Tuesday, September 10, 2019

River Stone's Corner Stone and friends

Photo: River Stone's Ted Kane

Judging from this winery’s website, River Stone owners Ted and Lorraine Kane’s children have grown up to the point where one son is old enough to work in the tasting room.

Ted, on the other hand, was still under age when he started making wine. While he initially pursued a medical science career, his passion for wine just kept getting stronger. When Lorraine, already a nurse, began a four-year program in Alberta to become a doctor, he fretted that all the good vineyard land in the Okanagan would be gone before she finished her studies.

As it turned out, there were happy endings for everybody. In 2001, they found 9.5-acres of raw land just north of Oliver that proved to be an outstanding vineyard. By the time Ted planted the vines, Lorraine had finished her degree and established a family practice in the South Okanagan.

It has been a happy ending for consumers as well. Since the winery opened in 2011, River Stone’s wines have never disappointed.

I included Corner Stone, the flagship red wine, in my 2017 book Icon because I consider this a very fine cellar-worthy Okanagan red blend. Here is an excerpt from the book.

Ted Kane had Corner Stone in mind back in 2003, when he began planting the River Stone vineyard on Tuc El Nuit Drive, just outside Oliver. In the French tradition, he planted Bordeaux varietals—Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec—in the proportions he believed he needed for his blend.

“I knew at the beginning it was going to be a Merlot-forward, Right Bank Bordeaux style because of our cool-climate growing conditions,” Ted says. “Merlot is the most reliable ripener as opposed to Cabernet Sauvignon, which I knew would be the last to ripen.” Consequently, Merlot was the biggest block on the well-drained south-facing slopes. Subsequent experience led him to increase the planting of Cabernet Franc, another reliable ripener. He also replaced five rows of Cabernet Sauvignon with Petit Verdot in order to grow the full suite needed for a Bordeaux-type blend.

Ted says some have drawn parallels between Corner Stone and Bordeaux’s Château Cheval Blanc, although in the latter’s vineyard, Cabernet Franc takes the lead, followed by Merlot. While he does not mind the compliment inherent in that comparison, Ted says that Corner Stone is made in the New World style, closer to reds from California or Chile. “I wanted to produce wines that had concentration and weight,” he says. “I also found after a short time in France that what I didn’t want was the astringency that was still there after year six on some of the wines.”

The individual varietals are fermented in small lots that are aged separately in French oak barrels for 14 to 18 months. By blending time, Ted has identified the best barrels of each varietal. Wine not needed for Corner Stone is blended into Stones Throw, which, in the French tradition, is made for earlier consumption. He also bottles modest volumes of single varietals, offering them in the wine shop and to his wine club.

Perhaps the most notable of these single varietals is the Cabernet Franc, which grows very successfully in the River Stone vineyard. “If I knew back when I planted what I know now, I would have planted more Cabernet Franc,” Ted admits. Much like Cheval Blanc.

Here are notes on the current releases.

River Stone Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($21.90 for 234 cases). The wine begins with aromas of lime and lemon mingled with herbal notes. The palate is packed with fruit – lime, guava, stone fruits. The finish is dry and it lingers. 91.

River Stone Pinot Gris 2018 ($20.90 for 236 cases). This is a crisp white with good weight on the palate and with a mineral back bone. It has aromas and flavours of citrus, pear and apple. 91.

River Stone Malbec Rosé 2018 ($22.90). The dark hue announces that this is a bold rosé meant to be enjoyed with food. It has aromas and flavours of cherry and plum, with a lingering finish. 91.

River Stone Cabernet Franc 2017 ($34.90 for 145 cases). A classic Cabernet Franc, the wine shows brambly blackberry aromas and flavours. The texture is youthfully firm. This wine should either be decanted or cellared for a few more years to best unlock the potential. 91.

River Stone Stones Throw 2016 ($28.90 for 860 cases). This is a blend of 78% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. The wine was aged 14 months in French oak. This is a delicious blend, with bold, ripe aromas and flavours of black cherry, blackberry, blueberry and black currant. 92.

River Stone Corner Stone 2016 ($36.89 for 500 cases). This is the winery’s flagship red, a blend of 42% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. It was aged 18 months in French oak. It begins with aromas of black cherry mingled with oak, eucalyptus, spice and the singular perfume of Malbec. The palate delivers flavours of black cherry and black currant, with a persistent spicy finish. 93.


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