November 1st, 2018/ BY Quench Staff

Mav Wine and Spirits Awards 2018

Every year, the editors of Quench choose the best assemblages, single varietal and other drinks from around the world. Tasters are Gurvinder Bhatia, Ron Liteplo, Tod Stewart, Treve Ring, Rick VanSickle, Sean Wood, Tony Aspler, Gilles Bois and Tim Pawsey.


L’Acadie Vineyards Méthode Traditionelle Vintage Cuvée Rosé 2015, Nova Scotia ($30)

Light blush in colour with attractively scented red berry, floral and vanilla biscuit on the nose and lively berry fruit with subtle cherry and cranberry flavours supported by good, persistent mousse. Finishes with mineral grip, bracing but not overbearing acidity and a hint of caramel. Certified organic. (SW)

Tantalus Vineyards Traditional Method Old Vines Riesling Brut, 2014, East Kelowna Bench ($34)

A fine stream of bubbles with aromas of citrus and green apple precede a broadly textured but elegant palate, with yeasty and leesy notes, lemon zest and appealing mineral core and a persistent, lingering close. A fitting tribute to the legendary grower Denny Dulik, who passed away in 2016. Dulik had the vision to plant Riesling sourced from St. Urbans-Hof some 40 years ago in his Pioneer Vineyard, which his father had bought in 1944 from J.W. Hughes. The vines formed the foundation for daughter Sue Dulik’s Pinot Reach Winery, and later for Tantalus, on which to build— and Dulik remained a formidable presence at the winery. Many believe that BC sparkling wines — late to the party — could well become the province’s strongest suit. This wine offers a strong indication. (TP)

Benjamin Bridge Brut Méthode Classique Brut Reserve 2012, Nova Scotia ($75)

A 65% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier blend, aged for 5 years on the lees, this fine bubble shows vibrant colour with very fine persistent mousse in the glass. Bouquet is rich and complex, with subtle floral scent, fine citrus, hints of berry fruit, a touch of vanilla and toasty brioche. It delivers generously on the promise offered on the nose. Refined, yet focused citrus, green apple and background red berry flavours, crisply bright acidity and firm mineral grip contrast with sensations of weight and creamy richness. Once again, Benjamin Bridge delivers a worthy competitor to classic Champagne. (SW)

Blomidon Estate Winery Méthode Classique Brut Reserve 2011, Nova Scotia ($45)

Made exclusively from estate-grown Chardonnay picked late and matured for 60 months prior to disgorging. Shows good depth of colour, with fine persistent bead and both finesse and complexity on the nose. Opens with harmoniously developed, rich lemon citrus, floral and spicy notes together with toasty brioche. A little leaner on the palate than the nose suggests, showing bright citrus, green apple, classic Nova Scotia bright acidity and chalky mineral. Finishes with a touch of creaminess and lingering floral, citrus and green fruit notes. I have tasted this one several times since its initial release and it continues to develop further complexity. (SW)

Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 2013, Lightfoot Estate Vineyard, Wolfville, Annapolis Valley ($50)

100% Chardonnay, hand-harvested from estate-grown grapes handled using organic and biodynamic principles, this is the latest addition to the pantheon of fine Nova Scotia Traditional Method sparkling wines. The wine spent 4 years on the lees prior to disgorgement in March 2018. It offers lively fine mousse with complex citrus, floral and toasty aromas. Delivers richness, weight and length on the palate with green apple and citrus flavours, brisk acidity and solid mineral grip. Already attracting wide accolades, this fine bubble will develop greater complexity over the next few years. (SW)


Simon Rafuse Blomidon Estates
Simon Rafuse, winemaker at Blomidon Estates


Sea Star Salish Sea 2017, Gulf Islands ($24)

Made from organically grown grapes on Pender Island, this blend of Ortega and Siegerrebe captures the very essence of Sea Star. Inviting aromatics on the nose, citrus, tropical and orchard notes on top. A generous but well-tuned palate, wrapped in a generous mouthfeel. Hints of honey with tropical tones, spice and mineral notes through a lengthy finish. White blends are a dime a dozen in BC. Only a few are truly noteworthy. In combining two of the islands’ mainstay varieties, this wine amounts to a flagship offering, proving what truly can be accomplished with superb fruit, deftly balanced. (TP)

