Caring for White Wine: Tips and Best Practices

Caring for White Wine and Sparkling Wine: The Ultimate Guide

For wine lovers, the joys of sipping a chilled white or celebrating with a bubbly sparkling wine are unparalleled. However, the delicate nuances of these wines require specific care to ensure they remain at their peak quality. Whether you're a casual drinker or a dedicated connoisseur, understanding the ins and outs of white and sparkling wine care is essential. Let’s dive in!

1. Storage Matters

Temperature Control: White wines thrive at cooler temperatures than reds. Store your whites between 45°F and 55°F (7°C and 13°C). Sparkling wines should be kept even cooler, around 40°F to 50°F (4°C to 10°C), especially if they're non-vintage and intended for early consumption.

Horizontal Storage: Just like reds, white and sparkling wines with corks should be stored on their side to keep the cork moist. However, wines with screw tops can be stored upright.

Shield from Light: Light, especially UV rays, can compromise the quality of white and sparkling wines. Always store them away from direct sunlight. If your storage area needs lighting, opt for LED or incandescent bulbs.

2. Serving Perfection

Chill, But Not Too Much: Over-chilling can mask the wine's flavors. Remove the white or sparkling wine from the fridge or cooler about 15 minutes before serving to let it reach the ideal temperature.

Glassware: Whites should be served in glasses with narrower bowls than reds, concentrating the aromas. Sparkling wines, on the other hand, are best in flutes or tulip-shaped glasses to preserve the bubbles and concentrate the bouquet.

Decanting Whites: Unlike reds, most whites do not need decanting. However, some aged whites or those with a lot of sediment can benefit from this process.

Preserving Bubbles: When pouring sparkling wines, tilt the glass and pour slowly down the side to maintain as much effervescence as possible.

3. Opening with Care

Turn, Don’t Pop: When opening sparkling wines, keep a firm grip on the cork and turn the bottle, not the cork. A gentle hiss, rather than a dramatic pop, ensures minimal gas loss.

Use the Right Tools: A good quality corkscrew minimizes the risk of cork breakage or crumbles for white wines.

4. The Art of Aging

While many whites and sparkling wines are crafted for immediate enjoyment, some can benefit from aging:

Vintage Sparkling: High-quality vintage champagnes and sparkling wines can develop added complexity with age. Ensure they are stored in optimal conditions.

Certain Whites: Varieties like Chardonnay or Riesling, especially from renowned regions, can evolve beautifully over time. However, most whites should be consumed within a few years of purchase.

Humidity and Stability: Maintain a humidity level of around 70% to keep corks in good condition. And, as with all wines, avoid storing bottles in areas with excessive vibrations.

5. Beyond the Bottle

Document the Experience: Using a wine journal or a dedicated app, keep track of the white and sparkling wines you've tasted. Note their profiles, pairings you enjoyed, and any other details to refine your palate.

Pairing is Key: The light, crisp nature of many whites and the effervescence of sparkling wines make them versatile for food pairings. Experiment with different dishes to discover perfect combinations. Seafood, salads, and light pastas often work well with whites, while sparkling wines can range from appetizers to desserts.


White and sparkling wines bring a freshness and vivacity that's distinct from their red counterparts. Their care, while having overlaps with red wine storage, has its unique requirements. By giving your bottles the attention they deserve, you're not just preserving the wine; you're elevating your entire wine-drinking experience. Here’s to the effervescence of sparkling wines and the crispness of whites – may your glasses always reflect the care and passion with which you treat your collection. Cheers!

Expert Advice & Friendly Staff

Almost since the beginning, when we first open up on the North Shore almost 16 years ago, the North Vancouver community has been an incredible supporter and have continued to show their support by voting us Best Private Wine store in the North Shore News’ yearly feature. And we couldn’t be more proud or grateful!

“We want to sincerely thank the readers for voting us your Favourite Wine Store year after year,” says Store Manager, Younna Lee of Everything Wine. “We do not take this accolade lightly and appreciate how much we mean to you as YOU mean the world to us!”

Everything Wine has been serving loyal customers in all-things-wine shopping for many years. Staff are experts and have a deep knowledge of wines to advise, make suggestions, and guide customers on their selections. Whether it’s helping find a new varietal, exploring a wine region anywhere in the world, or sourcing wine pairings with food, the staff are passionate about wine and want to help. No wine snobs here, only an atmosphere that is inclusive, warm, and friendly to all customers.

There is a wide selection of BC wines as well as international brands, and the store is “always bringing in something new and exciting,” says Lee, and they are very proud to announce that they now carry a wide variety of beer and premium spirits. One stop shopping couldn’t be easier.

Staff are regularly trained in best practices for customer service and are WSET educated (Wine and Spirits Education Trust - the benchmark for alcohol studies around the world) and most carry the Level 2 designation.

Classroom educational events are fun, and loyal customers claim they “surpass expectations!” says Lee. A changing line-up of events is offered every month which is a great opportunity to learn a little more about an alcohol brand, region, varietal, or just have a little fun while you sip.

Free samples at The Tasting Bar, available daily from 2-6 pm allow customers to try before they buy and gain a better understanding of different options. And who doesn’t love a free sample?

Pricing of most products is very competitive and often less than what the government stores charge. Customers save 5% when they purchase any twelve bottles. And there really is something that’s always on sale!

And if you are looking for add on items for your gifts, they also carry an impressive selection of accessories, books, decanters, and glassware. Or ask about a special gift baskets filled with wine, beer, spirits and gourmet treats.

Visit the team at 998 Marine Drive, North Vancouver • 604-929-7277


Caring for Red Wine: Tips and Best Practices

Caring for Red Wine: Tips and Best Practices

Red wine lovers understand that there's more to its appeal than just the taste and aroma. The rituals of storing, serving, and enjoying red wine add to the overall experience. By taking proper care of your red wine, you can ensure that when it's time to open a bottle, the moment is truly delightful, just as the winemaker intended. Here are some helpful insights and guidelines for caring for your beloved red wine.

1. Proper Storage

Maintaining the proper temperature is crucial for storing red wine. It's recommended to keep it between 55°F and 65°F (13°C and 18°C) to preserve its flavor and quality. Avoid sudden temperature changes, as they can negatively impact the wine's characteristics. If you don't have a dedicated wine refrigerator or cellar, look for the coolest and most consi­stent area in your home to store your red wine. Store your wine bottles horizontally to keep the cork moist and prevent it from drying out. This ensures that no air seeps in and spoils the wine. Keep it Dark: Wine, especially red, is sensitive to light, particularly UV rays, which can degrade it. Store bottles away from direct sunlight and use incandescent bulbs if lighting is necessary in your storage space.

2. Serving Red Wine Decanting:

Certain wines can benefit from the process of decanting, which involves allowing the wine to breathe. This technique helps to soften the tannins and unlock its flavors. To decant a wine, carefully pour it into a decanter, being mindful to leave any sediment behind in the original bottle. Choose a wine glass with a wide bowl when serving red wines. This design allows for better aeration, enhancing the wine's aroma and helping you fully appreciate its flavors. Serving Temperature: Though we often hear "serve red wine at room temperature," this doesn't always apply, especially in warmer climates. Lighter red wines like Pinot Noir can be served slightly chilled, between 55°F to 60°F. Fuller bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon are best served at 60°F to 65°F.

3. Opening the Bottle

When examining a wine, one useful indicator of its condition is the cork. A moist cork suggests that the wine has been stored properly, whereas a dry or crumbly cork may signal potential problems. Investing in a high quality corkscrew is essential for opening bottles smoothly and with minimal risk of cork breakage.

4. Prolonged Storage and Aging

While not all red wines improve with age, those that do can provide a remarkable exper­ience when opened after several years or even decades. If you plan to age your wine: Monitoring humidity is crucial for aging wine. The ideal humidity level should be around 70%. This helps in preventing the cork from drying out while also avoiding excessive mold growth. Limit Vibrations: Be mindful of constant vibrations in your wine storage area, such as those caused by refrigerators or heavy machinery. These vibrations can disrupt the aging process of your wine. Make sure to store your wine in a quiet and stable location. Consider investing in a wine cellar or cooler if you're dedicated to aging wines. These specialized equipment can help maintain the optimal environment for wine storage.

