Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Collectibles: March 2015

In addition to some Australian icons, I brought home a few local treats from the Vancouver International Wine Festival. I used to acquire at least a case of BC wine from the Festival’s on-site store, but local retail availability has improved so much in the last few years my Festival take has declined. I no longer need to rush into the Festival store immediately upon entry, because it turns out I already have many of the home-grown rarities on offer. This is a good thing, in that it reflects a diversity of BC wine amongst the Vancouver retail market – let’s hope this sector remains robust in the face of recent regulatory challenges.

March 2015 BC wine collectibles

Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2013: The Wine Festival was the first venue to exhibit Quails’ Gate’s newest Reserve Pinot Noir. Having just bottled their flagship wine in December (after 10 months in 50% new French oak), the winery poured and sold the Family Reserve at the Festival as a preview just prior to release of 1,015 cases at the winery. This was new winemaker Nikki Calloway’s first vintage, as she took over from Grant Stanley in August of that year, following great success with Pinot Noir at Mission Hill. VIWF Store/Winery Direct $45

JoieFarm “En Famille” Reserve Pinot Noir 2012: Testing the patience of loyal customers Joie decided to add additional bottle age to their Reserve Pinot starting with the 2012. Rather than aim for release shortly after 8 months in barrel were complete, an additional 18 months were provided for in bottle (original plans were for 24 months). Attentive treatment of diverse grapes (six clones from Naramata, Skaha, and Summerland) has yielded Heidi Noble’s oft-mentioned bacon flavours, in what the winery feels is their most robust Pinot Noir to date; worthy of a prestigious gold medal at the 2014 Decanter Awards. Swirl VQA Store $36

Nk’Mip Qwam Qwmt Syrah 2010: I’ve had an empty spot on the shelf awaiting this bottle for several months. Although officially released back in September 2013, it has taken some time to show up on store shelves (many still sell the 2009 in fact). Previous vintages are awash in trophies, and this one continued the trend with a gold medal at the 2014 National Wine Awards. Nk’Mip’s southern Okanagan vineyards consistently yield superb Syrah from ideal terroir. We should consider ourselves lucky it’s been afforded some bottle age so as to knit together the dense palate. BC Liquor Stores $35

Cassini Cellars Grand Reserve Syrah 2011: Adrian Cassini was present at the Wine Festival with this small lot gem, very much deserving of the moniker. Just three barrels worth were apparently culled from the remaining 22 barrels of Collector’s Series Syrah. I always enjoy and appreciate when the term “Reserve” is used in its most literal sense. Despite not being mentioned on the Cassini website yet, the wine was awarded a silver medal at the National Wine Awards last year. At around the same time John Schreiner described it as “complex and brooding” – worthy of time in my cellar to intimidate the other bottles. VIWF Store/Winery Direct $39

Red Rooster Reserve Syrah 2012: Another Wine Festival snag, which is rarely seen outside the winery. Winemaker Karen Gillis was personally present to pour and discuss the wine, of which a previous vintage (2010) brought her a Lieutenant Governor’s Award. The winery’s Syrah webpage was just updated, listing only 377 cases produced, with some confusion as to provenance: although initially said to be sourced from Oliver, it is later said to be from the Similkameen Valley’s Vanessa Vineyard, with a touch of Osoyoos Petit Verdot. Seeing as the VQA certification is for the less specific “British Columbia” appellation the dual valley origin seems most likely. VIWF Store/Winery Direct $30

TIME Syrah 2012: The very first varietal Syrah from Harry McWatters’ relatively new winery project on the Black Sage Bench (although the vineyard itself is quite mature). Like other new BC Syrah it was previewed at the Wine Festival, where I enjoyed the savoury aromas, clean dark fruit, and spicy pepper flavours. TIME’s first Cabernet Franc (from the same vintage), released last year, was extremely popular and a superb value. This small 100 case production could sell out quite rapidly, but one would imagine Harry is holding some back for sale at his new winery and tasting room when it opens early fall. VIWF Store/Winery Direct $35

