The Tournament of Pink (1st Ed.)

28 01 2017

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

Rosé:  it’s not just for summer anymore.  Well, it was never just for summer, but the shelves of your local wine shop wouldn’t have given you that impression a few short years ago.  I had a tremendously difficult time a couple years back trying to source some pink wines in November/December for use in office client Christmas gifting packages, because for many retailers, the presence of rosé within store walls was decidedly seasonal.  This remains the case to some extent (because it is virtually impossible to beat a chilled rosé as an out-on-your-deck-on-a-summer-evening wine), but I had an agent tell me recently that their pink sales outlook for this winter might just outpace their summer, and I’ve seen more rosé on Calgary shelves with snow on the ground this year than ever before.  This is an enlightened change for the better:  there may be no type of wine more versatile and more universally appealable to all types of cuisines and personalities than a good rosé.

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There can be only one.

So when I noticed that I had a quartet of bottles of rosé sitting by themselves in an unassuming pink group in my cellar, the time of year did not remotely deter me in coming to the obvious conclusion:  let’s open them all and drink them all at once, and let’s do so in a Kickboxer-style fight-to-the-death tournament.  Thus the Tournament of Pink was born.

The actual Tournament took place a week or so ago and was simulcast on Twitter and Facebook, but work commitments have kept me from immortalizing the results on PnP until now.  If you weren’t following along at the time, we played our game by splitting our four rosés into two qualifying heats where they battled for the right to face off for the Tournament of Pink crown in the final.  Game on. Read the rest of this entry »

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Introducing: Roserock Drouhin Oregon

5 01 2017

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

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New vineyard, new venture, new heights.

Maison Joseph Drouhin has been a Burgundy mainstay for over a century, but third-generation proprietor Robert Drouhin discovered a kindred spirit location in Oregon close to 40 years ago when he arranged a Judgment of Paris-esque blind tasting competition between a group of classic red Burgundies and some upstart USA Pinot Noirs back in 1979.  At a time when almost nobody even knew that Oregon was producing quality wine and all American hopes were seemingly based on the performance of the California contingent, it was “Papa Pinot” David Lett’s Eyrie Vineyards Oregon Pinot Noir that lapped the New World field in the tasting, placing 2nd overall behind only Drouhin’s own 1959 Chambolle-Musigny, an exalted Burgundy from a top vineyard.  Within less than a decade from this revelatory event, Drouhin had bought land in Oregon’s Dundee Hills (a subregion within the large Willamette Valley located almost equidistant from Portland and the Pacific Ocean) to plant to Pinot and had assigned his own children to carry the family legacy across the ocean, naming his daughter Veronique as winemaker and his son Philippe as viticulturist, positions both still hold at Domaine Drouhin Oregon today.

Fast forward a quarter century.  Drouhin Oregon has established itself as one of the premium producers of the Willamette Valley had has become firmly entrenched in the Oregon community.  On the lookout for additional top vineyard lands outside of Dundee Hills, it never quite comes across what it is seeking…until the Roserock vineyard comes up for sale.  Roserock is located due south of Dundee, right in the centre of Willamette in the well-regarded Eola-Amity Hills subregion, about a half hour south of Portland and just west of the state capital, Salem.  It is replete with features that would make any winery’s ears perk up:  complex, well-draining volcanic soils; high (for Oregon) temperature-controlling elevation, perched between 550-750 feet above sea level; sited in the middle of a wind corridor channelling cool Pacific air right through the vines, maintaining acidity and prolonging ripening.

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Roserock was planted to 111 acres of Pinot Noir and 11 acres of Chardonnay, Oregon’s (and Burgundy’s) signature grapes and had previously supplied fruit not only to Drouhin but to a laundry list of Willamette’s bright lights, including Soter, Argyle and King.  Drouhin pounced on it, acquiring the entire vineyard in December 2013 in its most significant transaction since starting up business on this continent.  This was not just a blip on the radar of a global wine power:  it single-handedly almost doubled Drouhin Oregon’s vineyard land holdings in the state, and it led to the creation of a new standalone Drouhin brand dedicated to the preservation and celebration of Roserock’s unique identity.  2014 was the inaugural vintage of this new label, and the first Roserock Drouhin Oregon Chardonnay and Pinot Noir make it eminently clear why this vineyard deserves to stand on its own. Read the rest of this entry »





Sacred Hill Marlborough Trio

29 11 2016

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

fullsizerender-488If you follow this blog (thank you!) and enjoy wine reviews (I do too!) but aren’t as into other forms of alcoholic beverages, I would suggest that you cherish this write-up.  Mull over it.  Take your time reading it.  Stop halfway through and come back tomorrow to finish it.  It will have to last you a long time.  This is officially Pop & Pour’s last wine review until after Christmas, as on Thursday I dive headlong into Year 3 of Whisky Advent, with 25 straight days of write-ups about the little bottles sequentially coming out of Kensington Wine Market’s tremendously awesome Whisky Advent Calendar. Pray for me.  Incidentally, Advent in 2017 may look a little bit different for PnP, as my years-long quest to get somebody to make a proper Wine Advent Calendar just might be coming to fruition:

Make it happen, Bricks Wine Company.  I’ll be ready, and I’ll make sure everybody who reads this site is ready too.

