An ode to all things bright, shiny, and new

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      This week, more new releases from familiar sources. They came in ark-style, two by two. Here they are, sequenced alphabetically.

      Blue Mountain Pinot Gris 2011
      $20.90 at the winery or website 
      This one is rich and robust, unlike many of the wimpy domestic Pinot Gris. Must be because it’s 65-percent fermented and aged in stainless steel, then 35- percent fermented and aged in new to three-year-old French oak for six months. Fine food wine for leftovers or new-from-scratch year-end meals.

      Blue Mountain Gamay Noir 2011
      $20.90 at the winery
      Smoky and dark, yet fresh-fruity; a wonderful red that’s best served cellar-cool. It’s fermented in tank, then aged in four-year-old French oak for 10 months. Serve it alongside the Pinot Gris and give your guests a choice. I’m betting they’ll enjoy both.

      Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay 2011
      A long-time favourite California classic deli/pizza wine. Partner it with the Cab below, and everyone’s happy at dinner. Soft on the palate, extra-rich Chard fruit—apple and pear, very juicy. Good with fish, pork meatballs, or Country Captain Chicken. Refreshing as spring water, only better. Welcome back in your new colours, Fetzer; haven’t seen you on our shelves for far too long.

      Fetzer Valley Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
      Soft and round, easy-drinking, with lots of big black cherry and spice (vanilla and chocolate, too)—way better than my morning Boost! For chops, steaks (even Swiss, which I’ve never found in Switzerland!), or pork chops with cinnamon and black pepper. Nice and mellow: the vintage has some good age on it.

      Forbidden Fruit Earth Series Merlot 2010
      $26 at the winery or website and many private stores around town
      Big and bold, proof that what is arguably B.C.’s best fruit winery has the same deft touch with grapes. “Aromas of cherries, plums, vanilla and chocolate,” says the winemaker, adding that the palate gets “mocha spice and a soft smooth lingering cassis finish”. The winery suggests red meats, tuna, duck, and chocolate; all would go very well. A noble achievement and proof that they can do this perfectly well, every bit as well as their fortified fruit wines.

      Forbidden Fruit Earth Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
      $26 at the winery and many private stores around town
      From Similkameen and Okanagan Valley grapes, it opens with a lovely, rich smell: blackberries, plums, and Christmas spices. The winery suggests lamb cooked with garlic and rosemary, venison, soft cheeses (Saint Agur, Munster—the richer, the better!), bold pasta, or prime rib. Soft and round, with an assertive finish and robust, full fruit. Haven’t seen any Earth Series whites yet; maybe next harvest?

      Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir 2010
      Very fresh and full of ripe Pinot fruit; serve with a bit of chill. The fruit hits the front palate big and mellow; there’s a gentle bitterness out back, making it perfect with dozens of foods. Experiment with pairings for yourself.

      Quails’ Gate Merlot 2010
      Clean and bright. Lighter than many domestic Merlots, ripe blackberries at the front. Nicely tannic, with a rich finish showing plenty of spice. Different from most B.C. Merlots, for sure; try it and see how it works for your palate.

      Rocky Creek On the Mark 2011
      $19 at the winery and website 
      “Is this a minty wine?” asked one taster. An interesting wine, named after the winemaker in Cowichan, who says it’s “made with bolder varietals such as Cab-Foch and Marechal Foch” and blended down with Pinot Noir to “soften the edge”. Not for all tastes, but most interesting. Look for aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry, American oak, and spiced coffee. The winemaker notes that it’s “meant to be drunk young”. Here you go, then: with steak, burgers, and grilled eggplant. I’m coming to like the reclosable Zork closure a lot, for its relative ease of initial opening and its great recorkability.

      Wente entwine Chardonnay 2010
      Wente partnered with the Food Network to achieve this easy-drinking wine. With “crisp fall fruit—think toast spread with home-made apple-butter,” says the maker. (Not usually what I think of when I’m tasting Chardonnay!) They suggest pairing this with potato chips, grilled cheese sandwiches, shellfish, goat cheese, cream sauces, roast chicken, and “hanging out with friends”. Good and clean, vibrant and fresh; if it could cost five bucks less, it’d be brilliant.

      Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2011
      Subtler and paler than the Entwine. Lots of citrus and a little oak; worth the extra dollar, this is a classic California Chardonnay. (Trivia: Wente was the first California winery to put the word Chardonnay on a label; it was in 1936.) A basketful of rich and appealing fruit. I don’t even mind paying nearly 20 bucks! Lovely for all that oak.