Everything Wine

My "Discover New Zealand" Tasting Experience

I had the absolute pleasure of walking into the classroom this past Wednesday at the North Vancouver Everything Wine to partake in the evening’s wine tasting, “Discover New Zealand: It’s not just Sauvignon Blanc”, hosted by John McLaughlin, an employee of Everything Wine who recently returned from his travels around Australia and New Zealand. While I have attended several tastings at Everything Wine over the past couple of years, this one was completely original. John took us on a journey around the New Zealand wine country and while reminiscing on his travel highlights, took the fifteen participants on a wine journey as well. For each stop along the highlights on his trip, John introduced a wine from that region, and while the first two were Sauvignon Blancs, of which New Zealand is famous for, he showed us that NZ has way more to offer than the traditional standard grassy green acidic Sauv Blancs, which are loved by so many. Before the tasting, had you asked me if I enjoyed New Zealand wines, I probably would have danced around the question and talked about another country, and I’m not knocking anyone who loves NZ wines… I just wasn’t a New Zealand fan... that is, until last Wednesday when John showed us some alternatives and my eyes were opened.

John began the course with some facts about the vast country of New Zealand. He informed us that there are about 4 million people in New Zealand, of which about 1.3million of them live in Auckland. Many people assume that Auckland is the capital city, however John corrected that misguided assumption and informed us that Wellington is, in fact, the capital city, which has about 350,000 residents. For the most part, New Zealand itself is a land covered in wine fields, and considering it was the last country in the world to be populated, is considered to be the fastest growing wine region on the planet.


John began the journey around New Zealand with the 2011 Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc ($24.99). Very typical to the region, this wine has a very light lemon colour, with a green nose (think grass and asparagus). The acidity of this wine is quite high, and ends in a sharp crisp finish while a subtle refreshing finish lingers on the back of the tongue. John explained that this is a classic Marlborough Region Sauvignon Blanc providing a delicious, herbaceous and vegetal wine that would be perfect with a salad, light fish, or to simply sip on the patio on a summer’s day.

From there John introduced us to another Sauvignon Blanc, this time from the Martinborough region, Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc. This wine possessed a noticeably rounder flavour, had an even higher acidic structure on the pallet, and yet was much softer and less green than the Jules Taylor. While it may seem odd to describe, the nose had a definite petrol aroma to it. "Petrol?" I know, you wouldn't think that it would be a characteristic to describe a wine, however John made it clear that we weren't making things up.... it's an aroma that is typical of the Ata Rangi region and is a good thing. As one who has an odd love of the smell of gasoline, I was immediately intrigued by this wine, and instantly determined that what I considered to be a typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was only a small portion of the wines the country has to offer.

Then it was time to move on from the Sauvignon Blanc comparison and take a step in the direction of theme of the evening, "... Not Just Sauvignon Blanc". John's NZ journey took us back to the Marlborough region as we tasted the 2008 Babich Pinot Gris ($22.99). What was interesting about this Pinot Gris was that it has had some time in oak barrels during fermentation, and as a result, a much rounder, more complex wine is created that is unlike any Pinot Gris I have ever tasted. Coming forward are strong notes of pears, peaches, and a plethora of stone fruits, and while the body of the wine is round and complex to the point where you ponder on if you’re tasting a Chardonnay, the finish leaves an oily texture on your tongue longing for another sip, which is a varietally correct result of a Pinot Gris. Of all the whites, this was by far my favourite, and would be a perfect wine to pair with duck, veal, or chicken.

To finish off the first half of the evening, we tasted the 2010 Greywacke Riesling ($35.99). John gave us a little hint about the background of the winery itself and told us how Greywacke is, in fact, a type of rock in New Zealand, and is the namesake for this wine. This Riesling is made by the world famous Winemaker, Kevin Judd, who, after years of mastering the art of winemaking for other labels, decided he wanted to make his own wine. Compared to many I’ve tasted over the years, this Riesling is sweeter than I had expected or experienced, yet was taken aback by the hefty petrol smell on the nose. I thought the Ata Rangi had a strong petrol smell at first, but then I went back to it and determined that while the Ata Rangi had, what I now described as a "slight" petrol smell, there was no mistaking that this Riesling had much more of a predominant petrol aroma to it. It borught up a good tip from John that when tasting and comparing wines, to always leave a little in your glass as you work your way through the flight so that should you wish to compare a previously tasted wine, you can. Getting back to the Greywacke; the first taste was brilliant! My mouth was immediately filled with ripe peach and tropical flavours combined with a little zest, and finished with a high acidic finish which John explained helped balance the high residual sugar. John suggesting pairing this wine with a heftier fish, or a goat cheese salad. While the Babich Sauv Blanc was my favourite of the whites, thus proving that there is a NZ wine I like, the Greywacke was the most interesting of the lineup and is one that I would definitely serve at a dinner party!

