Monday, June 2, 2014

Olive oil joins wine at LaStella

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 vinegar.

Why olive oil and balsamic vinegar? These hand-crafted artisanal products complement the wines hand-crafted here by French-trained winemaker Severine Pinte.

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.

LaStella Lastellina Rosato 2013 ($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.

LaStella Leggiero 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 finish. 91.

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.


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