Photo: The BC iconic red wines for 2014
The results of the seventh annual B.C. Iconic Red Wines
tasting saw last year’s winners trade places.
This year, the top wine was Church & State
Quintessential 2011 with Poplar Grove The Legacy 2009 in second place.
At the 2013 tasting, the winner was Poplar Grove’s 2007 The Legacy with Church & State Quintessential 2009 in second place.
Talk about consistency!
The tasting was conceived and is sponsored by SIP Wines, the
Richmond VQA wine store operated by Simon and Sandy Wosk. The idea of a
competition among the best of British Columbia’s
reds emerged from a brainstorming between the Works and the late John Levine,
an extraordinary wine lover.
The iconic reds are wines priced at $35 and up. The
highest-priced red in this year’s tasting sells for $70.
These are world class wines and should command aggressive
prices. It costs money to grow premium grapes and turn them into premium wines.
For most consumers, these would be special occasion wines.
They are the kind of wines bought by collectors with wine cellars. Most of the
vintages tasted here are comparatively young; all of them will be even better
with four or five years of bottle age.
For this tasting, the wines were all double decanted and
allowed to breath for several hours, effectively softening the tannins to make
the wines more approachable now. The wines were served blind and in a random
order. The 70 or so tasters scored each wine and voted for their favourites at
the end of the evening.
The list below begins with the six top wines as chosen by
the tasters. The remaining wines are listed alphabetically because SIP’s
backroom boys did not crunch the numbers for all. Judging from my own scores,
you would be happy with any of these wines on your table. Limited quantities of
most of these wines can be purchased at the SIP.
I have included winery tasting notes where available and
added my own where required.
Church and State
($55). Merlot 70%, Cabernet Franc 15%, Cabernet
Sauvignon 5%, Malbec 5%, Petit Verdot 5%.
This is a wine with a track record: in the spring, it won gold and was
judged the best Canadian red at the International Wine Challenge in London
. Here are notes from
: “It’s been a while since I’ve tasted
Quintessential in fact the last time was the 2005 vintage when it was put
together by Napa Valley legend Bill Dyer. Clearly he made a lasting impression
with his blend. The 2011 is very hedonistic in style and well, more California
at this point. There is a ripeness you don’t often see in BC Bordeaux
blends; this red has all five
grapes: cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot.
All grown on the Black Sage Bench. The nose is more South
, fragrant, savoury, dried herbs mixed with ripe cassis.
The attack is skinny and warm with more dark fruits, tobacco, cedar and a hint
of dried tomatoes. This needs another three years to put some fat on to balance
off the fruit and spice. Not expected to be release until 2015 but you can grab
some now off the website.”
Poplar Grove The Legacy
2009 ($50). This is 56% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc
and 3% Malbec. The alcohol is 15.3%. The
winery’s notes: “Deep crimson red in colour. Distinct aromas of plum, leather,
and cedar mingle in the glass. The first sip delivers cassis, plum, and vanilla
flavours infused with orange zest on the palate. Mature integration of fine
tannins and balanced acidity create depth of flavour in the mid palate with a
long exploratory finish. A glorious expression of the 2009 vintage that will
age gracefully for over a decade. Drink 2014 -
Hester Creek The
Judge 2011 ($45). This is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and
Merlot. Production 800 cases. Winery’s notes: “This big, ripe wine offers smoky
aromas of fig, plum and leather followed by generous flavours of coffee,
chocolate and blackberry in the mid-palate, all finishing with long, silky tannins.”
Hills Nota Bene 2012:
($55 for 3,200 cases). The blend for 2012 is 57% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon
and 8% Cabernet Franc. In every previous vintage but the first, the blend
contained around 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, creating a familial consistency in the
wine. The wine has sage and herbal notes on the aroma and the finish. The fruit
flavours include black cherry, plum, coffee and chocolate. The texture is rich
and ripe, with long tannins. The winery says this was “more masculine” than
previous vintages – even after dialling back the Cabernet, which speaks well of
the quality of the Merlot. This will age as well as any Nota Bene, which is
seven to 10 years.
Clos Du Soleil Signature 2012 ($44.90) This is Cabernet Sauvignon
(48%), Merlot (42%), Cabernet Franc (9%), Petit Verdot. Winery notes: “Signature is Clos du
Soleil’s flagship Bordeaux-style blend, produced by hand and aged for 18 months
in French oak barrels. The 2012 vintage is a stellar example of this
iconic wine. The nose opens with aromas of cassis, blueberry and dark cherry,
on a background of spice and mixed herbs. On the palate the wine is full, long
and elegant. Bright fruit flavours of cherry and black and red currant
flow seamlessly into a long finish with notes of tobacco and black pepper.
Enjoyable in its youth, the fine tannins and beautiful balance of this
wine ensure its ability to age for a decade.”
Church and State
Quintessential 2009 ($54.90 for 750 cases).
Winery notes: “Dense and dark in colour, with ultra-black cherry and
cassis aromas complexed by notes of coffee, baker's chocolate, pencil shavings
and graphite aromas. On the palate, there is dark concentrated black cherry
fruit and gorgeous tannin structure producing great richness and length, but
with impeccable balance. The wine coats and totally fills your mouth, and a
staggering array of complex flavours continue to linger in your mouth long
after swallowing. Drink now through 2020, possibly aging longer, depending on
your preferences and individual assessment of the wine over the years.”
