Monday, 31 July 2017

Collectibles: July 2017

Mid-year is always a particularly exciting time for BC wine enthusiasts and collectors: following the results of the All Canadian Wine Championships and then the BC Lieutenant Governor’s Awards in June, July reveals results of the highly respected National Wine Awards. The Nationals follow from the previous Canadian Wine Awards: many of the contributors to the defunct host publication Wine Access launched WineAlign a few years back, and continued the awards process. Amongst the many prominent accolades for BC wine coming out of this year’s competition were seven of 20 Platinum medals, awarded to the top 1% of wines entered. Needless to say there are plenty of superb wines from which to choose this month!

July 2017 BC wine collectibles

Privato 2014 Woodward Collection “Tesoro” Pinot Noir: The reserve-tier Pinot from Kamloops’ Privato is as good as gold this summer, receiving matching medals from both the All Canadians and Nationals. With a 91-point overall score at the Nationals, and a trio of glowing reviews from judges praising its irresistibility, the wine must have been within inches of a prestigious Platinum medal. While I visit the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys on a regular basis, making it up to Kamloops has been unfortunately neglected, but rapidly becoming an important expedition to consider. Fortunately wineries like Privato understand the importance of reliable retail channels as well, so I was able to find this fine bottle in Vancouver before it sells out. $46 Swirl VQA Store.

Stag’s Hollow 2014 Renaissance Pinot Noir: Another exciting new Pinot Noir came to me this month in my Stag’s Hollow Wine Club package, which is always a mystery collection until it arrives. Although the winery is already selling futures of the 2015 Renaissance Pinot Noir (only their sixth reserve tier Pinot in two decades), the current vintage remains well on hand, albeit only what remains of about 200 cases produced. It’s described as a bold, Californian-styled Pinot Noir, black-fruited with abundant French oak (50% of it new); although WineAlign judge Remy Charest pointed out “it has the stuffing to stand up to it,” in contributing to the Silver medal the wine received at the Nationals this month. With the winery suggesting aging through 2025 I’m in no hurry to crack mine open (and it’s secure under screwcap until that day comes). Winery Direct $40

The Similkameen Collective 2014 GSM: Expanding out from their Golden Mile Bench origins, Road 13 has made a major bet on the Similkameen Valley, showing off Cawston’s exceptional Blind Creek Vineyard in their Similkameen Collective project. The first release last year of GSM and Syrah-Viognier returned Gold and Platinum medals, respectively, from the 2016 National Wine Awards. This year’s GSM surged to Platinum status on the back of an excellent growing season that propelled the wine to “new heights,” in the words of WineAlign Judge Brad Royale. Despite the 100-acre size of Blind Creek, the grapes are spread thin across several clients, and only 126 cases of GSM have been produced (up from 104 last year though). The blend of 54% Grenache, 37% Syrah, 7% Mourvedre, and 2% Viognier found particularly strong favour amongst the judges this year, receiving a 92-point average score! Winery Direct $50

Burrowing Owl 2015 Syrah: Three Canadian Syrah were recognized with Platinum medals at this year’s National Wine Awards, and the pair of BC bottles include a surprising Naramata version (from Lake Breeze), plus this southern Okanagan stalwart. The generous vintage has resulted in a “ripe, rich, and meaty Syrah” that caught the attention of judges: David Lawrason’s 93-point review praises it for being “lavish and engaging” with “gorgeous textures.” In typical Burrowing Owl fashion the 18 months in oak were a complex affair, using a mix of 70% French, 15% American, and 15% Hungarian barrels of varying ages (30% new). Despite having been released just last month (with a limited availability warning) it is reportedly already sold out in the tasting room, so be sure to scour the shelves of local retail establishments! Winery Direct $35

