2000 Bordeaux Living Up to Those Celebratory Three Zeros!

November 9th, 2020

Even during this most disturbing Covid-19 pandemic year your scribe has been fortunate to try many Bordeaux at 20 years of age from that historic year 2000. The turn of the century and those three zeros brought a lot of expectation at harvest time for this millennium vintage with high prices for the wines. It started with some devastating winter storms followed by bad mildew during a warmer Spring, but uneven flowering then mixed weather May, June, & July, and finishing with a very dry August & September. The result was not the highest of sugars but good phenolic ripeness of grapes and thick skins for rich concentrated powerful quite tannic style of wines needing time in the bottle. Pundits early on were sometimes reluctant to give it the full credit it now deserves. Lots of consistently well structured wines with balanced acidity (more difficult to find in current vintages due to climate change) plus lovely dense maturing fruit. Another opportunity to check out some more of these 2000s presented itself at a dinner in Vancouver on November 5, 2020 at Blue Water Cafe. Here are a few brief impressions: 

1. L’ARROSEE St.-Emilion: A property favourite (especially that memorable 1961) with some cab sauv in the mix bought in 2013 by Domaine Clarence Dillon (Haut-Brion). Here more paling of the rim with herbal leafy simpler showing. Good but site is capable of better. Improved with a pairing of hot cheese souffle.

2. BRANE CANTENAC Margaux: Improved effort from this Second Growth shows with deep styling of classic Margaux charming aromatics plus elegance and finesse. Well done. Drinking beautifully on a plateau of enjoyment.

3. GISCOURS Margaux: Full somewhat atypical for the AC Third Growth in good management hands. Here dark rich concentration of fruit impresses. Value!

4. CLERC MILON Pauillac: Lighter look and more cab sauv seems not ripe enough though tannic and some greener merlot. Not singing and somewhat disappointing. Needed the truffle pasta for more flavour interest.

5. LAGRANGE St. Julien: Enjoyed many previous bottles of this rich cassis intense beauty Third Growth. This one more sullen dull young and pouting this evening. Still potential there to open up.

6. GRUAUD LAROSE St. Julien: More open Second Growth with textbook St. Julien cedar graphite notes in a powerful statement. No rush. Wonderful structure with loads of fruit to get even better. Most everyone liked this one.

7. LEOVILLE POYFERRE St. Julien: Classy Second Growth is well balanced. Rather more subtle and elegant than expected. Likeable but not at best showing. Depth of fruit is there but slumbering. Maybe just needed more decanting time to open up.

8. PICHON BARON Pauillac: This Second Growth is one of my favs of the vintage but not this bottle. Touch of TCA/Brett detracts. Not perfectly clean. Disappointing. Not the stellar sweet black currant concentrated treasure it usually is. Drinkable with long braised beef brisket course.

9. RAUZAN-SEGLA Margaux: Served blind as a mystery. Darkest of all the wines. Fragrant powerful complex forwardly bouquet. Got us thinking First Growth but not enough Chateau Margaux cabernet sauvignon. Wondered about Palmer. Guessed perhaps Cheval Blanc because of the merlot element. Group fav tonight. Showing beautifully at present. 

In summary another encouraging show for Bordeaux 2000. If you have any of this vintage you are lucky indeed.

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Ask Sid: What is the buzz on Vendange 2020 for Champagne?

November 4th, 2020
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Question: What is the buzz on Vendange 2020 for Champagne?

Answer: Despite climate change resulting in a very early harvest it is quite bullish. Vendange was extended but generally started some 2 weeks earlier than average. Pinot noir & meunier seemed to develop unusually quickly – more so than chardonnay. The buzz is that even though the maximum yields were limited it could be three years in a row of really top quality. Doubt it will challenge the wonderful trio of 1988, 1989, and 1990 or the Dom Perignon 5 year consecutive run of 2002-2006 inclusive. Fan of aging 2008 & 2012 vintage. Will be interesting to follow the development of 2018, 2019, and 2020.

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Another Virtual Tasting by IWFS Vancouver Theme “Bubbles Around The World”

November 2nd, 2020

Hope other Branches are making the effort to get together virtually during these difficult Covid-19 pandemic times. The Robertsons and Larry Burr are doing a stellar job with continuing activities for the Vancouver Branch. They organized another virtual wine tasting on October 26, 2020 with a theme of “bubbles around the world”.  Each member had the opportunity to speak about the background and impressions of their own sparkling wine with some running commentary contributed by your scribe. The result was a good social interaction of members with some informative wine education.

As we all should know the first sparkling wine is credited back in 1531 to the monks in Limoux (an appellation since 2003 in the Aude department of Languedoc-Roussillon, France) using an Ancestral Method for Blanquette de Limoux. It was over 100 years later that we have the first Champagne (and Dom Perignon at the Abbey of Hautvilliers) with the classic Traditional Method or methode champenoise. Later on and currently popular as metodo Italiano with a quicker turn around time with lower prices is the Charmat Method in tank. These days there is a plethora of sparkling wines produced from local grapes around the world. It was interesting to hear at this event about 13 Sparkling wines from 9 different regions with 3 each from the Okanagan Valley in BC and 3 from Champagne all in different styles.  The wines and the IWFS memebers attending:

1. Jim and Karen Esplen NV Nino Franco Valdobbianne Prosecco
Superiore DOCG
2. Lois Gilbert NV Hungaria Grand Cuvee Brut
3. Ray and Sharon MarkhamNV Casina Bric Nebbiolo Rose
4. Alvin and Kim Nirenberg Bernard-Massard Cuvee de L’Ecusson Brut Rose from Luxembourg
5. Dorothy Jansen NV Piper Heidseick Champagne
6. Heb and Shirley HebentonNV Pol Roger Champagne
7. Dick and Val BradshawNV Krug Champagne – but older – price only $38
8. Jim & Milena Robertson2014 Gusbourne Brut Reserve UK
9. Ruth Greirson NV Sakagura No Awayuki Sparkling Sake from Yoshi No Gawa, Japan
10. Larry and Maggie Burr NV Bird in Hand (Australia) Nest Egg “Joy”
11. Nick and Lesley WrightNV Maverick Estate “Ella” Rose Okanagan
12. Vincent and Zelie Tan 2009 Blue Mountain Reserve Brut RD Okanagan
13. Sid and Joan Cross2001 Sumac Ridge Pinnacle Methode Classique Okanagan.

Not their usual blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Pinot Blanc but 100% Pinot Noir. Small production of 556 cases released for $35 after being aged more than 4 years “en tirage”. Impressive showing as was suggested by the late great pioneer Harry McWatters as “a luscious blend of richness and elegance with extreme fruitiness and vibrant freshness” – even now. Confirms the potential for quality aged bubbles in British Columbia – as well as so many other emerging areas!

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Ask Sid: Which Beaujolais age well and best vintages?

October 28th, 2020
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Question: Which Beaujolais age well and what are the best vintages to buy?

Answer: Cru Beaujolais are having a revival helped by climate change plus new investment by Burgundian producers. The 10 crus have some interesting diverse mixed soils ranging from granite, red sandstone to blue clay & volcanic rock. It is generally believed Moulin-a-Vent ages the longest (remember drinking a memorable 1947 with Mommessin) but closely followed by Morgon and Julienas. For a while the fruity early drinking styles of Fleurie & Brouilly and others were en vogue but it is turning back to giving all these undervalued wines some bottle age. My recommendation on best vintages for cellaring are 2018 & 2015 (range 5-25 years) followed by 2016 & 2014 (go say 3-15 years). 2017, 2013, and 2012 are also delicious drinking more forwardly but would easily still hold for 10 years.

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October 26th, 2020
The British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards this year were announced in an excellent virtual video prepared by the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society on October 15, 2020. This is an important historical wine competition started by the Lieutenant Governor of BC at Government House as The Awards for Excellence in BC Wine but this was only the third one in this new format.

The Press Release issued gave some of the details as follows: In 2018, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, with support from the Government House Foundation, and the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society announced a new partnership to celebrate BC wines with the creation of the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards. “We look forward to building on this important relationship each year”, says Okanagan Wine Festivals Society General Manager, Elan Morris, “and we were thrilled to have Her Honour, Janet Austin, be a part of the virtual awards ceremony and announce the 2020 BC Lieutenant Governor’s Wine of the Year.”

“As this competition continues to grow, we are seeing not only the number of entries increase but more importantly the caliber of wines entered continues to get better each year,” says Okanagan Wine Festivals Society Judging Chair, Julian Scholefield. “Our expert panel of judges certainly had their work cut out for them!  We look forward to celebrating the list of 2020 winning wines that showcase the excellence our region has to offer and to growing the competition even more in 2021.”

“I am delighted the partnership between the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society has continued to flourish, giving us the opportunity to recognize the best of BC wines,” says the Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, “The wine industry thrives on creativity, curiosity and craftsmanship. It also requires courage and tenacity in the face of many challenges and uncertainties. This year had an added layer of complexity due to Covid-19, but the incredible showing of the 2020 Wine Awards indicates BC wine will continue stronger than ever in the time ahead.” 

The competition, presented by Valley First, TricorBraun, Westland Insurance and ContainerWorld, was open to all licensed BC wineries including those that produce fruit wines and mead. Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals were awarded. Only the top one per cent of medal winners received platinum medals, with one wine receiving the 2020 BC Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Wine of the Year.
The judging was orginally scheduled for late August but because of Covid-19 pandemic concerns were postponed to late September. The important decision was made to go ahead. They were held in Kelowna at Manteo Resort with outstanding safety protocols strictly in place. Lots of masks, physical distancing, gloves, and avoidng multi-touching of glasses and bottles. Successfully orchestrated in careful difficult circumstances. Less mingling than usual and no close face to face discussions. Still it all worked out well and the results are impressive. 
This year’s wine entries faced an esteemed panel of judges (including your less esteemed scribe) from across Canada.

Brad Royale – Calgary
DJ Kearney – Vancouver
Emily Walker – Summerland
Gurvinder Bhatia – Edmonton
Iain Philip – Vancouver
Justin Yamasaki, Vancouver
Kurtis Kolt – Vancouver
Matthew Landry – Vancouver
Mark Filatow – Kelowna
Michaela Morris – Vancouver
Rhys Pender – Kelowna
Sebastien Le Goff – Vancouver
Sid Cross – Vancouver
Veronique Rivest – Gatineau

After tasting over 740 wines, the judges awarded a record number of medals to 107 BC wineries on October 15 during a virtual award ceremony. Rafe Mair was also honoured with the annual Harry McWatters Founders Award. The award was given posthumously to Mair in recognition of his leadership in the creation of estate winery licenses in 1979.  While there were many people who helped promote the idea of smaller estate wineries, it was Mair in his capacity as Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs who brought the legislation forward to the Bennet provincial government.

The 2020 British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Wine of the Year Award went to Upper Bench Estate Winery’s 2019 Riesling.

The top wines that received platinum medals were:

Lake Breeze Vineyards Riesling 2017
Tantalus Vineyards Old Vines Riesling 2017
O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars Riesling 2019
Arrowleaf Cellars Pinot Noir 2018
SpearHead Winery Pinot Noir Saddle Block 2018
SpearHead Winery Pinot Noir Cuvée 2018
Mission Hill Family Estate Perpetua 2018 – Chardonnay
Therapy Vineyards Chardonnay 2018
Terravista Vineyards Albariño 2019
Deep Roots Winery Parentage Red 2018 – Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, & Cab Franc
Nk’Mip Cellars Qwam Qwmt Syrah 2017
Laughing Stock Vineyards Syrah 2017
Moraine Estate Winery Syrah 2018
Three Sisters Winery Syrah 2018
Deep Roots Winery Syrah 2018

The top wine was a deserving fresh Riesling from the 2019 vintage of Upper Bench Estate Winery. You will see from the 16 highest scored wines listed above that this variety is strong in BC with 4 (or 25%) of the platinum medals. Only Syrah was more dominant with 5. Pinot Noir also excelled with 3. Therefore from among the many varieties and blends judged 75% of thr top wines came from only those three varieties. Check these varieties out and all the worthy full list of winners found at www.thewinefestivals.com.

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