The remaining 11 wines are listed alphabetically.
Cassini Cellars The
Godfather 2010: ($70.) This is a blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33%
Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc and 17% Syrah. Aged in oak for 23 months. Production
120 cases. The winery’s notes: “Nice integration of oak and dark fruit flavours
like cherry, black currant and plums gives this wine a rich and complex taste
with silky tannins to round out the wine to enjoy now or put down for years to
come. Drink now to 2020.”
Gray Monk Odyssey
($35). This is a blend of Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon
and Cabernet Franc. The winery’s notes: “Our reserve series now includes the
Odyssey Meritage. This full bodied wine is composed of the four traditional
varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, all grown in
the South Okanagan Valley
Aged in new French oak barrels, the result is flavours reminiscent of
blackberry jam with a hint of vanilla.”
Hillside Mosaic 2009
($40 for 499 cases). Merlot 55%, Cabernet Sauvignon 22%, Cabernet
Franc 9%, Malbec 9%, Petit Verdot 5%. My
notes: "This is Hillside’s flagship Bordeaux
blend. It is a point of pride that every vintage of Mosaic since 2006 has been
made entirely of Naramata Bench fruit. The wines arguably are more vibrant and
brighter that Bordeaux
blends from the south Okanagan. This is a firm, age-worthy red with flavours of
black currant, coffee, chocolate and liquorice."
Lake Breeze Tempest 2010
($45). The winery’s
notes: “The sum is greater than its parts in this classic Bordeaux blend of 55%
Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec. Aged in new
French oak for 15 months, this wine is full and rich. Following on the heels of
the 2008 Tempest, which won “Red Wine of the Year” at the All Canadian Wine
Championships, this wine will continue to improve over the next several years.”
La Stella Fortissimo
2012: ($35 for 857 cases). The blend is 39% Merlot, 38% Cabernet
Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Sangiovese. The winery’s notes:
“The 2012 Fortissimo sees the highest percentage of Cabernet
Franc in the blend ever! This was necessary as means to maintain a below 15%
alcohol in the final wine as well as better balance of acid/tannins/fruit. 2012
Fortissimo is as outstanding and forward as we thought it would be; all the
components are married seamlessly together. The large format puncheons and Hungarian/Slavonian
oak are evident in the subtle way the oak presents itself. Deep ruby in the
glass, the 2012 Fortissimo is packed with bright, luscious fruit of a perfect
ripeness, harvest-ready cherries and raspberries, more anise than liquorice and
a wink of a spicy zing, supported by smooth tannins and balanced out nicely by
a backbone of acidity.”
Compendium 2010: ($60). This is 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot and 21%
Cabernet Franc. The winery’s notes: “The
grapes were selected from designated blocks within our estates in Osoyoos and
Oliver; they were hand harvested and hand sorted and then gravity filled to
small French oak fermenters. After 3 weeks extended maceration the free run
wine and a small portion of lightly basket pressed wine was aged separately in
French oak barrels for 13 months. It is a dark, dense and brooding giant of a
wine, featuring a complex mix of black currants, blueberry, liquorice, mint and
dark chocolate. The palate is rich and full-bodied with muscular tannins and
Mission Hill Quatrain
2010: ($60). This is 40% Merlot, 20% Syrah, 20%
Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, with fermentation and extended
maceration in small French Oak Fermenters. The wine was aged in French oak
barrels for 15 months. The winery’s notes: “The 2010 Quatrain is an
elegant wine, boasting red berry, black cherry, eucalyptus and cedary spice
aromas and flavours. Syrah adds a juicy-fleshy texture to this uncommon blend,
lending a seamless profile of ripe fruit, dark chocolate and spice to the gutsy
structure of the three dominating Bordeaux
NK'Mip Mer'r'iym 2010: ($50).
A blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6%
Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot. The winery’s notes: “The wines were fermented in
separate lots and pressed into a combination of French and American oak
barrels. We began with 28 potential lots from various vineyard blocks within
the three vineyards and a total of 350 barrels – all to make a 20 barrel blend.
After hours of trials and tasting we determined the percentages of each
varietal in the blend. In the end we hope we got it right. It is a wine that is
not necessarily about power but more of balance and harmony – about elegance
and length – important qualities in any marriage.”
Osoyoos Larose Le
Grand Vin 2009 ($45 for a production of 16,000 six-bottle cases). This is
58% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot and 2%
Malbec. Winery notes: “This rich full-bodied wine features a deep intense ruby
colour, and deliciously persistent aromas of ripe red raspberry, dark chocolate
with toasty caramel and vanilla notes. Opulent flavours of blackberry fruit,
spice and pepper grace the palate with a well-rounded tannin structure and
fruit-driven lingering finish.”
Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2010 ($45). Winery notes are not
yet available. My tasting notes speak of aromas of black currant, ripe
raspberry, sage and graphite. On the firm palate, there are flavours black
currants, dark chocolate and espresso.
Painted Rock Red Icon
2012 ($55). This is 31% Malbec, 28% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc and
15% Petit Verdot. The winery notes: “This wine is rich and seductive with dark
chocolate, coffee and black cherry combined with vanilla, showcasing the
predominant varieties in the blend. More mocha and rich tones of black cherry,
tobacco and cassis. A long, well balanced and polished finish.”