Chateau Des Charmes 2009 Vidal Icewine - 90pts

Chateau Des Charmes 2009 Vidal Icewine (Niagara-On-The-Lake) Niagara Peninsula - Ontario

Availability: Direct from the winery here and LCBO stores
Cost: $25.95 (200ml), $44.95 (375ml)
Alcohol: 9.5%
Production: 5308 cases
Date Tasted: December 20th, 2013

Tasting Notes:
At 4 years of age this Vidal icewine has developed a yellow-gold hue and some lip smacking caramel characters to go with the classic, honeyed orchard fruit flavours on the maturing palate. A nice vein of citrus acidity keeps the intense sweetness (mostly) grounded. Serve chilled, in the smallest, tulip shaped glasses you can get your hands on as you will only need a splash of this intense nectar to appreciate the craft and quality on offer. Drink now-2017+.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Bench 1775 Winery 2011 Whistler Sauvignon Blanc Icewine - 90pts

Bench 1775 Winery 2011 Whistler Sauvignon Blanc Icewine (Naramata Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from the winery here
Cost: $28.90 (200ml)
Alcohol: 12.3%
Date Tasted: December 20th, 2013

Tasting Notes: Produced under Bench 1775's 'Whistler' brand, this tasty 100% Sauvignon Blanc icewine delivers an impressive punch of concentrated, honey crisp apples on the serene, sweet-smelling nose and on the well-balanced, intense palate. The sticky, pineapple upside-down cake and candied-peach flavours are beautifully managed with impressive, green apple acidity keeping the gooey texture fresh and mouth-watering. The finish is long, balanced and memorable. Best enjoyed on its own or with a slice of not-too-sweet apple pie topped with old Cheddar cheese. Drink now-2016+.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Terra Andina 2012 'Fresh' Sauvignon Blanc - 87pts

Terra Andina 2012 'Fresh' Sauvignon Blanc (D.O. Central Valley) Chile

: BCLDB Stores
Cost: $16
Alcohol: 13.5%
Date Tasted: December 19th, 2013

Tasting Notes: A quiet, muted nose of grapefruit and granny smith apples begins this 'Fresh' Sauvignon Blanc from Chile's Central Valley that lives up to its name on the crisp, tangy and watery palate where citrus fruit and green pepper flavours dominate. A touch of residual sugar helps balance the tangy, citrus acidity through to the moderate, mouth-watering finish. 
Drink now-2014.

  - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2012 Oldfield Series Kerner Icewine - 88pts

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2012 Oldfield Series Kerner Icewine (Golden Mile Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here and VQA stores
Cost: $57.99 (375ml)
Alcohol: 10.5%

Production: 90 cases
Date Tasted: December 12th, 2013

Tasting Notes: Delivers what we all expect from BC Icewine with intense, sweet, baked fruit on the nose and palate. Apple cider, apricot, peach and lime fruit galore with light mineral and nut characters. Texture is more of the 2% variety than the homo milk mouth feel that other Icewines offer, yet the balance is good and the finish is long. Drink 2013-2017+.

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

On a side note: With the release of the 2012 edition of their Kerner Icewine, Tinhorn Creek now has their whole portfolio sealed with screw caps with the final hold-out being their 375ml icewine bottle that took a few years to procure

Terra Andina 2012 'Rich' Malbec - 86pts

Terra Andina 2012 'Rich' Malbec (Mendoza) Argentina

: BCLDB Stores
Cost: $16
Alcohol: 14%
Date Tasted: October 20th, 2013

Tasting Notes: Lives up to its name on the nose and palate with rich berry fruit and MLF characters, while warm oak and light floral notes add depth. The palate starts thick and ripe with intense, ripe berry fruit and tangy acidity that will appeal to the masses, but it lacks structure and finishes short. Should make for a tasty, affordable party wine where you might not have the need for meaty tannins and will make a good pairing for a wide variety of appetizers. Drink now-2013.

  - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Xavier Vins 2010 Gigondas - 88pts

Xavier Vins 2010 Gigondas (Southern Rhone) France

Availability: Limited. Private wine shops
Cost: $32-36
Alcohol: 14.5%
Date Tasted: December 7th, 2013

Tasting Notes: Overall, great continuity from the excellent 2009 edition is on offer here, though, the intensity on the nose and palate is simply dialled down, resulting in a paler version of the spicy garrigue, herbs cedar and dried berry fruit Gigondas blend. Masculine from beginning to end with mineral notes throughout and meaty, well-structured tannins. Should hold well for another 3-4 years.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

SpierHead Winery 2012 Gentleman Farmer Vineyard Pinot Noir - 88pts

SpierHead Winery 2012 Gentleman Farmer Vineyard Pinot Noir (East Kelowna) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Direct from winery here and VQA stores
Cost: $30
Alcohol: 12.8%
Production: 97 cases
Date Tasted: December 7th, 2013

