Friday, September 16, 2011

Icon wine releases from four producers

Even in a time of economic uncertainty, some British Columbia wineries continue to produce icon wines – that is, wines selling for around $50 a bottle (or more) and rated at 90 points or more.

The fact is that there is always a demand for these wines from collectors and from those who need something great for a special occasion. No one would cellar Two Buck Chuck (even if it were available in Canada) or consider it more than an honest wine with burgers.

So if you collect wines or have a special event coming up, here are new releases to consider from boutique producers Foxtrot Vineyards, LaStella, Le Vieux Pin and Seven Stones Winery.

George and Vivianne Hanson, the owners of Seven Stones in the Similkameen Valley, might not think of themselves as boutique producers because most of their wines are made in good volume and sell at less than icon prices (good value?).

However, for several years now, the winery has been releasing about 100 cases of a super-premium Bordeaux blend immodestly called The Legend. The new release is due in a few weeks.

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Seven Stones The Legend 2009 ($45), a selection from the winery’s best barrels, is a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot and 8% Cabernet Franc. The wine begins dramatically in the glass with aromas of red fruit, vanilla and chocolate. On the palate, this is a muscular wine with long ripe tannins and with a very complex array of flavours: currants, plums, coffee and cedar. The wine finishes with flavours reminiscent of spice cake. 91.

Foxtrot Vineyards has an established reputation as a leading Pinot Noir producer. In recent vintages, it has begun to release equally fine Chardonnay wines.

Foxtrot Chardonnay 2010 ($45) is a textbook example of how to make good Chardonnay where the fruit glows within a subtle frame of oak – and not the other way round. This begins with appealing aromas of tangerines. On the palate, there are layers of citrus and tropical fruit flavours, lifted by the wine’s refreshing acidity. The finish is long and elegant, with a delicate note of cloves. 92.

Le Vieux Pin and LaStella are sister wineries in the south Okanagan, both producing a number of icon wines, generally from single vineyards and in very small volumes. The release of these wines begins with the fall equinox later this month. Collectors will need to move quickly to get some.

Le Vieux Pin Équinoxe Cabernet Franc 2008 ($120 for a production of 25 cases). This is one barrel of wine from a single row in the winery’s Feuille D’Or vineyard south of Oliver, cropped very low and aged 22 months in new French oak. The berries were destemmed entirely by hand before fermentation, a treatment some would think over the top but effective in making a top wine. The result is a wine with 15.1% alcohol and with the power of Amarone. It begins with a dramatic aroma of figs, black currants, liquorice and spice. On the big rich palate, there are flavours of blackberries, prosciutto, leather, cedar, finishing with layers of red fruit. 93.

Le Vieux Pin Équinoxe Merlot 2008 ($70 for a production of 120 cases). These grapes are also from the Feuille D’Or vineyard. (This was the vineyard that was partially destroyed last year in the landslide.) The wine was aged 21 months in French oak, 60% of it new. This wine has a chewy, concentrated texture, with aromas of lingonberries and flavours of black currants and blackberries. 92.

Le Vieux Pin Équinoxe Syrah 2008 ($70 for a production of 70 cases). This is a remarkably charming wine, considering it comes from three year old vines. One wonders what this Golden Mile vineyard will deliver at 10 or 20 years. The wine has a fresh, inviting aroma of red fruit, with flavours of cherry, red liquorice and with a hint of pepper. The youthfulness of the vines likely accounts for the vibrant freshness of the wine. 91.

LaStella Allegretto 2008 ($45 for a production of 188 cases). The winery is also releasing 30 cases of half bottles, aimed at restaurants. This is a Merlot from grapes grown near Osoyoos. The wine begins with jammy blueberry aromas and has flavours of plums, black currants; with sage notes on the finish. 90.

LaStella Maestoso 2008 ($90 for a production of about 150 cases). This is another Merlot, a big, hedonistic wine with dramatic aromas of blueberries and sweet red fruit. On the palate, the wine is hugely rich, with every-changing flavours of spice, game meats, sage and blueberry. This is a wine that almost struts its personality. 95.


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