Monday 31 August 2015

Collectibles: August 2015

The fortuitous arrival of two different wine club shipments provided for a full case of collectibles allotted to the cellar this month. Connecting directly with the wineries helped me acquire several rarities in short supply, combined with selections from the clubs of Painted Rock and Moon Curser. The 2013 reds are coming off the bottling line at Painted Rock; and from Moon Curser’s growing Wine Club I was fortunate to receive a pair of library wines, plus additional newly released reds.

August 2015 BC wine collectibles - group I

Moon Curser 2013 Tempranillo: Despite its local scarcity Tempranillo has been a facet of Chris Tolley’s portfolio since it was planted in 2004, long preceding more recent varieties such as Touriga Nacional or the Dolcetto he is about to harvest. I adored the 2012 tasted last summer, and have high hopes for this brand new release from another solid vintage, included in my latest Club shipment. It’s always a small lot wine – only 268 cases this year, from the home vineyard on Osoyoos’ East Bench. John Schreiner’s recent 93-point review praised the full body and long, spicy finish. Winery Direct $32

Van Westen 2012 Violeta Malbec: Last Christmas Rob Van Westen dropped by the BC Wine Appreciation Society Holiday Party and raffled off, among other things, a bottle of his first varietal Malbec. I’ve kept the wine in mind since then, awaiting formal release, and finally got my hands on some this month when Rob made a delivery run to Vancouver. Only 92 cases were produced, of a wine Rob describes as showing generous spiced berry notes and “orange-zest-infused chocolate” – a delicious-sounding drop from a top local talent. Winery Direct $30

Siren’s Call 2012 Syrah: Winemaker Mark Simpson recently set up shop in his BC Wine Studio at Hawk’s Vineyard in Okanagan Falls. A major honour was bestowed this summer when one of fourteen Lieutenant Governor’s Awards was presented for Mark’s Syrah, a bold wine sourced from the Similkameen Valley (the new 2013 comes from Osoyoos). A recent opportunity to taste both Syrah (and more) when Mark visited the BCWAS Summer Barbecue provided the opportunity to buy one of the last available bottles. Select Vancouver VQA wine stores may still have a little in stock. Winery Direct $25

Moon Curser 2012 Contraband Syrah: Also found in the newest Club six-pack was the winery’s latest reserve Syrah. This single-vineyard wine from the Osoyoos East Bench is the product of two individual blocks, one of which is used first for Moon Curser’s saignée-style Rosé; the remaining concentrated juice then contributes to the Contraband Syrah’s intensity. It is likely worthy of further aging to better integrate the fruit and oak – the winery suggests 3-7 years, a broad range. A modest 444 cases were produced from 2012, and it recently received a respectable silver medal at the National Wine Awards. Winery Direct $32

Van Westen 2012 Vulture Cabernet Franc: Several years ago Rob Van Westen produced a limited series of Cabernet Franc magnums he called “Vrankenstein” as a fundraising exercise for the BC Children’s Hospital. In 2009 he bottled a special sulphur-free varietal production run to yield 42 cases of well received “Vulture”. The Franc has been resurrected for 2012, albeit without the terrifying (for the winemaker) absence of sulphur, an important preservative. Rob managed to eke out 76 cases this time, with a floral and fruity expression said to posses characteristics as varied as wisteria, clove, plum, milk chocolate, and even pastry crust. Winery Direct $40

River Stone 2012 Cabernet Franc: The most unexpected find of the month, and likely of the summer! Ever since Oliver’s River Stone received a gold medal and critical acclaim for their Cabernet Franc in last year’s National Wine Awards I have sought it out, only to find myriad bottles of (also excellent) 2011 on store shelves. Meanwhile the 2013 has already sold out at the winery, let alone the mere 120 cases of 2012. With it still in the back of my mind, I finally hit pay dirt quite unexpectedly. Several years of additional aging could suffice, without impacting the juicy varietal character emphasized by the Awards’ judges, including Anthony Gismondi in his 89-point review. Viti Wine & Lager $36

August 2015 BC wine collectibles - group II

Painted Rock 2013 Cabernet Franc: My bi-annual delivery included a real gem this month, in the form of Painted Rock’s first new red wine since being founded. The 2013 vintage proved so superb that a small amount of Cabernet Franc was hung for an additional twenty days, until early November, to magnify complexity and intensity. Only 165 cases were produced, being offered to Wine Club members and selected restaurant clients first, and there is no guarantee it will remain an annual staple. A sample sent to WineAlign was tasted by several critics just recently: the 89-90 point reviews speak of its power, balance, length, and ageability. Proprietor John Skinner isn’t stopping at Cabernet Franc, and recently mused about bottling a varietal Petit Verdot from the 2015 vintage. Winery Direct $52

