Tagged with 'Jordan Carrier Everything Wine'

Sulphites in wine

You Probably Aren’t Allergic to Sulphites, Don’t Hurt Me 


A good friend posted a video of an ad for this magic device that “removed sulphites” from wine and thus “prevented hangovers”. This is like suggesting you can prevent car crashes by removing the car doors. I have no clue whether this funnel-with-stuff-in-it can truly alter a wine’s chemical composition by quickly pouring wine through the magic wine hole, but it doesn’t matter. Sulphites don’t cause hangovers. Alcohol does. 


Ok, just…. No,…stop yelling at me. Yes, I know that sulphite allergies are real, yes I know that the reaction you had to that Chilean Cab was real, yes I know that the bottle said “contains sulphites” on it and you then logically declared war. All I’m saying is that there are MANY components in wine that you could react to, and - statistically speaking - sulphites probably aren’t the culprit.  


I’ll readily admit that sulphites have suffered from terrible PR. Out of all the allowable additives in wine, it’s the only thing the label warns you about (besides booze, more on that below), and it’s far from the worst thing you can do to a wine, in fact, it’s something that wine does to itself:  

The heroic yeast that turns (meh) grape juice into (yay) wine produces sulphites during fermentation to prevent other kinds of bacteria from joining the party and stealing all this awesome sugar it’s eating. You won’t find wine without sulphites because they are inextricably part of its Origin Story. You can find wine with no added sulphites, but you’d best drink it quick (or hope it wasn’t sitting long) lest you discover why they were added in the first place:  


In the 1600s, the Dutch – tired of buying great wine down in Bordeaux only to find it smelled like donkey once it got back to Holland – figured out that if you dropped a sulphur candle down into a barrel and let it burn a bit before filling it, the wine wouldn’t spoil. In this age, when we think of additives we picture an Autobot from The Matrix injecting robo-serum into frightened, screaming grapes (if you’re drinking Factory Wine this might be the case, who knows, the factories have no windows), but sulphites can be introduced quite naturally, and in small administrations can help keep the wine stable and ageable. Many organic wine certifiers allow some sulphites in organic winemaking; indeed many Natural or Low Intervention winemakers administer some sulphites because they want the wine you buy to taste like the wine they made. 


If you can eat dried fruit, store-bought jam, dried nuts, canned tomatoes or a plate of French fries without reaction, then sulphites aren’t your nemesis. Maybe you could be friends. Maybe you could swap recipes. Histamines in red wine, often blamed if not mentioned on the bottles, share a similarly unfair scarlet letter – some people react to them, but they’re far more prevalent in many of the foods we eat and if you don’t react to cheese, fish or meat (which contain 10 times the histamine count), then they aren’t your suspect either.  


Yes.. for sure I understand that I’m not really helping. There’s no easy answer to why people react to certain wines and not others. Wine is a living thing, and largely an accurate portrait of the place it was born into, including the potential allergens surrounding it. Since red wines use skin contact after crush, there’s more environmental character: the skins interacted with those surroundings for months. If you find a wine that causes no reaction, continue to drink it and from the estates surrounding it, and try if possible to stick to the same vintage, because different things can happen to that vineyard from year to year. 


Although sulphites and other things like yeast, acid and tannins can be problematic for some, the likely culprit is the reason we all came here to begin with: Alcohol. Alcohol sensitivity is a thing, the best way to handle it is to drink less and drink better. We can help. 

Cabs Ahoy

A tasty spin ‘round the globe of Cabernet – (Sauvignon and Franc) - based wines. Put your trays upright and hold on tight: 


Enfield Wine Co. Waterhorse Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Fort Ross Seaview, Sonoma Coast. New to BC. We don’t see much Cab coming from Fort Ross Seaview, as the ocean proximity (5 miles from the Pacific) and diurnal shifts favour the widely planted Pinot and Chardonnay grapes. Based on this drop-dead gorgeous Cab from John Lockwood and Amy Seese, though, holy amaze-balls we have been missing out, because this 2017 Cab from Waterhorse Ridge, a dry-farmed organic vineyard, is a revelation. The Pacific fog brings enough cooling effect to prolong sugar ripening but burns off midday to amp up the bright currant notes and allow the phenolics to ripen in balance with the sugar – even with the bizzarro heat spikes of 2017, Enfield achieved the perfect ratio of power and elegance that’s becoming more rare in a warming world. Plum, dust and lavender (a touch more graphite and it’d be a dead ringer for Margaux) over a full frame with a chalk-laced, silken finish. One of my missions this year is to find more Cali Cabs like this. Not submitted for review, 12 bottles available, $115.98 +tax 

Ashes + Diamonds Rouge #3 2019, Yountville, Napa Valley. Oh hey, look, I found another Cali Cab like that! From a production so tiny it’s not even on their website (it was destined for restaurants but I’m sneaky), Steve Matthiasson and Diana Snowden Seysses take Cabernet Franc from the Nord Trio vineyard in Yountville and temper it with about 10% Merlot, kind of like a photo-negative Saint-Emillon. A soft red pepper vibe supports the gravelly currant and pencil aromas, the intense medium body leaves a footprint of stone and cocoa powder. Killer Franc from ascendant rock stars. Not submitted for review. 2 6-packs available, $96.98 +tax 

Neal Howell Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Howell Mountain, Napa. A statuesque classic from a banner year. The Neals are Mountain Bears, happier staying up the hill playing with their leaves and berries rather than spending time on the valley floor, over-ripening and getting stuck in above-ground pools. Papa Bear Mark Neal let the rocky soils of his Howell Mountain plot build a rugged, playoff-ready Cab, with mocha and dried raspberries crushed with gravel on the dusty nose. The structure, just starting to soften, commands a considerable footprint but is now cohesive with the medium-full body, I’d still like 3 more years on it but there are no longer sharks in the water if you want to dive in. Only 800 cases made, and I got one of them because I’m medium-important. Not submitted for review, 6 bottles available, $166.98 +tax 



Domaine de Trevallon Rouge 2011, Alpilles IGP. First let me say how insane it is that I can offer this. I’m rarely impressed with myself, but hey. Good job, buddy. One of France’s most sought-after cult wines (and that’s saying something), Trevallon sits in a kind of wine-no-man’s-land between the Rhone valley and Provence (the Alpilles IGT was unofficially created for them when they got famous), and quietly cranked out small batches of ethereal Cabernet/Syrah blends until Aubert de Villaine (head of DRC in Burgundy) discovered them accidentally, and spread the gospel of Trevallon to all his friends – indeed Trevallon was popular with French winemakers well before the public even knew about them. Returning home to the land his dad René (sculptor and friend of Picasso) owned, Eloi Dürrbach started to research the history of Alpilles and discovered that the area was historically planted to Cabernet Sauvignon before Phylloxera wiped it all out, to be replaced entirely by Grenache a generation later. Seeking to make the wines of yore (despite zero viticultural experience), Eloi replanted to Cab in 1973 and blended it with Syrah (50/50) and the results were bonkers. This 2011 is a richly layered, savoury millefeuille of dried rosemary, thyme, violets, blackberry, pine and mint, with tertiary elements of leather and barn around the fringe. Gloriously French, very much a love child of Bordeaux and Hermitage. The current vintage at the winery is 2018 but I managed to nab these 2011s, which drink well now but will go another 10-15 years easily. I don’t know what else you were going to buy, but buy this instead. Not submitted for review, but Jancis Robinson found some and gave it 17+/20, which is her version of a Happy Dance. 3 wooden 6-packs available, $209.98 +tax 

Chateau Pontet Canet 2000, Pauillac, Bordeaux. Nothing not to like, here. An essential vintage captures a criminally under-classed 5th growth just as the changes Alfred Tesseron made to the winery (he modernized by un-modernizing) were starting to bear fruit. Many Bordeaux nerds place Pontet Canet as a Second Growth in their fantasy-football-like re-imaginings of the 1855 Classification (do ya like rabbit holes? You’ll never find your way out of this one). I get a lot of offers for Pontet Canet and refuse most of them, but I think this shows really good value. A slight ferrous note lurks beneath the cedar, blackberry and currant aromas, some secondary vanilla lingers with a touch of earth on the finish. Structure is silky but ever-present. 94+ points Robert Parker, 1 wooden case available, $499.98 +tax 

L'Orme de Rauzan-Gassies 2016, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux. An unofficial Third Wine to Second Growth Ch. Rauzan-Gassies, grown just outside the Margaux delineation in Haut-Medoc, and a rompin’ stompin’ deal. A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, there’s a generous helping of cassis and lavender, restrained by a sandalwood-laced structure with lingering red fruits on the ripe, grippy finish. Drinks now but I’d like to see what 3-4 years can do. 97 points Decanter, 3 6-packs available, $59.98 +tax 



Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Puente Alto, Chile. Concha Y Toro’s Enrique Tirado and Bordeaux consultant Eric Boissenot (who works on four out of the five 1st Growths and a whack of Seconds) have crafted the most complex Don Melchor in years for this 2018 vintage, replacing brute force with understated elegance and perfume and blending in small percentages of Merlot and Petit Verdot for the first time in a long while. Zippy red cherry lifts the black currant notes, with violet and Provençale herbs following through the savoury palate towards a long, generous finish. Delicious now, a glorious dragon with wings of victory and song in 5 years. 100 points James Suckling, 98 points Tim Atkin, 95 points Wine Spectator, 2 wooden 6-packs available, $179.98 +tax.  



