Wednesday, May 23, 2012

River Stone Estate Winery’s releases for 2012

Wine tourists can’t miss River Stone Estate Winery because it is in a red and yellow house at the top of a vineyard just off Tuc-el-Nuit Road at Oliver. You just can’t get to it from that road: access is via Buchanan Road which more or less borders the south end of the vineyard.

Winery access could be arranged from Tuc-el-Nuit Road, but only at the sacrifice of precious vines in a vineyard just seven acres in size. That is not going to happen. The best and highest use of this site is growing grapes.

Ted Kane, the co-owner of this two-year-old winery, bought the property in 2001 after it had been fallow for 30 years. Eager to get into the wine business, Ted had worried that the best sites in the Okanagan would be snapped up before he could move from Edmonton, where he was a respiratory therapist.

As it happened, he found an excellent site for grapes, a sun-bathed slope with an excellent southern exposure. The local terroir was already proven by the vineyard next door, which is Roland Kruger’s Mistral Vineyard. The Kruger family’s Wild Goose Vineyards produces award-winning Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc from that vineyard.

Ted and his wife, Lorraine (now a doctor in Osoyoos), began planting the vineyard in 2002 and included a small block of Pinot Gris and a smaller block of Gewürztraminer. However, the additional heat units collected by slope of the vineyard led to planting primarily four Bordeaux red varieties – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.

The size of each block was determined by the percentage of each variety that Ted wanted for the flagship red that he had in mind. That wine is called Corner Stone. The first release, from the excellent 2009 vintage, is among the wines currently available from River Stone. Judging from the taste of the wine, Ted’s planting decisions (made with advice from a viticultural professional) are working out well.

The debut releases from this winery, some of which I tasted last year, were very good. The same can be said for the newest releases. Here are my notes.

River Stone Pinot Gris 2011 ($19.90 for a production of 284 cases). This is a crisply dry white with citrus aromas and with flavours of apple, pear and green melon. The lively acidity of the vintage gives the wine a tangy finish. 88.

River Stone Malbec Rosé 2011 ($19.90 for 138 cases). The success of the winery’s 2010 rosé ensured that River Stone would keep this in the portfolio. Rosé wines from the Malbec grape are relatively rare. This is a big, juicy rosé with aromas and flavours of plum and black cherry. It has the weight of a light red, with a lingering and refreshing fruit on the dry finish. 89.

River Stone Merlot 2010 ($19.90 for 133 cases). The largest block in the River Stone vineyard is Merlot because, as the winery says, “it thrives in the South Okanagan climate.” Merlot certainly gets ripe on this site: this wine has 15% alcohol and a sweet, fruity aroma that almost suggests port. On the palate, this big wine has flavours of plum, blackberry, blueberry and fig, with a touch of vanilla and chocolate on the finish. 88, with the potential to grow to 90 with a couple of years in the cellar.

River Stone Cabernet Franc 2010 ($25.90 for 120 cases). This variety also does well in the South Okanagan and has begun to capture a consumer following. River Stone’s wine has the classic brambleberry and peppery aromas of the variety, with flavours of blackberry, raspberry and mocha. Initially, the wine has a youthful firmness suggesting it either should be decanted or, as the winery says, cellared for five to seven years. I sampled it over four days and it improved each day. 89-90.

River Stone Corner Stone 2009 ($28.50 for 349 cases). This is the blend of the four red varietals, with Merlot as the backbone. Aged 14 months in French oak, the wine is built for reasonably long aging (five to seven years) but is showing well now. There are aromas and flavours of vanilla, plum and black currant, opening up to show dark chocolate on the finish. 89-91.

Currently, the winery also offers, in small volume, a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2011 Gewürztraminer from its own vineyard. It also sells a wine called Splash, a fruity Pinot Gris made with purchased grapes.


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