Wine Review: 2013 Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem

14 05 2015

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

Find this.

Find this.

I have been drinking this particular wine for four vintages now, seeking it out as soon as the new annual offering hit the shelves. It’s one of my favourite widely available wines, and I still have fond memories of the 2010 release, which I purchased repeatedly and brought over to many a dinner.  Well, this 2013 is even better, the best Bila-Haut yet, and has the chance to be something special.

I’m getting ahead of myself.  Bila-Haut is the Roussillon-based domaine of Michel Chapoutier, renowned winemaker of France’s Rhone valley (and one of the only producers to put braille on all of his labels).  Chapoutier is a legend in the Rhone, where his wines range from solid value examples of key regions to the absolute pinnacle that the valley has to offer, but it was only relatively recently, in 1999, that he expanded his empire to the very southern tip of France and acquired this estate in Roussillon.  More specifically, Bila-Haut is in a designated quality subregion of Roussillon that bears the longest appellation name I have ever seen:  Cotes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France.  Add “Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem” to the front of that and you get a very awkward wine label — and a lot of braille. Read the rest of this entry »





Malbec World Day Challenge: Luigi Bosca Showdown

17 04 2015

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

Malbec World Day Challenge contenders.

Malbec World Day Challenge contenders.

Happy Malbec World Day everyone!  If you weren’t previously aware, April 17th was declared an international day of Malbec celebration by the Wines of Argentina back in 2011 in commemoration of the date back in 1853 when the Argentine government submitted a bill to the legislature for the formation of a School of Agriculture and with the objective of boosting and diversifying the country’s wine industry.  The bill quickly became law and led directly to the introduction of the Malbec grape (among other French varietals) to Argentine soils by noted agronomist Michel Aime Pouget.  The rest, as they say, was history.  You might know Argentine Malbec as something of a recent trend, but it’s been a presence in the country for longer than Canada has existed as a nation, and one of the reasons it was well-positioned to take the world by storm in the 2000s was the wealth of remarkable wine infrastructure already present in Argentina, old-vine Malbec vineyards that had been planted a century earlier.  This is actually my second recent brush with a country feting its ex-French national varietal:  I helped Chile celebrate World Carmenere Day back in November.  If any other parts of South America have grape holidays they want broadcast (International Tannat Day, Uruguay?), I’m totally there. Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Cakebread Tasting with Dennis Cakebread

15 04 2015

I have long held a soft spot for Cakebread Cellars wines, dating back to when my knowledge and interest in wine were in their infancy.  At the end of my articling year a decade ago, my co-workers and I were out at a nice dinner courteously paid for by our firm the night before we were to find out who would be hired back after articles.  There was suitably fancy wine to go with the upscale meal at our group’s aptly named Last Supper, but the only bottle I remember from that night came after dessert, when a couple wine-loving fellow students ordered a bottle of Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc to the table.  I know (now) that this isn’t Cakebread’s go-to grape or claim to fame, but it stopped me in my tracks.  I had never had a wine like it.  It was instantly memorable and made me understand how people could invest so much time, attention and money in the enjoyment of fine wine, which I have now spent the last ten years doing myself.  When I was in Napa a few years ago I made sure to stop by Cakebread (and have matching wine glasses at home to prove it), all because of that one bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.  So when I got invited a few weeks back to taste through a lineup of Cakebread’s wines with its VP and second-generation owner Dennis Cakebread, my wine life flashed in front of my eyes a little bit.  It was like coming full circle.

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Read the rest of this entry »





An Albertan’s Guide to Grabbing US-Only Wines

29 03 2015

You may have experienced the frustration of being a wine-loving Canadian.  You finally get on the mailing list of your favourite cult US winery – only to find that they don’t ship to Canada.  You track down a rare bottle on an American retailer’s site or win an online auction – but they won’t get your wine across the border for you.  As far as I know, it’s not illegal to ship wine from the US to Canada, but if you try to get FedEx or UPS to do just that they generally won’t touch it with a ten foot pole.  I have heard of the odd case where people have successfully had bottles sent to them up here, but I’ve never had any luck with it myself.  So I decided to do it a different, admittedly less convenient, but far more fruitful way.  Here’s how.

Want to be on a US winery mailing list?  It's possible, but complicated.

Canadians: Want to be on a US winery mailing list? It’s possible, but complicated.

Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2013 Kung Fu Girl Riesling

24 02 2015
Third time's the charm?

Third time’s the charm?

This is the first review that I’ve written in a long time just because I want to – no tastings on which to report or samples to analyze, no obligations or deadlines, just me and a good bottle from the cellar.  If you know me at all, you would probably think that this would lead to a write-up about Riesling or about Washington State.  So…Washington State Riesling, anyone?

