[The bottles below were provided as samples for review purposes.]
Over the past few weeks I have become quite a fan of BC’s Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery. I have long retained a lingering suspicion about any bottle of inexpensive Canadian wine, fearing that elements both natural (shortened and uneven growing seasons/smaller ripening windows) and economic (high land costs in winegrowing areas/little access to cheap labour) would inevitably combine to make it impossible for a homegrown bottle to compete for my $15 Tuesday Night Bottle attention with those bastions of cheap and cheerful wine: Australia, Argentina, California, Chile, Spain. While I am increasingly convinced that we’re in the midst of a quality revolution in Canadian wine, I saw little hope that it would trickle down to the entry-level bottles in any winery’s lineup. Then I got sent a six-pack sampler from the folks behind the Prospect Winery, an Okanagan producer with ownership ties to the more famous Mission Hill and a focus on the budget-conscious end of the retail shelf. First a remarkably complex Shiraz and then a substantial Merlot captured my attention as each were downed with surprise and admiration and made the subject of solo reviews. Left in the sampler box were four whites from Prospect’s 2011 vintage: Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay. Quicker than you could say “easy excuse for a tasting”, I knew what had to be done. I rounded up my tasting panel from this summer’s Mission Hill Pinot Olympics and we went to work on a head-to-head-to-head-to-head showdown of Prospect Winery’s whites. Read the rest of this entry »
[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]
R is for Riesling.
Time to issue the first official correction in PnP history. When I reviewed Mission Hill’s Reserve-level Riesling back in June, I stated that the Reserve (the 2nd lowest of 4 quality levels of MH wines) was Mission Hill’s top-level Riesling, and I openly pined for the winery to put together a high-end single-vineyard Riesling that would really showcase what my favourite grape could do in Okanagan soil. I said that if MH ever decided to release such a wine, I would be lining up to try it. Shortly after posting, I received an e-mail from a representative at the winery that said something like: ”Well, actually, we already DO have a Riesling exactly like that…”, and a week later, this bottle showed up at my door. In my defence, this particular Riesling doesn’t show up in the official portfolio of wines on the MH website, but as a devoted Riesling disciple, I still feel bad about not being aware of it, and I feel particularly bad about suggesting that it didn’t exist in front of an online audience.
Best served chilled (as shown by my glass), especially when it’s 30C in Calgary.
New KFG!! Mid-year is an exciting time for oenophiles, because that’s when many white wines from the previous year’s vintage start appearing on store shelves, and since this particular white is one of my all-time favourite value wines, its release turned an otherwise-mundane outing to Superstore into a cause for celebration. My love for Kung Fu Girl is partly predicated on my adoration for both Riesling (my all-time favourite grape) and Washington State (one of my go-to wine regions, still criminally underrated despite producing world-class wines) and partly just due to the fact that it’s an awesome bottle of wine for under $20 CDN. And my excitement obviously not an isolated phenomenon: my review of last year’s 2010 Kung Fu Girl Riesling is Pop & Pour’s second most popular post of all time, with 2,444 unique views and counting. I guess when you make something of high quality that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is priced to sell, people pay attention. Charles Smith, I salute you. Read the rest of this entry »
[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]
Canada, meet your new favourite grape.
