BC Wine Industry Blooming with International Awards

bloom 2014 -4

Words: Henry Yuen ( Chinese blog post: http://taiyangbao.ca/food/379905 )

Whether you go to a government liquor store or a private wine store, you should have noticed the latest releases from     various BC wineries by now. The BC VQA wineries celebrate their annual releases through a tasting event called “Bloom”. BC wine industry grew from 17 to 235 wineries in less than 25 years. It is still growing as new wine sub-regions are being discovered. There are over 9,800 acres planted in the five designated viticultural areas (Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands). Even though small in international scale, non-the-less it is extremely important to the BC economy from an employment and revenue generating perspective. Even though some wineries jobs are seasonal, there are lot of subsidiary and indirect jobs created such as restaurants, tourism and hospitality positions benefiting from this particular industry.

What about the BC wines you might ask. It is ever improving as far as I am concern judging by the over 2000 awards garnered annually through international wine competitions. Of course there are outstanding ones and there are mediocre ones and also those from new wineries with potential to improve over time. With competition from New World wines, I can expect prices of BC wines to stay competitive as the economy of scale improves and the unit cost of production coming down.

bloom 2014 -2

However, don’t expect premium tier wines to be cheaper as those are in limited production with exceptional care from viticulturalists and winemakers. Wines destined for cellaring will always be hot items for collectors.  The list, including award-winners such as Mission Hill’s “World Best Pinot Noir”, Joie Farm’s list of awarded wines, and Haywire Winery’s Haywire Canyonview Vineyard Pinot Noir that just received the Lieutenant Governor Award, is too long. The best way to find out is to visit a specialty BC VQA stores, consider your budget and feel free to ask for advice. If you come across these wines, don’t miss the chance.  These are some of the gems to your liking!





bloom 2014    Haywire-Canyonview-PN-2011-770x770Haywire-Canyonview-PN-2011-770x770

Mission Hill World's best Pinot Noir

The Rosé of Provence


TP-060815Words: Henry Yuen

Pix: Vins de Provence

Besides Paris, what other part of France would tourists like to visit? The south of France has always been considered a charming place. With its Mediterranean climate, sun-lit blue sky and lush countryside, Provence is most likely on the top of the list. More so for food and wine lovers!

The cuisine of Provence is world famous! According to Francois Millo, Author of “Provence Food and Wine – The art of living” a printed illustration of the beauty and bounty of Provence, “Provencal food is at the core of what is known as the Mediterranean diet!” The abundance of fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits, farm produce and seafood provides the foundation for the cuisine that chefs and foodies from around the world aspire to.

For me, the wine of Provence is the clincher; the region is after all, responsible for 40% of the wine production of country. And when it comes to the wines of Provence; how can we not talk about Rosé? Over 87% of the wines produced in Provence are Rosé, which represents 5.6% of the global market!

With 152 million bottles of Rosé currently produced each year, it means this colourful wine is a demanded beverage not only in France but throughout the world. Inevitably, French Rosé is held in high regard, perhaps due to its strict production guidelines that follow the traditional methods; or simply because of the drier style of wines that most drinkers enjoy! Generally speaking, Rosé from Provence is not as sweet as other Rosé or blush wines from the rest of the world, yet each sip is full of Provence characters.

With its attractive pinkish, light orange and salmon colour; Rosé is often regarded as a romantic, even sexy wine! The mood is easy and mellow; likely the reason why most drinkers identify it as a refreshing patio or poolside wine. Surely belonging to balmy lazy late afternoons,  Rosé is a perfect wind-down sipper, while drifting away in a rattan chair set under a canopy overlooking rolling mountains or blue wide horizon!


Rosé, however, does pack in a lot of punches! The added bonus is that this wine is more versatile than most people think. There is the citrus and berries aroma, juicy yet delicate to keep the palate fresh and lively, therefore a good companion to be had with food.  At one of my favourite French restaurants in town Bistro Pastis, we did just that, the two Rosé wines poured that evening were Domaine Houchart 2013 and the Miraval 2013.

GV-0508 Rosé Verre 1


The breezy and refreshing Domaine HouchartRosé; filled with floral and fruity aroma and a slight hint of minerality upon entry; is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hailed from the Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt famed winery with the collaboration and guidance from the Perrin Family, the Miraval 2013 emits subtle fruity nose and a balanced citrus aroma caresses not just the palate but the moment nicely. The entry is soft and smooth with shy shades of spices and enough concentration to provide a lingering finish.

Chilled properly, Rosé can be a tantalizing welcoming drink,  sipped with canapés and antipasti, it will also go well with salads and can be served with the first course or a seafood dish as well.

When it comes to embracing Rosé, a little bit of imagination will open a world of possibility for you and your guests. From Old World to New World, there are all kinds of Rosé produced to caress your mood and palate, so why not a tasting and food pairing of Rosé of different style and sweetness? Do taste them alongside the Rosé from Provence and you will taste the subtle differences and appreciate what the strict traditional method of crafting Provence Rosé is all about.




tormeresca vineyardsWords: Henry Yuen
(Chinese version: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans )
My exposure to Italian wines is quite limited and admittedly, so is my knowledge. Other than Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio, there are not many Italian varietals that I am familiar with.

I have heard of popular wine regions such as Tuscany and Piedmont but have scant knowledge of other wine-producing regions, let alone their appellations and geographic systems. Yes, I have been to Rome and Florence but not much was picked up as far as wine was concerned since it was not a wine focus tour, I did fortunately enjoy numerous glasses of fine Italian wines during the trip. When the opportunity to have a close-up wine tasting dinner with, Vito Plaumbo, the export manager of Tormaresca arose, I jump at the chance.

Tormaresca has two estate vineyards in Puglia located at the “heel” of Italy in the southeastern part of the country and is a fast rowing wine region with lots of potential to produce quality wines. It  has been a prolific region known for its strong agricultural background therefore not exactly a new wine region and is slowly gaining global recognition. Besides native varietals such as Primitivo and Negroamaro, Tormarseca also focuses on non-native varietals such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon that flourish in the terroir of the area.

