Saturday, September 10, 2011

Gewurztraminer - you can drink it even if you can't say it!

I love gewurztraminer - but it intimidates some wine drinkers - from the hard to pronounce and spell name to the unusual style.

My advice?  Try a bottle of the 2009 Pfaffenheim Gewurztraminer at your local BC Liquor Store - you will be glad you did.

Gewurztraminer - pronounced Guh-wurtz-tra-meener - is a wine grape grown first of all in the Alsace region of France and in Germany.  But BC also has good gewurz - for short - from several Okanagan wineries, including Sumac Ridge, See Ya Later Ranch and more.

Pfaffenheim - pronounced Pfahf-n-hime - is a winery in Alsace that I particularly like - and the reason is in the bottle.  This wine is fragrant, with spiciness and tropical fruit notes.  Like most gewurz, this wine can stand up to spicy Thai, Chinese, Mexican or other foods with a chile kick.

There are 2800 bottles available all over BC at $19.99, so pick one up and let me know what you think. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Two 90 point wines under $20 in BC - both from Chile's Concha Y Toro

You have to love Concha Y Toro wines - two 90 point wines - one Cabernet Sauvignon and one Chardonnay - both under $20!

And I do - one of my regular favourites - the 2008 Concha Y Toro Puente Alto Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon - has recently been joined by the 2009 Concha Y Toro Limari Valley Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay - Limari Valley - as a 90 pointer from the Wine Spectator magazine.

The Cabernet is huge - and a fantastic value wine year after year, a perennial 90 point winner.  Blackberry, fig, raspberry, cherry, cocoa - everything you want in a cab and usually can't find for less that $40!  I suspect it will age well but don't wait - it's drinking well right now and would be hard to put away in the cellar.

The Chardonnay is conversely lean and restrained - but delicious and what the Spectator calls "superfresh" with tangerine and apple notes. The winery alternatively suggests pear, fig and hazelnut.  I'll take any of the above.

Both retail in BC Liquor Stores for $19.99 and are quite available - 826 bottles of Cabernet across the province and 548 bottles of Chardonnay around BC.  Both are also available for $19.95 in Ontario Liquor Stores.

Their baby siblings are also worth trying for a lower dollar - Concha Y Toro Casillero del Diablo - cellar of the devil - Cabernet and Chardonnay - for just $13.99 each - a reliable wine but just don't compare the two levels.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wine Barbarian is back at last - and with a Wine Spectator Top 100 wine available in BC for under $30!

The Return of the Wine Barbarian!

Fellow wine lovers, winos and wine rookies, foodies, restaurant hounds, amateur cooks and more - I'm back!

Unfortunately this blog has been very neglected due to a series of reasons but.....I hope to make amends and more importantly, make this a useful blog for wine drinkers, restaurant goers and food fiends in BC and everywhere else.

You will find wine reviews and recommendations, restaurant reviews and travel reports - all of which happened here before but very infrequently.

I've turned over a new leaf - and it's a grape leaf!

Here's my first new post in quite a while - about one of my absolute favourite wines available in BC and other locations.

Vina Mayor Reserva 2004 is not just a great wine at a very reasonable price - $28.99 in BC - but it was also chosen as #38 in the Wine Spectator magazine's Top 100 Wines of 2010!

The Wine Spectator scored it 93 points out of 100 - and I heartily agree. They note it has: "black cherry, mineral, tobacco and tar notes. Offers an excellent balance of firm, well-integrated tannins and clean acidity" and suggest drinking it through 2016.

Vina Mayor is from the Ribera del Duero region of Spain, which I was fortunate enough to visit in 2007, and is one of the wineries of the Hijos de Antonio Barcelo group.

This is just a great tempranillo - more powerful and layered than the average Spanish bottle which you and I enjoy in the under $20 range. And I can attest to the fact that finding a Wine Spectator 93 point rated wine for under $50 to $100 is really, really difficult.

Now the good news - there are still 845 bottles available throughout the BC Liquor Stores network.