If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll be aware of my completely transparent devotion for Riesling, the top wine grape of all in my books and the star of the show in my favourite white-producing country, Germany. It’s also a varietal that is starting to be developed more seriously in the major wine regions of my home nation of Canada, both in the Okanagan Valley in the west side of the country and the Niagara Peninsula in the east. This comes as a huge relief to me: we’re definitely still a country trying to find its identity wine-wise, and thanks to our climate and latitude it will always be a steep challenge for us to produce big reds in all but the most privileged sites, so one way to get recognition as a serious wine nation in an increasingly competitive market is to focus our energy and resources into developing the absolute best quality wine grapes that thrive in cooler, more marginal conditions. That’s where Riesling comes in. It creates some of the best, longest-lived wines in the world, but it also embraces sites at extreme wine-growing latitudes with colder average temperatures and shorter growing seasons…in fact, it reaches its apex in these types of locations. I think Canada and Riesling are a vinous match made in heaven, so it was with great anticipation that I cracked this bottle, sent to me by one of BC’s largest producers, Mission Hill. Read the rest of this entry »
Long time no speak! Although it’s been awhile since you’ve seen any activity on this blog, rest assured that it’s not because I’ve been lazy; I’ve been writing, just nothing that was immediately publishable. Make sure to check back on this site Friday evening, when my third monthly PnP/Calgary Is Awesome joint article will be posted, featuring a one-of-a-kind personality from a wine store that’s near and dear to my heart. I’ve spent the past few days getting that piece polished up and also writing a feature for a local project that will be unveiled shortly, but at some point recently I realized that I hadn’t actually put anything up on Pop & Pour for over a week. Let’s remedy that now.
Since last Monday’s post was about Old World Riesling (from arguably the top vineyard in Germany, Bernkasteler Doctor), I decided to pick a New World Riesling for tonight as a counterpoint, the entry-level Riesling from Tawse Winery in the Niagara Peninsula, Ontario. Tawse is an excellent candidate to represent Canada’s burgeoning ability to produce high-level Riesling: it was named Canadian winery of the year for both 2010 and 2011 by Wine Access magazine and is one of Ontario’s most respected producers. I like to see Ontarian and British Columbian wineries showcase their Riesling skills because (1) I love Riesling and (2) it is a grape that matches our climate, growing well in slightly cooler areas and reaching its apex in a country, Germany, that’s on an almost identical latitude to ours. I’d never had the chance to sit down with a full bottle of Tawse Riesling until tonight, so I was psyched to twist off the cap and get going. Read the rest of this entry »
Welcome to the second edition of Tasting In Stereo, a joint effort between yours truly and Tyler Philp of North of 9 Fine Winethat brings you two simultaneous reviews of tonight’s bottle, one immediately below on this page and the other over on the North of 9 blog. Once you’re done reading the PnP take on this wine, click on over to Tyler to see if he agreed or disagreed with my assessment…we do not share our thoughts or tasting notes with each other before publication, so I’m just as curious as you are to see if this bottle met Tyler’s fancy. For a bit of background about who Tyler is, how I met him and why we started up this simul-tasting endeavour, check out my inaugural Tasting In Stereo post here.
The one and only Bernkasteler Doctor...that's an actual rendition of the town of Bernkastel on the label with The Doctor rising up behind it.
Tonight’s Tasting In Stereo wine is right in my wheelhouse for a number of reasons. First, I’m pretty sure Tyler picked up his bottle the last time he was in Calgary, so we’re dealing with home turf inventory. Second, it’s a German Riesling, and if you know anything at all about me or about this blog, you’ll know that the way to my heart runs right through that grape and that country. Third, it’s not just any German Riesling: it’s a German Riesling from the Augusta (for those of you feeling like a golf analogy) of German Riesling vineyards, Bernkasteler Doctor. By way of quick review, if you look at the label of this or any German wine bottle, and you see two words in a row, the first of which ends in “er”, there is a 99% chance that the “er” word is the name of the village adjacent to the vineyard where the wine’s grapes were grown (with the possessive “er” added to signify that the vineyard is “from” that village) and the following word is the name of the vineyard — this is my Two Word “Er” Rule for deciphering German wine labels. In this case, the relevant village is Bernkastel, which is in the heart of Germany’s Mosel Valley (don’t ask me why the label spells “Berncasteler” with a C instead of a K…even the neck label of this same bottle spells “Bernkastel” with a K like I’m used to seeing) and the vineyard’s name is Doctor. Why Doctor, you ask? Cue the best back story any plot of dirt could ever want… Read the rest of this entry »
Try to ignore the obvious Chap Stick stains on the glass...who proofs these photos anyway??
