Cabernet Franc, Nichol Vineyard, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, BC, 12.4% abv., 2018

Nichol produces some of the best, and food friendliest wines in the Okanagan Valley.  This Cabernet Franc is no exception.

The grapes were handpicked in 2018 from 13 rows planted at Naramata Village in 1989.  Basket pressed, it was raised in neutral oak and bottled unfined and unfiltered in February 2020.

On the eyes, it’s a translucent ruby with aromas of fresh raspberry, red plum, and a brush of nutmeg.  The palate is dry with light meat-embracing tannins and crunchy flavours of more berry, summer rhubarb, green leaf, and cinnamon bark with light baking spice.

Absolutely delicious, it also has a rather delicate alcohol by volume for a red at only 12.4%.  This only means you can enjoy more of it.

 

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Ortega, Vintner’s Reserve, Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery, Courtenay, Vancouver Island, BC, 12.3% abv., 2019

A winery in Vancouver Island’s Comox Valley just northeast of Courtenay you say?!  Really!?  Why, yes!

I was truly delighted to show up for a tasting with the exceptionally knowledgeable Katie Phelan and realize this boutique-sized winery works with its own estate grown grapes, West Coast hybrid varietals that love the cool climate, and has made some of the first moves toward serious sustainability on Vancouver Island.  Just as an example, they’re using bio-char in the vineyards to help with water retention and drainage. 

These organic and sustainable practices reflect the philosophies embraced by James Cameron – yes, that James Cameron, the Oscar-winning director of Avatar, Titanic, and The Terminator – who bought the winery with his wife Suzy Amis in 2014.

Beaufort and their winemaker Freya Timmermans, is also responsible for some delightful wines including a delicate bubble, and this one that’s been fermented and aged in French oak.

The Vintner’s Reserve is a pale gold with aromas of ripe mango, some pineapple, apricot and lemon verbena.  The dry palate’s got food-friendly acidity, and more tropical fruit notes alongside some peach, and lemon curd.  Aged on its lees over the winter, it’s got a lovely texture and mouthfeel.

This winery is in a stunning setting in the heart of the Comox Valley.  The artwork inside their main building is beautiful and they’ve chosen to put some of it on their creations (for example, the lovely 2018 Zephra bubbles pictured here, also made from Ortega).

Here’s a team running an incredible enterprise perched on the precipice of viable viticulture at the 49th parallel – which will only continue to improve with climate change.  Organic, and using the right varietals for West Coast weather, they’re operating with true panache and style.

 

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Pinot Noir, Ashlyn, Anthony Buchanan Wines, Black Sage Gravelbar Vineyard, Oliver, Okanagan Valley, BC, 13.2% abv. 2018

Here’s a silky, West Coast Pinot Noir which is not only delicious, but also a beautifully appointed work of art.   Anthony Buchanan’s dipped-in-periwinkle-blue-wax gem has been completed with new artwork and named for his daughter, Ashlyn.

This bottle was #1547 out of 3480 produced, and it was unfined and unfiltered, with all the best bits left in. 

On the eyes, it’s a deeply translucent ruby with serious aromas of late season raspberry, cherry, earth, wet leaves, and fir – leaving you to imagine a walk through the forest following a cool rain.

The palate is dry with food friendly acidity and elegant tannins, more cherry, red plum and field berry, cranberry and bark.

This is a slender, restrained wine that isn’t looking to overpower, but rather to impress with its finesse.

 

 

 

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Gamay, Pinot Noir, Field Blend, Unsworth Vineyards, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, 2018, 12.5% abv, C$25

Just last week, there was a surprise announcement made by the Turyk family of Vancouver Island’s Unsworth Vineyards – they’ve sold their winery to the Banke-Jackson group from California.

Considering global warming and climate change, it should be no surprise that Napa and Sonoma investors are looking northward for opportunities.  This started a decade ago in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and has continued into the wine regions of Washington state, Canada’s Okanagan, and now Vancouver Island’s new Cowichan Valley Sub-GI.

It’s no small feat to sell a winery, so good on the Turyks.  That said, I’m relieved that there are no changes apparently planned for the foreseeable future.   We can continue to see wines like this Gamay-Pinot Noir blend come from winemaker Dan Wright’s efforts.

The colour is a pretty, translucent ruby with delicate alcohol, and perfumed aromas of field berry with floral meadow and rhubarb.  The palate has lip-smacking acidity and more berry, with ripe cherry, pomegranate, solid white pepper, and a flash of fresh tobacco.

This is a tasty wine -excellent with everything from charcuterie, to salmon, to the lamb croquettes and beet salad I enjoyed it with at the Unsworth restaurant just recently.

 

 

 

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Syrah, William Dean, Three Boys Vineyard, Anthony Buchanan Wines, Oliver, BC, 13.6% abv., 2018

It’s just a guess, but this weekend may call for a socially distanced barbecue in celebration of Father’s Day and a few stellar humans.  If this is part of your Covid-19 celebratory plan, consider opening a bottle of this delicious Syrah from BC’s Anthony Buchanan Wines.

A whole cluster ferment and foot trodden wine, this bottle was #57 of 1,488 produced.  Unfined and unfiltered means all the good bits and full flavours have been left in.  The grapes for this wine were harvested on October 21, 2018 and bottled more than a year later after some time in barrel on November 19, 2019 for release in spring 2020.

On the eyes, it’s a deep ruby with heady aromas of ripe red plum, berry and fresh West coast fir frond.  These carry over to the dry palate which has a lovely acidity balanced with ripe tannins, and more field berry, cedar plank, black pepper, and baking spice.

