Thursday, November 15, 2018

BC Iconic Reds 2018 is a sweep for Road 13

Photo: Competing wines clustered around John Levine's portrait and hat

In a convincing victory, wines from Road 13 Vineyards took first and second place at this year’s BC Iconic Reds competition.

Also noteworthy: A Road 13 wine took first place last year. In the eleven years of this competition, no producer has had back to back triumphs.

Road 13 is operated by the Luckhurst family. The winery and some of its vineyards are on the Golden Mile. It also controls Blind Creek Vineyards in the Similkameen, where most of the fruit for the two leading wines was grown.

The Iconic Reds competition originated with the SIP Wines VQA store in Richmond. When that closed three years ago, sponsorship was taken over by Sutton Place Wine Merchants.

The tasting, which the sponsors now bill as “British Columbia’s Premier Wine Tasting Competition,” emerged from brainstorming between the late John Levine and the owners of SIP Wines, Simon and Sandi Wosk.

John, a restaurateur and the founder of the Vancouver International Wine Festival, was an extraordinary wine lover and a perceptive champion of British Columbia wines. He recognized the dramatic increases in the quality of the wines. The Iconic Reds competition was conceived to bring more attention to these superb wines.

This year, about 110 tasters converged at a ballroom at Vancouver’s Sutton Place Hotel to judge 20 of the Okanagan reds. The wines, which had been decanted in the afternoon, were served blind one at a time in a random order. The wines were not identified until the three-hour tasting was over.

At the end, the tasters voted for their top five picks, an arbitrary but sensible number to prevent overwhelming the computer tabulation. In fact, the points were tabulated for the top six.

The two Road 13 wines were not just winners, but received an overwhelming proportion of the votes. Road 13 5 Element has a long history as the winery’s premium red blend. The first release was created in the 2005 vintage by Michael Bartier, then the winemaker. Because it was a blend of four Bordeaux varietals with a dash of Syrah, the wine was called 5th Element. The name has remained even when there are more or fewer than five varietals in the blend.

Blind Creek Collective, now a Road 13 label, was launched in 2016 as a joint venture that included a Vancouver wine merchant and J-M Bouchard, a former winemaker at Road 13. He was so enthusiastic about the Blind Creek Vineyard that the Luckhursts bought a controlling interest in the property.

“If there is a vineyard which is going to stand out in five, 10 years in B.C., that will be it,” J-M told me several years ago as the Collective was being formed. “I was tasting the 2013 Syrah one night beside the RWT Barossa Shiraz from Penfolds.” (J-M once worked at that renowned Australian winery). “For power and concentration, our Syrah killed it.”

I have listed the winners, followed by the others in alphabetical order. The tasting notes are from the wineries where notes are available. Otherwise, I have inserted my tasting notes.

These are 20 of the best reds from excellent recent vintages. Some of these wines are hard to find but Sutton Place Wine Merchants has allocations of all. The limited volumes mean buyers will need to move quickly to get these.

1. Road 13 Vineyards 5th Element Red 2016 ($42.61 for 240 cases and 30 double magnums). The blend is 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, aged 22 months in oak (33% new). Most of the fruit is from the legendary Blind Creek Vineyard in the Similkameen Valley.  My tasting notes: “The wine begins with aromas of black currant jam, black cherry and vanilla. The rich, ripe palate delivers flavours of plum, black cherry, blackberry. There is a lingering finish of dark fruits and spice.”

2. Blind Creek Collective Consensus 2015 ($52.17). The blend is 32.5% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Cabernet Franc, 18.5% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec. Winery tasting notes: The 2015 Consensus is generous and dense in colour. Intense aromas of cassis, black cherry and black berry leap out of the glass and immediately begin telling the story of the tremendous 2015 growing season. The primary dark fruits are so prominent, that you have to dig deep to find the notes of sage, vanilla and cigar box. The story of this wine continues on the palate, where these flavours explode into a crescendo of black-fruited splendor, storming out to all corners of your mouth, but held in check by a vibrant acidity and plenty of fine-grained, opulent tannins.”

3. Cedar Creek The Last Word 2014 ($84.99 for 390 cases.) This is a blend of 34% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Malbec. The fruit was fermented in concrete and the wine was aged 20 months in French oak. Winery tasting notes: “An all around intense experience. Extraordinary wine from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec co-fermented in concrete. Excellent tannin structure. Spicy, dark fruit will evolve and intensify with age.”

4. Noble Ridge Reserve Meritage 2015 ($34.90 for 750 cases).   This is a blend of 77% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% each of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, aged 15 months in French and American oak (40% new). My tasting notes: “Bold and ripe on the palate, the wine begins with aromas of cassis, black cherry and chocolate. On the palate, the fruit is expressive, with flavours of black currant, black cherry, tobacco and dark chocolate. The tannins are firm but ripe.”

5. Poplar Grove Legacy 2014  ($53.08). The blend is 44% Cabernet Franc, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot and 4% each of Malbec and Petit Verdot. The wine aged 21 months in oak. My tasting notes: “This superb wine is from one of the Okanagan’s best vintages and will age well. Already, it appeals with aromas of cassis and black cherry. On the palate, there is rich, dark fruit mingling sweetly with chocolate and spice.” 

