The very helpful folks at Liberty Wines provided their guests with a booklet listing all the wines, spirits, and beers served at the event, with space for tasting notes below each listing. As we perused the room I would blurt out the sometimes odd things that came to mind and my wife would dutifully record them, along with her often much better notes. Below are some of our notes, plus other details about the wines we tried.
After heading straight for the Poplar Grove Cheese table upon entering I was quite pleased to see that Poplar Grove Winery was also present directly alongside. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Poplar Grove since reading on their website that “the dairy and beverage alcohol industries being second only to nuclear power in regulations…” The tenacity it takes to enter into both business ventures simultaneously has always impressed me! I took the opportunity to sample Poplar Grove 2006 Merlot, a wine I recently acquired based on some quite positive reviews. I found it to be quite complex, with tart but ripe fruit. I’m looking forward to trying mine after a couple more years of integration.
As we took in the room and introduced our Poplar Grove cheese to its viticultural cousins I noticed with glee Cassini Cellars by the front entrance. Cassini has made themselves known lately after being being awarded the Best New Winery at the 2010 BC Wine Awards during the Okanagan Fall Wine Festival. Their wines have been racking up impressive awards at competition such as the All Canadian Wine Championships (e.g., Best of Category Merlot), and the Canadian Wine Awards (two Golds and three Silvers). I myself have acquired two vintages of their red blend “Maximus” plus their 2008 Syrah and Malbec. The Syrah was opened for tasting, as were the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Syrah has fairly firm tannins and oak presence suitable for aging; I’m quite glad I picked it up for my collection. My first impressions of the Pinot Noir were that it did not have a strong “Pinot character” (in a good way); it didn’t slap you in the face like some Pinots can with that very noticeable expression of varietal. Finally, upon trying the Chardonnay my wife immediately exclaimed that it smelled like corn – to which I agreed as I sampled some myself. That creamed corn nose reminded her of Christmas, with hints of nutmeg present on the finish.
Painted Rock – the 2009 Best New Winery winner – was also present to show off their new Chardonnay (2009) and Cabernet Sauvignon (2008), plus their 2007 releases of Merlot and Syrah (the 2008 release will follow later this Spring). Painted Rock leapt out of the gate last year with two Lt. Governor’s Awards for Excellence in BC Wine, and I’ve begun a vertical collection of their very well-regarded Red Icon blend, unfortunately not present at Taste BC. The Cabernet Sauvignon pinch hit quite nicely however, and was surprisingly approachable for such a young wine, with tannins that were not nearly as strong as one might expect. The Merlot had pleasant soft fruit and some tart cherry notes as it opened up in the glass. My notes for the Syrah suggest it is “punchier” than the Merlot, which makes sense in funny way.
As we headed towards the back of room we were fortunate to come across Le Vieux Pin, a small lot winery located in Oliver which I have recently started to learn more about. I picked up their latest (2007) Reserve Pinot Noir from Taylorwood, and only later did I learn it was to be the last. Le Vieux Pin is moving away from Pinot Noir in favour of other varietals such as Syrah, despite doing an excellent job it! We were lucky enough to sample two of their Merlots, and compare the baseline 2007 with the Reserve tier: interestingly the Reserve Merlot seemed to be less expressive on the nose, but with a richer palate and a more pleasing mouthfeel. With a glass of each we savoured trading them back and forth to examine the differences – how often do you get to put a $70 Reserve wine through its paces like that?
In the back corner opposite the entrance sat a winery I had come specifically to seek out: Stag’s Hollow. For the past few weeks Stag’s Hollow has been teasing us with hints of “Cachet Wines” – something exciting but very non-descript coming soon…and I was relieved to finally get to the bottom of this mystery on Tuesday! To celebrate their 15th Anniversary Stag’s Hollow is releasing the first of a series of limited edition wines called Cachet. Winemaker Dwight Sick has taken some grapes rare in BC, such as Grenache and Tempranillo, and produced mind-blowingly good blends in ultra-small lots style. I was so excited that Dwight had a small amount of both Cachet No. 01 and No. 02 to taste, especially so considering the production run is listed in bottles, not cases, and they retail for $50 each! We tried No. 02 first, a Grenache/Syrah blend with a touch of Viognier and Marsanne: the wine is extremely smooth and rich; the fruity, floral aspects are encouraged by the Viognier, which is noticeable on the nose. Dwight suggests drinking No. 02 within 2-3 years, a shorter period than No. 01, which could do well for up to 5 years, but there’s really no need to wait that long! Cachet No. 01 is a Tempranillo-based blend that is even smoother than the the No. 02, with hints of cassis or perhaps licorice and a pleasing tartness; a bit more bite to it than No. 02. I’m almost hesitant to recommend these wines as I haven’t got my bottles yet, so leave some for me!
Another wonderful treat in the back of the room was Fairview Cellars, with owner and winemaker Bill Eggert present and pouring. I’ve heard some really wonderful things about Bill’s wines and have lately been collecting his reds when I see them, which is fortunately becoming more frequent! I even saw Fairview Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon in a VQA store for the first time recently, which bodes well for the future availability of Bill’s wines. It was a real treat to meet Bill and chat about his work; knowing that he attended the University of Guelph I was pleased to introduce him to my wife, who was born and raised in that Southern Ontario city. He proceeded to take us on a short tour of Fairview Cellars’ red wines, starting with the Madcap Red (2007), a Merlot-heavy blend that was wonderfully smooth and soft, with tart fruit-forward notes. The Two Hoots (2008) has more Cabernet, and is sort of an entry-level Meritage; Fairview’s big red is “The Bear”, a name which is on its own almost enough reason to buy. The Two Hoots we tried was even smoother than the Madcap, with tannins that were present but not overpowering. My wife preferred it over the Madcap which prompted Bill to declare her a “Cab Girl” – so now she knows! Also present from behind the table was some 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine I’ve got in my own collection that proved to be wonderfully smooth and easy-drinking, yet still with many years of graceful development ahead of it.
Over the course of the night we sampled many more excellent wines and learned new facts about new and old wineries (e.g., Nichol Vineyards grows the rare St. Laurent varietal). I’m already looking forward to next Taste BC and commend Liberty Wines for putting on an excellent event for a great cause – see you at Taste BC 2012!