5. Enjoying Your Wine - Track Your Collection: Use a wine journal or app to note down your tasting experiences and track the wines in your collection. This aids in understanding your preferences and the evolution of wines over time. Enjoying wine is always better when shared with others. Consider hosting wine tasting parties or joining a wine club to explore new wines and engage in discussions with fellow wine enthus­iasts.

Conclusion Caring for red wine may seem complicated, but it's really about respecting the art and skill that goes into making each bottle. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that every glass you pour embodies the passion and expertise of its creation. So, let's raise a toast to the vintners and to your commi­tment in preserving their craft. And most importantly, let's celebrate the delightful journey of enjoying red wine. Cheers!

Spanish Cult Wine Release

Hi Everyone!

While there is always innovation and excitement all over the Wine Globe, there is – for whatever reason – an undeniable concentration of it happening right now in Spain. New producers in emerging regions are hitting consecutive home runs, and established, traditional houses are seeing renaissances in quality and interest. What follows is an admittedly curated cross-section of contemporary Spanish Wine, including several producers appearing in BC for the first time. We begin:


Olivier Rivière. Everything about Olivier’s young career has been about fluidity: the juice, his adaptive methods that eschew dogma and just listen to the juice, and his zig-zag path through the wine world towards what it seems he was always meant to do. Born in Cognac and trained in Montagne-Saint-Émillon, he was pulled by his biodynamic skills to Domaine Leroy, where he naturally thrived under the neo-wiccan disciplines of Madame Bizou-Leroy. Olivier was about to invest in vineyards in Fitou when Telmo Rodriguez recruited him to turn his family’s vineyards Bio, a task he excelled in, and the predictable happened: he fell head over heels for Rioja, especially its supporting varieties - you’ll note that Tempranillo actually takes a back seat in many of his wines. In just over a decade, Olivier’s micro-oenology - it’s a worn cliché to call it “Burgundian” but it’s also accurate – has made him one of the world’s most sought-after producers, available for the first time in BC.

Olivier Rivière Pozo Alto 2019, Rioja. 75% Graciano, 20% Tempranillo and 5% Garnacha from 90-year-old vines in the village of Leza, at the foot of the Sierra de Cantabria. A fiesta of ripe red fruit and peppercorns, powerful and deep but not over-extracted, spending a year in old Foudres. The fruit is alive and humming, but not talking to the back end yet. After 3-4 years this will sing. 96 points Robert Parker, 96 points Tim Atkins, 18 bottles available, $216.98

Olivier Rivière Losares 2019, Rioja. Almost entirely foot-trodden Tempranillo, rounded off by a rogues gallery of local grapes (Garnacha, Graciano, Viura, Calagraño, Gesundheit). From a 95-year-old plot in the village of Navaridas, high up at 500m elevation. Olivier’s Burgundian ethics show up brilliantly here, with a classic frame supporting the cherry, white pepper and gravelly notes. 95 points Robert Parker, 18 bottles available, $216.98 +tax

Olivier Rivière Ganko 2019, Rioja. Mostly Garnacha (Grenache) with a smidge of Mazuelo (Carignan) from the sandy village of Cárdenas at 600m elevation. Cranberry, sour cherry and black pepper over an elegant frame, brings the Rhône to mind, although the body is fuller. Tannins are prominent but silky and charming. 95 points Robert Parker, 18 bottles available, $86.98 +tax

Olivier Rivière Vinos de Eusebio 2019. Rioja. 100% Tempranillo from Olivier’s sandstone and limestoniest sites near Laguardia and Navaridas in the Rioja Alavesa. Deep blackberry notes give faint warning of the wallop to follow, this is one of his most visceral bottlings. Slightly more time in oak than the others, giving a toasty vibe to the dark fruit and cherries. 94 points Robert Parker, 18 bottles available, $99.98 +tax

Olivier Rivière “Gabaxo” Vino Tinto 2019, Rioja. Olivier’s only regional blend, sourcing from sites all over Rioja Alavesa, is also his most traditional, mixing Tempranillo with Garnacha like most normies do. Aged in concrete and barrel, there are soft cherry notes with blackberries and bacon, this is his most gulpable cuvée. “Gabaxo” is the derogative Spanish term for a “French Border Jumper”, a term Olivier wears proudly. 93 points James Suckling, 24 bottles available, $44.98 +tax

Olivier Rivière Mirando al Sur Blanco 2019, Rioja Blanco. A new animal, probably best described as Jura’s Spanish cousin that went to school in Chablis. Ancient Viura vines are the backbone of this white wine, blended with younger Macabeo and aged for 2 years in old Sherry casks. Smooth and waxy like white Tondonia, zippy like Burgundy, luxuriously layered like only white Rioja can be. Tangerine, dried green herbs, honeysuckle. 95 points Robert Parker, 95 points Tim Atkins, 6 bottles available, $132.98 +tax

Olivier Rivière La Bastid Blanco 2019, Rioja Blanco. 70% Viura, 30% Garnacha Blanca (Grenache Blanc), aged in concrete and old barrel. Citrus and apple with lilac and lanolin, a welcome minerality balances the big body. 93 points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $49.98 +tax

Lopez de Heredia. Often cited as Olivier Rivière’s north star, this traditional house never fell out of favour so don’t call it a comeback, but demand has never been higher, and my allocations have never been lower. The oldest winery in Haro and one of the Original Three Rioja wineries, Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta’s house is still family-owned 150 years later, making statuesque wines like these:

Vina Tondonia Reserva 2011, Rioja. 2011 gave Tondonia muscles it doesn’t usually use, the extra heat teamed up with the 6-year American Barrique aging to broaden the shoulders of this single vineyard Tempranillo. Darkly fruited with currant and cherry highlights, spicy with earthen moods. People whose opinions I trust drink this early, but I’ve had old Tondonia and it’s to die for. Your choice. 95 points Tim Atkins, 95 points James Suckling, 94 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $82.98 +tax

Vina Tondonia Reserva 2001, Rioja. Held back at the winery, newly released (and rated). If Tondonia were the Beatles, this would be their Sgt Pepper, everything is aligned perfectly and the juices are flowing. The weight of an in-the-zone Saint-Estèphe but with more generosity on the nose, red fruits are supported by baking spices, and the American oak influence still shows through coconut and cigar box notes. I’d place this 2001 at the beginning of Act Two. 96+ points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $144.98 +tax

Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco 2011, Rioja Blanco. Have an infinite number of cashews and lemon peels given you a foot rub? Then you don’t know the joy of drinking white Tondonia. The year’s warmth means that things are further along, so there’s no probationary period before tucking into this, but the wine’s concentration certainly makes aging possible. The pulse of this old-oak-aged Viura has always been the interplay between Almond Brittle and Lemon Tea, fully on display here with vanilla, tangerine and camphor. 97 points Tim Atkins, 97 points James Suckling, 6 bottles available, $84.98 +tax

Vina Gravonia Blanco 2015, Rioja Blanco. Don Rafael used to make Sauternes-inspired botrytis wines here in the Zaconia vineyard (out of Viura), and I’m not sure if knowing that makes me smell honey in this dry white, but I for sure smell honey, albeit twisted with lemon pie, walnuts and spice. Big, viscous and round, with less citrus pith than other vintages. 93 points Robert Parker, 9 bottles available $63.98 +tax

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva “904” Selección Especial 2015, Rioja. Another member of Rioja’s Original Three rockets across our skies once more, with two important distinctions: this is the first “904” bottling since the 2011 vintage (the intermediate years weren’t good enough), and on the strength of 2015 this is the first 904 to be released as a Selección Especial in 120 years. Aged a year longer than previous vintages, this 90% Tempranillo is humming with purple fruit, singed potpourri, green herbs, unlit cigar and earth. Given the classically poised body and structure, I’ve always dubbed 904 the Spanish Brunello, but this 2015 is deeper in every way, maybe the Spanish Bolgheri is more apt? Didn’t realize how much I missed this until I tasted it again, omg. 97 points James Suckling, 97 points Guia Penin, 96 points Tim Atkins, 95 points Robert Parker, 95 points Vinous, 24 bottles available, $155.98 +tax


