Photo: Winemaker Severine Pinte-Kosaka
The new releases from sister wineries LaStella and Le Vieux
Pin offer a glimpse of the last three vintages in the Okanagan.
The 2012 vintage was very good. The 2013 challenged growers
but those who rose to the challenge made good wines. And 2014? For what I hear
from the industry, it may have been the best vintage in 20 years.
“2012 was classic Okanagan, with no rain in the fall at all,
no disease pressure, zero need for sorting,” says Rasoul Salehi, a marketing
executive with both wineries. “The grapes were quite thick skinned, quite small
berried; the only concern we had was keeping the alcohols in check.”
He continues by describing 2013 as almost two vintages. In
September that year, midway through the harvest, it rained in the Okanagan and
Similkameen, which is quite unusual for that month. Grapes picked before the
rain were generally healthy. The rain, which lasted several days, caused mould
and rot among grapes with tight bunches (the Pinot family and Viognier) –
especially those grapes already damaged by the unbelievable wasp explosion of
that season. But those producers who escaped rot then had a long warm autumn in
which to finish ripening fruit.
“2014 was a really interesting year,” Rasoul says. It was
one of warmest, driest years in a long time. Even the nights were warmer than
usual. Severine Pinte-Kosaka, the French-trained winemaker at these wineries,
said it reminded her of the south of France.
“We had a huge picking window,” Rasoul says. “We had to pick
earlier just to preserve the natural acidity and keep the ph in balance. We did
not have the huge diurnal shift we usually get.”
Having to pick earlier was not a disadvantage. The grapes
generally ripened early and the alcohol in some of the finished wines is more
moderate – 12% and 13% in the case of the rosé wines from these wineries. That
certainly promotes the drinkability of the wines.
Here are notes on the current releases.
LaStella Vivace Pinot
Grigio 2014 ($24.90 f0r 771 cases). This expressive wine begins with aromas
of spice, pears and citrus. On the palate, there are generous flavours of
apple, pear and melon. The wine has a dry finish and good spine of minerality.
($22.90 for 421 cases). This rosé is approximately 50% Merlot and 40%
Cabernet Franc, which were pressed together. The remainder is Sangiovese, bled
from the tank. Salmon pink in colour, it has a juice texture with the slightest
hint of sweetness. It has aromas and flavours of Bing cherries. Luscious on the
palate, the wine has a lingering finish. 90.
Le Vieux Pin Vaïla Rosé 2014 ($24.90 for 768 cases). This delicious
wine is made entirely with Pinot Noir pressed for rosé; it is not a saignée
rosé. The wine begins with appealing strawberry aromas leading to flavours of
rhubarb and pink grapefruit. The wine has a refreshing dry, tangy finish. 90.
Le Vieux Pin Ava 2013
($34.90 for 690 cases). This is 50% Viognier, 41% Roussanne and 9%
Marsanne. Half the blend was barrel-aged but the rest was aged in stainless
steel, preserving fresh and vibrant fruit. The wine begins with aromas of
apricot, strawberry and peach, leading to flavours of apricots. There is a
slightly bitter note, like chewing on an apricot pit, which just adds
complexity to the refreshing fruit flavours and the crisp finish. 91
Le Vieux Pin Petit
Rouge 2013 ($24 for 600 cases). This is primarily Merlot with a little
Syrah to fill out the blend. The wine begins with demonstrative fruit aromas –
black currant, blackberry and cherry. These are echoed on the palate and in the
spicy finish. The soft ripe tannins make this an approachable wine for drinking
now; but it will cellar well for a few years. 90.
Le Vieux Pin Syrah
Cuvée Classique 2012 ($49 for 393 cases). This dark brooding Syrah begins
with aromas of plum and black pepper. It has smoky flavours of black olives and
plums with an earthy note on the finish. The minerality gives this wine a
muscular and age-worthy structure. 92-94.
Le Vieux Pin Syrah “Cuvée Violette” 2013 ($29 for 891 cases). The wine
begins with aromas of black cherry delicately accented with white pepper. On
the palate, there are earthy flavours, including plum, black cherry and pepper.
The wine aged 14 months in French oak (none of it new). The structure is firm
enough to support a few years of cellaring. 91.
Le Vieux Pin Équinoxe Cabernet Franc 2012
($149 for 25 cases). Not
yet released, this powerful wine could pass for a Barolo. The immense
concentration of texture and flavours results from cropping the vines at 8/10
of a ton an acre and from aging the wine 26 months in French oak. The wine
begins with aromas of black cherry, blackberry and black currants. On the
palate, the texture is bold, with flavours of black currant, dark chocolate,
coffee and spice. 95.