Tormaresca Chardonnay
Being one of the estate wineries belonging to the Antinori family, Tormaresca has good DNA. Established in 1998, Tormaresca is following the path of Antinori to produce superior quality wines with sound viticulture practices. The result is delicious wines with affordable price points that wine lovers in Canada will soon take notice.
The Chardonnay 2012 Puglia I.G.T. is a 100 % Chardonnay harvested from both vineyards. 100% stainless steel fermentation means no oak influence that brings forward a crisp, slight minerality and refreshing mouth feel with good citrus and melon aroma with a juicy finish. At $12.99 it will be a hit once becomes widely available when off the spec list.

The Neprica 2011 Puglia I.G.T. is a medium bodied blend of Primitivo, Negroamaro and Cabernet Sauvignon. Lots of juicy, dry prune aroma and a touch of earthiness makes this an easy and lively sipper. Once again, the stainless steel tank treatment prevents any oak influence but the finish is a smooth one. At $13.99, there is every reason to like this wine. These two wines paired surprisingly well with the antipasto served at Nicli Antica Pizzeria in Gastown.
The next wine is the Torcicoda 2010 at $26.99. A 100% Primotivo, this organic wine is full-bodied due to its 8 to 10 months in French and Hungarian oak barrels. Harvested with good ripeness thanks to the warm summer, it attacks the nose with lots of cherry and hints of mint and herbs in the aroma. On the palate are elegant black fruit and a bit of cocoa in the end. This is a true representation of the terroir of the Salento appellation.

Tormaresca Neil, Henry, Gloria
As more delicious pizza is served, so are more wine. The next up Trentangeli 2010 (available at BCLDB for $19.99 ) is a 65% Aglianico, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah with 10 months in oak and another 9 months bottle aging. The result is a full-bodied wine with silky richness that lingers on the palate. It’s a great wine to pair with not only Italian dishes but a wide variety of other cuisines.

Tormaresca Neprica

To further understand the wine-making philosophy of Tormaresca, the Bocca di Lupo 2008 is served. 100% Aglianico, this luscious, earthy wine is fused with minty aroma and layered of ripened fruit and a hint of chocolate on the finish. A great wine with cellaring potential for sure but at the same time, it is a challenge to resist drinking it right away. A medium-bodied Masseria Maime 2010 is the last wine of the evening. This wine is 100% Negroamaro with 12 months in French oak featuring lovely tannins and good acidity laced with submissive sweetness and dry prune and berries aroma.
Tormaresca may not be Tuscan or Piedmont appellation wines but does deserve wine lovers’ close attention since Antinori puts a lot of faith on this up and coming wine region of Puglia.

Sunshine and BBQ with wine

June has always been weather-finicky, but when the sun comes out, it’s all about roof top, patio, beach and BBQ! Recent wine-tasting events brought my attention to a few new-releases I quite enjoyed. BBQ is more than burgers and hot-dogs and these wines will be great sippers under the sun.

Joie - pinot blanc & roseJoieFarm new releases

Just celebrated their 10 year anniversary, JoieFarm wines have been my favourites over the years and it is the consistency that wins me over. Sure they have garnered quite a few awards, Gold, Silver, Bronze etc. but that’s not the main point here. What is important is that their wines are always good, awards or not; and that I have yet to be disappointed. The style is fresh, lively with a bit of Burgundy style and expresses the terroir of the various vineyards and Joie’s very own portfolio very well. A great amount of work is done in the vineyards even though the winemaking team of Heidi Noble and Robert Thielicke brings local and international experience and knowledge to the table. The front of the house under Michael Dinn ensures everything else is in the right hands. Their 2013 & 2011 whites have just been released followed by the 2011 Reds. The whites include Riesling 2013, Pinot Blanc 2013, Rose 2013 and the ever popular Noble Blend 2013. The 2011 line-ups are Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay. The reds include Gamay 2011, Pinot Noir 2011 and the PTG 2011 plus the Reserve wines. All are ready to drink and available at most private wine stores and restaurant establishments since the production is around 15,000 cases. It’s worth the while to find them and if you do, grab them! JoieFarm.com would be the best place to locate the outlets around town.

InceptionInception 2012

“Inception”2012 is a blend of 81% Shiraz, 10% Petit Verdot and 9% Mourvedre sourced from vineyards in the Western Cape region in South Africa. At $14.99, the price point is afforded by most consumers and for restaurants looking for a drinkable, fun and not-too-hefty wine on their wine list. This wine certainly fits the bill for fruit forward, pleasant and good value. The entry is full of berries and plum and a bit of sweetness. On the nose, you will find a hit of mint and herb with a slight touch of smokiness (12 to 14 months in oak barrel) and medium-bodied to round out the finish. It’s definitely a delightful sip for everyday and for the barbecue and patio. It’s availability at BC Liquor stores makes it easily accessible.



Anciano Tempranillo Grand Reserva

A Spanish Tempranillo with Old World charm. This wine is aged 10 years in cellar before releasing. Luscious with typical Spanish Tempranillo characteristics, the deep-layered and full-bodied with berries and dark fruit concentration is indeed delightful with BBQ ribs and steaks. It has smooth tannins due to the length of aging, especially 24 months in oak barrels, and a soft palate to round off in the mouth. The 100% Tempranillo from the Valdepenas DO in the south central of Spain enjoys the higher altitude with warm days and cool nights resulting in ripened fruits with adequate concentration to balance the tannins. Produced by Bodega Navalon, the Anciano Tempranillo Grand Reserve is ready to drink now even though cellaring for another 5 years would elevate its prime. At a price point in the $15 range, it’s another excellent value wine where one can enjoy the Old World grace while not breaking the bank.   Anciano Tempranillo


C.C. Jentsch Cellars – The Chase 2012

The new kid in the Okanagan Valley is The Chase 2012 from C.C. Jentsch Cellars. While new to wine making, the family has been fruit grower since 1929 who decided to switch to vines in 2002, amassing tremendous amount of experience in producing premium fruits essential for crafting good wines. They have 63 acres in the Golden Mile Bench and smaller plots in the other area around Okanagan. The Chase 2012 is a Bordeaux style red wine with 35% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5% Petit Verdot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 7.5% Malbec. The result is a well-balanced medium-bodied wine with enough fruits upon entry. Black berries and dry plum sensation is prominent to attract attention. A bit of spice and toastiness on the mouth feel to appreciate the round tannins. Good to drink now but will show well for another 5 years or so. A wine at $19.99, it is a well-crafted Okanagan Valley product worth bringing home.      cc. JENTSCH CELLARS


Hello Sonoma!

