Thursday, February 12, 2015

Township 7's Reserve 7 Meritage

During the past decade or so, a growing number of British Columbia wineries have added premium-priced flagship wines to their portfolios.

It is all part of the maturing of the industry. Mature vines are producing better grapes. Winemakers have accumulated more experience and training. Wineries have invested in significantly better winemaking equipment. We should expect better wines.

For various reasons, I have begun to explore the back stories on some of these wines. This blog is about Township 7’s premium Bordeaux blend, Reserve 7. The 2012 vintage is the current release.

Reserve 7 was born in 2006 when Mike Raffan, a former restaurateur, bought the winery from its founders, Corey and Gwen Coleman. The winemaker at the time was Brad Cooper and Mike asked him to make a “high performance” wine.

It was their good fortune that 2006 was a strong Okanagan vintage. Brad was able to make good Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc varietals sourced from a contracted grower on Black Sage Road. The varietals were aged individually in barrel until Brad was ready to put together a 200-case blend from the “best” barrels.

That first Reserve 7 was 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc. A label was commissioned from Robb Dunfield, a quadriplegic Vancouver painter. Part of the proceeds from the sale of the wine, which was released in 2008, went to the Rick Hansen Foundation. 

The winery has made Reserve 7 blends every vintage since and has integrated them into its portfolio with a conventional label. The volume of Reserve 7 has risen to  500 cases a year and likely is capped around that level.

Much of the fruit in the blend is from the six-hectare (15-acre) Blue Terrace Vineyard. Located on Tuc-El-Nuit Road northeast of Oliver, it was planted in 1998 with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Township 7 began buying Blue Terrace grapes in 2000. Andy Marsel, the owner, subsequently planted, and then sold, a similar sized vineyard nearby in a former gravel pit. Now called Rock Pocket, this also supplies fruit for Township 7. The gravel-rich soils in this area sets it apart from the more sandy soils further south on Black Sage Road.

Township 7 has since contracted additional from vineyards in Okanagan Falls and the Similkameen Valley. It also has Merlot and a modest quantity of Malbec and Petit Verdot growing in the estate vineyard near Penticton.

New owners took over Township 7 last year. They have left Mike in place as general manager and he is maintaining the portfolio.

However, Brad Cooper has moved to Serendipity Winery. Ontario-born Mary McDermott took over as Township 7’s winemaker in 2014. With her background and with the superb quality of the 2014 vintage, there is potential to take Reserve 7 to yet another level. A graduate of Brock University winemaking program, she worked at three top Ontario wineries: Stratus Vineyards, Cave Spring Cellars and, from 2010 to 2014, at Trius Winery. She brings techniques learned in producing the iconic Trius Grand Red which, currently, sells for double the price of Reserve 7.

Here are notes on two current releases from Township 7.

Township 7 Reserve Chardonnay 2013 ($25.99 for 188 cases). This wine is available only the wine club members at Township 7. This wine was fermented and aged in one-year-old American oak for 12 months. It begins with aromas of tangerines and cloves, leading to layered flavours of mango and citrus with hints of butterscotch. The texture is full, almost creamy, but the finish is crisp. 91.

Township 7 Reserve 7 Meritage 2012 ($35.99 for 488 cases). The blend is 70% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 5.5% Cabernet Franc and 2.5% Petit Verdot.  The wine was aged 22 months in French and American oak barrels and the blend was a best barrels selection.  It begins with aromas of black cherry, currants, vanilla and fruitcake spices, leading to bright, vibrant flavours of cherry and boysenberry, with a note of cedar.  The firm tannins require decanting for consumption now; but this has good potential for aging. The winery suggests cellaring a further six to 10 years. 91


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