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Anthony Gismondi on Wine
Tasting Notes

Tastings: January 2021

19 January 2021

Rieslingfreak No. 1 Grounds of Grandeurtext
93PTS

Rieslingfreak No. 1 Grounds of Grandeur 2017

Clare Valley, South Australia, AustraliaNo. 1 Grounds of Grandeur is proper riesling freak John Hughes' version of a GG, and is only made in exceptional vintages. Only 12 bottles of 2017 are coming to Western Canada, as it's in such limited supply. From a single vineyard grown in Clare Valley's White Hutt, this was harvested and chilled for 48 hours before whole bunch pressing for only the free run juice. This was settled and native fermented in 1500L barrel, where it is held for a year prior to bottling. Finely grippy and textural with lime pith, green apple, pear skin streaking across a juicy, vibrant, taut, saline palate. Savoury and dry, this haunts with a lingering finish.Prices: BC 100.00 Producer: Rieslingfreak
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Rieslingfreak No. 99text
90PTS

Rieslingfreak No. 99 2019

Clare Valley, South Australia, AustraliaNo.99 is an experimental wine for true riesling freak John Hughes. This was fermented with wild 'exotic' yeast strains for maximum funk and texture, prior to resting in large format oak for 12 months. Dry and earth-driven, with broken stones, flax bedding layers of lime sherbet, bright lemon curd, pear skin, cold cream, finishing with a bitter lime twist on the dry finish. Certainly funky, and a more severe edged wine for those looking for the style.Prices: BC 44.00 Producer: Rieslingfreak
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Rieslingfreak No. 3 Clare Valleytext
91PTS

Rieslingfreak No. 3 Clare Valley 2020

Clare Valley, South Australia, AustraliaNo 3 Riesling comes from John Hughes' family vineyard in White Hutt, and its heavy red clay soils. The 2020 vintage saw an 80% reduced yield here, so this is quite intense, and in very short supply. Perfumed lime, lemon sherbet, cold cream, mandarin flood the weighted palate, still clocking in at only 12%, and dry, with 2.8 g/L RS. A snappy Asian pear crunch keeps this tight and tense, though the lingering apple blossom finish. Singular, as ever.Prices: BC 35.00 Producer: Rieslingfreak
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Township 7 Riesling Fool's Gold Vineyardtext
89PTS

Township 7 Riesling Fool's Gold Vineyard 2018

Oliver, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaFool's Gold Vineyard resides in North Oliver and presents a crisp, dry riesling reminiscent of Australia’s Clare Valley. The fruit is pressed and cold settled before fermenting at very cool temperatures with a small portion fermented wild in neutral oak to preserve as much fruit as possible, which is what you get when you taste it. Mosel czar Johannes Selbach would call this wine crunchy, led by green apples, grapefruit pith, and a squeeze of lime. Tart, crisp, and mineral, it's ready for sashimi.Prices: BC 26.97 Producer: Township 7 Vineyards and Wineries
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Van Westen Vineyards Viscoustext
89PTS

Van Westen Vineyards Viscous 2019

Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaYear two of Viscous and it looks a lot like last year’s inaugural label, rich in sugar and acidity that more or less cancel each other out, although strangely it remains fresh and vibrant and anything but sticky and viscous. Sugared lemon drops and baked apples carry a mineral undercurrent that keeps it all inline. You can cool this down, drink it solo for its fresh sugary fruit, or serve it with a favourite Thai or Indian curry. Well done again.Prices: BC 25.00 Producer: Van Westen Vineyards
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Sperling Vineyards Dry Rieslingtext
90PTS

Sperling Vineyards Dry Riesling 2018

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaThis is a new limited release from Ann Sperling, caretaker of her family's land settled in Kelowna more than 150 years ago. She thought the 2018 vintage was so special that she was inspired to create this new cuvée, bottled under the Vision Series. Organic and biodynamic, from old vines planted in 1978, this had some skin contact prior to ferment, giving it a taut, textural buzz. Lime pith, mandarin, pear skin hums along the sleek, lean palate, alive with energy through the lengthy finish. Quite savoury, and certainly dry, this is a wine to seek out if you're a fan of the style.Prices: BC 27.89 Producer: Sperling Vineyards
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Sperling Vineyards Old Vines Rieslingtext
89PTS

Sperling Vineyards Old Vines Riesling 2016

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaAnn Sperling biodynamically farms the Kelowna land her grandparents settled more than 150 years ago. he Old Vines Riesling is the winery flagship, held back two years prior to release. These vines were planted in 1978 and show their concentration in this dryish, textural, sleek riesling, driven by lime pith, lemon pith, quince, white honey to a snappy finish. This year there's a lactic / lees pear note on the mid that detracts from last year's purity, but the bright acidity and 11.5% package help distract. Partner with Thai or Vietnamese vegetable dishes.Prices: BC 27.89 Producer: Sperling Vineyards
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Pewsey Vale Single Vineyard Estate Rieslingtext
90PTS

Pewsey Vale Single Vineyard Estate Riesling 2018

Eden Valley, South Australia, AustraliaTumbling across slopes at 540 metres, the contoured, windy Pewsey Vale vineyard is a worthy icon site of Eden, and Australia. Done entirely in stainless to preserve the fruit, this is crisp and crunchy with green apple, lemon blossom riding a slick base of perfumed lemon verbena. The finish lingers with broken stones and lime pith. Very concentrated and oily beyond its 12%, this is a fun wine in youth but will really gain complexities with cellaring.Prices: BC 19.99 AB 22.99 QC 22.99 Producer: Pewsey Vale
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Wakefield Estate Clare Valley Rieslingtext
90PTS

Wakefield Estate Clare Valley Riesling 2018

Clare Valley, South Australia, AustraliaSourced from their Clare Valley vineyards, this tight, zippy riesling was gently pressed and cold settled in stainless prior to fermentation, where it remained, cool, until bottling. Lemon lime, sherbet, verbena, green apple zip along the dry, zesty palate, with an underlay of lees and hints of petrol. Ample dry extract hugs at the sides, hemming this to a zesty, lingering finish. Racy, high acid, and well handled, this is an excellent intro to what this grape can do in this special region.Prices: BC 21.00 Producer: Wakefield Wines Pty
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Sperling Vineyards Old Vines Rieslingtext
89PTS

Sperling Vineyards Old Vines Riesling 2016

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaThe Old Vines version of the Sperling riesling lineup is the winery flagship. It opens with a barely noticeable 10.4 g/L of residual sugar. It is all estate grown, both organic and biodynamic. The wine is made to reflect its origins and vineyard site, without makeup. The dominant soil feature is deep, mineralogical clay high in calcium, which seems to turbocharge this riesling. At 42 years of vine age, it has a fine concentration of dryish fruit flavours with a strong lemon-lime undercurrent in the finish. Great with food and fairly priced.Prices: BC 27.89 Producer: Sperling Vineyards
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Sperling Vineyards Dry Rieslingtext
91PTS

Sperling Vineyards Dry Riesling 2018

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaWow, how good is this. The Dry Riesling is a new release by winemaker Ann Sperling, the current caretaker of the family property first settled in Kelowna's Mission District over 150 years ago. It was bottled under the avant grade Vision Series, and it's organic and biodynamic, from old vines planted in 1978. The nose and the attack are fresh with a strong lemon-lime pith character and a textural mouthfeel from skin contact before fermentation. The wine is otherwise electric with that identifiable BC savoury scrub scent. It shouts for food. Dry, taut, and stylish, this wine is for riesling sophisticates. After soaking the stemmed grapes on their skins, they used the free-run juice for the Old Vines Riesling and took the juice closer to the skins for the dry version.Prices: BC 27.89 Producer: Sperling Vineyards
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18 January 2021

Stag's Hollow Renaissance Merlot Stag's Hollow Vineyardtext
90PTS

Stag's Hollow Renaissance Merlot Stag's Hollow Vineyard 2017

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaThe estate merlot block is planted over free-draining gravel soil facing southwest to gather the late afternoon and evening sun. Like last year it was co-fermented with 2.4 percent cabernet franc and mixed with another 2.4 percent cabernet sauvignon that is all fermented in French oak, making all the difference in the world with this variety. It's an intriguing mix of red and black raspberries dusted in desert scrub and mixed with juicy black cherries. Rich, round, and juicy, this has immediate appeal, but its chalky tannins are capable of ageing three to five more years in bottle and beyond. A little more friendly this year and more complex. Well done.Prices: BC 34.99 Producer: Stag's Hollow Winery and Vineyard
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Mission Hill Reserve Merlottext
88PTS

Mission Hill Reserve Merlot 2017

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada2017 began late, wet, and cool, but after 66 days, including a record-breaking dry spell in July and August, it came to an end on October 30, yielding a small, intense crop of ripe fruit. The fruit comes off two southern estates in Osoyoos (54 percent) and Oliver (46 percent). The style is rich and spicy with some milk chocolate hints. The palate is equally expressive with wild blackberry, cassis, dark plums, vanilla, and toast. Friendly but authentic, try this with grilled poultry or meats. It's entirely merlot this year, but I miss the recent introduction of cabernet franc in 2016.Prices: BC 26.99 SK 25.00 ON 26.00 Producer: Mission Hill Family Estate
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Synchromesh Tertre Rougetext
92PTS

Synchromesh Tertre Rouge 2017

Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaA few years in to the Tertre Rouge program, 2017 has turned the magical corner, so to speak. From Naramata's Turtle Rock Farms, this is an 80/20 blend of merlot and cabernet franc, the latter grape whole cluster. The whole aged 21 months in French oak (25% new) before bottling without fining or filtration. Beautifully knit, with perfumed plum, wild blackberry, perfumed boysenberry on a smooth, silken palate. The whole bunch is judicially used, providing a lovely herbal green lift and subtle herbal bough spicing to the medium+ red. Tannins are long, lithe, and finely grippy, housing this finessed Naramata red to a gently spiced, lingering finish. Really impressive now, and will continue to cellar.Prices: BC 40.00 Producer: Synchromesh Wines Inc.
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LaStella Allegretto Merlot Pie Francotext
93PTS

LaStella Allegretto Merlot Pie Franco 2017

Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaOver the years this has been my favourite Canadian merlot, by some distance, and it holds its title again with 2017. From east bench Osoyoos' Le Faucon vineyard and its distinct sandy, white silica soils, this was planted in the early 1990s. The pie franco in the name signals that the vines are planted on their own rootstock (piè franco). Perfumed black plums, wild blackberry, thorns rule the youthful palate, gripped by structural tannins, yet imbued with an inherent finesse that runs the long length of the full palate to a firm finish. Very much in youth, this benefits from advance opening / decanting now, but will certainly reward with cellaring.Prices: BC 65.00 Producer: LaStella
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Le Vieux Pin Equinoxe Merlottext
92PTS

Le Vieux Pin Equinoxe Merlot 2016

Golden Mile Bench, Oliver, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaThese 20+ year old merlot vines are rooted in the silt, clay and large gravels of La Feuille D’Or vineyard at the south end of the Golden Mile. This spent 19 months in French oak (18% new) before being bottled unfined. Concentrated yet strikingly fresh, with wild plum, wild blackberry, ripe cherry running the long palate, threaded with darkly bittersweet chocolate, thorns, and dried rosemary. Tannins are appropriately firm for this youthful wine, ensuring structure enough to last the next decade of aging. Such a light, graceful touch on such a powerful wine. Very impressive.Prices: BC 89.99 Producer: Le Vieux Pin
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Luke Wines Merlottext
88PTS

