Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Stag's Hollow champions Vidal

Photo: a bunch of Vidal grapes

Larry Gerelus and Linda Pruegger took over a vineyard already growing Vidal when they established Stag’s Hollow Winery & Vineyard in 1995.

Vidal is a white French hybrid white varietal. The conventional wisdom at the time held that French hybrids needed to be replaced with vinifera grapes that make better wine. Most of the hybrids, in fact, were pulled from Okanagan vineyards in 1988.

There are a few exceptions and one happens to be Vidal. The variety, much more widely planted in Ontario than in British Columbia, has been the backbone of Canadian Icewine production since the 1980s. The variety tended to be overlooked as a table wine grape.

Larry and Linda initially bought into that received wisdom. They grafted a substantial part of the vineyard’s Vidal to Chardonnay and started calling table wine from the remaining vines “Tragically Vidal” because the variety was thought to be on its way out.

Then a strange thing happened. The well-made Vidal table wine at Stag’s Hollow developed something of a cult following. At the same time, the “anything but Chardonnay” bias infected a lot of consumers. Larry and Linda has to remove some of the Chardonnay grafts and let the Vidal vines regenerate from the roots. A few years later, they actually planted more Vidal when establishing their new Shuttleworth Creek Vineyard at Okanagan Falls.

Dwight Sick, the winemaker they hired in 2008, also takes Vidal very seriously. The 2016 Tragically Vidal still has all of the tropical fruit flavours that made this a cult wine. But he has tweaked it to achieve more complexity.

This wine is made from two lots of Vidal. The lot from the Stag’s Hollow Vineyard was fermented in stainless steel for 30 days at cool temperatures until it was totally dry. The second lot, from the Shuttleworth Creek Vineyard, was fermented in stainless steel at slightly warmer temperatures. Fermentation was arrested to leave a hint of sweetness. As well, about a quarter of the fruit had botrytis, or noble rot, which is rare in the Okanagan. The wine was finished by blending in 14% Orange Muscat.

The only thing tragic about this delicious wine is that it will be sold out before most of us can get our hands on it.

Here are notes on that wine and two other recent Stag’s Hollow releases.

Stag’s Hollow Muscat Frizzante 2016 ($22). This is a blend of 57% Muscat Ottonel, 5% Orange Muscat and 38% Riesling 2015. The lively bubbles propel floral and spice aromas and flavours; and give the wine a creamy texture. The modest touch of residual sugar is nicely balanced with bright acidity. This is a wine crying out for a Sunday brunch. 91.

Stag’s Hollow Tragically Vidal 2016 ($17). This is a blend of 86% Vidal and 14% Orange Muscat. The wine begins with aromas of grapefruit. On the generous the palate, there are flavours of honey and grapefruit with a hint of residual sugar. A portion of the fruit was affected by botrytis, accounting for the complex honey and tobacco notes on the finish. 90.

Stag’s Hollow Merlot 2014 ($18.99). This wine began its fermentation on one-ton fermenters but was transferred to American and French oak barrels (50/50) to finish fermenting. It was aged in barrel for 18 months. Dark in colour, the wine begins with toasty aromas, along with black cherry and fig. One the palate, there are concentrated flavours of dark fruit – figs, plums, black cherries. Long ripe tannins give this wine a generous texture and finish. 90.


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