California CS vines

Words: Henry Yuen          Pix: S. Yuen

Chinese blog: http://taiyangbao.ca/food/357811/

Last year, we spent a two-day holiday in Napa and we kept saying we needed a few more days towards the end. This time, we spent a total of five days in both Napa and Sonoma and once again, we told ourselves we needed another week. The fact is no matter how many times we have been, we still anxious to take in as much as possible; quite often, we leave with the same feeling it is too hasty and that we probably miss a few things here and there.  I guess this is a common feeling California most famous wine regions have on visiting wine lovers; that a holiday there almost always seems too short regardless how many days you have. Under the California sun, there are indeed many things to do; place to visit and interesting stories to tell, both indoor and outdoor; no holiday ever seems long enough.  Getting up each morning brings in the anticipation of another day of food and wine exploration.wine bars & tasting rooms everywhere

Are we complaining? Certainly not! Who would complain about all the wine tastings and delicious meals at rustic towns full of histories! Spending time in galleries and quaint shops looking for one of a kind artifact, fashions and jewelleries, and feeling the vibe of the nightlife of bustling towns are all bonuses.inviting wine bars

Though it is impossible to even scratch the surface of the over 600 wineries combined and pockets of tasting rooms here and there, the wines at Sonoma were as impressive as her natural beauty. What we did was to take our time at each tasting and not feel obligated to rush to the next winery. This turned out to be a wise strategy as we enjoyed each stop a lot more and got to know some of the wines and their stories better.

We did a loop start from the southern part of Napa and headed north from downtown Napa to Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga where we managed to stroll relaxingly and dined like the locals. From there, we drove to Sonoma region touching on Geyserville, Healdsburg, Sebastopol and back down south to Petaluma. It was really an enjoyable road trip as the weather was a charmer and lush green was everywhere. Heading south from Geyersville to Petaluma, Sonoma was picturesque with rolling hills, farm houses, uniform vines and lazy farm animals grazing on endless fields.Rodney Strong Vineyards

I am a big fan of Cabernet Sauvignon so let’s get that out of the way. First up on the tasting list were a series of Cabernet Sauvignon from Rodney Strong Vineyards. With over 1000 acres planted in the Sonoma County that practices sustainable and carbon neutral farming, Rodney Strong Vineyards has a few tiers of well-crafted Cabernet Sauvignons that represent the terroir of Sonoma well. The 2011 Estate Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is rich and bold with plum and cherries aroma and a hint of smokiness due to the 17 months in oak. The 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon also from Alexander Valley is sensational, smooth on entry with a hint of licorice and cocoa. Both are ready to drink now but will improve for the next five to ten years. Not to be missed is the Rodney Strong Brothers Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Single Vineyard, Alexander Valley. This big, powerful cab is rich and velvety with delicious dry plum and cherries on the palate and a smooth finish due to the 25 months in 49% new French oak. Ready to drink now as well but will hold up superbly for special occasions to come. R.S. Cab Sauv

To further appreciate their efforts in terms of crafting well-balanced Cabernet Sauvignon, we were led to the cellar for some barrel sampling of the 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Gorgeous aroma of dry cherries and black fruit with a silky mouth feel, the 2012; still waiting for the winemaker’s final attention before bottling; will definitely be amongst Rodney’s top lineups upon released.  Barrel labelOther Cab tasted included the Pine Ridge Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011. A forward, smooth Napa Cabernet with exquisite aroma of dry plum, a hint of mint and herbs. On the palate, it has lots of black fruits, currents and a big finish. If you want to find a good representation of what Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is all about, this is it. Another Napa Valley product is the Honrama Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, also a full-bodied cabernet that is round with lots of black currents and plum aroma and will go well with a thick slice of juicy rib eye. For fans of intense oak treatment in their wines, the Farm Collective Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 would be a good choice. Black fruits, spice and vanilla give way to smoky and cedar earth aroma. A few years in the cellar would tame the oak intensity to render a more balanced profile. The Renteria Vineyard Salva Tierra Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2007 has a smooth entry and balanced mouth feel with enough black fruit sweetness and a long finish. The Benzinger Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 2009 portrays lots of dark fruit and dry plum on entry with a hint of cocoa and leafy aroma.

A visit to Napa and Sonoma would not be complete without tasting luscious California Zinfandels. At Rodney Strong, we tasted the 2012 Estate Zinfandel Knotty Vines, Northern Sonoma Valley. This is a smooth Zinfandel with juicy red fruit aroma. The 2011 Estate Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley has ripe black fruit and herb aroma and enough depth due to the 8 months in French oak. The Cline Cellars 2011 Big Break Zinfandel is a delightful Zinfandel with a full-bodied texture that packs blackberry, cocoa and spice aroma.  The 2011 EOS Reserve Rossini Zinfandel, Napa Valley is full-bodied with raspberry and earthy aroma that ends in a long finish. The Seghesio Old Vines Zinfandel 2011 is a well-crafted luscious wine with supple and smoothness on entry and lots of dark fruits aroma that lingers. Those average 90 years and older vines have a huge stamp on them and are truly significance of the best Zinfandel California has to offer.