Casa Castillo Pie Franco 2020, Jumilla. The King of Monastrell (a.k.a. Mourvèdre), I’m hard pressed to think of another example – from anywhere – that even comes close. José María Vicente’s grandfather planted these own-rooted vines in 1942, and although phylloxera is encroaching slowly into the vineyard, José can still make a handful of barrels of this bulletproof, gravity-commanding red wine. Everything is admittedly embryonic – I’m going to lay this down for 10 years at least – but we see emerging herbal notes with cassis, mint and violet. If you’ve ever seen pictures of Jumilla vineyards – almost lunar in their poverty – then you’ll recognize what an achievement it is to wrest this kind of elegance from that kind of Mad Max landscape. 100 points Robert Parker, 98 points Decanter, 12 bottles available, $220.98 +tax

Casa Castillo Las Gravas 2020, Jumilla. From an unsurprisingly rocky 40-year-old plot comes an absolutely stellar value, showing very much like elite Bandol at a fraction of the price. An aromatic trojan horse, Las Gravas plays coy on the open, with cherries and roses lurking underneath the mineral energy. One on palate, the fuse is lit, and the flavours and power snowball towards an explosive finish. Mostly Monastrell with a small portion of Garnacha, I recommend filling your trunk with this, the prices will not stay here. 98 points Robert Parker, 24 bottles available, $102.98 +tax

Castilla-La Mancha

Comando G “La Bruja de Rozas” 2021, Sierra de Gredos. As this ad-hoc upstart from the hills around Madrid has quickly gained the world’s respect and attention – effectively putting Gredos on the map - Daniel Landi and Fernando Garcia have frustratingly reduced their production, focusing on quality (and other projects, see below) over quantity. Well, that’s just great. Just as Bruja de Rozas (the “Witch of the Roses”) has achieved its best ratings ever, I can only get one case. Treating Garnacha like Pinot Noir, this high-altitude red wine is a savoury soil-conduit, showing herbal and earthen vibes over a medium body with the power to read minds. 95 points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $69.98 +tax

Comando G “El Tamboril” 2018, Sierra de Gredos. The only white that Comando makes, built from Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris but drinking a lot like Corton. Aged in concrete after indigenous fermentation, there is generous tropical fruit braced by bright acidity, notable salinity and smoke. 98 points Robert Parker, 1 bottle available, $236.98 +tax

Viticola Mentridana “El Mentridano” 2021, Mentrida. First time in BC. A side project of Comando G’s Daniel Landi finds him teaming up with his childhood friend Curro Barreño (of Fedellos fame) to make energetic, elegant but quite crushable Garnacha from an 8ha plot between Madrid and Toledo. Aged for half a year in old French barrels, Mentridano shows bright raspberry and strawberry with sage and iron. Unapologetically delicious and welcoming, whilst staying true to its hilly home. This is dangerously close to becoming my house wine. Not yet rated, 24 bottles available, $47.98 +tax

Viticola Mentridana Cantos del Diablo 2020, Mentrida. Another stunning Garnacha from old vines sitting at 860m elevation, but with the added charm of two dozen James Bonds. Landi and Barreño make several passes through this steep vineyard, picking the perfect berries (not unlike the German Beerenauslese method), ending up with a perfumed, dense and floral dry red wine with insane aromatics. Also ending up with not that much wine, as only a few hundred bottles are made every year. 95 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $166.98 +tax

Envinate Albahra 2020, Almansa. Ridiculous value. From a 30-year-old vineyard near the town of Albacete in Castilla-La Mancha’s southern extremity, sitting at 800m. 70% is Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) and 30% is the nearly-extinct Moravia Agria grape, native to these hills. The Garnacha is foot-trodden and aged in concrete, the Moravia is bladder-pressed and aged in old Barriques. I get that this sounds like Moon Wine but I assure you that the only thing weird about this wine is where it’s from (and how it’s made and what it is and what it’s called). These two grape varieties make round, crushable wine that’s fresh, juicy and medium bodied, showing rose petals, plums, candied cherries and raspberries. The mineral palate becomes a classically crunchy finish. 94+ points Robert Parker, 24 bottles available, $40.98 +tax

Ossian Vides y Vinos 2018, Nieva, Segovia. From 150-year-old vines. The sandy soils of Nieva held phylloxera at bay, leaving ancient bush vine Verdejo plots around the village like Easter candy. Matured semi-oxidatively on its lees with lotsa batonnage, this is a balance of fresh vibes (citrus pith, jasmine) and riper qualities (peach, apricot, a viscous, silky palate). Unique but not bizarre, a welcome substitute for Rhône whites or Russian River Chardonnay. 94 points Vinous, 12 bottles available, $69.98 +tax


Bodegas Frontonio “Telescopico” Garnacha 2019, Valdejalón. Another killer value, from abandoned vineyards in the middle of nowhere. Fernando Mora, fresh off his Master of Wine diploma and broke because of it, couldn’t afford land in Spain’s more famous regions so he looked in Spain’s forgotten ones. Near the villages of Jarque, Epila and Morata, he found abandoned vineyards with sparsely planted bush-vines – and it was dirt cheap. Thus began Frontonio, and this “Telescopico” is Garnacha, Mazuela and a Garnacha mutation called Garnacha Peluda from 60-year-old vines, foot-trodden, whole cluster pressed, fermented with wild yeast and aged in old oak. Rustic methods, modern wine. Freshly direct and brimming with energy, we get rose petals and sage, blackberry and stone. A medium-full palate, perfectly integrated structure. 94 points Robert Parker, 18 bottles available, $41.98 +tax


Forjas del Salnes. A professional indoor soccer player (not only is that a thing, but it’s a BIG thing in Spain) and fifth generation of a long line of winemakers (and blacksmiths, incidentally), Rodrigo Mendez – known to most as “Rodri” – has spent his post-athletic career going backwards: returning to pre-industrial times in viticulture, winemaking and grape varieties in his home of Rias Baixas. We offer his wines for the first time in BC:

Forjas del Salnes Goliardo Caiño 2018, Val do Salnes, Rias Baixas (Red). The nearly-extinct red grape Caiño (known in Portugal as Borraçal but I doubt that helps) is a light-coloured, perfumed blast of energy with the pepper-iest nose I have ever encountered. Rodri sourced his Caiño from a sandy vineyard planted pie franco in 1862, and uses 100% whole cluster pressing before an indigenous ferment. Black pepper, bright red fruit, roses and jasmine notes lead into a medium body with its thumb in a light socket. Whoa, hey, there’s more pepper. Brilliant, expressive, unique. 95 points Robert Parker, 16 bottles available, $66.98 +tax

Forjas del Salnes Goliardo Espadeiro 2019, Val do Salnes, Rias Baixas (Red). Once the go-to red of Gallicia and northern Portugal, Espadeiro nearly vanished when growers switched to the more lucrative Albarino and Vinho Verde production in the post-war boom. Dark-skinned but medium-bodied, we get earthen vibes supporting blackberry and tarragon, a taut, chalky shape, finishing kinda like a young Volnay with lingering forest floor and flowers. Fascinating. 93 points Robert Parker, 16 bottles available, $66.98 +tax

Forjas del Salnes Goliardo Loureiro 2019, Val do Salnes, Rias Baixas (Red). This was a journey. As long as I’ve been doing this, Loureiro has been a white grape. Imagine my surprise when I unpacked this box to find a ruby red wine staring back at me, casually upending my universe. After some outsourced research by the local Somm community (big shout out to Sean Nelson and Josh Carlson for the intel), I learned that there is an ultra-rare, nearly extinct mutation of Loureiro called Loureiro Tinto that is indigenous to the tiny Salnes valley. It’s almost always blended but hey, here it is as a single varietal wine in my hands. Deep cherries and flowers with a slight red apple vibe, balsamic herbs, medium-bodied but quite structured. Breaks slightly weird on finish, where some inexplicable dried fruit vibes get beamed in from Saturn. Imagine a Mencia that dresses up like a Blaufränkisch when no one else is home. Only 3,000 bottles made. 12 bottles available, $66.98 +tax

