Great wine gets personal

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      Owen Cabernet Franc 2011 ($25.90 from the winery)
      An intriguing new wine in town, but not for long—only 100 cases were made. It’s intriguing in name and provenance: Okanagan Crush Pad produced it, and it’s named after the winemaker—the Vancouver International Wine Festival’s 2011 sommelier of the year, Owen Knowlton. The winery asked him to make a wine of that vintage, with his choice of grapes. The wine was made and released through the Okanagan Wine Campus program and seems to be available in B.C. only, for the collector’s price of $25.90. I guess if they ask you, you can name it after yourself; anyway, it’s more interesting than, say, Château Knowlton!

      I got my mitts on a bottle and now wish I had more. It’s magnificent—spicy and rich, full and super-smooth, a truly great wine. May there be many more vintages and more volume next time; it’d be nice to see some in stores. For now you can get next to it, pretty much only, by writing, but don’t leave it too long; for all I know, it could be gone already.

      Farnese Fantini Sangiovese 2012 ($10.49)
      Remember when Farnese first arrived in town? When was that—nine, 10 years ago? Maybe more. It was cheap ’n’ cheerful, and it walked out of LDB stores by the boxful. Well, it’s back in town, with smart, new black and gold and red livery. Still cheap, but certainly not as cheap as the first time round, years ago. Name something, anything, that is, eh? Now this Italian red is widely available in most government stores for $10.49.

      Eleven bucks seems to be the cutoff point for cheap these days. Rough ’n’ ready, a little on the raunchy side, fairly acidic but perfect for pizza and hearty spaghetti. Ideal with chef Alberto Lemmo’s chicken livers with sage in red wine, at Zefferelli’s upstairs on Robson Street, amid all the designer boutiques where a pair of socks costs you $39.95.

      Many years ago, I tasted 250 Sangioveses—which is what the newly arrived Farnese is—over two days in Chicago. No, I didn’t lose a bet; it was for the American Restaurant Association, and I was a fledgling wine writer in Victoria. Let me tell you, the ones from Missouri and Kansas were a real challenge, and not one I hope to repeat anytime soon. If ever.

      8th Generation Pinot Meunier Rose 2012 ($20 at the winery)
      Hearty pink strawberry colour and flavours; delicious, luscious, full, and ripe. Could make believers out of your friends who claim not to like rosé. Worth the effort to find it. Ideal for what remains of our summer.

      JoieFarm Gamay 2011 ($23.90 at the winery, in limited supply)
      Another red-wine treat from the winery that seems unable to do any wrong! Spicy, meaty fruit and lots of ripe berries in the hale and hearty flavour mix.

      14 Hands Vineyards Hot to Trot White Blend 2011 ($16.99, specialty listing)
      There aren’t many wines with values as good as this new–to–B.C. white from Washington state. Soft and full, with an intriguing back-of-the-palate bite; very refreshing and tasty. The name is apparently derived from the height of the wild horses that used to roam the Columbia Valley. Seek it out at the bigger LDB stores.

      Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2010 ($22.99, specialty listing)
      All right, I admit to having a pro-Chenin bias, but this big, fat, ripe, overstuffed South African is one of the best whites of the season. Yes, it’s fairly costly, but if you’re a fan of the variety you’ll love it for its rich, ripe fruit and mile-long finish. It may not be easy to find, though. One to start off a special-company dinner.

      Que Guapo Malbec/Bonarda/Syrah Blend 2011 ($15.99, specialty listing)
      Wonderful value from Argentina, new to us—at least, I haven’t seen it before. Dark and intense, bold and robust in-your-face tastes from the mingling of these three varieties. Hard-edged and hearty; not for the timid.

      Casa Catelli Organic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2011 ($14.99, specialty listing)
      Big and tannic, puckery on the tongue. A good pizza wine and priced right for it. Are you listening, Nicli Antica and Nook? Excellent value all around.

      Moon Curser Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($29 at the winery)
      A deft, fragrant, and spicy Cab from one of the major wave-maker South Okanagan wineries. This one is dark and ultra-rich; it’s the red to accompany the main course of the special-company dinner, above. If you haven’t yet discovered the stunning reds of Moon Curser, it’s not due to a lack of me telling you about this fascinating portfolio of major winners.

      Urban Uco Malbec/Tempranillo 2011 ($14.95, specialty listing)
      Another new treat from Argentina, blending two of the red grapes that country does best into a rich and unusual, ripe-berry-forward mix that especially suits hearty meat-based meals.

      Laughing Stock Pinot Gris 2012 ($22 at the winery and very good private stores)
      Love the clever-graphic-adorned bottles and the remarkable wines, both white and red. This thirst-quenching PG is one of the biggest of that variety I’ve ever encountered from B.C. Big and luscious, rich and full. Well worth tracking down.