British Columbia Critics’ Picks September 2015
Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics – wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution through BCLDB or VQA stores. All are currently available for sale in BC.
Always one of the busiest tasting seasons of the year, September is a steady stream of portfolio tastings and holiday pushes, fall releases and harvest fetes. Though the sun is still shining brightly in BC, autumn’s nip is apparent in the evening air and early sunsets, ushering in the warming whites, fuller rosés and hearty reds of fall. Here’s what has caught our eye this month in the transition.
Cheers ~ TR
Just back from the Okanagan Valley where the 2015 harvest is now well along the timeline and depending upon the latitude of your fruit you could be anywhere from 30 to 60 percent finished. So far most of the fruit looks fabulous, and spirits are high, though fingers are always crossed until the last grape comes in.
Bartier Bros 2012 Merlot is an example of the high quality we can look forward to with the 2015 vintage. I just love the purity of Okanagan fruit in this 87/13 mix of merlot and cabernet franc that comes of the warm, west sloping Cerqueira Vineyard on the lower Black Sage Bench. In 2012 everything conspired to make this a delicious bottle of serious merlot, maybe the best I have had in some time from BC.
I enjoyed Quails’ Gate Winery’s 2013 Pinot Noir Richard’s Block, a special bottling to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the winery. The pinot is dedicated to Richard Stewart who purchased the original family vineyard in 1956. Richard’s Block is a sleeping giant at this point but with powerful spicy fruit just waiting to explode.
From further south, another pinot noir impressed this month. Artesa is a Carneros-based winery owned by Spain’s Raventos family, owners of the highly respected cava house Codorníu. The Artesa 2012 Pinot Noir is open and inviting with a mix of spices, black tea and black cherry; a delicate touch supported by California styling.
Rhys Pender, MW
Having just come back from the Colour event in Vancouver that saw nearly 100 BC wineries run both a trade tasting in the afternoon and the Chef Meets Grape event in the evening, I am focusing on good local wines for my picks this month. In particular I was impressed with some of the wines’ ageing capability.
I have written about BC wines’ ability to age many times and my beliefs were further strengthened with a seminar I conducted pouring BC wines as old as 10 years. The natural climate conditions in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys are as well suited to creating ageable wines as any in the world. Few places get the sunshine and warmth for fruit ripeness while also combining this with refreshing natural acidity and firm tannins. When the winemaker and grape grower get it right and the tannins are ripe, the wines have an incredible ability for developing complex and interesting flavours with time in the cellar.
The first wine I will mention is from a newer winery from the Similkameen Valley. Corcelettes started small but has expanded as they took over the beautiful former Herder winery between Keremeos and Cawston. This has increased their vineyard size as well as the options for wine styles and there are some positive results so far. One wine that should age well is the 100% Similkameen Corcelettes Menhir 2013. It is nice now but I’d love to see what other flavours evolve with 4-6 years in the bottle.
Two of the wines that showed very well in the seminar in Vancouver were the Laughing Stock Portfolio 2012 and the Van Westen Voluptuous 2012. While Laughing Stock is well known and has built a good reputation for the ageability of their top Bordeaux varietal blend, Van Westen is still operating slightly under the radar. The Laughing Stock Portfolio 2012 nicely combines fruit and savoury, elegant notes while the Van Westen Voluptuous 2012 is still firm, fruit driven and concentrated with a big whack of ripe tannins that will evolve slowly but surely over 10-20 years. We tasted a 2006 of both wines next to their younger brethren and at nine years both are still looking fresh and full of life. Stick half a case or so away of each and wait.
It is time we started taking the aging potential of BC wines seriously. Look at what you can get for your money with the upcoming release of 2012 Bordeaux and all of a sudden BC wines look both top quality and great value.
It’s a mixed bag for me this month, with wines from South Africa, Italy and Spain topping my charts. All three are authentic, expressive wines that speak of a place, of respectful winemaking and massive human ambition.
One of my most memorable moments in wine has been a visit with Adi Badenhorst (a star winemaker by any metric) to his old vineyards in the Swartland, where he lavishes care on chenin blanc like few others. The Secateurs 2014 embodies this reverence for grape and Adi’s weathered granitic/clay terroir.
Lithe and juicy, Antonio Camillo’s 2013 Ciliegiolo from the Maremma can stand in when you feel like Beaujolais. Ciliegiolo is one of the parents of sangiovese and it means ‘little cherry’, and I love the crunchy bright red flavours and raspy acidity of this cheerful food red.
And the boldest for last: full of gravitas and old vine fruit from high hills in Bierzo, Godelia’s Mencia 2010 possesses heft and savoury intensity for pairing with a prime beef cut, or lusty lamb braise.
This is one of my favourite columns to compose each month because it’s the easiest – what three wines have I tasted recently that stand out. Actually, it’s harder than that, because (thankfully) there are many more than three wines I could select – especially in the fall tasting season.
This month, however, Nichol Vineyards 2012 Syrah remains in my memory bank. What would you expect from the oldest syrah vines planed in Canada, growing on sloping granite at the northern end of the Naramata Bench? Yup, all that and more, can be found in this savoury, sustainably farmed, unfiltered and textured red. Authenticity.
From estate grapes on the Côte de Beaune as well as some declassified wine from the young vines off the famous Clos des Mouches vineyard. Joseph Drouhin 2012 Cote de Beaune Blanc. Lively fine citrus lifts the palate, carrying light nuts, honey, stony mineral and fine lees. Very harmonious now, but will reward with 2-4 more years in the cellar.
One of my biggest surprises this month came out of the tidy value for price of the Gabriel Meffre 2014 St Vincent Cotes du Rhone Blanc. A bright blend of grenache blanc, roussanne, clairette, marsanne, viognier and bourboulenc opens with pretty white blossoms and herbal lees before the finely spiced, lightly savoury palate, drawing light pear, green fig and citrus along with the flow. At $16, this was a stock-up worthy treat.
WineAlign in BC
In addition to our monthly Critics’ Picks report, we also publish the popular shortlist 20 Under $20, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.