Photo: Winemaker Stefan Arnason
The current wines being released by Poplar Grove Winery include, unusually, two vintages of The Legacy, the winery’s iconic red wine.
There appear to be two reasons for this. To begin with, the volumes of both vintages (2010, 2011) are small.
The 2010 vintage was cool, forcing Poplar Grove (and other wineries) to reduce crop load dramatically in order to ripen the grapes.
“We had forecasted a harvest of 220 tons,” winemaker Stefan Arnason says. “But because of the cool spring, cool summer and cold fall, we dropped the harvest to 80 tons.”
The Legacy is always blended from the best barrels but there were a lot fewer barrels to choose from in 2010. Production of The Legacy was limited to 350 cases, a volume that Poplar Grove’s wine club will buy in a heart beat if allowed to do so.
By releasing the 2011 vintage (550 cases) at about the same time, Poplar Grove has a fighting chance of satisfying both the wine club and restaurant clients.
“2011 was also tough vintage but the 2011 Legacy is very good,” Stefan says. “It’s pretty dense.” He would have preferred to make 700 cases but decided during blending that anything more than 550 cases risked diluting the quality.
The 2012 The Legacy, which is may be in bottle already, is from a very strong vintage. The winery will release 900 cases next year. Stefan thinks he could have produced twice as much easily but that risked saturating the market for a wine in this price bracket.
That brings me to the second reason for releasing two vintages at the same time. Traditionally, Poplar Grove held The Legacy back until it was five years old. Stefan is trying to move that to four years.
“Five years is unsustainable,” he suggests. “It is too hard to plan five years ahead.
We are on a three year release cycle with the other reds, so to go to a four year cycle is not that big a stretch. That we can plan for. By four years, the wines are really good.”
Judging by my recent tastings, the wines are good even earlier. Monster Vineyards is Poplar Grove’s value label. Here are notes.
Poplar Grove Pinot Gris 2014 ($19.90). This refreshing wine begins with aromas of citrus and apples. On the palate, there are layers of fruit flavours – apple, pear, nectarine, with a lively spicy finish that does not want to quit. 91.
Poplar Grove Chardonnay 2014 ($21.90). This is a fresh, fruit-forward Chardonnay that was fermented 80% in stainless steel. The 20% that was barrel-fermented adds a complexing hint of hazelnut to the palate. The wine begins with aromas of citrus and apples. On the palate, there are flavours of grapefruit, passion fruit and pear. 90.
Poplar Grove Blanc de Noirs 2014 ($24.90). Salmon pink in hue, the wine begins with aromas of strawberries. On the palate, there are flavours of strawberries, sour cherries, watermelon and rhubarb. This is a saignée rosé; the three red varieties has three hours of skin contact. The blend is 41% Malbec, 24% Merlot, 19% Syrah and 16% Viognier. The mid-palate is juicy but the finish is crisp and dry. 90.
Poplar Grove Cabernet Franc 2012 ($34.90). This has always been one of this winery’s signature red wines. It begins with brambleberry aromas and rustic tannins. Time in a decanter brings out a rich texture and generous flavours of black cherry, blackberry, plum and vanilla. The finish is long and satisfying. 92.
Poplar Grove Merlot 2011 ($29.90). This wine was aged 21 months in French oak and another 18 months in bottle before release. That is characteristic of the herculean effort the winemakers made to burnish a wine from one of the Okanagan’s most difficult vintages since 1999. For the most part, it is a great success. The wine’s texture is svelte and polished. The aromas of black currant, blackberry and tobacco continue to bright lingonberry and currant flavours. There is a slight note of spice and earth on the finish. 89.
Poplar Grove Syrah 2012 ($31.41 plus tax; wine club only). This is a generous wine, beginning with aromas of black cherries, plum and boysenberries which are echoed in the flavours, along with white pepper and spice. The ripe tannins give this wine its rich texture and what the winery calls a “sultry expression” of Okanagan Syrah. 91
Poplar Grove The Legacy 2011 ($49.90 for 550 cases). The blend is Merlot 43%, Cabernet Franc 41%, Malbec 13%, Cabernet Sauvignon 3%. This firmly textured wine begins with aromas of black currant and black cherry, which are echoed on the palate, along with flavours of coffee and dark chocolate. There are spicy fruit flavours on the lingering finish. This wine will age for at least 10 years. 94.
Poplar Grove The Legacy 2010 ($49.90 for 350 cases). The blend is Merlot 33%, Malbec 24%, Cabernet Sauvignon 23%, Cabernet Franc 20%. The wine begins with lovely cassis aromas which echo the cassis flavours on the palate. Lighter in body than previous vintages, this is nevertheless a wine of great elegance. It also has will age to its 10th birthday. 93.
Monster Vineyards White Knuckle 2014 ($17.90). This is a blend of 31% Pinot Gris, 25% Viognier, 17% Verdejo, 15% Riesling and 5% Chardonnay. Each varietal was fermented separately at a cool 16°C. It all adds up to a crisp and fruity blend with aromas and flavours of pears, apricots, melon and apple. 89.
Monster Vineyards Skinny Dip Chardonnay 2014 ($17.90). This is an unoaked Chardonnay. The touch of residual sugar gives the wine a juicy texture and accentuates the aromas of peach and melon and the flavours of apple and citrus. 89.
Monster Vineyards Riesling 2014 ($17.90). This refreshing and fruit Riesling balances its bright acidity with a hint of residual sweetness. The moderate 12.3% alcohol adds to the wine’s ability to dance lightly across the palate. It has aromas and flavours of lime, lemon and green apples. 88.
Monster Vineyards Rose 2014 ($15.90). This is 64% Malbec, 17% Viognier, 15% Merlot and 4% Syrah. The juice of the red varietals was obtained by bleeding the tanks after minimal skin contact. The wine was cool fermented and was finished with seven grams of sugar per litre (and 7.5 grams of acidity). This balance gives the wine a juicy texture and a crisp finish. Bright pink in colour, the wine begins with aromas of strawberries and melon. It delivers flavours of cherries and cranberries. 89.