Since my last Canadian Riesling experience was an earth-shattering one, I figured I would go back to the well tonight and see if I could keep the streak going. While the previous Riesling I had from my home and native land (the 2010 Tantalus) came from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, this one comes from over 4,000 km eastward, from the Creek Shores sub-region of Niagara, Ontario. My friend Corey recently toured the vineyards of Niagara and scooped this bottle for me during a visit to 13th Street Winery (social tip: good friends remember your favourite grape), which is based in St. Catharines, Ontario and has been around for almost 15 years. The fruit for this single-vineyard Riesling comes from Lincoln, Ontario, which is halfway between St. Catharines and Hamilton and seems like a really strange wine centre until you realize that it’s bordered on the North AND South by heat-reflecting, temperature-moderating Great Lakes. Since I see way less Niagara wine around in Calgary than Okanagan wine, I was quite eager to see what the other half of the country had to offer in terms of quality Riesling. Firmly suppressing my Western Alienation, I de-Stelvined the bottle and got to work.
I feel like I’ve been remiss in not writing this review until now, seeing as how my visit to Tantalus might have been the highlight of my trip to the Okanagan in September. I’ve been a fan of the winery (one of the few in Canada about which I can honestly make that claim) for awhile, and actually getting to go there and meet some of the people behind the eye-catching mask-labelled bottles only heightened my respect for who they are and what they do. I was lucky enough to get a guided tour of both the vineyards and the winery from winemaker David Paterson — which is probably the only reason I was able to answer WSET Advanced exam questions about vertical shoot positioning and replacement cane pruning — and I left there as excited about wine as I’ve ever been.
Believe it or not, this is in a city. Did I mention I'm moving to Kelowna?
Unlike many Okanagan wineries which are based in the hotter, drier southern portion of the valley, Tantalus is located right within Kelowna’s city limits, in as pastoral a setting as possible given that the closest Starbucks is less than 10 minutes away. All of their wines come from grapes grown directly on their estate, and on the rolling slopes of their vineyards they have planted Pinot Noir and a growing amount of Chardonnay; however, to me at least, they are synonymous with brilliant, high-quality Riesling. They have some of the oldest Riesling vines in Canada (40+ years) on location, where Kelowna’s relatively cooler but lake-moderated climate is ideal for this hardy, late-ripening Germanic grape. The winemaker has a clear vision about what he’s trying to achieve with this privileged source material, letting the fruit speak for itself and preserving natural acids, and consistently delivers on the site’s potential. Although Tantalus also makes a reserve Old Vines Riesling from their decades-old vines (and is starting to experiment with sparkling Riesling as well), tonight’s wine is the producer’s base Riesling bottling, which packs more of a punch than anyone has a right to expect for the sub-$25 price.
Named after the Beethoven song, not the Madonna song...get your head out of the gutter.