While at Rodney Strong, we couldn’t resist tasting a few Pinot Noirs too. The 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley is medium-bodied but packs lots of fruity aroma and a silky, toasty finish. The 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley is crafted with the best fruit from the Valley and is elegantly soft due to the 100% French oak treatment.  The posh mouth feel easy has lots of cherries, licorice and dry herb aroma. We also tasted the Red Lava Vineyards Lake County Reserve Syrah 2004. Equally attractive, it is also full-bodied with a smooth entry and enticing cherries and spice aroma with a hint of oak. Another interesting encounter was the Cline Cellar 2012 Ancient Vines Mourvedre where the vines are 100 years old giving the wine the added depth and concentration. Across the street from Cline Cellar is the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards with its lineup of Italian grape varietals. The grandfather was the one who invented the famed Jacuzzi bathtub that we spa in. I particular liked their 2011 Lake County Primitivo with its balanced mouth feel and bright fruit aroma on a smooth finish. Russian River Valley Pino Noir

All in all during the trip, I had enough Cabernet Sauvignon to satisfy my big Cab craving for a while.  As for the California whites and Rosés, let’s say they are the perfect excuse for another California trip!




One evening, Nine Chablis

Chablis map

Words: Henry Yuen ( Chinese post: http://taiyangbao.ca/food/348262 )

I recently talked about the cache and status that Champagne brings forward and how the whole sparkling wine world look up to Champagne with awe and revere. Champagne’s esteemed reputation has always been invariably shared by imitators who liberally use the name and by novice drinkers who misuse it.

Evidently, Chablis is in the same boat. Chablis takes on the same challenge to convince to the world that only wines made from Chardonnay grapes grown in the Chablis region in France can be called Chablis. Other Chardonnays around the world should never have the word “Chablis” in their labels!  So why is Chablis so unique that a lot of other Chardonnay wines want to associate with it?

For one, Chardonnay is the only grape varietal produced in the area surrounding the village of Chablis in France. Located in the northern part of Burgundy, it has about 10,000 acres of vines planted in a relatively cool climate region. Soil is predominately clay and limestone as a result of the area being under sea level million years ago and yielding in lots of fossils such as sea shells and oyster sediments. The unique terroir generally produces wines that carry handsome crispness with bright acidity, minerality and a hint of wet earth. It is this distinct characteristic that makes Chablis famous!

Usually un-oaked and 100% Chardonnay, Chablis is fresh, lively yet elegant.  The word ‘elegant’ is aptly and frequently used to describe Chablis for its tantalizing flavour profile and lush golden colour. Usage of oak aging introduced by certain contemporary winemakers recently started to give the wines a more balanced profile. While the region has warm days and cool nights, early spring frost can sometimes wipe out substantial crops, hence the importance of selecting good vintages. Needless to say, such year by year fluctuation pushes up the demand for preferred vintages and consequently, higher price points.

I had the chance to learn more about the wines of Chablis at a wine-pairing 3 course dinner at Secret Location Restaurant in Gastown.  Conducted by three of Vancouver’s celebrated sommeliers – Brooke Delves from Wildebeest; Jason Yamasaki of Chambar and Roger Maniwa of Hawksworth. Each chef recommended one Chablis to pair with each course and asked the guests to choose their preferences. The refreshing La CHABLISIENNE, Chablis La Pierrelee 2010 we sipped with fresh oysters prior dinner has already heightened our anticipation.  The nine smartly selected Chablis were indeed the perfect presentation for a fun and educational evening.


  1. Domaine DROUHIN VAUDON, Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2009
  2. Domaine BILLAUD-SIMON, Chablis Premier Cru Montee de Tonnerre 2009
  3. Domanie A’DAIR, Chablis 2008
  4. PASCAL BOUCHARD, Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2010
  5. Domaine LOUIS MOREAU, Chablis 2011
  6. Domaine CHRISTIAN MOREAU Pere et Fils, Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons Cuvee Guy Morneau 2011
  7. Domaine PATTES LOUP, Chablis 2011
  8. Jean-Marc BROCARD, Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2010
  9. Domaine William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2008 

Seldom do we have the chance to taste these wines all in one session! These Chablis were poured and discussed to provide the comparison and understanding of Chablis throughout the evening. Such well-organized wine event that allowed us to expand our horizon in the world of Chablis is truly enjoyed and appreciated. It takes wine-drinking to a higher level, for both wine-lovers and novices alike!

Meyer’s wines

Meyer wine pix

Words: Henry Yuen       Pix: Stephanie Yuen

Chinese blog: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans/

A recent wine-pairing dinner hosted by the Meyer Family Vineyards at Forage comported wine lovers to fully appreciate what terroir in wine-making was all about!

Meyer Family Vineyards of the Okanagan Valley owns vineyards in both the Naramata Bench and Okanagan Falls. Their philosophy; which they diligently practise is to concentrate on producing what is best for the terroir instead of casting a wide net to plant and use every varietal possible. As a result, the vineyards dedicate their efforts on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Proprietor Jak Meyer, an astute businessman with background in investment banking, understands and grasps the importance of quality over quantity. Different tiers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to best embrace and utilize what Mother Nature granted the two benches are their strongholds.

To wet our palate, we tasted the 2012 Rose along with the very tender braised octopus salad. The evening got more serious when a line-up of four different Chardonnays came on board to be sipped with the moist and flaky Pacific spring salmon with leeks, squash gnocchi and shrimp chowder sauce. They were: 2012 Okanagan Valley Chardonnay, the 2011 McLean Creek Chardonnay, the 2011Tribute Series Chardonnay and the Micro Cuvee Chardonnay. The wines, each with its own subtly-unique flavour and body, were there to demonstrate how different terroir produced diversed grapes, though they belonged to the same varietal. And of course, the detail orientation; timely observation and wine-making techniques of Chris Carson the winemaker, was the other key element behind these delicious Chardonnays.

