A stylish new wine brand called Imbzzl hits liquor store shelves in British Columbia this month. It’s a second label for Laughing Stock Vineyards, the premium boutique winery in Naramata that was purchased by Arterra Wines Canada in 2017, and features a red, white and rosé produced in the Okanagan.
One of the first wineries on the Naramata Bench, Laughing Stock was founded in 2003 by David and Cynthia Enns. The couple, who worked in financial services in Vancouver, produced 500 cases of a red blend called Portfolio, which quickly became one of the Okanagan’s most coveted labels. At the time, Cynthia explained the winery name showed an effort to mix a “serious enterprise with a light-hearted attitude.”
The winery also gained rave reviews for its syrah, pinot noir and viognier as well as a more affordable sibling to Portfolio called Blind Trust. Success fuelled the business to the point where Laughing Stock’s total production jumped from 5,000 cases to 10,000 cases in a five-year span, which inspired the sale to Arterra. The wine giant, which operates a group of wineries in British Columbia, including Jackson-Triggs, Inniskillin Okanagan and Black Sage Vineyards as well as farming more than 1,000 acres of vineyards in the Okanagan, was able to handle the volume and scale of the business. (Today, the Enns focus their efforts on 1 Mill Road, a small batch pinot noir project made from their home vineyard in Naramata.)
Imbzzl keeps the Enns’ light-hearted spirit alive, with wine names such as Double Cross, a pinot gris, Fast One, the red blend that is sure to attract attention given Portfolio’s pedigree, and Ruse, a rosé that is one of the featured recommendations this week. The new brand will be available at B.C. Liquor Stores in the coming weeks. The lineup also includes an enjoyable new whisky from Forty Creek in Grimsby, Ont., which is one to watch.
CB Chianti 2019 (Italy), $18.95
A private selection for the Charlie Burgers wine club, this Chianti’s label really undersells its attributes. Produced by Fattoria Montecchio in Chianti Classico, this ripe and approachable red doesn’t sacrifice its Chianti character. Fresh, fragrant and nicely structured, it’s a solid house wine candidate that will work equally well in warm or cold months. Drink now to 2023. Available at the above price, sold as a case of 12 bottles, directly through cbwineprogram.com.
Christopher Michael Northwest Winemakers Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (United States), $23.95
This is a dry and expressive cabernet sauvignon produced from grapes grown in the Wahluke Slope and Yakima Valley appellations in Washington state. The fragrance suggests an enjoyable mix of dark fruit, leather and spice notes, with appealing baking spice, earthy and berry flavours. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario.
Coco Vodka Original (Canada), $3.00/473 mL
Produced with triple distilled vodka blended with coconut water, this ready-to-drink alcoholic beverage really plays up the coconut character, with a mix of toasted nuts, vanilla and sweet notes. I enjoyed it as part of a suggested take on a mimosa that blends 3 oz. of orange juice with 4 oz. of Coco vodka served in a highball glass filled with ice. Available in Ontario at the above price ($2.75 until August 15), $3 / 473 mL in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Forty Creek Foxheart Small Batch Canadian Whisky (Canada), $44.95
A new concept label from Forty Creek master blender Bill Ashburn, Foxheart is the latest premium Canadian whisky to use the 9.09% (or 1:11) blending rule in a creative way. A spicy Forty Creek whisky blend is enhanced with a small amount of 12-year-old Caribbean rum to add depth and complexity to the spirit. The result is an attractive mix of tropical fruit, molasses and spice notes that work well served over ice or in an Old Fashioned or Boulevardier cocktail. Available in Ontario at the above price, $41.95 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta and Saskatchewan, $44.99 in New Brunswick.
Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Chardonnay 2018 (United States), $49.95
This rich and refreshing white is produced with chardonnay grown in vineyards spread across the Russian River appellation of Sonoma County. It’s remarkable for its harmony and the balance of intense citrus flavours with toasty and earthy notes that add interest and complexity. There’s terrific vibrancy to counter the ripe and mouth filling features one typically associates with primetime California chardonnay. Drink now to 2028. Available in Ontario.
Imbzzl Ruse Rosé 2020 (Canada), $19.99
A new brand created by the winemaking team at Laughing Stock Vineyards, Imbzzl is launching this month with this flavourful rosé, a fruity pinot gris and full-bodied red blend. This syrah-based rosé offers a mix of ripe berry, watermelon, citrus and herbal flavours that make for an enjoyable sipping wine or partner for a meal. Available in British Columbia.
Palacios Remondo La Vendimia 2019 (Spain), $18.95
Produced from organically grown garnacha and tempranillo grapes from the youngest vineyards available to the winemaking team headed up by Alvaro Palacios, this fresh and fruity red is ready to drink. Made in a dry yet juicy and crowd-pleasing style, this modern take on Rioja’s ripe and spicy character is almost syrah like. Drink now to 2024. Available at the above price in Ontario, $18.40 in Quebec.
Stag’s Hollow Winery Syrah Rosé 2020 (Canada), $24
Syrah grown to be made into rosé from Amelia Vineyard in Osoyoos was used to craft the dry, fruity and generous character of this crowd-pleasing pink wine. I really appreciate the fuller flavours that makes this a terrific all year rosé. Drink now to 2023. Available direct through stagshollowwinery.com.
Tenuta Perano Rialzi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2016 (Italy), $49.95
This ripe and rewarding red wine is produced with sangiovese from the Rialzi vineyard on the Frescobaldi family’s estate in Gaiole in Chianti. The coffee and toasted oak notes stand out on the nose and palate at this youthful stage of development, but there’s a nicely concentrated core of fruit that suggests this will become better integrated given a few more years in bottle. Drink 2023 to 2030. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
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