Tasting Notes
A dark ruby-hued, single-vineyard Pinot Noir from East Kelowna's SpierHead Winery offers a crowd-pleasing blend of cherry-cola, plum and sweet'n'spicy oak aromas on the moderately intense nose. The medium-bodied, dry palate follows with similar flavours and added light earth and forest floor notes, enhancing the complexity of the otherwise, juicy, fruit-forward expression of Pinot Noir. Its moderate tannins and good acidity make it a great match for a wide variety of medium cheeses and fowl entrées like duck or roasted turkey. Drink now-2016.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Top 25 Rated Wines of 2013

The following wines received the 25 highest scores by reviewer Liam Carrier during the calendar year of 2013. Release date was not considered with some wines sourced from the cellar and at special tasting events. For the list of our Top 25 Wines of 2013, where more than simply the tasting score is considered, please visit the main site.


Silverback Vineyards 2011 Reserve Syrah - 99pts
Violets, tar, cherry, licorice and citrus characters galore. Glaetzer's Amon-Ra springs to mind but with more concentration and length, if that is even conceivable. Bold, rich and absolutely gorgeous, this inky-purple Syrah is sure to become a cult classic.
Full Review


Silverback Vineyards 2010 Syrah - 95pts
Pulls you into its web at first sniff with layers of dark fruit, violets, tar, licorice, vanilla, subtle allspice and vibrant citrus notes. An excellent prelude to the concentrated palate that offers superb acidity and balance with fine tannins and long-lasting, spicy dark fruit flavours that role around your mouth with youthful abandon.
Full Review

Silverback Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay - 94+pts
Fans of Penfold's Yattarna Chardonnay should take note as the Silverback matches the elegance and refinement of the "white Grange" at roughly half the price. Built to age with further development a guarantee. Sky's the limit. 
Full Review

Silverback Vineyards 2010 Référence - 94+pts

Classic Meritage berry fruit and savoury, gun powder and Christmas cake spice flavours add complexity to the finely tuned oak treatment and proprietary yeast program that Herrold employs. Ultra fine tannins and perfect acidity levels create a wine for enjoying in its youth or for aging 15+ years.
Full Review

Painted Rock Estate Winery 2010 Red Icon - 93-94pts
A seductive beast that, despite its "cool vintage" provenance, is altogether, big, brawny and supremely delicate. So well balanced and memorable - a true icon and destined to become the next must-have, collectible cult wine of BC. 
Full Review


Stag's Hollow Winery 2010 Cachet No. 03 - 93+pts
The nose is pure delight with loads of sweet, smoky fruit aromas and fragrant perfume notes; a truly sexy developing bouquet. The palate is fluid, medium-plus bodied, yet intense and powerful with layers of ripe plum and blackberry fruit mixed with exotic spices and savoury characters. The finish is long and balanced and beckons your continued attention.
Full Review

Meyer Family Vineyards 2011 Micro Cuvée Chardonnay - 93+pts
Both intense and restrained on the baked caramelized apple nose and leesy, orchard fruit and smoky palate. Boasting excellent acidity and a long, never-ending finish with lingering mineral and citrus flavours.
Full Review

Antinori 2009 Tignarello - 93pts

This blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc delivers elegance in a glass with red fruit, cedar, spice box and anise aromas and flavours. Shows great restraint in its intensity on the smooth-textured palate delivering finesse and depth without the in-your-face concentration of its over-extracted peers.
Full Review

Painted Rock Estate Winery 2012 Chardonnay - 93pts

Textured and concentrated with lush tropical, juicy melon, caramel and stonefruit characters supported by a vibrant backbone of citrus acidity and a long balanced finish of tangy, green apple, tangerine and brioche flavours. Effortless compatibility of all elements.
Full Review

Tolaini 2007 Valdisanti - 92-93pts
Warm rocks, toasted oak and sweet prune notes resonate from the feminine and floral nose of this supremely enjoyable and lovably complex blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc. Added potpourri, blackberry, vanilla and anise aromas make the quietly intense, developed bouquet irresistible.
Full Review

Upper Bench Estate Winery 2011 Merlot - 90-91pts

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

Availability: Direct from the winery here
Cost: $29
Alcohol: 14.7%
Production: 118 cases
Date Tasted: December 4th, 2013

Tasting Notes: A very impressive Merlot produced in difficult vintage conditions thanks to a 2011 growing season that never saw the persistent heat the Bordeaux varieties crave when trying to ripen. However, the season was saved by longer, relatively mild Fall which rewarded disciplined vineyards who reduced their crop to allow the remaining fruit to properly ripen. 

