Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Clos du Soleil is expanding its portfolio

Clos du Soleil, the small but premium Similkameen Valley winery that opened in 1998 with just two wines, is adding to its Bordeaux-styled portfolio with two more reds and with a Pinot Blanc from a grower’s vineyard.

Spencer Massie, one of the winery principals, announced that this week during a winery dinner at Salt Tasting Room in Vancouver.

That effectively answered a question some guests had when they came to the tasting: what kind of a winery dinner can you have with two wines?

Well, if ever there is a venue for a minimalist tasting, Salt is it. As regulars know, this funky restaurant’s menu is limited to cheese, bread and cold cuts. But the staff is very adept at pairing the food to flatter the wine, not to overshadow the wine.

And Clos du Soleil was able to show six wines. The winery poured both the two wines from its second vintage, 2007, and the two from its third vintage, the 2008 Capella (formerly White) and the 2008 Signature (formerly Red).

I reviewed both in a January 21 blog, scoring both 90, and I stand by that.

Photo: Spencer Massie

Even though Massie grew up in Kelowna, he and his partners are fans of Bordeaux wines and that determines, for the most part, the style of Clos du Soleil’s wines. The two whites are 95% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Sémillon and are finished in a style that recalls the white wines of Graves.

Signature, which sells for $38, is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, all of them major Bordeaux varieties. Because the sun is more generous in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, these wines are a little riper than Bordeaux reds (a good thing in my view).

The winemaker who has had full control of the cellar since the 2009 vintage (and influence over 2008) is Ann Sperling, a native of Kelowna who was in high school with Massie. Since becoming a winemaker in 1984, she has achieved national renown.

In the 2009 vintage she decided to bracket Signature. A very limited production of a super-premium red is in barrel now. Guests at the winery dinner also tasted a barrel sample of 2009 Celestial, a red designed for earlier drinking and priced more approachably at $22.90. It is a delicious, juicy red with flavours of currents, plums, blackberry and blueberry. 88 points.

“They are all classic Bordeaux styles,” Sperling says. “We think these wines will be ageable for at least 10 years.”

The sixth wine of the evening was a 2010 Pinot Blanc, the first wine in what the winery calls its Grower’s Series. These will be wines made from grapes grown in other Similkameen vineyards whose owners share Clos do Soleil’s outlook on sustainable or organic production. The grapes for this wine were produced by Cawston grower Urs Baessler and his family.

The wine has just been bottled. Clos du Soleil is releasing 280 cases through private wine stores after March 21.

This is another 90 point wine. Clos du Soleil Pinot Blanc 2010 ($18.95) begins with aromas of lime and apples. On the palate, the tangy, fresh flavours recall sweet-tasting Ambrosia apples. The finish is reasonably dry yet with a honeyed ripeness. The wine has good weight and, with bright acidity, a refreshing character.


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