Anthony Gismondi: B.C.’s finest labels combined complexity along with a delicious drinking factor

Anthony Gismondi continues to be impressed with B.C. wines as they show more sophistication and depth as the years fly by

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The 2021 harvest is quickly winding down across British Columbia wine country, and for the most part, winemakers appear to be happy with the quality of the crop.


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However, yields per vine and tonnage are down. Some of the figures being bandied about suggest the heat dome and drought have shortened the crop from 10 to 30 per cent for many but not all growers. But, again, the shortages are specific to some but not all regions.

A shortage of grapes has been ongoing across the province, which can only mean higher prices for consumers already paying through the nose for local wine. In addition, smoke taint has reduced the supply of 2018 reds, adding to the shortage and suggesting prices will remain firm throughout 2022.

Pricing aside, B.C. continues to impress this writer, showing more sophistication and depth as the years fly by. It may not sound like much to everyday drinkers but to those who benchmark wine against the rest of the global wine market, complexity is the final step in the maturation of B.C. wine and perhaps the most necessary to justify its price.


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Describing complexity is not easy, but you could start with noting the many things in the wine that are not necessarily connected to its primary fruit. This week we look at some of the finest labels currently released in B.C. — all exhibit what I like to think is complexity along with a delicious drinking factor. Many are only available at the winery, although a surprising number come and go from Save-on-Foods shelves. Top red wine vintages include 2016, 2017 and 2019.

Alphabetically we begin with:

Corcelettes Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah Menhir 2017 ($39.99)

The original “Menhir” of Corcelettes, Switzerland, stands tall and proud near the castle where the Baessler family originates. The latest Menhir offering is a serious 57/43 Similkameen Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah mix that takes you to Oz.


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Culmina Family Estate Hypothesis 2016 ($46)

Roasted meats, toasted cedar, blackcurrants, ripe plum, black cherry compote make up the flavours of this young red wine destined to age effortlessly into the ate 20s — a wine for cool fall days.

Dirty Laundry Vineyard Kay’s Syrah 2018 ($29.99)

Aromatic violets and a peppery undertone present an expansive, lush textured Syrah full of blackberry jam, cassis and smoked meat flavours.

Lake Breeze 2019 Merlot ($28)

Owner Drew McIntrye is a huge fan of Merlot, and all the work being done on his signature MacIntyre Ardua Merlot is trickling down to the Lake Breeze version.

Mount Boucherie Reserve Syrah 2018 ($44.99)

An impressive mix of fruit from the Similkameen and the Golden Mile Bench yields a sleek, powerful, juicy, black cherry red wine.


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Mission Hill Quatrain 2017 ($79.99)

Upping the Syrah content has given Quatrain more purpose, as shown by this spicy, aromatic, rich, black fruit red with light meaty undercurrents.

Spearhead Pinot Noir Coyote Vineyard 2019 ($33)

Pure New World Pinot with an Old World touch under the hand of winemaker Grant Stanley. One of the best I have tasted in some time.

The quality red wine list is getting longer and longer in B.C. thanks to better clones, better sites, and better viticulture. All that means a bright future for an emerging region is still widely unknown to the wine cognoscenti outside of the B.C.

Weekend wine picks

Mount Boucherie Reserve Syrah 2018, British Columbia

$44.99 I 89/100

UPC: 00812289000325

The Mount Boucherie Reserve Syrah comes off two prime B.C. vineyard sites: Lazy River Vineyard is in the wild and rugged Similkameen Valley, and South Rock Vineyard on the Golden Mile Bench. Their 2018 opens with a lifted nose of black fruit and fresh cracked pepper; textures are rich and smooth, giving the wine a sleek signature despite its power and alcohol. It is full-bodied with intense black cherry streaked with smoky, stony mineral notes. So wild and juicy, it will age effortlessly through 2025 and beyond. Think roasted meats, lamb, venison, duck or a big, oily rich salmon recipe.


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Corcelettes Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah Menhir 2017, Similkameen Valley, British Columbia

$39.90 I 89/100

UPC: 626990190462

The Menhir of Corcelettes, Switzerland, is iconic. It stands tall and proud near the castle of Grandson, where the Baessler family originates. In 2017 the Menhir red was a 57/43 Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah mix that would be at home in Australia. Menhir is aged for 18 months in French oak puncheons that reduce the overall impact of oak in the finished wine. The latest blend is a bold, spicy, savoury affair with cooked blacked fruits and a dusty, stony, dried herb finish. It needs time to gather itself or serve it with grilled lamb chops.

Mission Hill Quatrain 2017, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada


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$79.99 I 91/100

UPC: 776545556318

Quatrain has been upping the Syrah content to give the wine more purpose in the Legacy range. In 2017 the blend was 44/25/24/7 blend of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, grown mostly in Osoyoos with a 10 per cent addition from the Oliver region. It spends 18 months in French oak barrels. Like 2016, there is a spicy, aromatic nose with rich, black fruit and light meaty undercurrents. A smaller crop with higher intensity has given 2017 a power over finesse signature for many, but that savoury spice is more Okanagan than Barossa or Southern France. Should age forever.