Road 13 2015 Syrah Malbec: The friendly internal rivalry amongst Road 13’s various Rhone-inspired blends appears to continue this year as the contribution of 24% Malbec (and 3% each of Viognier and Gamay) has taken Gold at the National Wine Awards. A small lot Syrah blend with Mourvedre took Platinum last year while the Malbec inclusion only brought home Silver, now “redeemed” with a new vintage. Grapes from the winery’s extensive holdings in the south Okanagan and Similkameen valleys contributed to 347 cases of what the winery calls an “utterly hedonistic wine.” Tasting a sample at the winery while collecting my Club order I was readily persuaded to agree: the noticeable Malbec contribution provides for a darker and jammier profile than the excellent (and equally collectible) varietal Syrah I also obtained, with more tannin present in the rich and creamy palate. Winery Direct $37

Fairview Cellars 2014 The Bear: In the words of proprietor and winemaker Bill Eggert, 2014 was a “most awesome year,” allowing him to devote a larger percentage of the vintage than usual to his flagship red blend. The Bear has been an automatic purchase for many years given Bill’s veteran talent, hence providing me with a rotating six-bottle vertical that now yields a 2008 for current consumption. The wine is typically a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blend, including Merlot and Cabernet Franc, plus what Bill reports as “a small percentage of Malbec and an even smaller portion of Petit Verdot.” The grapes (with the exception of Malbec) come from the estate vineyard on the northern end of the Golden Mile Bench west of Oliver. The 650 cases assembled should last at least through the summer, but don’t dawdle! Winery Direct $40

La Frenz 2014 Grand Total Reserve: The icon wine at La Frenz is comprised of fruit from the Naramata Bench winery’s home “Rattlesnake” Vineyard, and their Golden Mile “Rockyfeller” Vineyard, which contributes Cabernets. Acquiring the newest release completes adds a sixth vintage to my collection, initiating another rotating vertical beginning with 2009. Having sampled all of those years (and beyond) at last year’s BCWAS-hosted vertical tasting, I look forward to what to the future holds. That anticipation includes this plush-textured blend of Merlot (42%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), and Cabernet Franc (25%), aged in (70% new) French oak for 22 months before blending and bottling of about 300 cases. Over at IconWines, reviewer Liam Carrier is equally confident in the wine’s future promise: his 93-point review strongly suggests more bottle age to “make the most of your investment.” Winery Direct $45

Monday, 3 July 2017

New Adventures: Bella Sparkling Wines

Since Jay Drysdale opened his tiny Bella bubbly house to the public in 2014 I’ve longed to visit the winery he opened with wife Wendy on the northern Naramata Bench. It’s taken me three years to get there, past myriad vinicultural distractions on the route from Penticton, but I couldn’t be more pleased to finally make it. The northern Naramata tasting room is a working one, with far more space devoted to riddling racks than people. Despite the relatively remote location, the venue was hopping on the recent long weekend, with visitors choosing from amongst dozens of unique, vintage stems and coupes for tasting the lively list of wines before they sell out mid-summer.

Taster's choice rules at Bella when it comes to drinking vessel.

Jay & Wendy’s mantra of “Celebrate Today” was on point as Jay opened what seemed like countless bottles, so many that I honestly lost track of some! To keep at least some focus only Chardonnay and Gamay are used for a growing series of micro-lot (e.g., 50 cases) wines made all Brut Natural with no dosage. From the traditional method “Vineyard Series” of 2016 three Gamay from West Kelowna and a pair of Naramata vineyards offered plenty of crunchy red berries and stone fruit, while Chardonnay showed varietal character from Keremeos and Kamloops. Ancestrale method wines in the 2016 “Natural Series” encompass the first estate fruit in a blend of Chardonnay & Gamay, plus a lime and spiced apple iteration of the Keremeos Chardonnay, and two more Gamay, including a re-visit to the Westbank vineyard source. A major treat was also on offer as the single Reserve Series was opened to reveal a luxurious 2013 Chardonnay from Oliver’s Secrest Vineyard, full of classical Champagne character after 42 months on the lees.

Riddling racks on display for a close look at the Bella process.