Better news for those of us in Metro Vancouver - the 39th and Cambie flagship store reports having 107 bottles left in stock.

The best thing to do before you race there though is to check through the BC Liquor Stores website through its "Search for Products" section in the upper right hand corner to see which stores have stock - and then CALL FIRST.

Unfortunately the website is often woefully out of date, so don't race to a faraway store only to find it all gone.

Fortunately the helpful staff are always willing to put some bottles aside for you for a day.

UPDATE - for my Ontario friends - the Vina Mayor Reserva 2004 is listed by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario [LCBO] at an even cheaper $25.95 BUT - I can't find any stores in Toronto with availability.  Worth a call to LCBO HQ to see if they can bring some in from another store for you!

See you back here soon - I intend to post at least one item a week!


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Viva Espana! UPDATED Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival features Spain's fabulous wines - what to drink up!

Bill Tieleman - the Wine Barbarian - goes to the source of great Spanish wine - at Pesquera in Ribera del Duero in 2007
UPDATED!  Hot picks from the Festival!

Okay - here's the skinny after my marathon session Thursday night - there are a lot of really great wines and a lot of really expensive wines - sometimes the same ones, not always.

In the interest of time for those attending Saturday night's tasting - here's the quick and dirty list of what not to miss based on my own research, in addition to predicted Spanish winners below in original post. 

[And if you are looking for these in the Festival Guide - remember that for the first time they have separated the wines first by country and then alphabetically - using the term loosely.]

I use a 1 to 5 ***** rating system on the fly at the festival - more stars the better.  And please remember with over 600 wines there - I only got to 63 of them!  Try what looks good and be sure to not be rude and attempt to drink only the winery's best wine - give the others a tiny taste at least.

LASTLY - I will be writing about the great BC Liquor Store Rip-Off - on Thursday night within 5 minutes of entering the tasting and heading straight to the on-site store without sipping a single wine - I found at least 20 listed products with SOLD OUT signs on them!

How is that possible you ask?  The afternoon Trade Show participants - importers in the wine business, restaurateurs, chefs, agents etc - come in early and are allowed to clean out the stuff they like - leaving none for the consumers who are supposed to get first crack. 

And the BC Liquor Stores - a government operation - does not allow wineries to import enough stock to satisfy demand, even though they make a large fortune off this event's sales!

Watch The Wine Barbarian for more on this unfair issue - it has happened year after year and I'm sick of it.  In the meantime, get into the store right away if you taste a great wine and complain to the staff - not their fault of course - that your picks aren't available. If we all kick up a big fuss it might just get fixed next year.
Bodegas Abanico - Los Colmillos 2008  $45 **** still tannic but great!

Bodegas Faustino - Autor Reserva 2001 $48 ****

Grupo Faustino - Portia Prima 2007 $32 **** - killer wine at this price!

Osborne - Montecillo Gran Reserva 2003 $36 ****  - another great buy!

Caves Pares Balta - Gratavinum 2PIR 2007 $47 - **** - big blend.


Herder Winery - Twin Benches Chardonnay 2008 - $35 - **** - very smooth.

Meyer Family Vineyards - Pinot Noir McLean Creek Road Vineyard 2008 - $40 - **** - tasty stuff.


Champagne Deutz - Cuvee William 1999 - $174 - ****1/2 - best wine of the night - fabulous vintage champagne - wonderful they offer it here.


Badia a Coltibuono - Cultus Boni 2004 - $47 - **** - so good I bought some!

Rocca Delle Macie - Ser Gioveto 2005 - $45 - **** - also grabbed this great super Tuscan blended wine.   Roccato 2005 - $50 **** - an all time favourite of mine - try it!

New Zealand

Man O'War Vineyard - Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2008 $29 - **** - great value!
Flagship Dreadnaught Syrah 2009 - $50 - ****

Mud House Wines - Central Otago PInot Noir Swan Reserve tier 2009 - $35 - **** - just great - a really big pinot typical of the power in that emerging region.  Their regular 2009 for $23 is a good buy.