And ripen this Merlot did! No signs of green tannins here. Just pure, intense, balanced, dark berry fruit supported by corner-of-the-mouth curling savoury notes of dark chocolate, leather, vanilla-mocha and light baking spice. Rich, elegant and smooth with just the right amount of tannic grip on the palate. Further development likely after another 1-2 years of bottle age, though, the wine is tasting beautifully today. Drink 2013-2016.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Backyard Vineyards N/V Blanc De Noir Brut - 87pts

Backyard Vineyards N/V Blanc De Noir Brut (Okanagan Valley) - BC

: Direct from winery here and VQA stores
Cost: $22.99
Alcohol: 11.2%
Date Tasted: December 5th, 2013

Tasting Notes: Backyard Vineyards' Blanc De Noir is a traditional example of a sparkling wine made from 100% Pinot Noir offering a light, yellow-gold hue and fat, persistent bubbles. On the nose you'll find an array of aromas ranging from sweet citrus fruit to fresh brioche with light nutty notes and a touch of brine.

The palate offers good continuity with a creamy, mousse mouth feel and crisp acidity which leaves the finish dry and mineral-y - true to the Brut designation. A solid, no-nonsense bubbly for Holiday entertaining or as a cool refreshment in the height of Summer's heat. Drink now-2016.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Chateau Des Charmes 2010 Rosé Sparkling Wine - 89pts

Chateau Des Charmes 2010 Rosé Sparkling Wine (Niagara-on-The-Lake) Niagara Peninsula - Ontario

Availability: Direct from the winery here and LCBO stores
Cost: $28.95
Alcohol: 12%
Production: 252 cases
Date Tasted: December 3rd, 2013

Tasting Notes: A 
traditional method rosé, with a brilliant pink hue and fine, persistent bubbles, made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes offering off-dry levels of residual sugar and loads of strawberry, cherry, honeydew and light mineral flavours. Two years of lees contact prior to disgorgement has contributed light yeast and brioche notes helping to balance the prominent red fruit sweetness. The finish is crisp and satisfying. Drink now-2015+.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Fairview Cellars 2010 The Bear - 91pts

Fairview Cellars 2010 The Bear (Golden Mile Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Limited. Private wine shops and as a library release from winery
Cost: $34.90
Alcohol: 13.1%
Production: 300 cases
Date Tasted: December 2nd, 2013

Tasting Notes: A year on from its release in the Fall of 2012, the 2010 edition of Fairview Cellars' signature Meritage blend, The Bear, is already ageing well, rounding its edges with an enriched texture thanks to further integration of its tannins and dark berry characters. Despite its cool vintage pedigree, this blend of all 5 primary Bordeaux varietals boasts ripe blackberry, cassis and plum fruit on both the nose and palate with Fairview's signature oak program influenced notes adding depth and complexity. 

Drinking well now, though, another 6 months or more will do nicely. Drink 2014-2018.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Cassini Cellars 2010 The Godfather - 90+pts

Cassini Cellars 2010 The Godfather (Golden Mile Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC

Availability: Contact the winery direct here
Cost: $55
Alcohol: 14.5%

Production: 150 cases
Date Tasted: November 30th, 2013

Tasting Notes: The Icon Wine market, generally speaking, represents the very best a winery has to offer by way of fruit and barrel selection and a hefty price tag tends to accompany the finished wine due, in part, to its high expense to produce and to identify its exclusivity. 
The Godfather marks Cassini Cellars' entry into this price point and performs admirably with an age-worthy, handsomely labelled blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 16% Cabernet France and 15% Syrah delivering a nice combination of New World fruit and Old World charm.

On the nose, intense black cherry, cassis and blackberry fruit aromas are enveloped by toasted French oak, sweet vanilla extract and masculine mineral notes. The mouth watering, (very) dry palate skews Bordeaux with bold, stony tannins framing the dark fruit and savoury flavours where one gets hints of coffee grinds, dark chocolate and, again, French oak. Menthol and a variety of spices linger on the moderate-plus finish.

The Godfather calls for the most manly of dinner companions, a fine cut of barely grilled red meat. Open now with a lengthy decant, though, another year of bottle age is recommended. Drink early-2015-2018+.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

Cassini Cellars 2011 Cabernet Franc - 89pts

Cassini Cellars 2011 Cabernet Franc (Golden Mile Bench) Okanagan Valley - BC 

Availability: Direct from the winery here 
Cost: $29
Alcohol: 13.1%

Production: 400 cases
Date Tasted: November 29th, 2013

Tasting Notes: Cassini's Cabernet Franc opens with a perfumed, instantly enjoyable nose of blackberry, black plum, violet and Christmas cake aromas. Deeper, oak ageing influenced notes bloom after a long decant or time in your glass, delivering excellent complexity, complimenting the profile of fruit'n'spice.

The dry palate that follows is medium bodied with similar fruit and savoury flavours offering excellent continuity from the nose. The tannic structure is reserved and fine grained contributing to the fluidity of the texture, though, a nice hit of citrus acid and cooking spices on the finish leave a mouth watering, lasting impression. Ready to go now with several years of enjoyment ahead. Drink now-2016.
 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013