Sunday 31 July 2016

Collectibles: July 2016

Spending nearly a week touring the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys with several friends mid-month offered me a chance to both pick up a couple wine club orders in person, and nab several winery exclusive rarities. In addition to those award-winning wines previously mentioned, I brought home many unique and small lot additions to my collection from some local favourites. Notwithstanding the superb selection available in retail wine & liquor stores and VQA shops, these wines make the case for personal visits to find the greatest handcrafted specialties.

July 2016 BC wine collectibles

Road 13 2014 GSM: Touring the Golden Mile Bench necessitated a stop at one of the best in the business, where I picked up my latest Club 13 order and relished the newest assortment of Rhone-inspired reds and whites. In addition to varietal Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne, my order contained the juicy, meaty 2014 Syrah Malbec and the newest jammy GSM: 55% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 7% Mourvedre (and 2% Viognier). The vast majority of the grapes came from the Similkameen Valley’s Blind Creek Vineyard, with 7.5% from the estate Road 9 vineyard on the Black Sage Bench. Alongside the Platinum medal Syrah Mourvedre, both the Syrah Malbec and GSM were awarded Silver medals at this summer’s National Wine Awards. WineAlign judges praised the generosity and plush texture of this BC rarity, of which only 160 cases were produced. Winery Direct $39

Quails’ Gate 2013 Richard’s Block Pinot Noir: The West Kelowna winery’s 25th anniversary releases of 2014 were so successful and coveted that the series honouring Stewart family founders was extended. In the case of Pinot Noir this led to a second release of a mere 88 cases from the warm 2013 vintage. An exclusive block from the prestigious Upper Boucherie Road vineyard provided fruit for new Winemaker Nikki Callaway to craft an Old World-styled “sleeping giant,” in the words of Anthony Gismondi. His 90-point review suggests wisdom in cellaring for a decade, echoing the winery’s confidence of a 2028 expiry date! My own opportunity to taste this scarce treasure presented me with a richer, fuller-bodied profile than the renowned Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir, providing enthusiasm for its potential development. Winery Direct $56

Orofino 2015 Wild Ferment Syrah: The second year of John Weber’s Syrah experiment is another success: ripe grapes from the Scout Vineyard were wild fermented and then aged for five months in a locally-made concrete cistern. The adventurous small batch thus yielded a mere 90 cases, and provides an illuminating look at pure, minimal intervention Syrah in a “youthful fruit bomb” as described by John Schreiner. A taste at the winery presented intense and juicy marinated black cherries, with quintessential Similkameen stone and herbs. A recent Silver medal at the National Wine Awards was accompanied by 92-point praise from head judge David Lawrason, who admired the savoury fruitfulness and “fine sense of balance.” In my opinion multiple bottles are necessary – for both current enjoyment and cellaring study. Winery Direct $29

C.C. Jentsch 2014 Small Lot Malbec: Last year saw a rare varietal Malbec released after Winemaker Amber Pratt reserved two barrels from seven earmarked for the Golden Mile winery’s red blend “The Chase”. A Silver medal at the 2015 National Wine Awards suggested the concept was on the right track, and this year the All Canadian Wine Championships bestowed Best of Category on the second vintage, from which an increased volume of 84 cases were released. Although growing in prevalence, local varietal Malbec is still uncommon, so it’s a treat to encounter a delicious, finely crafted example. Treve Ring was impressed with the perfumed spices and full, ripe fruit while crafting her 90-point review for Gismondi-on-Wine, and I was similarly taken while tasting it at the winery, cementing my purchase decision. Winery Direct $57

Church & State 2013 Second Chapter Syrah: Several months after releasing the newest fan-favourite Coyote Bowl Syrah Church & State has treated us to an unexpected second wine in the reserve series. Both the namesake Coyote Bowl Vineyard and the newly debuted Second Chapter Vineyard can be found on the Black Sage Bench, but the difference in expression from gravel versus sandy soil made the case against blending the two distinctive lots. Second Chapter is the jammier of the two wines, with a silky texture of vanilla and rich dark cherry character on the long lingering finish. Only 600 cases are available after aging in a mix of French, American, Russian, and Hungarian oak barrels. This Gold medal-winning classically-expressed “stunner” helped propel Church & State into BC’s Top 10 at the National Wine Awards (again). Winery Direct $40

