Sunday, June 4, 2017

Albariño finds a home in the Okanagan

Photo:  Stag's Hollow winemaker Dwight Sick

The 2016 Albariño from Stag’s Hollow Winery & Vineyard confirms the wisdom of Terravista Vineyards in planting that grape variety in 2009.

That is such a promising variety for the Okanagan that more producers are likely to plant it and also release lively, refreshing and elegant white wines.

The appeal of Albariño is alluded to in Wine Grapes, the invaluable 2012 tome by Jancis Robinson and companions, who use the Portuguese spelling for the name of the variety.

“Alvarinho is widely planted in north-west Portugal, having spread from its original heartland in the municipality of Monçao, right on the country’s northern border with Spain, where it is known as Albariño,” they write. “However, the quality of the variety and the wind of fashion have taken the variety from north-west Iberia as far as North America and the Antipodes.”

The reason for its spread? “The best varietal wines combine aromas and flavours that are both fruity and floral – from linden, orange and acacia blossom through lemongrass and honeysuckle to orange, dried orange peel, grapefruit, bergamot, peach, and in some cases, green apple.”

The two Okanagan Albariño wines certainly echo those descriptors if your palate or your imagination is alive to all of those elements.

Stag’s Hollow planted Albariño, among other varieties, in its Shuttleworth Creek Vineyard, just north of Okanagan Falls. That vineyard was planted five years ago, partly to pioneer new varietals, including Dolcetto, and partly to increase the winery’s self-sufficiency on estate-grown grapes. The winery now is 85% self-sufficient.

Stag’s Hollow winemaker Dwight Sick has taken pains with the Albariño grapes. Ninety percent of the juice was fermented in stainless steel while the remainder was fermented in a 500-litre French oak puncheon. Both lots aged six weeks on the lees, with periodic stirring, before being blended. The winery’s notes observe that the wine was not allowed to go through malolactic fermentation. There would have been no point: the wine’s natural acidity is just right and is crucial to the lively, refreshing character of the wine.

Here are notes on that wine and two other 2016s that have just been released.

Stag’s Hollow Albariño 2016 ($21.99). The wine begins with aromas of green melon and honeysuckle. On the palate, there are flavours of melon, green apple, grapefruit with an underlying hint of peaches. The finish is a crisp and refreshing as a spring morning. 91.

Stag’s Hollow Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($16.99). This wine announced itself with an assertive aroma of herbs, lime and gooseberry. On the palate, there are flavours of lime mingled with herbs. The finish is tangy and dry. 90.

Stag’s Hollow Syrah Grenache Rosé 2016 ($21.99). The wine catches the eye with its dramatic, jewel-like ruby hue. The blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache gives aromas and flavours of cherry and strawberry compote. The wine has good weight on the palate, with a suggestion of white pepper on the dry finish. 91.


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