Archive for October, 2020


October 12th, 2020

During this continuing pandemic your scribe has been delighted by many glorious bottles of wine. The biggest wonder experienced has been my unexpected surprise and great admiration for a superb 2011 Sandhill Small Lots Viognier. Always have been a long time admirer of their Small Lots reds bursting with innovation (Barbera & Sangiovese) and icon quality age ability (Bordeaux blends & Syrah). The whites not so much. However was impressed on release with this fresh balanced cool climate vintage 2011 so put a few bottles away to see how they might develop. Generally not the biggest fan of Viognier alone because the ripeness needed to express this variety results in high alcohol usually in excess of 14 degrees. Remember a visit to Daydreamer Wines in Naramata in June 2018 with winemaker Marcus Ansems MW and my excitement at his “Rachel’s” Viognier 2016 picked under 24 Brix fermented in French oak and brought in at 13 bursting with “apricot yoghurt”. There is a growing success in BC for preferred white Rhone blends by many wineries led by winemaker Severine Pinte with her Le Vieux Pin AVA using impressive Rousanne, Viognier & Marsanne plus innovative Moon Curser Vineyards Afraid of the Dark similar white blend.

The success of the Sandhill Small Lots program has been due to the brilliance of winemaker Howard Soon (now retired and Master Winemaker at Vanessa Vineyard). He had the foresight to produce these special vineyard lots with an eye to the future. He says “We discover unique and distinctive barrels that deserve very special attention.” This 2011 Viognier came from the Southern Okanagan in BC in Osprey Ridge Vineyard of grape grower Robert Goltz who deservedly gets recognition on the back label. They acknowledge that “Viognier requires ample heat to ripen well” but notice the alcohol is only 12% with a production 1102 cases. The wine descriptor note says “Brilliant straw in colour our Viognier offers peaches and floral notes on the nose with luscious fruit on the palate.” This is all true but it offered so much more with age. Still a youthful colour plus that fantastic balance remained after 9 years keeping the wine so fresh & vibrant yet with so much drama on the nose and palate. Sensations ranged from biting into a really ripe peach to the more subtle nuances of apricot, tangerine, oranges, nectarines, pears, almost tropical fruit pineapple, roses, brioche, cantaloupe melon, mango, hazelnuts, honey, mint, and a touch of saffron & ginger. There was a textbook floral elegance with minerality and attractive enticing softness. Amazing complexity and not strong but so drinkable and enjoyable now. What a sublime matching for steelhead salmon and home-made kadaifi nests of shredded phyllo stuffed with eggplant, ricotta, and pecorino. The trend now is you are not supposed to age viognier but to drink it immediately on release most fresh. This experience brought back fond memories of dining at La Pyramid in Vienne France founded by Chef Fernand Point considered a father of modern French cuisine with older Chateau-Grillet. In the seventies and eighties their wine list featured the world’s most extensive vintage collection of historic Chateau-Grillet similar to classic Condrieu 100% viognier in style but with their own appellation by long time owners the Nayret-Gachet family but now since 2011 under the ownership of the Pinault family (Chateau Latour). The older the vintage the more expensive the Chateau-Grillet at La Pyramide during those days. Check out the Chateau-Grillet excellent website which lists their 2011 vintage as concentrated near 13.5 alcohol. Compare what an amazing endorsement for future aged Viognier and other Rhone white grapes in British Columbia this 2011 Sandhill Small Lots is. Just get the soil choice right for the vines and find that perfect balance in the grapes. Congrats Howard and many thanks for this memorable revelation!

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Ask Sid: References on Terroir?

October 7th, 2020
Ask your question here

Question: Would you please advise me on some good references for learning more about Terroir?

Answer: Yes “terroir” is a hot topic becoming more and more commonly used in wine descriptions. This word includes a rather long list of contributing factors all rather complex. One of the important ones is soil and the geology of the place where the vines are planted. A new exciting website is by geologist Brenna Quigley with three interesting free podcasts already posted and more on the way. Good site to follow. For more detailed scientific research check out these three books:

1) Wine and Place: A Terroir Reader by Tim Patterson & James Buechenstein

2) Vineyards, Rocks, & Soils: The Wine Lover’s Guide to Geology by Alex Maltman

3) Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate and Culture in the Making of French Wines by James E. Wilson

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October 5th, 2020 released on September 26, 2020 their futures selection from the 2017 Bordeaux vintage for purchase in specialty stores across the Province. This astute buying program is the result of outstanding conscientious attention by Barb Philip MW the Category Manager responsible for European wines (with the help of Bordeaux insider Bill Blatch) over many past vintages in selecting a range of the best wines at different price points for the Bordeaux consumers in British Columbia. This year’s release of 2017 follows on from the popular more classic consistent balanced wines of 2016 from last year. 2017 is less consistent overall with a reduced crop from those late April frosts limiting the availability of some better wines – though less affected in the more northern Medoc like Pauillac AC and surrounding appellations. Also there are three more vintages since 2017 to consider in your future purchasing decisions all being affected by climate change. Nonetheless there has been a good buzz for this release and several readers raised questions about the quality & style of 2017 Bordeaux for the weekly posting on Wednesday Ask Sid feature.

Pleased to report that your scribe attended on September 16 a limited media tasting conducted by Barb Philip MW with insightful discussions in pristine working conditions at the BCLDB Tasting Lab. Tasted 14 of the diverse 181 wines on offer ranging from the classy pure Chateau Haut-Brion from Pessac-Leognan ($1200) to the more rustic but full of fresh fruit Chateau Reynon from Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux ($35). Don’t forget either the value fresh dry vibrant whites like Clos des Lunes Lune d’Argent ($35) and an excellent year for Sauternes like Chateau Doisy-Vedrines (375 ml. $50). Impressed in my tastings by a couple of things. Firstly the wide selection of consumer values in the $35 to $55 range. Tasted many at this event and subsequently which confirmed to me there is real top drinkable quality being produced now right across the many appellations of Bordeaux. They deliver a fresh fruity definition of a riper more friendly cabernet sauvignon or merlot presence in the blend often with the contribution of interesting cab franc as well. Everyone but especially younger demographics need to check these 2017 Bordeaux wines out and expect you will have a surprising most favourable opinion of them. For example both at $55 is an exciting firm bodied Chateau Lilian Ladouys from the improving St. Estephe AC (50 merlot, 43 cab sauv and intense 7 petit verdot spending 15 months in French oak with 40% new) and Chateau du Glana with lovely attractive textbook St. Julien fruit. That brings me to my second big impression of how well this vintage is showing the terroir of the place the wine comes from. That is most admirable and believe it is at least partially due to less overly ripe grapes and lighter extraction methods during fermentation in 2017. Certainly continuing climate change is affecting vintages 2018, 2019, 2020 and beyond with warmer conditions resulting in more ripeness. It may be in this coming decade we will be pointing out enthusiastically while tasting less ripe older vintages the subtle herbaceous notes like in 2017 that this is a true sign of old style really top quality now much more difficult to achieve!

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