mouton lives up to its mythical reputation in an exceptional Medoc vintage that sees the best wines lasting 30-40 years or longer. Dense and smoky with layers of dark fruit, tobacco, oak, dried herbs, licorice, vanilla, mint and cedar characters galore.
Icon Score

Silverback Vineyards 2010 Référence - 94-97pts
From a barrel sample. A blend of 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec with concentrated-yet-gentle and endlessly-layered graphite and dark fruit flavour profile.
Icon Score

Silverback Vineyards 2010 Syrah - 94-96pts
From a barrel sample. A dark, intense ruby coloured Syrah with a medium purple rim and a lovely sheen. Pulls you into its web at first sniff with layers of dark fruit, violets, tar, licorice, vanilla, subtle allspice and vibrant citrus notes.
Icon Score

Mollydooker Wines 2009 Carnival of Love - 94-95pts
When compared to the winery's iconic Velvet Glove, the Carnival of Love shiraz is a bit more attention seeking and blatantly superb. The Avis rental cars of elite level Shiraz - it tries a little harder.
Icon Score

LaStella 2009 La Sophia - 93+pts
A stunning Cabernet Sauvignon that grips your attention from the first sniff of sweet, concentrated dark berry fruit and deep licorice aromas.
Icon Score

Le Clos Jordanne Estate Wines 2007 Le Grand Clos - 93+pts
It's Canada's most expensive Pinot Noir, but is it Canada's best? There's an argument for 'yes' with its sublime nose of cherry, plum, pepper, cinnamon and popcorn kernel aromas and with its memorable, well balanced and fine tannin filled palate of kirsch, cherry and magic marker flavours.
Icon Score

Painted Rock Estate Winery 2011 Chardonnay - 93pts
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.
Icon Score

Viña Montes 2007 Montes Folly - 93pts
The acid is up and the richness on the palate is down when compared to the utterly stunning 2006 release, yet the wine remains the champion of all South American Syrah and the wine to gauge against.
Icon Score