Forjas del Salnes Leirana Genoveva 2020, Rias Baixas (White). Ethereal Albarino from 150-year-old pergola-trained vines, given a short skin maceration and aged on lees in old barrels with no batonnage. There is a lot of Wow here. Great citrus notes with saline minerality on the nose, but as with most Albarino it’s the texture that reveals genius. Every inch of this wine evokes the ocean. Concentrated and linear but fresh and intense. A trojan horse of hidden ka-pow. 97 points Robert Parker, 30 bottles available, $69.98 +tax

Rafael Palacios. While his older brother Alvaro is widely celebrated for putting Priorat back on the map, Rafael (“Rafa” for short) took a quieter but no less delicious path, falling in love with the Godello grape and the Gallic Valdeorras region, tucked between Ribera Sacra and Bierzo. Largely considered to be one of Spain’s leading white wine producers, Rafa farms steep, terraced vineyards overlooking the river Sil, and spins liquid gold from them. Available for the first time in BC:

Rafael Palacios “As Sortes” 2020, Val do Bibei, Valdeorras. Godello with a smidge of the local indigenous grape Treixadura, aged in 500L barrels on lees. Exuberantly decadent but somehow not generous, this is a full-bodied, viscous white that starts like an unopened tulip, we need some air to unlock the goodies. Once open, however, bonkers. Chalky minerality with Laser Lemons and green pears, slight almond vibe on the finish – a textural marvel. Picture a Grand Cru Chablis fattened by a hungry witch. Glorious. 95+ points Robert Parker, 18 bottles available, $104.98 +tax

Rafael Palacios Louro do Bolo 2021, Val do Bibei, Valdeorras. The weight of 1er Cru Chablis, the minerality of Champagne, the body of a torpedo. Rafa’s youngest Godello vines populate this vivacious white, showing riper tropical fruit amongst the citrus notes. White pepper, honey and apricot around the fringes. Not yet rated, 24 bottles available, $51.98 +tax

Guimaro. Pedro Rodriguez continues his love affair with the Mencia grape (pronounced “Mentheea” if you’re thexthy) as well as other indigenous varieties in the prized Amandi region of Ribera Sacra. Perched above the Sil, these slate-rich south-facing slopes – many of them ancient plots that Pedro and his family have been slowly acquiring – make elegantly powerful red wines that rival the best wines of the northern Rhone in shape and longevity.

Guimaro Finca Capeliños 2020, Ribera Sacra. Predominantly Mencia with Sousón, Brancellao, Merenzao and Caiño in a field blend, from a 0.6ha plot of 95-year-old vines. Partial whole-cluster pressing, aged a year in old Barriques. Brambly red fruit with herbs and spices, white pepper, and gravel. Impressive structure, only 1,000 bottles made. 97 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $108.98 +tax

Guimaro Finca Pombeiras 2020, Ribera Sacra. Mencia from a 0.45ha plot of 70-year-old vines – Pedro’s highest elevated vineyard. 100% whole-cluster press, wild ferment, only 800 bottles made. I’d shout louder about this, how you’d pay $500+ for a Burgundy this well-constructed, how we, as collectors, need to remove our blinders to regions and grapes that we can’t pronounce, but this is the only 6-pack that entered BC, so…. Never mind, blinders back on. 98+ points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $108.98 +tax

Envinate Lousas Viñas de Aldea 2021, Ribera Sacra. The crazy kids at Envinate remind me more and more of Queen: they’re all over the place both geographically and stylistically but the work is always stellar. This is 80% Mencia with Sousón and friends filling the gaps, sourced from several plots with an average age of 60. A fine minerality creates symmetry from nose to tail, with lively black pepper lacing the currant, red apple and blackberry flavours. Medium-full body, great persistence and shape. Not yet rated (last vintage was 93+ RP), 12 bottles available, $45.98 +tax

Ribera del Duero

Bodegas Arzuaga Gran Reserva 2016, Ribera del Duero. One of the best tables at this year’s Top Drop was Arzuaga, a small producer who got into wine kind of accidentally. Florentino Arzuaga bought land here because it was pretty, and eventually planted vines and made wine because he ran out of reasons not to. I’m glad he did because this Gran Reserva is a fantastic representation of Modern Ribera. Tempranillo from a nearly barren clay/limestone corner of the estate is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot before a long stay in new French Oak. Dark berries, licorice, tobacco and dusty soil, a bold, full footprint that retains freshness. Two 6-packs came into BC – only because of Top Drop – and I got one of them. 6 bottles available, $166.98 +tax

Aalto 2020, Ribera del Duero. After 30 years making Vega Sicilia, Mariano Garcia started buying up old Tempranillo plots to make his own Aalto wines. The 2020 drinks like fan fiction, giving us everything we could want out of a Ribera, generously loaded with blackberries, chocolate, baked rocks and cinnamon before taking a fresh, juicy turn on palate. Still kinda tannic, I’d love to see this in 3 years. 94 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $116.98 +tax


Envinate Palo Blanco 2021, Santiago del Teide, Tenerife. The Chablis of the Atlantic returns to us, wielding its Lightsaber Of Honest Truth. Listan Blanco is known on the Spanish mainland as Palomino, but centuries of environmental adaptation have effectively rendered it into its own distinct variety, if not genetically. Grown on the 600m Atlantic-facing cliffs of Tenerife, the 100-year-old vines are braided together to withstand whatever the ocean throws their way. Pressed in concrete with no malolactic fermentation, we get marked salinity under bright lemon, peach and lilac. This is a white wine with high acidity, it’s not for everyone and will soften over a few years in bottle, but OMG do I ever love this wine. Not yet rated (last vintage got 99 RP), 12 bottles available, $53.98 +tax

Envinate Taganan Margalagua 2021, Tenerife. Predominantly Listan Negro, with smaller percentages of Vijariego, Malvasia Negra, Boboso, and Negramoll. There’s a small parcel of the steep, ancient Taganan vineyard that’s rich in red basalt and sandy, iron-rich volcanic soil, partitioned and bottled separately here. Imagine a top Cru Beaujolais that spent years on a pirate ship and knows a lot more about the ways of the world and men than you do. Rustic red fruit and earth, citrus and umami, medium-bodied with soft, dusty tannins. Not yet rated (last vintage got 98 RP). 12 bottles available, $75.98 +tax

Non-Stop Classic Hits

What follows is a brief listing of some wines that fit this theme and have previously been written about, but featured again for the benefit of those who’ve recently joined my Collectors List and may have missed ‘em the first time. If anyone requires more info, I’m happy to send over the original blurb to you.

Envinate Migan 2020, Tenerife, Canarias. 95+ points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $53.98 +tax

Vega Sicilia “Alion” 2018, Ribera del Duero. 96 points James Suckling, 95 points Robert Parker, 4 bottles available, $135.99 +tax

Altos de Losada El Cepon 2019, Bierzo. 98 points Guia de Vino Semana Vitivinicola 12 bottles available, $83.98 +tax

Alvaro Palacios Descendientes de J. Palacios Villa de Corullon Bierzo 2018, Galicia. 96 points Robert Parker, 12 bottles available, $68.98 +tax

Until next time, Feliz Bibiendo!!!

This amazing collection is available exclusively at our Vancouver Store. Call 604-416-1672 or email



Wait, What, When - Part Four: The Rhône

The Rhône Valley has long been France’s best kept secret. Not only did it find an international following later than established regions like Burgundy and Bordeaux, but those regions historically would also smuggle in Rhône wines to adulterate their own, boosting ripeness and body in colder years. This practice was largely abandoned after WW2, but it sets a precedent: the Rhône Valley can ripen grapes pretty reliably.

Since ripeness is a big component of drinkability, one could surmise that all Rhône wines are good to go, no help needed, why should I even write this article? Well, just hold on there, buster. The Rhône valley is a big place with many villages, and each of them makes wines of particular character, there’s no catch-all rule regarding when to open your bottle. That’s where I come in.

As always, these are personal guidelines, based on years of drinking Rhône wines (and having spent time there). Let’s start with the Southern Rhône and the village that put it on the map:

Southern Rhône

Chateauneuf-du-Pape: One of the reasons for Chateauneuf’s popularity is its flexibility: most of the ageable wines also drink well young, you rarely pay a penalty for loss of willpower. That said, certain producers do make tighter wines, especially if they incorporate higher percentages of Mourvèdre, which adds considerable tannin to a blend. If the Chateauneuf is mostly Grenache – as many are – then have at ‘er.