Collectible: 2016 Chardonnay - Eastside (Ancestrale). In this case Eastside refers to the Southern Okanagan, and the grapes come from Michael Bartier’s Black Sage Bench vineyard (on the east side of the valley) outside Oliver. One of several ancestrales making inroads at Bella, the wine undergoes a single fermentation that concludes in bottle (instead of the typical tank-based primary and a more controlled secondary in bottle). The technique is riskier and makes for some natural cloudiness, but the results can be stunning, as Jay reports: “You will never taste a more intensely flavored sparkling wine than an ancestrale.” The nose of tropical and citrus fruits leads into a buttered popcorn palate that made this one an immediate purchase, and at only 9.1% alcohol one really can celebrate today, or any day - at least while the 50 cases produced remain available!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

New Adventures: vinAmité Cellars

The Coulombe family winery is two years young this summer, since opening in 2015 (and tweaking the name since) with an enviable location on Highway 97 outside Oliver. Since having first tasted, and thoroughly enjoyed, the wines - presented by daughter Catherine Coulombe - at last fall’s Garagiste North Festival in Penticton, I’ve been eager to visit the winery in person. A couple attempts in May fell through, but as it turned out the shelves were nearly empty at the time, with a full slate of new releases anticipated in June. Among those new wines I heard about through the grapevine was a special release varietal Petit Verdot that piqued my curiosity.

Settle down for a while amongst original artwork and artisanal foods, including this selection from

Arriving at seemingly the perfect time, I was fortunate enough to be guided through the portfolio (from a vineyard-view table on the back patio) by the ebullient Catherine herself, who serves as both knowledgeable Tasting Room Manager and Assistant Winemaker. The cozy lounge is richly decorated with art from Catherine’s talented sister Nathalie, and fine cheeses and charcuterie are available to enhance and extend one’s experience. All business, I delved straight into each of the eight wines on hand, all small lots of less than 250 cases. Highlights included aged Pinot Gris from 2015, richly textured with honeyed peaches; 2015 Chardonnay, lightly oaked for just four months and offering a pleasing popcorn profile; plus new 2016 Gamay, very pretty indeed with spiced cranberries and a fresh, silky, palate. Red blends from 2015 comprise “Petit Claret”, “Hidden Corner”, and “Compass”, a favourite with ripe berries, cocoa, and vanilla atop structured tannins from 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Malbec.

vinAmite 2015 Petit Verdot

Collectible: 2015 Petit Verdot. Used most often in small proportions for blends, varietal Petit Verdot is rare worldwide, so it’s always exciting to see a local example. In this case, Proprietor Ray Coulombe set himself on a “mission”, as Catherine puts it, to obtain these grapes from a local partner grower in the south Okanagan. Only three (French oak) barrels were produced of what is hoped to be an inaugural vintage (there is a larger lot of 2016 aging in the cellar, and plans for 2017), divided amongst one new barrel, a one-year-old, and a three-year-old, where the wine spent 14 months before bottling. Having a taste at the winery revealed near perfect varietal character, with all the inky, floral aromas and powerful palate one would expect; the ripe, dark fruit is nearly Port-like in its concentration. Needless to say I look forward to longer-term aging of this particular rarity. Winery Direct $55

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Collectibles: May 2017

Three cheers for 2014: the rich, ripe reds of that superb vintage are seemingly everywhere one looks in the Okanagan these days. A recent trip to Osoyoos provided the opportunity to stock up on the latest and greatest from the cellar door, leaving me with a divine selection to fawn over this month. While it may seem odd to have focused on so many big reds in the summer, rest assured there were more than enough bottles of white and Rosé keeping these cellar-dwellers company on the ride home. And not every white is destined for immediate consumption, because locally legendary Riesling is just as age-worthy as the neighbouring collectible reds.

