Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lariana Cellars - hidden gem in Osoyoos

Photo: Lariana proprietors Dan and Carol Scott

Whenever I recommend Lariana Cellars to someone (which is often), I cannot help but worry these wine lovers will get tangled up with U.S. border agents instead.

The reason is that this small Osoyoos winery is just a stone’s through from the Canada-U.S. border, just east of the U.S. Customs and Immigration buildings. To reach the winery, you drive down Highway 97 as if you were going to cross the border. At the last moment, you exit left from the highway. You drive around the Customs buildings to get to 2nd Avenue. The winery will be on your left and border will be on the right.

Dan and Carol Scott, who own Lariana, are significantly more pleasant to deal with than most U.S. border guards. Their winery is a gem among small producers, with exceptional and consistent quality.

Here is the winery’s profile, excerpted from my 2017 book: Icon: Flagship Wines from British Columbia’s Best Wineries.

Carol Scott’s interest in wine-growing began when, as a teenager, she spent several summers working in the Shannon/Pacific vineyard on Black Sage Road. Her father, Larry Franklin, was one of the vineyard’s owners. Until the hybrid grapes were pulled out of the Okanagan in 1988, Larry and Carol used some for home winemaking in the family’s Burnaby home. New owners bought the vineyard in the early 1990s and planted Bordeaux varietals.

In the late 1960s, not long after Shannon/Pacific was planted the first time, Larry bought a 4-hectare (10-acre) Osoyoos orchard property that included the Shady Lagoon Campsite on Osoyoos Lake. Carol, a travel agent, and her husband, Dan, a machinist, took over the property in 1989. They still operate the lakeside recreational vehicle camp. Growing cherries and apples became unprofitable and the trees were pulled out in 2006. “It was my dream to plant grapes,” Carol says.

Since 2007, they have planted 1.8 hectares (4.5 acres) of vines. The largest block is Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by Carménère and Viognier. Accordingly, the winery’s red blend is anchored by Cabernet Sauvignon. The Merlot and Syrah fleshing out the debut blend are purchased from nearby growers because Dan and Carol’s vineyard is fully planted. They have no current plans to double production by turning the campground into vineyard.

The modest winery, which was built in 2012, is very well-equipped. Lariana was one of the earliest small wineries in the Okanagan to install a concrete egg for fermenting and aging wine. The 1,800-litre vessel, made in California, is used to ferment Lariana’s exceptional Viognier. The reds are fermented in small stainless-steel tanks and aged in oak barrels.

Lariana’s winemaking consultant is Senka Tennant, the founding winemaker with Black Hills Estate Winery. Currently, Senka is the co-proprietor and winemaker at Terravista Vineyards. Lariana’s decision to launch its red portfolio just with Twelve, a premium red wine named for the vintage, echoes Senka’s strategy at Black Hills. That winery opened in 2001 with a Bordeaux blend called Nota Bene, which quickly became and remains to this day an Okanagan icon.

The winery’s name, Lariana, pays homage to Carol’s parents, Larry and Anna, who nurtured her love of wine in the Shannon/Pacific vineyard.

It has been a few months since I tasted the wines at Lariana. I would not be surprised to learn some are now sold out. I was also allowed to taste several wines not yet released.

The winery’s website lists the liquor stores and restaurants which sell Lariana wines. Here are my notes.

Lariana Viognier 2017 ($26 for 270 cases). This wine begins with aromas of citrus and pineapple. On the rich palate, there are flavours of grapefruit, pineapple, apricot and ripe apple. The finish persists. 93.

Lariana Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($50). If there was ever a vintage to ripen this varietal fully, it was 2015. Lariana has produced a powerful wine that begins with aromas of of black cherry, cassis and vanilla, On the rich palate, there are flavours of black cherry, black currant, plum. There is a long finish of sweet berry flavours mingled with chocolate and spice. 93.

Lariana Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($50). This is also a bold and ripe wine, with aromas of black cherry, cassis and spice. On the palate, there are layers of dark fruit flavours mingled with vanilla and chocolate. 93.

Lariana Carménère 2016 ($50). The wine begins with aromas of black pepper, black cherry and plum, which are echoed on the palate, along with dark chocolate and fig. The finish is very long. 93.

Lariana Carménère 2015 ($50 for 218 cases). This wine was aged 18 months in French oak (35% new). Once again, the wine begins with aromas of pepper, black cherry and fig which are echoed on the palate along with dark chocolate. The flavours are ripe and rich, reflecting the warm vintage. 92.

Lariana Fifteen 2015 ($45 for 565 cases). The blend is 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 17% Carménère. The wine was aged 18 months in French oak (35% new). This is a bold and generous wine. Aromas and flavours of dark fruit mingle with spice, fig, dark chocolate and tobacco. The wine has long, ripe and polished tannins. 94.

Lariana Sixteen 2016 ($45). This wine, which will be released in the fall of 2019, is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Syrah and 9% Carménère. At this stage, it is a dark, brooding red with aromas of spice cake, dark fruit and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of black cherry, black currant and plum. The firm, ripe tannins portend a wine with good ability to age. 94.


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