Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tantalus Vineyard reviews: better late than never

Photo: Tantalus winemaker David Patterson

When Tantalus Vineyards sent me their releases for 2017 this spring or early this summer, I decided to wait a few months before reviewing them.

Bad idea if you were waiting on my reviews, which is not too likely. Tantalus sells easily on its reputation.

But here was my rationale for taking my time.

The flagship wines at Tantalus are made with Riesling grapes. Riesling takes its own sweet time to develop in bottle, so I decided to give the Rieslings a few more months to really blossom.

Then life happened. It took me longer than anticipated to get to the wines. I expect most of those wines are now sold out. Even so, I am still going to report on my reviews. The information may be useful of you happened to find some on a wine store shelf of in a restaurant. A little more time has helped soften the often bright acidity of these Rieslings.

Under the direction of winemaker and general manager David Patterson, Tantalus has firmly established itself as one of the Okanagan’s best and most focussed wineries.

David, who received his winemaker training at Lincoln University in New Zealand, credits tasting a 2008 Tantalus Riesling for firing his interest in the Okanagan. He was then working for a wine retailer in Vancouver after having worked vintages at wineries in Oregon, New Zealand and Australia.

“I tasted it and it was wonderful,” David said of the 2008 Tantalus Riesling. “I joined them for harvest in 2009. It was my stroke 0f luck that the winemaker at the time was Matt Holmes. I had worked with him in New Zealand. He was moving on. So instead of just working the vintage, I ended up becoming the winemaker in 2009.”

The Tantalus property, now about 75 acres in size, is one of East Kelowna’s historic vineyards, planted in the late 1920s by a pioneer grower, J.W. Hughes. He later sold the property to the Dulik family. They get the credit for planting Riesling there in 1978. When Eric Savics, the current owner, bought the property in 2004, he reduced the varieties being grown, developing a tight focus that included more Riesling, along with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

These are strong, terroir-driven wines. “For me, tasting those wines, it is always remarkable how consistent the palate is,” David says. “There are little variations but you can tell it is from the same property. It does not matter on the winemaker or the vintage. I think we always have a very consistent balanced palate.”

Here are notes on the recent releases.

Tantalus Riesling 2016 ($19.91). When I tasted this in July, I made a note that it should be cellared for another year. The wine is simply yummy, with floral aromas and with flavours of lemon and lime on the juicy palate. The bright racy acidity gives the wine great freshness, with 17 grams of residual sugar to balance the wine’s attack. 92.

Tantalus Old Vines Riesling 2014 ($30.35). This wine is made from the 1978 planting of Clone 21B Riesling. Those vines deliver intensely concentrated aromas and flavours. It begins with aromas of lemon and lime, with a complexing hint of petrol. The aromas are echoed on the palate, along with the distinctive mineral notes of this vineyard. The racy acidity gives the wine a dry finish; there is just enough residual sweetness to prevent the wine tasting austere. The finish goes on and on. This complex wine should peak in about 10 years. 94.

Tantalus Old Vines Riesling Brut 2014 ($34.70). Only 200 cases of this exceptional sparkling wine were made. It was disgorged after two years en tirage. The fine bubbles deliver aromas of citrus and brioche, followed by flavours of citrus and apple. The wine has a long, elegant finish with a touch of almond. 94.

Tantalus Blanc de Noir 2014 ($27.74). This traditional method sparkling wine is made with grapes from a 1985 block of Pinot Noir. The wine spent two years on tirage before being disgorged. Rose petal pink in colour, the wine’s fine bubbles create a lively display in the glass. The aromas and flavour recall strawberries and pink grapefruit. The bubbles create a creamy impression on the palate but the fresh acidity gives a crisp finish. 91.

Tantalus Juveniles Chardonnay 2016 ($17.30). This wine was made from the fourth harvest of a young Chardonnay block. Fermented with wild yeast, the wine is fresh and fruit forward, with aromas and flavours of lemon and green apples. 88.

Tantalus Chardonnay 2015 ($26.00). This style of this wine pays tribute to White Burgundy. The wine was fermented with natural yeast in French oak puncheons and barriques, 30% of which were new. The wine has aromas of citrus with a touch of vanilla. Full on the palate, it has flavours of lemon, apple and nectarine. The wine is elegant, with a refreshing focus of fruit on the finish. 92.

Tantalus Rosé 2016 ($19.09). This is 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier. Light pink in hue, the wine has aromas and flavours of strawberry, raspberry and pink grapefruit. The finish is crisp and dry; I might have preferred just a touch of residual sugar to fully bring out the charm of the wine. 90.



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