Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blue Mountain invites its friends to a tasting

Even at $90 a ticket, the January 17 tasting of the wines of Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver will, as usual, be sold out.

Tickets are still available at the Blue Mountain website, but probably for not much longer.

The winery has been doing these tastings for a number of years (there was a recent two-year interruption due to scheduling problems). The winery enlists as partners a dozen of the west coast’s best restaurants.

Each restaurant has a table at which it prepares a signature dish to pair with one of the 12 Blue Mountain wines available for tasting.

The two-and-a-half-hour event, which begins at 6.30 pm, is a fund-raiser for the British Columbia Hospitality Foundation, supporting scholarships for industry students and help for industry professionals facing medical hardship.

Predicting a sell-out is easy. Blue Mountain has had a cult following since opening in 1992. In the early years, the wines sold in a flash. The appeal has always been the disciplined European styling of these wines. Blue Mountain has never adopted the New World habit of making high-alcohol blockbusters. These are wines meant to be enjoyed with food.

There are five times as many B.C. wineries today compared with 1992, which means more competition for the Blue Mountain wines. That is why some Blue Mountain wines will actually be available for brief periods in private wine shops (such as Everything Wine.)

Even so, the reserve or stripe label wines are released in limited quality and are always hard to get. You need to take in this tasting to savour some of these. As well, the winery’s first Sauvignon Blanc, which was released in the fall, has never been in any wine store. It will be at this tasting.

The restaurants partnering with Blue Mountain are an equal attraction. Few of us have the opportunity of dining at The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn. The restaurant will have a chef at this event, making one of its remarkable dishes.

For those who can’t go to the tasting, here are notes on some of the wines you could taste. Most are still available through the winery’s website and, perhaps, in private stores.

Blue Mountain Rosé Brut 2006 Sparking Wine ($32.90). If ever there is a cult wine in the Blue Mountain portfolio, this is it. The wine sells out as soon as it is released. Made in the traditional style of Champagne, this is a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay blend with enough skin contact to give it a good bronze hue. There are flavours of raspberry and notes of toast, with a complexity gained from having aged 36 months on lees before being disgorged just like Champagne. The finish is dry and crisp to the point of being austere. I would like to revisit this wine in 2016; I think it will age very well. 89-91.

Blue Mountain Brut Gold Label N.V. Sparking Wine ($23.90). This is half the price of Champagne but in a blind-tasting line-up, it would be hard to pick which is the Canadian bubble and which is from Champagne. This is made with 47% each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which are traditional in Champagne cuvees. What sets this apart is the 6% Pinot Gris, a variety not found in Champagne. Here, it adds a hint of spice to the notes of citrus, toast and yeast on the nose and palate. The bubbles are every bit as festive as in Champagne. 91

Blue Mountain Gamay Noir 2009 ($20.90). Here is a concentrated red as serious as a Beaujolais Cru, with flavours of raspberry, black currant and black cherry. It has the structure to age well for the next four or five years, developing more complexity and lushness of texture. 89.

Blue Mountain Chardonnay 2009 ($20.90). For those turned off by overoaked Chardonnay, this restrained wine will restore their faith in the variety. Even though 60% was fermented in barrel, the oak treatment shows only in the full texture and toasty notes. The aromas and flavours show clean and focussed citrus notes, with refreshing acidity. 89.

Blue Mountain Pinot Gris 2009 ($20.90). This wine begins with the aroma of fresh apples. On the palate, there are flavours of apples and p0ears, with a hint of anise on the finish. The wine is crisp with a nice spine of minerality and with bright acidity. 90.

Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2009 ($17.90). This is a solid, complex Pinot Blanc from a varietal than can be boring. It is a bit yeasty on the nose, with flavours of green apples. The vibrant acidity is edgy, perhaps too edgy, for the wine is a touch sharp on the finish and drops crystals of tartaric acid after a few days in the refrigerator. A wine like this needs food, but of course, that’s the whole point of Blue Mountain wine. 88.

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