Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Laughing Stock's new releases include two new varietals
Ever provocative, Naramata Road’s Laughing Stock Vineyards recently announced that it will roll back its wine prices slightly when the harmonized sales tax (HST) kicks in next month.
This is a poke in the eye at the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch which is not passing on the modest savings that HST creates in wine prices. The LDB, of course, is marching to orders that come down from the government in Victoria.
That government is trying to convince us how much business will benefit when the sales taxes are harmonized and how those savings will be passed on. That may well be true. So why do the hypocrites in Victoria not require a business they control to pass along savings as well? Is it any wonder almost no one believes the government’s pronouncements on the HST?
Currently, wine is subject to the 5% Goods and Services Tax and the 10% provincial sales tax. When the two are harmonized, the rate will be 12%.
At Laughing Stock, David and Cynthia Enns, unlike the LDB, are passing that 3% tax reduction to consumers. “Coming from a business background, we look at the big picture and since we have the option to decrease our pricing without hurting our bottom line, we are going to pass that tax savings along to the wine consumer,” says David the winemaker and winery co-owner. “We just feel that this is the right thing to do. We eat it, you drink it.”
While a 3% reduction is not that big a deal, it is the attitude that counts. A lot of people will appreciate Laughing Stock’s gesture.
They can appreciate it with an expanded offering. The six wines just being released include two new ones – the winery’s first Viognier and its first Syrah.
The wines, in a word, are impressive. There might be a minor quibble that the alcohol levels in the whites are a touch muscular. However, this goes with the turf: like many other Okanagan wineries, Laughing Stock picks grapes on flavour. That involves letting the grapes get good and ripe. Viognier in particular is a variety that expresses its flavours during a small window of full ripeness. The trade off is robust alcohol levels (14.6% in the case of Laughing Stock’s Viognier) that generally are balanced by rich, ripe fruit flavours. All the Laughing Stock wines deliver so much flavour that alcohol becomes a minor issue.
Here are my notes:
Pinot Gris 2009 ($20.10). This delicious wine begins with aromas of pear and citrus (the winery says kiwi and pineapple, so you’ll have to decide). On the palate, there are layers of flavours of ripe pears, melons and apples, with rich weight on the palate, yet with a crisp finish. 540 cases were made. 90.
Blind Trust 2009 White ($25.10). In both this wine and the companion red, the winery prints the varietal composition on the neck of the bottle and then covers it with the capsule. The inspiration is a blind trust in business – where a pool of assets will be managed by a third party to eliminate conflicts of interest. The owner of the assets takes it on blind trust that his manager is doing a good job. With these wines, you take it on blind trust that David has assembled good blends.
This 2009 white is a blend of 59% Pinot Gris, 15% Sauvignon Blanc, 13% Viognier and 13% Pinot Blanc. The wine begins with intriguing herbal and floral aromas. The flavours are complex – pears, apples, citrus, banana – and the finish is dry, with a bit of the Viognier firmness giving the wine a good spine. Production: 420 cases. 90.
Viognier 2009 ($26.10). This is a powerful wine. The tropical aromas just surge from the glass and the flavours deliver notes of pineapple, peach and mango. A wine-savvy guest who shared this wine with me remarked that “things are just popping in your mouth.” You bet they are. Only 150 cases were made. 91.
Pinot Noir 2008 ($29.10). Laughing Stock has been buying Pinot Noir grapes from an excellent grower in the Similkameen Valley, whose grapes have made excellent wines in the hands of several different winemakers. Few have handled that fruit as well as David. This is a generous wine, with aromas and flavours of cherry and strawberry and with a seductively silken texture. Only 180 cases were produced. 90-91.
Blind Trust 2008 Red ($29.10). The blend hidden under the capsule (you’re supposed to hazard a guess, which would be great fun at a dinner party) is 78% Merlot, 13% Malbec and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon. It changes every year, by the way. This dark-hued wine begins with aromas of cassis and blackberries and delivers appealing flavours of spiced plum, black cherry, blackberry and chocolate. The ripe tannins give the wine a full-bodied texture. 90-91
Syrah 2008 ($34.10). There is eight per cent Viognier in this wine, a technique one often finds with Syrah. Paradoxically, Viognier helps bind the colour of Syrah (this is a dark red wine) as well as lifting the aromas. This is a big, juicy wine with spice and black cherry aromas and juicy flavours of plum and blackberries. The ripe tannins give this wine a generous texture. The screw cap closures preserve the fruity freshness. I’d like to come back to this wine when it has aged in bottle another several years. Production: 302 cases. 88-90.