Photo: Mathieu Mercier of Osoyoos Larose
One of the most significant ownership changes in the
Okanagan wine industry occurred quietly last November when Constellation Brands
sold its 50% interest in the Osoyoos Larose winery to Bordeaux vintner Groupe Taillan.
That gives the French group 100% ownership of the winery,
which had been launched in 1998 as a French/Canadian joint venture between
Groupe Taillan and Vincor International. The latter company was taken over by
Constellation in 2006.
The consolidation sets in train the eventual building of an
Osoyoos Larose winery on its 80-acre vineyard west of Osoyoos Lake
The winery currently operates in a separate area of the sprawling
Jackson-Triggs winery north of Oliver. The winemaking staff works independently
from the Jackson-Triggs staff (aside from a shared public address system).
Osoyoos Larose has never had a public tasting room.
Even as a joint venture, this has always been a thoroughly
French winery. The intention of Donald Triggs, then the chief executive of
Vincor, was to bring valuable French viticultural and winemaking knowhow to the
Okanagan. The Bordeaux partners chose the
vineyard site, sourced the vines in France, designed the planting
method and recruited Pascal Madevon, a veteran French winemaker.
Pascal managed Osoyoos Larose from its first vintage in 2001
until he left in 2013 to join Culmina, the new winery that the Triggs family
opened last year in the Okanagan. Groupe Taillan promptly sent another
winemaker, Mathieu Mercier, who also has solid French and international experience.
Mathieu was born in 1988 in Cognac
to a family of cognac producers. He
has degrees in viticulture and enology from two of Bordeaux
’s leading universities.
through university, he also did hands-on industry practicums. “I spent some
time in Chile
where I worked for Don Melchor, the premium winery of Concha y Toro,” Mathieu
says. “Then I worked in Bordeaux
for André Lurton at Château La Louvière and Château de
Rochemorin. Then I moved to California where I worked in 2010 for Swanson Winery in Napa. It was such a good
experience that I went back in 2012 for six months, making wine for Cain
Vineyard and Winery [in St. Helena].”
He returned to Bordeaux
and worked at several of the estates owned by Groupe Taillan. (The most famous
of the group’s properties is Château Gruaud-Larose, a distinguished Saint-Julien winery with a
second growth classification.) Early last year, he jumped at the opportunity to
move to Osoyoos Larose in the Okanagan.
a lot of property in Bordeaux,”
he says. These range from producers of medium-priced wines to “a very expensive
one like Gruaud-Larose. When we did some tastings to compare Osoyoos Larose
with some of the best Grand Cru in Bordeaux,
it was obvious that we could compare it. Osoyoos Larose belongs among the
famous good wines in the world. The quality of the terroir for Osoyoos Larose
Larose makes just two red wines: Le Grand Vin and, in the Bordeaux tradition, a lower-priced second
wine, Pétales d’Osoyoos. In part, the wine
is a home for the barrels judged to be less ageable, with lower tannin, that
what is blended for Le Grand Vin. It is made in a different style so that the
wine is fruitier and more accessible when young than Le Grand Vin. Pétales is
by no means a lesser wine.
Le Grand Vin
is a classically Bordeaux-styled red, deliberately structured to be cellared at
least to its 10th birthday, if not longer. It is one of the premiere
collector wines from the Okanagan. Unlike most other Okanagan icon reds, the
production is large enough that any serious collector can find it and buy it.
release of Le Grand Vin is from the 2009 vintage. The current Pétales is from 2010.
Recently, a small group of us assembled to taste a vertical of every
vintage of Le Grand Vin. We learned several things. Even though there is
inevitable vintage variation, it never obscures the consistent style and
personality of this wine. You always know you have Le Grand Vin in the glass.
Secondly, the wine develops magnificently as it ages, peaking somewhere
between six and eight years and then holding at that level for another six to
eight years. Le Grand Vin sells for $45. As Mathieu discovered, it can hold its
own against many pedigreed Bordeaux
Here are notes from the vertical tasting. The Pétales d’Osoyoos was
Le Grand Vin 2001: Total
production 2,200 12-bottle cases. This is 66% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon
and 9% Cabernet Franc. I had this wine two years ago from a magnum, which it
still showed good fruit. The standard bottle ages faster and this vintage is
fading. The flavours are drying out and the tannins, while not hard, seem
somewhat dusty. However, my do not resuscitate judgment was a bit premature. A third of a bottle remained in a carafe until the following day. The wine revived to show glimmers of fruit and reasonably full texture. We had no trouble finishing the wine at dinner.
Le Grand Vin 2002: Production
6,775 six-bottle cases. This is 57% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Malbec,
7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. The colour is darker and the texture
still has some flesh. The cassis aromas and flavours mingle with hints of cigar
box. While the wine will not get better, it is still very satisfying.
Le Grand Vin 2003: Production
19,700 six-bottle cases. This is 75% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Malbec,
5% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. This wine began with a glorious of
cassis and red fruit and delivered rich flavours and a full weight to the
palate. At its peak now, this is an impressive wine. This vintage and the 2007
were the favourite wines of the tasting.
Le Grand Vin 2004: Production
18,500 six-bottle cases. This is 68% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit
Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec. Bottle age has given this wine an
alluring cassis perfume. There is concentrated fruit on the palate –
blackberries and black currant – with a touch of chocolate and espresso coffee
on the finish.
Le Grand Vin 2005: Production
20,950 six-bottle cases. This is 67% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit
Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec. This is an elegant wine with silky
tannins. It seems to have less power than either the preceding or succeeding
vintages, but the wine is more polished and rather pretty.
Le Grand Vin 2006:
20,250 six-bottle cases. This is 69% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit
Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec. This wine has a dense, chewy texture
with ripe tannins supporting earthy notes of black currant and coffee. Some
tasters thought there was a hint of bitterness – probably something that will
disappear entirely with another year or two of age.
Le Grand Vin 2007:
15,000 six-bottle cases. This is 70% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4%
Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec. In this vintage, the winery
moved to aging the wine for 20 months, up from 16 months, in new and
one-year-old barrels. Once again, the
tannins are silky and the texture is juicy. There are notes of cassis and mocha
in the aroma and on the palate. The wine’s elegant balance impressed all of the
Le Grand Vin 2008:
18,000 six-bottle cases. This is 60% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7%
Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. This wine has just begun its
development to a glorious future, with a bold and ripe texture and flavours
that include blackberry, black currant and pepper.
Le Grand Vin 2009: ($45
for a production of 16,000 six-bottle cases). This is 58% Merlot, 26% Cabernet
Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec. The wine was aged
20 months in French oak, with 60% of the barrels being new, 40% being one year
old. Dark in colour and concentrated in texture, this wine still shows its
youthful tannins. Decanting helps reveal aromas of sage, blueberry and cedar
with lush layers of plum and black currant. 94+
d’Osoyoos 2010 ($25 for 10,100 six-bottle cases). This is 58%
Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot and 4%
Malbec. The wine was also aged 20 months but in one and two-year-old French
oak. It saw no new oak. The wine has generous aromas and flavours of black
currant, blueberry sage and even a hint of chocolate. The tannins are
relatively soft, giving this wine an early drinkability while waiting for Le
Grand Vin to be ready. The winery advising drinking it within three years of
its release. 91.