Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jackson-Triggs red duo from 2010

Photo: Winemaker Brooke Blair; credit Stuart Bish

Wineries have begun to release the 2010 reds from the Okanagan. Consumers who have heard that the vintage was cool and challenging will be approaching the 2010s with some apprehension.

However, the wineries that did a good job in the vineyards were able to make delicious wines. Jackson-Triggs is certainly among those producers with a strong viticulture team backing up an equally strong winemaking team.

At Jackson-Triggs Okanagan, the red wine maker is Brooke Blair. Born in 1978 at Mount Gambier in Australia, she is the daughter of a vineyard manager. She studied at the University of Adelaide, starting out in commerce before switching to wine. After graduation, she worked two and a half years as assistant winemaker at Hollick Wines, a family-owned winery in Coonawarra, did a vintage in Spain, and was thinking of Italy when she landed the job at Jackson-Triggs in 2004.

The 2010 vintage almost certainly was the toughest one she has experienced in the Okanagan to date.

“It was an odd year, I would say,” she recalls. “The spring was very wet and the early summer was quite cool. From memory, I think late August and September were the warmest months for summer. Typically, July and August are the warmest. So it was definitely a challenging growing season.”

The vineyard managers at Jackson-Triggs took the necessary measures to ripen the grapes despite the weather. “Knowing that the spring was wet and the summer was cool, our vineyard managers did a lot of leaf removal and also did more crop-thinning than normal, to try to ensure that the grapes were going to ripen,” Brooke says. “We took pro-active steps to try to ensure that the best quality grapes we could get came into the winery, rather than try to have to work on things more in the winery. If you start off with good quality, it is easier to make a great wine.”

One of these two wines is made entirely with grapes from the 80-acre SunRock Vineyard near Osoyoos. It takes its name from a huge rock face at the north end of the vineyard.

“The SunRock Vineyard is our top tier vineyard,” Brooke says. “It gets the most amount of attention. It is not surprising that the grapes coming from that vineyard were able to ripen, even in a difficult year. The crop levels are a lot lower. We handpick these grapes as well, so there is better selection in the field as to what you want to bring into the winery.”

The rock soaks up the sun and radiates heart back across the vines at night. The block of Shiraz next to the rock consistently ripens to the highest Brix  (or sugar) levels of all of Jackson-Triggs grapes. The SunRock Vineyard is entirely planted to reds – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz. It once had a block of Chardonnay but that has been grafted over to Shiraz. Growing Chardonnay here, Brooke suggests, was “a wasted opportunity.”

Here are notes on the two reds.

Jackson-Triggs SunRock Meritage 2010 ($34.99 for 250 cases). This is 47% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Franc and 17% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine begins with appealing aromas of blackberry, blueberry, raspberry and mocha. On the palate, there are flavours of plum and black currant. The tannins are ripe but still firm enough to suggest this wine will show further improvement with another year or two of aging. 90.

The limited production is typical for the top tier single vineyard wine at Jackson-Triggs. The Grand Reserve tier is typically between 500 to 1,000 cases, depending on the quality of the wines and on the market for them.

Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Cabernet Shiraz Viognier 2010 ($29.99 for 500 cases). This is 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Shiraz and 3% Viognier. The winemaker chose to ferment the Shiraz and the Viognier together at, blending the Cabernet Sauvignon later. This wine has a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon minty aromas on the nose, leading to flavours of black currant, tobacco and chocolate. The ripe tannins and the 18 months of barrel aging have given the wine a generous texture. However, it is firm enough to develop further with a few years of cellaring. 90.


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