Poplar Grove 2013 North Block Syrah: The large estate vineyard in Osoyoos provides many of the red grapes used at Poplar Grove’s Penticton winery, as well as providing opportunities for small lot selections benefiting the Wine Club. While the winery’s regular Syrah is superb, in 2013 fruit of particular depth and richness from the vineyard’s North Block was specially selected for an exclusive batch. Harvested on a single day mid-October, it was double hand-sorted before fermentation and aging in a mix of new, one-year-old, and two-year-old French oak barrels for eighteen months. Like all of Poplar Grove’s red wines, generous bottle aging (15 months) was ensured before release this summer, when just 100 cases were made available to Club members. Winery Direct $40

Clos du Soleil 2012 Estate Reserve: The Keremeos winery’s initial “Winemaker’s Reserve” in 2010 has become this small lot production sourced exclusively from the meticulously tended ten acre biodynamic estate vineyard. The second year it was produced, in 2012, the renamed Estate Reserve included four French oak barrels comprising 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec. Visiting the winery provided a rare opportunity to sample this gem, at which time I was dazzled by a rich nose that conjured bacon and maple syrup woven within the elegant floral and berry fruit aromas. The fine and ripe tannins make it delicious at present, with hugely impressive potential echoed by Anthony Gismondi in his recent 93-point review. At this point only a handful of cases remain, with the highly anticipated 2013 ready on deck. Winery Direct $60

Saturday 23 July 2016

Collectibles: Awards Attention

The mid-summer season is an exciting time for British Columbia’s winery industry, witnessing the confluence of three major Canadian competitions. A one month period from June to July begins with results from the All Canadian Wine Championships, followed closely by our provincial Lieutenant Governor’s Awards, and only weeks later WineAlign’s National Wine Awards of Canada are announced. Competition outcomes shouldn’t necessarily drive one’s personal preferences, but they do offer valuable suggestions for expanding one’s palate, experiences, and cellar selection. A recent trip through the Okanagan Valley and a few strategic local purchases provided the opportunity to do just that.

Award-winning BC wine collectibles

Ex Nihilo 2014 Pinot Noir: Twelve of 504 wines submitted to the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards judging received the eventual nod, with Lake Country’s Ex Nihilo bringing home their second Award in a row, after the 2013 Pinot Noir was recognized last year. In both years Ex Nihilo has been honoured with the only Pinot Noir named in the final results. While the publicity will certainly speed up sales a full 1,156 cases were produced, from Lake Country and Vernon grapes aged 9 months in (20% new) French oak. As it turns out I had the chance to taste at least a sibling of this wine last December when a friend shared the winery’s “Black Star Vineyards” branded 2014 Pinot Noir. Anthony Gismondi tasted the original version last month and remarked upon similar earthy red berry character in his 88 point review. Swirl VQA Store $45

SpierHead 2014 GFV Saddle Block Pinot Noir: I had acquired this fine Kelowna winery’s 2014 “Cuvée” Pinot Noir back in February, but it was only one of the two SpierHead Pinots awarded Platinum Medals from the National Wine Awards. Of over 1,500 entries the top 1% are awarded Platinum, and bringing home two of those coveted sixteen medals is most certainly something to crow about. In addition to the praise for the Cuvée’s ripe complexity the WineAlign judges heaped compliments on this small lot (211 cases) from the home “Gentleman Farmer Vineyard” in south-east Kelowna, e.g., “One of the finest of the vintage” in the eyes of head judge David Lawrason. Three Dijon clones were aged ten months in French oak to yield what the winery feels is a “soft, velvety” texture thanks to the warm growing season. Firefly Fine Wines & Ales $41

Deep Roots 2014 Syrah: Despite having opened their winery only two years ago the Hardman family has been farming their Naramata property for nearly a century, with grapes being the focus starting twenty years ago. A Platinum medal at the National Wine Awards last year for the 2014 Gamay made a statement, and now this year the 2014 Syrah has been named Best Red Wine of the Year at the All Canadian Wine Championships. No doubt proprietors Bryan & Deb Hardman have been doing their utmost to stretch the small supply of just 270 cases, but very little remains even so. When awarding the Syrah a Silver medal at the National Wine Awards, judges David Lawrason and John Szabo were sure to compliment the wine’s approachability, intensity, and complexity: “This has an extra gear of flavour, and very good length too.” Winery Direct $34

