Wine to the Wise Oct. 12, 2013: Jean Louis Blancs de Blancs

There is something inherently happy about sparkling wine. It dances upon the palate and tickles the nose, while also featuring flavours that are bright and full of sunshine. I have a feeling that if everyone had one glass of sparkling wine each week, the world would be a happier place.

I’m certain there isn’t too many people out there that would disagree with the above until we get down to price and re-usability.

For the most part Sparkling wine comes into BC starting at around $16 and the quality is about average. Yet when I was recently in New York sparkling wine was far closer to peoples ‘everyday’ price and the selection was far more diverse, so it seems that it is possible to get some quality Sparkling wines for $15 or under, we just have to seek them out and ask for them.

To that end we have found a Brut from Australia and a Blancs de Blancs from France (still working on pricing for a Spanish Cava and a Prosecco).

The Blancs de Blancs from France is the Jean Louis Blancs de Blanc and it is a tremendous buy. Made from Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc grapes this wine shows bright fruit flavours of apple, pear and a hint of nectarine. The bubbles dance upon the palate all the way to a wonderfully fresh finish. For an everyday Sparkler with the unmistakable character of a european temptress look no farther.

Sadly I have yet to be able to solve the re-usability issue in a cost effective way, but until I do the, wise wine buyer will not only insure they find a way to put a smile on their palate every week but they will also do so for under $15.

Here is a link to a more detailed description of the wine:

Here is a link to Wikipedia’s overview of Champagne and Sparkling Wines. Very well written with a nice piece on Blancs de Blancs:


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Wine to the Wise Oct. 11, 2013: Quinta da Prelada

There is a ton of literature out there talking about how important it is to give time to yourself, to relax and quieten your mind. I have been a long time subscriber to this wisdom and my wife and I schedule at least one date night per month, and every so often a romantic weekend away just to recharge completely. In between date nights and weekends away there are many many days where day to day life gets me wound up in knots. On those days I insure that before I retire for the evening that I have some me time, where it is all about the moment, the setting and the quiet.

To create this little paradise there are a number of things that I must do. You could almost call it nesting. I first turn off my phone, iPad and any TV’s that might be on insuring that the outside world can’t invade my wee window of space. Secondly I turn the lights down and put on some soft cello music or cool jazz (call me a dork ’cause I am), finally I pour myself a couple of ounces of Ruby Port (I save the Vintage and Late Bottle Vintage for special occasions). The combination of soft lighting, soft music and the warming, carressing, sultry flavours and character of a fine port do the trick.

I know what you are saying, its the port that does it. Not true, it is being in the moment having all my senses slow down that is the trick. I have tried it without the dim lights and/or soft music, but it just doesn’t have the same effect.

For years my go to was Graham’s 6 Grapes which is more or less the standard. The reserve will run you around $28 and it is pretty decent, but definitely made for the mass market. There are not too many bold strokes or defining elements to grab my attention.

About 4 months ago I was tasting with an importer of European wines and he pulled out a bottle of Reserve Ruby Port from Quinta da Prelada almost as an after thought. Am I ever glad he pulled that out as it was fantastic. A wonderful representation of Reserve Ruby port but with loads of character and whimsy. The flavours are of dark cherry and black raspberry, even dried cranberry, infused with Christmas baking spices and sweet orange peel. I’m certain that I lost my poker face, as he immediately asked for the order, of which, I was happy to oblige.

The good news is that not only is it a phenomenal Ruby, it is also a couple bucks cheaper than the Graham’s so I can now say to my wife that I am wise for taking time out, but also thrifty; not often I can claim the both.

Here is a link to the Quinta da Prelada:

Here is a link to Wikipedia’s well done outline of Port, its history, and how it is classified:


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Wine to the Wise: Starling Lane Celebration Brut

This is a story that I feel saddened to tell. Most of you are likely familiar with Starling Lane Vineyards off Old West Saanich Road. Either you have enjoyed their wine, been to a wedding on their property or have met one of the proprietors in the community. If you have you know I speak the truth when I say there is a deep, honest and welcoming soul in who they are and what they have done over the last 10 years.

