Cactus Red and White Blends, Desert Hills Estate Winery, Oliver, BC, Okanagan Valley VQA, 2020

I don’t know about you, but I am always on the lookout for red and white wines that are not going to break my bank, but that meet all – or at least most – of my criteria.  That includes being from a small, hands-on winery, using relatively low intervention winemaking methods, following clean and environmentally friendly practices, and growing grapes organically when possible. Of course, they must also be wines that are delicious as well. DSC_2316

Sounds like a difficult list of criteria to meet.  But then I found the Cactus Red and Cactus White blends from Desert Hills located near Oliver, BC on the Black Sage Bench.

The White is a delicate blend of 68% Gewurztraminer, 20% Viognier, and 12% Sauvignon Blanc. Pale straw with aromas of yellow grapefruit and verbena, flavours of Meyer lemon and more grapefruit, citrus pith, lemongrass, and green leaf dominate the palate.

The Red is a solid table wine as well and doesn’t disappoint with its blend of 63% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Syrah.  A beautiful deep ruby, it has aromas of purple fruit, and baking spice, with a palate of  mulberry, blueberry and plum, all on a bed of leather strap and subtle French oak.

I bought several cases of these for presents and company over the Christmas and New Year break, and many have enjoyed them with me.  You can find them on the Desert Hills website, and in private liquor stores all over BC.  The winery will also ship to other provinces throughout Canada and are priced ever so reasonably – starting at only $20 for the White and $21.50 for the Red.

Don’t delay – order some now to start our junior Covid year off with some style.

Posted in British Columbia, Cabernet Franc, cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet Sauvignon / Blends, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, RED, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz / Syrah, Viognier, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maréchal Foch, ‘Carbeau’, Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery, Vancouver Island, BC, 2019, 11.2% abv.

image (1)There I was, standing in front of the wine cabinet, trying to find something appropriate to pair with our holiday luncheon, and boom – the Carbeau hit me.  

The Carbeau is made of Maréchal Foch, a French hybrid red grape that loves the predominantly wet and cool weather of the Comox Valley.  The method used to make it in this case – carbonic maceration – ensures a fruity and fresh wine with lighter tannins. 

On the eyes, this Vancouver Island grown and raised stunner is an inky purpleDSC_0037 with a deep nose of ripened field berries and spice.  The palate takes it further with blackberry, blueberry and plum, on a base of mocha nib, nutmeg and a sprinkle of cardamom.  

All these attributes, plus its delicate alcohol, meant this wine was the perfect companion to our menu ofDSC_0046 Tourtière and Caesar salad.  It also pairs wonderfully with pizza.  

If you live in BC, you can find Beaufort wines at private liquor stores (like Cascadia), or from the winery itself.  

Posted in British Columbia, Marechal Foch, OTHER, RED | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Zinfandel, Three Valleys, Ridge Vineyards, Sonoma County, California, 2013, 14.4% abv., C$60

You know, I think we areDSC_2042 all still feeling a little pandemic-bluesy.  In an effort to bring some significant happiness and good vibes to our home, I decided to open this bottle purchased at Ridge during a tasting stop in 2016 while on a trip to California.


This mostly Zinfandel with 11% Carignan, 8% Petite Syrah and a dollop of Alicante Bouschet is drinking beautifully right now at 8 years old.


A translucent garnet, the aromas show damson plum, anise, five spice and saddle. The palate is complex and delicious – full of more plum and boysenberry, kirsch, dried violets, and some serious cigar box with soya sauce. Chalky tannins that softened up over decanting, and freshly turned dirt complete the picture.

Drinking this took me back to the winery tasting – and a 1978 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello sample I enjoyed at the time. Our afternoon at Ridge was one of the premier tastings I’ve experienced.

If you’re holding a bottle of this 2013 beauty in your cellar, don’t delay – enjoy it now!

Posted in Alicante Bouschet, California, Carignan, Petite Sirah, RED, Red, Zinfandel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cabernet Sauvignon (Artist Series Clone 337), Chappellet Winery, Napa Valley AVA, California, 2008, 14.9% abv., US$80

This is a clone 337 Cabernet Sauvignon from the winery’s Artist’s Series,’ purchased during a visit to Chappellet in 2016.DSC_2036
Chappellet’s famous Pritchard Hill vineyard was founded in 1967 by Donn Chappellet in the eastern hills over looking the Napa Valley floor upon the advice of the even more famous André Tchelistcheff, perhaps America’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker.
On the eyes, this 13 year old (2008) wine is deep garnet with a bricked rim and long legs. The nose is resplendent with loads of blackberry, black pepper, green pepper, fresh dirt and a strong minerality.  
The dry palate shows seamless blackberry, black cherry and plum with menthol, tobacco and capsicum. The structured yet malleable tannins loved our prime rib.
Bold with great carpentry, it’s drinking beautifully now but can be held for several years yet as evidenced by the still bright and delicious fruit. It took no time to unwind in the decanter, and charm us with its balance and depth.


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Lumette! (non-alcoholic distilled spirit), Sheringham Distillery, Sooke, BC, Canada, 0% abv, 750 ml, C$35.99

I am waiting for some surgery, so decided to look into substitutes for that early evening cocktail I’ve grown to love. Once the orthopaedic surgeon comes calling with a date, I’ll need to change up a few deeply ingrained habits!

Seems I am not the only person who is looking for alternatives to gin, vodka, rum and other spirits. Lumette is one of the options available in our market – and has been brought to life by the award winning, world class distillers at Sheringham Distillery in Sooke, BC, Canada.

Lumette can be used as a substitute for gin or vodka with tonic, other mixers, or in sour cocktails. The process to create it involves starting with botanicals and water which are then distilled, but no there is no wort made to start distillation as would be done if it was an alcoholic spirit. As a result, there’s no alcohol in the finished product whatsoever.

The nose on the Lumette is heavily musty and shows a lot of lemon, pine, and fir cone, while the back end is dominated by mint. This is not a product that is meant to be drunk straight though. It really needs a mixer to help you enjoy it. A premium tonic works wonders for it and can actually trick your palate and nose into thinking it’s gin. This was borne out when I offered it to a complete non-drinker who reported, “I could probably drink that.”

In the name of science and research, I will try more of these products so I can find a favourite one in advance of surgery.

Posted in Non-Alcohol Distilled Spirit, OTHER, SPIRITS | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in British Columbia, RED, Shiraz / Syrah | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Assyrtiko, Greece, OTHER, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

Posted in British Columbia, Madeleine Sylvaner, Vermouth, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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