Photo: Red Icon wines for 2013
Poplar Grove’s Legacy 2007, that winery’s flagship
Bordeaux red, was the
clear favourite at this year’s Iconic Reds Tasting.
This was the sixth such tasting organized by SIP Wines, the VQA store in
About 100 participants tasted 18 very good wines in just a little over two
hours. The wines, all of which had been decanted earlier, were poured one after
The identities of the wines were not revealed until every ballot had been turned in and was being tallied. The seven top wines were ranked.
The icon wines are the top wine or wines in each winery’s portfolio, usually selling between $40 and $80 a bottle. These are often small lot wines – 200 to 500 cases – selected from the best barrels in the cellar each vintage. There is more prestige than profit in small lot wines.
The prestige is important, of course. These wines signal to the market that the winery is serious about raising the bar. Consumers who won’t spend the big bucks for icon wines usually conclude - accurately, I believe, - that most of the other wines in the portfolio are made to rising levels of quality.
Buy a bottle of Petales D’Osoyoos for $25 or a Hester Creek Characters for $20 and you will understand my view that an icon wine is the tide that can lift all the wines in the portfolio. First, the superb viticulture necessary to make an icon influences how all of the vineyards are managed. Secondly, the leading edge winemaking skills and equipment that produce icons are available for the rest of the portfolio.
Some of the icon wines are made in commercial volumes, which I would define as more than 1,000 cases. These include Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin, Black Hills Nota Bene, Laughing Stock Portfolio and Painted Rock Red Icon. I believe the Mission Hill icons also are produced in greater than small lot volumes but the winery does not always disclose production volumes.
The Okanagan is likely to be taken more seriously on the global scene when some producers make significant quantities of their best wines and sell them nationally or internationally. Mission Hill’s flagship icon is Oculus. It sells for $80 at the winery but in
China, where it is also marketed,
it fetches about $300 a bottle.
Ic0n wines may seem expensive in the context of the B.C. market, where the average price of a VQA wine is $18. However, on the international market, our icon wines are fairly priced for their quality.
To make that point, SIP owner Simon Wosk inserted a
wine into the tasting, to see how British Columbia’s
wines stack up against a comparably priced Old World
wine. Chateau L'Argilus Du Roi 2009 from Saint-Estèphe sells in the Liquor Distribution Branch for about $48. The
group ranked it 17th.
The wine was certainly acceptable but, even in a blind tasting, it was a marked contrast to the
icons. The wine is a bit rustic with some brettanomyces on the nose. The British Columbia wines
all were clean and the fruit flavours usually were fresher. There is no
question that our wines are in the game, and then some.
The list below begins with the seven top wines as chosen by the tasters. The six lined up behind Legacy were scored closely to each other.
The remaining wines are listed alphabetically because SIP’s backroom boys did not crunch the numbers for all. Judging from my own scores (nothing below 88), you would be happy with any of these wines on your table. Limited quantities of some of these wines can be purchased at the SIP.
I have included winery tasting notes where available and added a few of my own where required.
1. Poplar Grove Legacy 2007 ($50). This is 71% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery’s notes: “Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon each spend 2 years in French oak barrels and up to 2 – 3 more years in bottle developing in our cellar prior to release. The Legacy 2007 offers deeply concentrated and mature colour. The nose gathers aromas of currant, coffee and cedar. Initial flavours of blackberry briar and ripe plums are followed by hints of leather, spice and vanilla. Silky tannins and elegant fruit meet a balanced backbone of acidity creating depth and complexity. A sweet ripeness makes this wine dangerously delicious. The finish is heartbreakingly long, like a French kiss goodbye at the train station.”
2. Church & State Quintessential 2009 ($55 for 750 cases). This wine is a blend 0f 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. Here are the winery’s notes: “Dense and dark in colour, with ultra black cherry and cassis aromas complexed by notes of coffee, baker’s chocolate, pencil shavings and graphite aromas. On the palate, there is dark concentrated black cherry fruit and gorgeous tannin structure producing great richness and length, but with impeccable balance. The wine coats and totally fills your mouth, and a staggering array of complex flavours continue to linger in your mouth long after swallowing. Drink now through 2020, possibly aging longer, depending on your preferences and individual assessment of the wine over the years.”
Tempest 2009 ($45). The blend is 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc.
The winery’s notes: “The sum is
greater than the parts in this classic Lake Breeze Bordeaux
style blend. The wine was aged in new French oak barriques for 15 months and is
rich and full bodied. Full of flavours and aromas of plum and cassis followed
by hints of spice and chocolate.”