Anyway, since this is my last wine write-up for a calendar month I figured I’d make it a multi-bottle one, from an area that is a bit at risk of becoming a victim of its own success:  Marlborough, New Zealand.  Since catapulting onto the scene 30-odd years ago with a distinctive lean, blisteringly aromatic and herbaceous style of Sauvignon Blanc initially popularized by now-mega-label Cloudy Bay, this region on the northern edge of the South Island has become synonymous with this piercing, vegetal, unabashedly flavourful take on the grape.  Producers have rushed to respond to global demand for Marlborough’s established house style for NZSB, to the point where it is now one of the most readily available bottles around, no matter where you are.  This is good in the sense that you know that a solid, consistent bottle of white that will not disappoint is always around the corner.  It’s bad in the sense that a lot of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has become almost mechanical, put together as if by rote to satisfy an expected flavour trope.  The old challenge for NZSB was to become relevant; the new challenge is to regain its individuality and joie de vivre.  Easier said than done at a competitive price point, but certain producers are proving up to the task, like Sacred Hill, to whom I was introduced by the three bottles below.

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Sacred Hill was founded 30 years ago, in 1986, at the start of New Zealand’s wine explosion; however, unlike many similarly timed winery ventures, it was not started at the epicentre of the Sauvignon Blanc earthquake, hailing from Hawkes Bay on the eastern side of NZ’s North Island as opposed to Marlborough.  Hawkes Bay is a warmer region known mainly for red wines, and the two brothers behind the Sacred Hill label grew up there and came by their wine aspirations naturally:  their father was one of the first farmers in the region to take the plunge and start planting grapes as opposed to more common (at the time) agricultural crops.  The business has since expanded and Sacred Hill now has vineyards in both Hawkes Bay and Marlborough, which the brothers (correctly) call the “engine room” of New Zealand’s wine industry.  They have access to half a dozen different vineyards in Marlborough, one of which, the eerily named Hell’s Gate, is their own.  Their Orange Label line of wines, including the three below, are multi-vineyard blends offering up a true sense of the region without any sticker shock. Read the rest of this entry »





Joseph Drouhin Hospices de Belleville Beaujolais Duet

23 11 2016

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

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Great region, great wines, great story.

A few posts ago I was discussing the intractable dilemma of trying to locate value Burgundy, that nearly mythical beast of the wine world, and I’ve since realized that I neglected to mention the obvious solution to the problem:  just look for Cru Beaujolais.  The Beaujolais region is technically part of Burgundy, located just south of Macon and north of Lyon, and while it can produce its share of forgettable wines, the main difference between Beaujolais and the other zones of Burgundy is that its top wines are shockingly wallet-accessible.  In fact, Cru Beaujolais, wines from one of the ten top quality Cru subregions in the area, might be some of the greatest wine bargains on Earth, pinnacle expressions of a classic grape at absurdly reasonable prices.  Case in point:  the two bottles to be discussed below, which each clock in at $27-$30 retail and which combine old-vine vineyards in top locales, one of Burgundy’s best producers and a hell of a good back story, all for the price of a basic forgettable Bourgogne Rouge.

Unlike the rest of red Burgundy (which is crafted from Pinot Noir), red Beaujolais is made from Gamay, the thin-skinned and light-bodied red grape well known to Canadian wineries whose spiritual heartland lies in this region’s ten Crus.  True story:  Gamay used to be grown all across Burgundy until 1395, when the (likely self-titled) Duke Philip the Bold ordered the “very bad and disloyal plant” uprooted in favour of the more aristocratic and noble-approved Pinot Noir.  His decree was not all that impressively enforced way down in the south of Burgundy, so pockets of Gamay remained in Beaujolais, quietly, until the danger of extermination had passed and the region was officially recognized as a Protected Denomination of Origin.  While it’s true that Gamay may never quite reach the lofty heights of nuance and complexity that Pinot can, it can offer a pretty reasonable facsimile at an absolute fraction of the price. Read the rest of this entry »





Burrowing Owl Fall Release Set

12 11 2016

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

Burrowing Owl Fall Release Week is quickly becoming one of the highlights of the Pop & Pour blogging calendar.  The winery is highly engaged with consumers and media alike and  is ahead of the game in terms of finding new ways to get its wines into the collective consciousness, and its renown is expanding well beyond its home province of BC as a result.  When the season’s current releases arrive in Calgary around harvest time, I’m ready to do my small part to spread the word.  Bring on the new vintages!

