Sunday, April 17, 2016

Celebrate World Malbec Day Today - Sunday April 17-2016 - with a great Malbec!

Today is World Malbec Day - and a worthy event worth celebrating with a bottle of great wine - from the Malbec grape!

Malbec can be found most notably in Argentina and France, where it is used as a 100% varietal and also blended with other grapes.

Malbec is often referred to as a perfect "steak wine" - but even vegetarians can fully enjoy it's juicy, chocolatey, full dark red fruit flavours with all sorts of meals.

One of the great things about Malbec is that it is very tasty at just about every price point - a lower cost Malbec is usually the best bet over other grapes and in the mid range it is magnificent.

Here's a few Malbec suggestions for today at various prices from two of my favourite wineries - and believe me, if you splurge, you will thank me for the excellent idea!

These Malbecs are available in British Columbia, with links to info - and beyond but seriously, you can't go wrong with Malbec!

Bramare from a previous vintage.
The Catena Mendoza High Mountain Vines is one of the staples of Malbec in BC and all over the world - always a great value and vintage after vintage - the current 2013 is widely available in BC Liquor Stores on sale for $20.49 right now and also found in many private stores.

Even less is the Vina Cobos Felino 2014 - on sale for only $17.49 and a real bargain at that price

If you want a special Sunday dinner treat - try one of these two:

Vina Cobos Bramare Lujan de Cuyo 2012 - $39.00 plus tax at BC Government Liquor Stores.  

This is a killer wine developed by Paul Hobbs - everything Vina Cobos does is awesome in my book.  Silky, smoky layers of black cherry and chocolate - mmmmm! Robert Parker rates it a 91 point wine.

Another awesome alternate is the Catena Zapata Catena Alta 2011 - on sale at Liquor Stores for $45.99 plus tax till April 30 - also delicious.

Always open to more suggestions - post your favourite Malbec here!


Friday, February 26, 2016

Wine Barbarian UPDATED Quick Picks for the Vancouver International Wine Festival - great Italian wines and more!

Barone Francesco Ricasoli and Wine Barbarian Bill Tieleman!
If you are going to the Vancouver International Wine Festival tonight - Friday - or Saturday at 7 p.m. or Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. you are a lucky person indeed - because not only is Italy rocking the place with fantastic wines but so are the other countries in the tasting room!

If you don't have tickets the bad news is both nights are sold out - the good news is that a limited number of tickets are made available in person only at 6 p.m. each night for the evening's tasting - worth a try.

And if you get in, I'm going to help out - by giving you my Quick Picks of some the many great wines being poured in the International Tasting 

I have been attending several events - including 1,000 Years of Tuscany with the charming Barone Francesco Ricasoli showing his marvellous wines going back to some 1997s - and was at Thursday's tasting working hard to do research for you!

Let's start with the regional focus - Italy.  And as with all tables - it's polite to try all 4 wines available but these are the ones I particularly liked:

Ricasoli - The Barone is pouring - himself - some of their fine Ricasoli wines - try in particular the marvellous Colledila 2011- a Gran Selezione Chianti Classico full of black cherry goodness.  I tried the 2010 and the 2011 - which is in the tasting room - both excellent.

Castello di Gabbiano winemaker Frederico Cerelli & Bill Tieleman
Castello di Gabbiano - Winemaker Frederico Cerelli is here and I enjoyed a fantastic dinner sitting next to him at Mark Taylor's Siena with some fabulous Tuscan wines.

I would recommend highly their Alleanza IGT 2010 - a SuperTuscan blend of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Merlot - outstanding!

Rocca delle Macie - I also had the pleasure of attending a dinner as well as a vertical tasting of Roccato wines with owner Sergio Zingarelli - and he too is very charming!  

I have been drinking Roccato - a blend of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon - since their 2003 vintage - and it is simply delicious year after year!  The Roccato 2010 is being poured at the Festival and the 2009 - which I love - is still available in BC Liquor Stores - both are beauties!

San Polino - These are astonishing wines - not simply because they are all Brunello di Montalcino wines, not only because they are stunning but also because they are very expensive to be pouring - from $105 to $135 a bottle!  