El Enemigo “Gran Enemigo” 2017, Gualtallary, Mendoza. Ok, you caught me, this is not a straight Cab, in fact it’s half Malbec, but there’s lots of Cab Sauv and Cab Franc in there and it’s my party so I’ll cheat if I want to. An homage of sorts to the pre-phylloxera Malbec-driven Bordeaux of the mid-1800s (Ch. Haut-Brion, for instance, was Malbec-dominant before the 1870s), the Gran Enemigo pulls off classical permanence despite the hotter 2017 vintage in Mendoza. Peppercorn and cedar notes underscore the chocolate, lavender, plum and mint. Earlier drinking than other Gran Enemigos but every inch as statuesque, Alejandro Vigil and Adrianna Catena justify their seats at the vanguard of Argentinian innovation; as I’ve often said before, these wines will not remain at these prices. 97 points James Suckling, 97 points Vinous, 2 wooden 6-packs available, $131.98 +tax 



Anthonij Rupert Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Franschhoek, Western Cape. Off the market for a couple years, re-imported at my request (I asked a year and a half ago, such is the world today). A stunning overlap of Old and New World aesthetics, the Rupert family worked closely with Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) to propagate vines clipped from Lafite, and took special biodynamic measures to ensure that the new plants didn’t fall prey to Leaf Roll Virus, which had for decades had created smoky notes in South African red wines (for years I thought I didn’t like SA reds, turns out I don’t like viruses). Carrying on after his brother Anthonij’s untimely death in 2001, Johann Rupert carried on the family winery with Dawie Botha, a winemaker who studied in both Bordeaux and Napa, and his learnings show loudly in this gorgeously balanced 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon: cherry-stuffed cigar box with blackberry and blueberry over a licorice/vanilla body with firm but silky tannins. A gravelly minerality lurks from front to back. Everything is in its right place. Outrageous. No ratings found. 3 6-packs available, $103.98 +tax 



Tawse Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2016, Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario. Tasting this Franc – the very best Canadian Franc I’ve ever tasted and yes, even better than the amazing BC Francs I’ve tried – is laced with sadness because of Paul Pender’s passing just a couple weeks ago. Winemaker at Tawse since 2006, he oversaw a stunning run of accolades, having earned Winery of the Year four times between 2010 and 2016. I never met Paul but his influence was widely felt on this side of the Rockies, his absence leaves a big hole. This 2016 Franc from the Laundry Vineyard has an intensity seldom seen in the variety – often extracted at the risk of also pulling harsh tannins and pyrazines – but Mr. Pender somehow lands the plane with perfect balance and grace. Leafy raspberry and jasmine notes swirl with dusty white pepper towards a savoury ripe blackberry palate, medium bodied, with a beautifully concentrated, focused finish. I’ve long been a fan of Niagara Francs but this shifted the paradigm. No ratings found. 12 bottles available, $55.98 +tax 

Black Hills Nota Bene 2019, Black Sage Bench, BC. Judging from the amount of phone calls we’ve been getting, this 2019 chapter of one of BC’s top cult wines is rabidly anticipated, perhaps because of its rarity: this is only the 3rd vintage since inception where Merlot is the dominant grape (Cab Sauv is a close second) and it’s the first vintage to use 100% wild yeasts for fermentation. The result is a more complex, layered Nota Bene, with savoury elements like dried sage twisting alongside the blackberry, plum and tobacco leaf notes. The Merlot lends a roundness to the mid-palate and the finish keeps those toasty baking spice vibes that we’ve come to expect from Black Hills’ flagship wine. To be perfectly candid: it has been a tough 2020/2021 on the Okanagan and we will see a scarcity of premium BC reds over the next couple years, especially in retail; smoke, fires, heat domes and, this year, extreme cold around Kelowna and points north, these have all taken their toll on the fragile vinifera plants that are genetically accustomed to more temperate weather (if they were poodles we’d put sweaters on them). Small quantities of very good wines will be made, but they’re more likely to be sold exclusively at the wineries, and Black Hills has notified us accordingly. We might get a smattering of Nota Bene from 2020/2021, or we might not, so if this is your jam act swiftly and decisively because you’re gonna run out of jam. No ratings found. 6 cases arriving tomorrow (Friday), $69.99 +tax 



Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Margaret River. James Suckling called this the “Mouton Rothschild of Australia”, and although the aromatics are different, the shape of this Cab, born of a maritime climate (just like Pauillac), does share a lot of Mouton’s broader qualities. Deep dark fruit, some bramble, with Mediterranean streaks of olive and sage over an underlying cocoa nibs base. Still a tad tight, 4 years should loosen the finish up a bit, I just want the acid to integrate on the finish. Slight lavender hue on the finish. 97 points James Halliday, 94 points Wine Spectator, 12 bottles available, 78.98 +tax. 



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. 

Nickel & Nickel John C. Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Oakville, Napa. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 2 6-packs available, $206.98 +tax 

Carruades de Lafite 2018, Pauillac, Bordeaux. 97 points James Suckling, 94 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $575.00 +tax - One Magnum (1.5L) available, $1150.00 +tax 

Yarra Yering Dry Red #1 2017, Yarra Valley, Australia. 98 points James Halliday, 12 bottles available, $106.98 +tax 

Senegal Details Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, Sonoma. 95 points Vinous, 8 cases available, $59.99 +tax 

River District Piedmont Offer 2021

We don’t often see two whizz-bang vintages happen back-to-back (the 2009/2010 combo in Bordeaux and 2015/2016 in Tuscany come to mind) but that very abnormality has happened recently in Piedmont. We saw 2016 coming for miles: outstanding quality up and down the Italian peninsula (in most of Western Europe, truthfully), a classic, put-it-on-the-shelf-and-admire-it kind of vintage that produced exquisitely built, ageable wines, there was no doubt that these Barolos and Barbarescos would be crazy good. 2017, however, is more of a surprise: hotter than Adam Driver in a bad mood, 2017 had mixed results in the rest of Italy, stealing elegance in exchange for oomph, not always welcome in more finessed wines. As the Italian 2017s were released over the last two years, there was good reason to expect that the northern Italian Nebbiolos, always released a little later, would be flat and cooked. 

But then the 2017 Barolos and Barbarescos started to be released, and reviewers and collectors alike exclaimed a very green-eggs-and-ham-like “Saaaaaaaaaay!”. There’s a little more fruit present, but not over-ripeness or cooked notes, notably because growers have had to figure out how to cope with a hot year (they’re not as surprising anymore), and they’re way better at producing elegant, classic Nebbiolo despite the added challenge. Vinous’ Antonio Galloni says “the wines challenge preconceived ideas of what wines from hot years can be”, and although he and Parker slightly favour the 2016s, James Suckling actually favours the 2017 vintage. 

So, needless to say, I’ve been busy. I’ve been collecting small batches of 2016s and 2017s, and just like with Burgundy, I buy wide but not deep, so there’s often only a few bottles of each selection. Start your engines. 

Visit Jordan in the Vintages Room at our River District location.

  • 8570 River District Crossing
  • 604 416 1672
  • jcarrier@everythingwine.ca

We begin: 

Figli Luigi Oddero. Odderos have been Odderoing in Barolo since the 1800s, and were part of the first wave of producers to sell wines straight to consumers, rather than to their local church. Seeking a different path than his brother Giacomo, Luigi Oddero split with his family’s winery in 2006 to start this eponymous house, which was going great until he passed in 2010. His wife Lena and their two kids carried on his work, but without Luigi’s generational wisdom in the cellar they were lost, until Lena made the best decision possible: she hired Dante Scaglioni—a local who had worked for 25 years as the winemaker for the legendary Bruno Giacosa, and the fireworks went off. Neither firmly in the Trad nor Modern camp, Dante makes clean, precise wines using older methods (long ferments, old oak Botti). I have: 

Luigi Oddero Barbaresco Rombone 2016. From a 2 ½ hectare plot of 30yr-old vines in Rombone cru in Barbaresco’s Treisa region. Great purity of fruit: rose-covered strawberries and sweet cherries, held together by a firm but kind structure. Herbal and forest floor notes linger. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 bottles available, $99.98 +tax 

Luigi Oddero Barolo 2016. A gorgeous swirl of high-toned spices and deep red fruits, culled from several of the family’s holdings in various crus. Good tension between fruit and structure. Generous and fresh, a nice statement of vintage. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 bottles available, $106.98 +tax 

Luigi Oddero Barolo Rocche Rivera 2008. Blast from the past from a cru in a cru – adjacent to the Rocche di Castiglione in the Scaronne cru in the commune of Castiglione Faletto, Rocche Rivera boasts the best exposure in the whole cru. Built like a racehorse, it has only just entered the don’t-bite-me window and will remain here for two decades. Mentholated cherries, crushed stones and herbs. Conservate and elegant. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 bottles available, $193.98 +tax 


Pico Maccario. Long-time growers but recent winemakers (founded in 1997), Pico and Vitaliano Maccario’s first love was Barbera, but the brothers have grown their forward-looking winery in Mombaruzzo to include small releases of Nebbiolos as well. Quick ferments and modest barrel-aging in both Barrique and Botti make bold, direct wines of purpose. 

