Monday, June 27, 2016

Stag's Hollow champions Vidal

Photo: Stag's Hollow winemaker Dwight Sick with proprietor Larry Gerelus

New Zealand has its signature white in Sauvignon Blanc.

Whenever I taste the white that Stag’s Hollow Winery called “Tragically” Vidal, I wonder whether Vidal could have emerged as a signature table wine in Canada if the wine industry has explored its applications beyond Icewine.

The Okanagan Falls vineyard that Larry Gerelus and Linda Pruegger bought in 1992 already was growing Vidal. At the time it was a widely planted French white hybrid. It was winter hardy and productive. It made better table wines that other white hybrids and it has been discovered as a perfect Icewine variety.

Larry and Linda were not interested in making Icewine. As well, they could see that most of the Okanagan’s Vidal vines had been pulled out in 1988. So in 1995 they grafted over 80% of the Vidal block to Chardonnay. They took referring to what was left as Tragically Vidal.

Not so fast, said consumers, who were just getting into the Anything But Chardonnay funk. Vidal table wine flew off the shelf in the Stag’s Hollow wine shop much faster than Chardonnay. Larry and Linda got the hint. Many of the Chardonnay grafts were removed and productive Vidal vines were restored.

Then Larry and Linda hired Dwight Sick, a former airline flight attendant who has become a superb winemaker on his second career. Dwight has taken Vidal to another level with winemaking and blending steps to give the wine complexity. Most of the grapes were fermented slowly at cool temperatures to preserve the fruity aromas and flavours. About 4.5% of the wine in the 2015 blend was fermented separately on the skins, punching up the flavour and the texture. Finally, he blended 10.5% Orange Muscat into the final blend.

It is anything but tragic to take that much trouble with a wine.
As these notes indicate, he also took just as much trouble with other wines. Here are notes on three current releases.

Stag’s Hollow Tragically Vidal 2015 ($16.99). The spicy tropical fruit just jumps from the glass. On the palate, there is a medley of fruit flavours, including pineapple, pear, lychee and pink grapefruit. The finish is remarkably persistent. There is residual sugar in the wine, so well balanced with fresh acidity that the finish seems dry. 91.

Stag’s Hollow Cabernet Franc 2013 ($24.99). This wine begins with aromas of blackberries, vanilla and smoky oak, leading to concentrated and brooding flavours of brambleberries, black cherries and dark chocolate. 91.

Stag’s Hollow Tempranillo 2013 ($25.99). Tempranillo is the leading red variety in Spain. The style of this wine, with bold oak that is still under control, seems inspired by Rioja. There is a hint of blackberry and black cherry on the nose, leading to savoury flavours of black cherry. There is a hint of dark chocolate on the finish. 91. 


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