Tuesday 4 January 2011

The Mythical Quadruple Tasting

On the weekend before Christmas, I suggested to some friends that we spend Saturday afternoon visiting some of our local wine stores. It being the holiday season everyone was holding tastings, and before I knew it I had come up with a list of four exciting events we could take in while stocking up for Christmas and New Years: the quadruple tasting was born!

We met up at the 39th & Cambie Signature BC Liquor Store where Mission Hill was celebrating the tenth anniversary of their bell tower with a wine tasting of their Five Vineyards wines. Mission Hill may have the most tiers of any BC winery besides Jackson-Triggs; the Five Vineyards wines represent the first of their four tiers and are suitable for day-to-day consumption. For only a few dollars more however you can upgrade to the Reserve series and experience some excellent value for money with six whites under $20 and four reds under $25.

Among the three wines being sampled that day where the Five Vineyards Chardonnay (2008), Pinot Grigio (2009), and Cabernet Merlot (2008). The Chardonnay is well priced at $14 but I would certainly rather spend my money on the Reserve Chard for $19, a Silver Medal winner at the 2010 Chardonnay du Monde. A couple dollars more yields the Pinot Grigio ($16), which has some nice tropical notes and was an 88-point Judges Choice at the 2010 Wine Access International Value Wine Awards. There are certainly more Pinot Gris (oaked) than Grigio (unoaked) in BC so it is refreshing to find one every once in a while. Lastly, the Cabernet/Merlot was mellow, but quite youthful and somewhat shallow. Credit goes to Mission Hill for including 5% Petit Verdot in the blend however, a rare component in an entry-level blend.

From Cambie we headed down to Kitsilano to visit Village VQA Wines where a triple-tasting of Thornhaven, Hester Creek, and Lake Breeze was taking place. We tried Thornhaven’s Pinot Gris (2008), Gewurztraminer (2008), and Pinot Noir (2007): the Gewurztraminer in particular had a beautiful nose and provoked an immediate purchase from one of our party, and the Pinot Noir was pleasantly fresh and fruity – good value for $18. The Hester Creek (2009) Cabernet/Merlot was young like Mission Hill’s, but more approachable in my opinion. An aggressive price of $16 and a slew of international awards shows Hester Creek is serious about value-priced wines. The final wine we tasted was Lake Breeze’s (2008) Meritage, a tart blend with a pleasantly complex nose. Lake Breeze also produces a bigger brother to their base Meritage called “Tempest”; the 2007 vintage of which just received a high Silver Medal at the Canadian Wine Awards.

While at Village Wines Kitsilano I picked up one of the last 2007 Compendium’s on shelves nearly anywhere I would imagine. Even Mission Hill themselves only sells it directly from the winery store now (i.e., not even online). I’m told yields were down in 2007 and many VQA stores only received one half case to sell! Too bad because this big red received a Gold Medal at the 2010 Canadian Wine Awards alongside its sibling, the 2007 Quatrain; I consider myself lucky to have two bottles of each! I also added to my collection that day my first magnum: Gray Monk’s 2007 Odyssey White Brut, a Lt. Governor’s Award-winning sparkler that has all but disappeared from store shelves to make way for the 2008 vintage, no doubt also quite tasty. I tend to shy away from large format bottles due to storage complications but for only $45 this was a fantastic value, and will lay patiently in waiting for the right opportunity to open, hopefully sometime soon!

Joined by another friend returning from a holiday party, we took a quick hop across the Burrard Street bridge, bringing us downtown to visit Liberty Wines Robson for our third tasting event, which I shall detail tomorrow…

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