Thursday, March 26, 2015

Vancouver Island vintners come to Vancouver

 Photo: Roger Dosman of Alderlea Vineyards

At a recent Vancouver tasting of Vancouver Island wines, I observed the “two ships passing in the night” problem that holds back sales of island wines.

At one winery table, two guests kept asking where they could find the wines they had just tasted. The vintner kept repeating where the wines are available in Victoria and in the Cowichan Valley.

Hello! We were in downtown Vancouver. In fact, we were a block from a Liberty wine store that likely had a limited selection of the wines being tasted, assuming the Liberty buyer had been lined up to support the tasting.

Of course, most of the island wineries are small and can sell most of their production right on the island. However, several formerly small producers have recently come into the hands of ambitious new owners. Volumes of wine are growing above the quantities that can be consumed locally. Some aggressive selling is in order.

This tasting was organized by Richard Massey, an agent who represents several island producers. Hats off to Richard for herding cats! There are interesting wines across the water, especially from the warm 2013 and 2014 vintages.

As usually, time ran out before I completed a round of the room. There are no notes here for Averill Creek nor 40 Knots, both subjects of recent blogs. Blue Grouse Vineyards is planning a major re-opening at the end of May and I expect to blog on that winery then. I also missed the Unsworth Vineyards table but heard very positive comments from other tasters.

Here are some of the other wineries and products of interest.

Alderlea Vineyards. Roger Dosman, a seasoned winegrower, opened this winery in 1998 and has always made wine just from his picture-perfect 10-acre vineyard.

Alderlea Bacchus 2013 ($14) is spicy and aromatic, with notes of grapefruit and peach on the palate. The wine is crisp and refreshing, with a dry finish. 90.

Alderlea Pinot Gris 2013 ($15.80). Partially barrel-fermented, this wine delivers layered aromas and flavours of apples, pears and citrus. The texture is generous while the finish is crisp and refreshing. 90.

Alderlea Pinot Noir 2011 ($19.30). This lovely silky wine has aromas and flavours of strawberry and raspberry with a touch of spice on the finish. 90.

Alderlea Clarinet 2011 and Alderlea Clarinet 2012 ($15.80). This is Roger’s Maréchal Foch. He calls it Clarinet because, as he once said, “it is too good to be called Foch.” It was instructive to taste the two vintages, the cool 2011 and the ripe 2012. I preferred the ripe flavours of the 2012, showing plums, black cherry and blackberry with a touch of coffee and pepper. 90.

Cherry Point Estate Winery opened in 1994 and has been owned since 2009 by Xavier (right) and Maria Bonilla. He is a Colombian-born agricultural economist who, with his trademark black beret, looks like a French or Spanish vigneron. Some of his inspiration comes from the wines of Rioja.

Cherry Point Gewürztraminer 2013 ($27.90) has aromas and flavours of spice, grapefruit and lime, with a dry finish. 88.

Cherry Point Ortega 2013 ($27.90). This fresh, dry white has a flavour palate that includes melon, apple, guava and grapefruit. 88.

Cherry Point Pinot Gris 2012 ($24). The pleasing texture of this wine comes from some moderate aging in neutral barrels. There are flavours of pear and apples with a hint of spice and nuts on the finish. 90.

Cherry Point Lágrimas Negras 2012 (N.V.). This is one of the winery’s Spanish-influenced wines. Dark in colour, it is a blend of Agria and Castel grapes. It has smoky cherry aromas and gamey flavours of dark red fruits. 88-90.

Cherry Point Bête Noir 2011 Gran Riserva (N.A.). This wine is also built with Agria and Castel and is also influenced by Spanish wines. The volatility recalls old Vega Sicilia. The wine has flavours of back cherry and dark chocolate. 87.

Cherry Point Pinot Noir Reserve 2011 ($27.70). Aged 10 months in barrel, this wine has aromas and flavours of cherry and raspberry with a hint of oak. The texture is firm. 88.

Cherry Point Cowichan Blackberry ($24 for 375 ml). Cherry Point was the first Vancouver Island winery to make the port-style blackberry wine that has become a signature for the island. This is a rich, ripe wine that mirrors the flavours of sun-bathed blackberry. It is sweet but well-balanced. 88.

De Vine Vineyards opened in 2010 on the Saanich Peninsula. One of its claims to fame is that it was the first winery in British Columbia to produce Grüner Veltliner.

