Syrah, CC Jentsch Cellars, Oliver, Okanagan Valley VQA, BC, 2013, 13.8% abv, C$30 (2013 vintage tasted October, 2015, 2015 vintage tasted May, 2021)

This BC wine was the winner in the Judgement of BC blind tasting held in August, 2015 in Vancouver. Now, this was no small feat – 12 BC wines (Chardonnay and Syrah) were cast against 12 benchmark Chardonnay and Syrah wines from regions located around the world.

While BC wines didn’t fare so well on the Chardonnay side of things, the CC Jentsch Cellars 2013 Syrah placed first.

The rather famous Steven Spurrier who organized the even more famous Judgement of Paris in 1976 was in town to sit on the panel for this event, having attended the BC Pinot Noir Celebration the weekend before (where I was a judge).

2013 Vintage
The CC Jentsch Syrah verges on deep ruby and on the nose, a tingling minerality accompanies deep, ripe purple fruit with plum, vanilla, ginger and clove, and significant pine and jentsch  There’s an underlying base of tar adding to the complexity.

The palate is dry with some gorgeous tannins that offer just enough strained grip to go with your meat or charcuterie. Alcohol and acidity are perfectly positioned and flavours include sausage and pepperoni, tobacco and more Damson plum with ripe field berries and sweet cranberry, vanillin and ginger blossom.

A distinct herbal pine cone and soya sauce accompanies the long, lingering finish on this balanced, layered, expressive Syrah.

2015 Vintage
I had waited a long time to open this, my last bottle of Jentsch Syrah, knowing it would have a long window and could never disappoint.  However, when the very talented Chris Jentsch passed away suddenly last month, as did the incredible Steven Spurrier, I started to think there were larger forces at work and I decided to enjoy this while toasting a dear friend’s recent retirement.

A deep translucent garnet, boysenberry, blueberry and fir tip dominate the heady nose.  More blue and purple fruit dominates the dry palate with its silky tannins and sparkly minerality.  The fresh fruit flavours are nestled on a palette of soya sauce, anise, leather belt and salami.  The long finish lingers just as the 2013’s did.

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Pinot Noir, Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru Aux Vergelesses, Simon Bizes et Fils, Côte-d’Or, Bourgogne, France, 2010, 13.5% abv. US$95

Simon Bizes et Fils is a fifth generation Burgundian winery in Savigny-les-Beaunes south of Dijon. The Pinot Noir grapes for this 2010 bottle come from vineyards planted in 1939, 1949 and 1954.

On the eyes, it’s a translucent garnet with initial aromas of cranberry, which deepened to black cherry and plum, and eventually nut and loam as it unraveled from 11 years of being in a bottle.

The dry palate has stunningly good acidity, and is laser precise showing flavours of black cherry, preserved orange, almond skin, nestled on a bed of black soil and hint of truffle. The finish is very long and although I opened this at 11 years, I could have waited several more – the drinking window is that deep.

Suave and sophisticated, this bottle was a special treat to mark over a year into the pandemic with my family bubble.

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Assyrtiko, Thalassitis, Episkopi Vineyard, Koutsi-Korinthos Gaia Estate, Santorini PDO, Greece, 13% abv, 2017, C$35

Since I can’t travel to Greece, I bought a bottle of flagship grape Assyrtiko wine recently to help with a little day dreaming.

There’s a great deep lemon colour on this wine which shows punchy aromas of peach, citrus and sea salt. The dry palate offers take-another-sip acidity and electric flavours of more lemon with stone fruit, and a salinity so solid, you can practically smell the seaweed as you walk along the imaginary beach.

The acidity and salt make this a perfect match with seafood and we paired it with Vancouver Island oysters and mussels for a pretend get away. But it would be equally delicious with risotto, quiche, or light chicken and pasta.

This wine has a strong personality and can stand up to whatever you throw at it. Let it help you dream of Mediterranean trips to come.

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Vermouth, Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery, Courtenay, BC, Canada, 18% abv., C$33+

With its pretty, pale gold colour and layered aromas of sea salt and honeyed herbs, the flavours of this Vermouth are complex and show honeycomb, rosemary, medicinal grass, and spicy cinnamon stick.

Have I got your attention?  What is this sorcery, you ask? It’s a hand-crafted, small batch white Vermouth from Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery, located in the Comox Valley on BC’s Vancouver Island.

This is the second version of Beaufort’s Vermouth – the first was 15% abv and the 4 bottles I bought and loved last summer have long since been recycled.  The current bottle checks in at 18% abv and is a deeper, more complex version of what went before.

Vermouth is undergoing a rebirth all over the world, especially with younger drinkers who are not content with simply putting a whisper of it into a martini.  Today’s drinkers espouse a more European approach, which often means enjoying a Vermouth with some ice, alongside some soda, or simply on its own. 