Pico Maccario “Tre Roveri” Nizza 2018. The Smart Italian Party Wine. 100% Barbera from their family’s vineyard in Nizza (the only DOCG where Barbera rules the roost). Loud and proud with unapologetic heft and oaky notes of vanilla supporting the spicy dark berries. Coffee and anise dance throughout. This Barbera never got pushed around in the schoolyard. Quite untraditional and outstanding, drinks like twice the price. Tre- Bicchieri (3 glasses = top score) Gambero Rosso, 5 6-packs available, $51.98 +tax 

Pico Maccario Barolo 2017. Nebbiolo mostly from the feisty commune of Serralunga d’Alba, bold and balanced with strong fruit and a surprising level of drinkability and concentration. Lavender and strawberry lead the nose, licorice and rich cherry glide from palate to finish. Well-integrated even this young, featuring high levels of Deliciosity™. Not yet rated, 3 6-packs available, $62.98 +tax 


Elio Sandri. I’ve never met Elio Sandri – I’m not sure I could, as he’s known to chase wine press off his property with a rake – but based on his wines I’m guessing I could outrun him because he’s probably too traditional to wear shoes. This is the Barolo of yore, vinified by basically waiting, with months-long whole-cluster ferments, minimal extraction and ancient oak. Tiny productions from the wee Perno cru and a haphazard approach to marketing and exports (and answering the phone) have only increased his legend; far more markets want his wines than get his wines, which is why it’s nearly miraculous that I can offer the following: 

Elio Sandri Barolo Perno 2016. A future epic. Earth and tobacco surround the bright cherry notes, with plum, olives and leather falling into place. A portal to the past that won’t open for another 5 years. Mint and cedar on the statuesque finish. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 3 6-packs available, $111.98 +tax 

Elio Sandri Barolo Perno Riserva 2015. Roses and orange zest open the festivities, with violets and saline-tinged berries rounding out the middle and end. Unusually for a Sandri wine, this one is aaaaalmost there – it’s rounder than much of his work – but a couple more years would be ideal. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 95 points Vinous, 3 6-packs available, $123.98 +tax 


Domenico Clerico. An unabashed modernist, Domenico Clerico has caught flak for his use of Barriques and Burgundian casks, but his critics forget that when he inherited his family’s plots in 1977, his approach was traditional – it was only his decades-long relationship with the few vineyards he farmed that led him to micro-focus on the unique fruit footprints of each site, seeking clean, transparent Burgundian expressions of place. These 2016 Barolos are the last ones Domenico made before his passing in 2017. 

Domenico Clerico Barolo Pajana 2016. From the Pajana vineyard in the Ginestra cru in Monforte d’Alba, named after an ancient path that bisects it, and planted by Domenico’s dad in 1971. Intense and concentrated with game, forest floor and blood orange underscoring the cassis and plums. Quite full, about 3 years out from paydirt. 96 points Robert Parker, 96 points James Suckling, 6 bottles available, $166.98 +tax 

Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin 2016. Also in the Ginestra cru at the top of the hill, the east-facing vineyard named Ciabot Mentin (after the previous owner’s tool shed) produces a dynamic balance of grace and oomph. Densely structured but nearly in the drinking window, orange and mint give way to layers of cassis and violets – a huge body but a wonderfully elegant landing. 97+ points Robert Parker, 95 points Wine Spectator, 6 bottles available, $166.98 +tax 

Domenico Clerico Barolo Aeroplan Servaj 2016. His father, out of admiration and concern, called free-spirited young Domenico “little airplane”, a nickname that the adult Domenico gave to this west-facing vineyard in the Baudana cru of Serralunga d’Alba. A study of how richness and energy play off of each other, with lurking ferrous notes beneath the linear cherry and garrigue. More high-toned and savoury than his other Barolos, this gorgeous beast was Domenico’s definitive statement. 97+ points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $192.98 +tax 


Produttori del Barbaresco. Although Angelo Gaja is primarily responsible for initially putting Barbaresco in people’s minds, this superlative co-operative helped put Barbaresco on the map by putting it in people’s hands. Started in the 1890s, dissolved in 1930 because, you know, Fascism, then rebirthed in the 1950s, Produttori gathered enough quality growers together to export great Barbaresco to the wine-drinking world, creating an amazing first impression and cementing the village’s status as a worthy partner to Barolo. Avoiding the stratospheric price jumps of most of their contemporaries, Produttori is nonetheless considered a benchmark of traditional Barbaresco, farming choice plots in the best crus, such as: 

Produttori del Barbaresco Paje Riserva 2016. A south-west facing natural amphitheatre whose collected heat is tempered by the nearby Tanaro river. Slightly brandied cherry notes surrounded by tar and smoke, quite dense with broad shoulders, long anise-laced finish. Best in 5 years. 96 points Vinous, 95 points Robert Parker, 95 points Wine Spectator, 18 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 

Produttori del Barbaresco Muncagota Riserva 2016. South-east facing, collecting the morning sun. Accordingly, Muncagota is more delicate on the nose (not the body, yowsers), with heightened floral aspects and characteristic mint vibes over the earth-driven iron and gravel notes. Full and bold on palate with considerable structure. 96 points Robert Parker, 95 points Wine Spectator, 18 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 

Produttori del Barbaresco Rio Sordo Riserva 2016. A long hill with south-west exposure, known for softer structures and hidden power. A burst of licorice and eucalypt over a medium body of plums and salinity. 96 points Robert Parker, 95 points Wine Spectator, 18 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 


Michele Chiarlo. For four generations, the Chiarlos have been delicious pragmatists, farming all over the Langhe, never putting all their chips on one village or one grape, and focusing on balanced, terroir-correct, ultimately drinkable wines. Even in off-vintages (which these are not), they excel in putting a wine in your glass that will perfectly show the grape and region with no caveats (and no bells or whistles). We have: 

Michele Chiarlo “Palas” Barolo 2016. A multi-commune cuvée, with fruit from Monforte, Verduno, and La Morra. A drinker’s Barolo, with soft(ish) integrated tannins supporting the balsamic strawberry and vanilla notes. Not super pigmented but quite powerful, my colleagues and I tasted this blind and put it closer to $100 – wonderful value, exclusive to Everything Wine. 94 points James Suckling, 6 cases available, Reg price $59.99, Sale Price $54.99 +tax 

Michele Chiarlo “Cipressi” Nizza 2018. 100% Barbera from Chiarlo’s La Court estate in Nizza, using only the sunniest parcels. Sweet spices lift the fresh raspberry and blackberry compote over a full-bodied bed of violets. Less acidic than most Nizza, a soft landing with more lingering cinnamon and nutmeg. Not yet rated, 18 bottles available, $39.99 +tax 


GAJA. Angelo Gaja, besides revolutionizing and modernizing what was once an unknown, backwards wine village, put Barbaresco into world-wine-consciousness by sheer force of personality. Now semi-retired, the estate is run by his daughter Gaia (never thought of it before, but I’m grateful that my parents didn’t name me Jordan Giordan), but the family strengths live on in the wine and personality (Gaia is no fading flower). Global shipping awesomeness prevented me from grabbing more, but I’m grateful to have: 

GAJA “DaGromis” Barolo 2016. Back in 1995, Gaja acquired the vineyards adjacent to their Sperss and Contesia sites from the Gromis family (DaGromis literally means “at home with the Gromisses”), and they vinify each vineyard separately before ultimately blending them into this deeply rich cuvée with fresh overtones. Aged in Barriques for 2 ½  years, the nose shows intense orange and red grapefruit over cassis, crushed rocks and cinnamon. Racy and powerful. Not submitted for review, 12 bottles available, $169.98 +tax 


Giacomo Fenocchio. When Claudio Fenocchio took over winemaking duties after his dad passed in 1989, he was the fifth Fenocchio to make wine in the Barolo commune of Monforte d’Alba, but the first to scale back his methods to adopt a non-interventionist approach (as much as one can in a colder climate), seeking to return to pre-industrial expressions of his ancient crus. He farms organically and favours long, spontaneous ferments, aging only in large, Slavonian casks, producing Barolos of precise terroir and purpose. The New York Times rated Fenocchio second place in a tasting of 2010 Barolos – coming behind only Elio Altare and ahead of Elio Grasso, Massolino, and Vietti, and his wines sell out quickly. I’m stoked to have: 

Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Villero 2017. Hints of mint, white pepper and sandalwood float over the classic traditional Barolo notes of blood orange and morello cherry. A subterranean note of asphalt lurks with lavender on the finish. Ideal in 3 years. 97 points James Suckling, 2 6-packs available, $102.98 +tax 

Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Bussia Riserva “90 di” 2015. Way cool, Barolo á la Druid. Fruit from the family’s holdings in the mighty Bussia cru is left to ferment with ambient yeasts after crush and then… nothing. They do nothing. Claudio leaves the juice alone for 90 days, no pump-overs, no punching the cap, just the ancient act of allowing the skins to fully influence the ensuing wine. Fruit leather and game notes hold the black cherry and juniper just above the earthy tannins, this is a complex Nebbiolo that, although inscrutable now, will grow into a layered, gorgeous Barolo. 6 bottles available, $163.98 +tax 


Musso. Although there was a Musso mayor of Barbaresco in the early 1600s, the family didn’t get into the wine game until 1929 when Sebastiano Musso started the winery that his father could only dream of – just in time to see the world economy crash and Fascism take hold. Wheeee!! Inch by inch the Mussos grew the operation until in 1966 the village got its DOC status and their wine saw export. Today Valter Musso and his sons tend to the estate, crossing traditional and modern methods to build big, beautiful Barbarescos like these: 

Musso Barbaresco Pora 2017. A full-throated expression of the Pora Cru, near the village of Barbaresco. Blue flowers and raspberries open to a full, generous brew of cinnamon, vanilla and cherry. Still youthful and tannic, but the fruit weight nearly balances. Not yet rated, 12 bottles available, $69.98 +tax 

Musso Barbaresco Pora Riserva 2015. Large and in charge. Mentholated espresso beans dance with drunken cherries holding orange peels like a whip. A strong argument to be made for this 2015 already being in the window. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 94 points Wine Spectator, $89.98 +tax 


Nada Fiorenzo. The Nada story is more like a cycle. Since Carlo Nada started the business by selling garage-brewed Nebbiolo to local restaurants, every subsequent Nada son swore off the wine biz and sought fame an fortune in nearby Torino, only to be disenchanted by the big city and return home to fall in love with the land anew. It’s like watching 3 Hallmark movies back to back. The Nada style is pragmatic, using long, wild ferments but employing a mixed media of barrels for aging (although 4th Gen Danilo Nada has been slowly steering away from Barriques). First time in BC, I have: 

Nada Fiorenzo Barbaresco Rombone 2016. The Rombone cru is the first site the Nada family ever vinified; they know that terroir like my kids know the Skip the Dishes site. An éclair of kirsch, fennel and herbs greets the nose, gliding towards a mid-weight, quite velvety palate. The acidity on the close speaks louder than the tannins right now, everything else is a go but I’d like to drink this in 2025. 96 points Vinous, 95 points Wine Spectator, 6 bottles available, $112.98 


Tenute Guardasole. This is where Nebbiolo goes skiing. Boasting the highest vines in Alta Piemonte, the subalpine town of Boca experiences drastic swings from day to night, and the steep slopes make it tough to farm here, which explains all the abandoned vineyards around the village (decades ago when Piemontese wine was dirt cheap, producers favoured moderate, flatter sites that could be farmed mechanically to save money). Marco Bui of Tenute Guardasole is one of a handful of winemakers who have begun rehabilitating those ancient vineyards, making gorgeous high-altitude reds like this: 

Guardasole Boca 2016. A burst of friendly energy. Dried flowers, tar and white pepper all surrounding the Tesseract. Clean, transparent and feisty, 80% Nebbiolo, 20% Vespolina, medium bodied and laser focused. The finish is still a bit feral, give this one 3 years at least. 95 points Vinous, 6 bottles available, $84.98 +tax 


Poderi Marcarini. 6 generations strong, the Marcarini family is still doing what they do best: overserving me because their wines are so deceptively gulpable. Honest, contemporary Barolos are their calling card, “intervening” just enough to let the vineyard character shine through, using quick ferments but large casks that preserve purity of fruit. I have: 

Marcarini Barolo del Comune di La Morra 2017. New skin for the old ceremony. Only its third year on the market, this is a co-ferment of several crus with Tortonian soils within the La Morra commune. Gloriously floral and perfumed, with light cherry and forest floor serving a tangy body, full of orange peel and star anise. 95 points James Suckling, 10 bottles available, $66.99 +tax 

Marcarini Barolo La Serra 2017. From the rugged, southwest facing La Serra cru in Serralunga d’Alba. Strawberries rolled in ash with black tea and ferrous notes. A very serious customer. Linear in shape with great intensity and mineral components from front to back, built to withstand a plane crash, needs 4+ years. 97 points James Suckling, 5 bottles available, $84.99 +tax 


Francesco Rinaldi & Figli. The Rinaldi name in wine dates back to the 1870s, and in 1922, like many houses in Piedmont (and Burgundy), the family splintered into separate wineries: Giuseppe and Francesco. More traditional than a sharpened stick, current cellar master Luciano Rinaldi employs month-long ferments and exclusively large, old Slavonian casks. These wines became available in BC for the first time this year. 

Francesco Rinaldi Barolo Brunate 2016. Straddling the border of the Barolo and La Morra communes, the Brunate cru hides a lot of magnesium and potassium amongst its reams of limestone, building complex phenolic concentrations in this dark and dense Nebbiolo. All manner of green herbs trip up the rosewater, raspberry and cinnamon on the nose, with pomegranate and smoke in faint hints. Layered and in no hurry, medium bodied, almost in balance (the acidity is a little hey-how-ya-doin’ right now). 94 points Vinous, 6 bottles available, $111.98 +tax 

Francesco Rinaldi Barolo 2007. From La Morra, Barolo and Castiglione Faletto communes. A spicy thread from front to back, black tea and worn wood are a platform for dried red fruits and dried blackberry, medium-bodied, intact finish – this could still go another decade without breaking a sweat. 6 bottles available, $197.98 +tax 


Poderi Colla. The first family to include cru names on a Barolo bottle in 1961, the Colla family – now headed by Tino Colla, practices mostly traditional winemaking, with a few modern tweaks for clarity of terroir. Tino is known for organizing a stratified harvest, with different altitudes being picked on widely different days, and then added to the ferment as they come in over several weeks – approximating the approach that Barolo houses had to use decades ago when there wasn’t enough money to pay pickers to get all the grapes at once. This allows the tannins from the first grapes to polymerize (bind to form solids) as the others are added, softening the profile a tad. I have: 

Poderi Colla Barbaresco Roncaglie 2016. Intense but not heavy, in fact it’s light enough to dance around the rhubarb, truffle and mint notes before dropping on the palate with a kaboom. Roncaglie is an amphitheatre-esque, south-facing steep hill that will likely go up in price and prestige once Vietti starts releasing the Barbarescos from their recently purchased plot there. Deliciously long finish, great value (for now). 95 points Vinous, 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 8 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 


Cappellano. One of Barolo’s most renowned (and feared) traditionalists, Augusto Cappellano carries on his father Theobaldo’s commitment to terroir expression and minimal cellar interference, as well as his father’s tendency to shoo away wine reviewers who might possibly assign a numbered score to his wines. His wines reward patience, and they sleep like dragons. 

Cappellano “Otin Fiorin” Pie Rupestris 2016. This will cellar like wines 4 times its price. Quite Burgundian in nature, there are subtle hints of dried fruit, herbs and spices, but the finish is disjointed and spiky. Collectors will be highly rewarded for keeping this at least 10 years, but right now it drinks like a misunderstanding. Once integrated, the 2016 Rupestris will match power with delicacy and drink like a halo, this will be a remarkable Barolo. 6 bottles available, $151.98 +tax 


Azienda Agricola Azelia di Luigi Scavino. This famously innovative house celebrated its centennial with the release of their 2016s, which threatens to compromise their best-kept-secret-under-the-radar status. Organically farmed and using a pragmatic blend of old/new methods, The Scavino family (Luigi and his son Lorenzo) sources fruit from some of the regions best crus: 

Azelia Barolo Bricco Fiasco 2016. The first cru owned by the Scavino family, Bricco Fiasco (hill shaped like a flask, or fiasco) sits in the Castiglione Faletto commune, and the Azelia vines were planted by Luigi’s grandfather in 1940. Brilliant blue fruit with chalk and cassis notes, a medium-full body and a gorgeously floral finish. Aaaalllmost in the drinking window, 2 more years should do the trick. 96 points Wine Spectator, 96 points Robert Parker, 4 bottles available, $169.99 


Cesare Bussolo. When he’s not working with cult Barolo producer Roberto Voerzio, Cesare Bussolo quietly makes a few cases of wine under his own label. Did I say quietly? No chance of that now, as Cesare’s wines have blown up in Europe with long waiting lists, and they make their first appearance in BC this year. Like his mentor Roberto, everything is done on a super small scale with ambient yeasts and small barrels. I can offer: 

Cesare Bussolo Barolo del Comune di La Morra 2017. Compact, vibrant fruit on the nose: cherries, roses, sage – this is built like a 1er Cru Volnay, medium-bodied and long. Elegant and super-fine tannins, everything is arguably in balance now, but there’s no doubt that it’ll improve in 4-5 years. Not submitted for review, 6 bottles available, $156.98 +tax 


Poderi Aldo Conterno. The Modernist Who Wouldn’t Be. When Aldo, the second son of Barolo legend Giacomo Conterno, came of age, he did what many young Italians did: he got as far away from Italy as possible. Seeing that a post-prohibition Napa Valley was ascendant, Aldo emigrated to the US to start a winery with a few uncles when – oopsy! – he was drafted into the Korean war, where he served two years before an honorable discharge. Finding himself back in Barolo wondering what happened, he joined his brother Giovanni at his ailing father’s estate, and was soon fighting with his family about how they made wine. Inspired by the modern moves that Angelo Gaja was making in Barbaresco (although let’s be real: a “Modern” technique in 1961 Langhe was cleaning your cellar a bit), Aldo struck out on his own to become the blasphemous “Modernist” of the family. But was he? He only really tweaked his family’s ancestral methods, his stuff was – and still is, after his 2021 passing and his sons in charge – pretty old school, as well as gorgeous and iconic. I have: 

Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala 2012. From 50-yr-old vines, this 2012 from the Cicala vineyard in the Bussia cru (in Monforte d’Alba commune – these really are Russian dolls) is just entering the zone. Leather is starting to move into the nose of nutmeg and mint, with ferrous tobacco notes and cherry holding strong. Lots of yums. 95 points James Suckling, 6 bottles available, $289.98 +tax 



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.  