Winemaker Ken Winchester (left) presented a tank sample of Ortega 2014 that I chose not to rate in its unfinished form. The Pinot Gris 2014 tank sample was much more promising.

There were two surprises. De Vine Zinfandel 2012 ($24) made with Okanagan grapes, is a ripe and boldly oaked red, with brambly aromas and flavours. This is drinking well now with plenty of upside if cellared. 88-90.

The other surprise was a Calvados-like apple spirit. De Vine also has a whisky and a gin in the works. Whatever name is given to the Calvados, it is a generous, soul-warming spirit.

Garry Oaks Winery, which opened in 2003, is the oldest of the three Salt Spring Island wineries. Marcel Mercier is another good winegrower and Elaine Kozak, his wife, turns the grapes into very good wine.

Garry Oaks Pinot Gris 2013 ($23). This full-bodied wine recalls Alsace, with flavours of apples, pears and melons. The wine has both weight and length, with a crisp, refreshing finish. 90.

Garry Oaks Pinot Noir Zweigelt 2013 (Not yet released). Elaine made this unusual blend just before bottling when she concluded it is better than either of the components (it is 60% Pinot Noir). Blending anything with Pinot Noir is chancy but this wine works, with appealing aromas and flavours of cherry and blackberry, leading to a spicy finish. 90.

Garry Oaks Pinot Noir 2012 ($24). This elegant wine begins with lovely aromas of cherry and strawberry; these are echoed in the flavours. The texture is seductively silky. The finish lingers and there is a touch of well-integrated oak. 90.

Garry Oaks Zweigelt 2012 ($24). This wine is firm and lean with aromas and flavours of plum and blackberry with an earthy mineral backbone. 88.

Mistaken Identity Vineyards opened on Salt Spring Island in 2009. It has been for sale for about a year but continues to burnish the assets by releasing good wines.

Mistaken Identity Bianco 2013 ($16.99) is a blend of six white varieties grown in the estate vineyard. The wine is crisp and refreshing, with aromas and flavours of pineapple, apple and melon and with a touch of residual sugar to flesh out the palate. 90.

 Mistaken Identity Pinot Noir Rosé 2013 ($16.99). I am surprised this tasty rosé was not all consumed last summer by visitors to Salt Spring. It is bursting with strawberries, raspberries and red cherries with a touch of sweetness well-balanced with bright acidity. 88.

Mistaken Identity Rosso 2013 ($22.99). This is a blend of Zweigelt, Leon Millot, Maréchal Foch and Cabernet Foch grapes. A dry red, it offers flavours of plum and blackberry with notes of coffee and dark chocolate. 88.

Mistaken Identity Debut 2010 ($22.90). This is 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, presumably from Okanagan fruit since neither of these varieties ripen on Vancouver Island. Several other island producers also release wines made from Okanagan fruit in order to offer the full range that consumers expect. This is a delicious red, with aromas and flavours of black currant, black cherry and vanilla with hints of dark chocolate and coffee. It is boldly oaked. 89.

Rocky Creek Winery, owned by Mark and Linda Holford, will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. The winery opened initially in the ground floor of a residence in Ladysmith before moving in 2008 to a farm in the Cowichan Valley. They came to the tasting with three wines from the stellar 2014 vintage – perhaps the best ever vintage since grape growing began on the island in the 1980s.

Rocky Creek Siegerrebe 2014 ($20). This is a classic expression of a variety sometimes called Gewürztraminer on steroids. It has bold spicy and floral aromas and the flavours are a fruit salad in a bowl. 88.

Rocky Creek Pinot Gris 2014 ($18.50). The winemaker left the juice on the skins for 18 hours, extracting flavour, aroma and a hint of salmon pink colour. It begins with aromas of rhubarb and citrus that are echoed on the full-flavoured palate. This is a refreshing white, nicely balanced to finish crisply. 90.

Rocky Creek Robin’s Rosé 2014 ($18). This is a Pinot Noir rosé (also 18 hours of skin contact) with aromas and flavours of strawberry and cherry. It is finished crisply dry, recalling rosés of Provence. 90.

Rocky Creek Pinot Noir 2013 ($22). This wine has aromas of cherry and cranberry, with flavours of cherry and plum and with a Burgundian earthiness on the finish. 88.

