Wednesday, July 2, 2014

These wineries are no one-shot wonders

 Photo: Lariana's Dan and Carol Scott

Two wines, a white and a red, which recently arrived for review, are singled out here for special review for two reasons.

The wines are both excellent. Secondly, they speak volumes for the consistency of both producers.

The white is the 2013 Viognier from Lariana Cellars in Osoyoos, only the second release from this winery. The 2012 Viognier, which was scored 95, was one of the best Viogniers from the Okanagan last year.

Well, that was no first-time lucky accident. The 2013 Viognier is as good.

Dan and Carol Scott opened Lariana last year on a property tucked tightly against the U.S. border, on 2nd Avenue in Osoyoos. To get there, you turn left from Highway 97 immediately before entering the American customs and immigration line-up.

With just a five-acre vineyard, the Scotts have built two small winery buildings. One is a barrel cellar for their Cabernet Sauvignon-anchored blend, not yet released. The 2012 blend, tasted from barrel just before bottling this spring, is delicious. The release date may be this fall, depending on how the wine develops in bottle.

The wine processing building houses one of the secrets to the quality of the Viognier: an 1,800-litre concrete egg in which consulting winemaker Senka Tennant ferments the wine and matures it on the lees.

Egg-shaped concrete fermenters first were introduced to the Okanagan in 2011 when Okanagan Crush Pad brought in six from a California manufacturer. One of the first wines “raised” in these eggs, the Haywire Canyonview Pinot Noir 2011, has just won a Lieutenant Governor Award of Excellence.

A few other wineries, including Laughing Stock and CedarCreek, have since added eggs to their cellars. OCP, meanwhile, installed six 4,400-litre concrete fermenters last fall.

Among the claimed advantages, fermenting in concrete seems to improve the texture of the wines. Texture is one reason why the Haywire Pinot Noir was a winner. The Lariana Viogniers both are rich in texture.

The red wine is the 2012 Célestiale, a Bordeaux blend, from Clos du Soleil Winery in the Similkameen. This winery was opened six years ago and by now has established a solid track record with its wines.

Célestiale is the more immediately approachable of the winery’s two Bordeaux reds. The high-priced ($40 compared with $27) Signature is structured for longer cellaring.

Even though the 2011 vintage was challenging, the 2011 Célestiale achieved scores of 90 and 91 from several reviewers. The 2012 vintage was a much riper one, producing wines that are generous in flavour and texture. As a result, the 2012 Célestiale has immediate appeal.

Clos du Soleil’s consulting winemaker is Ann Sperling. There is change underway in the cellar here, in part because Ann is increasingly busy with Sperling Vineyards and other projects. As well, Michael Clark (right), the new partner who joined Clos du Soleil last year, is also a winemaker.

A financial analyst who also has degrees in physics, Michael began a career shift in 2010 while still working as a portfolio manager with Switzerland’s oldest private bank. He has made wine both in France and in Switzerland while taking his diploma in winemaker from the University of California at Davis.

He is taking over a portfolio of Bordeaux-inspired wines at one of the Similkameen’s best boutique wineries.

Here are notes on the two wines.

Lariana Cellars Viognier 2013 ($23 for 221 cases). This wine begins with appealing aromas of peach and apricot, leading to luscious flavours of peach, apricot, guava and apple. There is just the right degree of acidity to give the wine a refreshing and tangy finish. The texture is utterly sybaritic. 93-95.

Clos du Soleil Célestiale 2012 ($26.90 for 575 cases). This is 31% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 13% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. This juicy wine begins with aromas of black cherry, cassis and vanilla, which follow through to the palate. As well, there are flavours of blueberry and a touch of liquorice. The ripe fruit flavours are so lush that there is an impression of sweetness on the palate. The soft texture suggests this is not meant for long-term aging. However, the wine is so delicious that it won’t be around long either. 92.


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