Thursday, January 20, 2011

Black Widow and other stars of Taste BC

Photo: Black Widow's Shona and Dick Lancaster

For habitués of major wine tastings in British Columbia, the drought lasts from Cornucopia in Whistler early in November until Liberty Wine Merchants sponsors Taste B.C. in Vancouver in mid-January.

Those who attend both events have the chance to taste wines from 60 or 70 British Columbia wineries and, in the case of Cornucopia, from a good contingent of international producers.

The massive tasting at Cornucopia takes place over two evenings. Taste B.C., which formerly was known as the B.C. Wine and Oyster Festival, runs just one evening.

With either format, there is never enough time to taste all the wines. A wine taster’s life is hard, indeed.

It is made harder, in fact, when the supplied tasting glasses are hotel banquet glasses, which is the best that the Hyatt Regency Hotel can do for Taste B.C. Those are wine-destroying glasses. That would have been evident to anyone who borrowed stemware from Riedel table on the tasting room floor or from those clever enough to bring their own stemware.

The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival replaced banquet glasses four or five years ago. The convention centre at Whistler has adequate tasting glasses. It is about time that the Hyatt raised its standards.

Even with a clunky glass in hand, it was possible to indentify stars among the wines I had time to taste at Taste B.C. Here are my notes.

Black Widow Hourglass 2008: ($35.90). Black Widow is a small Naramata Road winery opened several years ago by Dick and Shona Lancaster. He is a former long-time home winemaker with the touch of a professional. This wine, 92% Merlot, eight per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, is a deep, rich red with flavours of blackberry, black currants and figs; and the structure to age well and develop further complexity. 90.

Fairview Cellars Cabernet Franc 2009 ($N.A.). Bill Eggert, the owner and winemaker at Fairview Cellars, makes some of the Okanagan’s best Cabernet Franc. This has not yet been released. It shows the classic lively, brambly flavours and vivacious personality of the variety. 90.

Fairview Cellars Two Hoots 2008 ($N.A.). The iconoclastic name of this red blend is the creation of a winemaker so confident in what he does that he does not give two hoots what anyone else thinks. As if! Well, this is a delicious wine with flavours of plum, black currants and boysenberries. 90.

Kettle Valley Barber Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($35). Firm and concentrated, this dark wine has a hint of mint and lots of red fruit on the nose. On the palate, there are flavours of blackberries, currants and figs. The finish is long. 91.

Lake Breeze Vineyards Seven Poplars Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($22). All 400 cases of this splendid wine are sold out but you might find some in restaurants. This is an intense wine, with aromas and flavours of lime and grapefruit and a finish that won’t quit. 91.

Mt. Boucherie Gamay Noir 2009 ($14.99). This is a delicious wine and good value, soft in texture with flavours of blackberry, plum and black currant and with a long, fruity finish. 89.

Pentâge 2006 ($28). This is the flagship red blend from Penticton’s Pentâge Winery. It is a blend of 46% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 2.5% Syrah and 1.5% Gamay. Approachable now, this red is also built for cellaring, with a backbone of firm, ripe tannins. It has aromas of black currants and flavours of blackberry and cherry supported by oak and by earthy undertones. 90.

Road 13 Stemwinder 2009 ($21.99). This is a complex white blend with herbal and fruity aromas and with a core of tropical fruit flavours. The finish lingers and lingers. 91.

Road 13 Rockpile 2008 ($24.99). A blended red, this wine is full and rich, with flavours of plum, olive, tobacco and chocolate and, again, a long finish. 91.

Seven Stones Pinot Noir 2008 ($27.99). This is a lovely wine, with aromas and flavours of strawberry and with a silky texture. It suffered from being in the banquet glass which does such a poor job at delivering the aroma. 90.

The View Red Shoe Red 2009 ($14.50). Here is a great value, easy-drinking red from The View Winery in Kelowna. It is a blend based on Pinotage. The wine is generous in texture, with spicy plum and blueberry flavours. 89.

Young & Wyse 2009 Black Label 33-30-24-13 ($26.90). Don’t be deterred by a label which reminds one of motor oil. That’s the blend: 33% Merlot, 30% Syrah, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Cabernet Franc. It is a delicious blend, beginning with aromas of mint, pepper and red berries and delivering a rich palate of fruit flavours with a long finish. 92.

There were many other interesting wines in the testing that I have reviewed in my blog over the past year.

One advantage of Cornucopia over Taste BC (aside from the stemware) is the presence of wineries from other countries, allowing consumers to compare B.C. wines with international wines.

I recall tasting a very good 2009 Pinot Gris from Duck Pond, a winery in Oregon. Then I went around the room to taste British Columbia Pinot Gris to recommend to the owner of Duck Pond. I recommended that he should try those from See Ya Later Ranch and Ex Nihilo, for starters.

There is no doubt that British Columbia wines stack up very well, and often better, than the competition.


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