May 2017 BC wine collectibles

Synchromesh 2016 Black Label Storm Haven Vineyard Riesling: The 2016 vintage at Alan Dickinson’s Okanagan Falls home vineyard was split into 182 cases of this Black Label, wax-sealed reserve plus a White Label for earlier consumption. While both wines host a generous 38 g/L of sugar, the bracing acidity is even higher in the Black Label version, providing for a stunning pH of 2.81 and a very long life ahead. The team at GismondiOnWine have tasted nearly every vintage since the inaugural 2010, culminating in a library tasting in mid-March that found even the “vibrant and youthful” 2011 (with 55 g/L) to have “so many years to go still”. Anthony Gismondi’s 93-point review of the newest release praised the benefits of long hang time last fall, finding the purity of fruit to be “impressive to say the least.” Winery Direct $40

Church & State 2014 Merlot: Wrapped in the winery’s new Signature Series label, with varietally-unique calligraphy, 450 cases of Merlot come from a blend of Black Sage Bench and Golden Mile fruit from two vineyards, including the home Coyote Bowl property. One of several generous new 2014 reds, the Merlot has done particularly well for the winery, being named Best of Class (Double Gold) at this year’s All Canadian Wine Championships, one of two (the other for Trebella 2015) in addition to a pair of Gold medals. Even before the All Canadians, February’s New World International Wine Competition in California bestowed the honour of Best Canadian Wine for this Best of Class Merlot. Released just in time for the busy summer touring season, stocks are already growing low thanks to the intense roasted cocoa aromas and rich, round blueberry palate, followed by a sweet and savoury smoked finish to wrap it all up. Great for summer barbecue season no doubt, but secure under screwcap with further cellaring in mind. Winery Direct $40

Mt. Boucherie 2014 Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah: After a tumultuous couple of years in receivership, established West Kelowna winery Mt. Boucherie re-emerged this spring, as John Schreiner detailed in a February article. Most important to consider from John’s detailed summary of the proceedings is that talented and committed Winemaker Jim Faulkner remained at the helm throughout. As the budgetary prospects improved Jim could finally acquire bottles and labels for reds that include this smoothly aged Similkameen Valley Syrah, after it spent an unexpected 22 months in oak. The resulting 381 cases of “full and rich” wine are felt well-worthy of a 92-point score in John’s experienced eyes. Later in the same month, a taste by David Lawrason at WineAlign yielded similar accolades, with another 92-points for the “classic Syrah nose,” fine tannins, and elegant, rich palate. Winery Direct $40

Church & State 2014 Malbec: Having taken some time off after two consecutive Best of Class awards for 2011 and 2012 vintages the Malbec is back at Church & State. Sourced from the Rattlesnake Vineyard on the Golden Mile, 225 cases of what is always a local rarity snagged one of the winery’s aforementioned Gold medals at the All Canadians (and the only Gold-medal Malbec in the Single Red Varietal category). I was fortunate enough to enjoy a sample upon visiting the winery, and found black cherry and chocolate aromas hinting at what is another ripe and rambunctious red. Equally rich and intense as the Merlot, I briefly reminded of drinking chocolate upon tasting the full-bodied purple-fruited palate. Here’s another exciting candidate for the cellar if you can keep it closed in the meantime. Winery Direct $35

Quails’ Gate 2014 “The Boswell” Syrah: Since the initial 2012 release (intended as a one-time only anniversary wine) received one of the BC Wine Awards’ new Platinum medals in 2014, Quails’ Gate has been one to watch for Syrah. While the winery’s focus remains Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, small amounts of winery exclusive Syrah (unexpectedly from West Kelowna) continue to impress: 570 cases of the latest have garnered universal praise in preview tastings last year. GismondiOnWine’s Treve Ring complimented the “haunting” complexity and finesse for 91-points in October; John Schreiner paralleled his score of 2013 with another 94-point review in December; and Deanna Van Mulligen felt 93-points was well worth it in February for the “amazing structure.” Over at WineAlign reviewers exalted the focus, length, and richness, with emphasis on its cellaring potential for enjoyment into the next decade - I’m more than happy to oblige. Winery Direct $61