Pelissero “The Long Now” (Nebbiolo/Barbera) 2015. 95 points Vinous, 12 bottles available, $65.98 +tax 

La Ca’ Nova Barbaresco Montefico Vigna Bric Mentina 2017. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 18 bottles available, $67.98 +tax 

La Ca’ Nova Barbaresco Montestefano 2017. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 18 bottles available, $67.98 +tax 

Coming Soon: Bordeaux and Rhone offers!! 

An American Epic

I was having lunch with some Wine Friends (like normal friends except you can open a 15-year-old Brunello for them without crying on the inside), one of whom is a prominent Napa winemaker, when the topic turned to the disastrous 2020 vintage. The normally gregarious winemaker became diminutive and hushed, so much that I could barely make out his answer when I asked what kind of harvest he could produce, given the thick smoke that blanketed the region for months. “Did you say Fifty percent?” I asked, unsure of what he said. “Fifteen percent”, he replied. “If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to make 15% of what we usually produce”. 

Fifteen percent. The chronic fires aren’t the only threat: the same forces that gave Napa a golden run of stunning vintages (2012-2016, then 2018-2019) are now making it nearly impossible for them to make the wines that the world expects. While grape farming is way less water intensive than most other forms of agriculture (especially almonds, omg those thirsty cretins) you can’t really dry farm in Napa, and they are nearly out of water. The reservoirs are dry. Conditions are getting so bad that many wineries can’t even get insured anymore. In every way, the Californian climate has changed, the only constant that remains is demand. 

This winter could still see lots of badly needed, aquifer-filling rain to the region (unlikely, though, due to the expected La Niña), and the few wineries that do plan on releasing their 2020 vintages could be sitting on something amazing. I sincerely hope so. No one wants their Wine Guy to turn bummer – this is not what they teach you in Wine Guy School - but speaking frankly there is a reasonable chance that the 2018 and 2019 Napa/Sonoma vintages – both amazing years – will be the last ones that reflect the region as we now know it. Equally as likely is the prospect of greatly reduced quantities (of incredible quality, that’s the trade off) and prices soaring well past their current levels. If we look at the near-exponential price increases that inclement weather and its ensuing insurance pressures caused in Burgundy over the last decade, we glimpse a troubling scenario that could unfold in the coming decade; as high as the current Napa prices are, they could be adorable compared to a projected 2027 vintage. 

Oregon’s Willamette Valley, much more northern and temperate in a Maritime climate, won’t soon suffer the same climatic pressures as California – this year’s La Niña should actually bring more precipitation to that area (and to us) – but they felt the full effect of wildfire smoke in 2020. At one point surrounded by fires, the Willamette spent many weeks stewing in smoke, which was particularly harmful to the thin-skinned Pinot Noir grape. Many wineries I’ve talked to won’t be releasing their prestigious single-vineyard Pinots, they’ll opt instead to produce sparkling wines (no skin contact, thus no smoke taint) or declassify the fruit that’s untainted into their entry-level reds. 

And now, the awkward pivot. 

I’ve spent the last couple of months gathering some incredible wines from the American west coast (with a surprise bonus region at the end, no peeking!), and I’m proud to offer some houses that have never been here before now. Join me on this very American adventure: 



Nickel & Nickel. First time in BC, and topping the list of wines-people-always-ask-for-that-I-can’t-get, at least until now. Far Niente’s venture exploring the different characters of Napa’s best vineyards has now been copied by so many wineries, we forget how radical of an idea it was when they started Nickel & Nickel in the ‘90s. I brought in my two faves: 

Nickel & Nickel John C. Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Oakville, Napa. This wine is proof that Cab loves us and wants us to be happy. Plums, chocolate and blackberry knew it was your birthday and they baked a cake for you and there’s money in the cake. The Sullenger vineyard, full of sandy clay, is Nickel’s home vineyard, adjacent to the winery in the middle of Oakville, maximizing sun exposure but retaining the typical Oakville tannins, which would integrate better in a few years. Lovely baking spices on the finish with menthol hues hanging on for a minute. Everything you love about Oakville loves you back, turns out. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 4 6-packs available, $206.98 +tax 

Nickel & Nickel Bear Track Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Napa. The first vintage from Nickel’s recently acquired Bear Track vineyard, just outside the Howell Mountain AVA, is singing its own song right out of the gate, distinguishing itself as clearly the most refined, elegant Cab in the stable. Quite a floral nose with rosewater lifting the soft blueberry notes and rosemary out of the glass, before a sleek palate pulls up in a limousine to take you to the Prince’s Ball. A far more refined structure suggests an easy 20 years cellaring time, but I wouldn’t want to lose the fruit, everything going on here is capital “P” Pretty. Not yet rated. 2 6-packs available, $206.98 +tax 

Hourglass Blueline Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Calistoga, Napa. Someone seems to have been drinking a lot of Bordeaux, and that someone is Robert Foley. Bob’s winemaking at Hourglass, a project he runs with its owner Jeff Smith, has always emphasized concentration overall, but this single-vineyard Cab from the recently acquired Blueline Estate blends that thickness with a bright streak of gorgeous acidity and a very French restraint. Cassis, graphite, cedar and tomato leaf on the nose, with a good deal of earth and tension stretching a ross the palate to the finish. Pure class. 96 points Vinous, 94 points Robert Parker, 1 6-pack available, $202.98 +tax 

Joseph Phelps Insignia 2018, Napa. The top cuvée of Phelps’ best sites from all over the valley, Insignia has always been an honest broker, presenting the vintage from all sides with full disclosure: possible rainy harvests, warm summers or drought-inflected heft will show up somewhere in the wine, depending on the year. Since the mild, drama-free 2018 was the viticultural equivalent of listening to Enya for several months – especially in the long, warm autumn - an honest cross section of the vintage is music to our mouths: Crème de Cassis lifts the chocolate blackberries and pencil shavings over the deep pools of mocha, caramel and pepper, leaving a mineral, cocoa-nibs spell in its wake. An excellent Insignia. 99 points James Suckling, 97+ points Robert Parker, 2 6-packs available, $505.98 +tax 

Macauley Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Oakville, Napa. Although the Macauley name is now synonymous with elite Cabernet Sauvignon, the first wine that Ann Macauley made when she bought the winery straight out of college in 1984 was a Sauternes-style Sauvignon Blanc. Tragically, Ann never got to try the finished wines as she died in a 1986 car accident, but years later her son Mac returned to Napa to revive his mom’s label, this time with a focus on reds. With access to what could reasonably considered America’s First Growth, the contemporary Macauley winery uses their wee allocation of To Kalon fruit to make a Cab that matches otherworldly fruit intensity and power with the sleek structure and gravel frame of more French-inflected wines like Opus One (which is itself largely built out of To Kalon fruit). Currant and blackberry notes over crushed rocks and tilled earth. Stunning. 98-100 points Jeb Dunnuck, 6 bottles available, $364.98 +tax 

Cakebread Dancing Bear Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Howell Mountain, Napa. Perched high above Napa Valley with nearly 360 degrees of exposure, there isn’t a lot of sun that Dancing Bear doesn’t get (maybe the bear is dancing because he’s way sunburned and it hurts to sit down), but the altitude is what spared this site from the smoke and heat spikes of 2017 (history will treat 2017 way better than the wine press did). The big diurnal shift keeps a measure of balance, building a svelte medium-full body underneath a decadent fruit pie of boysenberry, plum and cherry on the nose. Front of house is for pleasure but the back of house is all business. 97 points Jeb Dunnuck, 95+ points Robert Parker, 1 6-pack available, $231.98 +tax 