Sadly this is their last year of production (they will still be doing weddings) as a winery. My bet is that their tale and forward thinking will flavour the Wine Islands for year’s to come.

Consider the Celebration Brut.

I know for me and a number of my colleagues, we have always said that Vancouver Island is prime Sparkling Wine country. There are some many similarities between here and the Champagne region of France it is crazy. A couple years ago in a blind tasting that was put to the test.

Local wine legend Wilf Krutzman held a tasting of sparklings wines for a small cohort of trade buyers. We were treated to premium Champagne, Cava, Cremant and Top End Sparkling wines from the likes and California and, yes Vancouver Island. The surprise of the whole tasting is how the Celebration Brut measured up to the finest from Champagne. Without exception we all said that we would happily take the Celebration Brut over the $80 Champagne as it provided top quality and remarkable value for the money.

Each year following that tasting we all clamour to scoop up as much of the Celebration Brut as we can and thus, year trade demand is heightened because it is the last year that Celebration Brut will be produced.

The wise wine buyer will go out and grab a case because this will be a wine that people will talk about for years. In 10 -15 years when Vancouver Island the toast of the Sparkling world you will be able to show your bottles and be able to say “look, this is the one that started it all, and proved the theory right.” There have been many times that I have regretted not grabbing some of a particular vintage or from a producer… not this time.

Thank you to Jerry and Team at Starling Lane, your ten years have certainly improved the quality of my life… one sip at a time.

Here’s a link to the wine:

Here’s a link to the Starling Lane website:


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Wine to the Wise: Paso Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

I have to say that I was very skeptical about this wine when it was first presented to me. First it came on the heels of the release of their Apothic wanabe and it was being presented by a company that is driven by marketing departments and demographics. However I also believe that the best values are found in the shadows of glamour, so I should be true to my word and at least try it.

I was very surprised and impressed, perhaps because I wasn’t expecting much more than a doctored up Cab designed rather than crafted. In this light I thought it best to come back to it a day or so later.

Once again I was very impressed. The nose is filled with ripe red berries and cassis with a kiss of cinnamon and vanilla. The palate is very much a crowd pleaser with its bold fruit driven attack and refined tannins on the finish. For $20 there are not many wines that stand up to this quality especially when we are talking Cabernet Sauvignon and California in the same breath.

Well that is how I saw it, but I’m not buying for me, I’m buying for you so I have to ask myself will you like it? Will you see the same beauty in it as I do? The answer is yes if the following best describes you.

1) You love powerful, full flavoured wines and often find yourself with a California wine to fit that bill.

2) Seek the best bang for the buck and are budget conscious.

3) Wine is apart of a healthy approach to self-care. What I mean by this is not self medication, rather a great wine adds to a healthy lifestyle in a positive way.

4) You like to find new experiences including flavour and aromas.

5) You like sharing new great finds with your friends.

If these describe you then this is your wine.

Here is a link to more details on this wine and to reserve some bottles if you like:


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Icon Wines – Are They Necessary?

Over the summer I was fortunate to attend a tasting of Penfolds Icon, Luxury & Bin Series Wines.

This wasn’t any ordinary tasting. The wines on offer were some of Australia’s most sought after and admired wines. Add to this, the fact that Robert Parker’s “The Wine Advocate” had just bestowed the luminous honour of awarding Penfolds’ Grange Shiraz 100 Points. In their view, a perfect wine.

This is pretty heady stuff; a rare but significant event in the wine world. The immediate impact was on the price. At release, Grange was priced at AUD $625 a bottle. After the perfect score, it went straight to AUD $800 a bottle.

Within two weeks, “Wine Spectator” also awarded Grange the perfect score. The 2008 Grange was then offered at AUD $1,000 a bottle retail.

