Sunday, August 25, 2019

Lariana Cellars now boasts a wine club

Photo: Lariana's Carol and Dan Scott

Lariana Cellars, a boutique winery in Osoyoos, has started a wine club.

That may not strike you as earth-shattering news because almost every winery in British Columbia now operates its own wine club.

The significance of this wine club is that Lariana does not make much wine but it is all exceptional. Fans of this winery have had to be fast on their feet to get the wines on release. Belonging to the wine club moves them to the front of the line.

To be sure, this is not a winery with a high profile. Owners Dan and Carol Scott opened the winery in 2013 on a vineyard planted in 2007.

The winery is located on the American/Canadian border just east of the customs and immigration buildings at the Osoyoos border crossing. Visitors need to be alert lest they get into the lineup for the United States rather than making a left toward a vineyard. The winery is a few hundred yards further on.

The Scotts have lived in Osoyoos since 1989 when they moved there to take over a campground Carol’s parents had established two decades earlier. The recreational vehicle sites, which they still operate, occupy the lakeside half of the 10-acre property. The vineyard, which replaced apple and cherry trees in 2007, occupies the top half.

Planting vines was Carol’s passion. Her father, Larry Franklin, had been a major investor in a vineyard on Black Sage Road where Carol spent several summers.  “It was kind of a dream to plant grapes,” she says. “I finally convinced Dan and we cleared the land. It was a new tractor that convinced him.” 

They planted Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. When the hard winters of 2008 and 2009 mortally damaged the Syrah, that variety was replaced with 2,500 Carménère vines. Now, they purchase Syrah for Lariana’s red blend.

The Scotts produce less than 1,200 cases a year in a plain Jane winery with a modest tasting room (appointments recommended). They invested instead in top flight equipment, including the California-made concrete egg in which Carol and Lariana’s consulting winemaker Senka Tennant make Lariana’s exceptional Viognier.  Count me among those who believe this is simply the best Okanagan Viognier.

The winery’s flagship red, usually anchored with the vineyard’s ripe Cabernet Sauvignon, changes its name every year because the wine is named simply for the vintage. The first release was Twelve; succeeded by Thirteen and so on. Adding ten to the name should give you the year when the wine is peaking.

Lariana is about to release the Sixteen as well as the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon. Here are notes on these and on wines released earlier this summer.

Lariana Viognier 2018 ($25.90 for 393 cases). This wine was fermented 75% in concrete, with the remainder fermented in a French oak barrel and in stainless steel. It is wonderfully floral on the nose, with notes of honeysuckle and tangerines. The palate is rich with bright acidity and flavours of apricots, peaches. The finish is persistent. 93.

Lariana Carménère 2016 ($49.90). This Bordeaux red varietal, produced just by a handful of Okanagan wineries, is already sold out. The wine has the classic aromas of pepper, black cherry and plums. These are echoed on the palate with a hint of raspberry enlivening the palate. The tannins are ripe, giving the wine a polished texture. 93.

Lariana Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($49.90 for 196 cases). This wine is about to be released. It begins with generous aromas of cassis and black cherry. On the palate, layers of black cherries and black currant mingle with spice and chocolate. I scored this 93 when I tasted it from the barrel a year ago. The time in bottle since then has made the wine even better. 95.

Lariana Fifteen ($44.90 for 565 cases). The blend is 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 17% Carménère. Already released, this is a bold, even voluptuous, red. It begins with aromas of black cherry and plum, leading to flavours of black cherry, fig, blackberry and chocolate. The wine was aged 18 months in French oak (35% new) and shows lovely polished tannins. 94.

Lariana Sixteen ($44.90 for 491 cases). Soon to be released, this is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Syrah and 9% Carménère. The wine was aged 17 months in French oak (35% new). The wine begins with a hint of cedar on the nose, along with aromas of plum and black licorice. On the palate, the wine is richly layered, with flavours of plum, fig, spice, chocolate and leather. 94.


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