In the car on the way back to Calgary from Edmonton yesterday, we decided to have Chinese food for dinner. The problem: I didn’t have any off-dry everyday-drinking Riesling (my pairing of choice for basically any Asian/Indian cuisine) in my cellar. The solution: a quick side trip to Costco in Red Deer to stock up. Avid readers of this blog with photographic memories may remember the luck I had at the Costco in Grande Prairie earlier this summer; I’m not sure if visiting small-city Alberta Costco liquor stores now qualifies as an official PnP theme, but I can guarantee anyone from Red Deer that they’re not finding better wine at better prices anywhere else. I was fully ready to walk out with a $17 German Riesling when I was stopped in my tracks by this wine, which I’ve had before in prior vintages, but which I’d never seen on sale for less than $40. At Costco, in Red Deer: $27. Sold. Read the rest of this entry »
If you have ever read this blog before, it will likely not shock you to learn that I love Riesling. It is probably my all-time favourite grape, and even though I drink more red wine than white, I probably drink more Riesling than any other varietal. I’ve had Rieslings from Germany and Austria, France and Australia, Canada and the US…but never from New Zealand, until tonight. I wasn’t even aware that any meaningful focus was being placed on Riesling in NZ until last week; even though it’s a cold climate wine country that seems particularly well-suited to grow the grape, the world’s (and my) focus on New Zealand wine has been locked squarely on the country’s star vinous attraction, Sauvignon Blanc, with Pinot Noir starting to make rumblings far behind. At the moment, Riesling barely registers. But I think it makes such food-friendly, versatile, intriguing and profound wines that the right people growing Riesling in the right spots in the country could open a lot of eyes, sow the seeds of a new NZ white wine revolution and start budging the Sauv Blanc monolith. Forrest Wines could well be one of the producers at the forefront of this kind of movement. Read the rest of this entry »
Apologies for the long delay between reviews — I was fully planning on writing a new post on Wednesday, but those good intentions were interrupted when a tornado hit my neighbourhood in western Calgary…yes, it takes an act of God to tear me away from PnP. Thankfully, aside from a children’s playset that was thrown from our backyard halfway over our neighbour’s fence and is now teetering on the brink of “structurally unsound”, we didn’t suffer any damage, and nobody in the area was hurt. I think “I was in a tornado” is probably the ultimate “dog ate my homework” excuse for not doing something on time, so I will shamelessly rely on it here.
Only the top of the line for milestone reviews. At this rate, review #100 will be Arbor Mist.
Believe it or not, this is the 50th wine review that I’ve posted on Pop & Pour! Not sure if that indicates anything other than that I drink a lot of wine, but it’s definitely milestone-y, so in honour of the occasion I was planning on pulling out a really nice bottle from my “good fridge” downstairs. However, then I realized that I was having Chinese food for supper. Between the spice, the sweetness and the deep-fried nature of most Chinese takeout menu items, it pretty much eliminates red wine from your pairing arsenal and cries out for an off-dry (i.e. slightly sweet, to handle the sweeter sauces and offset the spice), highly acidic (to cut through the frying fat) white…wait, what’s that? Did German Riesling just go with ANOTHER type of food? Amusingly, the Riesling that I had on hand that best fit the bill for Chinese might also be the cheapest bottle in my whole cellar: the 2009 “Dr. L” Riesling, available basically anywhere booze is sold, which I got at the Superstore liquor store for $13. Read the rest of this entry »
So I’m still sick, making this currently the most wine-free wine blog on the Internet. Since I can’t DRINK wine right now, I’m doing the next best thing, which is THINKING about drinking wine, and to pump up the anticipation for my triumphant return to vino I thought I’d get your input about what bottle I should crack on that illustrious occasion. I have picked four wines that have been tangentially featured or mentioned in previous PnP posts, and now it’s up to you to decide which one will get top billing in my next review…whichever one gets the most votes by the time my illness goes away (hopefully sometime this weekend if there’s any justice in this world) will be the lucky winner. Without further ado, the very first Pop & Pour Wine Poll:
Here’s a little additional info about each of the four contenders and their PnP history:
2008 Mercer Estates Dead Canyon Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon: I reviewed Mercer’s $30ish Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State at the end of March (see the review here) and liked it (88 points), but to me it actually didn’t live up to Mercer’s own significantly cheaper $20ish Dead Canyon Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve had the DCR multiple times before (I tend to pounce on wine that good for that price), but I’ve never written it up on the blog…yet.
2007 Amavi Cellars Syrah: I had the 2005 vintage of this wine in mid-March and absolutely adored it (see the review here) — I gave it 92 points at the time, and in retrospect I might even want to bump that up another point. It was everything higher-end Syrah should be: fruity, meaty, savoury, long, lingering and endlessly complex. I’ve now obtained the 2007 version of Amavi’s Syrah and am dying to see if it lives up to its predecessor.