Little Engine 2015 Platinum Cabernet Franc: After opening last summer with high-end Chardonnay and Pinot Noir the fuller-bodied reds at Little Engine have now come into play, and the top tier Platinum series has supplanted Gold at the apex of their portfolio. John Schreiner was invited to preview the new releases earlier this month and had nothing but good - and very good - things to say. I stopped by soon afterwards, with an eye to examining wines that garnered some of John’s highest scores ever. The 96-point Platinum Merlot was in my sights, but as good as it was, I was struck even greater by this powerful Cabernet Franc, still 95-points as far as John was concerned (and a complimentary 89-points from Anthony Gismondi); the mouth-watering intensity had me excited to lay down a bottle. Of the three new Platinum reds, the Cabernet Franc is most rare, at just 49 cases produced - now minus one precious bottle. Winery Direct $86

Covert Farms 2014 Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: It’s been awhile since I tasted a barrel sample of this young and highly promising Cabernet alongside the BC Wine Appreciation Society in March of last year. In the meantime, it was bottled and apparently quietly released at the Oliver tasting room below McIntyre Bluff. Visiting the secluded tasting room amongst 650 organically-farmed acres   provided the opportunity to get a bottle from the mere 48 cases produced. It’s become evident that 2014 was a well-above-average vintage for BC Cabernet Sauvignon, and Covert’s micro-lot is further testimony. A taste during my visit showed off dark and intensely ripe dried fruits, with age-worthy tannin to boot, and a mouth-watering selection of the winery’s descriptors that include red licorice, cocoa, vanilla, and baking spice. Winery Direct $59

Sunday, 21 May 2017

New Adventures: Lariana Cellars

The boutique Osoyoos winery of Dan & Carol Scott launched in 2013 with a portfolio of one wine (a “stunningly good” Viognier praised by John Schreiner). After sufficient aging, a red blend from the inaugural 2012 vintage was eventually released, and last year an exciting varietal Carménère (from 2013) came along as well. Having followed Lariana’s progress thanks to John’s updates I was particularly excited to taste the newest releases this spring at a BC Wine Appreciation Society “Tweetup” in February - where the 2014 Carménère was my pick of the night and has been on my mind every since.

Lariana's "tasting room" decor is spartan and charming - perfect!

After a few mis-starts, I was finally able to visit the petite operation recently, finding myself literally steps from the U.S. Border in the Scott’s unassuming winery building. While a formal tasting room is absent, the tidy winery serves the purpose just fine, and Dan was present to show off his current bottles and a little sample of what’s to come. The tropical and delicately creamy Viognier 2016 has clearly benefited from five months on fine lees in a concrete egg, while retaining bright, clean citrus. The 2012 “Twelve” blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and 1% Carménère is still available, and a taste offered toasty, structured stewed raspberry. The follow-up “Thirteen” ditches Merlot for Cabernet, Syrah, and 12% Carménère to yield a complex nose of leather, vanilla, black cherry, and chocolate before the fine and approachable tannins unwrap impressive purity of fruit. On the way from 2015 will be a small lot of varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, and another vintage of Carménère just being bottled - an exciting barrel sample was deliciously fresh and juicy.

Lariana Cellars 2014 Carménère

Collectible: 2014 Carménère. Varietal Carménère is extremely rare in BC - I know of only three - but it’s worth noting this wine has been shepherded by consulting winemaker Senka Tennant, who founded Black Hills and introduced BC’s first Carménère there years ago. Last year’s inaugural vintage struck John Schreiner as a “swaggering example” worthy of 92-points, and the newest showed me bewitching purple-fruited perfume and a well balanced, textured, and fruit-forward palate. The Carménère is a valued contributor to the flagship red blend, which I hope will not lead to its undoing as a single varietal. After 120 cases were released from the 2013 vintage, even less was made in 2014 (96 cases), and I’m told the crop was down in 2015! Winery Direct $45

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Collectibles: April 2017

Another big month for local wine clubs was on offer, as the first shipment of the year for many sees devoted collectors reaping the rewards of pre-releases and exclusive specialties. Ironically, one of the oldest new releases is a 2013 Pinot Noir wisely and patiently bottle-aged at the winery to maximize near term enjoyment, while elsewhere elegant 2014 and bold 2015 reds are appearing in greater numbers. For those looking to get a head start on finding these particular rarities take heed of the access given in advance to members. Now that seemingly every winery has a club they are ensuring the commitment is worth one’s while – guaranteed access is one way to do so; I know I consistently enjoy the serenity of certainty.