Moraine Pinot Noir 2019, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$27 I 89/100


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UPC: 626990127833

Expect a full-blown style of Pinot Noir made with the 777 clones growing at Sophia Estate Vineyard on the Naramata Bench. The nose is aromatic with spicy, earthy black cherry and a subtle twist of garlic, black cherries, plums washed in French oak. The textures are Pinot silky as the wine persists on the palate long after you swallow. It has a lot of curb appeal and will attract many who love Pinot and duck or Pinot and a favourite ripe cheese. Fair value too.

Spearhead Pinot Noir Coyote Vineyard 2019, East Kelowna, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$33 I 92/100

UPC: 626990441113

Coyote Vineyard sits on the magical, decaying volcanic soils of Mt. Boucherie in West Kelowna. It is all clone 115, a favourite choice, at least for me, on mid-valley Okanagan sites. The attack is lively and packed with spicy, red-fruited Pinot plump with acidity and a whack of fresh black plums and savoury cherries — pure New World Pinot with an Old World touch. It seems that winemaker Grant Stanley is hitting his stride at Spearhead, essentially being at one with his grapes. True north Pinot Noir, and one of the best I have tasted in some time. Drink or hold through 2026.


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Kootenay-raised bison striploin with coffee soil and forest fire butter created by Velvet Restaurant & Lounge.
Kootenay-raised bison striploin with coffee soil and forest fire butter created by Velvet Restaurant & Lounge. Photo by Ashley Voykin

Recipe match: Kootenay-raised bison striploin with coffee soil and forest fire butter

This dish, created by the team at the Rossland-based restaurant Velvet Restaurant & Lounge , takes inspiration from the devastating wildfires experienced in the province this year.

“When I arrived to Red Mountain, the first week we saw terrible smoke in the region,” executive chef Derek Bendig says. “And, as someone who is inspired by my surroundings, I wanted to put a dish together that celebrated not only the wonderful produce available by the many terrific producers here in Rossland and the Kootenays, but also make a statement about the reality of wildfires here in B.C. we seem to be continually dealing with year after year.”


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Kootenay-raised bison striploin with coffee soil and forest fire butter

Forest fire butter

3 large leeks, halved lengthwise

1 oz (28 g) dried black trumpet mushrooms, or preferred dried mushroom variety

1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) smoked Maldon salt

Cedar butter, recipe below

Roast leeks at 400 F until black and dry, approximately 3 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Place burnt leeks in blender with dried mushrooms and smoked salt. Process until the mixture is a fine powder. Reserve.

Melt cedar butter over medium heat and mix with the leek powder to create a paint like texture. Keep the mixture warm.

Cedar butter

1 lb (454 g) salted butter

2 cups (500 mL) cedar greens

Preheat water bath to 149 F. Crush cedar greens to release oils and aromas, place in a vacuum-seal bag with butter. Seal. Cook in a circulator 3 hours, remove and let cool in an ice bath.


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Coffee soil

3.5 oz (100 g) unsalted butter

5.5 oz (150 g) ground almonds

3.5 oz (100 g) flour

2 oz (58 g) cocoa powder

3.5 oz (100 g) Kicking Horse ground espresso

1/4 oz (10 g) salt

5 oz (142 g) sugar

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and rub together with fingertips until they resemble breadcrumbs. Scatter over a baking tray and bake at 340 F for 30 minutes. Cool till crisp, then pulse in food processor.


3 leeks, cut into 3 equal lengths

1 tbsp (15 mL) cedar butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a water bath to 185 F. Place the leeks on a hot grill and char the outside. Remove from the grill and cool.

Place leeks in a vacuum bag with the cedar butter, salt and pepper. Seal and place in water bath, cook until tender, approximately 20 minutes depending on the size of the leeks. Cool in an ice bath.


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Strip loin

4 x 5 oz (142 g) bison striploin

4 oz (114 g) black trumpet mushrooms, or preferred mushroom variety

12 pieces broccoli florets

1 tbsp (15 mL) butter

3 leeks

Season striploin with salt and pepper. Grill to the desired doneness, recommend rare to medium rare, and let rest.

Warm leeks and broccoli florets in 1 tbsp of butter. Sauté mushrooms with julienned leeks.

Paint the plate with a generous amount of forest fire butter, top with a sprinkle of the coffee soil, and 2 pieces of leek. Slice striploin and place on leeks.

Top with mushrooms, broccoli florets and garnish with parsnip bark. Serve immediately.

Serves 4. 

Recipe match

Bison striploin and local Cabernet Franc would be a dream power match for those who love their dishes wild and rich. 

Bartier Bros. Cabernet Franc Cerqueira Vineyard 2019, Oliver, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada ($28.99)

Black plums to licorice root with an undercurrent of white pepper make this an easy match with bison.

Mission Hill Terroir Collection Vista’s Edge Cabernet Franc 2018, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada ($50 )

Fresh blueberry and dark plums are wrapped in dense, silky, round tannins ready to take on big untamed flavours like bison.



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