Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Laughing Stock and friends report from fire lines

Photo: Smoke of the Testalinden Creek fire

In a recent newsletter, Laughing Stock owners David and Cynthia Enns addressed an issue on the minds of a lot of people in the 2015 vintage: will there be smoke taint on the wines?

The smoke in the southern Okanagan was especially heavy for several days, beginning August 22. Air Canada, and several other airlines, cancelled all flights to and from Penticton Airport on August 23 and 24. In the smoke, visibility was marginal, given the airport’s limited navigational aids.

This inconvenienced the travelling public. However, the Laughing Stock owners don’t think the smoke was heavy to cause taint in the wines (unlike 2003 when the Okanagan Park forest fire caused significant taint to vineyards and wines from East Kelowna vineyards).

Here is what David and Cynthia wrote:

Living in the Okanagan brings its pluses and minuses. And in a hot year like 2015, one of the biggest stressors we deal with is the threat of forest fires.

While none of our vineyard properties have been immediately affected by the raging forest fires this summer, you can see from this picture from our Perfect Hedge Vineyard in Osoyoos, that the potential of damage from the Rock Creek fire that started August 13th, was a very real threat to us when watching the mushroom cloud of smoke erupt above the vineyard.

Fortunately we and other vineyards and wineries have not had any measurable damage to date, even though our Osoyoos vineyard manager, Sukhi Dhaliwal, and family were evacuated on the Golden Mile when the Testalinden Creek fire burnt right up to within 100 metres of his house and vineyard.

However, the winemaking community is abuzz with chatter about the potential of smoke taint as a heavy haze settles into the valley from the Washington State fires south of us.  

From our experience from the fires in 2003, the vineyard has to be exposed to extensive smoke from close proximity to create smoke taint, which has fortunately not been the case for us this year.  

We wish all our winery community a safe harvest and to be forest fire free!

The photograph at the head of this column is not the one they refer to. Rather it is a photograph I took earlier that week of the Testalinden Creek fire. That fire was a threat for almost two weeks.

If you are in a mood to toast the fire fighters, here are some excellent wines from Laughing Stock.

Laughing Stock Pinot Gris 2014 ($22). The winemaking style aims for a fruit-forward Pinot Gris. Half of the wine was fermented in neutral French oak, 30% in stainless steel and the remaining 20% in concrete eggs. The winery has been using concrete eggs since 2011. The aroma begins with a hint of bready lees mingled with lemon and pear. The wine has a rich palate with flavours of citrus and pear and ripe apple. The finish is crisply dry. 90.

Laughing Stock Viognier 2014 ($26). This wine was fermented 40% in stainless steel, 40% in French oak, 20% in concrete eggs. The wine’s lush aromas jump from the glass, with floral aromas mingled with citrus and apricot. The wine has a full weight on the palate, with honeyed flavours of apricot and ripe apple. The finish is long with subtle hints of spice. 91.

Laughing Stock Blind Trust 2014 ($25). The blend is 50% Pinot Gris, 20% Viognier, 18% Pinot Blanc and 12% Roussanne. It begins with aromas of grapefruit and goes on to deliver mouth filling flavours of lime, apple and peach. 90.

Laughing Stock Amphora VR 2014 ($24 for 500 ml, but all 162 cases are sold out). This blend of 50% each of Viognier and Roussanne was fermented and aged on the skins in a terracotta amphora. The grapes went into the amphora and were left to ferment naturally without intervention for two and a half months. The winery says wines were made like this 1,000 years ago but probably a lot longer back in history than that. Both the Romans and the Greeks had amphorae. This unctuous white presents honeyed tangerine aromas. There are both fruity and nutty flavours. The finish is dry and the alcohol, while only 14.2%, is surprisingly obvious. The wine is cleverly packaged in a squat 500 ml bottle with a glass stopper. You won’t want to return this for the dime. 90.

Laughing Stock Blind Trust 2013 ($30).  This is 40% Merlot, 36% Malbec, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Cabernet Franc. The components for this wine aged in French oak for 16 months. This is a dark wine with the glorious Malbec perfume on the nose. It has flavours of cherry and black currant mingled with white pepper and vanilla. The texture has good concentration. This wine is made from the barrels that don’t make the winery’s flagship red, Portfolio. The 2013 vintage of Portfolio must be spectacular because the leftovers are superb. 92.

Laughing Stock Syrah 2013 ($38). In the classic Rhone style, there is 4% Viognier in this wine, something winemakers do to stabilize the almost black colour and to lift the aromas. This wine has complex aromas of black cherry, blackberry, leather, rare steak and pepper. It delivers all of those flavours to a palate that is big and ripe. The tannins are generous, not hard. The finish is long, with notes of earth and spice. 93.  


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