April 2017 BC wine collectibles

Mirabel 2015 Pinot Noir: It’s a bold proposition to come out of the gate with an icon-class Pinot Noir and the $70 price to match, but the collectible first vintage from this new label has strong pedigree. Doug and Dawn Reimer have taken the time to establish their eleven-year-old South Kelowna vineyard and personal brand while selling high quality grapes to respected wineries like Meyer and Foxtrot. They contracted highly talented winemaker Matt Dumayne out of Okanagan Crush Pad to produce their first vintage, already receiving glowing reviews: John Schreiner’s profile of the Reimer’s endeavour last fall included a 95-point score for the Pinot. There’s no tasting room or wine shop to visit yet, and unless you want to order it direct by the case (from 237 produced), New District is Mirabel’s exclusive retail partner – particularly fortunate for Vancouver residents! New District $89

Tinhorn Creek 2013 Oldfield Series Pinot Noir: With vineyards on the Golden Mile and Black Sage Benches Sandra Oldfield’s Oliver winery tends towards Bordeaux reds, but Pinot Noir has always had a place. A few years ago, Sandra and her team realized the Pinot Noir fared much better with additional bottle aging, and so the varietal tier gets one year, and the reserve sees a full two years of rest before release. After spending 18 months in neutral oak 850 cases were bottled in May 2015, awaiting public release within the next couple of months; Crush Club members get earlier access in their tri-annual shipments. Winemaker Andrew Windsor must be excited to exhibit his first work in this varietal series since taking the lead just months after harvest: the typical dark fruit, chocolate, and spice of southern Okanagan Pinot should be well evident, extending the previous vintage’s elegance and refinement. Winery Direct $35

Laughing Stock 2015 Syrah: The rich and elegant Syrah put forth by David & Cynthia Enns is an immediate buy upon release for me, even though it gets much less exposure than their famed Portfolio red blend. Their Osoyoos vineyard yields sublime fruit that has garnered awards for past vintages that include a Platinum Medal at the National Wine Awards, Decanter Regional Trophy, and Lieutenant Governor’s Award. From the “spectacularly warm spring” of 2015 comes a brand-new release I was overjoyed to find in triplicate amongst my latest Preferred Share Wine Club order. The “fabulously ripe” fruit was 40% fermented in oak puncheons and tank (some whole cluster), before 14 months in 35% new French oak before bottling of 948 cases. My triplets provide for present and future enjoyment as I age some into the next decade. Winery Direct $40

Poplar Grove 2013 Munson Mountain Cabernet Franc: Poplar Grove Wine Club’s first action in 2017 didn’t disappoint, sending out their newest members only, single vineyard Cabernet Franc. The Munson Mountain vineyard is adjacent to the Penticton winery, and has been directed into this rarity for the fourth time as a Club treat. Bottle-aged eight months longer than the now-sold-out regular (Osoyoos sourced) Cabernet Franc, the Munson bottling is earthier and shows more minerality, with fine tannins and a very long finish. Having received three bottles and already had a taste, I look forward to aging the remainder, up to ten years from vintage in the eyes of the winery. Only 340 cases were produced, versus 500 for the regular varietal production, and it remains Club exclusive, for now. Winery Direct $40

Tinhorn Creek 2014 Oldfield Reserve Cabernet Franc: Alongside a pair of Pinot my newest Crush Club order contained upcoming Cabernet Franc, exhibiting new branding that returns to the “Reserve” language in use long ago. I can’t help but notice a growing trend back to darker labels for premium wines, after the bright white of the past several years: witness last month’s collection of examples. This smartly dressed new Franc is coming soon, after 800 cases aged a year in bottle starting since last May. It’s a true reserve, selected after French oak barrels (25% new) spent a year maturing before assessment, blending, and another six months in oak for the best of them. In some years (e.g., 2011) none are deemed worthy, and so this marks the fourth vintage (and a very high quality one at that) since the inaugural 2010, making Cabernet Franc the youngest of the winery’s reserve red portfolio. Winery Direct $35