Van Westen 2012 Vivre la Vie Merlot: The third of this month’s newly released Van Westen reds is varietal Merlot. This rarity has only been made from four vintages, starting  with the superb 2007, and always in small quantities – 113 cases this year. The next most recent vintage (2010) remains in my cellar awaiting maturity, with a predicted availability date of January 2017. The excellent 2012 growing season facilitated an intense and rich wine that Rob suggests evokes Christmas pudding, stewed black cherry, and orange zest – seems like a bottle to pair with the holiday season in 2018. Winery Direct $35

Le Vieux Pin 2012 Équinoxe Syrah: Le Vieux Pin has carved out a very deserving niche as one of BC’s premium producers of Rhone-inspired wines. The stated goal for the top echelon Équinoxe Syrah is to balance the more delicate floral qualities of the “entry-level” Cuvée Violette with the spicy, meaty character of the middle-tier Cuvée Classique. Two vineyards, one off Osoyoos Lake and another north of Oliver, contributed to 334 cases that include 3.5% Viognier, aged for 19 months in one third new French oak. A very age-worthy new release, already garnering significant praise, e.g., WineAlign, Gismondi on Wine, Icon Wines. Winery Direct $90

Painted Rock 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon: The reds at Painted Rock are usually aged 18 months in French oak (with annually decreasing proportions of new oak now down to just 30%), hence bottling takes place in the summer for an autumn release. Wine Club members get early access, and the Cabernet Sauvignon is in particularly high demand each year, ever since that very first Lieutenant Governor’s Award for the inaugural 2007 vintage. A slightly smaller than usual production of just 392 cases from 2013 will lead to even greater rarity – restaurant clients snap up much of the annual yield. Winery Direct $40

LaStella 2012 Maestoso Merlot: The sister winery of Le Vieux Pin has selected Merlot as their champion, with Maestoso at the top of the pyramid. I’ve managed to collect every vintage since the first from 2006, and the addition of 2012 to my six-year vertical has finally put that original well-aged example on the chopping block. The newest release is one of particular pride for the winery, who report their relief at the return to warmer weather in 2012, and the resulting “extremely uniformly ripe and pristine grapes.” If I follow my established aging schedule it won’t see the light of day until 2021, at the upper end of Treve Ring’s suggestion in her 90-point review, but likely well within the wine’s capacity. Winery Direct $100

Painted Rock 2013 Red Icon: Past blends of Red Icon have thrown expectations out the window and discarded traditional components like Cabernet Sauvignon entirely, led with Malbec or Cabernet Franc in the largest proportions, or included Syrah when appropriate. This brand new release is a true Bordeaux style blend, but as usual the varieties come in a non-traditional order: 33% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, 21% Petit Verdot, 12% Malbec, and (only) 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Twelve hundred cases last year are down to 985 from 2013, and with plenty of maturity anticipated in the years to come now is the time to stock up for the future. Winery Direct $55

Saturday 15 August 2015

Collectibles: Precious Medals

At the end of July the results of WineAlign’s annual National Wine Awards of Canada were released to the public. Since the unfortunate demise of Wine Access magazine the respected periodical’s many contributors have helped grow WineAlign into a national resource. That growth has included taking the reigns of the former Canadian Wine Awards and producing something even greater in the Nationals. While judged wine competitions can’t fully reflect what it’s like to actually consume wine in the real world, I still find myself intrigued by the results. In particular, the prominent Gold and Platinum (representing the top 1%) medals at the Nationals can provide stimulus to try wineries and wines new to the industry, or to one’s own palate.

National Wine Awards 2015 BC collectibles

Given my focus on collecting BC’s best, I am fortunate to have many of the local big winners from the Nationals in my cellar already. Enjoyment of previous vintages, opportunities to sample during winery visits, and attention to the reviews of select local commentators often gives me a leg up before the awards are announced. In that vein a few of those wines that would ultimate place prominently this year were already on order or in my hands before the results were announced. A few more were on my radar, with the purchasing decision helped along by their success and the positive reviews posted by the competition judges. The following Gold and Platinum medal wines represent a mere sampling of the many great examples recognized from BC, they just happen to be those I acquired around the same time the awards were announced.

