Sunday, January 27, 2019

Cassini Cellars wines are not wimpy either

Photo: Winemaker Adrian Cassini

A well-defined house style has emerged at Cassini Cellars, the Oliver winery operated by Adrian Cassini. One might simply borrow the slogan, No Wimpy Wines, which was created some years ago by Ravenswood Winery of California.

By coincidence, both Cassini and Ravenswood are participating in the Vancouver International Wine Festival at the end of February. Attendees will have a chance to compare wines from two producers renowned for big, powerful reds.

For reasons known only to Adrian, his winery is offering fully mature wines from vintages between 2011 and 2009. It is rare for wineries to do that, if only because vintages that old likely are sold out. These may, in fact, by library wines because Adrian no longer offers them on the winery’s web site.

Ravenswood’s five wines at the festival all are from the 2012 vintage. Like-minded wineries?

The current releases from Cassini are delicious. The reds are muscular and age-worthy. Those who call at the Cassini table during the festival will taste the wines just as they are peaking.

 This roadside winery’s Tuscany-styled architecture has genuine Italian roots. While Adrian Cassini, the owner, was born in Romania, his grandfather was Italian. Adrian’s surname, in fact, was Capeneata. He changed it to Cassini, his grandfather’s surname, after opening this winery.

His family in Romania had farmed grapes but Adrian credits his interest in wine to restaurant jobs he had both in Romania and in Canada (he came here at the age of 30). “I had a chance to discover the food that goes with the wine,” he recalls. “I discovered the taste and the romance of the wine.” When he moved to Vancouver, it was to sell and then manufacture and service equipment for fitness clubs. “I have that entrepreneur thing,” he says.  That led to making props for movie sets, then building houses. After an Okanagan vacation about 2000, he wanted his own vineyard.  Late in 2006, he purchased a lavender farm beside Highway 97, south of Oliver, and transformed it into a vineyard and a winery site. 

The singular Cassini wine style was developed under the mentorship of consulting winemaker Phil Soo. Adrian has not needed training wheels for some years now.

The wines are packed with flavour and are often made with grapes so ripe that finished wines have about 15% alcohol. Somehow, it never feels excessive.

Here are notes on current releases.

Cassini Cellars Godfather Red 2014 ($80 for 145 cases).  This is a limited bottling of Cabernet Sauvignon/ Cabernet Franc blend.  Adrian describes the wine’s power as “an iron fist in a velvet glove.” The wine, which is 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, begins with aromas of dark fruits, vanilla and oak. The palate presents layers of flavour, including black cherry, fig, black currant, chocolate and tobacco. 93-95.

Cassini Cellars Maximus 2015 Limited Edition ($40 for 550 cases). This is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon and eight per cent each of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The wine begins with rich aromas of black cherry, plum, fig and vanilla. The flavours, which echo the aromas, fill the mouth with dark fruits. The wine is ripe and generous on the palate. 93.

Cassini Cellars 2015 Malbec Collector’s Series ($36 for 170 cases): This is the first release of an estate-grown Malbec. The wine begins with perfumed aromas of plum and blueberry, echoed on the palate along with flavours of black cherry and spice on the finish. The long ripe tannins add elegance to the wine. 93.

Cassini Cellars Cabernet Franc 2015 Collector’s Series ($40 for 117 cases). Rich and brambly, this is a wine with aromas and flavours of blackberry, black cherry, plum and vanilla. The texture is concentrated and the finish is long. 91.

Cassini Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 Collector’s Series ($N/A). This intense Cabernet Sauvignon, which requires decanting, begins with aromas of cassis, black cherry and mint. The palate is rich with dark fruits – black currant, black cherry – along with dark chocolate on the finish. 93.

Cassini Cellars The Aristocrat, Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve 2016 ($40 for 300 cases). The winery describes this as “rich, intense, voluptuous” and I agree. It begins with aromas of cassis, black cherry and vanilla. On the palate, it delivers layers of flavour – black cherry, plum, chocolate – with a hint of licorice on the lingering finish. Decanting is recommended. 93.


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