The BOYs are back for another round of bests

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      Another visit with the BOYs—Best of the Year wines that made the jaded palate sparkle and buzz. The semifinal list ended up at 29 wines, which is more than twice the number I like to present. But it’s early enough in the new year to throw caution into the blue box, so I’ll cram as many into this corner as I can.

      The customary caveat applies: at the time they were acquired (starting in late January 2007), tasted, and rated, all of the following were available at the LDB, private wine shops, VQA stores, or—more frequently—directly from the winery. Prices quoted were also correct at the time.

      Since many of these wines appeared in very limited quantities, supply may well have diminished, if not disappeared.

      In no particular order”¦

      Tinhorn Creek Oldfeild’s Collection Bench 2006 ($23) One of the ballooning crop of magnificent proprietary blends is Sandra Oldfield’s Sémillon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewí¼rztraminer mix—fabulous, fresh, and heady, with a Golden Mile–long finish.

      Quails’ Gate Limited Release Pinot Noir 2005 ($24.99) and Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2005 ($39.99) These keep ending up here, vintage after vintage. The Limited is classic Pinot with gorgeous depth, while the Family gets deep, dark, smoky richness, with so much fruit you might wonder if they snuck some other grape in.

      Quails’ Gate Okanagan Valley Rose 2006 ($14.99) and Gewurztraminer 2006 ($16.99) The former is one of the best buys in the entire QG portfolio, and one of the top four or five rosés in the Okanagan Valley. No candy floss, just bright, hearty fruit. Try to find some of the Gewí¼rztraminer. It’s a unique style of this popular variety, more peppery than floral, full but not heavy; it’s just the ticket for anything from the Alsatian cookbook.

      Winchester Cellars Black Sage Bench 2006 ($19) This sets a new standard for British Columbia Gewí¼rz. It’s a stunning wine (part of a massive release of 250 cases!). Alsace is definitely where the winemaker took his cues from. Ken Winchester has hit his stride with this, and we can only hope for a bigger supply next release.

      SandhILL Sangiovese Small Lots 2004 ($26.99) and Petit Verdot Small Lots 2004 ($26.99) Sandhill’s Small Lots program continues to produce some of the most interesting (mostly red) wines in B.C., as winemaker Howard Soon explores unusual varieties like Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Barbera, and even Sovereign Opal (under the Calona Vineyards Artist Series label). At 406 cases, the Sangiovese was practically mass-market. The Chianti grape is mellowed by a little Merlot, and the result is a better Sangiovese than many you’ll find in Tuscany. The Petit Verdot was a savvy grab by Earls Restaurants, which snapped up nearly all of the available 124. If you can find an Earls where you can hear yourself think, see if there’s any left on the list.

      Black Hills Nota Bene 2005 ($36.90) and Alibi 2006 ($23.90) At the high end, the Nota Bene’s still shining, despite all the corporate machinations going on at the winery. This is winemaker Senka Tennant’s masterpiece, and she’s still on hand for another vintage or two to see to it the quality is kept up. After that, who knows? And companion white Alibi is no less magnificent. You’ll be scouring restaurant wine lists for these.

      Calona Vineyards Sovereign Opal 2006 ($12.99) Yes, this remains one of B.C.’s best whites, and certainly the most unusual: nobody else in the world produces it. Floral, aromatic, rich, and luscious, it deserves to be on any wine list. May they long keep making it.

      Elephant Island Stellaport ($27.95) This has been a fast favourite since its first “vintage” five years ago, a rich, unctuous, mellow, ultra-cherry treat, surprising with aged Gouda or Manchego cheese, and a special delight in the company of really good ice cream. At Marquis Wine Cellars (1034 Davie Street), arguably the best purveyor of legendary French wines, John Clerides squeezes as many bottles as he can out of the producer for his discerning customers.

      Jackson-Triggs Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Riesling Icewine 2005 ($52.99 for 375 millilitres) This is simply one of the top three icewines in the province. Riesling is the right grape for icewine, with grand depth, clean fruit, lovely acidity, and a stunning finish. It’ll keep, all right, but why would you want it to?

      Paradise Ranch Late Harvest Merlot 2003 ($20.07 for 375 millilitres) Still showing up in selected LDB stores, here’s one of the best-yet B.C. late-harvest red wines—rich and broad, with chocolate-honey darts of flavour. I’m hoping to lay my hands on a couple of bottles for my spring Merlot tasting.

      Thetis Island Vineyards Wild Blackberry Fruit Wine 2006 ($17.06 for 375 millilitres) Finally, while I’ve never seen another bottle, I did find this remarkable wine at the LDB store at Alberni and Thurlow streets last spring. It might take a visit to Thetis Island to see if they have any more, or if they made a fresh batch last fall. Could well be worth it, because whatever they do, they sure do it well.