Monday, September 17, 2012

Road 13 extends its portfolio

Photo: Road 13 winemaker J-M Bouchard

A few years ago, Road 13 Vineyards announced it intended to phase out many of its varietal wines in favour of blends.

Well, you can always make the rationale for blends: the whole is better than the parts. The winery’s excellent big blend brands (Stemwinder, Rockpile and the three Honest John’s wines) are made in enough volume that they are listed in the British Columbia liquor stores. The Honest John wines have entry-level pricing, from $16 to $20. That has given Road 13 a significant presence in the market.

The winery also seems to have discovered that consumers still like varietals. It also could be that J-M Bouchard, the winemaker who took over in 2010, does not entirely share the blending enthusiasm of Michael Bartier, his predecessor; or perhaps that he has the usual winemaker’s urge to make small-lot, showpiece wines.

Whatever the explanation, Road 13 is releasing five excellent reds, all with the varieties named on the label.

Three of them happen to be Pinot Noir, marking this winery as an emerging player with this variety. 

Here are notes on the wines. All of these wines are available from the winery by direct order. Don’t go looking in the LDB stores.

Road 13 Pinot Noir 2011 ($22.99 for 859 cases): In a way, this is a blend. The grapes for this wine are drawn from vineyards in Summerland, Kelowna, Naramata and the Golden Mile, each a distinct terroir. The deep colour and the 13.2% alcohol suggest a full and ripe wine. The aromas are still somewhat mute but the palate delivers flavours of cherry and raspberry, with very good concentration. The tannins are still a bit firm but time will bring the classic silky texture that one expects in a Pinot Noir. 88.

Road 13 Fleet Road Pinot Noir 2011 ($38 for 125 cases). The grapes for this wine come from two vineyards near each other on the Naramata Bench. Alcohol is 12.7%.   The wine has a fine dark hue. On opening, the aroma takes a bit of time to emerge from a touch of sulphur; when it does, there are aromas of black cherries. On the palate, the wine tastes of black cherry with strawberry and spice highlights. The fruit is bright and vibrant. It is a wonderfully concentrated Pinot Noir that is showing the beginnings of an elegant velvet texture. 90

Road 13 Castle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 ($38). This one of Road 13’s own vineyards, named for the original castle-like winery. The nose shows rich, dark fruit aromas and that follows through on the palate, with earthy flavours of black cherry and mocha chocolate. The texture is luscious and full; it is still youthfully firm. With an alcohol of 13.6%, this is not a wimpy Pinot. 91

Road 13 Syrah Malbec 2011 ($32 for 550 cases).  This is 66% Syrah, 34% Malbec. The two varietals pair well together. Dark in colour, this wine delivers aromas of cracked black pepper and black cherry, with flavours of red berries, fig, leather and peppery dark chocolate. Medium to full on the palate and with alcohol is 12.8%, this is a deliciously rustic and earthy red. 89-90.

Road 13 Syrah Mourvedre 2011 ($35 for 290 cases).  This is 93% Syrah, 7% Mourvedre, with grapes from the Road 9 Farm on Black Sage Bench, which is managed by Road 13. The wine has a dead-of-night black/purple hue. It is a big, ripe wine with alcohol 13.6%, and with bold, jammy aromas of figs and prune, with dramatic flavours of peppery red fruit – black cherry, mulberry, black berry. This swaggering wine has long, ripe tannins that contribute to the full body and the long finish. 91

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