Gigondas: Chateauneuf’s sassy cousin from the other side of the valley is a steep incline from the valley floor up to the Dentelles mountain range. Favouring Grenache, many Gigondas are ready to go, except for the wines – usually the priciest – that come exclusively from the higher plots above the village. Those wines will usually feature the vineyard name on the label, so if it just says “Gigondas” you’re probably in the clear. Enjoy.

Lirac: Across the river from Chateauneuf, Lirac offers similar blends (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault) that are both more austere on the nose and less structured. With only a few exceptions, I’ve found Lirac to be accessible upon release, and great comparative value.

Tavel: A Rosé that was raised by wolves, the wines of Tavel are comprised of the same grape varieties as their valley-mates, with all the body and the structure, but pink. Besides the combat-wines of Bandol, this is the only still French Rosé that benefits from a few years nap – say, 6-7 years from the harvest date. If you open it young, drink it with rich food.

Cairanne: This valley-floor village specializes in deliciosity. Good to go and have fun.

Vacqueyras: Adjacent to Gigondas’ lowest border, Vacqueyras serves up valley-floor yumness, dive in. Vinsobres: This tiny hamlet at the north end of the southern Rhône makes curiously dense, structured wine that can be drunk early with protein, but can benefit from a couple years down – 5 years from harvest date is perfect.

White Chateauneuf-du-Pape: These luxurious festivals of sin tend to see more barrel time than the reds, and that micro-oxygenation – often accompanied by malolactic fermentation – softens the texture considerably. Picture the shape and weight of a Russian River Chardonnay, but with different aromatics. These are generally good to go, even from producers who avoid malo and oak in order to make zippier wines.

Côtes-du-Rhône White/Red: These are some of the best values in France. Food friendly and ready to drink.

Northern Rhône

Hermitage: The spiritual home of Syrah, and one of the world’s most famous Wine Hills, alongside Corton and Montrachet in acclaim and price tag. There are a selected few producers – mostly co-operatives – that make drinkable young Hermitage (can also be spelled “Ermitage” for peeps with H allergies), but on the whole these are cellar investments, released as tight time capsules that must slowly unwind over 10-15 years. A 20-year-old Hermitage is an exhilarating dose of beauty.

Crozes-Hermitage: From the partially-chomped-donut area around Hermitage, Crozes was initially introduced as a cheaper, drinkable alternative to those hill wines, but certain producers have taken the Syrah from this appellation to much higher levels of quality and longevity, so you should ask nice wine store people like me which ones are which.

Cornas: One of the few Rhône appellations shielded from the cooling Mistral winds, Cornas trends hotter than most villages – it’s usually the first place to get harvested – and the Syrah from there is deeper, darker, thicker, and generally rounder than most other northern Rhône Syrah. Some producers favour heavier tannins, but even then the fruit weight often balances everything out. If you’re not sure, wait an additional 2-3 years, but most Cornas is pretty crushable when young.

Saint-Joseph: A big, sprawling appellation that makes some very good wines – some of the northern Rhône’s best values can be found here – but there’s not really a consistency to the style of Saint-Joseph, so there’s no common wisdom as to drinking windows. I’d say look at the producer’s overall style: if they make super-structured wines elsewhere, they probably do here too.

Côte-Rôtie: Closest to Hermitage in shape and longevity, Côte-Rôtie differs in its composition: it’s the only northern Rhône appellation where small amounts of white Viognier are regularly added to the Syrah. Accordingly, these are wines with high acidity on top of high tannins, and although they become drop-dead-gorgeous swans after 10-15 years past the harvest date, you should avoid drinking them young, at least if you enjoy having teeth.

Condrieu: The birthplace (we surmise) of Viognier, and one of the few premium white wines not usually intended to age. Gloriously aromatic, rich and generous, Condrieu is lower in acidity, an important component for longevity, and the youthful fruit is so gorgeous you wouldn’t want to lose it. There is, admittedly, an argument for aged Condrieu, usually argued by strange weirdos. Drink it and smile.

White Hermitage: Completely producer-dependant. While virtually every white Hermitage is a thing of beauty, not every one has the same drinking window, and it usually comes down to composition. If a white Hermitage is predominantly Marsanne, wait at least 10 years past the harvest date. If it’s half Marsanne and half Roussanne, you’re probably safe. Marsanne is the bones and Roussanne is the flesh, so the more Roussanne there is, the rounder the wine will be.



Wait, What, When - Part Three: Tuscany

The Etruscans, Tuscany’s original inhabitants before those tacky Romans took over, were making delicious wines back around the time when my Scottish ancestors had discovered the Spoon. The following recommendations, therefore, come not from a native Italian but from someone in love with Tuscan wines who has been collecting them for two decades. It’s a jump ball though, because there’s no general consensus amongst Italians anyway, whenever you see them arguing animatedly with their hands flying, they’re debating when to open a Brunello. Yes, every single time.

As always, these are personal preferences that are incredibly prone to exceptions: if you can think of a contradictory example, you get zero points Gryffindor because there are lots. These guidelines have served me well, hopefully you find the same. All wines listed are red.

Chianti: if you see a red wine labeled “Chianti” with no further words, order a pizza and pop the cork. Drink it confidently and maybe even let the pizza have some.

Chianti Classico: Tuscany’s OG wine region can tend to produce more structured Sangiovese, but unless you see more words like “Riserva” or “Gran Selezione”, it’s probably good to go, although some of the better producers’ offerings can age nicely for 8 years or so.

Chianti Classico Riserva: Entirely producer-dependant. The stricter regs for a Riserva do, in theory, lead to a more structured, ageable wine, but I’ve found that a majority of Riservas are ready to drink upon release, even if they can age further. Certain very traditional producers will make Riservas that need a few years, but these are pretty rare and usually pricey. In fact the “Riserva” designation for Chianti became so nebulous and unhelpful that they invented a new designation:

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione: Here are the Time Capsules. With rare exceptions, every Gran Selezione I’ve tried has been coiled like a scary snake upon release, and needs at least 5 years further to reach any balance. I don’t want to scare you away, though, Gran Selezione is some of Tuscany’s best cellaring value on our market.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: And here’s the other amazing cellaring value for Tuscan reds. Using a local clone of Sangiovese called Prugnolo Gentile, Vino Nobile tends to be fairly tannic in its youth, needing at least 5-8 years to soften. Once it does, though, you’ll experience high levels of Deliciosity.

Brunello di Montalcino: Like Barolo, the simple/safe rule with Brunello is to look at the vintage and add ten years, because the ones that needed time should be opening (with some exceptions of course), and the wines that were ready to drink will still be delicious. In truth, however, there are other metrics at work. It’s producer-dependant, for sure, but even more influence is imposed on a Brunello by geography. Find a Brunello wine map on Google images, one that shows where the wineries are. The appellation of Montalcino is kinda circle/square shaped, centred around the town of Montepulciano in the middle. Try to imagine that you’re looking down on a pyramid, with the town at the top, it’ll give you a sense of the altitude differences between different houses. Now divide that map into 3 horizontal bands: North, Middle and South:

The South band has lower altitudes, retains heat and tends to make riper, earlier drinking Brunello.

The Middle band has the highest altitudes and the most dramatic temperature shifts. These wines should likely be cellared at least 10 years.

The North band is a salad. Many of these Brunellos need time in bottle, but some don’t, it depends on who made it. This 3-band method isn’t perfect, but it has largely held true over the years.

Bolgheri: These coastal red wines made with Bordeaux grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are, without exception, capable of aging beautifully, and many of them need to. If you’re not sure, practice the 10-year-rule to be safe.

Maremma: The south coast of Tuscany makes too many kinds of wines to warrant any consistent guide, except maybe this: if your Maremma costs more than $80, I’d consider giving it a nap, at least 2 years. Under $80? Go for it. Save me some.

Toscana I.G.T.: These non-traditional Tuscan wines – known in our part of the world as “Super Tuscans” – are almost impossible to categorize because the Toscana IGT designation is a catch-all term for Tuscan wines that don’t qualify for traditional titles like Chianti, Brunello, etc. They are defined not by what they are, but what they are not. So they could be anything, any grape, any style, and can be sold at any price – there are a few very expensive examples – making it impossible to judge the right opening time. I’d say above $100 and you’ll probably want to wait, but it’s entirely producer dependant.



