September 29, 2008

Sonora Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon

I think Sonora Ranch is Mission Hill's cheapo label. I've been looking for confirmation on the internet, but it seems to be a state secret. Nothing on the bottle gives it away either - it's a product of the "Artisan Wine Co." from Oliver (their website is particularly thin and uninformative). Mission Hill is not in Oliver, but I still believe Sonora Ranch is MH's way to pawn off their low-grade product.

Well, wherever it's from, it's cheap and it's good. There is no year on the label, so I'm guessing it's a mix of different "vintages" (using that term loosely). But you know what - it's not bad at all. Despite a hint of grape jelly, it's a fresh and full-bodied cab that probably wouldn't do well in a blind tasting but is still pretty good and very drinkable. I'm on my second glass, just to back up that last point. A little too jammy to be confused with the big dogs, but it has pretty good balance and enough body to hold it's own.

And when you factor in the price, it's a damn good deal. Cheap reds can be a real crapshoot, but this one is pretty reliable. Good with pizza or spaghetti and meatballs.

81 points. $8.50.

September 27, 2008

Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer 2007

When we go to the Okanagan, we rarely stop at Tinhorn Creek. The reason is it's so easy to get their wine here in Alberta, and you pretty much know all of it will be very good. But if you've never been to the winery before it's definitely worth a visit.

Usually, all I can remember about a wine is the winemaker and the grape(s), if that. I generally don't pay too much attention to differences year to year, although I probably should start. There was a TC gewurz from 2003 or 2004 that was absolutely head and shoulders above anything else they've ever done. If we saw it on the shelf in the store we'd buy a couple of bottles, but it was hard to find. It was exceptional.

This 2007 is faintly reminiscent, a very nice drinkable wine but not a real showstopper. It has a fantastic bouquet that always reminds me instantly of early May in the "Golden Mile" between Oliver and Osoyoos. It smells very floral, spicy, fresh, a little sweet (more like honey instead of that musky lychee), and that's how the wine tastes to me as well. I don't think this one is a gold medal winner, but I'd sure love to find a bottle of it in the back of the fridge anytime. It's probably ideal as an almost-ice-cold drink on an almost-too-hot summer afternoon, but it's a cool fall day today and I don't see anyone complaining.

The worst thing about this wine is the blurb on the back label. "If this wine were human, it wouldn't wait for a special occasion to buy fresh flowers. It would listen to jazz in the car, full blast with the windows down. It would wear faded jeans. It would meet up with friends - in the hot tub. It would know that a sunny day is a good day - and that a sunny day with a good book is a perfect one." I don't mind anthropomorphizing a wine to describe its character, but c'mon. One point penalty for making me feel like a dorky loud-jazz-listener.

88 points. $16 at Superstore.

Nichol Vineyard Cabernet-Syrah 2004

This is the one we brought to the same dinner (see below), so we had two outstanding BC reds tonight.

We bought this from the vineyard a couple of years ago. I don't think we got to taste it then, but the two or three we did sample at Nichol were amazing so we purchased this one on spec. One of the guests was surprised at the blend of Cab and Syrah, but I think I've seen that before. In any event, it's a good mix, more assertive than the Burrowing Owl we also had but not too much. This wine probably goes best with a slab of beef of some kind, which fortunately we had this evening. It's been a few hours so my taste memory is a little poor; I can't throw around too many high-falutin' adjectives about it right now. Although I will say it had a great structure, maybe because it actually sat on our wine shelf for two years. I preferred this over the Burrowing Owl: it had a little more boldness to it, although both were mature, confident wines.

I think Nichol must be one of the best and most overlooked winemakers in the Okanagan. It might be due to the winery being located at the end of the road in Naramata, so you really have to go looking for it.

92 points. I think we paid about $30-35 for this one a couple of years ago. Life is good.

Burrowing Owl Meritage 2005

Brought by some friends to dinner tonight. I wish we drank like this all the time. I could get used to it, but would probably end up in the poorhouse in a year or two.

From BOV's website: 2005 Meritage - Aromas of heady, smoky, mixtures of violets, cassis, blackberry, plums, vanilla, cloves, and toasty oak. On the palate, the wine is firm yet subtle, offering big, rich flavours, seamless texture and tremendous persistence of flavours.

I don't know which year we drank, but from the different tasting notes on their website I'm guessing the 2005. It wasn't too big and bold, and had a good - OK, great - balance. I've had a few different Burrowing Owl that ranged from really good to Oh My God, and this one was up there in a subtle but substantial way. A great partner to our meat-and-potatoes, but would probably be good with most anything remotely savoury, or on its own.

Remember: rhymes with "heritage". Nothing French about it.

91 points. Price unknown, but likely over $40.


Hi there. This is all about wines we have experienced. It's mostly for our own use, to remember what we've drank and enjoyed, but feel free to browse. Any pretentious-sounding description is purely accidental.