All the wines presented at the tasting were exceptional; remarkable definition of fruit with amazing length and complexity. However wines of such pedigree come at price, particularly the Grange.

So what does this have to do with the average wine drinker who is looking for what we at Liquor Plus call “Bang for the Buck”, affordable wines that over-deliver for the price?

Whether it is fashion, cars or wine, Marquis Brands or Icon Products do play an important and significant role for the average consumer. They provide a window for us to view the company behind the products.

In the wine industry this means that the innovation and attention to detail needed to make a 100 point wine should filter down through the company’s complete range of wines. So, the knowledge acquired in site selection, vineyard management, wine-making and oak selection and maturation to make Icon Wines is applied to their entire production.

Over time I have sampled most of Penfolds’ wines and they are a fine example of a winery that applies their innovative and creative energy to ensure that every bottle of wine sold delivers great “Bang for the Buck”.

If you are in the market for the ultimate wine experience, Liquor Plus has four bottles of Grange remaining and continues to offer them at CAN $600 – an amazing price considering the current market value of this “perfect” wine.

The following link has “The Wine Advocate” & “Wine Spectator” reviews of the 2008 “Grange”.

Mike is our Product Consultant at Royal Oak after spending the past two years as Product Consultant at Douglas Street. Mike is at Royal Oak Friday 2-7pm & Saturday 1-6pm.

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One of the food & wine parings I get asked about each spring are my favourite wines to pair with the new season’s fresh halibut. There are so many different ways to prepare and cook halibut but I favour keeping it simple. Whether its steaks or fillets, my preference is a bit of salt and pepper on the halibut, then place it on a hot, well-oiled grill on the BBQ. Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice on the halibut while cooking. BBQ some fresh asparagus and peppers and you have an amazingly simple meal that will delight you taste buds. Pair this with a bottle of good viognier and you truly have a match made in heaven.

Why Viognier? The heady aromas of apple blossom and honeysuckle open up to flavours of apricots and white peaches with hints of orange/tangerine with traces of  ginger and white pepper on the finish. Sound good? Add to this the luscious, rich mouthfeel of viognier and you will understand why I am passionate about this pairing that must have been made in heaven.

Following are five Viogniers at different price points. Try one next time you BBQ some halibut.

Cono Sur 2011 Viognier – Chile: Aromatic with bright fruit flavours, this affordable wine is medium bodied and well balanced by vibrant acidity. Sustainably grown in the southern Colchagua Valley. $13.00

Santa Julia 2011 Viognior – Chile: Another affordable Viognier from Chile. This is from Santa Julia’s Santa Rosa vineyard, Mendoza, Argentina and is also made from sustainably grow grapes. Another bright, fresh aromatic style with great balance between fruit and acidity. $14.00

Mission Hill Reserve 2010 Viognier – Okanagan Valley: Shows classic Viognier aromas of peach, apricot and flowers, along with pear and lemon notes. The dry palate is nicely balanced, with crisp acidity, light body and fresh citrus and stone fruit on a long finish. $20.00

Yalumba “Y” series 2011 Viognier – Barossa Valley, South Australia: Yalumba is somewhat responsible for the resurgence of Viognier outside of France. They have both the oldest and the majority of the Viognier vines in Australia. Textbook characters of candied orange, apricot and flowers come through nicely in this medium-full-bodied white, lifted by a dusting of white pepper. $20.00

Kettle Valley Viognier – Okanagan Valley: The grapes for this wine come from the Trovao vineyard on the Naramata Bench and Great Northern vineyard in the Similkameen Valley. Classic Viognier flavours with good length and vibrancy on the palate A portion of this wine was barrel fermented in older French oak and was allowed to go through malolactic fermentation in order to preserve the crisp, fresh fruit flavours and add complexity. $27.00

Mike is our Product Consultant at Royal Oak after spending the past two years as Product Consultant at Douglas Street. Mike is at Royal Oak Friday 2-7pm & Saturday 1-6pm.

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