Jak Mayer and Chef Whittaker

The entry level 2012 Okanagan Valley Chardonnay is sourced from both the McLean Creek Vineyard and the Old Main Road Vineyard in the Naramata Bench. It is a crispy, uncomplicated Chardonnay which is fresh on the palate with a hint of apple sauce and warm citrus profile. The 2011 Tribute Series Chardonnay is 100% made from 15 year old vines in the Naramata Bench that is known for its distinct soil profile of clay and loam. The grapes were gently pressed and the light French oak treatment gave the wine the creamy golden colour. Clean entrance with   refreshing citrus notes and peach aroma; and a hint of oak and buttery in mid-palate. This is definitely a signature Naramata Bench product. The 2011 McLean Creek Chardonnay made with 100% grapes from the vineyard in the Okanagan Falls. The winemaking technique is perhaps more or less the same, but the fruits here render its own character due to the different soil profile, elevation and slope angle. A creamy entry with hints of peach and honey, this Chardonnay benefits from the oak treatment but not enough to weight it down. Finally, the 2011 Micro Cuvee Chardonnay is produced only from the best juice worthy for the quality demanded of this tier. When a particular vintage is deemed not good enough; no Micro Cuvee will be produce. The aroma is of tropical fruits, citrus and a lovely peach note with good creamy mouth feel and proper weight and balance.

Pork due + 4 Pinot Noir

Next came the flight of four Pinot Noir to pair with The Geiderman Farms Pork Duo. The 2011 Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir was sourced from different contracted growers throughout the Okanagan Valley. The aroma is full of berries and black fruits. It is a juicy Pinot with a lighter profile with decent acidity. The 2011 McLean Creek Pinot Noir is 100% from the Naramata Bench with 10 months in 100% French oak to give it the structure and depth and is fumed with oma of black fruits; has adequate acidity and good balance. The 2011 Reimer Pinot Noir came from the vineyard in the Kelowna region. Using 100% French oak and 10 months in barrels, this wine has lots of depth, balanced acidity and fruit components. Luckily, the 2012 was considered good enough and Micro Cuvee Pinot Noir was produced for this vintage. With aroma of plum and berries, this Pinot Noir is smooth and well balanced, thanks to the 100% new French oak treatment. A decidedly Okanagan Pinot Noir that is jammy with sensual acidity with enough structure. This Pinot is cellar worth quality!


A big round of applause to the 36th Vancouver International Wine Festival

pouring red wine

Words & Pix: Henry Yuen

Judging by the public response, the media coverage and all the sold out events, the just-ended Vancouver wine festival, already at its 36th year, was no doubt a huge success. Once again, Vancouverites’ overall interest in wines was verified. Also demonstrated was their high level of understanding and appreciating both the New World and Old World wines.

Look no further than the layered crowd gathered at the French wine-tasting stations at the main tasting room.  French wines; inevitably; still carry the suave and draw mystic amongst the minds of wine lovers. Even though Bordeaux was just one of the nine French regions represented, it still was the much revered tasting section and crowds were there all night long. I am sure if there is ever a special event in Vancouver that focuses on Bordeaux wines, it’s guaranteed to be vibrantly successful.

Glad to be able to taste my way through stations where apparently presenters from other French wine regions were there to offer their signature wines to tantalize everyone’s taste bud. The Burgundy, Rhone and Loire regions all have exceptional wines on display and information to share. From fruity and floral whites to the sophisticated and intense reds, there were no shortage of wine profiles to suit all desires.  Can’t argue that the 52 participating French wineries was a small representation of French wines in terms of numbers, nevertheless, their presentations solidified the calibre of old world French wines and verified their pride and passion already etched in our minds.

The well-attended “All About Bubbly” event indicated our adoration towards bubbles and of course, Champagne!  Here, we learnt how the ranking of Champagne applied fittingly into the sparkling wine category. “Ultimate”, “Premium”, “Revered” were the vocabularies common amongst wine lovers who, swirling and sipping tentatively, were describing the sensational feel of Champagne they encountered. French wines and Champagne definitely performed their wine festival anchor job beautifully. I firmly believe these two were the ultimate keys that laid such a strong fab foundation to the entire event.


Having said that, it’s nice to see a good number of fine products from other wine regions of the world were also poured. Kudos to our very own local wine producers who did not disappoint either; more than 25 BC wineries had tasting stations at the festival.  These were outstanding representations of tasty and exceptional wines. We understand it was costly to participate in the wine festival, however, what better venue and opportunity it was to showcase your wines and tell your side of the story to a highly focused group who know their wines pretty well? Vancouver wine drinkers have come a long way in terms of expectation and taste buds. We have a lot more exposures to quality wines through the good efforts and visionary of wine merchants, wineries, vineyards, restaurants and those who help and make things happen.  Vancouver International Wine Festival who has been creating waves and stamping statements year after year is inarguably the very important factor. Cheers to organizers and volunteers for their hard work and dedication to a good cause!

domaine de babio

Wines worth tasting:

Champagne Lanson Exrta Age Blanc de Blanc NV

Champagne Thienot Blanc de Noirs 2006

Cave De Lugny Cremant De Bourgogne Rose NV  $24.99

Domaine De Longue Toque Gigondas 2011

Romain Duvernay Hermitage 2009

Chateau Rey La Tour Reserve 2009

Domaine de longue toqueChateau Dubourg Saint-Emilion 2011

Chateau Fourcas Hosten 2005

Domaine De Babio 2010 Minervois

Cave De Rasteau La Domeliere 2011  $19.99

El Petit Bonhomme Blanco

Antano Crianza Rioja 2009  $12.95

Villa Teresa Organic Rose Frizzante N/V  $17.49

Haywire The Bub  $24.99

Cremont de bourgogneCastano Hecula 2011  $15.99

Domaines Paul Mas Estate Malbec 2012  $15.99

Cono Sur Single Vineyard Carmenere 2011 $19.99

Hester Creek Character Red VQA 2012  $19.95

Domaine Bousquet Organic Malbec 2012  $15.99



Finding good value wines

IMG_5455Words: Henry Yuen

Chinese blog: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans

Any way you look at it, wine prices in B.C. are higher than most other places. Chalk it up to the taxes involved and the way wine distribution is managed in this province. Having said that, let it be known the theory is that your purchase of wine is contributing to the government coffers to support health care, education, transportation…etc. directly or indirectly. So every bottle you drink, you are helping out in some way, perhaps this will make you feel better! In spite of that, there is no reason why the effort of finding good value wines should be diminished. The satisfaction in finding wines is when the price to value ratio is high, given that fact that there is a host of reasons why sometimes wine price is not a good judge of the quality. Higher price tag doesn’t necessarily mean the quality is higher in ratio.