Stag’s Hollow Cabernet Franc 2012: I got the chance to sample this beauty at the tasting that followed The Grape Debate in January – it was a highlight of the evening. The wine received a silver medal at the BC Wine Awards last fall, and contains grapes from four different geographically distinct vineyards: 8% of the wine is actually a blend of (Okanagan Falls) Merlot and (Osoyoos) Petit Verdot. Fresh, ripe, and very well balanced, it should be just as memorable after a couple years in the cellar. Swirl VQA Store $31

Synchromesh Reserve Cabernet Franc 2012: Having been hearing more and more buzz about Synchromesh’s red program recently (following a 2013 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Riesling), I paid special attention when I saw this unknown wine at Marquis Wine Cellars. A short conversation with proprietor Alan Dickinson provided description of a particularly pure and exquisite single barrel (neutral French oak) from Turtle Rock Farms on the Naramata Bench. The 23 cases produced were primarily intended for the Synchromesh Wine Club; a handful of lucky restaurants and stores got one case each. Marquis Wine Cellars $55

Saturday, 28 March 2015

BCWAS Pinot Noir Blind Tasting

The BC Wine Appreciation Society recently hosted their third annual double blind varietal wine tasting, pitting nine BC bottles against one another and three international competitors. Previous years featured Syrah and Cabernet Franc, making Pinot Noir an ideal candidate this time around. Although Pinot Noir has remained the second-most-planted red grape in BC for at least fifteen years it has recently begun to garner more attention. Last year’s naming of the Mission Hill Martin’s Lane 2011 Pinot Noir as “World’s Best” at the Decanter Awards put an international spotlight on the excellent work being done here.


There exist a number of experienced and talented winemakers focussed – sometimes exclusively – on Pinot Noir in our local industry. One such person is Bradley Cooper, owner of Black Cloud, plus current Winemaker at Serendipity Winery. Brad was generous enough to join the Society for the Blind Tasting, to serve as Moderator and provide insight on Pinot Noir and the BC wine industry. Brad’s years of service at Township 7 helped build the winemaking experience that allowed him and his wife Audralee Daum to launch their own “garagiste” wine brand Black Cloud a few years ago, making small quantities of Pinot Noir-exclusive wines.

Brad reminded everyone of the renaissance Pinot Noir experienced following the release of the movie Sideways in 2004. The film effectively raised the profile of Pinot Noir in North America, providing consumers with a re-introduction to this complex and remarkably drinkable wine. While many local wineries have relatively long histories with Pinot Noir, the last decade in particular has offered up winemakers the freedom to explore their passion and hone their techniques. Along with the more well known, long-running Pinot Noir producers (e.g., Blue Mountain, Quails’ Gate), a great number of smaller wineries have existed historically or have come on stream in the last few years.

BCWAS President Brian Glaum works his way through a dozen exciting Pinot Noir alongside Winemaker Bradley Cooper.

Just like past blind tastings, this year featured plenty of delicious wines along with many surprises when the popular vote results were revealed. The wines seemed to range from those in the lighter, more delicate spectrum to dark, rich, and oak-influenced: we smelled and tasted flowers and earth, raspberry, orange, cherries, strawberries and more; plus leather, mushrooms, barnyard, and toasted oak. Knowing the broad range in which Pinot Noir is grown in BC, interpretations and hypotheses were left wide open: in the Okanagan Valley alone it is planted from the desert of Osoyoos to the forested hills of Vernon.

Bottles covered and randomly ordered so that even pourers remained in the dark.

Participants received a short ballot on which to record their top five favourites, in rank order, to analyze the popular vote using a Borda Count spreadsheet. This method of assigning points is fairly robust in dealing with truncated ballots, which is why a ranking of all twelve wines was not required. Three different scoring systems were used to ensure redundancy, and provided the Society Executive with a overview of favourites: wines were thus revealed in three groups. Latter analyses based exclusively on the twelve-point scoring system (i.e., 12 points for every first place ballot ranking, 11 points for second, etc.) enabled a complete ranking to be compiled.

