Monday, October 29, 2018

Laughing Stock Portfolio and friends

Photo: Laughing Stock's David Enns

This fall, Laughing Stock Vineyards three wines. Two are superb and one left me confounded.

First, the two I found superb. Portfolio is the winery’s iconic red. I am fortunate to have a few 10-year verticals in my cellar. The wine no longer is easy to get, unless you join the wine club. The individual on whose orders I was piggybacking let his membership lapse this year, sadly for me.

The superb white is a barrel-fermented Chardonnay. It will also be hard to get because only 317 cases were produced.

The wine that I have trouble with is a Syrah that was fermented in a clay amphora. I have no doubt this wine will sell out, if it is not already sold out, to those consumers who like “natural” wines. Every wine has its champion.

Let me quote the winery’s notes on how winemaker David Enns made this wine.

“This small cap release is a tribute to how wine was made in ancient times,” the note begins. “Using a hands-off winemaking approach, this is our fifth year of working with two 500 litre terracotta clay Amphorae. The result is a wine that challenges you to define it to a specific region or style.

“The 2017 Amphora Syrah project is in its second year with a blend of 91% Syrah and 9% Viognier. At harvest, we placed whole berry Syrah grapes in our two Amphorae and left them fully untouched for eight months. After 10 days, the natural wild ferment began at a low temperature and slowly progressed for five weeks. The hands-off approach resulted in slower extraction from the grape skins, while the tannin worked as a natural antioxidant.”

In previous vintages, David made Viognier Roussanne wine in the Amphorae. He switched to Syrah in 2016 and again in 2017 and extended the time in clay from five months to eight months. At that point, the wine is pressed off with a basket press and bottled.

My palate prefers conventionally-made Syrah. However, this bottle will create a sensation and likely controversy at your dinner table.

Laughing Stock was acquired in 2017 by Arterra Wines, the national producer owned by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. To the best of my knowledge, none of the other Arterra wineries in the Okanagan produce anything quite this edgy.

Here are notes on the wines.

Laughing Stock Chardonnay 2017 ($28.99 for 312 cases). This was fermented in oak barrels (15% new) but the oak is subtle and well integrated. The wine begins with aromas citrus and brioche leading to flavours of apple and pear. The wine is fresh and elegant with a lingering finish. 92.

Laughing Stock Portfolio 2016 ($49.99 for 3,300 cases). This is a blend of 51% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. The wine announces itself with powerful aromas of black cherry, plum, spice and vanilla. On the palate, layers of dark fruit fill the mouth. The long, ripe tannins give the wine a polished texture, with ability to age 10 or more years. 94.

Laughing Stock Amphora Syrah 2017 ($49.99 for 100 cases). First, here is the winery’s description: “This beautiful deep blue-violet coloured wine has vibrant aromas of anise and ripe mixed berries. The palate is silky with raspberries baking spices, and warm mocha.” I thought the wine also had aromas and flavours of chocolate, plum and fig with a hint of licorice on the finish as well as an earthy note. On re-tasting the opened wine over several days, I found that intense sweet fruit flavours also developed. Clearly, the wine needs to be decanted. I won’t even try to score this wine. I did not like it on first opening but I did like it by the fifth day.

As for food pairing, the wine’s robust flavours call for game meats.


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