The upcoming Vancouver International Wine Festival has an event on March 01 called 25 under $25 where you can taste 25 very good wines all priced at under $25. Here is the list of the wines that wouldn’t go wrong in any occasion:

Domaine Bousquet Malbec Organic 2012

Peter Lehmann Wines Layers Red 2011

Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2012

Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars Pinot Blanc 2012

Burrowing Owl Winery Chardonnay 2011

Haywire The Bub Traditional Method Sparkling Wine 2012

Hester Creek Estate Winery Character Red VQA 2012

Cono Sur Vineyards & Winery Single Vineyard Carmenère 2011

Famille Bougrier Vouvray AOC -Famille Bougrier 2012

Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé

Marrenon Classique Luberon Rosé 2012

Ogier Côtes du Rhône Heritages Blanc 2012

Domaines Paul Mas Estate Malbec 2011

Pfaffenheim Pinot Gris 2012

Cave de Rasteau La Domelière 2011

Fontanafredda Barbera Piemonte “Briccotondo” DOC 2012

MASI Agricola S.p.A. Masianco 2012

Vini Tonon Villa Teresa Organic Rose Frizzante

Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Ramos Pinto Douro Vinho Tinto Duas Quintas Red 2010

Nederburg Manor House Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Bodegas Castaño Hecula 2011

Nathalie Bonhomme El Petit Bonhomme Blanco 2012

Concannon Vineyard Conservancy Petite Sirah 2009

West Coast Wine Partners Lake Sonoma Russian River Chardonnay 2012

Perez Cruz CS

There are others worthy of consideration in the price range of around $25.  Most will be available at government liquor stores but some will need to be purchased from private wine shops or VQA stores.  Due to the costly underlying fees, some wineries cannot afford listing wine at government liquor stores, hence the limitation on released quantity. All better for making the wine shopping exercise more adventurous and finding good-valued wines more exciting!

While I will report on VIWF list after the tasting event, here are my favourites from a series of recent wine tastings:

Sumac Ridge Steller Jay Brut

Summerhill Cipes Brut

Oak Bay Vineyard Gewurztraminer

Haywire Pinot Gris

Bodega Norton Privada

Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon

Valle Las Acequias Malbec

Coyam – Emiliana Colchagua Orgainc

Sideral – Altair Rapel Valley

Concha Y Toro Marques Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon

Santa Rita Medalla Real Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon

Edge North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

Prices and availability do vary a bit depending on location of purchase, vintages or stocks on hand. However, these fit in nicely my personal taste profile and some wouldn’t hurt cellaring a year or two before uncorking them. Cheers!

2011 haywire PN     Summerhill Cipes

Niagara Wine Regions

IMG_5384Chinese blog: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans

Words: Henry Yuen    Pix: Stephanie Yuen

My wife and I visited Niagara Wine Regions for the first time recently.  We were so taken by their natural beauty and by how country-like and nostalgic the areas were; we left with a fantastic impression and the promise to a return trip in the Summer time.

The stay at this quaint little town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, a historic town with lots of characters, was equally lovely. Only about an hour’s drive from Toronto, Niagara-on-the-lake took me by surprise – I would never imagine one could get away from all the hustle and bustle of Toronto in such a short time.  It’s like entering into another world where all of a sudden everything stands still for a moment waiting to embrace you. With its heritage buildings, neat and unique arts & craft shops, tree- lined mansions and top rated restaurants, the town itself is like a movie-set. The picturesque country side and scenic trails along Niagara River take your breath away.  We stayed at this charming sea-side “Harbour House” that welcomed guests with country-style warmth and pampered everyone with cozy décor and top-notched hospitality which included home-style buffet breakfast daily. The town, the scenic drive and the leisurely stay were key elements making this Niagara Wine Tour memorable and exceptional. But most impressive were the wines I tasted!  IMG_5331


Our first wine stop was a relatively new winery in Beamsville, the Good Earth Winery possesses the look and the feel of a charming country farm house. With their first vintage planted in 2008 in the 55 acres of orchard-converted vineyard. The short distance to the lake that brings breeze and adequate moisture benefits the vineyards. The soil profile is predominately sandy and loam on flat surface. Proprietor Nicolette Novak greeted us with open arms as if we were her next door neighbours. The extended warm welcome included a delicious lunch at her bistro, starting with a wine tasting with Nicolette in the tasting room/wine shop.IMG_5258

IMG_5279The Good Earth wines:

2010 Chardonnay: Well-balanced wine with enough citrus and weight on the palate.

The 2010 Riesling: Has adequate acidity and sweetness for a crispy finish.

The Betty’s Blend: Predominately Chardonnay; with Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc to round out this wine with stone fruit and bake apple aromas and a delicate smooth finish.IMG_5269IMG_5274

Reds sampled with our lunch:

2012 Gamay Noir: Lovely aroma with lots of fruit on the palate.

2010 Pinot Noir:  A lighter body structure with good presence of black fruit bouquet and a smooth finish.

2011 Cabernet Franc: Infused with subtle tobacco and red berries aroma and a balanced finish due to 12 months in oak treatment.