Louis Jadot, Blue Mountain, Black Cloud, and Evesham Wood in the bottom four.

The bottom four wines included two of the three international contributions to the tasting. Last year’s Cabernet Franc blind tasting found the French contribution least favoured, and surprisingly a solid last place finish was once again accorded to old world viniculture. The relatively pricey, aged 2009 vintage of Domaine Louis Jadot Santenay “Clos de Malte” from the Côte du Beaune region of Burgundy simply didn’t find favour amongst BC wine aficionados. Rounding out the bottom four, but scoring significantly higher than the Burgundy, were the Black Cloud 2011 “Altostratus”, Oregon’s Evesham Wood 2013 vintage, and the 2011 Reserve from Blue Mountain. Both the Black Cloud and Blue Mountain were derived from the cool 2011 vintage, yielding bright berry fruit with hints of leather; but perhaps just a bit too tart and lean for some.

The middle group of wines – ranked 8th to 5th – contained some well-known favourites, with significant history behind them. CedarCreek’s 2012 Platinum Block 2 Pinot Noir represents a family of reserve-tier wines going back many years, and was split into block-specific wines starting in 2011. In comparison to what the winery describes as structured, chocolate and spice character in Block 4, the gold medal Block 2 yields a more delicate, floral profile thanks to surprisingly different soils in the adjacent blocks. Alongside CedarCreek we revealed the 2012 vintage from new Lake Country winery 50th Parallel. After many years at Quails’ Gate, Winemaker Grant Stanley partnered with Curtis & Sheri-Lee Krouzel to build 50th Parallel, which focuses on premium Pinot Noir and opened for business in 2013. As the young vineyards mature and Grant becomes even better acquainted with the terroir, the future of Pinot Noir at 50th Parallel should be a prosperous one.

50th Parallel, CedarCreek, Haywire, and Howling Bluff filling out the middle four.

Two notable award-winning wines and wineries followed, as Haywire and Howling Bluff garnered support in the top half of the favourites. Both wineries are the recipients of Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for their Pinot Noir, with the creamy 2011 Haywire Canyonview having received the award just last year. Summerland’s Haywire (based at Okanagan Crush Pad) is going all in with Pinot Noir, planting up to 50 acres of own-rooted vines in the nearby Garnet Valley. Across the lake on the Naramata Bench, Luke Smith’s Howling Bluff has received not only two Lt. Governor’s Awards for Pinot Noir (2006 & 2009) but received Red Wine of the Year honours from the Canadian Wine Awards (for his 2008 Pinot Noir). We received the fortunate opportunity to taste the yet-to-be-released, juicy 2012 Summa Quies vintage, the reserve tier from Luke’s premier estate vineyard.

Overall Ranking

1.  Eau Vivre 2013 ($22)
2.  Kim Crawford Rise And Shine 2012 ($35)
3.  Nk’Mip Qwam Qwmt 2012 ($30)
4.  Meyer Reimer Vineyard 2012 ($40)
5.  Howling Bluff Summa Quies 2012 ($35)
6.  Haywire Canyonview 2011 ($35)
7.  50th Parallel 2012 ($32)
8.  CedarCreek Platinum Block 2 2012 ($45)
9.  Blue Mountain Reserve 2011 ($40)
10.  Evesham Wood 2013 ($34)
11.  Black Cloud Altostratus 2011 ($35)
12.  Louis Jadot Santenay 2009 ($45)

Closely ranked in fourth and third place respectively were Meyer’s 2012 single vineyard offering from Kelowna’s Reimer Vineyard, and Nk’Mip’s Osoyoos-appellation Qwam Qwmt (Reserve) from the same superb vintage. Despite being sourced from vineyards at nearly opposite ends of the Okanagan, the wines presented similarly intense, dark palates; with the expressive toasted oak aromas from Meyer yielding to slightly more subtle perfumed red fruit from Nk’Mip. At last year’s National Wine Awards the Meyer took home a silver medal in competition, while the Nk’Mip was awarded gold.