Poplar Grove 2013 CSM: Although renowned for Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and the iconic Legacy red blend, Poplar Grove’s cryptic CSM can be overlooked by some people, to their great misfortune. Unlike the Munson Cabernet, the 600 or so cases of CSM have become readily available via the winery (but unlikely elsewhere), where fans can enjoy this delightfully creative melange of 29% Cabernet Franc, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Syrah, 18% Merlot, and 7% Malbec. The newest blend is particularly complex, not only including Malbec for the first time, but bringing Cabernet Franc to the forefront after excluding it entirely over the past couple of vintages. The name is primarily intended to refer to Cabernet(s), Syrah, and Merlot, but fortunately Malbec also starts with M and fits in easily, plus CCSMM doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. Winery Direct $35

LaStella 2014 Espressivo: It’s not often that the measured and focused portfolio at LaStella witnesses the birth of a new wine, so one is inclined to take notice when it does happen. With the Merlot-dominant “Fortissimo” blend now firmly established in the family, as it were, a new blend leaning on Cabernet has been introduced, from just 123 cases of the inaugural vintage. Like Fortissimo, Espressivo includes a touch of Sangiovese paying tribute to the winery’s Tuscan influences, with 5% (at first) complementing 55% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Merlot, all aged 18 months in 20% new oak, both French and Hungarian. An early taste by the WineAlign crew this month found favour amongst David Lawrason, who acclaimed the richly textured, powerful ode to Italian reds. I myself was pleased with the dark and spicy palate, in contrast to Fortissimo’s (equally enjoyable) lush berries, during a preview tasting last month, and am happy to find it a home in my collection. Winery Direct $46

Friday, 31 March 2017

Collectibles: March 2017

In offices across the world, the fiscal year is coming to a close and people and plans are wrapping up, but in the (northern hemisphere) wine world this means springtime! By now the fall harvest fermentations are in barrel, what was in barrel is being bottled, and warehouse space is getting the squeeze; it’s one of many reasons for new releases. Another reason being simply that bottle aging of old vintages has concluded and it’s time to share the results with the world. This month welcomed everything from a triplet of fresh, young Pinot Noir looking for some cellaring, to big bold red heavyweights that can still manage further slumber despite their more advanced years.

March 2017 BC wine collectibles

Meyer 2015 Reimer Pinot Noir:  The calendar year’s first Wine Club shipment from Burgundian specialists Meyer included the both the attractive 2015 Tribute Chardonnay, and one of their vineyard-specific Pinot Noir. Despite the oppressive heat of 2015 and the early start to harvest, the Reimer Vineyard fruit in East Kelowna wasn’t harvested until mid-October, then given 11 months in (27% new) French oak before 400 cases were bottled in September. Interestingly, Doug & Dawn Reimer - from whom the French clone grapes originate - recently launched their Mirabel Vineyards label, with the inaugural 2015 Pinot Noir. Initial trepidation about the future of Jak Meyer’s access to their well-respected grapes seems to have been tempered recently with word the partnership is expected to continue for the near future. Winery Direct $40

Meyer 2015 Old Block Pinot Noir: The opportunity to add a couple bottles to my four-pack of Club-designated wines allowed acquisition of some of the smaller production Pinots from Meyer. The Okanagan Falls estate vineyard’s one acre “Old Block” originates in 1994, but couldn’t be exclusively bottled until additional (2009) plantings had matured enough for production (of the “regular” McLean Creek Road Pinot Noir). By 2014 that time had come and the first lot of 205 block-specific cases were acclaimed at the National Wine Awards last year. Slight growth to 234 cases in 2015 comes with high expectations as a result, but the release is so recent few have yet had a chance to share their findings, and I’m afraid my single precious bottle is destined for the cellar until next decade. Winery Direct $50