Luke Wines Merlot 2017

Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley, Washington, United StatesLuke Merlot barely makes the varietal cut at 75 percent mixed with 23/1/1 cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot, all out of the Wahluke Slope AVA in the Columbia Valley. Merlot has been the unwanted best wine of Washington Stae for decades suffering from widespread prejudice in the wine business against a grape that frankly was never given the room to grow as much as cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc or syrah or even malbec. The truth is, in the northwest, including BC, merlot's savoury, rich, round flavours and textures have been as good as most cabernet sauvignon, if not better and a lot more consumer-friendly. Look for a very ripe example here with dense sweet tannins and even sweeter black cherry fruit and chocolate flavours that coat the palate from the front back. The style is soft and easy-sipping — it is a drink now wine that will be too sweet for some and just right for others.Prices: BC 43.99 Producer: Luke Wines
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Van Westen Vineyards Vivre la Vietext
87PTS

Van Westen Vineyards Vivre la Vie 2017

Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaYou feel the intensity of 2017 vintage, ripe and rich from the get-go, but in this case, with an earthy, barnyard undercurrent that slightly dulls the fruit. The flavours are dark cherry, black raspberry, black plums with a spicy finish dusted in the barnyard, and dense but sweet tannins. Ready to drink in many ways and may be required if the flavours go sideways down the road. Enjoy now with rustic stews or cassoulet dishes.Prices: BC 35.00 Producer: Van Westen Vineyards
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LaStella Allegretto Merlot Pie Francotext
90PTS

LaStella Allegretto Merlot Pie Franco 2017

Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaAllegretto Piè Franco is both a medium brisk and playful tempo and a rare, ungrafted, Canadian single-vineyard merlot where the vines sit on their rootstock, an occurrence the Italians refer to as piè franco, rooted in white silica sand. Winemaker Severine Pinte is in constant search of trueness and originality, and this site fits the bill. The 2017 is a rambunctious youthful merlot with good aromatics mixing black plums and black raspberry with a spiced touch. The attack is tart, and the freshness follows through to the palate. The tannins are grippy and intense, something we see around the south Okanagan in 2017, where lower yields and smaller bunches are intensifying flavours and tannins. It will need a decade to fill out and show its true mettle, but it should be a good one.Prices: BC 65.00 Producer: LaStella
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LaStella Maestoso Solo Merlottext
92PTS

LaStella Maestoso Solo Merlot 2017

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaMaestoso Solo is the flagship label at La Stella, and it's 100 percent merlot. The majority of the fruit comes off the high terrace estate, Lumeno Vineyard, with the remainder coming off a site on Golden Mile Bench. It's showier than Equinoxe, thanks to a 20-month sleep in a mix of Slavonian and French barriques and puncheons, of which 58 percent were new. The oak is well done but plays into the style and, when combined with savoury aspects of the south Okanagan, plumps up the mid-palate, bursting with black plums and dense, dark cassis. The tannins are 2017 sturdy but not overpowering. You could take a run at this now but leave it five years and beyond for best results.Prices: BC 89.99 Producer: LaStella
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Le Vieux Pin Equinoxe Merlottext
94PTS

Le Vieux Pin Equinoxe Merlot 2016

Golden Mile Bench, Oliver, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaWe need more of this wine. Equinoxe Merlot comes of La Feuille d'Or Vineyard on the Golden Mile Bench, and a specific block of 20+ year old vines on the mid slopes at the south end of the GI. It's a giant of a wine. Only 18 percent new oak allows the merlot to fully express itself, although under Severene Pinte's hand, it is a quieter, drier French expression that makes you want to drink the whole bottle yourself. 2016 is a terrific vintage, which only intensifies this merlot. Rich black plums mix with fine espresso and even better oak integration before a slightly gritty pay attention to me because I'm going to age a decade finish. Well done. Stock up if you can.Prices: BC 89.99 Producer: Le Vieux Pin
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CheckMate Artisanal Winery End Game Merlottext
93PTS

CheckMate Artisanal Winery End Game Merlot 2017

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaEnd Game begins on two warm, south Okanagan benches that sit on the valley's eastern side: the Osoyoos East Bench, and the Black Sage Bench. Both are predominately made up of sandy soils sporting multiple expositions and elevations, producing a range of flavours and styles intensified by long days and warm, late-day sun. The fermentation is wild, and it's finished in the barrel where the wine remains in contact with its skins for 50+ days. Post skin contact, the wine is aged 21 months in French oak, mostly St. Martin and Deptos Bordeaux. In 2017 the aromas are vibrant, offering up whiffs of sassafras and root beer mixed with savoury desert scrub and sagebrush running throughout the palate. The palate is slightly bigger in 2017 with denser, richer tannins that will take this wine further down the ageing road. It a touch drier, yay, with less chocolate and more spice and complexity. More Euro less New World this year and closer to Next World Okanagan. There is no rush to open this wine. If you must drink it now, think lamb or roasted meats while it slowly opens up over the next five to seven years.Prices: BC 85.00 BC 196.00 1500 BC 439.00 BC 989.00 6000 Producer: CheckMate Artisanal Winery
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CheckMate Artisanal Winery Silent Bishop Merlottext
92PTS

CheckMate Artisanal Winery Silent Bishop Merlot 2017

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada2017 Silent Bishop is an 87/10/3 blend of merlot, petit verdot, and cabernet franc, grown on the cool Western Benches of Oliver North, Golden Mile, and Osoyoos West beneath Mt. Kobau. A smaller crop and smaller bunches have upped the intensity of flavours, and little more acidity has accentuated the tannin component. In a good way, I note this edition is a touch drier than previous years, with denser, richer tannins to disperse at this point. I love the drier attack and the savoury red and black fruit that pushes through to the palate along with rich blueberry. A solid effort and I look forward to watching this wine develop into 2027 -2030.Prices: BC 85.00 Producer: CheckMate Artisanal Winery
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Poplar Grove Merlottext
90PTS

Poplar Grove Merlot 2017

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada2017 Merlot is an 85/7/5/3 mix of merlot, malbec, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. This wine is turning the complexity corner, drying out just enough to display the fruit's best sides without overwhelming the palate with baked flavours and chocolate. It gets 21 months of barrel ageing in 25 percent new oak and 75 percent in one to three-year barrels before spending another year in the bottle at the winery. A solid, mid-valley merlot that should age well through 2023-2025. Things are heading in the right direction at Poplar Grove if you are a serious wine lover. Grilled beef is the match.Prices: BC 30.99 Producer: Poplar Grove Winery
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Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Lamaione Merlottext
92PTS

Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Lamaione Merlot 2013

Tuscany, ItalyThe 12-hectare Lamaione site has always given a fairly powerful Tuscan merlot expression thanks to its southwest exposition, high-density paintings, and heavy clay subsoil loaded with limestone and mineral elements, plus a mostly dry climate during the growing season. It has been produced since 1991 on the Castelgiocondo estate in Montalcino, in vineyards that sit at about 300 meters above sea level. From the time they arrive at the winery, the grapes spend at least 30 days on skins before ageing 24 months in French barriques (90% new). A final year in bottle ensures the wine is ready for release when it heads to market. I love the exotic complexity here, led by dense, sweet, velvety tannins and a lovely combination of black and red fruits flecked with tobacco, leather, coffee, and smoky black olive. In a perfect moment to drink. Mushroom stews or risotto are good matches, or an aged piece of pecorino for a purist experience.Prices: BC 66.00 ON 46.00 AB 62.00 QC 55.00 CDN 90.00 Producer: Tenuta di Frescobaldi
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15 January 2021

Little Farm Winery Pied de Cuve Chardonnaytext
92PTS

Little Farm Winery Pied de Cuve Chardonnay 2016

Cawston, Similkameen Valley, British Columbia, CanadaFrom the same site and fruit as Little Farm's straight chardonnay, though the Pied de Cuve line shows the wines through a natural lens. Clones 76, 95, and 548 were planted in 2009 on Cawston's calcium carbonate laced soils. This was organically farmed, whole bunch pressed, and native fermented (with the foot-tred pied de cuve vineyard starter) in neutral French oak, where it was left to rest on lees for 10 months before it was bottled unfined and unfiltered, with minimal sulphur throughout. Showing some age now, with a deeper yellow hue revealing roasted hazelnuts, lemon zest, flake salts, meadow herbs and hay, on a concentrated, yet relaxed-by-time palate. Those powerful soils show themselves in the ever-present mineral buzz that extends long on the finish. Really impressive, and very distinctly stony, wind-swept Similkameen.Prices: BC 35.00 Producer: Little Farm Winery
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Lunessence Chardonnaytext
87PTS

Lunessence Chardonnay 2019

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaI haven’t seen this in a while, but it is a fresher, cleaner version than the buttery, nutty 2014. The nose is a mix of green apple and orchard with a whiff of lemon. The attack follows the theme, simple as it is, going forward with bright citrus, green apple, a small amount of mid-palate creaminess, and a tart, clean finish. Perfect for creamy seafood pasta or a bowl of clams and crusty bread.Prices: BC 24.99 Producer: Lunessence Winery & Vineyard
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Lunessence Small Lot Series Chardonnaytext
88PTS

Lunessence Small Lot Series Chardonnay 2019

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaThe Small Lot Series Chardonnay is the first such release at Lunessence. It comes off a single vineyard in Osoyoos and is aged in French oak (33 percent new and two thirds second fill barrels) for eight months. It has some affinity with the regular chardonnay but with a bit more intensity. While it is aged in oak and goes through partial malolactic fermentation, it has a freshness and citrus, green apple profile to balance the oak ageing, keeping the wine lively. It is a good start but lacks some complexity, though some will take place in the bottle, and some will come with subsequent vintages and experience with the site in the coming years.Prices: BC 27.99 Producer: Lunessence Winery & Vineyard
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CheckMate Artisanal Winery Fool's Mate Chardonnaytext
94PTS

CheckMate Artisanal Winery Fool's Mate Chardonnay 2017

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaTasted twice now, Fool's Mate is a blend of sites, and it is clear 'the sum is greater than its parts' in 2017. The mix is 74 percent Jagged Rock Vineyards, dirt that sits just east of Phantom Creek on the Black Sage Bench. The other sites in play include 11 percent Border Vista Vineyard (Osoyoos), with 5 percent contributions from Sunset Vineyard (Black Sage Bench), and Dekleva and Combret vineyards (Golden Mile Bench). The clones are equally diverse: Dijon 76, Dijon 95, 809, Dekleva, and Combret, and the results are highly encouraging. The elegance and general style is getting better and better: think more ballerina, less tap dancer. It's not Burgundy, and it is not California, but it is all Checkmate and Okanagan, and it has plenty of life ahead. Winemaker Phil McGahan used eight high end Burgundy barrels that were 41 percent new, plus one foudre, and one concrete egg. Expect a cool pear, nectarine affair supported by a savoury mineral undercurrent and a long, silky, saline, smooth finish. At 14.1 percent alcohol, the organic viticulture continues to encourage phenolic ripeness at an earlier stage, allowing for earlier picking and lower alcohols. It also is 66 percent wild fermented, which McGahan claims adds some complexing white noise to the mix. Good value.Prices: BC 80.00 Producer: CheckMate Artisanal Winery
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CheckMate Artisanal Winery Attack Chardonnaytext
94PTS