Diamond Creek Mixed Pack 2017, Diamond Mountain, Napa. Al and Boots Brounstein’s unassuming, unlikely cult wine became so sought after that when they wanted to retire, Champagne house Louis Roederer snapped up the house immediately. Sold only by the 6-pack (I can’t break it up, sorry), the wines focus on 3 adjacent terroirs on Diamond Mountain with different soils and temperatures: Gravelly Meadow (95 Suckling) is coolest, Red Rock Terrace (97 Suckling) is warmer, and Volcanic Hill (96 Suckling) is hotter than, well, a Volcano. The 3 Cabs are quite wildly different from each other but these is a smoky, sleek through line of minerality and Pauillac-like frame. Precious little is made and even less comes to Vancouver. 1 6-pack available, Case Price (again, can’t split it but I’m still a good person) $2,500.00 +tax 

Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Mt Veeder, Napa. As old as them there hills, Mayacamas was part of the US team that beat the French in the 1976 Paris Tasting, besting Mouton Rothschild and Leoville las Cases, among others. Other Napa wineries from the contest have since changed their style along with the times, but Mayacamas stays up in the hills, never botherin’ nobody, doin’ the same thing they done for years. A reserved, mountain Cab made with almost zero new oak, this 2014 reveals layers of dark fruit and earthy notes, with currants, cigar box and graphite underpinning the whole show. #1 – Vine Pair’s Top 50 of 2018, 97 points James Suckling, 96+ points Vinous, 2 6-packs available, $242.98 +tax 

Collina Dalla Valle 2018, Oakville, Napa. Although Dalla Valle makes stratospherically high-end wines at the top end, I’ve always been drawn to this complex, multi-faceted, ultimately drinkable blend of Cab Sauv and Cab Franc from their eastern Oakville property. Equal parts rich and racy, the fresh blackberries balance the dark chocolate, just like the pencil shavings balance the fragrant sage vibes on the long finish. Deep dark and delicious with a round body that flows over the fine-grained tannins. First time I’ve been able to offer this! 94+ points Jeb Dunnuck, 2 6-packs available, $208.98 +tax 

Matthiasson Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Napa. There are two ways to make a full-throated Napa Cab with 13% abv: 1) find a time machine, or 2) get Steve and Jill Matthiasson to make it. Pulling from 6 vineyards across the valley, they practice a nearly month-long ferment followed by 2 years in (mostly) old barrels, and this finished 2017 reminds me more of those rare, unblended Tuscan cabs from around Chianti and the coast: dusty currants (likely from the Rutherford component in the mix) and bright red fruit like cherry and cranberry, with a cedary mineral component closing off after a full, brisk palate. It has the bones to go 20 years, but the charismatic approachability that we’ve come to expect from a founding member of the Ashes + Diamonds group project. Not submitted for review. 24 bottles available, $114.98 +tax 

Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Howell Mountain, Napa. I’m not sure what happened behind the scenes during the decades where Randy Dunn helped put Caymus on the map, all I know is that in 1978 he headed for the hills, bought some vines on a mountain and vowed never to make a wine above 14% abv ever again. If this whole project was some sort of atonement then atonement is delicious. Sourced from his Howell Mountain vineyards, Dunn’s Cabs are neither fat nor lean, they’re athletic: power houses of energy and concentration, aged for almost 3 years in all new French oak, but medium-bodied at best. Mediterranean vibes play around the savoury herbs, but the intense blueberry and lavender notes bleed into a dream of spice and graphite. Statuesque. 97 points Decanter, 95 points Wine Spectator, 12 bottles available, $289.98 +tax 

Bevan Cellars “Ontogeny” 2018, Napa. Waves of deep fruit tumble endlessly from this Cab-dominated blend of 2 of Bevan’s best sites, the Sugarloaf Mountain vineyard and Tench, Screaming Eagle’s neighbour. Fine tannins try to restrain the finish but they never had a chance: it’s all fruit, all the way down, always and forever. Neither a bruiser nor a blanket, Ontogeny’s raison d’être is Luxury and its tools are cassis, lavender and garrigue. Blue fruits rule the finish. Will age by sheer concentration but is singing now. 99 points Jeb Dunnuck, 95+ points Robert Parker, 18 bottles available, $166.98 +tax 

Jonata “Todos” 2017, Ballard Canyon, Santa Ynez Valley. If I were the sister winery to Screaming Eagle, I’d make a bigger deal about it. Oh, they talk a lot about their special microclimate in Ballard Canyon, and how the sandy soils challenge the vines to root deeper and provide concentration, and omg they won’t stop about how the 2017 Todos (Syrah with Cab and Petit Sirah) is teeming with blueberry, game, black pepper, fig and jasmine, or how it’s massive body and smooth delivery fill you with happiness and change your life for the better and blah blah blah. Nowhere do they say “hey FYI we are owned by Screaming Eagle” and then drop a microphone on the floor. Oh well, one day they’ll let me write their blurbs for them. 94+ points Jeb Dunnuck, 12 bottles available, $88.98 +tax 

Eisele Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Calistoga, Napa. Chateau Latour always did want to make a white wine. The Eisele vineyard has been a home to grape vines since 1880, and even kept growing through Prohibition (but only for juice, wink, wink). Through Napa’s renaissance in the 60s and 70s, Cabernet Sauvignon from Eisele showed up in Ridge Vineyards wines, Conn Creek, and several early vintages of Phelps’ Insignia. Now owned by Chateau Latour, their love affair with Bordelais-style Cab continues, but the eastern sliver of the vineyard is planted to a particularly aromatic clone of Sauvignon Blanc called “Musqué”. Kim Crawford this is not. Crafted like a timeless White Bordeaux, the Musqué is blended with a small portion of regular Sauv Blanc and then aged in concrete and oak, making a viscous, layered brew of citrus and sunshine, with peach, pear, yuzu lime, beeswax and hazelnut surrounding the nose. Commanding and potent on the front but luscious and disarming on the finish. Wow. 97 points James Suckling, 96 points Vinous, 9 bottles available, $180.98 +tax 

Littorai Block E Wendling Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019, Anderson Valley. Littorai’s Ted Lemon was the first American winemaker to ever be trusted with the reins of a Burgundy house when he took over operations at Domaine Roulot in the early ‘80s, after stints at Dujac and Villaine. After returning home to make wine with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, he and his equally talented partner Heidi started Littorai, an immediately cult-ish Pinot and Chard house that nabbed Ted a Winemaker of the Year award (SF Cronicle) in 2010. The most northern and most coastal vineyard of the Anderson Valley AVA, the Wendling vineyard was planted with Ted and Heidi’s help so they got firsties in plot selection, and chose the steepest Block E for this amazing Pinot. Mineral chalk and white pepper notes undergird the classic candied blackberry and blueberry notes, with rose petals and mint riding a fountain of strawberry juice to a fresh, vibrant finish. 96+ points Vinous, 12 bottles available, $137.98 +tax 

Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs 2017, Dry Creek, Sonoma. The party wine for the well-informed, this blend of ¾ Zinfandel and ¼ Petit Sirah/Carignan harkens back to the freewheeling early days of California’s Wine Renaissance, when balance and poise was favoured over raw power. Cinnamon, violets and eucalypt surround the gorgeous red fruits and velvet delivery, medium-full bodied with a gently rustic vibe on mid-palate, finishing fresh and spicy with an elegant lift that Zin can’t always pull off. Tastes like more. 95 points The Tasting Panel, 24 bottles available, $80.98 +tax 



We talk a lot about Oregon Pinot Noir and rightly so: decades ago a bunch of hippies placed all of their chips on a fussy, invalid, thin-skinned grape that mutates if you look at it wrong and is susceptible to all kinds of environmental pressures, up to and including coarse language. It was a crazy, uninformed bet – and it worked. Oregon is Pinot and Pinot is Oregon, but the revelation that I’ve experienced this year is just how far the Chardonnay has come, even in just the last few years. Certain houses in the Willamette are making stunning, world class Chards with depth, power and tension, they are fresh and energetic completely on their own terms, nobody on the west coast is making Chards quite like these. Look, I’ll show you: 

Brittan Vineyards Chardonnay 2017, McMinnville. When I got the invitation to attend the Oregon/Washington Trade Tasting last week, I had an anxiety attack: do I remember how to go to these? There hasn’t been a tasting in almost 2 years, would I remember how to properly dress myself and open my eyes and speak English? Turns out yes, and despite getting lost in the Vancouver Club (I swear that place is Hogwarts – all the halls scramble every night) I had a delightful time and tried many great wines, but this Chardonnay from the esteemed Robert Brittan stole the whole show. Generous and mineral with lemon oil and pear strudel on the nose, leading towards the reactor core where its unexplained power and presence lights up the sky. Gorgeous 1-second bursts of mint, pear, jasmine and white pepper compete for attention; this complexity and depth is usually seen in modern Meursault or Chablis, often for at least twice the price. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 24 bottles available, $61.98 +tax 

Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Chardonnay 2016, Dundee Hills. If I told you how I got this, we would both have to go into hiding. Despite making their reputation on Pinot (I can’t get any, sorry) many years ago, Ken and Grace Evenstad have contemporarily become just as lauded for this iconic, striking Chardonnay, even though it accounts for a tiny sliver of their total production. A smoky, nutty vibe permeates the melon and peach notes on the nose, and the citrus elements continue through the palate, which is a perfect balance of both heft and zing. Slight tertiary notes of ginger and honey persist on the finish – we are in the optimal drinking window now, and will be for the next 6 years. Unless a local agency decides to import Serene again (no one does, currently), I don’t expect to see this again. 96 points Decanter, 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 5 6-packs arriving next week, $107.98 +tax 