Meyer, Eau Vivre, Kim Crawford, and Nk'Mip finding favour as the top four.

With only two wines remaining we finally discovered the group’s favourite BC bottle of the tasting, in the form of Eau Vivre’s 2013, the only contender from the Similkameen Valley. A close second was New Zealand’s Kim Crawford Small Parcels “Rise and Shine” 2012, bringing more rich, dark complexity from the southern hemisphere. In 2012 and 2013 Eau Vivre won consecutive Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for their 2009 and 2010 Pinot Noir. The newest 2013 vintage provided impressive, complex aromas of spiced cherries, with hints of earthy mushrooms. The rich palate provided more cherries, cinnamon, and cloves, with a touch of marmalade on toast: the wine appeared in the Top Five ranking on 32 of 48 ballots. Those with a little bit left in their glasses were lucky indeed; revisiting the wines now exposed proved an engaging conclusion to a very thought-provoking evening!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

BC Syrah Spices Up Wine Festival

In the days leading up to the prestigious Vancouver International Wine Festival I reviewed the potential contributions of the twenty-seven BC wineries that would be attending. With the Festival’s “Feature Variety” being Syrah this year there would be ample opportunity for local wineries to exhibit their world- class presentations of the grape – which thrives in the desert vineyards of Oliver & Osoyoos in particular. As the grateful recipient of a Media Pass for the Festival’s International Tasting Room I spent time exploring a great many Australian Shiraz from the Theme Region, but the lovely local competitors stood out as well.

Vancouver Convention Centre yielded stunning views during the Festival

Several sessions in the Tasting Room at the Vancouver Convention Centre ensured I was able to find and enjoy fifteen BC wineries sampling their Syrah. There were wines from entry to icon level, miniscule small lots and market-spanning productions, all poured with pride by the Winemakers and Proprietors in attendance. I tasted many existing favourites, found new ones, and relished trying wines I hadn’t expected when I previewed the most likely wines last month.

With the national sections laid out in sensible alphabetical order I started my BC review at Backyard Vineyards, the growing Langley winery recently joined by capable and experienced Winemaker James Cambridge. James poured me 2012 Syrah, harvested before his arrival, and a sample of 2013 he has managed in full since harvest. The youthful tannins in the 2012 were obvious, but the clean and fruity palate showed off lovely cherry flavours. Fresher and also bigger in body was the 2013, with a luscious palate presenting jammy character.

James Cambridge has his hands full at Backyard Vineyards

Next door I found Glenn Fawcett, President of acclaimed Black Hills, pouring his 2012 Syrah, still toasty and young after a year in bottle. The wine can be found in some stores but is sold out at the winery. A juicy, spicy palate and sweet vanilla notes proved more than sufficient for current enjoyment while the newly-bottled 2013 awaits release. Just across the aisle Adrian Cassini was providing a glimpse at his ultra-rare Cassini Cellars “Grand Reserve” 2011 Syrah, of which a mere 75 cases were produced. The intense black cherry aromas followed through on the long finish of the rich cherry pie palate. To pour such a rarity at the Festival is commendable, considering it will likely sell out at the winery in short order.

Glenn Fawcett shows off Black Hills' award-winning Syrah

The table of wines from Haywire was being shown off by the enthusiastic team at Okanagan Crush Pad, including newly-promoted Chief Winemaker Matt Dumayne. The 2012 Syrah yielded a fresh, expressive nose with plenty of fruit and a hint of leather – aging in old French barrels kept the fruit first and foremost. It’s quite quaffable, and definitely one of the best values at only $21 for Black Sage Bench fruit. Just around the corner Laughing Stock power couple David & Cynthia Enns were present with their highly coveted Platinum medal 2012 Syrah. Sourced from their Osoyoos vineyard, the wine greatly impressed, with a nose of sweet flowers and perfumed leather – clean and fresh in part due to 4% Viognier. The gorgeous full palate was awash in pure dark berry fruit, with white pepper and chocolate flavours on top. With the 2012 now sold out at the winery fans are eagerly awaiting the 2013 release in June.

