PnP Panel Tasting: The Hatch – Library Release

28 05 2018

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


(Re)Entering The Hatch.  In stereo.

It had been far too long since we last held a panel tasting, and we were missing it – there’s something about tasting outside of the echo chamber of your own brain that is gloriously refreshing and invigorating.  Plus multiple wines and multiple friends is generally a guaranteed recipe for a proper time.  One of us (Ray) wondered about reaching out to his friends at the Okanagan’s weirdest and most interesting winery, The Hatch, for inspiration.  We naturally assumed that we would get some intriguing and tasty wines from this divergent, artistic, even edgy winery (the latter word is drastically overused but still rather works in this case).  The common approach would have been to send a set of current releases, bottles that the reading public could come scoop if they were so inclined.  Well, The Hatch is not common.  PnP’s second ever Panel Tasting turned into a library release celebration, focused on a trio of bottles with a few years on them, from the mysterious and mildly depraved depths of the winery’s cellars.  It not only allowed us to get a sneak peek at what the future might hold for some more recent bottles that we were holding, but it also gave us a chance to answer a question that nags at a number of people in our home and native land just getting into wine:  can Canadian wine age?  Does it improve?


The answers, in order, are “yes” and “it depends”; in the upper echelons of our national wine industry are scores of producers who are creating layered, complex, long-term wines that easily stand the test of time.  The eye-opening part of this tasting wasn’t so much that ageworthy BC wine was possible, but that it was starting to be accessible even at lower price points, another sign of the province’s rapid progression into a globally competitive wine power.  After this, there will be far more local bottles that spend more cellar time before seeing the light of day.  It made sense for us to each choose a bottle to write up, but rest assured there was much group analysis of everything we were tasting, making the below report a true joint effort. Read the rest of this entry »


PnP Panel Tasting: Quench! Wines BC Portfolio

1 02 2018

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

First, some exciting news:  I’m happy to announce that Pop & Pour Wine Advent 2017 authors Raymond Lamontagne and Dan Steeves are officially going to be sticking around as regular contributors on the blog, bringing their expertise and exuberance to a screen near you and formally making PnP a joint venture from this point forward.  I’m hoping that this will allow the site to be less tied to my schedule and to have a greater presence around events and bottles that interest you (or that interest us, at least – hopefully they will interest you too).  And what better way to go from a solo gig to a group gig than having a panel tasting?


A highly worthy BC lineup for our first PnP Panel Tasting.

Here’s how we play our game.  Dan, Ray and I got together to jointly taste a (remarkable) set of wines; we discussed while we tried each wine, but we evaluated and scored each bottle separately and independently, without sharing our final assessment until all scores were locked in.  We divvied up the writing duties, but rather than average out the scores or try to come to a numerical consensus, we preserved each person’s score for each bottle to give you a sense as to the level of divergence in the room through the course of the tasting.  Hopefully this will be the first of many such panel reviews, but if you have any thoughts as to the format or results, leave a comment or send me a message and let me know!

The focus of this inaugural Pop & Pour panel tasting was a sextet of offerings from Quench! Wines, a Vancouver Island-based agency exclusively focused on the burgeoning British Columbia production scene.  We got to taste a pair of wines each from three critically acclaimed Okanagan producers:  Terravista, Bella and Fairview Cellars.  You could not have put together three more divergent groups of wines if you tried, a testament to the diversity that is possible in the Okanagan Valley, particularly since each distinct grouping aptly highlighted a different element of the potential of the region.  I got to lead things off. Read the rest of this entry »

Burgundy: White Tasting, Part IV

26 04 2012

OK, time to bring this long and winding road of a tasting review to a close.  I had set this up so that we’d end on a high note with the most prestigious bottles in the tasting, the illustrious Grand Crus, but for reasons outside their control, the drinking experience ended up being somewhat anticlimactic.  And no, it wasn’t because we were 10 bottles in by this point.  That’s what made the next morning anticlimactic.


A.k.a. over $300 worth of wine that really shouldn't be open yet.