After a hearty home-style but nicely plated luncheon, we headed for Rosewood Estate Winery, the only winery in Ontario to operate as both a winery and a meadery. Greeted by William Roman, Operations Manager & Beemaster whose family founded Rosewood. With European heritage, they brought with them expertise in both areas – grape growing and beekeeping. But it was their foresight to establish their operation in the Niagara region that made it all happened. Fast forward to today with the first planting in 2003, the winery is producing award winning wines and the mead wines are equally impressive and delicious. With 10 acres in the Beamsville Bench and another 20 acres in the Twenty-Mile Bench, Rosewood is producing over 7,000 cases with hand pruning and zero irrigation. Vineyard management emphasis on the production and caring of quality grapes. Being a third generation of beekeeping, they understand how to take advantage of the beekeeping operation to benefit vineyard health, such as helping grapes to set during blooming season. Harvested honey is used to make top rated mead (honey wine) and other products.  After a tour of the operation and especially the eye-opening and educational session on beekeeping, set in the most natural environment in the back valley, we could not help but appreciate what Rosewood has been doing. Our heightened anticipation took us into the tasting room which showcased their efforts and products very well.IMG_5293


Rosewood’s wines:

2012 Reserve Riesling: An off dry version with a hint of melon and honeydew that is crisp, juicy and with a slight hint of minerality.

2010 Merlot: 100% Merlot with 14 months in a combination of American, French and Hungarian oak. The nose is luscious with lots of berries and good tannins on the palate. Definitely a fruit forward wine to fully express the terrior of the Beamsville region.

We don’t know much about honey wines but what we tasted were delicious and could be substituted for any late harvest wines to pair with desserts. The 2010 Harvest Gold is un-oaked with refreshing aroma of peach and pear. The uniqueness of this wine is that it is produced from wildflower honey to give it the floral fragrant and unique taste profile as compared to other regular honey wines. Besides dessert, it is a mead wine that can also pair well with some spicy dishes and soft cheeses.



IMG_5296After checking into the charming Harbour House right beside the river, we headed to Charles Inn for a sumptuous dinner. A Victorian mansion with 12 guest rooms, the restaurant is a return to the 19th century nostalgic room with a menu offering classic dishes using local ingredients. We’re quite surprised by how young but creative Chef Spirling was! After dinner, we retreated back to the Harbour house and relaxed in front of the fire place for some “R&R” time in our cozy suite This classic and luxurious inn has all the amenities to pamper guests and make them feel welcome and looking for a return booking.

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The next morning, a short drive took us to the Stratus Vineyards. We noticed some grapes were still on the vines and was told some harvesting was yet to be done, thanks to the permitting weather development and the micro climate in that area. A modern facility with high expectation, Stratus is a winery that is progressive in their daily practice while simultaneously stressing sustainability and good vineyard management. With 55 acres planted since 2000 on 62 acres of land, the focus is on low yield to produce better fruits. They average about 10,000 cases annually that weights in quality rather than quantity. The pump-free winery operation is designed to utilize gravity to render tenderness during transportation and processing with minimal bruising. To avoid pumping of the juice, elevator is used to move the tanks and containers after hand sorting so there is very limited impact. 100% French oak usage  with 12 to 24 months aging is the norm and the barrels are retired after just two vintages.


Stratus Vineyard’s wines:

The 2009 Stratus White: A blend of Semillion, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Gewürztraminer. With the 1st vintage in 2000, it has developed good acidity with bright Asian fruits aroma and a gentle, pleasant dry finish.

2009 Stratus Red:  This luscious red with aroma of berries and anise is a blend of 42% Cabernet Franc, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Syrah, 13% Petit Verdot and 5% Tannat and is equally impressive.  On the palate, there are plum and black currents with a slight hint of mint and herb to round out this medium bodied red with delicate oak treatment.IMG_5379

IMG_5390The 2009 Stratus Cabernet Franc: A classic Niagara cool climate and low yield (1 ton/acre) Cabernet Franc with lots of cherries and berries aroma. The 20 months with 47% in new French oak adds tantalizling smokiness with a hint of spice. A Cabernet Franc done really well that is fruit forward and with balanced tannins. A good candidate for the cellar!

The 2012 Stratus Icewine Red has sweet nectar with aroma of peach and stone fruit, sensational on its own.

A short drive away is the Ravine Vineyards on 34 acres with 19 acres under vines. Owned by the same family since 1867, it is an organic vineyard with responsible and sustainable vineyard management. We noticed there are no windmills and no bird bangers on site indicating the St. David Bench area has adequate air flow for the vines to flourish. There were still Riesling and some Cabernet Franc on the vines telling us the relatively long growing season allows the opportunity to manage the vines for hand harvesting under the best possible condition. At the characteristic tasting room, we had the opportunity to taste some of the signature lineup and were impressed.IMG_5394


IMG_5391Ravine Vineyards’  wines:

2011 Cabernet Franc: Medium-bodies with lots of red fruits and well- structured tannins.

2011 Meritage: More refined and nicely-structured with a well-balanced effort.IMG_5392

We also tasted both the 2010 and 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon where the different vintages offering slightly different intrigue and taste profile. The lineups for the white wine are also well-represented.

2011 Riesling: Good acidity and deliciously loaded with bright fruit.

2011 Sauvignon Blanc: Packs in a lot of melon and grape fruit aroma, a beautiful patio sipper.

2011 Chardonnay: Well-crafted and has a lot to offer in the finish. This is a nice Chardonnay to represent this region.

2011 Gewurztraminer: Floral and beautiful bouquet with reserved sweetness.

Vidal and Cabernet Franc ice wines:  True expression of the Niagara-On-the-Lake region ice wines that fills the mouth with sensational fruity sweetness and peach nectar that lingers on the palate.

Followed by lunch in their adjacent award winning Ravine Restaurant where European trained chef Paul Harber showcased his craftsmanship. We had more wines to go along with our unpretentious but divine dishes recommended by the very knowledgeable serving staff.


