Monday, March 28, 2011

Blasted Church looks for a new winemaker again

Did Harley Hatfield blow another fuse at Blasted Church Vineyards?

This week began with the surprising announcement from the winery that winemaker Richard Kanazawa has left Blasted Church, “effective immediately.”

Richard has been the winemaker there for four years, a longer tenure than any of Blasted Church’s previous four winemakers.

Whatever the reason for this parting of ways, Richard has been making excellent wines, as I noted during a recent tasting of new Blasted Church releases with him in the winery.

One of the most impressive was the 2010 Hatfield’s Fuse, a complex seven-grape white wine which, at 6,000 cases, is perhaps the flagship wine for Blasted Church.

It is said to be named for Harley Hatfield, the foreman of the crew that used dynamite to loosen nails in heavy timbers while dismantling a church being moved to Okanagan Falls in 1929.

The press release from Blasted Church proprietors Chris and Evelyn Campbell was terse and to the point:

Blasted Church wishes to announce that the firm has begun a search for a new winemaker to succeed Richard Kanazawa, who is leaving the company, effective immediately.

"We have enjoyed a highly productive and successful four year relationship with Richard as our Winemaker," stated Chris & Evelyn Campbell, owners of Blasted Church Vineyards. They added, "We believe that at this stage of our development, Blasted Church will benefit from the insights and talents of a new Winemaker. We wish Richard the very best as he champions his winemaking career into the future."

The Company has initiated the search process for the new Winemaker, with the assistance of Watson Advisors Inc. in Vancouver, BC. The search will span both the domestic and international markets.

Located in the Okanagan Falls, BC, Blasted Church is recognized for its bold and fresh approach to winemaking.

Photo: Richard Kanazawa

Richard, who was born in 1972 in Langley, started as a deliveryman for Domaine de Chaberton after a brief career playing professional rugby in Japan. His eight years at Chaberton supported studies in food technology at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, preparing himself, he hoped, for a winemaker’s job. “I had a lot of experience at Domaine but I couldn’t get a cellar hand job in British Columbia if my life depended on it,” he recounted later. “I thought if I can’t get a job here, going overseas was my best opportunity.”

In 2002 he went to Australia, taking courses at Charles Sturt University and working at several wineries. The Simon Gilbert winery recognized his potential. “They said I was being wasted in the cellar, so I moved up to the lab.” He returned to Canada in 2004 with winemaking experience on his resumé, joining Red Rooster for two vintages. The debut 2006 Malbec at Red Rooster won a Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence. Because he switched wineries after that vintage, he got to finish the 2006 Blasted Church Syrah which also won a Lieutenant Governor’s award.

Don’t expect to see him absent from the industry for long. Richard and Jennifer, his wife, have been developing wines for their own label. Currently, he has about 500 cases of two reds still in barrel – a Meritage and a Syrah Viognier Mourvedre – for potential release in 2012.

Here are notes on current releases from Blasted Church.

OMG 2008 Sparkling Wine ($24.99). Blasted Church’s first sparkling wine, this is a cuvée of Chardonnay (50%), Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir (25% each). It displays toasty aromas and flavours reminiscent of some Champagne, with good weight on the palate and with finish that is crisp and tangy. 88-90.

Chardonnay Musqué 2010 ($17.99). This is an unoaked wine made from the aromatic clone of Chardonnay. It has floral, spicy aromas mingled with notes of apple and citrus and pear flavours. The wine has a fresh, juicy texture and a long finish. The winery produced 285 cases. 90.

Pinot Gris 2010 ($19.99). The winery produced 2,580 cases of this popular white. The wine is simply yummy, with a touch of citrus on the nose and with layers of tropical fruit flavours on the palate. 90.

Gewürztraminer 2010 ($16.99). There is still some of the winery’s 2009 on the market but the release of this is imminent. It is a delicious example of the variety, with aromas of spice and citrus and flavours of peach, lychee and ginger. 89.

Mixed Blessings 2010 ($17.99). The winery has produced 302 cases of this aromatic white, a blend of Riesling (64%) and Gewürztraminer (36%). The wine begins with expressively fruity aromas. The palate is juicy with flavours of lime and grapefruit and the finish is tangy and fresh. 90.

Hatfield’s Fuse 2010 ($17.99). The blend here is as complex as any of the new white blends taking the consumers by storm: Gewürztraminer (25%), Pinot Gris (19%), Pinot Blanc (18%), Chardonnay (13 ½%), Ehrenfelser (13 ½%), Optima (6%) and Riesling (5%). There is layer upon layer of fruit on both the nose and the palate – melons, guava, apricot. The fruit intensity gives an impression of sweetness on the palate but the finish is refreshingly dry. 91.

Riesling 2010 ($18.99). This is about to be released. Like most dry Rieslings, it will benefit with six months to a year of bottle age, so that the glorious apple and citrus aromas and flavours can emerge fully and so that the classic note of petrol becomes more pronounced. Even with a balancing amount of residual sugar, the acidity is still bracing. 88.

Rosé 2010 ($17.99). Not yet released, this is an appealing dry rosé comprising Cabernet Sauvignon (55%), Malbec (29%) and Cabernet Franc (16%). The wine has aromas of cranberries and strawberries which carry through on the palate to a dry, peppery finish. 88.

Big Bang 2009 ($18.99). In the issuance of new labels last year, the winery rebranded its Dam Flood as Big Bang. This is a red blend of Gamay Noir (60%), Lemberger (16%), Merlot (15%) and Maréchal Foch (9%). It succeeds as a light to medium-bodied summertime quaffer, tasting of plum and cherry. The winery made 1,470 cases. 88.

Pinot Noir 2009 ($24.99). Not yet released, this is an attractive wine with the classic silky texture of the variety and with aromas and flavours of strawberry and cherry. 89-90.

Merlot 2008 ($25.99). Not yet released – the excellent 2007 is still in the market – this wine begins with a spectacular aroma of lingonberries. On the palate, it presents an array of berry fruits and a texture that is ripe and concentrated. 91.

Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot 2008 ($25.99). The winery has released about 2,000 cases of this red. The blend is Cabernet Sauvignon (48%), Merlot (44%), Malbec (4%), Petite Verdot (3 ½%) and Cabernet Franc (1/2%). This is a dark, brooding Bordeaux blend with some cedar notes on the nose and with flavours of black currants and black cherry. 88-90.


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