All great but I particularly enjoyed the Helishrysum Brunello 2009 - really amazing.

Sergio Zingarelli of Rocca delle Macie with Iain Philip
San Felice - Another Tuscan winery with top notch wines at the table!  I especially liked the Il Grigio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2011 - wow!  And for $44.

Tenute Sette Ponti/Feudo Maccari - Yes, I didn't get out of Tuscany for the most part but it is such a great wine region.  Their Crognolo has been a staple wine for me for many vintages - buy some - but their Tenute Sette Ponti Oreno IGT 2013 was a revelation!  Yes, it costs $86 - over double the Crognolo - but what a wonderful wine.  Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot - all Bordeaux grapes - grown in Tuscany.  Smooth, big and velvety goodness!

I am running out of time and space - but in the Italian section don't miss Damiliano for their Barolos - Argentiera for their SuperTuscan Bolhgheri Superiore 2012 - Argiano for their Solango IGT Toscana 2012 and Brunello DOCG 2011- and Biondi Santi for their Braccale IGT Rosso Toscana 2011 - a $37 bargain!

Also Allegrini and Vieti and Cesari - but there's so much more I haven't yet tasted!

Leaving Italy, reluctantly, there are lots of other great wines from other countries represented.

Australia - Always so very impressive is Inland Trading Co., with managing director and Festival regular Greg Corra - a lot of fun to talk with every year!  Their lineup is magnificent throughout but don't miss the Kay Brothers Block 6 Shiraz 2012 - absolutely stunning wine!

New Zealand - Another great guy to talk about his great wines is Jim Robertson at Stoneleigh - a regular visitor to Vancouver - pouring two Sauvignon Blancs and two Pinot Noirs from one of my favourite wine regions.  I really loved the Rapaura Pinot Noir 2014 - and for $32 it's a bargain.

Canada - There are just loads of great BC wineries in attendance - how to choose?  But I will based on my limited time tasting - Painted Rock is marvellous - visited them in Penticton this summer too - try the Red Icon 2013 flagship.  

Osoyoos Larose - three vintages of Le Grand Vin to choose from - all fabulous!

Mission Hill - See my friend Ingo Grady there and taste their new Terroir Collection - an exciting new line of wonderful wines!

France - Famille Perrin - always great wines from top to bottom but I adore Beaucastel Chateauneuf-Du-Pape - a 2012 is being poured by Thomas Perrin - a charming fellow.

Laurent-Perrier - the only Champagne in the room and one of the best!  All beauties and pricey but none more than the Grand Siecle NV at $173 a bottle - mmmm!

Croatia - yes, from the Dalmatia region Stina returns to Vancouver with some amazing wines you've never heard of or tasted - till today!  I enjoyed their offerings last year and it's a great chance to try their reds and whites - all priced in the $40-$60 range.  Stina means "white stone" in Croatian and their labels are stunning.

That's all for now but watch for Tweets - @BillTieleman - and updates as best I can between glasses!


Friday, February 5, 2016

Vancouver International Wine Festival 2016 events selling out fast - don't delay - get tickets today!

You don't have to be a wine snob to enjoy the VIWF!
Book tickets now or you won't be there to enjoy great wines!

It may be the news you don't want to hear - but tickets for 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival events are selling out quickly!

Already not available are:

Saturday February 28's evening International Festival Tasting - sold out

Dine Italia at La Terrazza  - sold out

50 Years of Campofiorin at Glowbal  - sold out

Under The Tuscan Sun at Siena  - sold out

California Cruisin' - sold out

And many more events are down to just a few tickets - so get your credit card out, go to your computer and book now - don't be disappointed, because this will be a great Festival and these special tastings are truly unique!

I hope to see you there!


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

It's Vancouver International Wine Festival time again - tickets on sale starting Tuesday January 12 at 9:30 a.m. for the best wine event of the year, featuring Italy in 2016!

Wine Barbarian Bill Tieleman on left with legendary Joel Peterson of Ravenswood at VIWF 2015

It's Vancouver International Wine Festival time again - and tickets for the February 20 to 28, 2016 edition go on sale for all events on Tuesday January 12 at 9:30 a.m.

This year the VIWF is featuring Italy as the focus country - and that means every event will likely sell out - especially the fabulous wine dinners and special seminars.

Tickets for the International Festival Tastings are already on sale - and early bird tickets are sold out - for the big evening tastings on Thursday February 26, Friday February 27 and Saturday February 28.  So don't delay - these extremely popular events are in high demand every year and Saturday will be sold out soon based on previous Festivals.

Friday and Saturday evening tickets are $95 while Thursday is $89 - a slight discount for the weeknight - and one I always attend because it's a bit less crowded.

A welcome recent addition is the Saturday matinee - an afternoon edition of the International Festival tasting from 2:30 to 5 pm for a bargain price of $75.

What events to attend?  As many as possible in the short time available is my best advice. 

Take a look at the full VIWF brochure online to see all the events and much more information. 

But some are clearly exceptional and not to be missed - like Italy and Beyond dinner at Cioppino's with wines from Biondi Santi, Pio Cesari and more matched by acclaimed chef/owner Pino Posteraro's culinary masterpieces or the La Vita Ruffino dinner at CinCin - featuring great Italian foods and wines.

Sell-out seminars will surely include Tuscan Trailblazers on Wednesday Feb 25 with two of the most famous wines of the Antinori family - Tignanello and Guado al Tasso - in a vertical tasting of the two SuperTuscan classics - wow! 

Tignanello - one of Antinori's killer SuperTuscan wines

Also sure to be fully subscribed is 1,000 Years of Tuscany with Barone Francesco Ricasoli of the famous wine family in attendance, featuring Chianti Classico wines and Amaronely: Only Amarone on Thursday Feb. 26 for $85 featuring fabulous Amarone wines from Valpolicelli.

Please be assured that Italy is not the only country with wines at the Festival - in fact, there are over 1450 wines from 14 countries and 155 wineries participating over the eight-day event - France, Spain, Australia, Canada, the U.S., Portugal, Germany, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Greece, Japan and even Croatia are represented in addition to Italy!

There are so many other events to choose from and you simply can't go wrong with any of them - unless you procrastinate on buying your tickets - so remember that they go on sale Tuesday January 12 at 9:30 a.m. and many will sell out that very day!

Rock star wine maker Charles Smith of Walla Walla poses at 2015 VIWF
The VIWF is also a unique opportunity to meet winemakers, owners or principal staff of every winery at the event - it's a requirement - and that means you can meet legendary figures in the wine world, as I did with "Godfather of Zinfandel" Joel Peterson of Ravenswood Winery last Festival or Charles Smith of Walla Walla's great K Vintners and Charles Smith Wines - one of the wine world's rock stars.

Be sure to follow #VIWF on Twitter for updates from the Festival and wine writers and collectors - lots of good tips there.  

And watch this space closer to the Festival and during it for my recommended wines to taste!

Cheers and see you at the VIWF! 


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Wonderful Top 100 Wines from 2015 - all available in BC and under $40

In November the Wine Spectator magazine came out with its annual Top 100 Wines of 2015 - it's ranking of great wines that are high scoring but also not ridiculously high priced or completely impossible to find.
Porca de Murca

And several of them are available in BC Liquor Stores and private wine stores, as well as in other Canadian jurisdictions.  

But it you want them, move fast - there is limited availability and wine guys like me have already taken some of them off the shelves days after the Top 100 was announced.

Top of the list for great value is the Porca de Murca 2013 - a red from Real Companhia Velha in Douro, Portugal - rated 90 points by the Wine Spectator  and ranked #39 of the Top 100.  It is priced in BC Liquor Stores for just $12.99 plus taxes!  And there are over 1,000 bottles across BC - and the winery bottled an astonishing 250,000 - so more may become available here.

This is just an amazing value for a medium weight, delicious wine with red berry, plum, pepper and slate notes, made from classic Portuguese grapes like touriga nacional and tinta roriz but no oak aging.   

This should be your house wine for many months to come.

