Wine Review: Calliope White Trio

3 10 2017

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

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Pop and pour power.

There are a few ways to measure how far British Columbia has come as a wine industry in the past 10-15 years, during which time for my money the jump in quality, understanding and identity has been close to exponential.  Here’s one way:  15 years ago, I don’t think you could have convinced me that a BC winery’s SECOND label could produce a suite of balanced, expressive and generally delightful wines worth seeking out.  In 2017, Burrowing Owl (or, more accurately, Wyse Family Wines, founders of Burrowing Owl) have managed that exact feat with the 2016 releases of their Calliope label, a lineup of wines that according to the accompanying campaign literature is meant for easy and early enjoyment; a true pop and pour.  Sourcing grapes from both the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys, the Wyse family focuses mostly on whites for Calliope, creating (at times) multi-regional blends under the general “British Columbia” appellation, yet still under the BC VQA banner.  These are marketed as easy-drinking patio wines, meant for drinking rather than dissecting…but since we’re all here, let’s dissect them anyway.

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Stelvin Rating:  8/10 (See what you can do if you apply yourself to screwcaps?  Dead sexy.)

I was provided three different single-varietal examples of Calliope’s white regime:  Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Viognier.  When I’m drinking single-grape wines on the lower end of the price spectrum (these bottles probably straddle the $20 mark Alberta retail), the first thing I look for, even before balance of component elements or general deliciousness, is typicity.  In non-wino speak:  if the wine is a Sauvignon Blanc, does it smell like a Sauvignon Blanc?  Does it taste like a Sauvignon Blanc?  Does it help people understand what Sauvignon Blanc is all about, and does it then go the next step and show people what Sauvignon Blanc from its particular home region is all about?  Varietal wines that do this exhibit strong typicity, and as such become extraordinarily helpful barometers for both learning about wine and understanding your own preferences.  If these 2016 Calliopes have any major strength, it is dialled-in typicity:  they are clear and precise examples of what’s in the bottle and what comes out of the ground. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wine Review: 2011 Mission Hill Reserve Riesling

25 06 2012

[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 »





Wine Review: 2006 Inniskillin Cabernet Sauvignon

5 08 2011

$15 Canadian Cab...don't get me started.

Oh, Canada…I had been starting to feel a glimmer of optimism about red wines from my home and native land after positive recent experiences with producers like Laughing Stock (Okanagan) and Tawse (Niagara), but just as I began to forget why Canadian reds have until recently been an endless source of frustration for me, tonight happened.  My consternation isn’t that these wines are terrible (though some are); it’s that too much of the wine industry here seems locked in to grapes and wines that we are hard pressed to make better than many other regions around the world.  Cabernet Sauvignon is a case in point.  Why take one of the most heat-loving, slow-ripening, warm-weather grapes out there and try to specialize in making single-varietal wines out of it north of the 49th parallel?  Why especially would you try to target the sub-$20 price range with your Cabs when better-situated producers with hotter weather and cheaper land from Chile, Argentina, Australia and California basically have that market covered?  Where is the global competitive advantage in that approach?  We need a new business plan. Read the rest of this entry »