Both are comparatively small producers (each makes about 4,000 cases a year). However, both produce a range of small-lot premium wines priced for discriminating collectors and restaurateurs.
The prices can be justified by the quality of the wines and by what has been done to produce that quality. Many of the reds are from vineyards cropped at two tons an acre, or about half the usual yield. That makes for intensely flavoured wines that have to sell at a premium just to make the vineyard economics work.
Currently, wines from these producers are available in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Germany and Switzerland, among other markets. For example, some of the wines have been purchased by private collectors in Hamburg and by a pair of Michelin-starred restaurants there. In Zurich, the wineries have both retail and restaurant distribution.
These are buyers that are used to paying premium prices for premium wines. After all, the same markets scramble every year for Bordeaux wines that are priced more on the prestige of the vineyards than on the cost of making the wines. I don’t know how profitable it is to ship a pallet of wine to, say, Switzerland. But I do know that it validates British Columbia wines – as if they still need validation – to be on wine lists and in cellars with the classified growths.
For those at home who already collect LaStella and LVP wines, they should realize that they are now competing with overseas collectors; perhaps they need to place their orders more promptly than before the world really learns about these wines. Both LaStella and LVP (and many other Okanagan wineries) have established wine clubs. Membership usually requires regular purchases. The benefit of these clubs is that their members are first in line when new wines are released – even ahead of the collectors in Hamburg!
Both wineries are just about to release a number of new wines, includes reds from the terrific 2009 vintage. Here are notes on wines that you may want to get in line for.
LaStella Fortissimo 2009 ($35 for 367 cases). This is a blend off 67% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc and, with a touch of Tuscany, 8% Sangiovese. This is a bold red with an appealing aroma of black currants and with brambly flavours of currants, plums and black berries. There is a lovely core of sweet fruit on the palate supported by ripe tannins. 90.
The barrels in which this wine was aged include large-format oak puncheons in order to minimize the oak flavours while getting the benefit of barrel aging. “Wine is like a painting,” says Rasoul Salehi, the executive director of the Enotecca wineries. “If you have a beautiful picture, you don’t want to distract from it with a big frame.” He also quotes an Italian winemaker who compares oak to a surgeon’s scalpel. The doctor needs the scalpel for surgery but he takes care not to leave it in the patient. So you can take it from those bits of wisdom that you won’t get over-oaked wines from either of these sister wineries.
Le Vieux Pin Retouche 2009 ($N.A. for 62 cases). This wine, to be released in the fall of 2012, revisits a once traditional Bordeaux practice called “hermitaging” which involved blending some Rhône reds into the Bordeaux wine. This blend is about 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Syrah. Care was taken in the blending not to submerge the Cabernet Sauvignon’s characteristics. There still is a touch of bell pepper in the aroma of spicy red berries. The texture is fleshy, with flavours of plum, fig and a hint of tobacco. 91.
Le Vieux Pin Syrah 2009 ($40 for a production of 975 cases). Made with fruit from three south Okanagan vineyards, this wine begins with an appealing red fruit aroma. On the palate, there are flavours of plum and black cherry with spice and white pepper on the finish. The tannins are round and ripe. 91.
Le Vieux Pin Équinoxe Syrah 2009 ($70 for 160 cases). With 14.8% alcohol, this is a ripe red made from grapes grown around 1.5 tons an acre. It starts with an intriguing aroma of red liquorice, pepper and raw steak. On palate, there are generous flavours of plums, black cherries and red liquorice. The texture is full, rich and elegant. 95.
Le Vieux Pin Ava 2010 ($35 for 253 cases). In a tradition of this winery of naming wines for employees’ children, this white blend is named for winemaker Severine Pinte’s daughter. The wine is a blend of 70% Viognier with Roussanne and Marsanne. This is a big basket of fruit flavours – apricot, melon and citrus. The balance is such that wine manages to be both fleshy in texture and refreshing and dry on the very long finish. 92.