OK, I'll admit it.
There I was heading home from the media preview for this week's BC Liquor Stores '09 Bordeaux release, when I caught myself humming "If I were a rich man." It turned out to be not so much as a lament as Tevye might have intended. In fact, come to think of it, there's a fair bit of value to be found in the '09 lineup - that even the more wallet-challenged among us could, and indeed should, well consider.
To give credit where it's due, we have to thank BC Liquor Stores' not-so-secret weapon: Barbara Philip, Master of Wine, for taking the snobbery out of Bordeaux. With her no-nonsense, down to earth approach, Philip manages to put Bordeaux into context for every level of buyer - and orders the wines accordingly. Philip says the market in B.C. for Bordeaux has never been stronger - and given this release it's easy to see why. The 2009 is "all about the quality of the tannins," says Philip, who notes that despite the forward fruit and approachability "don't be fooled, they're all powerful." Philip says 2009 was "a nearly perfect vintage, with a cold winter, plenty of moisture retention and a warm growing season . . . . The result is a great concentration of ripe, black fruit, especially in the great wines of left bank, dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon."
"It's those sweet tannins and black fruit and classic flavours of the Cabernet sauvignon that are worth celebrating," she says.
From the more "serious" end of things (and especially if you're looking to buy an early present for that wine lover in your life) it would be hard not to crave Grand Cru Chateau Smith Haute Lafitte, Passac Léognan 2009, for its opulent black fruit aromas, silky tannins, and definite mineral core with luscious cassis and plum notes. 92 pts. BCLS $300. Chateau Cantenac Brown Margaux 2009 sports more dark notes on top, followed by a luscious entry with sweet black current, cassis, spice, mineral and earthy notes with good acidity. 91 pts. BCLS $98. Budget buyers will do well by Chateau Belle-Vue Haut-Medoc 2009, which shows classic minty, herbal notes on top, with juicy black fruit wrapped in chalky tannins, that add up to good value for BCLS $35; 88 pts. The other value choice remains the perennially popular Chateau Poujeaux, Moulis 2009, that delivers a more elegant mouth feel with some spicy notes in the finish. BCLS $60; 89 pts.
There's more of course. But the main message here is that if you've ever thought about jumping into Bordeaux - at just about any level, this is the year to do it.
By the time you read this we should have the results of last week's B.C. Wine Awards (which we helped judge) posted at hiredbelly.com. If you're a B.C. fan, the lineup of 24 gold medal winners in particular adds up to a pretty serious shopping list. There was plenty of competition for top spots in Cabernet Franc (Church & State, Tinhorn Creek, Sumac Ridge), Syrah (Cassini, Black Hills) and Riesling (Peller, Wild Goose Lang), in particular. Kudos to Quinta Ferreira for its Syrah 2009 (Best Red of show), and to Lang Vineyards for its Farm Riesling 2008 (Best White of Show). Best sparkling, again, went to Road 13 Vineyards Chenin Blanc.
Also worth a nod, Sumac Ridge Black Sage Cab Franc 2009 (Gold), which, since the wines will now be bottled under the Black Sage Vineyard brand, will surely become a collector's item.