Grand Cru vineyards are the rarest, best-positioned, most historic, highest-quality growing areas in all of Burgundy…or at least their classification is meant to reflect as much.  As you might expect, Grand Crus come in very limited numbers (only 32 in the Cote d’Or, according to my friend the Internet) and they produce minute quantities of wine each year with prices to match their prestige and scarcity.  I didn’t have the overflowing bank account to go too crazy and delve into the elite of white Burgundian GCs — the series of adjoining Grand Crus bearing the “Montrachet” name, including Le Montrachet, Batard-Montrachet, Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet, etc. are almost certainly the creme de la creme of white Burgundy, but they’re also a hilarious pipe dream in my current circumstances — so instead I turned my focus to two wines from the well-regarded but much cheaper Grand Cru of Corton-Charlemagne.  Unfortunately, both bottles were from relatively recent vintages, and we quickly discovered that, with great white Burgundy, time is your ally. Read the rest of this entry »

Burgundy: White Tasting, Part I

12 04 2012

It begins: the first 4 of a dozen hopefully-representative white Burgundies.

I acknowledge that it’s definitely been awhile.  I spent my evenings last week cleaning out my basement, then took the Easter weekend off, then faced a total loss of home Internet for a few days, all of which added up to a blog-less streak of epic proportions…sorry about that.  To make it up to you, instead of posting a lonely wine review tonight, I’m diving back into action with the first instalment of a multi-part writeup showcasing the results of the long-planned white Burgundy tasting that I’ve had in the works since January and that fulfills a 2012 New Year’s Resolution of mine.  More on the planning behind the tasting and the rationale for the various wines selected here.

To summarize for those of you who don’t feel like clicking on the link above, the goal of the tasting was to open bottles from the four main Burgundy quality classifications (Bourgogne Blanc, village level, Premier Cru, Grand Cru), spanning  some of the key sub-regions for Burgundian whites (Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, Meursault, Corton-Charlemagne), to see how the wines from each of the sub-areas differed from those from others and how the wines from the same sub-areas varied from producer to producer and between quality levels.  I will vouch from experience that delving to the bottom of these analytical quandaries required a lot of drinking.  Such is life.

Cork Ratings for wines 1-3: 2.5/10, 6.5/10, 5/10. Meh.

There were 12 bottles open for the tasting and an esteemed panel of four judges with glasses at the ready; we tried the wines in four flights grouped by quality classification, going in ascending order from the base Bourgogne Blancs to the Grand Crus.  My actual tasting notes from the first flight are below, and the write-ups of the other three flights will be coming soon to an Internet near you.  At the end of the day, while the tasting didn’t instantly reveal the inner mysteries of Burgundy to me, it was a useful (and highly entertaining) crash course on a region that I haven’t spent nearly enough time getting to know. Read the rest of this entry »

Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 17

17 12 2017

By Dan Steeves

Day 17 of the Bricks Wine Advent Calendar brings us back to Italy for a taste from the iconic region of Chianti Classico, located south of Florence in central Tuscany. For me, Chianti is synonymous with pizza and rich pastas and is my go-to wine for such fare. It can be quaffable yet complex and its strong acidity makes it easy to pair with a lot of different foods, especially most of my favourite Italian dishes.

One of the many sub-zones located within the greater Chianti region, Chianti Classico has a long history of winemaking going back thousands of years; the region was officially delimited back in 1716. At the time, it was known solely as Chianti, and as popularity of the wine increased in the early 20th century, the region had to expand to further adjacent towns to meet demand. In 1932, “Classico” was added to wines made within the original delimited Chianti area and in 1984 it was established as its own DOCG. Chianti Classico is generally known as a higher quality wine compared to its neighbouring Chianti wines due in part to the more strict rules on its production, including longer aging (minimum 1 year vs 3 months), grape varietal content (Classico must have a minimum of 80% Sangiovese and no white grapes are permitted), and higher alcohol (minimum 12% vs 11.5%). Further quality tiers also exist in Chianti Classico with Riserva and Gran Selezione wines. Riserva wines must be aged for a minimum of 2 years, while Gran Selezione wines must be aged a minimum of 2.5 years, are comprised of the best fruit from the estate’s own vineyards, and have to be approved through a tasting panel to ensure they meet the strict quality threshold.