Vinho Verde – The White wine with a colourful name

What’s the winning combination for summer’s ultimate thirst-quencher? Crisp acidity, low alcohol, and a hint of fizz all come to mind when picturing the perfect patio sipper. It’s time to get familiar with one of Portugal’s best white wines, Vinho Verde – a seasonal favourite known for its incredible value.

While Vinho Verde does indeed translate to “green wine”, it’s not a grape nor a blend but rather refers to the northern Portuguese region of Vinho Verde, a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC), and the wine that comes from there. The majority of wines from Vinho Verde are made from a blend of native white grapes including most notably Alvarinho and Loureiro, however, a few others also make the cut, including red varieties. While over 85% of Vinho Verde is White, the wines from this region can also include Red and Rosé styles! So if this so called “green wine” comes in White, Red, and Pink where did it get its name? It’s because ample rainfall over the region makes the landscape verdant year-round. A visit to the area would leave even the most experienced travelers in awe of lush, green rolling hills dotted with orange tiled rooftops of family homes.

Sounds intriguing but what does Vinho Verde taste like?

White Vinho Verde wines are released within three to six months of the harvest which means they typically exude fresh and fruity flavours of lemon-lime, white melon, gooseberry, and blossom and are best enjoyed right away. Thanks to its quick bottling time, fermentation occurs in the bottle which is historically what caused that satisfying yet subtle spritz in many wines. Wine enthusiasts loved this accidental carbonation so much that many winemakers now add a touch of carbon dioxide at bottling to create that refreshing fizz, however, not all Vinho Verde is spritzy.

Another reason we love it for balmy August afternoons? The lower alcohol content keeps things nice and light.

Its thanks to these qualities that makes Vinho Verde white wine a great match for a variety of warm weather dishes – it plays nice with lightly fried seafood (calamari, anyone?), Greek salad, rotisserie chicken, and tuna sashimi to name a few. Just remember to keep things light and bright to create the ideal pairing combo.

We can all agree that one of the best parts of summer is spontaneous afternoon patio sessions that turn into late night laughs and conversation so when those quick visits last a little longer than planned, you won’t feel bad about cracking a bottle or two of Vinho Verde since it tends to offer unbeatable value for the price compared to other white wines from countries with higher land and labour prices.

If you’re looking for something with a little more depth though, Vinho Verde also comes in single-variety examples using the above mentioned Alvarinho or Loureiro grapes and while they’re less easily available in Canada, they are worth the hunt and can even be age-worthy. Alvarinho displays tropical aromas and Loureiro leans more floral.

Next time you make a visit to our stores or find yourself perusing online for that new favourite summer white wine, head to the Portugal section and surprise your friends at this weekend’s gathering with some knowledge about Vinho Verde as you fill their glasses with wine.

Check out a few of our favourites:

Quinta da Aveleda Loureiro and Alvarinho Vinho Verde

Sogrape Gazela Vinho Verde

Jose Maria de Fonseca Twin Vines Vinho Verde

Flores QL Vinho Verde

Casa Santos Lima Mosaico Vinho Verde

Portal da Calcada Vinho Verde Espumante



Wait, What, When - Part Two: Northern Italy

The wines of northern Italy can often pull off the hard trick of being seductive and elusive at the same time. The best way to ascertain when to drink them remains asking the person who sold you the bottle (author pauses to point both his thumbs at himself in a “this guy” motion). But maybe you were gifted a bottle, or purchased a wine from the winery after a few too many “samples”? And now you’re staring at it, waiting for it to tell you when to open it (it needs more “samples” to start talking)? We can help.

What follows is a subjective, non-scientific guide to northern Italian drinking windows. I have been collecting and drinking these wines for decades, and these parameters have served me well. If I’m wrong, I am deliciously so, and I take nothing back.

Amarone Della Valpolicella: The iconic drying process that happens in the making of Amarone concentrates flavours, body and intensity, and it would certainly concentrate tannins if the grapes they used had any. Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara – the grapes that must comprise the majority of Amarones, aren’t very tannic to begin with so the resulting wine won’t elbow you in the teeth. What does get supercharged is the fruit weight, so even if we somehow ended up with lots of tannins, they would be eclipsed by the round body.

This means that almost all Amarones are good to go upon release. They will drink loudly and powerfully – that’s their M.O. – but there will be balance. Can Amarone age? Absolutely, by sheer concentration it can. But before you invest time in aging them, ask yourself these 2 questions:

1. How long are you willing to wait? Unlike other Italian reds, Amarone takes a loooooong time to show any significant development. Tertiary notes don’t generally surface until at least 15 years from harvest date. Once they do, you’ll be confronted with the next question:

2. Do you like aged Amarone? There’s seldom any out there to buy, but the two dozen or so I’ve tried were….neat? Like, academically delicious more than practically so. It’s cool how many Amarones develop a sweet soy note as they get older but it comes at the expense of fruit and, as noted, fruit is the star of the show, it’s an altogether different wine once removed. If your answer is “yes, by Merlin’s Beard I adore old Amarone” then by all means age them, but for the rest of us, I say drink it upon purchase or hold up to 10 years. Yes, even the Riservas.

Ripasso Della Valpolicella: The wines that live in the nebulous cloud between a straight Valpolicella and an Amarone can be made several different ways: maybe they’ll dry the grapes halfway, not long enough to be called Amarone, or maybe they’ll use the crushed Amarone skins to re-ferment a Valpolicella, but the wines will have one constant: with rare exceptions they drink right away.

Valpolicella: If it doesn’t say Superiore then drink it. If it says Superiore… you know what? Life is short and joy fleeting. Drink that one too.

Soave: these white wines of the Veneto, made from the noble Garganega grape, are almost always born in the zone. A precious few producers in the Soave Classico appellation will make ageable wines, but the near totality of them can drink early – even if they have the capability to age.

Lugana: These top-level Trebbiano-based whites from Lake Garda are almost always accessible, even the Riservas.

Pinot Grigio: You know the answer to this, or at least your hands do: look, you’ve already opened it.

Friuli Whites: Be they Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or other grapes, the white wines from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, criminally overlooked in our market – are gloriously drinkable now. Some of the more sublimely layered offerings can go 15 years but can still be opened with no penalty at any time.

Friuli Reds: Ribollo Gialla, Schioppettino, Refosco, nearly every one of these charming reds is good to go, at least the ones I’ve found in our market.

Barolo: OK. Deep breath. Let’s divide the room into two groups:

  • Team A: “I want to get granular and understand the styles and terroirs of Barolo”. Awesome. Skip to the next large paragraph.

  • Team B: “I came to drink good wine, not to talk about dirt. Be gone, Nerds!!”. Totally fair. In that case, remember this: Look at the vintage on the Barolo bottle and add ten years. Your window starts there, if it was traditional-style it should be just opening, if it was modern it’ll still be fresh and delicious. You’re all done, kindly skip to Barbaresco.

So, Team A nerds, the first rule is to know your producers. “Modern” houses use quick controlled pressing/ferments and age their Nebbiolo in French Barriques (225L) to micro-oxygenate the wines towards softer structure, stronger fruit and earlier drinking, although they certainly can age decades – you have the choice. “Traditional” producers allow for long macerations and fermentations before aging the Nebbiolo in large vessels called “Botti” (5000L). This makes wines with unintegrated acids and tannins – ageing is required unless you like to drink kicks to the head. Which is better? That’s a personal decision. Do Barolo bottles say “Modern” or “Traditional”? Lol no they would never do that so again, ask your merchant. There is, however, another way to make an educated guess if merchant is missing:

The soil composition of Barolo can be delineated right down the middle of the appellation: Tortonian soils in the western half can lead to softer, more perfumed wines. Helvetian soils in the east can produce much more tannic Nebbiolo with deeper fruits. Do the bottles say “Tortonian” or Helvetian”? Lol no they would never do that, but they’ll often name the commune it’s from. The Barolo appellation is split into several small communes, and the major ones might be familiar:

La Morra or Barolo communes are on the west side, so often softer, drinking 8 years past harvest date.
Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba and Castiglione Falletto lie eastern, thus born angry. 10-15 years past harvest date.
Is it that simple? Lol no they would never do that – you can have a Modern producer make an approachable Monforte d’Alba, or a Traditional La Morra that sucker punches you and steals your car. Triangulating the producer with the commune is the best way to figure out a target date, however, and that Team B 10 year rule is correct more than it isn’t. If it’s a Barolo Riserva however, all bets are off. Bury that thing before it goes after your cat.