It’s a gorgeous wine that was named after Anthony Buchanan’s grandfather – whom he was actually named for.  Says the winemaker, “…I never met him as he died when my mom was 15.  He was an amazing, hardworking, loving father, and apparently just adored my grandma, his soulmate… Dean is Nichol’s dad…and is a very important part of our family… So it just made sense that we include these two fine humans on our label.”

The label and the bottle, topped with pretty periwinkle blue wax, are as beautiful as the wine.  Enjoy with this weekend’s meal meant to celebrate the fine humans in your life.

 

 

 

 

*This wine was provided gratis.  Bottle shot taken from Anthony Buchanan Wines website

 

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Riesling, Synchromesh Wines, Okanagan Falls, Okanagan Valley, BC

A 2019 Rieslings review on these three off-dry beauties.  Pair any of them with a spicy Thai meal, cheese board with Stilton or Blue, or a brunch spread with egg dishes and fruit salad.

Riesling, Long’s View Vineyard, Synchromesh, Naramata, Okanagan Valley, BC, 8.47% abv., 2019

Riesling, Thorny Vines Vineyard, Synchromesh Wines, Naramata, Okanagan Valley, BC, 7.75% abv., 2019

Riesling, Drier, Synchromesh Wines, Oliver, Okanagan Valley, BC, 10.03%, 2019

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Block Party, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Kitsch Wines, East Kelowna, Okanagan Valley, BC, 12.5% abv., 2019

Be honest for a minute – and look back at the past 9 weeks of covid take-out charges on your credit card statement.  We both know you’ve been indulging.  Just when you thought you had that plastic bag, styrofoam container, disposable utensil problem fixed, along came a pandemic to mess up your carbon footprint and the bathroom scales.

Well, if you’re buying the take out, at least you need look no further for the perfect wine to accompany your penchant for Vietnamese / Indian / Japanese / Thai food.

A dainty tone of onion skin, this wine has aromas of floral meadow, jasmine, and tropical fruit.  With its palate of pear and white peach, mandarin spice, bergamot, and apricot, it’s also got good acidity and enough residual sugar to take on any level of spice from mild to more.

I can’t help you with the recycling problem that comes along with those take-out dishes, but never doubt your Winellama, because when it comes to what to drink, I’ve always got your back.

 

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Wild Ferment, Méthode Ancestrale, Vantage Point Vineyard, Anthony Buchanan Wines, Oliver, BC, 11.5% abv., 2019

Cool, very cool.  This 89% Chardonnay with 7% Pinot Gris and 4% Gamay bubble is a hand-crafted gem by BC’s own Anthony Buchanan with only 2,500 bottles made.

Stopped with a crown cap, this sparkling wine is light gold with a soft mousse and delicate aromas of green apple, Asian pear, blossom and green meadow.

The palate is dry with food friendly acidity, and flavours of lemon meringue, and yellow apple.

At only 11.5% abv., this is wine you can enjoy all day long – with brunch, lunch, or pretty much anything.  The delicate flavours and aromas also help it pair with many dishes.  We had ours with freshly made prawn spring rolls and pad thai.

Open it carefully!  That crown cap pops off quickly.  It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

Available at Cascadia liquor stores and Vessel on Vancouver Island.  Enjoy all summer long.

 

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Unruly Gin, Wayward Distillation House, Courtenay, BC, 43% abv, 750 ml, C$52+

I love Gin.  Gin, gin, gin.  Gin is fun.  It’s tasty.  Generally, gin makes me giddy and yes, glad.

This one is no exception to the rule I tend to follow for handcrafted, artisan spirits.

Made from 100% BC honey instead of grain, this gin is also gluten free.  What is this sorcery, you ask?!  Yes, the honey is fermented into mead, which is then distilled into spirit, and with vapor infusion, it becomes this gin with its beautiful tapestry of aromas and flavours.

The Wayward Distillery gin has only a very light touch of juniper, with lavender, green herb, and bergamot.  The palate shows all of these – in addition to a splash of sarsaparilla.

This was a 2016 gold medal winner at the Vancouver International Spirits Competition, and won a silver at the 2018 Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition.

It’ll bring joy to all your ‘it’s 5 pm somewhere’ cocktails.  Note – martinis tend to work out extra, super swell when using this #beeunruly gin.

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Unruly Vodka, Wayward Distillation House, Courtenay, BC, 40% abv. 750 ml, C$48+

Look, I’ll be honest with you.  Most vodka is not worth writing about.  It’s the easiest spirit to make, most of it’s remarkably neutral, and the cost paid by the consumer lies mainly in the expensive marketing associated with the big, powerful brands – and who wants to contribute to that?

But this one from Wayward Distillery located in Courtenay on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island is an outlier – a serious exception to the vodka rule.  Their tag line perfectly represents this – “A group of unruly people fighting the evils of poor quality spirits one bottle at a time!”

Made from a base of honey, it’s naturally gluten free – no grain has been used.  The BC honey used is fermented into mead, which is then distilled into vodka.  It’s also got a lot going on in terms of texture and flavour.

And because it’s made by hand in small batches at a small craft distillery, you’re paying a local artisan for a stunning bottle with great artwork, but not sending your hard earned bucks to one of the huge conglomerates.  Wins all around!

This spirit is clear and has aromas of vanilla pod and honey, with a palate of star anise, almond, and marzipan.

Not hot in the slightest, it’s got a great finish, fabulous mouthfeel and is designed equally well for a cocktail, or simply as a post-supper sipper.  It’s easy to see why it was a gold medal winner at the 2018 Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition.

This is a vodka worth writing about – and drinking.
Enjoy!

 

 

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