Rosé, Whispering Angel, Caves D’Esclans, Domaines Sacha Lichine, Côtes-de-Provence, France, 2017, US$21

I drank it all.  Every drop.  By myself.  And I was so distracted, I even forgot to take a picture of the bottle before I drained it.

But I think this is what happens with the easily quaffable Whispering Angel.

Sacha Lichine has been involved in the wine industry virtually his entire life.  So, when he purchased Caves D’Esclans in 2006 with the goal of making inroads into the global Rosé market, no one was very surprised.

Since then, he has been rather prolific – and successful.  In 2017, a whopping 4.8 million bottles of this were produced – compared to its first 2006 bottling of 160,000.  Available at numerable US vendors including Trader Joe’s and Costco, this is one globally popular Rosé.

Made from Grenache, Cinsault, Rolle (Vermentino), Syrah and Tibouren growing in vineyards surrounding the winery at La Motte-en-Provence, Lichine has positioned his Whispering Angel Rosé as ‘the’ wine to drink in the US and other markets.

Just as an example, 92% of the D’Esclans wines are exported – while just 16% of Provence wines are in general.  And in the US where 800,000 cases of Provence Rosé are imported each year, a full 20% of them are from D’Esclans!  A total of 2.4 million bottles of Whispering Angel will be sold in the US this year.

On the eyes, it’s a translucent, orangey-pink onion skin, with a delicately floral nose, and juicy flavours of pomegranate juice, white blossom and watermelon rind.

This is a modern and accessible style that is sweeping palates worldwide.  So much so that it’s making sales of some styles difficult – like the meatier, deeper hued Rosés from Tavel, France.

See if you can find a bottle or two of it somewhere to try.  Which do you prefer?


Posted in Cinsault, France, Grenache / Garnacha, OTHER, Rolle, ROSE, Shiraz / Syrah, Vermentino | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyard, Livermore Valley AVA, California

Next time you are in San Francisco – or somewhere around the Bay area – here’s a winery you can plan a trip to and be at in about 2 hours.

Murrieta’s Well is one of the original wineries of the Livermore Valley AVA where they’ve been growing grapes since the 1880s.

Since 1933, Murrieta’s Well has been part of the Wente family’s estate – neighbours and famed producers of the Wente Chardonnay clone which the majority of Chardonnay grown in California hails from.

In the early 1960s, Livermore had as much area under vine as Napa Valley did. However, it remained largely unknown, while Napa eventually became world famous, largely because of its wines that were part of the Judgement of Paris in 1976.

The Livermore Valley, which lies in an unusual east/west pattern (most lie north/south) gets cool breezes from San Francisco Bay which ensures it has good diurnal temperature swings (cool nights and mornings, followed by hot days).  This is absolutely vital for premium grape growing – which is obviously happening here, because these are high quality, delicious wines.

I tasted through some of their 2016s and 2015s.  All are available for direct shipping off their website to American addresses, and at various restaurants throughout the USA.

The Whip (US$26) – Whip it good.  This 2016 13.5% abv blend of 33% Sauvignon Blanc, 24% Semillon, 21% Chardonnay, 12% Orange Muscat and 10% Viognier has a grassy and floral nose with accents of orange oil, stone fruit and kernel.  The fresh palate is dry but fruity with good acidity and flavours of gooseberry, mandarin, apricot and green leaf.

Sauvignon Blanc, Small Lot  (US$35) – Get this – the vines producing these grapes are descendants of cuttings from Chateau d’Yquem planted at Murrieta’s Well in the 1880s.  100% Sauvignon Blanc means this wine shows pink grapefruit and lime blossom, but I also found mango and other tropical fruit.  Some barrel time on the lees has created subtle complexity and great mouth feel.

Dry Rosé (US$30) – Mostly Grenache and Counoise with some Mourvèdre, this wine is a beautiful shade of pink cotton candy with a subtle nose.  The palate shows strawberry cream, white peppery spice, and watermelon.  Dangerously drinkable.

The Spur (US$35) – Mostly Cab Sav, this 2015 also includes equal parts of Merlot and Petite Sirah, as well as some Petit Verdot and Cab Franc.  Green pepper, blueberry and plum mix with vanilla, clove and light leather.  Delicious.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Small Lot (US$58, 2015) – Last but not least, I opened this one with my Coravin.  A vast majority of Cab Sav is complemented by touches of Petit Verdot and Malbec to produce a nose and palate of black cherry and blackberry with mocha and green pepper on a basalmic base.  Soft tannins make this accessible and drinking now.

Small bottle shots reproduced with permission of Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyard

Posted in California, OTHER, RED, ROSE, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shiraz, Mast, Rare Reserve Block, Mount Langi Ghiran, Victoria, Australia, 2002, 14% abv, C$53

I want to go to Australia.  Like, right now.

When I eventually do get there, there will be several wineries I will make a point of visiting – and this will be one of them.

Located against the backdrop of the Grampian Mountains (yes, Australia has mountains) near Ballarat and way northwest of Melbourne in Victoria, Mount Langi Ghiran is in one of Australia’s finest cool climate grape-growing regions.

Like many Australian vineyards, Italian immigrants planted vines hoping to recreate a little of their homeland.  These vines were planted originally in 1963 by the Fratin family, and then replanted later to make this iconic old block of vines.

In 1980, the Fratins hired a consultant named Trevor Mast who had a vision for Shiraz as ‘the’ grape for this part of Australia.  They’ve created award winning, cool climate Shiraz wines ever since – and were accorded great honours in 1996 when the Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz appeared on the cover of Wine Spectator beside the famous Penfolds Grange and Henschke’s Mount Edelstone Shiraz.

It’s that good.

Ten years later, Trevor Mast became ill with early onset Alzheimer’s disease and this perennial award winner has been named for him.

On the eyes, it is a translucent garnet with a shockingly fresh and fragrant nose – showing just picked berry and cedar, with fern and leather.  For a 16 year old wine, this really surprised me.  Clearly nothing but the best grapes and most careful winemaking went into this bottle.

The palate is dry with dusty tannins, high acidity and loads of fresh berry with black pepper, cedar frond, green leaf, dried herbs and leather.

This is a top quality, developing, elegant wine – clean and clear, complex, and absolutely delicious.   The drinking window for this wine is wide open.  If you’re holding, you’re lucky. Take care of it and it will be last easily until 2022-2023.  Although there was some sediment, there is no need to decant long prior to enjoying.  It unwound beautifully from the bottle straight into the glass.

WSET Outstanding

Posted in Australia, RED, Shiraz / Syrah | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rosé, Domaine Houchart, Côtes de Provence AC, France, 13% abv, 2016, C$20++

It’s so warm these days, I can’t bring myself to drink anything other than gin and tonic … or perhaps a bottle of Rosé.

This Rosé, made of typical Provençal grapes – Cinsault, GrenacheMourvèdre and Syrah – is bottled at the Domaines Famille Quiot (est. 1748) for Houchart.

On the eyes, it’s a pretty, pale salmon with a soft nose and dry palate of strawberry juice, honeysuckle blossom, soft white pepper and green leaf.

There is not a lot of complexity which makes the $20 price tag a little hard to take; this is basic Rosé.

But, it’s good for the porch – which is where we enjoyed it on a hot, summer afternoon.


Picture courtesy of BCLB website.

Posted in Cinsault, France, Grenache / Garnacha, Mouvedre, Monastrell, OTHER, RED, ROSE, Shiraz / Syrah | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rosé, Bastide Blanche, Château de Castillon, Bandol AC, France, 2015, 13.5% abv. US$20

Rosé and summer go swell together.  Consider adding this one to your long weekend activities.

Ro is the best known style of wine from Bandol – a tiny wine region on the French shores of the Mediterranean.  Bandol is part of Provence where the difficult-to-grow Mourvèdre grape is king.

Also known as Mataro or Monastrell, depending on where you’re growing and drinking it, Mourvèdre is difficult to ripen completely because it requires a long, extremely dry growing season.  In addition, the evenings must be cool so the grapes aren’t overly sweet and the wines too alcoholic.

There are not too many parts of the world where it grows well – but it is well suited to Bandol and the Southern Rhône Valley, as well as Paso Robles, Australia and its native land, Spain.

The Bronzo family owns this Bandol-based winery perched on the shores of the Mediterranean between Marseilles and Saint-Tropez.

On the eyes, it’s the colour of orangey-pink salmon with a rhubarb, pink grapefruit, and herbed strawberry nose.

The palate is creamy and dry with juicy acidity and flavours of more strawberry juice and fresh rhubarb with dried thyme, more pink grapefruit and crushed rock.

WSET Good Plus, this wine could be laid down for a couple of years for additional development. Drink it with anything, all day long – and consider serving it with salmon.


Posted in Cinsault, France, Grenache / Garnacha, Mouvedre, Monastrell, ROSE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

GSM, Cuvée Mirabelle, Lauren Ashton Cellars, Colombia Valley AVA, Washington, 2012, 14.5% abv. US$50

This GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) is a delicious Washington state wine you can taste and buy at their Woodinville headquarters.

Have you stopped in at Woodinville lately?  Really, it’s the best idea ever – located only 30 minutes outside of Seattle, and dedicated to promoting dozens of Washington state wines.  All the tasting bars are conveniently peppered about town.

On the eyes, this blend is deep ruby with aromas of ripe blackberry, sweet tobacco, a little game and forest floor.

The palate is dry with soft tannins and flavours of more ripe blackberry, cassis, tobacco, leather, and leaves.  With its solid structure and finish, this is WSET Very Good; meaty and fruity – all extraordinary.

Photo: Mike Woods Photography


Posted in Grenache / Garnacha, Mouvedre, Monastrell, RED, Shiraz / Syrah, Washington State | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blanc de Noir, Rosé, Sea Star Vineyards and Winery, Pender Island, BC, Canada, 2017, 11.7% abv, C$24

adjective adjective: unexpected
-not expected or regarded as likely to happen, as in”finding this world class wine on Pender Island was unexpected.”

I’d wanted to visit the Sea Star winery on Pender Island, one of BC’s Gulf Islands, for a while.  A tasting at the vineyards had been part of a Christmas gift, and now that spring had sprung, a trip was in order.

My mother grew up on neighbouring – and much larger – Salt Spring Island, but I had only ever been to Pender once before.  The ferry got us there from Vancouver Island’s Swartz Bay directly and we went straight to the winery hoping to be first in line.

The amazing and affable David Goudge.

Sea Star owner David Goudge was on property and hosted our tasting and questions.  They’ve recently acquired 44 additional acres located across the strait on Saturna Island. Although initially there was 5 years of untamed growth to pick through, hedge trimmers dealt with the blackberry and thistle, and the grapes were given a clean bill of health – which says a lot about the local terroir and its ability to host Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir is one of the most difficult grapes out there to raise.  It’s a diva – a true heartbreak grape, so it’s even more astonishing that something so fussy is able to flourish in the southern Gulf Island micro climate which has a relatively short growing season.

Sea Star’s estate vineyard – look at the slope on this!

The Blanc de Noir that we came away with (in addition to 2 other mixed cases), is a combination of 50% Pinot Noir grapes from Clam Bay Farm on Pender and 50% from the Saturna vineyard.  The fruit has been whole-cluster pressed and the end product is atrociously delicious – we used it to toast a 76th birthday a week later.  Strawberries and cream, apricots and tangy cranberry shine through.  It’s no wonder the 2016 version of this wine was best in show at the 2017 Canadian Culinary Championships.

The tasting had more beauties including the Stella Maris – which is now my current favourite white.  This blend of six weirdo grapes – Gew, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Ortega, Pinot Noir and Schönburger – has the most incredible nose and palate of honey, apricot, rose hips and yellow pear.  The Salish Sea is another blend, this time of Ortega and Siegerrebe, offering a delicious herbaceous lemongrass and tropical fruit drink.  And at a delicate 11.5% abv, you can enjoy it all day long.

I can’t wait to try my bottles of Marechal Foch which were whole cluster fresh pressed on the skins, and only lightly tannic.  I’ve been told to expect a Beaujolais style red with plenty of fresh fruit.

What an unexpected gem of a winery.  I’d heard it was outstanding from chef and sommelier friends, but when I saw it in action, and tasted for myself, I was excited to know wine of such a high level of quality is available here at Pender’s Sea Star.  And, not only is their product outstanding, their marketing and esthetics are beautiful.

There’s plenty of great other stuff to do on Pender, so if you go, plan to visit Twin Island Cider, have lunch at The Woods (where you can have a glass of almost every Sea Star release), chow down on dessert at Poet’s Cove and sit on a beach.  We did!

So west coast, so world class – nothing but great expectations for my next bottle, and visit.

Posted in British Columbia, Pinot Noir, RED | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments