Beverage pros unearth these wine gems

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      Having spent the majority of June touring around B.C. for both business and pleasure, I’ve come back to a pile of work.

      Some of the boring things, administration and such, continue to sit comfortably on the back burner, while more pressing (and enjoyable) matters like tasting through a few cases of mixed wine samples recently took priority.

      Rather than sit at my desk and wade through them solo, I gathered a few colleagues and pals for assistance in swirling, sipping, and spitting. While tasting wine in a social setting is certainly more fun, it’s also a healthy exercise, as banter among colleagues can highlight nuances of a certain bottle that initially went unnoticed.

      Out of a good half-dozen cases, there was fairly solid consensus on which wines were the gems, so while I personally endorse everything in this week’s column, I had my tasting colleagues give their two cents on the standouts.

      Domaine Lafage 2013 Cuvee Centenaire (Côtes du Roussillon, France; $21.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)
      Jay Jones recently wrapped up a year at Rogers Arena spent completely revamping the wine, beer, and spirits program, bringing in a hearty selection of local craft beers and B.C. wines among other improvements. While many across the city know him as one of the best bartenders we’ve got, that often overshadows his impressive wine palate, which he was happy to contribute to our session. While we were all dazzled by this French white made from 100-year-old Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris vines along with a splash of Roussanne, Jay was particularly enamoured with its “mineral, honeycomb, and lemony notes”, adding that its price point offers “fantastic value”.

      River Stone 2012 Stones Throw (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $23.90, Riverstone Estate Winery website)
      After five years selling wine for Trialto Wine Group and then a year on the floor at Railtown’s Ask for Luigi, sommelier Mark McNeil is taking a well-deserved summer break that will include a little European travel. It was his first time trying this “juicy, bright, and balanced” blend of Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon, which carries gobs of blackberry, currants, chocolate, and cherries—“perfect with grilled meats”.

      JoieFarm 2012 En Famille Reserve Gewürztraminer (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $28, Joie Farm website)
      Neil Ingram, currently on the floor at Cinara and running the wine program at PiDGiN, felt JoieFarm’s rich and opulent Gewürztraminer made a “fantastic calling card for our region”. Indeed, there’s natural acidity and good minerality, along with solid fruit concentration—all Okanagan hallmarks. Laden with litchi, rosewater, muddled lemon, and a wisp of fresh sage, the wine’s off-dry finish makes it a match for any curry with a good dose of heat.

      Moon Curser 2012 Touriga Nacional (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $49.90, Moon Curser website)
      David Stansfield is a consulting sommelier who oversees the wine program at Vancouver’s Tap & Barrel restaurants, along with various other clients. Back in January, when asked for a wine recommendation, he became the first and only person to have dropped an F-bomb in this column. I guess he’s feeling a touch classier these days, since he only went as far as calling Moon Curser’s Touriga Nacional “badass”. When asked why he chose that adjective for this fresh but deep and juicy wine full of purple fruit, dates, and black olives, he responded jubilantly, “It’s just so badass to be experimental in the Okanagan and play around with a native Portuguese variety like this, rather than sticking with the same five French varieties that everyone seems to always work with.” I’d have to go along with him on that. Moon Curser’s winemaker, Chris Tolley, doesn’t stop at Touriga Nacional; his experiments with Tempranillo, Arneis, and Carménère are quite innovative, and critically acclaimed, too!

      Laughing Stock Vineyards 2014 Blind Trust White (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $25, Laughing Stock website)
      Peter Van de Reep, who runs the bar at Campagnolo Upstairs, quite enjoyed this blend of 50 percent Pinot Gris, 20 percent Viognier, 18 percent Pinot Blanc, and 12 percent Roussanne. Why? “I like the idea of a Pinot Gris–supported blend. It offers a good, citrus base for the more floral Viognier component and characteristics that the other varieties lend. It’s just a well-selected blend, each grape adding something to the profile, and I like the judicious use of oak.”

      Bodegas y Viñedos Ilurce 2012 Rio Madre Graciano (Rioja, Spain; $14.79, B.C. Liquor Stores)
      Okay, my turn! You should jump on this crazy deal of a Spanish red. Made from the Graciano grape, it has plenty of black fruit, a strip of black licorice, and a few violets, which give it a nice lift. A good balance of earthiness and tannins makes for a well-structured wine that’ll happily greet barbecued meats and pulled-pork sandwiches. Stock up on this one; once more people try it, it should fly off the shelves.