1988 & 1997

I recently had the great pleasure of enjoying a meal with some good friends.  One of whom was a former team member of our Blackcomb Liquor Store & Fitzsimmons Pub family, returned to BC from Australia for a short vacation.  As a wine enthusiast, any excuse will do to fetch something from the cellar and this being such an occasion I felt obliged to pull out some fun and interesting wine.  Dining on rib-eye steaks, grilled to perfection, broccoli sautéed with pumpkin seeds, and baby potatoes, we enjoyed a very pleasant evening together.  Here are two of the accompanying wines which provide an interesting comparison to each other both in terms of vintage and region.  (Both of these wines were gently decanted approximately 5 hours prior to drinking.)

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou Saint-Julien 1988

A wonderful example of how interesting aged Bordeauxcan be.  The deep ruby colour showed some age as it was starting to fade to a ruddy, brick tone.  The aromas were layered and also showing maturity with dried leafy floral notes, classic hints of cedar bark, graphite minerality, subtle hints of leather, dusty earth, some savoury spice notes, clay, and dried currant and raspberry fruit.  The palate was dry with balanced acid and softening tannic structure, and medium to medium-full body.  The delicate flavours of leathery cassis and slightly raisiny red berry carried through with hints of dried violets, green peppercorn, and licorice.  Polished and balanced through the persistent finish.  Quite elegant overall, still drinking well, excellent with the meat.

Kendall Jackson ‘Great Estates’ NapaValley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

A slight surprise here with a display of more elegance than I had suspected, for such a big vintage.  Fairly dense purple colour with some ruddy ruby creeping in around the edges.  The nose was moderately youthful with some developing character showing fruit dominant notes of cassis, sun dried cherry, toasty vanilla, subtle wood spice and a slightly nutty cocoa hint.  The palate was dry, with balanced structure and just a slightly warmer alcohol feel than the Bordeaux.  Medium full bodied with stewed red and black fruits, hints of cassis cordial, toast and slightly sweet nutty spice notes.  Long finish with a warm lingering note.  Overall well balanced, and maturing well with a core of focused fruit, paired well with meat, offers more fruity drinking pleasure on its own.

Have a delicious and happy Thanksgiving!

Grgich Hills

I recently had the pleasure of meeting and tasting with John Corcoran from Grgich Hills Estate winery, a winery I have not tasted in a few years, and I was very pleased at the outcome.  Grgich Hills is located in Rutherford in California’s NapaValley; and was founded in 1977; one year after winemaker Mike Grgich won the infamous Paris tasting with his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.  They are currently self-proclaimed stewards of the land, and since 2003 produce wines grown exclusively in their own estates.  The estate vineyards are certified organic and Bio dynamic, and they operate the winery on solar power.

The wines of Grgich Hills are obviously from California, yet they maintain an interesting, somewhat ‘old world’ style.  Limited use of oak, elegant fruit profiles, and consistent acidity and structure all add to the quality, and the expression of the terroir or sense of place.  I tasted the Fume Blanc, two vintages of Chardonnay, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and their Yountville Selection Cabernet Sauvignon.  My impressions are as follows.


Fume Blanc 2010: delicate youthful aromas of lemongrass, hints of under-ripe melon, slight citrus and green apple notes.  The palate is dry, with very crisp acidity and light bodied white citrus, spicy minerality, and grassy notes with a juicy finish.  A great wine for light seafood, shellfish or anything with lots of chevre on it.

Chardonnay 2009: mild, youthful bouquet of vanilla, floral, leesy spice notes, with subtle hints of toast, ripe citrus and orchard fruits.  The palate is dry, with juicy acidity, medium weight with a slight rich feel.  Flavours of citrus, green apple, lees notes, light oak, and a lemony finish make it a match for Brie cheese, pasta in cream sauce, or crab legs and garlic butter.

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008: moderate, youthful aromas offer red and black currant, cherry, light sweet oak, licorice, cedar, and delicate leafy notes.  It is dry on the palate with moderate balanced structure, juicy acidity, ripe black cherry, cassis, tangy prune and cocoa flavours with a slight toast in the finish. Enjoy with a grilled steak or rack of lamb.

Yountville Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2007: produced in very small quantities, this offers a full nose of youthful sweet hay, toast, prune plum, cassis, savoury sweet pepper, tobacco and delicate woodspice.  Dry and full bodied, with a ripe upfront fruit note.  The balanced elegant structure, slight grip to the tannins, and chocolate, cherry, cassis, violets, prunes and spice lead into a lingering finish.  A match for prime rib, osso bucco, or roasted game.


Michael Kompass

SAVVY SIPPING — SNAP Sea To Sky September 2010 edition

“The Virtue of Patience”

We recently took a trip to visit old friends of ours in Kelowna; friends who have a swimming pool; definitely the highlight of the trip for our 2 year old daughter! So as Scarlett started by easing her way into the water, (first sitting on the edge, then working her way to jumping in with hands held, and by the third day running headlong off the edge and splashing into the arms of whichever adult happened to be in the water at the time), we made a pact with our generous hosts to drink only good wine during the visit. It was a vintage evening, with perfectly prepared food I sadly do not have time to delve into, but the wines ranging in age from 6 to 11 years, were superb.

The Starter Shafer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999: still inky dark in the centre of the glass yet showing its age around the edge where the purple fades to a ruddy reddish tone. The nose offering dried cassis, prune plums, cocoa and earthy cigar box aromas. The palate is still well structured with the tannins softening in their age yet still supportive of the sweet leathery fruit, black liquorice, and nearly nutty oak character, with a warm and persistent finish.

The Head to Head Mission Hill Family Estate Oculus 2003 vs. Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2003. Both from the same year, both produced with similar grape varieties, of course sharing several similarities, yet maintaining distinctly different characteristics. Each wine was starting to show the ruddy fade of colour, each wine offering more mature notes on the nose and palate. The Oculus with a more modern style overall had a bit brighter fruit character with kirsch, baked cherry, woodspice notes, and softer tannins, while the Osoyoos Larose was a more true throwback to the Bordelaise with a dense structure, and notes of raisiny cassis, violet and earthy dried pepper. Both wines complemented the lamb magnificently.

The Surprise Foxtrot Vineyards Pinot Noir 2004: the inaugural vintage of this highly esteemed vineyard, who for several years produced grapes for other wineries and now have created a cult following for their exquisite Pinot. Still fairly youthful in character this medium bodied wine maintains a wonderful freshness to its acidity and red dominant fruit character layered with notes of crushed strawberries, dried leaves, game, and a delicate clove like spice. Wonderfully balanced with a lingering finish, this wine will continue to develop over time.

The Closer Woodward Canyon Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 2002: a perennial standout produced from the oldest Cabernet vines in Washington state. A beautifully balanced wine from start to finish, slightly red-brick in colour with flavours and aromas of crushed violets, dried black cherries, cassis, dusty packed earth, and old cedar, Wonderfully integrated spicy oak and a very long elegant finish – an incredible wine with a little more longevity to it as well.

So just as Scarlett was rewarded with taking her time as she ventured more and more boldly into the pool, so too were we rewarded with the virtue of patience and time with truly memorable vintage wines. The moral of the story: take your time, and life is too short to drink bad wine.


Michael Kompass