Tonight’s wine, the 2014 Félsina Berardenga Chianti Classico, comes from a relatively young producer which started in 1966 and whose vineyards are located on the southeastern edge of the Chianti Classico border at Castelnuovo Berardenga. All of Félsina’s Chianti Classico wines are made with 100% Sangiovese and throughout the years they have worked to ensure the best possible matches between various Sangiovese clones and the terroir of their lands. Out of the 600 hectares of land held by Félsina, only just 15% is under vine with the remainder farmed for other crops (olives, grains, fruits, etc) as they believe strongly in maintaining biodiversity on their land. This passion and respect for the land carries through to their wines, which showcase rich and dense flavours with an elegant structure.

The wine has a medium ruby colour with a fairly deep core, more than what you might expect for a Chianti (Classico). With a medium intensity, the wine comes out of the gates with an assortment of fruit aromas including plum, raspberry, dried dark cherry, and red licorice. The fruit isn’t overbearing though, and is layered over a strong core of developing notes of wet stone minerality, leather, clove, a light medicinal aroma and uncooked pie dough. This beautiful nose is equally matched on the palate, which shows much more earthy flavours of dried leaves, leather, clove, tomato leaf, vanilla, and walnut. The cherry and plum fruit come through on the tongue as well, but more the skin of the fruit than the flesh. Structurally the wine is solid with strong acidity, fleshy tannins, and a finish that provokes you to fill up your glass and take another serving of spaghetti.

89+ points

The easily recognizable black rooster seal of Chianti Classico. If you don’t know the story behind it, check out this previous post on Pop & Pour here.

Argentine Value Challenge: Punto Final

4 10 2014

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


Look closely: Spanish tasting notes!

There’s a lingering question out there that will go a long way in determining the ultimate path of the nascent Argentinian wine industry:  what to go along with Malbec?  That particular Bordeaux transplant has become a global phenomenon up in the foothills of the Andes and the undisputed star of Argentina’s vinous revolution, but there are a number of grapes currently vying for the role of its trusty national sidekick.  For a while it seemed like there was a strong marketing push to obtain Malbec-like acceptance of Argentina’s most unique white, Torrontes; I recently read a Decanter tasting panel that argued forcefully that the country’s recent forays into Cabernet Franc were an absolute revelation and that this underappreciated varietal should assume the silver medal position among Argentinian producers, although the less exciting Bonarda currently occupies that slot in terms of vineyard acres planted.  And of course, there’s always Cabernet Sauvignon, the international behemoth, promising instant recognition and easy sales for anywhere warm enough for it to grow.  In my experience, if an Argentine wine is on the shelves here and it isn’t Malbec, it’s usually Cab.  And while the wine geek in me would love to see Franc seize the day, the realist in me knows that Sauvignon will be pretty tough to displace. Read the rest of this entry »

The Prospect Winery White Showdown

5 11 2012

[The bottles below were provided as samples for review purposes.]

The competitors.

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 »

Calgary Wine Life: Meet Jesse Willis @ Vine Arts

29 06 2012

[Cross-posted at]

Calgary, Jesse. Jesse, Calgary.

