Sunday 13 March 2011

Le Vieux Pin & LaStella Release New Wines

On Thursday evening Enotecca Wineries and Resorts hosted a Vancouver tasting of new releases from their South Okanagan wineries, and I was fortunate enough to attend and sample some excellent new wines. Although the new releases were primarily white and Rosé wines, some very lovely new reds and library samples were also available from Oliver-based Le Vieux Pin and Osoyoos-based LaStella.

We began by learning about LaStella’s new 2010 wines: Leggiero – an unoaked Chardonnay, Vivace – a Pinot Grigio, and LaStellina – a Merlot-based Rosé. All three wines will retail for about $25, and have been produced in relatively small lots – as are all of Enotecca’s wines. I tried both the 2009 Leggiero and LaStellina last year and enjoyed them, especially the Rosé; pure Merlot Rosé is fairly rare in these parts. The new releases of both wines continue the tradition of excellence: the Chardonnay has complex and intriguing tropical aromas and flavours; it is a really charming wine that we went back to at the end of the night to refresh our palates. The Pinot Grigio – with more acidity – had pleasant notes of pineapple and would make an excellent patio sipper, should summer ever arrive. The LaStellina Rosé is a bright red colour with significant residual sugar – be sure to serve well chilled – but a refreshing tart finish. Also available to sample was the delicious 2010 Moscato, a sweet effervescent aperitif-style wine (“inspired by the infamous Moscato d’Asti”). Not yet bottled, the Moscato will be available in 500ml bottles for $20, an increase in size from last year when it came in 375ml half-bottles.

On the Le Vieux Pin side of things, several wines were available to sample, including some 2008 reds. I can do little better than John Schreiner in his January review of the new reds, in which he covered the Pinot Noir, Merlot, and new Syrah. The “Adieu” Pinot Noir is the last Pinot from Le Vieux Pin, as they switch over production to Rhone varietals like Syrah. General Manager Rasoul Salehi explained that Le Vieux Pin aims to produce wines exclusively from Southern Okanagan grapes, and acquiring Pinot Noir from the northern end of the valley simply does not fit with that terroir-specific strategy. It is a bittersweet departure as Adieu is a wonderful wine with crisp, tart red fruit. Fortunately as one good thing comes to an end another is just beginning with the first vintage of Syrah about to be released. Le Vieux Pin’s mix of Black Sage and Golden Mile fruit provides for a ripe, meaty Syrah, but with a very smooth texture suitable for immediate consumption. At $45 it has a lot of competition from wineries like Burrowing Owl, Jackson-Triggs, and See Ya Later, all of which produce highly regarded Syrahs for $35 or less; so I’m looking forward to seeing how this new venture will play out over time.

In the same Rhone vein as Le Vieux Pin’s new Syrah comes an excellent Viognier-Roussanne with an interesting story: in addition to stainless steel and traditional oak barrels, a small amount was aged in acacia wood! The wine is aromatic with even stronger tropical flavours on the palate; but the soft, smooth texture and full mouthfeel is my favourite quality. Rasoul suggests serving this wine with sushi that includes fruits like mango or passionfruit, plus a fatty component to complement the wine’s weight – ripe avocado would certainly work well for vegetarians.

Other new releases from Le Vieux Pin include their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and 2010 Pinot Noir Rosé. The Sauvignon Blanc – just bottled on Monday – is a powerhouse of aromas; one needn’t even lift the glass to smell notes of gooseberry and grapefruit wafting upwards from the table. If you like crisp, dry, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc this is definitely a bottle to get your hands on; it went well with some tangy goat cheese that was on hand for the tasting. The Rosé complements LaStella’s Merlot-based version, with the more common use of Pinot Noir: why not try them both to compare varietals! It is drier and paler than LaStellina, and has that well-known wet-pavement Pinot character. It would be quite suitable with food, and has pleasant aromas of strawberry and rhubarb.

To conclude the evening we were provided the chance to sample some library vintages from both wineries, including Pinot Noir and Merlot from 2005 and 2006. Le Vieux Pin’s 2005 “Bella” Pinot Noir has matured quite well and still had great red fruit and acidity, along with a surprisingly meaty texture. The “Apogee” (Reserve) Merlot from the same year is also – not surprisingly – aging very well, with a soft velvety texture as the tannins have mellowed, and bright acidity. LaStella’s Reserve Merlot “Maestoso” from 2006 had more tannins, but less acidity than the Apogee; it was quite illuminating to try both vintages and wineries alongside one another. The Maestoso was our favourite, with amazing dark fruit flavours and a rich finish; it was indeed “totally sensual” as John Schreiner describes it. In fact the 2007 Maestoso received 95 points and is still available in stores – with a $90 price tag it moves slowly but surely. I doubt you’ll get your hands on one of the 22 Magnums produced however, they are certainly long gone!

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