But not just any Washington State Riesling – THE Washington State Riesling.  This bottle is as close to a sure thing as you can find in the world of wine, especially the portion of that world that you can find at Costco or Superstore.  I have been buying (and gulping down) Kung Fu Girl Riesling for years and singing its praises for almost as long; it’s no coincidence that this wine now becomes the very first bottle to be reviewed on Pop & Pour in THREE different vintages, following the 2010 in April 2011 and the 2011 in July 2012.  Like its predecessors, the ’13 Kung Fu Girl is produced by Washington wine visionary (and Sammy Hagar lookalike) Charles Smith from one of Washington State’s northernmost vineyard sites, the Evergreen Vineyard.  This is one of North America’s top sites for Riesling, a large, cool climate and elevated vineyard in a zone that is in the process of becoming its very own brand new AVA, the Ancient Lakes region.  Unlike the desert that forms the bulk of Washington State’s wine scene, Evergreen and the Ancient Lakes are a perfect spot for growing crisp, balanced Riesling. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2012 Miguel Torres Santa Digna Brut Estelado Rose

9 02 2015

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

From Chile, with love.

From Chile, with love.

Whatever your opinion is on Valentine’s Day, it has had a highly valuable (and surely unintended) side effect on the wine industry:  for one lone day a year, it has shone the spotlight brightly on pink wine.  Rose wines continue to be misunderstood, undervalued, unfairly derided and almost absurdly underrated, so I will happily sing the praises of any day that brings the world’s attention to them ever so briefly, even if it’s a Hallmark-created one.  And if you’re going to grab a pink wine to celebrate February 14th with your true love (and after all the effort I put into the last two sentences, you’d better), I humbly suggest it should be this one, whose flavours are matched equally by its story…and its price.

Miguel Torres is one of Spain’s largest and best regarded wine empires, still entirely family-run after 5 generations.  Torres brands show up in all of Spain’s top wine regions, but the family is also highly prevalent in Chile, where current CEO Miguel Torres Maczassek lived for three years starting in 2009 to head up operations.  Despite being a European, international company, Torres is passionately devoted to telling a local story with each of its labels, and Torres Maczassek himself has a clear love for Chile that shows through when you talk to him and is reflected in his wines.

Read the rest of this entry »





Crowdsourced Wine Review: 2012 Famille Perrin Vacqueyras

27 01 2015

I’m trying something new today – submitting to the will of the people:

Your wish is my command, Twitter followers!  The online community has been nice enough to read and follow this blog for over three years now, and I’ve thought off and on about ways to make Pop & Pour a little more interactive, so consider this a trial balloon for a blog responsiveness initiative.  Thanks to reader @JimSueMaddocks for the excellent review suggestion — I hope this is one of many that roll in going forward!  If you have a wine in mind that you’ve always loved, or on which you’ve always wanted a second opinion, and if it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, drop me a line or a tweet and you might see it up on here sooner rather than later.

Proof positive:  the people will not lead you astray.

Proof positive: the people will not lead you astray.

I found this wine at Highlander Wine & Spirits in town for $23.95 retail.  The review request I received was for the Perrin Gigondas or Vacqueyras, but I went for the Vacqueyras partly because it was immediately available and partly because everyone always seems to opt for the Gigondas in this situation, making Vacqueyras the perpetual ugly stepsister in the CNDP Alternative category.  I think it’s high time that changed.

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.  In France’s Southern Rhone Valley, it’s pretty much established that Chateauneuf-de-Pape is wine royalty.  It’s the most famous and most critically acclaimed region in the area, and its red blends focused around Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (among others) have been copied worldwide, but all of this attention also makes it the most expensive, by a wide margin.  Consumers are slowly coming around to the fact that other Southern Rhone regions, practically adjacent to King Chateauneuf, are almost its equal in quality at vastly superior pricing; this value renaissance has been helped in part by a surge of top-end production in these overshadowed areas.

The two best known Chateauneuf-de-Pape understudy regions are probably Gigondas and Vacqueyras, both located just northeast of the heart of CNDP (Vacqueyras is just 5 kilometres away), both using the same principal grapes, both the source of a number of monstrous values.  I’ve noticed Gigondas start to get a lot of critical attention in recent years, to the point where calling it underrated is starting to ring a bit hollow.  But Vacqueyras has largely stayed in the background, despite being Gigondas’ immediate neighbour and quality equal.  The region has a great story to tell, and wines like this one will help tell it. Read the rest of this entry »








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