I walked into the Vine Arts retail space for the first time a couple of weeks ago and, like I do in most wine stores, I looked for the Germany section.  There wasn’t one.  No Riesling section either. Rather than sorting its vinous wares by country or by grape, the more or less universal ways of arranging a wine shop, Vine Arts had catalogued and displayed all its wines by adjective, grouping whites under headings like “Off-Dry & Aromatic” or “Light & Fresh” and reds under headings like “Bold & Structured”, “Spicy Earthy Funky” or, my favourite, “Smooth & Sexy”.  That simple but radical design choice is why I believe Jesse Willis when he tells me he’s trying to do things differently. Read the rest of this entry »

Tips & Tricks: Pairing Wine With Chocolate, Part 3

14 10 2011

In case you have scrupulously avoided this blog for the past couple weeks and missed it, Part 1 of this mammoth super-post talked about the general principles applicable to pairing wine with chocolate and made some guesses as to which wines might make winning choco-combos; Part 2 put three dry red wines to a taste test only to see all of them fail more or less miserably; and tonight’s Part 3 moves away from dinner wines and reveals whether dessert wines (and a beer, for good measure) fared any better with dark chocolate at the tasting night I held with wine friends Brian, Tyler and Farrell earlier this week.  In parallel with this PnP saga, Victoria Kaye, the chocolate distributor who put the wheels in motion on this train of thought by sending me a care package of free Xocai brand chocolates with instructions to wine-match as I saw fit, has been providing the chocolate’s perspective on this whole thing on her blog XoXoXocai — click here for her reaction on the first part of the Pop & Pour taste test, which includes some tasting notes on the various chocolates that gave themselves up for a good gastronomic cause.

Cork Ratings, Wines #1-5 (in order): 0.5/10, 2/10, 7/10, 4/10, 3/10. Not such a stellar lineup.

To refresh your memory, by the end of Part 2 of this post, Wines 1 through 3 were wishing that they had been passed over as candidates in this study:  the 2008 Alias Cabernet Sauvignon (Calfornia) was the worst of the bunch, netting a chocolate Compatibility Score of 25%; the 2005 Modern Wine Project Malbec (Washington) had fared (literally) twice as well but still barely scraped a passing grade at 51%; and the 2008 Colaneri Cabernet Franc (Niagara) proved to be the most polarizing wine of the night, attracting my fiery hatred and tasting like tomato soup but still (somehow) pulling out 50%.  Starting with Wine #4, we ditched the dry wines and moved to those sweeter reds that were initially predicted to be the best chocolate matchups.  It may have been that we were in a better mood after downing the three bottles of wine that preceded them, but the dessert wines did not disappoint. Read the rest of this entry »

Tips & Tricks: Pairing Wine With Chocolate, Part 2

12 10 2011

5 bottles of wine, 5 pounds of chocolate: let the extravagance begin!

In Part 1 of PnP’s review of potentially stellar wine and chocolate matches (click here to read it if you missed it), we went through the boring stuff:  general wine/food pairing rules, hand-wringing about how chocolate was going to be a difficult match for most wines, and intellectual guesstimating about what bottles actually might stand a chance at being a good pairing.  If you want to save yourself 1500 words or so, I thought a sweet intense red dessert wine seemed like the best choco-match but committed myself to testing out some dry reds too in the name of exploration; given the hypothesis that fruity, intense, not overly tannic reds would win the day, I decided to give Europe the cold shoulder and stick to the New World for dinner wines.  With all the hard academic stuff out of the way, last night I got to the fun part:  sitting down with some good friends, opening an insane amount of high-end chocolate, cracking 5 bottles of wine (and a bottle of beer for good measure) and doing 4+ hours of taste testing, just for you.  Huge thanks to the noses, palates, knowledge and intuition of my trusted friends Brian, Tyler and Farrell, whose impressions and conclusions are all over this post and without whom this exercise would have seemed much more lonely and pathetic.

Our official choco-pairing tasting lineup featured a California Cabernet Sauvignon, a Washington State Malbec, a Niagara Cabernet Franc, a dessert wine from Banyuls in Southern France, a vintage Port and a dark craft beer.  I’m going to write up our experiences with the 3 dry reds tonight and leave you in suspense about the dessert reds and the beer for a couple more days…like every moderately good movie idea, I’m stringing this out for at least two sequels.  The only unfortunate part about this approach is that you may be too depressed after reading the below to want to come back for Part 3, so I will foreshadow a bit and promise that the wine/chocolate matchups DO get better.  Just not tonight. Read the rest of this entry »

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