Red Rooster 2012 Reserve Merlot: A well-priced classic from Red Rooster’s upper tier, the Reserve Merlot was honoured with a Lieutenant Governor’s Award just as supplies were starting to run low. This screw-capped bottle is in fact the oldest wine Awarded, as the only 2012 vintage amongst the dozen. With only 387 cases produced very little remains at the winery – from which it is sold exclusively – especially considering it’s been collecting reviews for nearly two years already. Back in the summer of 2014 WineAlign reviewer David Lawrason remarked upon the full-bodied richness, with a caution for the nearly overripe fruit. The following spring reviewer Michael Godel was more generous in suggesting “one shouldn't miss this near-decadent beauty even if the style agitates.” Winery Direct $27

Road 13 2014 Syrah Mourvedre: The pivot to Rhone varieties at Road 13 provided for this rare blend beginning in 2011, from the winery’s “Road 9 Vineyard” on the lower Black Sage Bench. Following up a Gold medal at the Nationals last year the newest vintage scooped yet another Platinum for the highly respected winery. Receiving a taste while visiting the winery my companions and I were quite taken by the dark, inky colouring from which wafted aromas of cherry and blueberry compote. The plush texture embraced big juicy plums and cracked pepper amongst a bed of further smoky fruit compote. Sadly, this year’s release marks the smallest production quantity yet, at a mere three barrels (approximately 73 cases), not even half that of last year. Winery Direct $45

Award-winning BC wine collectibles

The Hatch “Black Swift” 2013 Long Road Syrah: Here’s yet another hugely challenging rarity to seek out, having sold out at the winery before the wine’s Platinum medal from the Nationals was announced. The premier tier vineyard-specific Black Swift series are micro lots that launched with the inaugural “flight” from the 2013 vintage, in which just 75 cases of this Osoyoos Syrah were released. I doubt it can be found in more than a handful of stores, and was lucky enough that the attractive – and hefty – bottle caught my eye only recently. WineAlign’s judges praised the deliciously complex palate and terrific length, worthy of a few years in the cellar to leverage the luscious structure. Coal Harbour Liquor Store $62

Bordertown 2013 Living Desert Red: Consulting Winemaker Jason Parkes, currently nesting at The Hatch, increased his considerable credibility by producing this Lieutenant Governor’s Award-winning blend of 75% Cabernet Franc and 25% Merlot from Proprietor Mohan Gill’s Osoyoos vineyards. With nearly two hundred acres of orchards and vineyards throughout the Okanagan Mohan sold grapes widely until beginning the wise and now seemingly common process of adding further value via his own winery, starting in the 2013 vintage. Although 586 cases of Living Desert were produced, supplies are running low given the newfound publicity, plus the appreciation of tasting room visitors for the power and lingering finish John Schreiner praised last year. Swirl VQA Store $28

Intersection 2013 Cabernet Franc: At an approachable price point, the only varietal Cabernet Franc recognized this year came from Oliver’s Intersection Winery, recipient of one of four first-time awards. Although not yet included on the winery’s under-revision website, approximately 300 cases of Cabernet Franc were produced after spending a year in French and American oak, and some remain available for sale while supplies last. Like most of Intersection’s red wines, the Franc is unfiltered, said to be “clarified by time and gravity.” It is likely the 2013 follows the “big and brambly” profile of the 2012 vintage John Schreiner previously reviewed, and will benefit from further bottle aging to gain in complexity. Swirl VQA Store $28

Kismet 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: Like fellow Indian immigrant Mohan Gill brothers Sukhi and Balwinder Dhaliwal began with (now extensive) vineyard holdings and grape sales before launching their own winery in 2013. Kismet’s 2013 Syrah (and 2014 Riesling Icewine) received a Platinum medal at last autumn’s BC Wine Awards, and now their first varietal Cabernet Sauvignon has been awarded a Lieutenant Governor’s Award. Fellow wine blogger Luke Whittall pointed out the noteworthy fact that Kismet’s Cabernet is only the third single-varietal of the type to ever win. With only 95 cases produced and held in bottle until this summer it will likely remain a tasting room exclusive. Winery Direct $40

Church & State 2012 Quintessential: With all the talk of this year’s Lieutenant Governor’s Awards, here’s a winner from 2015, only just released recently (in concert with a Gold medal from the 2016 Nationals). The release just happened to coincide with my visit to the winery, and thank goodness for that as production was shockingly slashed from the regular several hundred to just 100 cases in 2012. A five-variety Bordeaux-styled blend from a mix of southern Okanagan vineyards, Quintessential spent 22 months in French oak, one third new, to yield what WineAlign reviewer Bill Zacharkiw describes as “an absolute beast of a wine” – awaiting emergence from my cellar in the 2020’s. Winery Direct $55