Tuesday was the BC VQA Spring Release Tasting event – “Bloom” – and I was honoured to be invited to sample the many wonderful new wines coming out from over 50 of BC’s top VQA wineries, over 200 wines in fact (I did NOT taste them all)! It was a two and a half hour whirlwind, but I went into it prepared, with several wineries from which I definitely wanted to sample; having at least a semblance of a game-plan is eminently helpful at events like this! The BC Wine Institute had prepared a very helpful booklet listing the many wines being poured, but as is common at large tastings some of them weren’t present for various reasons, while many unexpected gems were present in addition. My notes on a few of the interesting and unique wines are below, plus some other tidbits of winery news:
CedarCreek: One of the top new releases from this Kelowna-area winery is their 2010 Riesling, winner of Best of Varietal at the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival. It’s a very refreshing summer wine, with loads of lime flavours that will be quite enjoyable in the warm weather that’s coming. I’m pleased to be getting two bottles as part of my first CedarCreek Platinum Club case next month! I also tried out the new 2010 Pinot Noir Rosé, CedarCreek’s first foray into Rosé. Pinot Noir Rosé is relatively common here in BC – mainly because it works quite well, ensuring tasty strawberry flavours and food-friendly acidity.
Church & State: Having recently opened their Okanagan winery (in addition to their original Vancouver Island location), Church & State also celebrated the third vintage of their top Bordeaux-blend “Quintessential”. Although not a new release for summer, the 2007 Quintessential was present for tasting, alongside the less expensive Meritage. Quintessential 2006 was awarded Best Red Wine of the Year in the 2010 All Canadian Wine Championships, and just this week the 2007 vintage received a Gold medal at the 2011 ACWCs. It is a fairly meaty, chewy big red, whilst the 2007 Meritage is more approachable at present, with a more expressive nose in fact, and a slightly thinner texture. It was entertaining and enlightening to taste both wines against each other!
Painted Rock: I stopped by to see John Skinner, proprietor of this popular new winery, and let him know how excited I am to be attending next week’s BC Wine Appreciation Society Painted Rock dinner. We talked about the challenges he is facing with relatively limited production and simultaneous high demand for his superb wines, like the new Red Icon 2008, follow-up to last year’s Lt. Governor’s Award Winner. If you are lucky enough to find any Painted Rock wines at VQA stores for winery pricing don’t dawdle, or you may miss the boat like I did with the first release of the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (another Lt. Governor’s Award winner).
Fort Berens: The pioneering Lillooet winery run by Rolf de Bruin and his wife has already established itself with some impressive award-winning wines made from Okanagan grapes (while their own vineyards mature for the 2011 harvest). I tried a delicious vanilla, buttery Chardonnay from 2009 and an amazingly expressive Pinot Gris from the 2010 vintage, with aromas that leapt out of the glass. Rolf’s 2009 Meritage was surprisingly smooth and silky for such a young wine, and he recalled with glee the gold medal received for the 2008 release at the New World International Wine Competition – the only Canadian wine to win gold in that category! Lastly, also present was a unique Petit Verdot-based Rosé from 2009: I’d love to try a tasting of this alongside a few other unique offerings such as River Stone’s Malbec Rosé, La Stella’s Merlot Rosé, Tinhorn Creek’s Cabernet Franc Rosé, and Stag’s Hollow’s Syrah Rosé.
Fairview Cellars: A bit of a grab bag of wines from Bill Eggert’s Golden Mile winery, due to some confusion about dates – leading to a mad dash through the warehouse the morning of, followed by a five-hour drive to Vancouver to set up for “Bloom” at 2pm! The results meant there actually weren’t any of the new Spring 2011 releases available to taste, but I thoroughly enjoyed the previous vintages! The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (all 190 cases of the 2010 are sold out anyway) was a awash in gorgeous grapefruit, and can actually still be found in some private stores. Bill’s remaining wines are all reds, and both Meritage blends Madcap Red (2008) and Two Hoots (2008) were deliciously smooth; the Madcap being more Merlot-heavy, while the Two Hoots favours Cabernet Sauvignon. I also got to hear about the upcoming special release Cabernet Sauvignon “The Wrath”, which I’m looking forward to as excitedly as is Liam Carrier from Icon Wines, who enjoyed an early barrel sample last fall!
Laughing Stock: New wines from this Naramata winery include white and red “Blind Trusts”, blends for which the exact components are hidden beneath the capsule to allow for a little guessing fun. The current release Blind Trust White 2010 has some really nice tropical notes, while the upcoming Blind Trust Red 2009 continues a fine tradition of fruit-forward approachability. Spoiler alert: this year Blind Trust Red is mostly Merlot (70%), with 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and just a bit of Malbec (8%). Laughing Stock’s 2009 Chardonnay was also present, and impressive with toasty aromas and buttered popcorn flavours showing deft use of oak; it received a Bronze medal in last year’s Canadian Wine Awards.
8th Generation: The new 2010 Pinot Meunier Rosé is very tasty, and continues the rich tradition of excellence with this wine; it’s a must-have summer Rosé for me every year. Also available was the newly-bottled “Integrity” Frizzante, a follow-up to last year’s gorgeous Chardonnay Frizzante, renamed in part due to the inclusion of some Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc for 2010. I think the inclusion of Pinot Gris in particular changes the experience: it seems to have more mousse than last year, and isn’t quite as crisp and mouth-watering. I do however look forward to trying a full bottle later this summer in a different context to see how it develops given a little time to come into itself.
Summerhill: I didn’t get a chance to try any of Summerhill’s new wines, but instead I took note of their new upcoming packaging venture, in the form of a 3L bag-in-box. They will be releasing various wines in these boxes later this year, with some excellent deals to be had as a result; for example, their deliciously rich Organic Merlot at $80/box vs. $30/bottle – you’re getting more than a bottles-worth for free!
I’m looking forward to seeing many of these wines in stores big and small over the coming months. It should be another great summer for BC wine, so get out there and enjoy some!