Vermouth is a fortified wine that is mildly aromatized with a variety of ‘botanicals’, such as herbs, spices, and fruits.  In this case, the base wine is Beaufort’s Madeleine Sylvaner and the fortification comes from local Sheringham Distillery’s Vodka (yes, the Sheringham that won the world Gin award for its Seaside Gin in 2019).  The combination is a union made in heaven – and the 11 botanicals used include wormwood, rosemary, vanilla, lemon and juniper.

Suffice to say this is something you definitely want to get your hands on.  If you check out my Instagram feed, you can see I use it in virtually everything – and I enjoy it equally on its own.  Finally, in addition to tasting fantastic, it’s housed in a beautiful bottle with a hand-applied art deco style label.

Stylish, complex, delicious, and cool – you just cannot lose with this Vermouth.  Enjoy.

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Oregon Wine Symposium, 2021

The other day I was watching a travel show about regional foods and wines in Italy and felt more than a little surprised when I suddenly burst into tears. I guess I miss traveling and learning about the world a little more than I realized!

But this past week, I was able to fill that void a little with a Press Pass offered to me by the Oregon Wine Board to learn more about Oregon wines.  I’ve visited almost every one of Oregon’s 19 wine regions, but this virtual experience with the 2021 version of the Oregon Wine Symposium was so educational and engaging – it’s left me wanting to visit Oregon again when the US/Canada border opens.

There were over 1,000 international participants tuned in online for this four day event which covered every aspect of vineyard to winery to consumer-related topics possible in both English and Spanish.

I attended sessions on everything from building inclusive wine workplaces, email marketing, crop cover, and climate change, to the future of wine, direct-to-consumer and e-commerce strategies, holding virtual wine experiences, and the effects of smoke on grapes.  Every day ended with an online BYO wine happy hour.

The repeated assertion that the pandemic has simply accelerated changes that were going to eventually happen anyhow – and that the world will simply not be returning to pre-Covid 19 ways – was the most consistent takeaway.

Presenter after presenter made the same point – if you haven’t already, start making changes – changes in the way you grow grapes, make wine, work with your employees, market and sell to your customers, and the manner in which you steward the earth.  Finesse your crisis communication and social media skills.

This symposium happened to be about wine, but the lessons learned are important for anyone growing, making any product, and marketing it to the public.  Be diverse, be thoughtful, be innovative.  Put people and place before profit.  In short, be aspirational.

Thanks for the opportunity, Oregon Wine Symposium 2021.


Posted in Oregon, Oregon, Winery Review | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ombré Gris, Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards and Estate Winery, Prince Edward County VQA, Ontario, 2018, 12.5% abv.

Today was an historic day – America inaugurated its 46th president, and its first BIPOC and female vice-president.  At the very least, the event – and the evening’s celebratory concert – called for a unique wine to celebrate with.

Cue the Ombré Gris, a très cool, unfined and unfiltered blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc held on its skins for 36 hours to coax that beautiful shade of tangerine.

The nose and palate of this amber wine, show rich stone fruit, citrusy satsuma, lemon verbena, honeysuckle, and beeswax  Augmented by some nutty notes and salinity, this wine has fabulous mouth feel, and lightly grippy tannins that would make it a perfect partner to anything salty, textured, layered, or fragrant.

The winery, Grange of Prince Edward, is located due south of Belleville, and east of Toronto on the northern shores of Lake Ontario.  Owned and managed by Caroline Granger and her daughter Maggie, the winery produces several unique products, and practices sustainable stewardship of their vineyards.

The Granger Girls’ Ombré Gris proved to be the perfect wine for today’s celebration.

This bottle was provided gratis by Vinnified Wine Club, January 2021.


Posted in Chardonnay, Ontario, Orange, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gamay & Pinot Noir, PTO, Sparkling, Chadsey’s Cairns Winery, Prince Edward County, Ontario VQA, 2019, 12% abv.

Prince Edward County is Ontario’s northern most wine growing and making region, and lies just 2 hours east of Toronto on the shores of Lake Ontario which moderates its climate.  Limestone and gravel dominant soils offer great drainage and produce small yields of grapes with strong mineral characteristics.

Chadsey’s Cairns Winery is named after an early settler in the area.  Ira Chadsey built stone cairns at the back of the property claiming they would guide him home in the afterlife when he returned as a white horse.

No word on whether any of that was successful or not, but if the wine made there is any indication, someone was barking up the right tree.

The PTO – Power Take-Off – is a red bubble made in the charmat method (the same way Prosecco is made), and reminiscent of an Italian Lambrusco.    It offers a nose and palate of cherry, pomegranate, and cassis, supported by chalky tannins, and a mouth-watering acidity.

At only 12% abv., this would be the perfect summertime mid-afternoon thirst quencher, charcuterie accompaniment, special event toaster, or margherita pizza companion.

It’s absolutely delicious and full of fun, so it was a true shame to find out that the owners are selling the winery, and this wine may not be produced again.  Serve chilled, and enjoy it if you’re holding!