We took a quick break to stretch our legs and nibble on some of the incredible cheeses and crackers that were served to go along with the wines, and started part two of John’s journey around New Zealand wines.

John took us back up to Marlborough and introduced us to the 2008 Wither Hills Pinot Noir ($34.99). After one sniff of the nose of the wine, I knew I was going to enjoy this, as I’ve recently been on an Pinot fix. On the palate, this wine was bright, and fruitful, with a delicious combination of light red fruits and spice. Unlike the Pinot’s big brothers, this wine had a soft delicate body and was followed by a smooth lingering finish. Ideally you would pair this wine alongside duck, ham, and of course, a Turkey, but I’d argue that this wine stands alone and is the perfect one to sip on throughout an evening. John did mention that though there are a few wines you could choose to lay down and cellar for a couple years, the Wither Hills Pinot Noir is best served during the year in which it was released. And really, while I have a couple wines in my collection that I’m saving, this is one I’d be taking along to the next dinner party to have that night in the company of good friends and laughter.

Next on our journey, John took us to a new location on the map: Central Otago, which is located on the Southern Island of New Zealand, and is a region with possessed the hottest, coolest, driest region which just happens to be the most southern wine region in the world. This made for a great Pinot Noir comparison as the environmental conditions in which these vines grow are so vastly different.

The 2009 Akarua Pinot Noir ($39.99) had an even more delicate nose, and was so soft that I had to take a real deep inhale to pick up on the delicious aromas within. While the nose was soft and secretive with a hint of spice, the first sip on the palate was quite an experience. Rated 91 points by Robert Parker, this Pinot Noir had an incredible taste of smooth earthy red fruits with hints of vanilla, light in body, and to some degree, not quite at its peak. In conversation we were surprised how much we favoured the Wither Hills, to which John explained that this Pinot Noir is quite young and is one to buy now and keep for 5-6 years. If the wine was that complex and interested today, who knows how delicious this will be in 2017? That’s the fun of the wine collecting game!

To conclude the evening, John took us all full circle up to the region of Hawkes Bay on the North Island. This region is New Zealand’s oldest and is the location in which all of the best NZ reds are produced thanks to the Maritime Climate influence. John informed us that Craggy Range is the largest producer in Hawkes Bay, and what better way to conclude the evening’s tasting than sampling the 2009Craggy Range Te Kahu Red Blend ($34.99). This big boy was quite different from the other two reds as this was Craggy Range’s Bordeaux blend which John informed us was a blend of Merlot (80%), Cab and Malbec. It came as no surprise that this wine was much bigger in body, had great tannins and left a spicy sensation on the underside of my tongue, longing for another sip. With its lovely long finish, the Te Kahu is an incredible wine for its value. John mentioned that while visiting this winery, he saw sheep actually roaming around the vines in the winery fields, and when he question the reason for this, was informed that many wineries allow their sheep to roam the fields as their hooves turn over the soil, they inadvertently fertilize the soil as they feed on the low hanging grapes and essentially help produce some fantastic wines. That alone was one of the the coolest facts alone I took away from John’s New Zealand tasting.

As mentioned earlier, I’ve been to several wine tastings over the past couple of years at Everything Wine and I must say that this was by far one of my most favourite. John was well educated on the wines he taught about and had so many visuals to go along. He literally took us on a journey around New Zealand, showing us personal pics from his travels, and he included some amazing tourist tips. What was so refreshing was how he had selected wines from a variety of regions. We were able to see and learn where the wines were grown and how you may have two Pinot Noirs or Sauv Blancs from the same country, yet have completely different experiences. If you ever have a chance to attend one of John’s future tastings, I sincerely urge you to do so. And as for me, well, it appears that I need to start a new savings account, as I’m clearly heading to New Zealand to relive John’s travels as soon as I can.


Que Syrah Shiraz

I am often asked the about the difference between Syrah and Shiraz.  The truth is that they are the same grape!  So why the different name?

To answer that question you have to dive a little deeper into the grape’s history.  While there are many rumours that this grape has origins in Shiraz, Ancient Persia, it found a perfect home in the Cote Du Rhone in France.  Here, the French called it Syrah, and it thrived, becoming a main component in some of the countries best wines including the famed Hermitage.  In 1831, James Busby is known for bringing the Syrah grape from France to its other favourite location, Australia.  Originally these wines were labeled Hermitage in honour of the great French Syrah’s, however due to changes in wine laws in France that protected the names of regions, Hermitage in Australia had to change.  The name Shiraz was chosen to distinguish itself from French wines.

Stylistic comparisons of this grape plainly show two different styles according to the region and winemaking.  The French Syrah is traditionally made in an elegant, earthier style full of black pepper whereas Australian Shiraz is juicy and rich focusing on intense ripe fruit flavours.

Nowadays, no matter the name, this grape has become one of the 10 most grown grapes in the world.  In emerging wine regions like Canada, the choice to use either Syrah or Shiraz comes down to whether their wine emulates the classic Rhone or the modern Australian style.

My suggestion is to try an example of each and find the style you prefer the most.  I recommend tryingCave de Tain Saint Joseph from the Northern Rhone or Penfold’s Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz from the Barossa Valley as a comparison starting point.

Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven ... Countdown to New Year’s Eve and Sparkling Wine decisions !

It seems like we just finished our Christmas turkey leftovers and ‘Deck the Halls’ is still ringing in our ears, but I’m already eagerly anticipating New Year’s Eve when we welcome in 2011 and say goodbye to another year and another decade(!). While I brush up on the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne, I’m also trying to decide which sparkling wine to have when we ring in the New Year. Along with the party hats, noisemakers and balloons, nothing says ‘Celebrate!’ better than the unmistakable pop of a cork and a glass or two of bubbly. It’s perfect for festive get-togethers, as an aperitif, or paired with just about anything. I happen to be a big fan of the stuff.

Hmmm, so many favourites to choose from: from white to pink to red, sweet or dry, light or rich, there is a wide range of styles from many regions around the globe. Maybe this is the year to try something new and consider the many choices at Everything Wine – after all, we have one of the largest selections of French champagne and sparkling wine in BC! Just select ‘sparkling wine’ on www.everythingwine.ca and you’ll find almost 200 wines in your search results.

Here are some ideas and a few of my favourites to get you started:

Champagne: Well, I might as well start at the top. We have over 60 French champagnes in our Vintages Room. Champagne is the most famous bottle-fermented sparkling wine in the world and is named after the Champagne region (appellation) in northern France. Because of high demand and limited supply (not to mention its labour-intensive production methods, quality and pedigree), champagne is not inexpensive. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier grapes produce champagnes that are typically dry, with high acidity and complex flavours of green and citrus fruit and other notes described as bready, biscuity or toasty. This year’s favourite is Roederer Brut Champagne ($59.99) from the same producer of legendary Cristal (they’ve been synonymous with the world’s great champagnes since 1776). This is their flagship, award-winning non-vintage champagne. It has a golden colour with fine bubbles and smooth palate of apples and pears with red berries (blackberries, raspberries and cherries) and classic rich notes of toast and almonds – yum!

Cava is the Spanish term for sparkling wine that is also bottle-fermented. The main grape varieties are local Spanish ones that offer neutral fruit flavours and medium acidity. Cava is easy-drinking, less pricey and very popular. One of the best recognized labels is Segura Viudas Brut Reserva and at only $13.99, it’s also an incredible value. Another favourite is Codorniu Pinot Noir Brut Rose Cava ($16.49) which is very pretty in the glass (soft salmon/pink colour), with a light strawberry nose and a dry, refreshing finish.

Prosecco is a sparkling wine from northeast Italy (Veneto) that is usually fermented in the tank method. The prosecco grape produces a light to medium-bodied, dry or off-dry sparkling wine with delicate stone fruit flavours (think peaches and pears). Some are fully sparkling (spumante); others are slightly sparkling (frizzante). Our most popular prosecco at Everything Wine is also organic: Villa Teresa. It is light straw-coloured with small bubbles, has a clean, crisp taste and a very cool re-sealable rubber closure/top. Wine Access awarded it 87 points in 2010 and at only $15.99, it’s one of the best value Prosecco’s on the shelf. When I want to splurge a little more, my current favourite is Adami Bosco di Gica Spumante Brut ($29.99).This delicious 91-point wine (Wine Advocate-Robert Parker) is soft and elegant. It was also selected as the prosecco to be served last year to world leaders at the G-8 summit in Italy to world leaders, so you know it’s got to be great to meet those standards.

Sparkling wine from Canada: British Columbia’s sparkling wines are award-winning, impressive and delicious. Blue Mountain Vineyard’s Gold Label Brut Sparkling ($29.99) is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris grapes. It has a fine mousse (tiny bubbles) with lemon and toasty characters on the nose and palate with a dry finish. It’s a staff favourite and sells quickly whenever it arrives in the store. Summerhill Estate, See Ya Later Ranch, Tantalus Vineyards and Sumac Ridge are some other wonderful quality sparkling wine producers in our province.

Other favourite wines from other sparkling wine-producing countries include:

Australia: Bird in Hand Sparkling Wine ($30.99). Pinot Noir grapes are the sole star in this sparkling rose with a soft pink hue, delicious strawberry aromas and flavours balanced by refreshing acidity and a long, dry finish. A different Australian specialty is Sparkling Shiraz like the Banrock Station Sparkling Shiraz ($13.99). These are full-bodied wines with intense black and red berry fruit notes and yes, they are fizzy too – it’s a delicious combination!

New Zealand: Mount Riley Savee Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc ($29.99). If you love Sauvignon Blanc and also love bubbly, you’ve GOT to try this unique sparkling wine with traditional Marlborough sauv blanc notes, crisp acidity and lingering finish.

South Africa: Graham Beck Brut Sparkling Wine ($24.99). This is delicious blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes fermented in-bottle with light yeasty aromas, rich and creamy mouthfeel and fine mousse. It was awarded one of the ‘Top 10 Fizzies’ by Decanter magazine in 2009.

California: Although Domaine Chandon and Mumm’s are ubiquitous, I like Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blanc Sparkling ($42.99) from cool climate Carneros. It’s produced exclusively with Chardonnay grapes, has enticing aromas of apples, full creamy feel with flavours of pear and lemon meringue with a long finish.

Germany, Hungary and Argentina and many other countries also produce sparkling wines.

There are so many sparkling wines to choose from. Regardless of the type or style or country of origin, I never tire of popping the cork and watching millions of tiny bubbles swirling to the surface in my glass. It’s a beautiful thing ... We hope you discover a new favourite this New Year’s Eve.

Happy New Year from all of us at Everything Wine!

- Sharon McGavin

Champagne Dreams!

I personally have been anticipating this classroom for more than a month. When the day finally arrived I was as giddy as a little school girl.

To say I love Champagne is an understatement. If someone asked me if I were stranded on an island what three things would I bring?

My answer would be Champagne, Champagne, and more Champagne!

I know one could not live on Champagne alone but it would make my days on that island so much more enjoyable.

As a child, I have many fond memories watching my parents and their friends sipping on champagne on New Year’s Eve, Sunday Brunches, Weddings and Birthdays. Us kids were never left without. They always made sure we had a bottle of the de-alcoholized fizzy variety for us to participate in their celebrations.  I never knew the difference until I had a taste of the real stuff on my 19th birthday. I hated it. At first it was too dry and the bubbles made me sneeze. What a difference a few years makes. Now I love Champagne. I can’t imagine a celebration without it.


When I had the opportunity to plan a tasting around Champagne, I could hardly wait to share my love and passion for the product. Tonight’s class was sold out and there had been many inquiries on it so I will have to do this again!


The class started out with a history lesson. Many of our guests had no idea that Champagne had been around since the late 1660’s, or that there is a debate on where Champagne was created. Some say it was the French and some say it was from the Brits’. Who’s to say really, all I know is that I’m thankful that it exists.


We discussed the different grapes and styles used to produce the Champagne. There was also a lesson on how to decipher a Champagne label. Finally after we went through the technical jargon, we dove into trying the Champagnes. I chose wines that I hadn’t heard much about unlike Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot and Cristal. Instead I wanted to give the lesser known Champagnes a little bit of our Vintage Room Spotlight:


Pol Roger 1999 Brut Blanc de Blancs $85.99 Awarded 93 pts from Wine Spectator

Henriot NV Brut Souvrain Champagne $67.99 Awarded 94 pts from Wine Enthusiast

Gosset Celebris 1998 Extra Brut $139.99 Awarded 90 pts from Wine Spectator

Billecart – Salmon NV Brut Champagne Reserve $84.99 Awarded 91 pts from Wine Spectator

Cedric Bouchard Inflorescence NV Blanc de Noirs $89.99 Awarded 92 pts from Robert Parker

  1. Billiot Et Fils NV Brut Rose $79.99 Awarded 91 pts from Wine Spectator


When the bubbles had finished and the class had emptied, all I could think of was how different one Champagne was from another. It was a wonderful line-up that showcased how every Champagne House has achieved to be different from their neighbor. I have to say it was an amazing class of good Champagne, great people and affirmed my love for the bubbles!


-Almira Spiller

PS: Did you know that Everything Wine has over 130 varieties of sparkling wine in stock?

A Time to Remember and a Time to Appreciate

First they came two by two, and within minutes a small crowd gathered outside the front doors of the Everything Wine in the Millstream Village in Langford. Never did they grow impatient, one guest eagerly opened the door and asked, “We are so excited… is it too early to come in?” They were all here to celebrate the Third Annual Canadian Forces Appreciation Night event. An evening to not only remember but celebrate the lives of our dedicated Canadian Forces in all that they have done for safe Peacekeeping on behalf of all Canadians everywhere. What an astounding turnout….

At that very moment, Maria Manna began to belt out a soulful tune and all knew that it was time! Shortly, Melinda Whitaker and Miranda Sage were on stage and The Great Ladies of Jazz were complete. All the Canadian Forces members and their guests were handed their programs, a goodie bag and a wine glass as they entered and listened carefully as they were instructed to follow the red and white balloons.

Sultry Maria Manna of the "Great Ladies of Jazz"

There were smiles all around as everyone discovered a new table; some would call across the floor for their buddies to come try the Cupcake Petite Syrah or what about that Napa Cab; “oh wait!......” how about theQuails’ Gate Pinot Noir! Other favourites included the Domaine de Chaberton and the Forgotten Field Red Blend.

Vino Lovers!

Never a dull moment as a tall dapper man approaches with several coins in his hand; it is conjuror John Graham; how on earth did he get that big silver coin through the bottom of the empty wine bottle?

Happy people mingled meeting new friends and discovering old acquaintances, all while nibbling on tasty treats from Nando’s Flame Grilled Chicken and fresh baked bread from Cobs Breads. “What’s for Dinner” was here too, with the most delicious turkey meatballs and a remedy for how to take the stress out of your kitchen life when you ponder, “what am I going to cook tonight?” And as if that wasn’t enough, no one missed the Rogers’ chocolate table or said no to a scoop of decadent Marble Slab Creamery ice cream! All of this under one roof!

Faces were then focused on center stage, aka the tasting bar, as names were drawn for the prizes, including a 3 night stay at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in their guest cottage (valued at $700), a one night’s stay at The Westin at Bear Mountain with breakfast for two, and glasses from Riedel to name just a few!

(L) Display of prizes and Rahul of Nando's Flame Grilled Chicken

(R) Dr. Chana and Kris Steed of Diagio

It was fantastic to see so many people enjoying the company of our Canadian Forces members, sharing stories while enjoying and discovering wines at such a fun evening; I have to say my favourite comment came from a guest who said, “I never would have guessed I’d be enjoying wine, I’m a beer guy…and you know what, the music is great, I don’t think Ozzy Osbourne would have made good background music!”

We may have to wait another year for the next Canadian Forces Appreciation Event, but Pinot-Rama is just around the corner…November 18th!

Gina Savard
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