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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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