Meyer 2015 Micro Cuvee Pinot Noir: Not only are the lots of wine at Meyer separated by vineyard, and block, but further barrel selection is conducted to yield the pinnacle of production. A small lot of Chardonnay sees similar treatment, and in 2015 the Micro Cuvee Pinot Noir came from two puncheons and one barrel of Pommard Clone 91, with the winery going so far as to detail the three French forests from which the vessels originated. The Pommard block was harvested in late September, about a week before the Old Block mentioned above, and likely saw the same 11 months in oak as the other lots, with the difference coming down to the unique expression of that one new puncheon, a second one-year-old, and the two-year-old barrel (yielding 110 cases). The Micro Cuvees (both Chardonnay and Pinot) are reliably the best of what is already a top-tier portfolio from Meyer. Winery Direct $65

The Similkameen Collective 2013 GSM: I was able to obtain a bottle of this joint venture’s (inaugural vintage) Platinum-medal-winning Syrah-Viognier last fall, but had to painfully pass on the GSM at the time for budgetary reasons. Wouldn’t you know, it showed up in this month’s Road 13 Wine Club selection, as the Golden Mile winery is one of the key partners (and actually makes the wine). I’ve been coveting a bottle since John Schreiner had a chance to taste the launch portfolio last spring, and found the “bold and elegant” blend worthy of 93 points in his opinion. Having been awarded Gold at last summer’s National Wine Awards, it’s a special rarity as one of the few instances of BC Grenache from this growing category. I look forward to the day I can attend a Grenache gathering just like the upcoming BC Pinot Noir Celebration! Winery Direct $50

Stag’s Hollow 2014 Renaissance Merlot: One of several varieties grown at the Okanagan Falls estate home vineyard, Merlot - and this reserve tier version - has for many years been the flagship from Winemaker Dwight Sick’s diverse portfolio (even as Grenache sneaks up from behind). The newest vintage has emerged from the wings as the remaining 2013 is sold through the wine shop; my bottle came in this month’s Wine Club shipment. Fermented and aged in (50% new) French oak, the 2014 Merlot aged for 15 months before being blended with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, as is the common practice with this particular wine. While the newly introduced screwcap closure may suggest otherwise to some, further cellaring would be best, although the winery admits it is “more approachable than the past two vintages.” I’m sure all the dark fruit and mocha under that cap would show quite well at present after decanting however. Winery Direct $40

C.C. Jentsch 2014 Small Lot Cabernet Franc: Chris Jentsch was present in person at last month’s Vancouver International Wine Festival, pouring a few of his Golden Mile Bench wines, all of course for sale in the on-site BC Liquor Store. A few bottles of the rare and pricey Cabernet Franc remained available afterwards and were subsequently shifted to local store shelves, at which point I was able to rectify having missed this charmer at the Festival. Initial release of 151 cases last summer was met with praise from John Schreiner, who felt 92 points best summarized this “ripe and exuberant wine.” Having been bottled just before release, after 16 months in oak, further maturity in bottle seems to have left it none the worse for wear: “a few months down the road from our last tasting this Cabernet Franc remains impressive,” said Anthony Gismondi at the time of the Festival, when 90 points was still felt well worthy. BC Liquor Stores $58

Nk’Mip 2014 Qwam Qwmt Cabernet Sauvignon: Optimal conditions in 2014 ensured the ideal opportunity for ripe Cabernet Sauvignon from our (technically) cool climate terroir, and Winemaker Randy Picton’s work with the variety is always one of the first places to look for quality. Harvesting fully developed grapes at the very end of October led to 18 months in French oak before release last year, from which time it remains broadly available given expected large production. Big compliments came from GismondiOnWine after a few vintages away: while newer contributor Treve Ring assigned “only” 89 points, the usually conservative Gismondi himself practically gushed in his 91-point review last December, finding this big red to be “in perfect balance” and clearly at the top of the tier for the variety in BC. BC Liquor Stores $35