4. NK'Mip Mer'r'iym 2010 ($50). A blend of 47.8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35.2% Merlot, 6.5% Cabernet Franc, 5.6% Malbec, 4.9% Petit Verdot. The winery’s notes: “The wines were fermented in separate lots and pressed into a combination of French and American oak barrels. We began with 28 potential lots from various vineyard blocks within the three vineyards and a total of 350 barrels – all to make a 20 barrel blend. After hours of trials and tasting we determined the percentages of each varietal in the blend. In the end we hope we got it right. It is a wine that is not necessarily about power but more of balance and harmony – about elegance and length – important qualities in any marriage.”
5. Hester Creek The Judge 2010 ($45). This is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The winery’s notes: “Heady aromas of leather, cassis, blackberry, vanilla and hints of tarragon lead to a palate filled with vibrant cherry, allspice, caramel and cigar box combining to create a soft round mid-palate. The wine finishes with long supple tannins making it approachable in its youth and at the same time showcasing its ability to age for 5-8 years.”
6. Clos Du Soleil Signature Red 2010 ($39.90 for 275 cases). This is 48% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% each of Malbec and Petit Verdot. The winery notes: “Unfiltered and unfined, there are notes of cassis and blackberry that greet the nose. They are echoed on the palate with a soft note of oak that complements the dark berry fruit balanced with good acidity and black plum freshness. Decanting this wine opens up multiple layers of ripe black fruits in addition to darker essences of cocoa and espresso. The finish is long and leaves you pondering the complexity of this very structured wine.”
7. Laughing Stock Portfolio 2011 ($42). The blend is 42% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc , 7% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. The winery’s notes: “The resulting wine has a nose of dark dried berries, cedar and a hint of clove. On the palate, black cherry and bramble with anise and thyme notes. More elegant in body from the cooler vintage, it has a great structure and long finish.”
Cassini Cellars The Godfather 2010 ($70). This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. The winery’s notes: “Nice integration of oak and dark fruit flavours like cherry, black currant and plums gives this wine a rich and complex taste with silky tannins to round out the wine to enjoy now or put down for years to come. Drink now to 2020.”
Gray Monk Odyssey Meritage 2010 ($34.99). This is a blend of 46.05% Merlot, 45.43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5.68% Malbec and 2.84% Cabernet Franc. My notes: “The wine begins with earthy aromas of sage and dried fruit. On the palate, there are flavours of black currant and sour cherry, framed by oak.”
Mission Hill Quatrain 2009 ($50). This is Merlot 35%, Syrah 30%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20%, Cabernet Franc 15%. The winery’s notes: “The 2009 Quatrain is full bodied, yet soft and approachable with fine tannins and a round, fruit forward palate. Merlot and Syrah blend seamlessly and are from the finest parcels along the Black Sage and Osoyoos benches. Notes of plum, dark cherry, blueberries and pepper fill the glass, along with subtle hints of licorice, clove, tobacco and vanilla. This well-structured wine displays fine tannins and bright acidity to frame its exotic spice and ripe fruit notes.”
Noble Ridge King's Ransom 2009 ($65). This is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot. The winery’s notes: “The higher percentage of specially selected Cabernet Sauvignon in combination with our Merlot brings characteristic dark cherry, raspberry, tobacco, leather and dark chocolate flavours. The aromas of cherries and licorice are rich and complex. Round, full-bodied mouth feel is complimented by soft yet firm tannins. Built to age in your cellar for another 5-10 years.”
Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2008 ($45) This is 60% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot. The winery notes: “This rich full-bodied wine features a deep intense ruby colour, and deliciously persistent aromas of ripe red raspberry, dark chocolate with toasty caramel and vanilla notes. Opulent notes of blackberry fruit, spice and pepper grace the palate with a well-rounded tannin structure and fruit-driven lingering finish.”
Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2009 ($45). This is 58% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec. My notes from a recent tasting at the winery: “Complex, elegant and, at the same time, luscious, the wine begins with aromas of vanilla, black cherry and cassis. On the palate, there are flavours of black currant, dark chocolate and espresso. Ripe tannins give the wine concentration and ageability.”
Road 13 Fifth Element Red 2009 ($49). The blend is 68% Merlot, 22% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Franc. The winery’s notes: “Be prepared for an alluring medley of intense black fruits that are supported by an engaging sultry, savoury characteristic that is notoriously Okanagan. The nose and palette project pure harmony and continue to amaze with integrated, complex layering of rick tobacco and black sage. The intensity of the Syrah gains momentum on the finish and has the classic notes of braised red and green peppercorns. The wine is well integrated and will continue to be a benchmark wine well into 2017.”