CheckMate Artisanal Winery Attack Chardonnay 2017

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaAttack has consistently been among the best Checkmate labels every year. It is a coferment of Dijon clones and the Dekleva clone from two single vineyards: Jagged Rock (Black Sage Bench); and Border Vista Vineyard (Osoyoos East Bench). In 2017 it was fermented and aged 16 months in a single, new French oak foudre. It's hard to underestimate the foudre effect that seems to sets this wine free, exposing its most alluring beginning with a saline flavour that permeates the wine. The benefits of moving to organic farming are also beginning to come home to roost in 2017. Phenolic ripening is happening sooner, allowing earlier picking, and you guessed, lower alcohol. This edition comes in at 13.9, giving the wine a delicacy that further heightens its outer edges. Sadly, regional wildfires created long periods of smoke that contributed to higher than usual mildew rates, stalling the organic program, although it's been back on track since 2018. It would appear a little less is more in 2017 as Attack begins to settle into itself, becoming more elegant with each passing vintage.Prices: BC 115.00 Producer: CheckMate Artisanal Winery
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CheckMate Artisanal Winery Little Pawn Chardonnay Barn Vineyardtext
92PTS

CheckMate Artisanal Winery Little Pawn Chardonnay Barn Vineyard 2017

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaLittle Pawn comes off Jagged Rock Vineyards planted 20 years ago on a west-facing plateau at the top of the Black Sage Bench that runs into Okanagan Highlands foothills. Its exposition west-tilting and warm. The 45/55 clone selection is Dijon 76, and the Dekleva selection from the home estate. The soil is porous fine-grained sands with little ability to retain moisture. Hence, the bunches are always small, and the flavours intense. The nose is a mix of sagebrush and fennel. The textures are creamy with a floral leesy, citrus and orange flavours with a spicy finish — a rare combination of elegance with power. The first time this wine has been 100 percent wild fermented in eight barrels (46 new French oak - all Burgundy coopers).Prices: BC 110.00 Producer: CheckMate Artisanal Winery
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CheckMate Artisanal Winery Knight's Challenge Chardonnaytext
90PTS

CheckMate Artisanal Winery Knight's Challenge Chardonnay 2017

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaThe fourth edition of Knight's Challenge, which comes from Sunset Vineyard on the Black Sage Bench, continues to follow the dictum of site dominating the clones. Elevation changes and east/west row orientations affect the wine's disposition more than its Dijon clones (76 and 95) and the 26-year-old vines. The two distinct blocks that go into this wine allow for separate pick dates to maintain its balance of power and acidity. In 2017 some 67 percent of the wine was naturally occurring, and post ferment, it spends 16 months in French oak (44 percent new). Knight's Challenge is very much an Okanagan chardonnay with herbal, green tea. desert scrub and sagebrush aromas and flavours that run through its round, mineral, spicy base. It is a softer, rounder, easier-drinking version of Checkmate. Drink or hold, it is your choice.Prices: BC 85.00 Producer: CheckMate Artisanal Winery
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Mission Hill Perpetua Chardonnaytext
93PTS

Mission Hill Perpetua Chardonnay 2017

Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaPerpetua is picked off four individual blocks of Dijon clones (clones 76, 96, and 548) in eastern Osoyoos and Naramata Ranch vineyard estates (80% Osoyoos, 20% Naramata), with the latter gaining more presence in the blend over recent years. 2017 looks to be a good year for chardonnay, playing into Perpetua’s increasing elegance, complexity, and intensity in equal measure. It’s an impressive mix of limes and pears with some reduction, a creamy lees underpad, and a mineral complexity in the back end. Impressive and consistent, in 2017 it was aged sur lie for 15 months in French oak, concrete eggs, and stainless steel. High quality.Prices: BC 59.99 AB 54.01 MB 50.00 Producer: Mission Hill Family Estate
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Kitsch 11 Barrel Chardonnaytext
90PTS

Kitsch 11 Barrel Chardonnay 2018

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaJust five years old, these clone 95 chardonnay vines are outdoing themselves, getting the most from the stony, gravel soil of East Kelowna. Showy in a good way, the fruit is ripe and weighty in the mouth with a fine hazelnut, lees, and reductive yeasty undercurrent that mystifies and gives it a complexity to balance its ripe citrus, and baked apple. The oak is ramped up California style, but held in check by a purity of fruit and acidity that sings East Kelowna. This white is fully capable of taming rich food. Impressive in its youth; let’s see how it develops.Prices: BC 35.00 Producer: Kitsch Wines
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Fort Berens White Goldtext
88PTS

Fort Berens White Gold 2018

Lillooet, British Columbia, CanadaWhite Gold is the top of the line chardonnay at Fort Berens, and it is entirely Lillooet-grown chardonnay from Dry Creek Vineyard. The honeyed, toasted nose is a nod to French oak barrel fermentation and ageing in the same vessels with lees stirring. It's fully ripe, perhaps a bit too ripe for some, although I suspect a wider spectrum of consumers will be fine with style. Look for baked apple and peach, with soft honeyed fruit and moderate acidity. Clean and fresh, you can drink it now. Try this with richer pasta dishes, butter chicken, or freshly cracked crab and drawn butter.Prices: BC 29.99 Producer: Fort Berens Estate Winery
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Fort Berens Chardonnaytext
88PTS

Fort Berens Chardonnay 2019

Lillooet, British Columbia, CanadaIn 2019 Lillooet upped its fruit content to 83 percent, electrified by 17 percent from Riverbend Vineyard in the Similkameen Valley. It’s all whole cluster pressed and fermented 83/17 in stainless steel and French oak. Bright and fresh is the descriptor here, with green apple and lemon curd all vying for your palate’s attention. A perfect match for numerous vegetarian dishes or crab cakes. Well done modern BC chardonnay.Prices: BC 20.99 Producer: Fort Berens Estate Winery
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Summerhill Pyramid Winery Estate Grown Biodynamic Chardonnay Demeter Certifiedtext
89PTS

Summerhill Pyramid Winery Estate Grown Biodynamic Chardonnay Demeter Certified 2019

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaIt is safe to say everything is coming together at Summerhill, as evidenced by the 2019 chardonnay release that is a Demeter certified wine in a much needed redesigned bottle/label package that befits the quality and direction of this winery. The small block of chardonnay vines (2.4 acres) that make up this wine was planted in 2005. The grapes were handpicked and fermented on their native yeast in stainless steel with minimal sulphur inputs. The style is round and soft with a touch of sweet yellow fruit, but otherwise clean and very pleasant on the palate. A little drier version would be a home run, and I hope to see that direction as this wine label evolves over the next five years. Ready to drink and would be perfect with roasted chicken or a spicy tuna sushi roll. Good value.Prices: BC 30.00 Producer: Summerhill Pyramid Winery
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Tantalus Chardonnay Reservetext
91PTS

Tantalus Chardonnay Reserve 2018

East Kelowna, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada2018 is the first release of Reserve Chardonnay, and I am impressed. The aim was complexity, always an admirable goal in fine wine, and they can check that off the list. The nose is a mix of green apple, butter, lees, and vanilla with a subtle toasty undercurrent. It is medium-weight with a fresh lemon undercoating, with almonds, toasty vanilla, and creamy, leesy textures on the palate. The fruit comes from a single block of estate vines and spends ten months in French oak. Just a baby, I would age this two to three more years in a bottle to allow it to expand fully. A promising start for this new label — expected release in Spring 2021.Prices: BC 49.99 Producer: Tantalus Vineyards
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14 January 2021

Olivier Leflaive Pommardtext
90PTS

Olivier Leflaive Pommard 2014

Pommard, Côte de Beaune, Côte d'Or, Burgundy, FranceThe Leflaive Family has been rooted in Puligny Montrachet since 1717. In the 20th century, Joseph Leflaive steadily acquired parcels of exceptional 1er Cru and Grand Cru vineyards mainly in the village of Puligny-Montrachet, and was one of the precursors of domain bottling, exporting to the States in the early 1930’s. Today, the Maison Olivier Leflaive controls 120 acres of vineyards located mainly in Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, Meursault and Pommard, and also in Chablis and Côte Chalonnaise. This Pommard comes from multiple parcels spread throughout the appellation, rooted dry clay with an iron, limestone subsoil. This was fermented and aged in new and used oak barrels, and stainless steel. This is a powerful red, now worn beneficially with time, showing forest berries, dark raspberries, chestnut, with ample spicing, and upright, firm-boned, rustic-hewn tannins. The moderate finish is somewhat drying, and making this well-suited to grilled pork or mushrooms. Drink now.Prices: BC 105.00 Producer: Olivier Leflaive
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Mac Forbes Woori Yallock Pinot Noirtext
92PTS

Mac Forbes Woori Yallock Pinot Noir 2019

Yarra Valley, Victoria, AustraliaThis year marked the new Villages label from Mac Forbes, highlighting distinctly regional Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the Yarra. Woori Yallock is a hilly area based on red volcanic and grey loams, tucked behind the Waramate Hills. This year's Worri Yallock received 10% whole bunches and 14 days on skins over a native ferment, prior to 10 months in older oak. This was bottled unfined and unfiltered. Dark and fragrant plum, black cherry, dusky violets, tobacco floods the stony structure. The palate, though silken, is textured with a fine stony dust, rasping at the sides with finely grippy tannins to a lingering crushed floral finish. Drinking smartly now, and will continue with cellaring.Prices: BC 65.00 Producer: Mac Forbes
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Mac Forbes Yarra Junction Pinot Noirtext
90PTS

Mac Forbes Yarra Junction Pinot Noir 2019

Yarra Valley, Victoria, AustraliaThis year marked the new Villages label from Mac Forbes, highlighting distinctly regional Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the Yarra. These grapes come from east facing vineyards, within a smaller, protected valley that runs from Yarra Junction to Poweltown in the south. The soils are grey loam overtop silt, and grapes here are typically later ripening, with thicker skins and higher acids resulting in powerful, structural wines. This had 25% whole bunch, with 12 days on skins and a native ferment prior to resting 10 months in older oak. It was bottled unfined and unfiltered. Tart and tight, with cranberry, spring rhubarb, finely threaded with long stoney, saline lines. This finishes tartly, with a sarsaparilla twist and a lingering spice.Prices: BC 65.00 Producer: Mac Forbes
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Mac Forbes Pinot Noirtext
89PTS