Next up - a really great wine for your steak, lamb or grilled meat - or hearty vegetarian  alternatives - the Viña Carmen Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Alto Gran Reserva 2012 from Chile - #32 on the Top 100 with a score of 91 points and priced at just $19.79 plus taxes at BC Liquor Stores.
Vina Carmen Gran Reserva

This is a classic Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, with lots of blackberry, currants, leather and cedar notes.  The wine is 94% Cab Sauv with 3% Carmenere and 3% Petit Verdot to round it out.  

Simply delicious now and it will drink well through 2019.

White wines are a bit harder to come by on the Top 100 and this next one is always a great bottle - but it may be difficult to track down this vintage.

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from New Zealand is ranked at #21 of the Top 100 and scored at an impressive 93 points - it sells for $31.99 at BC Liquor Stores, where some of the 2014 bottles are still around but quickly being replaced by the 2015.

Having tasted this wine, I would definitely urge you to hurry and try several stores, because it is remarkable!

Cloudy Bay 2014
Cloudy Bay put New Zealand and its Marlborough region on the world wine map many years ago and you can see why with just one sip - an explosive, beautiful grapefruit, lemon, lime, ginger combination that is a revelation to the tongue!

The only good news about the short supply is that Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is rarely not scored 90 or higher, so the 2015 vintage will almost surely be another winner.

One more from the Top 100 not to be missed is the Arcanum Toscano Il Fauno 2010 from Italy - scored at 92 points and ranked #55.

This is an interesting wine because it's a Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot - none of which is native to Tuscany - but man does it grow well there!

The Il Fauno 2010 is a little higher priced at $37.99 a bottle at BC Liquor Stores but I highly recommend trying it - and there are hundreds in stock.

Loads of cherry fruit with some tobacco and cedar - a really wonderful wine that can be enjoyed now or aged up to another 10 years.  
Il Fauno
It would be interesting to blind taste it up against some similar priced 2010 Bordeaux wines from France for a comparison - don't bet against it!

There are a few other Top 100 wines on BC Liquor Stores' shelves and I believe others will appear there in the months ahead, as we are sometimes behind the distribution curve compared to the United States - so keep your eyes open and check back here for more tips!


Fantastic Faustino! 97-point rated Spanish Rioja available in BC at bargain price!

It's not everyday you can taste what esteemed experts believe is a near perfect wine - one with a 97 point score out of a possible 100.

And it's almost never that you can do that in British Columbia for less than hundreds or thousands of dollars for that bottle of liquid luxury.  Or buy a wine on the shelf in 2016 that is 15 years old!
Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001 Rioja

So when Britain's The Decanter wine magazine scored the 2001 Faustino I Gran Reserva from Spain's Rioja wine region at 97 points, lauded it as the best of its Top 50 Wines of 2013 and had Master of Wine Pedro Ballesteros give it a perfect score - this wine became one of the most sought after in the world.

And lucky us - BC Liquor Stores have over 100 bottles still available in 23 stores across the province, including three in Vancouver - for the amazing price of $35.99 plus taxes!

Needless to say, I already bought and tasted some of this great wine - it deserves all the accolades.

Leather, game, tobacco, dark cherry - you will taste them all in this wine, which is drinking beautifully now but also could last several more years to come - if you can hold out.

That said, not everyone ranked the Faustino I as highly as The Decanter.  The Wine Spectator gave it a surprisingly low 89 points and Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate 88 points - but that's the way wine works.

I'm with The Decanter on this and its three experts who rated the Faustino I as so impressive.

But one thing is clear - you can afford to find out for yourself if you hurry - and at that price you will not be disappointed in the least!  


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Why BC Will Pay More for Less Liquor Choice - And The Double Price BC Charges For One California Wine

BC Liquor Stores - $42.90 + TAX = $49.44 CDN price

San Francisco corner store - $17.99 US or $24.06 CDN price
Local wineries could face supermarket squeeze while consumers swallow the cost.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column 

Tuesday December 1, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

"I've seen the future, I can't afford it." 

ABC, "How to Be a Millionaire," 1985

The future is indeed unaffordable for wine, beer and spirits drinkers in British Columbia, because what are already the highest prices in North America are doomed to rise even more while B.C. wines get squeezed off the shelves.

Why? Government policy of course.

The BC Liberals are creating a brave new world of increasingly pricey alcoholic beverages under the guise of "convenience."

But B.C. liquor prices are already far too expensive -- take the example of just one bottle of wine that costs double here what you can buy it for in California.

In San Francisco in August in a nondescript corner store on Haight Street, I bought a bottle of excellent Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for US$17.99. In Canadian dollars that's $24.06.

In BC Liquor Stores, the regular price is $42.90 -- plus 10 cent deposit, 10 per cent PST and five per cent GST adding $6.44 for a final price of $49.44!

The B.C. price is $25.38 more -- over twice the San Francisco price -- for the same wine.

And while that Beringer wine costs more in Quebec than San Francisco, at $37.25 including taxes -- it's still $12.19 cheaper than in B.C. And in Ontario it's $39.95 or $9.49 cheaper.

And it's not just because Beringer make their wine in California. Across the country there's Allendale Wine Shoppe in New Jersey, where you get a bottle of the exact same wine for US$18.90 plus taxes of US$1.32 for a total of just US$20.22 -- or CDN$27.04.

To add insult to injury, the BC Liquor Stores website notes that it has sold Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon since 1989, when the price was CDN$21.70.

That means the San Francisco wine price in August 2015 was only CDN$2.36 a bottle more than in B.C. a stunning 26 years ago in 1989.

Small winery squeeze?

The Beringer price isn't necessarily the model for all B.C. wine pricing over the past two and a half decades -- but it isn't unique either.

And as bad as that is, things will soon get far worse.

That's because B.C. is starting to sell wine in supermarkets and in every jurisdiction in the world, once that starts, those stores dominate the market and crush smaller competitors.

The only ones to benefit will be supermarket owners -- not cold beer and wine stores, not independent wine outlets, not government liquor stores, not corner groceries and most of all, definitely not consumers -- who will pay more and have less choices.

In Australia, a new report says just two supermarket chains account for 70 per cent of all wine sales.

New Zealand grocery giants similarly went from no share of the wine market in the 1980s to nearly 70 per cent in a very short period of time, according to one B.C. lawyer.

And despite B.C.'s stated intention to only allow provincial wines to be sold in supermarkets, California, Chile and the European Union have all said the rules violate international trade agreements -- in other words, the world's wines, not just those from B.C., will no doubt end up in supermarkets.

That will mean small B.C. wineries with higher production costs than giant corporate brands like Yellow Tail or Gallo will get squeezed out of both sales and shelf space.

"Go down a grocery aisle to the ketchup section. What do you see there? Heinz, dominating the shelves," said Kim Pullan of Church and State winery in August. "I see the same thing happening to B.C. wine."

The bad, ugly and 'on sale'

Consumers might potentially benefit from free enterprise competition driving prices down but not here -- because the BC Liberals aren't opening the market up -- they're instead managing it to help bigger businesses take more market share without competing on price.

And the government will maintain it's huge revenue stream from overtaxing alcohol.

It's a bleak situation for those who drink wine, beer and spirits and those brave souls who produce it here in B.C.

But not according to Premier Christy Clark's deputy chief of staff, Michele Cadario.

"You can bet that this government will fight very strongly for this industry and we would never do anything that would unnecessarily jeopardize it," Cadario told a gathering of winery and liquor store owners in Penticton in October without a hint of irony.

"For the premier and this government, the B.C. wine industry is hugely important," Cadario told an event organized by the BC Alliance for Smart Liquor Retail Choices. "We know how jobs are tied to this and we know how passionately the wine industry really feel."

It is tempting to see how the government really feels about B.C. wineries by filing a freedom-of-information request for all Cadario's communications on the subject -- but that would be a waste of time -- because Cadario has been cited by the Information and Privacy Commissioner for deleting virtually all her emails.

The government does have its defenders. The BC Wine Institute says the move to place only B.C. wines in grocery shelves is "dramatically changing the business outlook for the better" and claims it will not negatively impact public or private stores.

That's highly unlikely. Both the Alliance and the BC Government and Service Employees Union called in late September for a six-month moratorium on issuing new supermarket wine licenses -- to no avail.

The only tiny bit of good news? If you really still want that Beringer, it's on sale for $4 off in B.C. till Jan. 2 -- for "just" $38.90 plus tax.


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