This wine was provided gratis by Vinnified Wine Club, January 2021

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Circle Riesling, Red Newt Cellars, Finger Lakes AVA, New York, 2013, 10.2% abv.

When New Year’s eve rolled around, and there was a chance to put 2020 in its place and move forward with some delicious wine and food, who was I to say no to enjoying this bottle of Riesling from New York’s Finger Lakes region with some great Thai takeout?

At a delicate 10.2% abv and light residual sugar, this is a beautifully off dry example of what the Finger Lakes AVA has to offer.

Grapes were planted in the early 1800s in this region that encompasses eleven lakes resembling long fingers etched by glaciers.

The ‘lake effect’ modeled by the bodies of water mitigate the harsh continental climate, much as is done to the west in Canada’s Niagara region where award-winning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is grown.

In the Finger Lakes, Riesling is the dominant grape – but Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer are also present.  There are also wines made from less noble, but still tasty, hybrids Cayuga and Vidal.

This wine is a pale straw colour with aromas and flavours of orange oil, bergamot, apricot, lychee, and slivers of green grass.  The off dry sweetness is offset by great acidity, so there is great balance.

This was a delicious way to usher in 2021, which I hope will be a much improved year over the version that was 2020.


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Pinot Noir, Estate Cuvée, Maysara Winery, McMinnville AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2008, 13.5% abv., US$35

Back what seems to be a lifetime ago, when the border with the US was open, and we ventured out on a 35 day driving tour, we stopped in at one of my perennial Willamette Valley favourites, Maysara Winery.

A biodynamic, family run enterprise, Maysara produces some of Oregon’s loveliest Pinot Noirs – as well as Pinot Blancs and a Gris or two.   We’ve been there a few times, and every time I find Maysara wines, I make sure to slip them into the shopping cart.

For Christmas dinner during Covid 2020, I opened this Pinot that we’d bought in 2019 during our driving tour.

Twelve years in bottle meant it needed a little time to unwind before we enjoyed it with turkey and all the trimmings.

A translucent garnet, it had deep aromas and flavours of Byng cherry, dried cranberry, pomegranate, plum, mint, light umami, softly grainy tannins, and a long finish.

When the world gets back to some semblance of normal, I’ll have to stop by Maysara and stock up again.


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Bunker Red, Rathjen Cellars, Saanich, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, 12.1% abv., C$22++

We’re nine months into this pandemic and I’ve been writing a little less than usual, but drinking a lot more.  What about you?  Yeh, that’s what I thought.

However, I have made a concerted effort to support local wineries and distilleries during this trying time.  Part of this has led to a true awakening for myself – not least because in looking closer to home for inspiring libations, I have found some treasures.

Here is one of those finds which you’ll want to enjoy as soon as possible if you live in Canada (they’ll ship to any province).  Mike Rathjen of Rathjen Cellars has produced this elegant red from Cowichan Valley and Saanich Peninsula grown Gamay Noir, Maréchal Foch, and Pinot Noir grapes.  Sixty percent of it was crushed, destemmed, and fermented on the skins, just as most red wine is made.

But the remainder underwent carbonic maceration.  That’s how Beaujolais is traditionally made – whole clusters of grapes are sealed into a vessel, and the fermentation begins from the inside out instead of the other way around.  This creates a fruitier, lighter bodied red with softer tannins.

Indigenous yeast finished off the fermentations, then the unfined, unfiltered wine was blended and placed in barrel for two years to naturally clarify and stabilize it.  As Mike states, “…Time is the best low intervention winemaking tool.”

A translucent ruby, the Bunker Red has a fruity nose and palate with ripe mulberry, blackberry, Damson plum, and light soy sauce with cedar frond.  Soft tannins round it out, and overlay a long finish.

Its mouthwatering acidity, and slender alcohol allow it to be super food friendly.  It’s a delicious companion to pistachio encrusted salmon with maple syrup and soy sauce marinade.  Or add it to your Christmas table to complement any roasted turkey with fresh herbs and tangy cranberry sauce.  It’s so versatile, it can pair equally well with sausage, chicken, or even something spicy – we enjoyed it with Spanish rice, and its gentle tannins would easily allow it to deal with the heat in Szechuan dishes.

Usually in this part of the world, we are told we shouldn’t attempt red wines because the marginal climate results in lower alcohol and lighter body reds.  However, as Mike points out, “With the moderating effect of the maritime climate, we’re getting some serious hangtime out in the vineyard…This results in red wines that are neither thin nor green, but that have ripe fruit flavours, great colour and good length.”

Bingo! Totally West Coast, and a true wine of place, this is a wine that over delivers, and makes me proud to be a Canadian wine lover.

Pick it up at the winery, or any of the local stores that carry Rathjen Cellars products, including from Leslie at Caddy Bay Liquor Store in Victoria, BC.  

Posted in BC, British Columbia, Gamay, Marechal Foch, OTHER, Pinot Noir, RED | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments