Thursday 30 April 2015

Collectibles: April 2015

Even with the approaching summer season and the call of whites and rosés, I still found plenty of cellar-worthy reds to dote over this month. With a couple of exceptions, all were relatively new releases too, keeping collectors piqued outside the traditional red seasons. A few favourites included a couple additions to cherished rotating vertical collections, meaning older vintages finally become fair game for consumption!

April 2015 BC wine collectibles

Eau Vivre Pinot Noir 2013: This Similkameen Valley star has significant provenance, as both the 2009 and 2010 vintages were awarded Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in BC Wine. A bottle for the cellar became a necessity after it was revealed as my number one selection at the recent BC Wine Appreciation Society Blind Tasting (in which it was voted the overall crowd favourite). Considering only 600 cases were produced, as the winery’s flagship variety, and the “simply delicious” palate described by John Schreiner, it makes for an obvious collectible at a dynamite price. Swirl VQA Store $24

LaStella Allegretto Merlot 2012: Newly released for summer (and unlikely to last long) is one of Italian-inspired LaStella’s complex and coveted Merlot (the other being $100 Maestoso). Despite the iconic status of Maestoso, the own-rooted “Pie Franco” Allegretto from south-west Osoyoos is actually produced in lesser quantities: only 206 cases are available, while the most recent release of 2011 Maestoso saw 329 cases on the market. Needless to say it will be rare to find on store shelves, with Club/Society members and visitors to the Osoyoos winery likely to acquire most in short order; well curated VQA stores may have some. Winery Direct $70

Le Vieux Pin Equinoxe Syrah 2011: The sister winery to LaStella is focused on Syrah, recently expanding to three different styles at a range of price points. The winery’s Equinoxe tier of wines represent their penultimate reserve collection. The 2011 was released last fall and is now approaching end of vintage, not that 268 cases went very far to begin with. Several reviews on WineAlign emphasize the bright, elegant palate, well worthy of a gold medal at last year’s National Wine Awards. Even before release Anthony Gismondi was gushing about the wine’s fabulous character. Winery Direct $90

Burrowing Owl Athene 2012: A co-fermented blend of 53% Syrah and 47% Cabernet Sauvignon from a vintage generous to both varieties. The wine spent 21 months in a creative blend of 85% French, 10% American, and 5% Hungarian oak barrels before bottling last August and then several months of bottle age. The first few vintages of this wine (a versatile and beneficial blend that is growing in local popularity) were fairly hard to find, but lately it has been showing up in stores outside the winery. Firefly Fine Wines & Ales $42

Le Vieux Pin Retouche 2012: Recalling the secretive historical practice of “Hermitaging” Bordeaux wines inspired Le Vieux Pin to do the same here, adding just enough Syrah “that it sits invisibly behind the Cabernet filling in the gaps.” In previous vintages that has equated to approximately 20% Syrah, 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, and similar proportions are likely this year. This is in contrast to Burrowing Owl’s even split that shines more light on the Syrah component. The resulting wine (a mere 61 cases) can be expected to exude youthful but ripe tannins, which I am more than happy to tame into elegance with some years in the cellar. Winery Direct $69

Perseus Select Lots Cabernet Franc 2013: This young Cabernet Franc was quite popular at the recent BC Wine Appreciation Society 10th Anniversary Gala. The 2012 vintage (from the Similkameen valley’s renowned Blind Creek Vineyard) received a silver medal at the National Wine Awards, but the 2013 comes from a different vineyard on the Okanagan’s Golden Mile Bench. Little else is known thus far about it, given limited release; but when a small allotment arrived at Swirl VQA Store I was happy to pick up a bottle for future assessment before it all disappeared. Winery Direct $30

Poplar Grove The Legacy 2010: Cool conditions in the 2010 growing season prompted Poplar Grove to implement aggressive crop thinning practices; the harvest was reduced from 210 tons to 80 tons! Production of the winery’s icon “The Legacy” was cut by 40%, down to just 300 cases, which are seeing particularly limited distribution. Fortunately I was able to continue my vertical collection by snagging one bottle directly from the winery. Evidence of intriguing vintage variation can be seen when comparing 2009 and 2010 vintages, as Merlot decreased from 56% to 33% while Malbec increased from 3% to a bountiful 24%, surpassing both Cabernets! Winery Direct $50

Church & State Quintessential 2011: The winery delayed release of the 2010 vintage – still bottle aging – to present their award-winning 2011 after it was deemed more approachable. In a very impressive showing, it won a prestigious gold medal from the British International Wine Challenge last year, the first time since 2008 any BC VQA wine has been awarded higher than silver at the IWC. Although it could be eagerly enjoyed at present, this bottle will join my vertical collection to “put some fat on” as per Anthony Gismondi’s 90-point review. It bumps out the 2006, meaning I finally get to crack open that well-aged gem! Swirl VQA Store $60

Friday 24 April 2015

BC Wine Brunch In The Sun

The most beautiful weekend in Vancouver so far this year provided an ideal setting for last weekend’s wine club in the sun. With a new baby at home our friends are finding it easier to host others than head out for dinner, so they welcomed six of us for Sunday brunch. Their sun-soaked rooftop patio was the perfect venue on which to enjoy everyone’s culinary creativity and a range of BC wines covering the spectrum. New releases and aged delights provided plenty of pairing opportunities that pleasantly surprised even those who assembled each delicious dish.

Gray Monk Rose Brut & Clos du Soleil Rose with Cranberry Orange Scones

After welcome Mimosas and some fortifying cheeses (having not yet reached the noon mark in the day) we kept up the sparkling sequence with Gray Monk’s newest 2011 Odyssey Rosé Brut. Homemade Cranberry Orange Scones had been freshly baked by the hors d’oeuvres team, finished with a rum vanilla glaze and served alongside cinnamon nutmeg butter. The cranberry flavours in the Brut synchronized well with the scones, and the crisp texture refreshed our buttery palates with additional hints of watermelon. The bubbly was complemented by brand new 2014 Rosé from Clos du Soleil, one of my personal favourites. This rarity – from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes – is surprisingly aromatic, with the latest vintage continuing to impress. The dry finish and earthy, strawberry-rhubarb flavours had us yearning for more cheeses as we considered the broad range of food pairings it can deliver.

Blue Mountain 2006 Blanc de Blancs & Le Vieux Pin 2012 Cuvee Violette Syrah

A forecast temperature in the high teens had clearly provided warm weather inspiration: my own contribution included Blue Mountain 2006 Reserve Blanc de Blancs. While my wife and I nervously eyed the extended cooking time seemingly required for our appetizer course, yet another cork was popped with pleasure. The Blanc de Blancs is part of Blue Mountain’s new reserve sparkling program that sees extended sur lie aging. This particular bottle was disgorged as late as 2013, and I received it in my Priority Group shipment that fall. Two further years in bottle had not dulled the very clean, fresh profile, providing us with generous springtime citrus and a hint of brioche and caramel all wrapped up in very fine mousse.

Duo of Baked Egg Baguettes with Syrah & Blanc de Blancs

Finally confident they were cooked through we served a pair of Baked Egg Baguettes: one rich in caramelized onions and mushrooms with herbs and Comte cheese, another imbued with vegan “chorizo” plus green onions, tomato, and cheddar. A bowl of homemade ketchup we’d simmered throughout the previous evening provided the fix that some need when it comes to eggs and cheese. Surprisingly great with the tart ketchup was Le Vieux Pin Cuvée Violette Syrah 2012, the winery’s new “entry-level” Syrah. The first vintage in 2011 added this sub-$30 gem to the winery’s bigger Cuvée Classique and flagship Equinoxe Syrah – although all three represent solid value for what they offer. The luscious Violette provided delicate leather, white pepper, and vanilla floral aromas that led into a juicy finish to complement the silky texture.

Homemade pancakes, triple-berry compote, whipped cream, and heavenly maple syrup

An unexpected entrée course perfectly suited to weekend brunch brought us hefty Banana Pancakes, heaped high with berry compote, freshly whipped cream, and the requisite rivers of maple syrup. The surprisingly perfect pairing was JoieFarm 2013 Muscat, a natural fit for the tart compote in particular. Despite the sweet maple syrup the Muscat wasn’t challenged thanks to a supremely well-balanced palate. The wine’s versatile character showed off Asian pears, yellow peach, and pineapple fruit with clean, floral aromas as well. No less enjoyable was Road 13 2012 Jackpot Viognier Roussanne Marsanne, which provided thought-provoking reflection on the complex and serious palate. Aromas of baked apple and popcorn were reminiscent of Chardonnay, but apricots and even a bit of cucumber were also mentioned. The rich texture and impressively long finish provided plenty of memories as we scooped up the remaining whipped cream.

Pancakes & Compote with Road 13 Jackpot VRM & Joie Muscat

The surprises continued with the final course, in which Beet Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes proved a worthy partner for Liquidity’s 2012 Merlot. Putting a little chill in this Okanagan Falls wine was an excellent choice when matching it with vanilla ice cream and fresh raspberries under the mid-day sun. The addition of 10% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon provided for a well-rounded, complex palate and some discussions about varietal and blended wines across the world. Despite a mere one gram of residual sugar, the Merlot excelled with near-perfect dark berry and chocolate flavours, plus an earthiness to match the beets.

Beet Chocolate Ganache Cupcake with Liquidity Merlot

Some of our wines represented new releases, but most were a short trip down memory lane: Blue Mountain’s 2008 Blanc de Blancs is coming this fall, the superb new 2013 Cuvée Violette was just released, most of Joie’s whites are on to 2014, and Liquidity’s 2013 Merlot is newly on scene. Recent grey skies notwithstanding, spring is here and summer is on the way, providing many opportunities for a look at new vintages over the coming months. Here’s to more patio weather!