Avondale Sky Martock Late Harvest 2014, Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia ($25/500ml)

Shows deep burnished gold colour, with developed bouquet offering honeyed citrus, spicy and waxy overtones. Lively honeyed citrus flavours give a hint of orange on the medium-sweet palate, balanced by brisk acidity and mineral grip. Complex, honeyed citrus notes persist on the long, clean finish. (SW)

Blomidon Estate Winery Riesling, 2017, Nova Scotia ($25)

2017 was an exceptional vintage in Nova Scotia. This late-picked Riesling was harvested from an estate vineyard on the shoreline of the Minas Basin. It opens with delicate floral, fruit blossom scents, white peach, tropical fruit and a whiff of steely mineral. Lemon citrus flavour dominates in the mouth, supported by vibrant, but not overbearing acidity, with chalky mineral and stone fruit flavour re-emerging on the lightly sweet finish. (SW)

Cave Vinicole de Hunawihr Riesling 2015, AOC Grand Cru Osterberg ($20)

Made by a cooperative, which is often not a good thing, but this particular cooperative has very high standards, and access to grapes from some of Alsace’s best Grand Cru vineyards, including Osterberg. This is quintessential Alsatian Riesling, rich and ever so slightly sweet but with crisp acidity to balance. The nose is of grilled pineapple and lime peel, and there is more lime, some Riesling “petrol,” and green apple on a long finish. Fantastic value. Good with German-style food: ham or rich sausages. Will age well for several more years. (RL)*


Ca’ La Bionda 2012, DOCG Amarone della Valpolicella Classico ($45)

Amarone is made in northeastern Italy from a blend of indigenous grapes. What makes it unique, and delicious, is that the grapes are partially dried before fermentation. The resulting sweet juice easily produces alcohol levels of 15% or more, but it remains drinkable because the highly concentrated flavours, and some oak aging, balance the wine. This particular version is a very deep garnet colour, has smells of stewed black cherries and caramel and is very full-bodied, tasting of cooked fruits, caramel, chocolate and spices. Perfect to accompany rich dishes such as osso buco. Drink in the next couple of years. (RL)*

Janoueix La Conquête 2009, AC Pomerol ($39)

The idiosyncratic winemaker plants his vines very densely (6,600 per hectare) and matures his wine in unique cigar-shaped barrels to administer just the right touch of oak. Particularly when made from a great year like 2009, the result is a very deeply coloured, complex potion scented like a raspberry pie, with dates, raisins and Merlot herbs and spices. The fruit still tastes fresh at the moment, and some remaining tannins still provide structure, but this should be enjoyed in the next couple of years. (RL)*

Howling Bluff Acta Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Naramata Bench ($35)

From a stony, west-facing slope on Naramata Bench, once an ancient lakeshore. Lifted red berries, strawberry and cherry notes with earthy hints precede a structured and well-balanced palate of pure fruit with a touch of spice, wrapped in mouth-watering, juicy acidity, with well-integrated, approachable tannins from judicious new and used oak, through a lengthy finish. Emblematic of not just this winery’s capabilities but a sure sign of the variety’s blossoming as a BC mainstay. (TP)

Haywire Free Form Red 2016, Garnet Valley, Okanagan Valley ($54.90)

From the winery’s recently planted, high-elevation, organic vineyard. Made in two amphorae, whole bunch in one and de-stemmed in the other, on skins for 10 months, with no additives or other manipulation except for being topped up. Brilliant crimson hue with strawberry, medium cherry and sage notes on the nose before a lush, fuller bodied palate with structure and elegance, underpinned by a gentle hint of savoury [e.g., the seasoning]. This wine represents another milestone in Okanagan Crush Pad’s remarkable and rapid evolution, which has fully embraced concrete and amphora and has now achieved certified organic status — all within less than a decade. (TP)