6. Black Sage Meritage 2015 ($60).  The 10 best barrels were selected, with the resulting blend being Merlot 4 barrels; Cabernet Sauvignon 3 barrels; Cabernet Franc 3 barrels; plus a splash of Petit Verdot. Winery notes: “There are plenty of cassis, blackberries, vanilla, dark chocolate and roasted coffee notes on the nose. The palate displays luscious blackberries, rich dark plums, smoky toasted notes and a lengthy finish of dark chocolate. The acidity is well balanced with the rich full tannins in this full-bodied wine.”  

Black Hills Nota Bene  2016 ($59.90). The blend is 43.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot , 14.5% Cabernet Franc; aged 16 months in barrel. Winery’s notes: This wine possesses intense aromas of raspberry, crushed violets and cassis on the nose. A second sniff presents gentle scents of leather, white pepper and subtle menthol. Flavours of raspberry and cocoa hit the palate and linger, revealing a full and elegant mouthfeel with notes of earth and cigar box in the background.”                 

Clos du Soleil Signature Red 2014 ($44.90). This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The wine was aged 16 months in French oak barrels. Winery tasting notes: “The taster is enveloped in the dense aromatic profile of ripe red berries, forest undergrowth, and hints of both cedar and mint. On the palate the wine is the epitome of elegance with integrated flavours of blackcurrant, blackberry, raspberry, and black pepper notes.”

Hester Creek The Judge 2015 ($49.95)   This blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon was aged 24 months in barrel. Winery tasting notes: “A sumptuous Bordeaux style wine that sums up the richness of a warm year, this red blend of estate fruit has heady aromas of black cherry, malt, plum and caramel. Crafted with nicely ripened fruit, enjoy a generous palate of black cherry, mocha, and vanilla flavours with a touch of cedar and mint. Beautifully structured with supple, fine-grained tannins.”     

Intersection Axiom 2014 ($44.90 for 244 cases). This is a blend of 33% each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Winery tasting notes: “Ground coffee, dark chocolate, and cherry jam on the nose open up into star anise, roasted capsicum, and black pepper. Hints of mushroom and cedar on the palate point to the wine’s time in oak. Mouthfeel is rich and developed with well-structured tannin that will continue to age for more than a decade. The long finish lingers with tones of earthy plum preserves.”
Lake Breeze Tempest 2013   ($49.90). This is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon 30% Cabernet Franc and 10% each of Malbec and Merlot. Winery tasting notes: “A classic Bordeaux blend … aged in new French oak for 15 months, this wine is full and rich.”             
Lariana Fifteen 2015 ($45 for 565 cases). This is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah, and 17% Carménère, aged 18 months 85% French oak, 35% new. My tasting notes: “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.”

Laughing Stock Portfolio 2016 ($49.99). The blend is 51% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot, aged 20 months in French oak, 33% new. Winery tasting notes: “Baked plum, red fruits and baking spice rise up from the glass like the TSX in a bull market. On the palette this wine is lively and powerful with fresh tobacco leaves, vanilla brioche, and cherry on the finish. This elegant blend has round tannins and a long finish with lots of aging potential.”        
La Stella Fortissimo 2016 ($29.99 for 2,087 cases). This is a blend of 76% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Sangiovese, 7% Cabernet Franc, aged 14 months in French and Slavonoan oak. Winery tasting notes: “The large format puncheons and Hungarian/Slavonian oak are evident in the subtle way the oak is present with whispers of baking spice notes. Overall the wine has fantastic layers of fruit and savoury flavours. Bing cherry mingles with red and black cherry fruit. Aromatic herbs and cured tobacco leaves are also starting to emerge. The palate is layered.”
Mission Hill Oculus 2014 ($135). The blend is 50% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot, aged 15 months in French oak. Winery tasting notes: “Notes of brambleberry, bing cherry and dark plum are complimented by hints of tobacco and spice, all held together with great structure and concentration. This vintage is full-bodied with tremendous freshness and length on the finish.”

Painted Rock Red Icon 2015  ($54.99).  The blend is 45% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 11% Malbec, 11% Petit Verdot and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 18 months in new French oak (30% new). Winery tasting notes: “This wine invites you in with rich aromas of blackberry, dark plums, cassis and sweet spices. The palate, with its velvety tannins and high acid, offers bold and juicy black fruit layered with pepper, baking spices, vanilla and chocolate.”
Perseus Invictus 2015 ($54.99). This is a blend of 42% Cabernet Franc, 38% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec. Winery tasting notes: “This wine bursts out of the bottle with concentrated aromas of black cherry, truffle and shades of pencil lead which lead into an opulent yet well structured wine of impressive complexity. Flavours here straddle both old world and new, with boysenberry, anise and dark chocolate hints.”       

Summerhill “OM” 2014  ($74.75). The blend is 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot and 5% Malbec, aged in French and American oak barriques.   Winery tasting note: “Unfined and unfiltered. Cellaring and decanting highly recommended.”

Vanessa Vineyard Right Bank 2014: ($39.99 for 1,090 cases). This is a blend of 77% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 26 months in 90% new French and American oak barrels. Winery tasting notes: “Deep garnet in colour with seductive aromas which promise brambly fruit, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries with smoky notes. The rich palate shows ripe black cherries, blackberries and a dusting of cocoa with a lingering, pleasing finish.”


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