Mac Forbes Pinot Noir 2019

Yarra Valley, Victoria, AustraliaThe screwcap Yarra Valley Pinot Noir is Mac Forbes' overview of the Yarra, a blend of multiple clones and sites. This years' blend sources from fruit from Coldstream, Woori Yallock, Yarra Junction, and Gladysdale vineyards. This was 30% whole bunch, with 2 weeks on skins, native fermented, and with 11 months in older oak before bottling unfined and unfiltered. Pouring a dusky crimson hue, this feels its whole bunchiness, with a tart green swath cutting through wild strawberry, green raspberry, forest moss, sarsaparilla to a lightly spiced, very tart finish. Tannins are very slight, as is the body at 12.5%. Welcomes a brisk chill.Prices: BC 45.00 Producer: Mac Forbes
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Mac Forbes Villages Coldstream Pinot Noirtext
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Mac Forbes Villages Coldstream Pinot Noir 2019

Yarra Valley, Victoria, AustraliaThis year marked the new Villages label from Mac Forbes, highlighting distinctly regional Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the Yarra. Coldstream lies at the entrance to the Valley, at lower elevation, and based on grey/loam clay soils, with a notable ironstone/mudstone influence. With 5% whole bunch, this spent 16 days on skins through a native ferment, prior to resting 11 months in older oak. It was bottled unfined and unfiltered. Alluringly savoury and saline, with forest berries, fragrant cherries, wild raspberries layered along elongated, fine, structural tannins. Acidity is cranberry tart, and the body is slight.Prices: BC 65.00 Producer: Mac Forbes
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Wolf Blass Maker's Project Pinot Three Reserve Projecttext
88PTS

Wolf Blass Maker's Project Pinot Three Reserve Project 2018

Adelaide Hills, Mount Lofty Ranges, Adelaide, South Australia, AustraliaThe project range is an exploratory, a what’s new, or let’s do something different range of wines from Wolf Blass. The focus is on wines people like to drink, and that’s pretty much what you get with the Makers’ Project Pinot Three. The play is pinot noir, fermented with a percentage of whole berries, and blended with pinot gris and pinot meunier. The result is a mid-weight, pure fruited raspberry and cherry red with just a hint of spice. It was a fun wine we drank with a Margherita pizza. It’s bottled under screwcap and showing a hint of reduction, so splash decant or get it into your glass for a few moments before drinking.Prices: BC 19.99 Producer: Wolf Blass Pty Ltd
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13 January 2021

Fontella Chiantitext
88PTS

Fontella Chianti 2018

Tuscany, ItalyFontella Chianti is a classic blend of sangiovese and canaiolo made from grapes grown across the Chianti DOCG region. After a fairly standard stainless steel ferment, it aged three months in large Slavonian oak barrels. The result is a delicious drinking red wine with juicy, red cherry fruit aromas and flavours, round slippery tannins balanced by bits of forest floor, mushrooms and licorice. Simple well made and perfect for a meat pizza, grilled sausages, or a beef-stir fry. Our favourite match is a selection of Chinese take out. Very good valuePrices: BC 14.99 AB 14.99 ON 15.10 QC 14.95 NB 16.99 NS 18.00 Producer: Azienda Vinicola Girelli Spa
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San Valentino Bacaia Sangiovese Superioretext
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San Valentino Bacaia Sangiovese Superiore 2018

Emilia-Romagna, ItalySan Valentino is a certified organic property owned by the Mascarin family since 1990, and is centered on the hills of Rimini, near the sea. This sangiovese is from 150m, and 12 year old vines, native fermented and aged in stainless and concrete, and rested for up to 10 months in large French wood casks. Teeming with dark plums, cherry, earth, and leather, this has a lovely texture from the site, concrete, and older casks. Acidity is bright, and tannins are supple and lightly grippy, housing this fuller wine to a lingering, rosemary spiced finish. A smart sangiovese, drinking well now and with time ahead.Prices: ON 23.95 Producer: San Valentino
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Domini del Leone Veneto Rossotext
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Domini del Leone Veneto Rosso NV

Veneto, ItalyThis organic NV Veneto red blends Corvina, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Raboso into a fresh, charmingly rustic, medium red. Grown on limestone and clay loams, this was fermented in stainless, and aged in a mix of stainless and French oak barrel over one year. Cherry, black plum, dark raspberry floods a juicy palate, bright with acidity, and gripped with fine tannins. Fantastic value, and easy to drink without being dumbed down.Prices: ON 16.95 Producer: Fidora
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Sesti Grangiovesetext
90PTS

Sesti Grangiovese 2018

Tuscany, ItalyThe Sesti family uses the Sangiovese grapes that don't go into their Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino for this earlier-to-drink medium bodied red. The wine spends one year in medium-sized oak barrels. Savoury black cherry, salted herbs, worked leather are lifted across a bright palate, framed by subtle wood, and finishing with a lingering minerality and toasty spice. Fantastic structure and harmony in this baby Brunello; drinking beautifully now, and great value.Prices: ON 28.95 Producer: Sesti
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Monte del Frá Lena di Mezzo Scarnocchio Amarone del Valpolicella Classicotext
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Monte del Frá Lena di Mezzo Scarnocchio Amarone del Valpolicella Classico 2015

Verona, Veneto, ItalyElegance is not a word you often use when tasting Amarone, but at Monte del Frà, it is part of the ethos. This introductory Amarone is an 80/20 blend of mostly corvina Veronese with corvinone and rondinella, and the first thing you notice is that it doesn’t overwhelm with power and alcohol. Post-harvest, the grapes rest for 120 days, drying out, concentrating their grape sugars by 28-30 percent depending on the year. Post ferment, the wine spends two years in 20 and 30 hl French barrels, followed by a minimum of six months before bottling and release. Expect a round, spicy nose of dried berry bruit flecked with leather and tobacco. On the palate, earthy, mushroom, black fruit leads, with rich but softish tannins suggesting you can start to enjoy this wine now, but that it will hold through 2034. Think rich flavourful dishes like lamb, venison, mature cheese, and many Asian dishes too.Prices: BC 57.99 Producer: Monte del Frá
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Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcinotext
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Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2015

Tuscany, ItalyCastelGiocondo’s location in Montalcino offers up multiple soils of galestro, clay, and Pleocene sands, on hillsides from 180 - 360m, contributing to this Brunello’s complex nuances. 2015 was a very cold vintage, if on the warm side, but it yielded some terrific bottles with proper care. The organically grown fruit is handpicked and fermented in stainless steel and aged five years in oak, plus another 12 months in bottle before release. 2015 is certainly one of the finest editions of this wine, from its spicy red and black fruit to its almost luxurious creamy textures, and long persistent finish. This is one for the cellar and will hold through 2030. Excellent value.Prices: BC 55.95 AB 55.00 MB 60.00 ON 53.95 QC 50.85 Producer: Tenuta di Frescobaldi
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Tormaresca Trentangeli Castel del Montetext
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Tormaresca Trentangeli Castel del Monte 2017

Puglia, ItalyTrentangeli is a 70/20/10 mix of aglianico/cabernet sauvignon/syrah. The nose is an enticing warm, fragrant mix of violets and rich dark fruit. The attack is full bodied and fresh, featuring black raspberry, liquorice streaked with brown spices and dried herbs that finishes with persistence and suppleness. Think lamb osso buco, meaty pizzas, or mushroom pasta.Prices: BC 19.49 Producer: Tormaresca
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Tenute Luce della Vite 25th Anniversarytext
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Tenute Luce della Vite 25th Anniversary 2017

Montalcino, Siena, Tuscany, ItalyA special bottle was created to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Luce. It sports an inscription by Vittorio Frescobaldi, one of the label's founders, that reads, "Here lies the memory of the vineyard and work, of the earth, the sun, the sound of time and the song of the seasons." It is a huge wine in 2017, still sitting very much within itself. The nose is a savoury, earthy, tobacco affair with ripe red berries poking through a warm, spicy, angular palate full of cassis, olives, and bitter walnut undertones. It is going to require some time in the bottle to settle down and hopefully emerge from the unusual tannin and ruggedly youthful nature. Time will tell. A Super Tuscan blend almost evenly split between merlot and sangiovese, with high potential.Prices: BC 119.99 AB 119.00 ON 120.00 QC 120.00 Producer: Tenuta Luce
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Tenuta Luce La Vite Lucentetext
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Tenuta Luce La Vite Lucente 2018

Tuscany, ItalyLucente is the second wine at Luce, but it’s hardly a second wine. It is also a merlot/sangiovese blend that is stainless steel fermented and aged 12 months in a mix of new and aged French oak barrels. 2018 is an expressive, pure-fruited wine with a bright future. Blackberries and plums line the palate with a light vanilla toasted oak finish. The organically grown fruit is perfectly right, the textures smooth, and finish long and persistent. This label has come a long way over the years. Try this with a grilled steak.Prices: BC 35.99 AB 34.99 MB 40.99 ON 34.95 QC 34.10 NB 39.99 1500 NS 34.95 Producer: Tenuta Luce
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12 January 2021

Maison Lorgeril L'Orangeraie Rosétext
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Maison Lorgeril L'Orangeraie Rosé 2019

Cabardès, Languedoc, South of France, FranceMaison Lorgeril is an independent, family-owned vineyard located on the grounds of the family’s stately home, Château de Pennautier, which was built in 1620 in Languedoc in the heart of Cabardés. With four centuries of history, Nicolas de Lorgeril’s family is one of the oldest winemaking families in France. They began their conversation to organic farming in 2019. This blend of cinsault, grenache, syrah, merlot in the saignée method, with the pale peach hue the result of a few hours skin contact. Savoury and dry, with wild strawberry, young raspberry, rose petals, subtle spice, on a delicate slip of a palate. Finishes refreshing and bright, ready for your poached prawns or spinach salads.Prices: BC 15.00 Producer: Maison Lorgeril
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Palazzi Monferrato Chiaretto Rosatotext
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Palazzi Monferrato Chiaretto Rosato 2019

Piedmont, ItalyPalazzi Rosato comes with an attractive pink-orange glow that previews a very juicy, fresh 80/20 blend of barbera/pinot nero. The perfect mix of acidity is offset by a dry cherry undercurrent. Perfect for vegetarian selections as well as chicken dishes. You can sense the drinkability factor that is always front and centre with folks at Boutinot, no matter what the wine is. This wine goes through a short pre-fermentation maceration on skins at a low temperature, followed by gentle pressing and fermentation in stainless at low temperatures.Prices: BC 16.99 Producer: Adria Vini
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Wolf Blass Maker's Project Rosé Free Runtext
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Wolf Blass Maker's Project Rosé Free Run 2019

Langhorne Creek, South Australia, AustraliaMakers' Project Rosé is made with free run juice drained directly from the press. Without any pressure on the skins and seeds, you only get pure juice, which tends to be light, vibrant, and quaffable. It is a multi-regional blend that winemaker Marie Clare has managed to make in an unfussed manner, offering fresh strawberry and pomegranate that dance across the palate in search of a charcuterie plate. Bring on spring and summer.Prices: CDN 20.00 Producer: Wolf Blass Pty Ltd
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A Vita Rosatotext
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A Vita Rosato 2019

