Friday, October 28, 2016

Laughing Stock's Dark Pool and friends

Photo: Laughing Stock's David Enns

Once again, David and Cynthia Enns have looked to their former careers in finance when naming Laughing Stock’s first Port-style wine.

Canadian wineries no longer use European wine nomenclature. This fortified wine is called Dark Pool, and only those knowledgeable about high finance know what that means.

David and Cynthia explain in a covering letter with the wine. “One of the most secretive practices on Wall Street is the use of dark pools, which are off-exchange platforms that let traders buy and sell stocks anonymously,” they write. They say that this “under the radar” practice is growing quietly.

It is probably not a healthy practice for the public market but, since Bernie Sanders won’t be the next president, I can’t see who will shut it down.

Meanwhile, we have this wine. “David also kept his port project under the radar (even from Cynthia) with a small lot of Merlot wine that was quietly aged in two oak puncheons, sequestered in a corner of the winery for over five years,” the explanation continues. “This once in a decade wine project may or may not be repeated now, since the secret has been exposed.”

I can imagine what Cynthia might have said when she discovered the project and brought her shrewd financial mind to bear on it. I can almost hear her say: “You tied up how much capital for almost six years? And you expect to get what sort of return at this price?”

In David’s defense, he made 2,450 cases of the winery’s flagship wine and sells it at $45 (plus tax). That provides a good return and, given the quality of the wine, a satisfying experience for consumers.

The wine is Portfolio, the initial example of the couple using a financial term. This award winner is a favourite among wine collectors because it can be aged at least 10 years. I was able to taste a vertical last year and every vintage was drinking well except for 2003, the first Portfolio.

The third wine released this fall by Laughing Stock is a Rhone white blend fermented in the two 500-litre clay amphorae the winery purchased several years ago in Italy. “Originally used in ancient Greek and Roman days,” the winery explains, “this approach embodies the artisan desire to make wines more naturally with wild ferments and minimal intervention. We feel the amphora-made wine exhibits a greater earthiness and complexity than if it had been created in a stainless steel tank.”

Here are notes on the wines. Price do not include tax.

Laughing Stock Amphora Viognier Roussanne 2015 ($20.99 for 167 cases of 500 ml bottle. Available only at the winery, this artisanal wine is made by fermented whole bunches of grapes in two clay amphorae with native yeast. This is the third year in which the winery has made a wine in this style. It has begun to acquire a following. The wine was left on the skins for 5.5 months, compared with 2.5 months in 2014 and just five weeks in 2013. The 2015 is a richly-flavoured wine with honeyed aromas of apricots and orange peel that are echoed in the flavour. The finish is dry. Food pairing? I recommend hard Italian cheese. 91.

Laughing Stock Portfolio 2014 ($44.99 for 2,450 cases). This is 49% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec and 1% Merlot. The wine was aged  19 months in French oak barrels (40% new, 60% second fill). It is a big, robust wine (14.9% alcohol), reflecting the excellent, if hot, 2014 vintage. It begins with aromas of cherry, blackberry and spice, leading to flavours of black cherry, red and black currants and mulberries. The finish is marked with savoury and spice notes. 94.

Laughing Stock Dark Pool 2010 ($34.99 for 179 cases of 500 ml bottles). This is a fortified Merlot that aged five years and eight months in 500-litre oak puncheons. In the old days before wineries stopped using European nomenclature, this would have been called Port. Dark in colour, it has aromas of fig, stewed cherries, chocolate and oak leading to flavours of figs, dates and prunes with spicy oak on a fruity finish. 91.


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