Barbaresco: Barolo’s cousin from up the road can for our purposes be described as “Barolo, only slightly less so”. Barolo speeds, Barbaresco goes the speed limit, and that’s often a good thing. 8 years past harvest date is a safe bet, although the Modern/Traditional piece still applies, and Riservas are still Time Capsules. The younger, accessible Barbarescos can be sheer happiness.

Gattinara:These sub-Alpine Nebbiolo wines are generally released with functional claws but they sing beautifully after cellaring. At least 8 years unless you’re pairing them with batteries.

Valtellina: the Nebbiolo (local name Chiavennasca) from I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Switzerland is a thing of beauty, but entirely producer-dependant when it comes to drinking windows. I’ve had generously balanced young Valtellina, but some really do need time. The semi-dried Sforzato di Valtellina wines can amplify the tannins, I find they need 10 years past harvest date to settle into themselves.

Roero Rosso: Nebbiolo’s petting zoo. These round red wines are almost always ready, even the Riservas.

Roero Arneis (White): There is an argument to be made for aging these delightfully astringent white wines, but it’s a one-sided argument for whoever makes it because my mouth is full of Arneis.

Gavi: the Cortese-based white wines from Piedmont are almost always ready.

Barbera: Whether from Asti or Alba, most Barbera are round enough to drink young, even if they do boast significant tannins. Some Riservas need time but that’s producer-dependant. The main exception for Barbera is:

Nizza: If you’re Barbera, this is Boardwalk and Park Place rolled into one. Wines from the world’s Barbera Capital have a 50/50 chance of drinking early, but even if they need time it’ll be like 8 years past harvest date.

Dolcetto: If the tables were turned, this wine would drink you in a heartbeat. Dig in.



Wait, What, When - Part One: USA

For those of us who collect wine, there comes a time of high anxiety where we look upon our flock of prized chickens and decide which one will be dinner. Good friends are coming over – ones who appreciate a nice bottle and won’t gulp it down like Tang (not that I bear a grudge, Wayne and Brigitte) – and hey wow you’ve been staring at the same bottles for twenty minutes. What to open? What’s ready to drink? What goes with dinner?

The bad news is that although the process a wine undergoes over time is science, there’s no exact science to determine a wine’s readiness besides opening it. The good news is that I drink a lot of wine and I’ve noticed some patterns over the years. What follows is accordingly my personal take on what to open and when, but let me first address some caveats:

1- There are no absolute truths in wine: any rule or truism, no matter how accurate, will have exceptions to it. You might think of contradictions to many of my points, but those are baked into the pie, so there’s no reason to tell me and try to make me sad.

2- Why do we keep wine? To make it better. If a wine is delicious, balanced and tastes developed, why are you waiting? For sure, a special occasion deserves a special bottle – those parameters are yours to decide – but from a purely gastronomic perspective, if all the boosters are firing then launch, commander.

3 – It is better to drink a wine too young than too old. Yes, drinking it too young is like missing the last 20 minutes of a movie, but overshooting the wine’s peak is missing the entire movie plus the theatre smells like mothballs and regret.

With that out of the way, here are my thoughts regarding what to open when, starting with the USA:


Napa Cabernet Sauvignon: Producer dependant, but excepting the Bordeaux-aligned houses (Dominus, Opus, etc.) I find that 15 years past harvest date is as long as I’d leave it because we don’t want to lose too much of that youthful fruit. Even the stratospheric cult Cabs usually have more fruit weight than structure (and whoa nelly do they have structure) so this is one of those categories where you don’t pay much of a penalty for tucking in too early, and that’s why I never have much Napa in my cellar despite buying it frequently.

Napa Merlot: Do it. Fortune favours the brave. Can it age? Like, probably? It has honestly never come up. So decadently gratifying when it’s young, its hair has never greyed. First to get thrown in the volcano.

Napa Pinot Noir: Mostly house-trained but the odd producer will jack the structure so look at 5 years from harvest date if you want to play safe. Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon: Can be leaner and more structure-forward than Napa. Drinkability unironically seems to conform to how much you spent on it. Over $100? Best to wait 10 years past harvest date. Under $100? Largely home free.

Sonoma Pinot Noir Russian River: Your luxury Cherry-Cola-Bath is ready for you, master. Structure can vary but the sweet fruit almost always overcomes it. Go and sploosh.

Sonoma Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast: Entirely producer dependant. I’ve tried coastal Pinots (Sonoma Coast AVA, Fort Ross-Seaview AVA etc.) that drank like security blankets, but New School producers (Rhys, RAEN, Wayfarer etc.) favour brightness, planting in the coolest spots they can find and picking earlier. These need a few years to integrate the acids, but they’ll be fab.

Santa Barbara / Santa Maria Valley / Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir: With a few exceptions, have at ’er. Built to smile.

Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon: No penalty that I’ve found for opening it early, but some of the more premium bottles can become pretty darn charming after 8 or 9 years past harvest date.

Paso Robles Rhone-Style: Here be dragons. Generally found on the ultra-premium side, these Syrah/Grenache blends – they used to call the ones mixed with Cab “Crazy Blends” until I went there and no they don’t – tend to be fruit dominant but if you drink them too early, there are other passengers on the train. Savoury, gamey notes alongside earthy vibes – these are highly desirable but only once integrated with the fruit and structure, drunk young all of these elements are too individually loud. Since most of these wines are bulletproof, wait at least 10 years past harvest date to enjoy something truly sublime.

Lodi Cabernet / Zinfandel / Petit Sirah: This place can ripen rocks. Brilliant value for full-bodied drinkers, with complexity and character. I’ve never found one that wasn’t good to go.

Central Coast Reds: With the caveat that the potentially more age-worthy bottles don’t tend to come up here (there are abundances of tiny producers up and down the coast), anything I’ve come across from Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, Carmel etc. has been a pleasurable, immediate experience.

California Zinfandel: With the exception of a few houses that treat Zin like Burgundy (Bedrock, Turley) you can jump in, the water’s fine. I’ve tried 40-year-old Zin (Clos du Val) before and it’s very cool, but that’s a lot to ask from a grape that came to the party looking for kicks, not commitment.

California Blends: Such a nebulous category, where literally anything can happen. Most of these are made to drink, but there are a few that take their cues from their European cousins and reward long-term cellaring. The labels can serve as signposts, here: if the name is wacky, clever or sarcastic, drink it. If the label is colourful or has an animal on it, drink it. If the label is minimalist, uses cursive, and resembles a wedding invitation to Downton Abbey, it’s probably a good idea to hold onto it. It’s not exact, but you’d be surprised how accurate that method is.

Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: Oregon’s State Bird Pinot Noir was once a reliable early drinker, but in the last decade or so it has become increasingly producer dependant as certain producers have tacked more faithfully towards their Burgundian muses. This largely hues to the price scale as well, if you paid more than $100 for Willamette Pinot, maybe look up the drinking date? If you find yourself with a “keeper”, you’ll be very well rewarded art the 8-to-12 year mark.

Washington Cabernet Sauvignon: Washington producers would loathe that I lumped in all their Cabs into one slot, and they’re right, but gosh we’re all kinda busy so let’s say this: if your Washington Cab says Horse Heaven Hills or Red Mountain, there’s a very good chance it’s embryonic and you should ad 10-20 years to the harvest date. If it says Columbia Valley then use the similar method as the Sonoma Cabs – If it cost over $100, hold it. If it cost under $50, drink it. Between $50 and $100, look up the producer and count how many times their website says “elegant”.

Washington Merlot: Some of the best Merlot produced on this pale blue dot. Buy and drink more of this, but only if you like happiness.

Washington Syrah: These strikingly bold and beautiful wines are – IMO – the most ageable wines that Washington makes. Even if they’re drinkable early, they’ll invariably develop into something more impressive. 10 years from harvest date at least.


