Sunday, July 25, 2010

Intrigue releases its 2009 whites

Photo: Roger Wong

Winemaker Roger Wong is a busy fellow. He is one of two winemakers at Gray Monk Cellars and is largely responsible for that winery’s red wines and its growing sparkling wine program.

He also makes the ciders for Raven Ridge, a small but high-quality cidery in Kelowna.

And since 2008, he has been making the wines for Intrigue Wines Ltd., a winery he launched with his wife, Jillian, and partners Ross and Geri Davis. Both couples have vineyards in Lake Country and also buy grapes from the north Okanagan.

It is understandable that Intrigue still has a low profile. The partners all have other things in their plates: Jillian has two young children, Ross is a partner in a Kelowna technology company and Geri also works at Gray Monk. And Intrigue Wines does not yet its own tasting room.

But the wines all qualify as VQA wines. They can be found in most of the province’s VQA stores, along with a few other Okanagan wine stores and restaurants. Theses are well-made wines, well priced and worth looking for. And the bottles, with their silkscreened labels, look smart on the table. Wine always tastes better when the label is appealing, or so it seems.

The current releases include three whites from 2009. As a general comment, there seems to be a house style: Roger finishes the wines with enough residual sugar – although balanced with acidity – to please consumers who ask for dry but really prefer off-dry. He does not overdo it, however. The wines are dry enough to please those who really mean it when they ask for a dry wine. It is a fine line but Roger negotiates it very well.

He has had a passion for Riesling at least since he was the winemaker at Pinot Reach Cellars (now Tantalus) where he made the Old Vines Riesling, then and now one of the Okanagan’s finest Riesling wines. That wine was, and continues to be, a boldly dry, mineral-laden wine with quite vibrant acidity.

Intrigue Riesling 2009 ($19.90) is made in a different style, perhaps because Roger does not have access to those 32-year-old vines. This wine begins with floral and herbal aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of citrus and peach. The 14 grams of residual sugar flesh out the texture but the 8.1 grams of acid give the wine a refreshing, tangy finish. 88.

In each vintage, Roger makes a blended white whose composition depends on the varieties available to him and what blends work best in a particular year. The label just carries the name of the year. Last year’s release was called 8 and the wine made this fall will be called 10. A nice, uncomplicated idea.

Intrigue 9 2009 ($14.90) is a blend of Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Sémillon. It begins with aromas of herbs and spices and delivers a fruit bowl of flavours, including apricots and tangerines. The Riesling contributes a good backbone of minerals and the Gewürztraminer accounts for the spicy finish. The wine is ever so delicately balanced toward off-dry. 88.

Intrigue Gewürztraminer 2009 ($15.90). This is the softest of the three whites, reflecting that the variety drops its acidity as it ripens. The wine has classic spicy aromas, with flavours of peaches and lychees, for a generous, fruity drinking experience. I predict this off-dry style makes it a crowd pleaser. 88

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