Tod Creek Craft Cider is a cidery that opened last year in Victoria. It was one of three cideries at the Vancouver tasting. Time ran out before I could  taste the products from Merridale Cidery and Sea Cider. Both of these have been in the market for some time and are excellent.

Tod Creek Tod Cider ($11.30 for a four-can pack). This blend of cider and dessert apples is refreshing, with a crisp and dry finish. 88.

Tod Creek Bamfield Bound Cider ($6.10 for 500 ml). Cidermaker Chris Schmidt uses a dash of maple syrup to finish this cider. It is a full-bodied cider with crisp apple flavours and with a slightly tart finish. 90.

Tod Creek Mala-Hop Cider ($6.10 for 500 ml). This is an intriguing hopped cider. If you like the slightly bitter and smoky taste of hops (I do), you will like this well-made craft cider. 89.

Venturi-Schulze Vineyards was opened by 1993 by Giordano Venturi and Marilyn Schulze (now with daughter Michelle). They have pioneered techniques for growing wines and they always make interesting, and occasionally eccentric, wines. Not to mention their balsamic vinegar, an exceptional product.

Venturi-Schulze Brut  Naturel 2010 ($32; $18.50 for a half bottle). The cuvée for this dry bottled-fermented sparkling wine is Pinot Auxerrois and Pinot Gris. No dosage or sulphites have been added. The wine begins with bready aromas, is creamy on the palate, has tangy citrus flavours and a crisp finish. 90.

Venturi-Schulze Sassi 2012 ($26). This blend of Pinot Gris and Ortega has a bouquet of aromas and flavours – pear, apple, citrus and melon with a touch of spice from the French oak-aged portion of the blend. 90.

Venturi-Schulze Primavera 2012 ($20). This light, off-dry wine is a blend of Schönburger and Ortega. It is crisp and fresh, with notes of citrus and spice. 90.

Venturi-Schulze Terracotta 2011 ($28). This is a deliciously eccentric white. Aged 30% in French oak, the wine has a golden hue. It has honeyed aromas and flavours of apricot and nuts, with a spicy finish recalling cumin. This dry wine is 100% Siegerrebe. It is a wine to savour, perhaps with a good cigar. 90.

Venturi-Schulze Pinot Noir 2011 ($45). Even though 2011 was a difficult vintage, the winery made a superb silky Pinot Noir with aromas and flavours of cherry and raspberry. The wine was aged in two and three-year-old French oak barrels. 90.

Venturi-Schulze Pinot Noir Reserve 2009 ($54.96). The 2009 vintage was hot. Consequently, this is a big wine with ripe flavours of cherry and plum. The wine, aged in two-year-old Nevers barrels, is silky on the palate, with a long and elegant finish. 93.

Venturi-Schulze Brandenburg No. 3 2010 ($35.50 for 375 ml). This is another eccentric wine that is incredibly delicious. This amber-hued wine bursts with aromas and flavours of cassis and caramel. With just 7.7% alcohol, it is a dessert wine that is easy to drink on its own because it is not overly sweet; and also pairs well with both savoury dishes and custard deserts. 90.

Zanatta Winery, which was licensed in 1990, is the oldest winery on Vancouver Island. The winery’s 30-acre vineyard grows 40 different varieties, including British Columbia’s only commercial planting of Cayuga, a New York hybrid.

Zanatta Glenora Fantasia Brut NV ($28.50). This is a traditional sparkling wine from the Cayuga grapes. It is aged at least five years on the lees. The wine begins with aromas of lees and green apples, leading to a fruity palate and a crisp finish. 88.

Zanatta Brut Tradizionale NV ($28.95). The cuvée is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, in the tradition of Champagne. Time on the lees has given the wine a toasty aroma and rich nutty flavours. 88.

Zanatta Pinot Grigio 2013 ($17.95). This is a full-bodied dry white with flavours of apple and pear. 88.

Zanatta Damasco NV ($16.50). This is perhaps the winery’s most popular white – a 2014 blend that includes Muscat, Ortega and Madeleine Sylvaner. The wine begins with spicy and floral aromas. On the palate, it is fresh and juicy, with hints of citrus and apple. 90.


At March 28, 2015 at 6:39 AM , Blogger Marilyn V said...

As always, it was wonderful to see you there, John. We look forward to seeing you on "the Island" soon.


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