Calabria, Italy'A Vita is located in Cirò, on the arch of Italy’s boot tip, nestled between the Ionian sea and Sila mountains. Wine has been made from Cirò since the time of the ancient Olympics. Francesco and his wife Laura de Franco moved back to his native Calabria to make wines sustainably after finishing oenology studies. They purchased 4 vineyards and 8 hectares of vines planted in the historic alberello method, with each vine staked independently to allow for maximum air and light flow. This organic rosato is entirely gaglioppo, a grape native to the area, and an offspring of Sangiovese and a cousin to Nerello Mascalese. From a clay / marl soiled vineyard close to the sea and 9 year old vines, these grapes were grapes macerated on skins for 12 hours in stainless steel without temperature control, after which they are not pressed, but drained by gravity. This was native fermented, went through full MLF, and aged 8 months in stainless steel. Pouring a dusky glowing amber hue, this has subtle notes of wild raspberries, cherries, sour apple, scrubby herbs on a fiercely grippy palate. The finish is refreshingly astringent, welcoming pairing with food or solo sipping.Prices: ON 30.95 Producer: A Vita
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Gérard Bertrand Clos du Temple Rosétext
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Gérard Bertrand Clos du Temple Rosé 2019

Cabrières, Languedoc, South of France, FranceAt $299.99 a bottle, this rosé will always be controversial, but if I am to be fair, I could say that about many wines from Napa or Bordeaux and wherever folks are reaching for the stars. Nor do I accept that because it is a rosé, it can't be priced like wines that age forever. In the end, it's the quality of the wine that matters, and this is an excellent rosé. Many have complained about the use of oak in rosé but isn't there oak in some Champagnes? Don't some Chablis wines have oak in them, not to mention white Burgundy? Six months in the finest French oak barrels shouldn't be a problem for a rosé from an outstanding piece of dirt with grapes grown biodynamically. Clos du Temple is located on the historical terroir of Cabrières, in the heart of Languedoc, 240 metres above the Mediterranean with a southern/south-western exposure. Its old vines reside at the birthplace of rosé, on an eight-hectare / seven parcel site of schist and limestone. The wine is a blend of grenache, cinsault, syrah, mourvèdre, and viognier. As mentioned, the oak is introduced to help with ageing and allow the wine to handle main course menu items. On the palate, the wine is a study in refinement and grace with intense apricot and peach that stream through a sleek and creamy palate flecked with strawberries and a twist of tangerines and grapefruit pith in the finish. A complex rosé seems like an oxymoron, but this pink is complex and will age. Look out Provence, Gerard is coming for you.Prices: BC 299.99 Producer: Gérard Bertrand
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11 January 2021

Covert Farms Amicitiatext
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Covert Farms Amicitia 2017

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaAmicitia is Latin for friends, an apt name for the 2017 vintage of this friendly red blend. With grapes from the Covert's organic McIntyre Bluff estate, planted between 2006-09, and at 420m, this blends merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, petit verdot, and syrah into a fuller red. Dusky black and red fruited, with cherry, blackberry, roasted coffee leading the way, and cedar-hewn tannins gripping the sides. The finish cuts a bit short with some bitter cherry notes, but would be mitigated with a root veg or beef stew.Prices: BC 30.80 Producer: Covert Farms Family Estate
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Fort Berens Meritage Reservetext
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Fort Berens Meritage Reserve 2018

British Columbia, CanadaThis year's Reserve Meritage is led by merlot, with cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon filling out the rear. Grapes come from Fort Berens' estate vineyards in Lillooet, as well as the Okanagan Valley. Part of the cab franc was apassimento, and the merlot and cab franc utilized 25% whole clusters. Though the cab sauv was cold macerated and given a commercial yeast before heading to American oak, the others were native fermented and aged in French and American oak. Ripe dark cherry, blackberry, plum flood the juicy palate and the soft, plush tannins housing a spicy kirsch kissed finish. Softer and welcoming, this is ready to drink now or over the next couple of years.Prices: BC 36.99 Producer: Fort Berens Estate Winery
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Fort Berens Meritagetext
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Fort Berens Meritage 2018

British Columbia, CanadaFrom sourced vineyards in the Okanagan and Similkameen, as well as from their Lillooet estate, this Meritage blends merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc into a plump, ripe, fuller red. After a stainless ferment, this was pressed off into French and American oak for one year. Round and plush blackberry, plum jam is seasoned with baking spices, cedar, and peppercorns. Tannins are soft, and the fruit is forward and direct, leading this to a snappy, warming finish. For current consumption, with a hearty fall stew or French onion soup to match.Prices: BC 27.99 Producer: Fort Berens Estate Winery
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Clos du Soleil Célestialetext
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Clos du Soleil Célestiale 2017

British Columbia, CanadaCélestiale is the little sibling to Clos du Soleil's icon Signature red. Theoretically you can enjoy this one now (signal screwcap) while waiting for Signature to mature. This year blends 38/33/13/13/3 merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot, from various Similkameen vineyards. Mostly destemmed (some Merlot was fermented whole berry and with stems), this was fermented primarily in concrete, and pressed off into French barrels for 15 months before the final blend. It was bottled unfined. Ripe and dusky black plum, cassis, dark raspberry is seasoned with baking spices, toasted cedar, and cracked pepper on a succulent palate. Tannins are well integrated and balanced by the savoury fruit and Similkameen's wind-swept acidity. Certainly drinking well now, and will continue over the next couple of years.Prices: BC 23.90 ON 26.00 Producer: Clos du Soleil Winery
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Covert Farms Amicitiatext
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Covert Farms Amicitia 2017

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaAmicitia [am-ee-CHEE-tee-ah] is Latin for friends, and as the years go by, this wine gets friendlier and friendlier. Winemaker Gene Covert blends 42/14/26/9/7/2 organic merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, petit verdot, and syrah in 2017, all from the Coyote block planted in 2006. The nose is a spicy, minty affair with a fair bit of desert scrub and black fruit. The palate is similar with black cherry, coffee, and some grippy tannins that need to settle down and slip away. It needs a bit of refinement, but it's getting there, and the price is fair.Prices: BC 30.80 Producer: Covert Farms Family Estate
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Van Westen Vineyards Vtext
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Van Westen Vineyards V 2017

Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaThe ninth vintage of V is here. Where does the time go? The 2017 blend is 48/19/17/8/8 merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot, all grown within two kilometres of the Naramata Bench winery. The nose is vibrant and open with a wide range of savoury red and black fruit. Black raspberry, black cherries, and smoky, meaty notes with a touch of minerality and graphite all contribute to this wine's complexity. The edges are soft, the tannins dense but sweet, allowing those who prefer the hedonistic style to drink this wine earlier. I suggest you wait three to five years before you dive in. Well done.Prices: BC 35.00 Producer: Van Westen Vineyards
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Van Westen Vineyards Voluptuoustext
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Van Westen Vineyards Voluptuous 2017

Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaVoluptuous takes its cue from its name. It is always fun to drink: soft, red, and round, never overbearing, and never too dry or tough. In 2017 the mix was 67/33 merlot and cabernet franc from the 15 year old vines growing in Boothe Vineyard on the Naramata Bench. The nose is black plums, black cherries, and black liquorice, never suppressed by oak. The palate is a carbon copy, with Naramata pine and sagebrush to settle the ripe fruit down. Ribs, spaghetti Bolognese, or simply grilled sausages will work here.Prices: BC 35.00 Producer: Van Westen Vineyards
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Chateau Haut-Mazierestext
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Chateau Haut-Mazieres 2018

FranceThis is a classic Bordeaux blend (65/25/15) of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc that opens with an aromatic nose of cedar, earth, graphite, and florals. The attack is dry with fairly high acidity in the front end, carrying through the wine along with red fruit. Tannins are light, but this needs food to be tolerable at this point. Simple.Prices: BC 21.99 Producer: Caves de Rauzan
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Gold Hill Grand Vin Family Reserve Meritagetext
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Gold Hill Grand Vin Family Reserve Meritage 2016

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaThe Gold Hill Grand Vin is the flagship red blend, mixing cabernet franc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and malbec. The nose is fresh with attractive black and red fruit, with vanilla and oak tones underneath. The attack is sweet with milk chocolate and cherries on the palate, which linger through the finish. Showy and hedonistic, this will appeal to those who prefer a bit of sweetness in the red wine, but a Grand Vin needs to be more complex and age worthy. Back to the drawing board. Ready to drink.Prices: BC 64.99 Producer: Gold Hill Winery
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Noble Ridge Meritagetext
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Noble Ridge Meritage 2018

Okanagan Falls, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaThe 34 acre Okanagan Falls Vineyard at Noble Ridge is home for this fruit. The mix is 83 percent merlot (clone 118 planted in 1986, and an unknown clone planted in 1999), and 17 percent cabernet sauvignon (also an unknown clone from one of the oldest blocks of cab in the Okanagan, planted in 1986). After a standard, three-day fermentation, it spent 12 months in 20 percent new barrels, 75% French, and 25% American. The result is a good red blend: spicy, savoury, and sporting some good green and desert scrub mixed with black raspberry and cedar. Best now with grilled meats and a decant before serving. Good value.Prices: BC 21.99 Producer: Noble Ridge Vineyard and Winery
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Mission Hill Family Estate Oculustext
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Mission Hill Family Estate Oculus 2016

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaThe 2016 harvest lasted 76 days at Mission Hill, setting the record for the longest harvest ever on the hill. Moderate summer heat with few, if any, heatwaves created a longer, slower growing season. This allowed phenolic maturity to sync with sugar maturation, the holy grail of vineyard management. It is a very fine Oculus, beginning with its vibrant nose: flush full of Okanagan scents from desert scrub to savoury, floral, black fruit, from berries to currants. The palate is equally measured with dense, sweet, soft tannins built across the palate without overwhelming, before a rush of spice and warmth flood into a youthful finish. It is a 10 year bottle for sure and should easily age another 15 years after that. It will be special. In 2016 the mix was 56 percent merlot with 27/17 split of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, all estate-grown in Osoyoos and Oliver in the south Okanagan Valley. It's mostly fermented in small French oak fermenters, but in 2016 a small portion was also fermented in a concrete fermenter to supply a little punch of electricity to the fruit. From here, it spent 27 months in new French oak barriques. Buy and cellar.Prices: BC 149.99 AB 150.00 Producer: Mission Hill Family Estate
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Mission Hill Family Estate Oculustext
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Mission Hill Family Estate Oculus 2015

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaOculus is an all-Osoyoos affair grown in the warmest, most southern region of the Okanagan Valley. Oculus grapes undergo a fastidious selection in the vineyard long before they get to the winery, and in the warmest years like 2015, it was a must. Even so, 2015 is more of an outlier than normal in style. There was no problem ripening the fruit; the challenge was to protect against raisining, overripe fruit, and high alcohol. Oculus mostly succeeded in 2015, as noted by its 14.5 percent alcohol, but it is more Napa than Bordeaux to use a tired comparison. Rich, round, and ripe, it has intense black plum, black fruit, streaked with cedar and just a hint of savoury desert scrub before a spicy finish. The blend is 58/26/15/ merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, fermented in small French oak fermenters. Post ferment, it spent 15 months in French oak barriques (21 percent new). The Romans used an oculus in buildings as a window to the outside. At Mission Hill, an oculus provides the only natural light into the underground barrel cellar.Prices: BC 149.99 AB 150.00 Producer: Mission Hill Family Estate
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Mission Hill Quatraintext
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Mission Hill Quatrain 2017

Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaWinemaker Darryl Brooker has been reshaping Quatrain since the John Sines era by upping the syrah content to give this wine more of a purpose in the Legacy range. In 2017 the blend was 44/25/24/7 blend of syrah, merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon, grown mostly in Osoyoos with a ten percent addition from the Oliver region. It spends 18 months in French oak barrels. Like 2016, there is a spicy, aromatic nose with rich, black fruit and light meaty undercurrents. A smaller crop with higher intensity has given 2017 a power over finesse signature for many, but that savoury spice is more Okanagan than Barossa or Southern France. Should age forever.Prices: BC 79.99 AB 79.00 MB 65.00 ON 75.00 QC 75.00 Producer: Mission Hill Family Estate
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Fort Berens Meritage Reservetext
88PTS

Fort Berens Meritage Reserve 2018

British Columbia, CanadaA mix of fruit from the Okanagan Valley and the home Lillooet estate goes into this merlot (57 percent) dominant Meritage blend, with lesser amounts 27/17 of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. The franc was dried to intensify the fruit appassimento style. Post ferment, it spends 14 months in French and American oak. It is a richer version of the regular Meritage, and is a bit cleaner, allowing its juicy red/black fruit and spice to break through. Not ready to drink but should be promising down the road. Lamb chops would be a fine match.Prices: BC 36.99 Producer: Fort Berens Estate Winery
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Fort Berens Meritagetext
87PTS

Fort Berens Meritage 2018

British Columbia, CanadaA mix of fruit from the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys, as well as the home Lillooet estate goes into this merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc blend. The textures are plump, and the fruit is ripe, reminiscent of black raspberry, but all with a bit of reduction throughout, so be sure to splash decant this wine after opening. You can drink this now with any rustic fall dish, from grilled pork to roasted chicken to mature cheeses. I like Treve’s idea of French onion soup as a match.Prices: BC 27.99 Producer: Fort Berens Estate Winery
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08 January 2021

The Holy Trinity Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdretext
91PTS

The Holy Trinity Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre 2015

Barossa Valley, South Australia, AustraliaThe Holy Trinity is a rich Barossa GSM, and in 2015 saw 38% grenache, 33% shiraz, 25% mourvedre, and a splash of 4% graciano from 50-120-year-old dry-farmed bush vines. Part of the grenache and shiraz were co-fermented, and all was matured in French oak. This 2015 is a current release on this market, allowing you to see a mightly Barossan with some age. Dried and ripe cherry, black and red currant, mulberry, plush plum, fresh fig is streaked with black licorice, worked leather, medicinal dark cherry, and finely rasped baking spices. Tannins are well integrated at this point, the palate is voluminous, and acidity is lofted enough to carry this to a lingering, slightly warming finish. Drinking well now, ideally with lamb.Prices: BC 41.00 AB 46.00 Producer: Grant Burge Wines
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St. Hallett Gamekeeper's Shiraz Grenachetext
87PTS

St. Hallett Gamekeeper's Shiraz Grenache 2018

Barossa Valley, South Australia, AustraliaGamekeeper’s 2018 blends Shiraz (65%), Grenache (26%), and Touriga Nacional (9%) from southern Barossa's red brown loam over shale soils. Though medium/full in the mouth, bright acids keep this fresh, with ripe cherry, red currant, worked leather, roasted root veg, and some brown spices on a compact, spiced palate. Crack and drink now with root veg and/or beef stews.Prices: BC 19.99 Producer: St. Hallet Wines
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Natte Valleij Swartland Cinsaulttext
93PTS

Natte Valleij Swartland Cinsault 2018

Swartland, Coastal Region, South AfricaYoung winemaker Alex Milner suddenly became very cinsault-centric when a professor told him not to bother reading the cinsault chapter in his textbook because it would be worthless to him. Fast forward from that 2011 conversation to today, and The Natte Valleij Cinsault Collective. Alex set out to find forgotten patches of old Cinsault across the Western Cape, expressing their individualities through low-interference winemaking. These dry farmed bush vines were planted in 1986 on decomposed Malmesbury shale, lying on an eastern facing, morning-sunned slope. This was aged in foudres, with 20% stems (left in the full sun for a day). Powerful and direct, with wild plums, black raspberry, medicinal scented cherry, scrubby wild herbs, and dashes of rock salt flooding the generous (only 12.5%) palate. The structure is firm, though the bones are very fine, drawing this to a lingering finish. Drinking very smartly now, and will continue in your cellar.Prices: BC 49.00 Producer: Natte Valleij
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Natte Valleij Simonsberg Paarl Cinsaulttext
91PTS

Natte Valleij Simonsberg Paarl Cinsault 2018

Simonsberg-Paarl, Paarl, Coastal Region, South AfricaYoung winemaker Alex Milner suddenly became very cinsault-centric when a professor told him not to bother reading the cinsault chapter in his textbook because it would be worthless to him. Fast forward from that 2011 conversation to today, and The Natte Valleij Cinsault Collective. Alex set out to find forgotten patches of old vine Cinsault across the Western Cape, expressing their individualities through low-interference winemaking. These bush vines were planted on decomposed granite in 1993, and face northwest in the protection of Simonsberg Mountain. They are the youngest in the Collective, picked early and fermented with 10% stems, and aged in 300L barriques for one year. Such a charmer, with wild raspberry at the fore, led by strawberry jam, spring rhubarb, pink peppercorn, subtle anise running a long, slender frame. Tannins are barely felt, but house this pretty red to a spiced, bitter cherry ending. Drinking smartly now, especially with a chill.Prices: BC 49.00 Producer: Natte Valleij
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Natte Valleij Darling Cinsaulttext
90PTS

Natte Valleij Darling Cinsault 2018

Darling, Coastal Region, South AfricaYoung winemaker Alex Milner suddenly became very cinsault-centric when a professor told him not to bother reading the cinsault chapter in his textbook because it would be worthless to him. Fast forward from that 2011 conversation to today, and The Natte Valleij Cinsault Collective. Alex set out to find forgotten patches of old dryland bush vine cinsault across the Western Cape, expressing their individualities through low-interference winemaking. These 1978 planted bush vines grow in a very isolated block in coastal-influenced Darling, on sloping decomposed granite. This low intervention, lighter, dusky-hued red was fermented in concrete egg. Perfumed wild raspberry, sapid plum, dried rosemary, green leaf, and scrubby herbs flood the sharper palate, lined with sarsaparilla and lifted with gentle acidity. Tannins are fine, guiding this to a pink peppercorn kissed finish. Drinking well now, with a slight chill.Prices: BC 49.00 Producer: Natte Valleij
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Natte Valleij Stellenbosch Cinsaulttext
90PTS

Natte Valleij Stellenbosch Cinsault 2018

Stellenbosch, Coastal Region, South AfricaYoung winemaker Alex Milner suddenly became very cinsault-centric when a professor told him not to bother reading the cinsault chapter in his textbook because it would be worthless to him. Fast forward from that 2011 conversation to today, and The Natte Valleij Cinsault Collective. Alex set out to find forgotten patches of older Cinsault across the Western Cape, expressing their individualities through low-interference winemaking. This is from old bush vines planted in 1974 in Helderberg Mountain’s sea-facing shadows and decomposed granite soils. This was destemmed into concrete egg, evidenced through its long textural whispers running the length of this slender red. Pouring a lighter, dusky hue, this is lifted with perfumed wild plum, red currant, sour cherry, green edged rhubarb, and seasoned with mustard seed. Tannins are slight, and the finish disappears seamlessly with a whiff of sarsaparilla. Take now with a chill.Prices: BC 49.00 Producer: Natte Valleij
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Viña Ebbrezza Especial Montsanttext
90PTS

Viña Ebbrezza Especial Montsant 2018

Montsant, Catalunya (Catalonia Cataluña), SpainEbbrezza Especial is equal parts garnaxta and carignena from a red clay and granite soiled vineyard in Montsant. Dusky, sultry plum, black cherry, boysenberry pie, perfumed violets flood the fleshy, leather-lined palate, cut with a swath of medicinal cassis through to the lingering, stony finish. Tannins are ample, fine and grippy/sticky, as is the alcohol, finishing with a warming baking spice flush. Very much in youth, this will benefit from a couple of years' cellaring.Prices: Producer: Viña Ebbrezza
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Domaine du Séminaire Côtes du Rhônetext
88PTS

Domaine du Séminaire Côtes du Rhône 2019

Côtes du Rhône, Rhone Valley, FranceThis organically farmed Côtes du Rhone blends 80% grenache with 10% each of syrah and carignan, all grown on clay-limestone soils, and aged in concrete vat for 9 months prior to bottling unfined. Peppery and bright, with dusky plum, wild cherry, thorns on a plump, juicy, high-toned palate. Acidity is fresh, and tannins are appropriately grippy, structuring this ideally for pairing with sausages. Quite charming, and great value.Prices: ON 17.45 Producer: Domaine du Séminaire
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Sun & Air Cinsaulttext
87PTS

Sun & Air Cinsault 2018

Western Cape, South AfricaSun & Air is a South African line from Boutinot, in their ever-expanding reach of affordable, well-made, excellently packed wines from around the globe. This is a youthful and juicy Cinsault from a majority of 65 year old dry farmed bush vines across the Cape. Raspberry, plum, worchestershire, thorny blackberry is streaked with smoke and brightened with crunchy acidity and a peppery finish. Tannins are tucked away, allowing the fruit to rise through. An easy, sausages-ready red; take with a slight chill.Prices: BC 14.00 Producer: Boutinot
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Rioja Bordón Tempranillo Reservatext
90PTS

Rioja Bordón Tempranillo Reserva 2013

Rioja, SpainThis Rioja Reserva blends 85% tempranillo with garnacha tinta, and mazuelo (aka cariñena), before two year's rest in American oak prior to additional bottle time. Aged perfectly for you, this is ready to drink upon purchase, with layers of worn word, dried paper, dried and fresh cherry, and fine tobacco along a lengthy, slender palate, finishing with mineral salts. Quite elegant, and a lovely opportunity to drink a well aged wine upon purchase.Prices: BC 31.99 QC 19.90 Producer: Bodegas Franco - Espanolas
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Torres Mas de la Rosatext
93PTS

Torres Mas de la Rosa 2017

Priorato, Catalunya (Catalonia Cataluña), SpainMas de la Rosa is one of the hidden valleys of Priorat, a place that historically was one of the first inhabited masias (farmhouses) near Porrera. This is an 80-year-old bush vine field blend of garnacha and carineña, around 500m. The shallow soils are made of broken llicorella. After 8 days of skin contact, this was fermented in small stainless tanks for a week and then into French oak for 16 months' rest. Alluringly savoury and grippy from the start, reflecting the soils, altitude, and gnarly old vines, this opens shyly at first, with perfumed violets, wild plum, wild blackberry, thorns, and an herbal scrub. Tannins are appropriately firm, and the palate has a lovely pure core of fruit. Very much in youth, this finishes with a swell of warmth, though once this wine settles into itself in a couple of years, it will feel effortless. Quite a special wine of place; if you find one of the 2328 bottles produced, grab it.Prices: BC 560.00 Producer: Miguel Torres Spain
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Paxton AAA Shiraz Grenachetext
87PTS