2008 Enzo Boglietti Dolcetto d’Alba: I TRIED to review this wine once before, back in mid-April, but it only took a sniff and a sip to force me to change plans and write about how to detect corked wine instead — yecch. I saved my ruined bottle, and the Ferocious Grape was good enough to take it back and give me a replacement, no questions asked. I now sort of feel like I owe Enzo a mulligan and have been waiting for the right time for a take two on his Dolcetto.
2009 Loosen Dr. L Riesling: When I reviewed Charles Smith’s Kung Fu Girl Riesling in early April, I suggested that the only entry-level (sub-$20) Riesling that I’ve had that could go toe to toe with KFG was Loosen’s Dr. L, which is available at Superstores everywhere for around $15. At some point I will do a Dr. L vs. KFG head to head taste-off, but I figure I owe Dr. Loosen a starring role in a review first.
There you have it — I await your votes! I will readily admit that I have hesitated putting up any kind of poll on PnP before in fear that the ultimate results would end up being 2 votes to 1 or something equally embarrassing, so I am counting on you to keep this blog from looking third-rate…make it seem second-rate at least. Please vote, and please pass this on to anyone else who might want to weigh in! If you want any more info on the contending wines, leave a comment and I will answer ASAP. Cheers!
There was no PnP post last night, because instead of pounding something out on my keyboard for the blog, I was out doing “field research”. It started at Brava Bistro on 17th Avenue (try the potato and honey flatbread!), ultimately ended up at a friend’s place downtown, and was the kind of research where no notes are taken, many glasses are emptied, and the recollection of wines past is not quite as sharp as expected the next day. That said, we had enough interesting and incredible wines that I would be remiss not to pass along at least something about what we enjoyed. The night’s wines were cracked in this order (Editor’s Note: I am not counting the half bottle of Hello Kitty sparkling Italian rosé [don't ask] that worked its way into the lineup at the end of the night and was, to put it kindly, an utter abomination): Read the rest of this entry »
What better way to inaugurate popandpour.ca than with my favourite kind of wine? This German Riesling was previously featured in this post from the PnP archives about how to decipher German wine labels; if you’ve read it, you now know that this Riesling from producer Weingut (“wine estate”) Wegeler is from the Hasensprung (“hare’s leap”) vineyard near the town of Winkel in the Rheingau wine region of south-central Germany. It’s been classified with the Spätlese (“late harvest”) ripeness designation, meaning the grapes were picked at a slightly riper level than the baseline Kabinett level for top-quality German wines, but it’s also a Trocken (dry) wine, which means that there will be very little if any residual sugar left in it. The word “Trocken” is a key hint on this bottle, because most Spätlese wines are at least somewhat sweet, but those stated to be Trocken definitely won’t be. So before you deride all German Rieslings for being too sweet for your palate, take a closer look at the label! Read the rest of this entry »
Don't judge a book by its annoying gimmicky cover.
Since I went higher-end last time and reviewed a wine that was likely too expensive, too uncommon and too mediocre for anyone reading this to ever try it, I thought tonight I would go with a wine that you can find EVERYWHERE and that comes in at under $20 CDN: the Kung Fu Girl Riesling by Charles Smith Wines in Washington State. You’ve probably seen the black and white labels of Charles Smith’s line of value wines, which also include the Velvet Devil Merlot and Boom Boom Syrah, in almost every liquor store you’ve been in over the past few years; I got this one at Superstore Liquorstore for $17. Smith is an icon on the Washington wine scene, partly due to his bizarre background (he was a rock band manager before becoming a winery owner, and still has the hair to prove it), partly because he’s a natural born marketer, and partly because he’s becoming increasingly adept at combining solid quality with value price in a bottle of wine. He has a few Serious Wine labels like his K Vintners production line, which focuses on pricy and top-quality Syrah from some of the best vineyards in the State, but his main focus seems to be on his more budget-conscious lines. This Riesling is actually a single-vineyard bottling (quite surprising at this price — usually cheap wines are blends from multiple vineyards), from the Evergreen Vineyard due west of Spokane in eastern Washington. Read the rest of this entry »