Bethel Heights Casteel Estate Chardonnay 2017, Eola-Amity Hills. A regal, timeless Chardonnay, liquid evidence that oak and elegance are not enemies. Always a cuvee of the top barrels from their estate in Eola-Amity (one of a handful of Oregon’s pioneering vineyards), this full-malolactic rich feast still displays remarkable tension and lift, a result of being just east of the Van Duzer Corridor, which brings cooling Pacific breeze to this hotter, southern AVA. Baked apples and quince notes with whizz-bang menthol and apricot notes, a full body and a crisp finish that pops like a much lighter wine. 95 points Robert Parker, 94 points Wine Enthusiast, 94 points Jeb Dunnuck, 6 bottles available, $127.98 +tax 

Kelley Fox “Tir” Momtazi Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, McMinnville. One of the many apprentices of Eyrie Vineyards David Lett (the winery and wizard that put Oregon on the world’s Wine Map), Kelley Fox went and got a doctorate in biochemistry before returning to the Willamette to start this tiny winery with her dad Gus. From vineyard to bottling, Kelley does everything herself, but she won’t be doing it with fruit from Momtazi going forward as her lease ran out, making this 2016 the second last vintage of this outstanding, ethereal Pinot (only two cases came in, I took ‘em both). McMinnville can be a somber, dominating AVA (it often takes over any blend it’s in) but Kelley’s use of neutral barrels (4 of them) and 100% whole cluster pressing softens the attack, leaving bare the raw intensities of black raspberry, violet, tilled earth, rust and cocoa. Velvety layers of fine, integrated tannins deploy on palate and after, super seductive and complex. A rare find, mysterious and sexy. Not submitted for review. 2 6-packs available, $107.98 +tax 

Elk Cove La Bohème Pinot Noir 2018, Yamhill-Carlton. Arguably the highest vineyard in the Willamette and one of my very favourite Oregon wines, which made things awkward at that Oregon/Washington tasting when everyone tried it and fell in love with it but nobody could buy it because (pointing at me) that guy bought everything that came into BC. The Bohème Pinot is always a capital “P” Pretty wine, one of the most floral bouquets in the state, showing roses and violets over cherry cola and nutty vibes. The finish – surprisingly structured – acts more like Nebbiolo than Oregon Pinot, but altitude can increase the skin-to-juice ratio, and since this vineyard is higher than Snoop Dogg in the late afternoon, it makes sense. Fabulously delicious. Exclusive to Everything Wine River District. 18 bottles available, $76.98 +tax 



Force Majeure. With Red Mountain fruit and Bryant’s winemaker on board, there was little doubt as to what kind of stuff this micro-winery in Walla Walla would make. With a production so small that it’s only gettable by way of mailing list down south, Todd Alexander was the first to plant in the rocky, steep upper slopes of Red Mountain and his wines are accordingly born battle-hardened. These are deep and timeless wines of purpose, with Napa intensity and French structure. During the first months of the pandemic their BC importer trimmed off this winery from their portfolio to be cautious, but at my insistence the following wines were brought in again just for me: 

Force Majeure Estate Syrah 2018, Red Mountain. A feast for the nose, tongue and, almost, teeth. The small Viognier co-ferment brings out the blue hues and blue fruits that become black fruits as you swirl. A tryst of flowers, blackberries and meat, this glorious 2018 makes its peppery way from nose to palate almost begging you to chew on it but the rich, generous delivery sheds both bite and bark and gives way to layers of lavender and gravel, with present but restrained tannins. Exclusive to Everything Wine River District. 100 points Jeb Dunnuck, 95 points Wine Spectator, 12 bottles available, $162.98 +tax 

Force Majeure Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Red Mountain. The emblematic, dusty signature of Red Mountain Cab opens the door to a tight, Saint-Julien-ish minerality (“Liquid Rock” was how one reviewer put it) with plum and cassis stepping into baking spice and cedar notes over a man-camp-drum-circle of brawn and bravado. Wondrous but young, needs time. Exclusive to Everything Wine River District. 97 points Jeb Dunnuck, 95 points Wine Spectator, 6 bottles available, $215.98 +tax 

Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Columbia Valley. Washington’s most iconic Cabernet celebrated it’s 40th anniversary like I celebrate my birthdays now – by not telling anyone. Seriously, dudes, you put Washington on the map for premium Cab, drove credibility and investment into the state and cranked out the most stunning wine every year for 40 years… and you didn’t put any of that on the bottle? Were you worried about tarnishing your dinky Chateau de Strip-Mall label? Well, packaging aside, this 2018 carries the torch admirably: always a bit more expressive than most WA Cabs, boasting a cigar box full of both black and red fruits, with incense, gravel and lilac. The wine’s signature layers start at the front of the palate and continue back to forever. Impressive now, unstoppable in 10 years. Of of the Great American Wines. 100 points Decanter, 98 points Robert Parker, 98 points Jeb Dunnuck, 98 points Wine Enthusiast, 98 points James Suckling, 9 bottles available, $337.98 +tax 


And now for our surprise state: 



Caduceus Cellars / Merkin Vineyards. Returning to BC for the first time in 8 years (and perhaps the last - the winery’s pre-Covid policy was to never export). The fact that there is indeed a vibrant, if nascent, premium wine industry in Arizona is due in no small part to the continuing  efforts of Maynard James Keenan, whose work in the cellar and vineyards (documented in the film Blood Into Wine), not to mention his celebrity (he is the Grammy-winning singer of Tool and A Perfect Circle) brought attention and interest to the desert state, although grape vines had already been there for over a hundred years, in a certain form. 

Spanish Missionaries, needing wine for Sacrament, planted vines wherever they went and Arizona was no exception, but they planted vineyards in the hot, dry south near Tucson, where the wines could have a cooked quality. Keenan sought and planted vineyards in the higher-altitude northern area, just south of Sedona, where the diurnal shift was much more pronounced and vital acidity could be retained. He had moved to nearby Cornville so that his kids wouldn’t grow up in L.A. and was drawn to winemaking by the discovery of his own ancestry, descended as he was from a long line of northern Italian winemakers. He started out cautiously by blending Californian juice with Arizona grapes when he found the local supply wanting, but over 15+ years he made the requisite changes in the vineyards to allow him to present 100% Arizonian terroir. 

Look, I’m like you, and the idea of celebrity gimmick wines (Wayne Gretzky/Dan Aykroyd/Some Golfer Guy?!? That sounds delicious!) or athlete tax write-offs (Yao Ming’s Napa venture, although those wines were actually not bad) sends me running away in disgust. Caduceus Cellars is not one of those. It’s not a brand. M.J. Keenan is the winemaker and devotes his life to it – Tool went 13 years between 10,000 Days and Fear Innoculum, winemaking is pretty much all this guy does now, and his restless creativity – using grapes and methods largely unseen in Cali, Oregon or Washington – is consumed by viticulture and vinification. Caduceus gives us another legit square in the American Wine Quilt, which is why I’m excited to finally offer the following: 

Caduceus Cellars “Sancha” Tempranillo 2017, Yavapai County. The Sancha Tempranillo, modelled after wines from the Rioja Alta, is sourced from the Buhl Memorial vineyard, a south-facing bed of clay and limestone that sits at 4300ft, with a diurnal swing that can reach up to 50 degrees. The harsh conditions manage to wrest elegance out of Tempranillo, and the structured finish lifts everything up, like the red cherry, licorice, cinnamon and vanilla notes that float above the stones and tilled earth. Robustly bodied with a long, bracing coda, this Spanish grape is right at home in the desert. Wicked stuff. Not submitted for review, 3 cases available, $82.98 +tax 

Caduceus Cellars “Nagual de la Naga” Sangiovese 2017, Yavapai County. Unlike more restrained Tuscan wines, the Sangiovese from Keenan’s Eliphante block is a giant shining beam of red fruit with a body to match. Oaky cherry notes, tobacco and dried tomato pour forth with abandon, as the generous, plummy frame deploys new coats every few steps on the palate. Good acidity with green herbs on the finish. Not submitted for review, 12 bottles available, $82.98 

Caduceus Cellars “Primer Paso” 2017, Yavapai County. One of Keenan’s earliest bottlings (he used to add Cali Juice to this), Primer Paso has evolved to show the terroir of the Eliphante block and the 2017 is the first vintage entirely sourced from there. 80% Syrah with Garnacha and Petit Sirah rounding off, co-fermented with a smidge of Malvasia for colour stability and fresh vibes. Desert climes give the Syrah some smoky notes with orange peel and blackberry holding firm. This is the biggest beast in Keenan’s stable, corpulent and smooth with a dusty, herbal ending. Not submitted for review, 12 bottles available, $82.98 +tax 

Merkin Vineyards “Shinola” 2020, Yavapai County. Treating the Merkin label as his entry tier, Keenan does a rustic Italian blend of Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Dolcetto and Barbera with a smidge of Primitivo, all from the Buhl site. Aged in minimal neutral oak, this reminds me of the Tuscan table wines in every restaurant there, where you didn’t ask what it was because it was just good. Medium bodied with a fresh, citrusy acidity and mineral elements, with bright cherry, black pepper and a lot more complexity on palate than the nose suggests. Not submitted for review, 3 cases available, $44.98 +tax 

Merkin Vineyards “Shinola Orancia” 2020, Yavapai County. The Italian white grape Malvasia Bianca done with a measure of skin contact, but despite the name it’s not really all that orange, more of a deep gold. From the Buhl Memorial  vineyard, the grapes are fermented on skins for 10 days in stainless steel, and that process adds a complex, layered shape with a bit of astringency on the finish. Honeyed melon, honeysuckle and orange peel with citrus oil and lilac. Gorgeous and substantial. Not submitted for review, 3 cases available, $41.98 +tax 

That’s it! Thanks kindly for your time and attention. Rhône and Piedmont collections in the near future! 