Anarchist Mountain 2013 “Wildfire” Pinot Noir: The high altitude Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown by Andrew and Terry Stone outside Osoyoos is finally being made into wine of their own. Fortunately Terry’s brother JAK Meyer has a winery in Okanagan Falls to which they have access, along with JAK’s Winemaker Chris Carson. The brand new Pinot Noir is only the second vintage under the Anarchist name, and just received one of an impressive dozen Gold medals awarded to BC Pinot Noir this year (all others going to wineries much larger in size). Noteworthy is that one dollar from each bottle supports the local volunteer fire department: from 90 cases produced that’s $1,080 for vital lifesaving equipment. Libations Liquor Store $42

Road 13 2013 GSM: Perfect timing to have acquired this new wine from the increasingly Rhone-influenced Golden Mile winery. Expecting it to sell out quickly I placed an order in mid-July; shortly thereafter the GSM was awarded one of two prestigious Platinum medals (of 14 nationwide) for the winery. Only 140 cases were made, but production will hopefully increase in future years as the Rhone focus ramps up. This first vintage saw Winemaker J-M Bouchard take advantage of a local grower’s generous offer of Grenache, declined by other wineries for being not worth what he was asking – clearly their loss in the end! The blend of 81% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 3% Mourvedre was said to encompass “honest, genuine, lovely succulence” in the 92-point score afforded by judges. Winery Direct $35

C. C. Jentsch 2013 Syrah: Chris & Betty Jentsch converted from cherries to grapes at the beginning of the century, and launched their own winery starting with the 2012 vintage. That initial 2012 Syrah – with little remaining at the winery – was awarded Gold at the Nationals this year. The new vintage being released received a coveted Platinum and the nod as Canada’s best varietal Syrah. While 2012 included some Viognier, hail damage precluded that practice in 2013, and Winemaker Amber Pratt blended 1,358 cases of straight Syrah from Golden Mile and Black Sage Bench fruit. High production numbers should give fans a good chance at finding some from Jentsch’s admirably broad distribution network. Swirl VQA Store $38

Road 13 2013 Syrah Malbec: This is the third vintage (393 cases) for this delicious and complex blend (83% Syrah, 12% Malbec, 4% Viognier, and 1% Mourvedre). Superb fruit and deft winemaking has helped the winery achieve an unprecedented “hat trick” – with an annual Platinum medal from the Nationals for each iteration! It goes without saying that I’m pleased to have collected all three vintages, having included the newest release in my recent order from the winery. A July event at Legacy Liquor Store provided a tasting opportunity hosted by Winemaker J-M and winery General Manager Joe Luckhurst:  ripe blue, floral fruit dominated the rich, lightly peppered palate, with relatively low tannins and fresh acidity. Very drinkable at present, with good aging potential as well. Winery Direct $32

Daydreamer 2013 “Marcus Ansems” Shiraz: Australian Marcus Ansems began marketing wines from his Naramata Bench winery last year, including this reserve tier branded with his signature and family crest. The first vintage of single vineyard Golden Mile Bench Shiraz (only 180 cases) was a finalist in the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival’s Best of Varietal Awards. It has been described in glowing terms by the WineAlign judges as showing northern Rhone savoury and spicy elements backing up a solid core of fruit. A Gold medal for the Shiraz was paired with another Gold for “Amelia”, a blend of Syrah and Viognier, helping to place Daydreamer among the Nationals’ Top 10 Best Performing Small Wineries. Libations Liquor Store $46

Road 13 2013 Syrah Mourvedre: With a nation-leading two Platinum medals, Road 13 had to settle for Gold on the Syrah Mourvedre. Another Gold for their Sparkling Chenin, plus ten Bronze, put them in solid third place nationally. This blend of 85% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre, and 3% Grenache is harder to come by than the Syrah Malbec, with only 155 cases produced, and retained for sale solely at the winery. Those at the recent Legacy tasting lucked out with a sample – earthier and toastier but slightly more elegant than the blockbuster Malbec blend. Calling it “heart attack wine” Joe Luckhurst recommended a no-holds-barred food pairing of “anything that will kill you.” Winery Direct $35

LaStella 2013 Fortissimo: In a spring tasting in London, Jancis Robinson & Richard Hemming tasted 150 Canadian wines, ascribing some of their highest accolades to this Super Tuscan-inspired red blend (their highest score of 17.5/20 went to LaStella’s 2011 Maestoso Merlot). The newly released 2013 (1,202 cases) continued the tradition of excellence started in 2007 by taking home one of BC’s seven Platinum medals at the Nationals: “classy with a lot of character” in the words of judge Remy Charest. This vintage contains the highest percentage of Sangiovese ever (16%) alongside 49% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 14% Cabernet Franc. The winery suggests it is pleasantly approachable now despite an 8-15 year life ahead. I have yet to open even my 2008, so there is no rush on my part! Swirl VQA Store $38