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A glorious Pop & Pour fall tradition.

Burrowing Owl is an Okanagan Valley stalwart, and it’s become such a ubiquitous part of the region that it’s easy to forget the winery is less than 20 years old.  The story started in 1993, when founder Jim Wyse replanted a series of vineyards between Oliver and Osoyoos in the extreme southern Okanagan.  There were no immediate plans to build a winery, but Wyse’s vision expanded once he saw the quality of the new grapes.  Burrowing Owl’s first vintage was 1997, and construction on the gravity-flow winery and massive underground cellar on the property was completed in 1998.

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 Initially focused on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris planted on a single 130-acre site, Burrowing Owl is now up to 14 different planted varietals on 170 acres of estate vineyards in three different sites. It is no accident that the winery is named after the rare underground-nesting owl that was declared extinct in British Columbia in 1980 but is now back on the upswing due to the dedicated conservation efforts of a small group of individuals:  Wyse is one of those individuals, having contributed significant amounts of both time and money to the burrowing owl’s preservation.

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Stelvin Rating: 8/10 (Love the colour, love the side pattern and smoothness; not a huge fan of the top embossing.)

 This year I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to try a sextet of different bottles from the Burrowing Owl 2013 and 2014 vintages, including return engagements with a couple of wines I had in last year’s releases, the Cabernet Sauvignon and the particularly eye-opening Syrah.  Let’s see how the fall 2016 lineup compared, starting with my introduction to one of Burrowing Owl’s founding whites:  Chardonnay.

Read the rest of this entry »





Cellar Direct: German Riesling Powerhouses

3 11 2016

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

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Serious wine, serious value.

You owe it to yourself to drink more German Riesling.  You may not know it yet, but you do.  I know the idea of turning to something German doesn’t conjure up the same (somewhat oversold) feelings of art or romance that something French or Italian might, but I’m here to tell you that startling clarity, absolute transparency and unfailing precision can be much sexier than you give them credit for.

And I know, I know – you don’t like sweet wine and all German wine is sweet, right?  Except (1) your palate may be more attuned to sweetness than you expect, and (2) no, no it’s not.  In fact, some German Rieslings are as dry as a bone, often helpfully highlighted by the label indicator “trocken”. A “trocken” designation doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be no residual sugar left in the wine, but any that remains will be minimal (9 grams per litre or less) and the wine will taste dry, thanks to a helpful assist from German Riesling’s often raging levels of scouring acidity.  Another hint of dryness in German whites is (relatively) elevated levels of alcohol, since this is an indication that the bulk of the sugars in the grapes have been converted to alcohol during fermentation instead of left in the finished wine.  Generally speaking, if it’s 10.5%-11% abv or higher, it probably won’t taste sweet (and frankly, even if there is some discernible sweetness, you will probably welcome it given how much else will be going on.  Trust me.) Read the rest of this entry »





2013 Nugan Estate Third Generation Chardonnay

28 10 2016

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

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Nice to see some work go into a value label design.

If you were on the hunt for the largest subnational designated wine region in the world, the gargantuan South Eastern Australia appellation might be your first and last stop.  While most demarcated wine appellations gain their distinction by having a set of physical characteristics or surroundings in common — climate, soil, terrain, aspect, varietal — this one is intentionally celebrated for its internal differences.  Spanning five separate states within Australia (Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and even Tasmania) and covering the bulk of the prime vine-growing area in the country, South Eastern Australia is an umbrella region created to permit the blending of grapes from a variety of disparate conditions across a vast geographic area into a single appellation-level wine.  While the scorching Barossa Valley may have nothing in common with the cool, maritime Yarra Valley 800 kilometres away, producers under the SE Australia label can pick and choose grape characteristics from each (like rich fruit in Barossa and juicy acidity from Yarra) and meld them together to create a more balanced, interesting blend.  Australia has long been a wine nation that does not frown on cross-regional blending (the country’s top grape, Penfolds Grange, is such a blend), and when used correctly, it can allow for producers to put out well-made and eminently drinkable wines and surprisingly accessible prices. Read the rest of this entry »