Paxton AAA Shiraz Grenache 2017

McLaren Vale, South Australia, AustraliaPaxton is Australia's leading producer of biodynamically farmed grapes, managing 300+ acres of vines across McLaren Vale. This is a brooding, dark and fleshy blend of 60/40 shiraz/grenache, with inky black plum, dusty cocoa, cassis, worked leather, anise, mustard seed flooding the juicy palate. Crack this with grilled root veg or lamb kebobs.Prices: BC 24.00 Producer: Paxton
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The Stump Jump Redtext
86PTS

The Stump Jump Red 2017

McLaren Vale, South Australia, AustraliaThis easy, entry-level Aussie GSM is from mostly older McLaren Vale vines, basked pressed and with a short time in oak prior to bottling. Light and smoothed on the palate, with milk chocolate, raspberry, underripe red currant, and a cranberry tangy acidity, with hints of eucalyptus and sticky dark cocoa on the warming finish. Short, tart, and quick, partner this with grilled burgers.Prices: BC 12.99 Producer: d'Arenberg
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Yangarra High Sands Grenachetext
94PTS

Yangarra High Sands Grenache 2018

McLaren Vale, South Australia, AustraliaHigh Sands is Yangarra's Holy Grenache Grail, capturing the essence of their prized old vines. From their McLaren Vale Blewett Springs estate, this biodynamic High Sands block is perched at the top of the ridge, with gnarly old bush vines from 1946 rooted in deep silica sand soils. This was destemmed with 50% whole berry, native fermented, and kept in older French oak for 11 months, prior to bottling without fining. This certainly achieves the trinity of intensity, lightness of being, and structure, with a quiet confidence and nonchalant restraint that lets the finessed purity of this wine shine. Fragrant plum, wild blueberry, sweet wild strawberry, gum tree, and a wash of mineral salts flood the palate, shockingly fresh and finessed for its 14.5%. Tannins are long and lissom, sticky just enough to pin in the fruit to a lingering finish. Though there is a gently ripe sweetness here inherent in grenache, there is a savoury saltiness that rises to match, in the end creating a memorable harmony. Drinking beautifully now, this will certainly continue to hold in your cellar over the next few years.Prices: BC 100.00 Producer: Yangarra Estate Vineyards
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Thistledown Wine Company Gorgeous Grenachetext
89PTS

Thistledown Wine Company Gorgeous Grenache 2020

AustraliaThis grenache is sourced from various older vineyards across Riverland and McLaren Vale, some of which are gnarly old bush vine. Each vineyard was native vinified separately, with partial whole bunch. The blend was rested in larger oak and bottled without filtration or fining. Ripe and juicy on the fuller palate, with bright plum, downy blackberry, perfumed strawberry, red and black liquorice, and heaps of fine peppery spice. Tannins are supple and smoothed, guiding this to a gripped finish. Ready to crack and drink now, with roasted beets and/or sweet shellacked ribs.Prices: BC 36.00 Producer: Thistledown Wine Company
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Envínate Albahratext
91PTS

Envínate Albahra 2017

Castilla-La Mancha, SpainEnvínate (aka wine-yourself) is the brainchild of Laura Ramos, Jose Martínez, Roberto Santana and Alfonso Torrente, four friends who met while studying oenology at the University of Miguel Hernández in Alicante. Their work is focused on exploring the ancient, Atlantic-infused terruños of Ribeira Sacra, Canary Islands, Extremadura and Almansa. Their philosophy is simple: let each single parcel express itself through low-intervention farming and winemaking. Albahra is Castilian for small sea, and named for the vineyard area in the Alamansa region, tucked into the southeastern corner of Castilla-La Mancha, bordering the neighbour appellations of Jumilla and Yecla. This blends 70% Garnacha Tintorera (aka the teinturier Alicante Bouschet) and 30% Moravia Agria (a local grape with only 50ha remaining), with grapes sourced from 25 year old vines rooted at 800m on chalky clay soils. This was 40% whole bunch fermented in large concrete tanks, where it remained for 8 months prior to bottling unfined and unfiltered. Pouring a paler, cloudy hue, this opens with waves of reduction leading to dusky plum, medicinal-kissed cherry, wild raspberry, and ample scrubby herbs. The medium bodied palate is nervy with acidity, and pinned with grippy / sticky tannins, guiding this to a saline finish. An alluring, intriguing wine, best taken with a slight chill, and possibly a platter of choice charcuterie.Prices: BC 30.00 Producer: Envinate
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Yalumba Samuel's Collection Barossa Grenache Shiraz Matarotext
88PTS

Yalumba Samuel's Collection Barossa Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2016

Barossa Valley, South Australia, AustraliaThe grenache, shiraz, and mataro were sourced across Barossa, and native fermented separately in a mix of oak vats and stainless, before blending and resting for 11 months in French, Hungarian, and American oak hogsheads (13% new). Boysenberry jam, plush raspberry, spiced cherry floods the juicy palate, with a brace of tight spices and softer tannins to guide this to a snappy finish. At 13.5%, this is quite a fresh, welcoming take on Barossa GSM, approachable now, ideally with grilled chicken or pork.Prices: BC 25.99 Producer: Yalumba Wine Company
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Testalonga Baby Bandito Follow Your Dreamstext
91PTS

Testalonga Baby Bandito Follow Your Dreams 2019

Swartland, Coastal Region, South AfricaFrom the Swartland's decomposed granite soils, this was a single bush vine plot of carignan, planted in 2001 at 220m, and farmed organically. As is Craig's way, this was entirely whole bunch, crushed, and native fermented before going into 2 old foudre where it remained until bottling without fining. Fragrant darting cherry, wild plum, wild raspberry run the fresh, bright palate. Tannins are stencilled fine, ideally structuring this svelte wine through a lingering spiced, saline finish. Such a charmer, especially with a slight chill.Prices: BC 40.00 BC 80.00 1500 Producer: Testalonga
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07 January 2021

Spier Seaward Cabernet Sauvignontext
88PTS

Spier Seaward Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Western Cape, South AfricaWe were impressed with 2017, and 2018 is as good or better. Spier strives for fruit purity in its wines, never an easy task at this price point, but they seem to pull it off with aplomb. Nothing is pressing about this wine. It simply measured clean and balanced and as good as it gets for less than $20 from this grape variety. It's more European than New World, with less fat and oak, and more style and elegance. Look for moderate amounts of blackcurrant and black cherries, with a dusting of cedar and oak. It is ready to drink and perfect with any barbecued meat, stir fry, or pizza.Prices: BC 19.99 Producer: Spier
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Covert Farms Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reservetext
88PTS

Covert Farms Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve 2018

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaPlanted in 2006 in the Coyote Block of their organic McIntyre Bluff estate at 420m, this was fermented with daily punch-overs over a month prior to 20 months in French oak. Compact and dense with dark cherry, dark chocolate, baked plums, and leather coating the muscular palate. Tannins are rustic hewn and grippy to the bitter cherry finish. Very young and tight now, best taken with root veg and/or beef stew.Prices: BC 63.80 Producer: Covert Farms Family Estate
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Luke Wines Cabernet Sauvignontext
90PTS

Luke Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley, Washington, United StatesThe 2017 edition of Luke Cab comes in at 96 percent cabernet sauvignon, with a drop of petit verdot and malbec. It is a definite upgrade over 2016, and while wildfire smoke was a problem across parts of Washington, I did not find it to be much of an issue with this label. There is more intensity of aromas and flavours in 2017, led by a more Washington like nose of black cherries and dark chocolate. It presents with a little more weight and more chocolate, coffee, and black fruit on the palate. Smooth and easy-sipping, you can get into this wine, especially with a favourite grilled entrée.Prices: BC 43.99 Producer: Luke Wines
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Luke Wines Cabernet Sauvignontext
88PTS

Luke Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley, Washington, United States77 percent of this wine is cabernet sauvignon, blended with merlot, malbec, petit verdot, and cabernet franc. The nose is a muddle of French and American oak, and the palate, while full of dark berry fruit and a combination of caramel and molasses, is a little shy on weight and the power you might expect from Washington cabernet. The good news is the tannins are supple, and you can drink it now.Prices: BC 43.99 Producer: Luke Wines
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Covert Farms Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reservetext
88PTS

Covert Farms Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve 2018

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaThis certified organic cabernet sauvignon comes off the Coyote Block of the Covert family 650-acre estate, planted in 2006 in Oliver. The ferment is 26 days long in open-top fermenters. The result is a ripe, dark fruited, dark chocolate cabernet with a touch of cedar, leather, and brown spice, with moderate but refreshing acidity. Best to hold for three to five years, or serve now with roast lamb.Prices: BC 63.80 Producer: Covert Farms Family Estate
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Moon Curser Cabernet Sauvignontext
89PTS

Moon Curser Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaSourced from Fernandes Vineyard on the Osoyoos East Bench, the fruit is sorted and destemmed for whole berry fermentation in stainless steel fermenters. This is a youthful cabernet sauvignon, with the best still yet to come. The blackcurrant and blackberry is juicy on the palate but really started to emerge on the second day the bottle was open, with a nice, complementary spiciness from the oak (33% new François Frères barrels). The tannins are a bit hard right now but should soften nicely after another 2-3 years in the bottle, and bring everything into balance. Some pyrazine character would add another dimension. Only 275 cases produced.Prices: BC 39.99 Producer: Moon Curser
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LaStella La Sophiatext
91PTS

LaStella La Sophia 2017

Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaThis is an enticing small lot cabernet sauvignon whose style was founded on the savoury gems of Bolgheri and Maremma, Italy. The savoury part is easy in the south Okanagan. The round tannins are more of a challenge for this late-ripening variety. Still, winemaker/winegrower Severine Pinte has a handle on this wine's texture that presents as round, warm, spicy, and very Bolgheri. The fruit comes off mostly plus 30-year-old vines with others that date back to the 1980s and the late 70s. Just a baby, but it will be even better down the road.Prices: BC 89.90 Producer: LaStella
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Condor Peak Reserve Cabernet Sauvignontext
84PTS

Condor Peak Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Mendoza, ArgentinaLight savoury minty notes mark the nose of this otherwise quiet Argentine cabernet. The attack is soft, with a mix of milk chocolate, oak, and cassis that finishes on the sweet side. An easy-drinking red that is ready to go.Prices: BC 14.99 Producer: Andean Vineyards
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Torres Mas La Planatext
92PTS

Torres Mas La Plana 2016

Penedès, Catalunya (Catalonia Cataluña), SpainThis iconic Spanish wine has been in the spotlight since the 1979 Paris Judgement (The Wine Olympics) when the 1970 Mas La Plana beat out Bordeaux for the Cab Crown. From deep, limestone-rich soils in Alt Penedès, Catalunya, this was destemmed, fermented in stainless and oak foudres, with a gentle extraction. This spent 18 months in French oak (65% new) barrels. Though the wood and cab's structure is firmly felt, the juicy, mouth-watering core dominates this wine, with fleshy black cherry, graphite, dried florals, tobacco, and waves of fine grained savoury spice texturing the whole through to the lingering finish. Very well integrated now; drink or cellar for the next 5 years or so.Prices: BC 65.00 AB 62.00 QC 56.00 NS 57.00 Producer: Miguel Torres Spain
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Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignontext
82PTS

Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Sonoma County, California, United StatesThis sweeter Sonoma cab is filled with raspberry jam, candied cherry, and toasted oak, with swirls of sweet mocha on the short finish. Tannins are somewhat pasty, cushy and soft, as is the palate. Definitely a wine of style (soft, sweet red) than of grape, or place.Prices: BC 30.00 AB 17.59 QC 19.45 NB 22.99 Producer: Chateau Saint Jean
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Arboleda Cabernet Sauvignontext
85PTS

Arboleda Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Valle de Aconcagua, Region de Aconcagua, ChileThis Aconcagua cabernet was fermented in stainless before heading to French barrels for 14 months (30% new). Super green and pyrazine-led, with green branch, ample smoke, toasted cedar clouding some muddled red fruits underneath. The alcohol is warming beyond its declared 13.5%. This needs fire-grilled meats to match.Prices: BC 29.77 ON 19.95 NS 22.99 Producer: Viña Arboleda
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Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignontext
87PTS

Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Margaret River, Western Australia, AustraliaFrom the west coastal cooled Margaret River, this is an entry-level cabernet sauvignon showing off its cooler-climate structure. This was aged for 11 months in American oak barriques (8% new) and older American and French oak barriques and hogsheads. Ripe, dense cassis is cut with cooling eucalyptus on the fleshy palate, one housed with toasted, somewhat sticky tannins. The finish is tight and bright, with a lingering mint/mocha note. Crack and take this plush, fresh red with grilled and sauced ribs.Prices: BC 22.00 ON 20.00 AB 24.00 NS 25.00 Producer: Ringbolt
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Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignontext
89PTS

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Knights Valley, Sonoma County, California, United StatesBeringer has used the Knights Valley designation since 1974, well ahead of it being officially designated as an AVA in 1983. Labelled as a single variety cabernet sauvignon, Beringer champions this as a Bordeaux blend with 8% merlot, 5% cabernet franc, and 1% petit verdot. It shows ripe blackberry fruit, fig, dried herbs, and integrated sweet-spiced oak after ageing for 20 months in French wood (27% new). Medium-full bodied and quite linear, it lacks some concentration and fruit density on the midpalate, finishing with youthful fine-grained tannins. Nicely balanced.Prices: BC 46.99 AB 47.00 SK 35.50 MB 47.00 ON 45.00 QC 37.10 NL 49.98 Producer: Beringer Napa Valley Vineyards
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Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Black Labeltext
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Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Black Label 2014

Coonawarra, South Australia, AustraliaWynns' Black Label cabernet sauvignon is a classic label, which has steadily (and deservedly) gone up in price over the last several years. It has a classic Coonawarra nose of fresh blackcurrant, dusty earth, and dried mint, with a light touch of oak firmly in the background. Some tertiary notes are just starting to emerge at six years of age, though the tannins still have a slight grip to the finish. It's drinking well now, but these are wines that will age gracefully for years if you let them, thanks to their combination of structure and elegance.Prices: BC 34.99 MB 23.00 AB 30.00 Producer: Wynns Coonawarra Estate
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Hussonet Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignontext
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Hussonet Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Valle del Maipo, Region del Valle Central, ChileIt’s been years since we have seen this wine, and as you might expect, it has shed some of its rustic stylings and added more ripeness and more refined texture. On the nose, look for savoury bay leaf with sappy cassis and smoky, licorice notes. The attack opens up with menthol, resin, more cassis, and cedar, with pure red fruit poking through from underneath. As mentioned, the structure is so much better today. A solid offering and one perfect for a mid-week steak or beef taco.Prices: BC 19.90 Producer: Viña Haras de Pirque
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06 January 2021

Fort Berens Cabernet Franc Reservetext
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Fort Berens Cabernet Franc Reserve 2018

British Columbia, CanadaThere's no indication where the grapes come from for this Reserve Cab Franc, but it is appellated BC VQA, leading one to believe grapes were sourced from across BC (including their Lillooet estate?) Partial whole cluster, this was native fermented, and then aged in wood for 14 months. Cedar-framed dark cherry, black raspberry rides a smoothed medium+ palate, with hearty doses of sweet spices, sarsaparilla, and a savoury rusticity to season through the shorter finish. Typical BC cab franc, though that's as far as typicity goes. I wish there was more transparency here, especially for a 'Reserve' tier.Prices: BC 36.99 Producer: Fort Berens Estate Winery
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Fort Berens Cabernet Franctext
88PTS

Fort Berens Cabernet Franc 2018

Lillooet, British Columbia, CanadaThere's a lot going on in this dusky, ripe cab franc, with grapes partially from their Lillooet estate's Dry Creek Vineyard, and the rest from elsewhere in BC. Partial whole cluster, this was native fermented prior to aging in French and American barrels. Ripe plum, blackberry jam, mulberries and ample toasty spice fill a suave palate, with soft tannins hugging the silky fruit to a musk perfumed finish. As mentioned, there's a lot going on here, and a little bit too much. Crack and drink now with grilled burgers or kabobs.Prices: BC 28.99 Producer: Fort Berens Estate Winery
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Van Westen Vineyards Vulturetext
89PTS

Van Westen Vineyards Vulture 2017

Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaA good follow up to the outstanding 2016 but not quite in the same class. There are plenty of savoury notes in this fully ripe franc, offering sweet blueberry aroma and a fair amount of oak. The palate is a mix of smoky black fruits with a peppery and savoury undercurrent and just a hint of acidity. Longer and softer than 2016, not quite as chiselled, this will be ready to drink in the near term (three to five years). To be reassessed in two years to see how it's developing in bottle.Prices: BC 40.00 Producer: Van Westen Vineyards
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Gold Hill Cabernet Franctext
89PTS

Gold Hill Cabernet Franc 2016

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaThis is a high octane cabernet franc that shows concentrated, jammy fruit with pungent dried herbs. The extended hang time seems to have concentrated some of the green characters, suggesting some raisining on the vine (similar to an appassimento-style wine). The fruit intensity allows the wine to carry the oak, with the high alcohol easily giving the palate a suave, glycerous character. It's a love it or hate it style, and arguably few do it better than Gold Hill in the Okanagan.Prices: BC 34.99 Producer: Gold Hill Winery
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Poplar Grove Cabernet Franctext
90PTS

Poplar Grove Cabernet Franc 2017

Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, CanadaPoplar Grove is beginning to hit its stride with this cabernet franc. It’s been the little tweaks but important ones along the way as it goes from a soupy savoury midpalate to a more structured wine with dense sweet tannins toning down some of its hedonistic flare. The result is just enough structure to allow multiple layers of flavours featuring black plums and cold tea with a mocha wisp upping its complexity quotient. It spends 21 months in about one-third new French oak and gets another full year in bottle to rest at the winery. You can drink this now, but more time will only benefit its final picture.Prices: BC 37.99 Producer: Poplar Grove Winery
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Fort Berens Cabernet Franc Reservetext
88PTS

Fort Berens Cabernet Franc Reserve 2018

British Columbia, CanadaLabelled as BC VQA, suggesting this is a multi-regional blend, Fort Berens' Reserve Cabernet Franc shows more obvious oak than its entry-level sibling and doesn't quite have the same charm as a result. A combination of dill and smoke obscures some of the fruit and varietal character. There's also a notch more ripeness and extraction, giving this a bold character that calls for a charcoal-grilled steak. Best after another 1-2 years.Prices: BC 36.99 Producer: Fort Berens Estate Winery
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Fort Berens Cabernet Franctext
88PTS

Fort Berens Cabernet Franc 2018

Lillooet, British Columbia, CanadaPredominantly from Fort Berens' Dry Creek Vineyard in Lillooet, this underwent partial whole cluster fermentation, which works nicely here. The fruit is juicy and shows real freshness, complemented by spicy herbs and subtle oak influence from ageing in French and American barriques. It retains cabernet franc's appealing savoury aromatics, which can be lost in the chase for ripeness. It's a quaffable style with negligible tannins, and is not trying to be something it's not. And that's part of its charm.Prices: BC 28.99 Producer: Fort Berens Estate Winery
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04 January 2021

Clos du Soleil Capellatext
90PTS

Clos du Soleil Capella 2019

British Columbia, CanadaTight, zesty, and intense, this Bordeaux-inspired white blends 83% sauvignon blanc (from Keremeos) and 17% sémillon (oliver). After a whole bunch press, the lots were partial native fermented in barrel (82% French puncheons, 18% stainless), and partial MLF before aging on lees with bâtonnage for nine months. Passionfruit, orange, guava, grapefruit jockey for pole position, all braced with zesty lemony acidity, and scented with scrubby desert herbs. A fresh, powerful style.Prices: BC 24.90 Producer: Clos du Soleil Winery
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Condor Peak Sauvignon Blanctext
88PTS

Condor Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Mendoza, ArgentinaClean, crisp, and bright, with shining lemon, greengage, green apple, lemon pith ruling the slender palate. This has a welcome fine layer of lees to offer the fresh acidity, finishing with a snappy, lip-smacking finish. Simple, but well made, and quite smart.Prices: BC 12.99 Producer: Andean Vineyards
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Domaine de la Chaise Touraine Chenonceaux Blanctext
90PTS

Domaine de la Chaise Touraine Chenonceaux Blanc 2018

Touraine, Loire, FranceIf you are a fan of sauvignon blanc, look for Domaine de la Chaise Touraine Chenonceaux. For six generations, the Davault family has been farming at Domaine de la Chaise and its 57 hectares of hillsides at Saint Georges sur Cher. They make a perfect style of sauvignon, fresh and ripe, dare I say almost New World, until you taste the balance, persistence, and intensity that firmly brings you back to the Loire. The nose is a mix of pineapple, passion fruit, and lemongrass. The palate is rich but lively with the perfect touch of bitterness (guava) and a mineral twist. A lovely wine at a terrific price, and it's sold in 38 BCLDB stores.Prices: BC 26.99 Producer: Domaine de la Chaise
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Clos du Soleil Capellatext
90PTS

Clos du Soleil Capella 2019

British Columbia, CanadaInitially quite youthful with a whiff of sulphur dioxide, this quickly opens up after a whirl through the decanter. Like the 2018 vintage before it, the story here is still about restraint and place. This 83/17 blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon is largely wild fermented in French oak puncheons and stainless steel barrels. However, the oak is less about flavour and more about texture. This is crisp and bright, but the oak brings some richness to the mid-palate with sur lie aging for nine months. It's quite salty and mineral-driven, but also not shy on fruit. It's predominantly citrus-fruited, but it's also fleshed out by some riper passion fruit notes, too. A moreish, delicious wine at an unbeatable price. Highly recommended.Prices: BC 24.90 Producer: Clos du Soleil Winery
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Cirro Sauvignon Blanctext
87PTS

Cirro Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Marlborough, South Island, New ZealandThis label remains consistent for Cirro and Kiwi SB out of Marlborough. The nose is intense, led by grapefruit rind, passionfruit, and citrus in a juicy, assertive, ripe palate. The mid-palate follows form with a whack of jalapeno pepper spicing before a crisp finish. Classic Marlborough with its pungent, herbaceous undercurrent. Drink now; best with shellfish or fresh cheeses.Prices: BC 21.99 Producer: Viscosity Ltd.
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