Photo: Olive oil and balsamic vinegar at LaStella
Visitors to sister wineries LaStella and Le Vieux Pin this
year are in for a treat – and it is not just the wines.
Enotecca Winery and Resorts, the Vancouver
company that owns both of these Okanagan wineries, has found some exceptional
olive oils from Italy and France and is
selling them in the wineries. Only a handful of bottles are available. I don’t
expect these oils to be around too long, even if they are premium-priced
(around $30 for 17 ounce bottles).
The Italian olive oils, available only at LaStella, are from
a producer called Casa Gusto, a producer of organic extra virgin oils from
heritage olives. The oil called Delicato is made from the rare Raggia variety
of olives, grown on 150 year-old trees in a grove on the east coast of Italy. The
other oil is called Intensivo. Both are remarkably rich and buttery.
The French extra virgin olive oil, available at Le Vieux
Pin, is from Huilerie Confiserie
Cooperative in the town of Clermont-L’Hérault. It is also rich on the
palate but more fruity in flavour.
LaStella also will be selling a small volume of balsamic
Why olive oil and balsamic vinegar? These hand-crafted
artisanal products complement the wines hand-crafted here by French-trained winemaker
The wineries also are just releasing wines from the 2012 and
2013 vintages. These were excellent Okanagan vintages, at least for those
producers that were on top of their vineyards. There was, for example, rain in
September (followed by a fine warm autumn) which caused bunch rot with
tight-clustered varieties like Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.
Many producers had to hand-sort grapes before crushing to
ensure no unsound grapes ended up in the press. Rasoul Salehi, the winery’s
director of marketing, says that the “2013 vintage is one where consumers need
to be super-cautious.”
There is a longer comment on the LaStella website: “2013 is a tale of two vintages in the same year. Dry
and warm autumn is almost a sure thing in our region. 2013 was a rare
exception. We had an unusual string of rainy days in the middle of harvest in
mid September. The characteristic of the wines is as such dependent on if the
grapes were picked before or after the rainy period. Wines made from grapes
harvested before the rain virtually needed no sorting as they showed clean and
robust flavours of a dry growing season with plenty of very hot days.
“The rain was a double edge
sword though and a blessing in disguise if you will. On one hand it provided an
opportunity for the vines to continue pushing forward for better sugar/acid
balance and greater phenolic maturity but on the other hand it meant the
arrival of rot (need for extensive sorting) and flavour dilution in less than
ideal sites (not to worry we have no mediocre parcels). Sorting was the key
word along with when the fruit was harvested and in which site it was grown.
Buyers of Okanagan wines in general are best to shop by producer and well-known
sites for their quick draining soil make up. Taste before you buy is our
recommendation in general but in particular for 2013.”
I tasted no disappointments among the latest six releases
from these two wineries. Here are my notes.
LaStella Vivace Pinot
Grigio 2013 ($25 for 568 cases).
This is how a Pinot Grigio should taste – light and elegant with a
footprint that does a balletic dance on the palate. The wine has aromas of
pear, herbs and citrus, with flavours of citrus, apples and peaches. The finish
is crisp, with lingering fruit flavours. 90.
($21 for 250 cases). This is a rosé with Merlot and Cabernet
Franc from three and four-year-old vines in the winery’s Sedona vineyard near Osoyoos Lake
. The wine’s appeal begins with a
lovely rose petal hue in the glass. There are hints of strawberry, raspberry
and cherry on the nose which carry through to the palate. The texture is juicy
with just a touch of residual sweetness. 90.
Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 ($25 for 336 cases). This is a Chardonnay that
delivers refreshing purity of fruit. The wine was fermented and matured in
stainless steel with, happily, no lees stirring, which would have created
flavours masking the fruit. There are crisp citrus aromas, with flavours of
green apple, lime and white peach around a spine of minerals. The finish is
crisp and refreshing. 90.
Le Vieux Pin 2013 Sauvignon
Blanc 2013 ($35 for 343 cases). This is a complex wine; half was aged in
neutral oak which clearly benefitted the full texture. It begins with aromas of
lime, with herbal, almost salty notes on the palate, along with flavours of
lime and gooseberry. The wine is vibrant on the palate with a crisp and tangy
Le Vieux Pin Petit Rouge
2012 ($20 for 441 cases). This wine is primarily a blend of Merlot and
Syrah with a splash of Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir. The juicy and drinkable
palate results from aging the wine 14 months in neutral oak and stainless
steel. The wine has aromas of black cherry and blackberry with black cherry and
black currant on the palate. The value here is excellent. 90.
Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvée
Violette 2012 ($29 for 616 cases). This elegant wine is being released later this
year. Dark in colour, it has classic notes of white pepper in the aroma and on
the palate, along with a concentrated core of raspberry and blackberry
flavours, all of it in an earthy frame on the finish. 91.