David & Cynthia Enns are rightfully proud of their Osoyoos Syrah

Back-to-back at the end of the row, flanking the Wines of BC booth, I found Painted Rock and Poplar Grove. John Skinner was on hand to pour his 2012 Painted Rock Syrah, already yielding much more fruit expression than the youthful bottle I opened in December. As the initial oak treatment integrates, flavours of bright cherry and strawberry are coming out to complement aromas of vanilla and leather. A curtain away, Poplar Grove Winemaker Stefan Arnason was slinging the newly released 2011 Syrah, after 18 months of bottle age. Despite the cooler 2011 season, the refreshing wine provided a very nice, clean, fruity profile that benefits from a touch of Viognier. Stefan’s take is that his Syrah program is “dialled in” with no changes desired or expected going forward, and none are seemingly needed.

John Skinner reminds us of the red wine potential from the Skaha Bench

Less than two years since winning a Lt. Governor’s Award for her 2010 Reserve Syrah, Red Rooster Winemaker Karen Gillis was present with the 2012 iteration. Although the wine is not yet officially released it was already displaying a lingering fruit forward profile with sweet spice and a silky texture. Things got a bit darker next door at Road 13 where the charming Joe & Laura Luckhurst were pouring 2012 Syrah, another upcoming release being readied for an April debut. The co-fermented blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Viognier includes 15% Similkameen fruit to complement the Golden Mile winery’s Okanagan vineyards. A rich, toasty nose revealed generous dark fruit and mocha on the memorable palate – a powerful wine that Joe suggested “will follow you home.” I’ll be sure to keep a bed warm for this one!

Joe & Laura Luckhurst keep it classy at Road 13 Vineyards

When not busy graciously accepting his Spirited Industry Professional Award, Sandhill Winemaker Howard Soon was pouring two 2012 Syrah for eager guests. The excitement was to be expected considering Howard’s 2007 Small Lots Syrah was named Best Red Wine in Canada at the Canadian Wine Awards. The 2012 vintage continues the tradition of excellence with a complex profile of leather and earth, delicious milk chocolate, and attractive burnt sugar aromas. The 2012 Estate Syrah was also on hand, offering superb value at only $20 for a very accessible wine with ripe fruit and an enjoyably full texture.

More notable Syrah was present at nearby See Ya Later, where the 2012 “Rover” was being poured, showing off the BC Wine Award’s inaugural “Premier’s Award” for best wine. Having tasted it last fall I found the somewhat dichotomous sweet fruit and oak are now melding into a more complete wine. I also look forward to seeing what it becomes after a couple more years in bottle. Right next door I found another table of multiple Syrah, where Summerhill’s CEO Ezra Cipes was present pouring dual vintages. A 2010 Osoyoos-sourced Syrah from a vineyard transitioning to organic status provided tart cherry flavours and a smooth, easy drinking palate. The small lot “Spadefoot Toad Vineyard” 2011 Syrah was in bottle mere days, but provided a long, fresh fruit finish following the understandably restrained nose.

Plenty of smiles from Summerhill Sales Manager Tom Walmsley and CEO Ezra Cipes

At the TIME Winery table, Harry McWatters was proud to present not just a new release, but his young winery’s first varietal Syrah, a natural fit for his Sundial vineyard on the Black Sage Bench. Six months after bottling (just 100 cases) the nose is still a little closed, but enticing savoury, meaty character was present. The lush, clean palate yielded ripe blackberry flavours with gamey, black pepper hints. Similar spicy notes came from another surprise next door at Tinhorn Creek, where the rare 2011 Oldfield Series Syrah was actually open for tasting – despite it having been sold out virtually since release last fall. A fragrant, fruity nose and juicy palate provided another reminder that the cool 2011 vintage was far from universally negative, despite the severe cropping required to yield just 168 cases from Tinhorn’s Black Sage and Golden Mile Bench vineyards.