Until next time, Happy Drinking! 


Postscript: If you’re feeling too amazing today and want to take things down a peg, I can send you the New York Times article about Napa upon which I based my preamble. Just ask. 

Toscanarama Part Three

Our third instalment in this year’s cavalcade of amazing Tuscan wines continues, focusing again on titanic examples of the best Brunello vintage since at least 2010: 


Conti Costanti 2016, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. One of the original founding estates of the Brunello appellation (along with Biondi Santi), Costanti holds down the Old Guard, building a statuesque, long-looking Brunello from high-altitude sites just below the mountain-top village. Orange zest and lavender are just some of the fresh high-tones that lift the sour cherry and candied raspberries before slowing down to the speed limit on the palate and the brisk, garrigue-inflected Mediterranean finish. Act One starts in 3 years, but oh, what a play that will be. Best Costanti that I can remember. 99 points Wine Enthusiast, 98 points Decanter, 97 points Wine Spectator, 5 6-packs available, $160.98 +tax 

Fuligni 2016, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. A stone’s throw from Costanti, Fuligni’s nose adds heat and spice to that highly situated style, showing kirsch and strawberry compote amongst the sanguineous plum and anise notes, coasting briskly over the palate before the law gets laid down with a traditionally tannic profile and a lifted, ferrous finish. Boasting a restored convent on the property, you wouldn’t plant anything but grapes on Maria Flora Fuligni’s 1450-ft high site, it’s basically bunch of rocks that produce small, angry bunches of Sangiovese, making a deliberate, inscrutable Brunello that needs a further two years for the finish to integrate. Once it does, it’ll show Fuligni’s perfect balance of elegance and power. 99 points Wine Enthusiast, 99 points Decanter, 98 points Vinous, 3 6-packs available, $145.99 +tax 

Poggio Landi 2016, Brunello di Montalcino 2016. The best value of the Brunello 2016s that I’ve come across thus far, Poggio Landi straddles the trad/modern divide, aging in French oak but keeping the elegance and soft power of the classic houses. Sourced from vineyards in the north of the appellation, including the mighty Montosoli, this 2016 is a balance of fruit and savoury elements: black pepper and licorice mix with dried cherry, cedar and pine notes, before tomato leaf and blackberry zing across the palate and long floral finish. Medium-bodied with considerable intensity and a great future, the fruit presence is fantastic now but (broken record) I’d like the finish to poke out a little less – a two years nap should do the trick. 97 points Wine Spectator, 10 6-packs available, $77.98 +tax 

Canalicchio di Sopra 2016, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. Situated on the steep northeast side of the mountain in what’s now a Unesco Heritage site, Canalicchio di Sopra blends their Brunello from their home site and the Montosoli cru, mixing a classic delivery with bright freshness and slightly earlier accessibility. Lilac and soft balsamic notes lift the cherries and licorice above a ferrous, citrus-laced frame, hints of sweet spice along the palate and one of the longest finishes of the appellation. Still needs a nap but showing great early promise. 97 points Wine Enthusiast, 4 6-packs available, $106.98 +tax 

Canalicchio di Sopra La Casaccia 2016, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. Only the second vintage produced from the Casaccia plot in the home vineyard, a two-hectare site with an unusually high level of minerals in its clay soils. I can year you saying “two hectares?!? How much wine can you squeeze out of that?”. The answer is surprisingly specific: 4,133 bottles, and I have 6 of ‘em. The most idiosyncratic plot in Canalicchio do Sopra’s oeuvre, Casaccia unsurprisingly shines with minerality and saline notes before the army of flowers invades: smoke-tinged jasmine and violets precede lovely cherry, pine and citrus aromas. Finishes long and herbal, with even more minerals. 98 points Vinous, 97 points Decanter, two wooden 3-packs available, $222.98 +tax 

PRE-ORDER: Le Chiuse 2016, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. Just clearing customs now, will be in store in a couple weeks.  Although no one officially crowns a “Wine Of The Vintage” in Montalcino, let me put it this way: can you name a better candidate than Le Chiuse? This timeless Brunello that was cleaved from Biondi Santi as dowry (it used to be Biondi’s reserve vineyard) has fully met its moment in 2016 – two perfect scores, and although it isn’t officially released yet, Wine Enthusiast let the winery know that this 2016 Brunello placed #2 on their year-end Top 100 Cellar Selections list. Electric red fruit with savoury green herbs, orange peel with crushed rocks, sour cherry with topsoil, the supple palate is upstaged, currently, by a rigid frame, but that should begin to soften by 2024. Years from now, we’ll remember that 2016 was the vintage that vaulted Le Chiuse into the elite echelon of Brunello producers, joining the benchmark houses that define the genre. No way it stays this price. 100 points Jeb Dunnuck, 100 points Wine Enthusiast, 98 points Wine Spectator – 20 6-packs available for pre-order - $151.98 +tax 

Biondi Santi 2012, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. The grand-daddy of them all in a new release (they hold back for bottle-aging longer than most). The 2012 finds lots of graphite and blood orange amongst the characteristic herbed cherries, with soft currant and tea notes building before the austere finish returns to Biondi Santi’s natural lack of youthful charisma. Some reviewers suggest that the window on this 2012 is already open, but those people must enjoy getting slapped. As it has always been, Biondi Santi is a time capsule and must be aged accordingly; this will be singing in another 6 years but it’s currently growling. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, $263.98 +tax 



Istine Vigna Cavarchione 2018, Chianti Classico DOCG. Although old-vine vineyards are never a risky bet, sometimes a young ingenue can turn heads and sing new tunes: the Caverchione vineyard isn’t even a decade old yet, and it’s already producing stunning Sangiovese with energy and precision. The Fronti family spent decades planning and managing vineyards for Chianti’s elite houses, but never making wine themselves until Angela Fronti convinced her dad that their talents should stay in house, and the Istine label launched in 2009. Built upon the family’s uncanny knack for identifying the best plots, Istine makes several crus but the Cavarchione site has stood out for its brawn and depth: this is a big, complicated Chianti Classico, with layers upon layers of plum, orange peel, cherry and stone drawing you into the glass. Finishes like a laser despite its weight, outstanding stuff now, and it’ll be fascinating to watch what this vineyard gives us going forward. 96 points Vinous, 3 6-packs available, $66.98 +tax 

Terralsole “Trio” 2008, Toscana IGT. Although made by a famous Brunello house within the boundaries of the Montalcino appellation, I can’t put Trio in the “Brunello” category as it’s a blend of French grapes created initially to piss off Mario Bollag’s dinner guests. While most Tuscan producers experiment with international grapes here and there, Terralsole’s Mario found himself hosting several snotty neighbours - Brunello winemakers who were taking turns throwing shade on those non-traditional wines over dinner. When asked to sample them on his recent Brunellos in barrel, Mario descended resentfully into his cellar clutching a decanter, which he then filled with equal parts Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Merlot. He served the ad-hoc jungle juice to his guests, gleefully expecting to revel in their disgust, but was thrown by what happened next: they loved it. Then he tried it. Turns out that Mario had haphazardly created an amazing Supertuscan: lovely dark berries with toasty oak notes and tertiary notes of leather and dried currants (he holds these back longer than his Brunellos because I don’t know why). Smooth as silk and richly textured, I wish I made accidents like this. Not Rated. 2 6-packs available, $58.98 +tax 



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. 

Buon Tempo 2010, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. 12 bottles available, $89.98 +tax 

Casanova di Neri 2016 (I got more!) Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. 95 points Wine Spectator, 12 bottles available, $105.99 +tax 

Il Paradiso di Manfredi 2013, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. 97 points Wine Enthusiast, 12 bottles available, $207.98 +tax 

Arcanum 2015, Toscana IGT. 97 points Robert Parker, 18 bottles available, $108.98 +tax 

Le Macchiole “Paleo Rosso” 2016, Toscana IGT. 97 points Robert Parker, 97 points Wine Enthusiast, 1 6-pack available, $170.98 +tax 

Tolaini “Legit” 2016, Toscana IGT. (it’s back and it’s on sale!) #13 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2020, 95 points Wine Spectator, 4 cases (12) available, reg price $64.99, SALE PRICE $59.99 +tax 

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