K1 Tzimmukin 2009, Adelaide Hills ($73)

A wine of biblical precedent and proportions, it is made from partially dried Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. A very deep garnet colour, it has a huge, mature nose of black cherry underneath vanilla and pipe tobacco — the sort of aromas that call for sitting by the fireplace and simply sniffing for pleasure. It is full-bodied, tasting of plums and more cherries. The very definition of “balanced,” its high alcohol is offset by the ripe fruit, bright acidity and tannins from significant oak maturation. Drink soon. (RL)*




Taiwagura Ultra Dry Honjozo Sake, Japan ($25)

With a Sake Meter Value (SMV) of +20 (plus being drier; minus being sweeter), this is without question the driest sake I’ve tasted. Brewed from Miyagi rice with a 65 per cent polish, this is a versatile sake that, while showing nice banana, melon, almond and flower blossom and a crisp, fresh palate when chilled, is actually becomes more balanced and complex when heated. Serve chilled with sushi and cold dishes; then try warmed with braised pork belly. Try to find a table wine that’s as adaptable. (TS)

Niwa No Uguisu Nightingale’s Garden 60 Junmai Ginjo Sake, Japan ($38)

From the Fukyoka Prefecture on the island of Kyushu on Japan’s southwestern tip comes this elegant, sophisticated Junmai. Crafted from Yamadanishiki rice polished to 60 per cent, it offers up aromas of Asian pear, mineral, pumpkin, nougat, and apple. Medium-dry, with a round, silky mouth feel and flavours suggesting candied almond and pear. (TS)

Joto Junmai Sake, Japan ($25/720 ml)

One person who doesn’t seem all that convinced by Japan’s embracing of “regional” sake styles is Henry Sidel, President of Joto Sake. In Toronto to introduce his company’s range of traditional and more modern sakes, Sidel appeared sceptical when asked about the new trend, even though his firm owns a brewery in Nagata — the epicentre of the regional movement. In any case, his Joto line offers a perfect introduction to sake styles, packaged in a way to be less intimidating to those new to the drink. Floral on the nose, with a hint of steamed rice, marzipan and vanilla, it’s medium-full in the mouth with mildly earthy, stone fruit flavours and a nutty finish. (TS)

Joto Yuzu, Japan ($40/720 ml)

Yum. Certainly a departure from “typical” sake, this little drop of heaven blends sake with juice from Japan’s famous Yuzu fruit. The aroma combines Meyer Lemon, Key Lime, and orange zest. Explosive sweet/tart citrus flavours trail in to a long, zesty finish. Enjoy chilled on its own, mixed with soda, or experiment as a base or ingredient in an exotic cocktail. (TS)




Steinhart Gin, Arisaig, Nova Scotia ($35/500 ml)

Refined botanicals highlight juniper, coriander and citrus on the nose. On the palate, the spirit is silky smooth with juniper and citrus flavours initially, and spicy coriander with a suggestion of ginger emerging on mid-palate. Finishes with a touch of spirity heat. (SW)

Steinhart gin
Levenswater Spring 34 Gin ($50)

I asked Paul Allamby of Toronto’s Levenswater Gin why he chose to make a potato-based gin (wouldn’t a vodka be the obvious route to follow?). “Because l wanted to create a gin that, at least for me, would represent the complex diversity that we enjoy in our city. Saffron, tellicherry, bergamot, fennel, cubeb, lavender, kaffir lime, blackberry leaves, eucalyptus. There are 34 botanicals layered into this compound gin. I also wanted to not follow the traditions of London Dry Gin and create a vivid palate of flavours and aromatics.” I’d say he succeeded. While its profile might enrage fans of “traditional” gin, it’s like no gin you’ve likely tried. Herbaceous on the nose with hints of amaro, clove, sandalwood, pine resin, liquorice, rosemary and, surprisingly, green Chartreuse. Viscous, herbal and spicy in the mouth, it is a very “un-gin-like-gin.” It’s also an incredibly engaging spirit. (TS)

Suntory Whisky Toki ($60)