In the afternoon, we arrived at 125-acre Reif Estate Winery set along the picturesque Niagara Parkway. Reif has established at the very same location since 1977 with the 1st vintage in 1982. The proprietor packs over 300 years of European winemaking experience within the family. The vineyard has drain pipes to channel away moisture to induce stress on the vines which results in more vigorous growth. Being close to the river, the site has 7 windmills to drive the cool air away.

IMG_5405The vineyard management philosophy strives on innovation and sustainability. After a tour of the facility with Klaus Reif, we were led to the well-designed tasting room for a Food & Wine Sensory Experience. Instead of straight forward wine tasting, a wine and cheese session was offered to educate us on the finer details of wine appreciation. Different wine glasses were used and different local cheeses were presented to enhance the appreciation of the wines. The exercise was to showcase; with proper stemware, food flavour and texture to evoke the senses; the joy of embracing the wine appreciation experience.

IMG_5401  IMG_5404

Reif Estate Winery’s wines:

2010 White Meritage is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon under cool fermentation to maintain the bright fruit and acidity level. The Meritage served in aromatic glass was paired with a semi-soft cheese from Five Brothers cheese Farm.

2010 Chardonnay Reserve served in balloon glasses were from old vines planted in 1981 with 18 months in French and American oak to give it the luxurious buttery feel and baked apple aroma. This is paired with hand-crafted cheese from the Upper Canada Cheese Company.

The 2010 Merlot Reserve served in magnum glass was fermented on its skin for 12 days and aged in French and American barrels for 12 months rendering lots of plum and dark cherries upon entry that ends with a smooth lengthy finish. This Merlot was paired with old-fashioned cheddar from the Thornloe Cheese Company.

The 2012 Vidal Icewine served in dessert glass was from 26 years old vines and carried a lot of peach and apricot flavour with balanced sweetness and acidity. This dessert wine was paired with an earthy and salty cow’s milk semi-soft blue cheese from Thornloe Cheese Company.


Highlight of the evening was the dinner at Treadwell’s Farm to Table Cuisine. Local and in seasonal ingredients were the emphasis with all the local farms and producers listed on the menu to give diners a sense of what the Niagara farming community is all about.


The next morning we woke up to semi-cloudy sky and cool air, rather windy at times. We headed for the Southbrook Vineyards on the main road where a modern, state-of-the-art building and the Gold Level LEED certified winery facility (in2008) greeted us.

IMG_5441The operation was moved from Richmond Hill in 2005 to its current location of 150 acres, but planting is limited to 63 acres to protect natural terroir which is vital to this first certified organic and biodynamic vineyard in Canada. Vineyard management include efforts to induce some resistance to strengthen the vines, applying various natural herbs and substances as pesticides; and the protection of the natural surroundings to enhance the ecosystem. About 13,000 cases are produced annually by observing low yield practices. Owner, Bill Redelmeier, was there to greet us and was gracious to explain his operation and management concepts in detail. His passion for the respect of the land and his expectation of supporting the neighbourhood businesses for the long term common good flowed across. Sitting in the airy and open tasting room, we tasted all three tiers of Southbrook wines crafted with different emphasis.

Southbrook Vineyards’ wines:

The Triomphe include the lineup of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rose, Cabernet Merlot and a Red Blend. The 2012 Chardonnay is a cool climate Chardonnay with baked apple and melon aroma and a creamy mouth-feel. The 2011 Cabernet Franc has blueberry and cherries aroma with an earthy and luscious finish. The 2008 Cabernet Merlot is a well-balanced wine with enticing aroma of dark berries and plum. The entry is smooth with a lasting finish.


The Poetica lineup is not produced every year as only the highest quality grapes harvested would qualify.

IMG_5444The Whimsy are small batches, premium, artisanal wines where winemakers were given the freedom to express their own feelings, passions, expertise and artistic inkling. Their signatures are in every bottle to represent Southbrook Vineyard’s philosophy and strong suit.


After lunch at the Inn on the Twenty in another story-like village of Jordan that reminded us so much of a colonial hotel with classic settings and elegant interior designs. With lunch we sampled a selection of wines from Cave Spring Cellars, our next destination.


Cave Spring Cellars  locates just across street from the Inn. Established in 1986, it is truly a family business where the owners are active in the day to day operation. Now with 145 acres planted, production is in the range of 17,000 cases annually. The soil profile is mainly clay and sandstone with high limestone component that is especially good for Riesling. Old and new French, American and Hungarian medium toasted oak barrels are used in various combinations to enhance the profile of the wines.


Cave Spring Cellar’s wines:

The VQA estate bottled 2011 Riesling is from 10 year old vines. Bright fruit and melon aroma, this Riesling is crisp and juicy. I like the 2011 Estate Chenin Blanc which is packed with sweetness, grape fruit aroma and minerality. The Pinot Noir is a cool climate Pinot Noir that is jammy and supple on the palate. The Cabernet Franc upkeeps the excellence taste profile of grapes from the Niagara Peninsula Escarpment. The 2008 Riesling Icewine is burst with honeydew and nectarine aroma and on the palate.

IMG_5471IMG_5482After thoughts: It was an amazing trip, an eye-opener that allowed us to witness and appreciate how different Niagara Wine Regions are from those of BC. In terms of the accomplishments and passions of the people in the wine business, we are totally impressed.  With over 17,000 acres planted, Ontario wine regions are growing at a rapid pace. Even though the number of wineries is lower than British Columbia’s 250, the Ontario wineries count of over 140 is expanding with a strong business model of producing quality VQA wines with international fame. We visited different portfolios of small family style operations, each with its own energy and character; and large established wineries with resources and hospitality to provide top-rate guest experiences. Such a short distance from Toronto, Niagara-On-The-Lake is so beautiful, so worth a stroll, if not a vacation. It is a must destination for wine oenophile but for those who are looking for simply a relaxing and pampered vacation, this is definitely a hidden gem.IMG_5322