Sacred Hills Wines - Deerstalkers Syrah 2007 - $40 - **** - all their stuff is fabulous but also try the luscious Riflemans Chardonnay 2009 - $40 - ****

South Africa

Boekenhoutskloof - Syrah 2008 - $70 - ****

Graham Beck Wines -  The Ridge Single Vineyard Syrah - $30 - **** - great value!  Brut sparkling - $23 - ***1/2  

United States

Miner Family Vineyards - Napa Valley Chardonnay 2009 - $40 - **** - great!

Ridge Vineyards - Santa Cruz Chardonnay 2008 - $55 - wonderful.

Apologies to the fine wineries I've not included in this quick round up - didn't taste a bad wine all night and I didn't get to some of the very best wineries in the world who are pouring tonight - I'll try to get to them all and once again update you on the wines you can find in BC public and private stores after the Festival ends.  Here's my original posting with additional top Spanish picks:

 The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is featuring Spain's fabulous wines this year - in addition to the always great selection of wines from all around the world.


And if you haven't got tickets to the three main events - the evening wine tastings Thursday March 31, Friday April 1 and Saturday April 2 - you are a bit late - tickets are sold out for Friday and Saturday and only a few remain for Thursday - the best night to go.  [But check Craigslist and other sources for tickets - it's worth attending.]

There are many other great events - and many are also sold out - but for those attending the three big tastings, here are some key Spanish wineries you should not miss - and that may not be back in Vancouver again.

I will be there on Thursday night and will update this list with the latest info before I head back again on Saturday night for another round.

Remember - you can't possibly taste all the wines available even if you are there for all three nights - so choose wisely and taste moderately.  It's the only way to get to as many as possible.

How many is that?  My personal one-night record for tasting wines and making notes of some sort is 78 - I'm a professional so don't try this at home or at the Festival.  And no, I don't spit!


Alvaro Palacios - with wines from Priorat - one of Spain's hottest wine regions - as well as traditional Rioja and up and coming Bierzo, this is one to target. The Les Terrasses has always been a 90+ point wine and the 2008 on tap will likely do the same. Senor Palacios will be in attendance too.

Bodegas Juan Gil - a regular fixture on the Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of the Year, this Jumilla winery is producing award-winning wines.  Their "monastrell 12 meses" - a 12-month oak aged monastrell - also known as mouvedre elsewhere - is a killer.

Bodegas Valdemar - a personal favourite, this excellent Rioja winery puts out the Conde de Valdemar line of reds - Crianza - always reliable value - Reserva - a great wine - and Gran Reserva - long aged and simply awesome after 25 months in French and American oak barrels.  Their 2001 is amazingly good - and available years after other countries 2001s have long disappeared.

Vina Mayor- another Top 100 Wines winner, their 2004 is still available in BC for $29 - and it's a 93 point wine!  Hard to underestimate how good this one is.  I look forward to tasting their other offerings.

Bodegas Faustino - like excellent old wines?  Don't miss this winery, which will be serving it's 1999 Gran Reserva and its 2005 Reserva

Bodegas Palacio - sharing space with Vina Mayor, don't miss their 2004 Glorioso Reserva - one of my perennial favourites, an 88 point wine and reasonably priced at $25. [It's baby brother Crianza at $18 is also a winner.]

Miguel Torres - one of the biggest wineries in the world, Torres produces value wines like Coronas and elite wines like Mas La Plana - a cabernet sauvignon that can take on Bordeaux, Napa Valley or anywhere else for top quality.  Also on tap - Torres Celeste from Ribera del Duero - another wine I love.

Cava Pares Balta - from Penedes north of Barcelona, this organically-certified winery - since 2004 - produces tasty reds, whites and sparkling wines.  Look for the Mas Elena - a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc.  Interestingly the winemakers are two young women oenologists.

And that's just a taste of the fine Spanish wines available - not to mention those from around the world and here at home in BC.

See you at the Festival Thursday and Saturday night and check back here after Thursday for more info and wine picks!