Napa Chardonnay: There are people who love to age these 10 years. I can’t hear them because I’m too busy gulping down Napa Chardonnay.

Sonoma Chardonnay Russian River: There are a few producers making ageable wines in RRV, but it’s still a predominantly drinkable style (VERY drinkable).

Sonoma Chardonnay Sonoma Coast: Just like the Pinots, this depends on the producer, as many are leaning into the more elegant, Burgundy-inspired structures, thus needing about 8-10 years from harvest date to integrate. This method is far from exact, but look at where the vineyards are, more inland and the fruit trends rounder, more towards the ocean things can get more saline and mineral with higher acids. Cellaring these are very rewarding and are excellent value compared to Burgundy.

Santa Barbara / Santa Maria Valley / Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay: The pricier ones can integrate nicely if cellared for 7-9 years, but I’ve found that the majority of these velvety Chards are a glorious Butter Bath, open for business.

California Sauvignon Blanc: Haven’t found one that wasn’t ready and yum.

California Viognier: Is it possible to drink this before opening it? If so, do that.

Oregon Chardonnay: While there are some buttery, glugable options for Oregonian Chard, I’ve largely found these to be some of the best cellaring whites in the US. Even if everything is balanced in youth, the fresh structures keep things vibrant while the aromas get more complex. Try 8-10 years from harvest date.

Washington Chardonnay: Some absolute gems here, but it’s a fairly inconsistent category, style wise, so look up the producer to gauge age-worthiness.



Similkameen Sipping

It starts a few clicks past Hedley, going east, that point where Highway 3 stops being a tilt-a-whirl of hairpin turns and Mad Max passing lanes, and becomes a lithe, meditative ribbon of road. The soft lifts and gentle falls of the rounded inclines and declines seem to meet your equilibrium instead of scrambling it (see: Anarchist Mountain), it’s more like gliding than driving. It’s very hard not to speed here, and policemen know this. The river has been beside us the whole time but for me, this is where the Similkameen Valley begins.

It begins for wine around here too, although most vineyards lie further east. The valley widens to fit famers fields and orchards – the monoculture of other regions doesn’t exist in this quilt of crops – and the sun has more to work with. It gets hella hot here in summer, but nighttime brings kind winds and the valley – without a moderating body like, say, a big lake – cools down dramatically. Grapes love this. Big diurnal swings keep vital acidity and freshness, some varieties would cook here if it didn’t happen. Was that a cop car I just sped by? Nope, all good.

The fruit stands west of Keremeos have made the local sign-maker wealthy, I reckon. They all clearly have the best fruit. I’ll hit them on the way back, I’ll pick the one that says “Ice Cream” the biggest. I have learned not to speed here. Through the town, up the bench, eastwards.

The hills get closer on the north side, I can see those alluvial fans, the triangles of sand, gravel, sediment and silt that point up the slopes. They’re so raw. They look like oopsies but they’ve been here longer than people have, built by water and time. Glaciers had a great party here back in the day, they blasted through the valley like The Who through a Holiday Inn, but they brought calcium and unique soils, the wines here are great because of them.

Between Keremeos and Cawston the air thickens and so do the vineyards. Looking south explains the cluster: there’s a gap in the south ridge of mountains as the river enters the US, so vineyards climbing up the north side get around 1hr more sun per day than the Okanagan does in autumn (when it counts). That may not sound like a big deal if you’re not a grape: the Similkameen can consistently ripen late ripening varieties better that anywhere else in BC – if you’ve had one of those BC Cabernet Sauvignons that smelled like a Greek Salad, it didn’t come from here.

But what does come from here? Writ large, organic grapes: this is the "Organic Farming Capital of Canada" (40% of all vineyards are certified). Ripe red grapes, for sure, although more elegant whites can grow nicely here. Is there one unifying identifier that screams “Similkameen”? Not yet, but no BC region has that yet, it takes longer to emerge. There are really good wines here, though, undeniably so. Shall we?

First is Clos du Soleil. There’s no actual Clos (a stone fence/enclosure), it’s just a couple of barns, but I’m undeterred because a) aesthetics have zero bearing on quality, and b) they’re, like, really good barns. A handsome White Bordeaux-style wine called Capella 2021 opens, three parts Sauvignon Blanc, one part Semillon. Some Semillon is from Oliver but this is mostly Keremeos. Quite ripe Sauv Blanc for BC, a trace of grass on the nose and the citrus is more grapefruit than lemon. Faint cheese rind and banana Nerds. Layered and substantial. The Semillon shows as beeswax on the nose and grip on the finish, the grapes are getting along famously. This has gas in the tank to age a decade, but life is short and Capella is fab.

The Clos du Soleil Estate Reserve 2013 is an unexpected treat, most top-end library releases cost way more than this, and this 2013 has both feet planted firmly in The Zone. Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with the usual allies rounding off the difference. A great example of what this valley can do with that grape. Cassis and black pepper, gravel and lavender. Age has softened the frame but not the nose. Brilliant.

Cabernet Franc gets its chance to drive the bus in the 2016 Meritage from Howard Soon’s Vanessa Vineyards. Howard won the Order Of Canada for his innovative work at Sandhill, and he’s not coasting here. Rocks are employed between the vines to catch heat, radiating it to the vines during the cold night, just like in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. A black pepper burst on the nose gives way to red fruits. The blend of French and American oak brings a cup of coffee to the Plum Party, with the smaller portions of Cab Sauv and Merlot contributing black and red currants.

Orofino is always an undervalued treat, and the entry Red Bridge Red, basically a Meritage with bits of Syrah and savage Zinfandel, defines their vibe perfectly. John and Virginia Webber, both imports from Saskatchewan, have been quietly brewing beauty in small batches for two decades; I’m pretty sure that their Petit Verdot was the wine that made me Google Similkameen all those years ago. Red Bridge shows cherry, sage, and mocha. It wants us to be happy.

The Mt. Boucherie winery is across the lake from Kelowna (on Mt. Boucherie, as it turns out) but they have been busy down here for a while, bottling under their own label as well as Rust Wine Co. and Original Vines. These folks are some of the most experimentally ambitious vintners I have come across, testing the perimeter fence like raptors, not afraid to break weird. Witness these 3 different harvests from Cawston’s Lazy River Vineyard:

The Mt. Boucherie Blaufrankish 2021 is Encino Man, plucking an ancient Austrian grape from a much different world and dropping it into our modern market. Blaufrankish is what happens when Syrah and Pinot Noir use a Ouija board, and Boucherie doesn’t round off the freaky bits: white pepper, crushed raw blueberries with Indian spice and forest floor. Medium bodied and characterful, a masterful food wine that gives many Austrian iterations a good arm wrestle.

When I picture the Rust Wine Co., it’s always tinged with sepia because the oxidative, Old-School-New-World Vibe throws back to the smooth styles of Retro-California. The Merlot 2019 knows you’ve had a long day. We don’t have to talk about work, let’s just dance. French, American and Hungarian oak temper the chalky minerality, and chocolate blackberries tossed in Port lead the nose. Remember Lowney’s cherry blossoms? So does Rust. Nutmeg, cinnamon and Turkish coffee haunt the (very) spicy finish.

The Original Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 comes from the schist-iest granite soils on Lazy River. This site can fully ripen Cab, no small feat in our cold climate, since the grape takes a month longer to get to the sweet spot. Fresh without turning green. Surprisingly spicy. Aged in Barriques, this is a densely structured Cabernet Sauvignon, acting in a very Cab-like manner (not a given, in our province), and evokes the build and body of Red Mountain to the South. Winery advises cellaring but this is charming right now.

Heading back towards Keremeos on the Upper Bench Road, the Corcelettes Estate beckons, particularly their rich, balanced take on Cabernet Franc. Like its cousin, Franc can break out in dandelions if you can’t ripen it properly, but this 2020 Estate Franc is suave potion indeed. The Pleasure Button is pushed as frequently as the Flap button in Joust. Black Pepper and unsweetened chocolate open, with layers of red currant and red Nibs following through to the landing. Love the shape of this. Powerful and intense while remaining light on its feet.

Now for the fruit stands.


Join us on Sat Feb 25 from 2-6pm to sample some of these delectable delights from BC's Similkameen Valley. 

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