Japan’s whiskies went from unknown to insanely coveted to unavailable seemingly overnight. Apparently this even caught Japanese distillers off guard. Stocks of aged whiskies literally evaporated, leaving producers with a void to fill; a hole that has been plugged largely by malt and grain whisky blends. This, however, is not a bad thing, as Japanese blends are more approachable – in both price and profile – than age-specific single malts. Suntory’s Toki is a good example. This is a complex, fruity dram, with herbal notes; Asian pear, green apple, sweet grain, mint, and vanilla nuances. Impeccably balanced, with toasted grain, ripe pear, subtle honey, and a gentle smoky note. Blended whiskies often get ignored. Don’t ignore this. (TS)

Osborne Vermouth ($25)

“Vermouth is super trendy now,” Rocío Osborne told me while on a recent trip to Spain. So much so, it turns out, that her family’s company — sherry vintners since 1772 — has crafted one of its own. With a base of Medium and PX sherries and locally sourced wormwood, dittany (look it up) and bitter orange peel, Osborne Vermouth treads a perfect balance between sweet/bitter/spicy/herbal notes. Try on the rocks with a thin orange slice, or use in your favourite cocktail. Hopefully you’ll see it in your market soon. (TS)

A. de Fussigny XO Cognac

While packaging an XO cognac in a test tube slipped into a cigar tube might seem a tad gimmicky, it’s actually a pretty cool idea. The test tube can be reused to hold, well, whatever, and the aluminium tube makes for a great cigar storage/transport device. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s really good cognac to begin with. Rich, complex aromas of toffee, dried stone fruits, browned butter, black cherry, and pipe tobacco. Dark cherries and plums weave around toffee, vanilla, and fruitcake in the mouth. Long, supple, silky and luxurious, with a subtle elegance on the finish. Try with a maduro cigar. (TS)

Georgian Bay Gin Batch 64, Bottle 269 ($40)

A relatively new Ontario craft gin that’s already garnered critical praise (and a slew of medals) since first hitting the shelf. Quite fragrant, with aromas suggesting mild juniper (not surprising), with some pine needle, lemon zest and herbal undertones. Very well-balanced, with all elements in check, it’s smooth and viscous on the palate, with flavours of subdued juniper, lemon zest, mineral and fresh herbs. Try in a dry martini with a rosemary sprig garnish. (TS)

Ardbeg Grooves Limited Edition Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($150)

Finished in red wine casks charred to the point of furrows being etched into the wood (hence “grooves”), this limited edition bottling is not for the faint-hearted (but then, no Ardbeg expression really is). As with most Ardbeg numbers, this is a doozy. Iodine, brine, tar, sweet woodsmoke and smoked spices erupt from the glass. Vanilla, caramel corn, and briny/smoked meat flavours are enhanced by hints of cayenne pepper. The finish is sweet/smoky and long, long, long. (TS)

Nordés Gin ($40)

Nordés translates to the name of the wind that brings good weather. Turns out, it brings good gin, too. Using an Albariño wine base (kinda cool), this unique gin combines the usual flavour suspects (juniper, cardamon, etc.) with sage, laurel, eucalyptus, mint, glasswort, and lemon verbena. It’s very fresh, with herbal, menthol, red berry and pomegranate notes. Soft, clean, savoury, mildly spicy and quite complex. A bit off the beaten track, but that’s where gin seems to be going these days. (TS)

Martell VS Single Distillery Cognac ($65)

I’ll admit to having a soft spot for the Martell range of cognacs. Founded in 1715, Martell is the oldest of the major cognac houses, but as with the rest of them, is trying to position its spirit in a more modern light, encouraging the use of cognac in mixed drinks. Martell’s latest expression — the VS Single Distillery — is, as the name implies, sourced from a single distilling source. Dark plum, dried apricot, vanilla, citrus, caramel, mild spice, and a whiff of leather. Rich and smooth in the mouth, with up front sweet plum and baking spice flavours trailing off to suggestions of vanilla and toffee. Crafted as a cocktail base, it’s quite enjoyable neat. (TS)



Comments are closed.