On Saturdays the superb Village VQA Wines chain holds complimentary afternoon tastings. I had planned on visiting the South Dunbar location for the 8th Generation tasting, when the opportunity arose to attend the Kitsilano tasting of Desert Hills as well (thanks Will for the suggestion)! Desert Hills has had a banner year, with their Syrah being named Best Red Wine of the Year at the 2010 All Canadian Wine Championships, and their Gamay receiving a prestigious Lt. Governor's Award this summer. Having picked up the Syrah for my 2006 collection without yet having tasted it, I was eager to find out for myself what I had!
The Kitsilano Village Wines has an excellent selection, but suffers from the popularity of their tastings, with difficult traffic patterns surrounding the cash register and tasting counter - be prepared to wait patiently for samples; they are complimentary after all! Desert Hills is located on the Black Sage Bench in near-desert climate outside Oliver - so it's no surprise they produce some lovely ripe reds, but they also displayed some pleasing whites on Saturday as well. A 2008 Pinot Gris and 2009 Gewurztraminer were both available to taste and were quite satisfying, the Gewurztraminer in particular. I was more excited to try the 2009 Gamay and 2006 Syrah. The Gamay was very nice indeed and would have made an excellent summer sipper during the hot weather we had earlier this season. In any case, let's hope for a warm September in which we can continue to pair this wine with barbecue - if you can still find it, a Lt. Governor's Award has a way of clearing out inventories fast. Desert Hills also suggests pasta with red sauce and spicy foods that will coordinate with the wine's spicy finish. If you can find it pick up a bottle for the fall, if only to try a (well-made) varietal we often don't see here in BC. If the Gamay was good, the Syrah was divine: just holding the glass at waist-height you could smell the jammy berry aromas wafting upwards! It tasted superb, and made me very pleased I was holding one in my small collection, plus encouraged to pick up another bottle sometime soon for more immediate consumption.
Having perused the shelves in Kitsilano and made plans for some upcoming purchases there, we set off for Kerrisdale and the South Dunbar Village Wines. In all honesty, this is an easier store in which to shop, with wider aisles and better customer flow, a larger tasting bar, and a fun back room called "The Cellar". 8th Generation wines available for tasting included their Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, a Merlot, and their two Rieslings ("Classic" - a dry iteration, and regular off-dry). The Classic Riesling was a crisp, more acidic take on the grape more common to German Rieslings - very refreshing and a wine Anthony Gismondi calls "a Riesling for grownups". The regular off-dry version has already sold out at the winery, with help from Gismondi's very positive review, so the tasting featured the 2008 vintage instead of the more recent 2009. Fortunately the 2008 was also very well received, and was intriguing to taste alongside its much drier sibling. With almost three times as much residual sugar there is quite a difference in taste; this wine should be well-chilled to avoid seeming syrupy-sweet! Not available was 8th Generation's delightful Rose, which is long sold-out; fortunately I acquired several bottles earlier this summer for patio consumption. This very refreshing pure Pinot Meunier wine is enjoyable all-year round of course, but make sure you get the 2010 vintage early next Summer!
Although trying my darnedest not to spend any more on wine this month I failed at Village Wines Dunbar, when a stunning display of Sandhill Small Lots wines behind the register caught my eye. Nearly every varietal was available, an order of magnitude greater than many other stores' selections. Even the long-sold out 2007 Merlot, winner of a Lt. Governor's Award and limited to only 119 cases, was available (albeit "one per person"). Fortunately I already have one - thanks again Will! - and could instead focus on the 2007 Malbec I spotted. Also sold out at the winery, the Malbec was limited to 203 cases and would help keep my lonely CedarCreek Malbec company in the 2007 collection until they are both opened in 2012-2013. Malbec in hand, I wandered into "The Cellar" and picked up a Select Lots Chardonnay from Mission Hill to round out my 2006 Chardonnay shelf, something I've been wanting to wrap up for some time. Mission Hill's Select Lot Collection are excellent value top-tier wines, the Chardonnay no exception, notwithstanding the even higher-tier Legacy-series "Perpetua" Chardonnay. Heck, get them both and have yourself a little private tasting!