Industry pioneer Harry McWatters promotes TIME Winery with daughter Christa-Lee

Given my own favouritism for Syrah in general, particularly the exciting variety of styles and consistently high quality found in BC, this year’s Festival was extremely enjoyable for me. I am very grateful to have received media accreditation and admission to selected events, with particular thanks to Heth PR for their hard work supervising the accreditation process. As Australian wine enjoys a well-deserved renaissance thanks to the Festival, I’m sure the hard work is already ramping back up for next year’s celebration of Italy!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Laughing Stock Vertical at VanWineFest

This year the Vancouver International Wine Festival included very few BC-centric events, with just one outside the Festival Tasting Room. Fortunately that one event was of the highest calibre: a ten-year vertical of Laughing Stock’s flagship “Portfolio” Bordeaux-style red blend. The winery has been celebrating their tenth vintage release since the 2012 was introduced last fall, with similar Portfolio Verticals across Canada. Needless to say I was honoured and excited to have received an invitation to attend the sold out Wine Festival Vertical as media.

The BLG board room with more alcohol than usual

The tasting took place in the newly renovated boardroom of law firm Borden-Ladner-Gervais, and was moderated by local wine and food legend Sid Cross. Laughing Stock owners David & Cynthia Enns were present along with their new Wine Club & Tasting Room Manager Kendall Harris. Stunning views of the Convention Centre buildings and North Shore mountains provided an appropriate backdrop for the Enns’ impressive achievements. The “winery” started in 2001 when David imported one ton of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Washington to press in his White Rock garage. Only two years later they had moved production to the Naramata Bench and assembled the first Portfolio blend. In the dozen years since then Laughing Stock has amassed national and international acclaim, with sustainable growth at the same facility built in 2005, always focused on quality over quantity.

Consistent and ideal branding from the very beginning

Based on experience from previous similar tastings in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, along with guidance from Sid, the ten samples from 2003-2012 were divided into two flights of five. The 2007, 2006, and then 2005 were actually tasted first, representing the initial years of self-sufficient production from the Enns’ own winery. The 2007 expressed very attractive maturity and complexity on the nose, with baked strawberry and blueberry flavours that still retained fresh acidity; it would ultimately prove my favourite of the flight. Both 2006 and 2005 were more savoury and leathery on the nose, seemingly more tannic than the younger 2007, with stewed fruit flavours and hints of milk chocolate and olives, respectively.

Twelve glasses of BC wine history ready to be enjoyed

The first two vintages (2003 & 2004) were crushed at the nearby Poplar Grove winery, and made in a simpler Cabernet-Merlot style (without the Malbec and Petit Verdot that would arrive later). Only 500 cases of the inaugural vintage were produced from an 8 ton harvest, and very, very few bottles remain. There was some suggestion that both early vintages are now past their prime, but I actually quite enjoyed the fully mature 2004. The sawdust aromas and thick, sedimentary texture of the 2003 left something to be desired, but the 2004 grew on me easily. It showed a very expressive nose and many interesting secondary flavours one doesn’t often get to enjoy, finishing second for me amongst the five samples in the flight.



Cab Sauv

Cab Franc


P. Verdot





























Tasting those older wines prompted some reminiscing from Cynthia and David, who were quick to recall early challenges with which they struggled. Although the winery immediately established a superb and now iconic branding that remains unchanged, the initial bottle labelling was not without headaches. The 2003 Portfolio was accidentally printed with estimated details yet to be finalized, including an inaccurate alcohol level and (not yet decided-upon) VQA status! Cynthia explained that the printer wisely choose to pay their VQA fees rather than reprint 6000 bottles. Even two years in there was plenty to overcome: for the 2005 harvest the new winery’s crush rollers were delayed, forcing the Enns (and whomever they could cajole into helping) to personally foot stomp 43 tons of fruit!

