Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pentâge Winery releases in 2011


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Photo: Julie Rennie, Paul Gardner

Nine years after Paul Gardner and Julie Rennie opened Pentâge Winery, they finally are close to opening a tasting room as well.

In fact, the city of Penticton had a sign up in July, prematurely, directing visitors to the new access to the winery. The entrance is at 4551 Valleyview Road.

Until now, the winery address was 4400 Lakeside Road. Paul and Julie had considered, briefly, putting the tasting room and wine shop into or near their home, which is below the vineyard. That idea was vetoed, in part because getting there requires driving up a long and steep driveway. The Valleyview Road access is easier.

The tasting room has a better location at the top of the vineyard. The view over the vines and Skaha Lake is dramatic. The tasting room also is next to the remarkable 5,500 square foot cellar that was recently completed at Pentâge. It is a cool man-made cavern dug from the rock, with a thick concrete lid. The huge glass doors at the front, which roll up like aircraft hangar doors, give visitors good views of the barrel stacks inside.

Recently, Adam Pearce, the Pentâge winemaker, led me through a tasting of some of the wines in those barrels. After that, I came away with review samples of the current releases.

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Winemaker Adam Pearce

Adam was about the bottle several of the wines. There is a 50-case barrel-fermented Rhone blend (57% Viognier, 36% Roussanne and 17% Marsanne), an appealing wine with aromas and flavours of apricots, melons and citrus (90 points).

There is a 50-case barrel-fermented 2009 Chardonnay, with a good core of butter and tangerine flavours and an appealing aroma of citrus and butter. (89).

The barrel sample of the 2009 Cabernet Franc is a lively wine with flavours of blackberry and raspberry and with a little more concentration that the 2008, reviewed below. (89).

The winery has 200 cases of 2009 Syrah Reserve, not yet released. It is a classic meaty, gamey Syrah with the peppery aroma of a delicatessen and with flavours of plum and black cherry. The rich texture adds to its appeal. (90).

Also not yet released in the 2009 Hiatus, a $20 blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This is an easy-drinking Bordeaux blend with flavours of black currant, with notes of cedar and tobacco. (88).

Other gems in the cellar include a 2010 Malbec, a 2010 Petite Sirah, a barrel-fermented Icewine and 2010 Zinfandel port. There are small quantities of all these wines; and all rate 90 points plus.

If this seems like a long portfolio for a winery now making 5,000 cases, that’s the way Paul Gardner likes it. “I would rather make small lots of interesting wine than big tanks full of wine,” Paul once told me.

Here are notes on the current releases.

Pentâge Chardonnay Reserve 2007 ($20). Here is a wine for lovers of the mainstream California Chardonnay style, with no apologies for giving the wine as much oak as its rich fruit flavours can carry. There is citrus and butterscotch on the nose, followed by flavours of tangerine and butterscotch. The texture has a creamy weight and intensity. 90.

Pentâge Gewürztraminer 2010 ($17.50). This is a textbook example of the dry, rich (almost oily) Alsace-inspired Gewürztraminer. The wine is intense from beginning to end – intense spice and citrus aromas, intense flavours of grapefruit and lychee. The lingering finish could be timed with a stopwatch. 91.

Pentâge Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($19.50). Crisp and zesty, this wine recalls the New Zealand style (which I happen to prefer). Beginning with grassy, citrus aromas, it has flavours of lime and grapefruit rind. It has a nice spine of minerals and the bright acidity wakes up the taste buds. 89.

Pentâge Skaha White 2009 ($16). Here is a complex but budget-priced six grape blend: 41% Pinot Gris, 30% Chenin Blanc, 12% Viognier, 6% Chardonnay, 6% Riesling, 5% Sémillon. The 2010 blend, already being sold as bag-in-the-box, is significantly different in composition but I did not have a chance for a side-by-side comparison. The 2009 has stone fruits and citrus aromas, with flavours of cantaloupe, citrus and apricot. Its texture gives it good heft on the palate. 88.

Pentâge Viognier 2009 ($19.50). The toasty aromas and flavours of apricots and pineapple, with an undertone of nuts, suggest that the wine may have been barrel-fermented. It is dry and even austere on its own but rich and delicious when paired with food (which is the point, after all). 90.

Pentâge Cabernet Franc 2008 Denmarc Vineyard ($26). This wine begins with aromas of red liquorice, spice and raspberries and has flavours of blackberries, black currants and even a hint of cranberry. It is a medium-bodied wine with a backbone of ripe but firm tannins. 88

Pentâge Gamay Noir 2010 ($19.50). Not many wineries have yet released 2010 reds but this wine is ready. It is a lively red, a Beaujolais with weight. Dark in colour, it has aromas of black cherries and flavours of cherries and plums. 88


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