Cynthia, David, and Sid ponder the intricacies of Portfolio

The second flight of wines represented the younger, more recent vintages, those for which the winemaking and equipment have been “dialled in” to meet the target style. Each one could continue aging well, but all provide quite pleasant current enjoyment. By 2008 the formula was relatively well-established, with room for vintage variation of course: half Merlot, one quarter Cabernet Sauvignon, one eighth Cabernet Franc, one sixteenth Malbec, and a percent or two of Petit Verdot. David reported that he produces each variety as an independent blend – mixing the wine from different vineyard blocks – before making the final Portfolio (and the “Blind Trust” second wine). The hundreds of blending trials consume many long days of solid tasting, testing, and re-tasting.

When comparing the 2008 to the earlier 2007 I could immediately detect more oak expression on the nose, with hints of leather and cocoa, but overall more restrained. The palate was clean and juicy, with plenty of life left. This was the first year David put the Cabernet Franc into puncheons, and the year he began fine-tuning whole cluster fermentation. While 2008 was a cool season overall (in the bottom three of the ten), the following year saw an extremely hot, albeit short, growing season. The resulting rapid ripening in 2009 yielded a rich and robust Portfolio, fuller-bodied and concentrated, with Cabernet varieties making up half the blend. The candied, fruit forward aromas were widely appreciated, and I enjoyed the floral hints, with even a hint of barnyard on the finish; it eventually became my close second-favourite of the flight.

A rare and desirable Portfolio six-year vertical

The warm weather in 2009 was short-lived, as 2010 brought the start of two very cool seasons in a row, and a new set of challenges. Despite a slow start and a cool September, rigorous fruit thinning allowed Cabernet Sauvignon to dominate for the first time that year. Merlot decreased to only a third, and Malbec jumped up dramatically, demonstrating the uniqueness of each vintage. At little more than four years old, the 2010 introduced the fresh character of the younger wines, with tart red fruit and licorice flavours. The 2011 was similar, although the chilliest growing season by far resulted in cooler fruit flavours and a lighter-bodied wine. Still, a certain elegance emerged from the lean, bright palate – enough to warrant a prized Lieutenant Governor’s Award for that vintage!



Cab Sauv

Cab Franc


P. Verdot































By 2012 growing conditions had dramatically improved, as that year was the first of three excellent seasons still going strong. The celebrated tenth vintage of Portfolio saw a return to somewhat more traditional proportions, although by now David is quite flexible in response to vineyard expression. For such a significant wine, the results could not have been better: the beautiful violet colour introduced a highly aromatic nose, with well integrated oak already. The tannins are predictably young, but the purity of fruit, balance, and delicious molasses hint on the finish gave me an immediate favourite wine of the flight.

VIWF Volunteer Jonathan Lai, Wine Club Manager Kendall Harris, Moderator Sid Cross, Cynthia & David Enns, VIWF Sommelier Terry Threlfall

With Kendall recording data at a flip-chart, Sid proceeded to ask for audience favourites, giving each guest two voting opportunities. The overall results showed a sweet spot at several years from vintage: the most preferred wine was the 2009, with 2008 and 2006/2007 coming in second and (tied for) third. Great things are likely still to come from the newer releases, particularly the string of great vintages from 2012-2014. And Portfolio is not the only source of greatness at Laughing Stock, with a full but focused selection of other wines. The winery’s 2007-acquired Osoyoos vineyard has yielded multi-award-winning Syrah since 2008, including the most recent (and now sold out) Platinum Medal 2012 vintage. David even revealed his re-entry into Pinot Noir territory, with two acres under vine on the Naramata Bench, and two vintages in barrel already. There will be many more exciting verticals yet to come!