Monday, June 17, 2013

Reflecting on a $100 Okanagan wine

We all know individuals who could afford to do so but who would never consider spending $100 on a bottle of Okanagan wine, never mind the $500 to $1000 it costs each year to buy a bottle from one of the top chateaux in Bordeaux.

Why would you when the weekly full-page advertisements by Everything Wine feature $9 to $12 wines from Argentina or Chile or Spain with breathless advertising copy?

There might be room for both in you cellar. You need wines for every day drinking and, if your budget stretches to it, you should consider wines for great occasions.

There are at least three reasons why some wines are substantially more expensive than others.

  1. Supply and demand. Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2009 sells for $1,800 a bottle in the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch (which has 20 bottles in its stock). Mouton is one of the greatest Bordeaux reds, with a world-wide demand that far outstrips the supply.

  1. Reputation. Wealthy collectors will pony up this kind of money not just because they know the wine be good but also because they usually want to show off trophy wines.

  1. The great wines are expensive to make. The vineyards receive meticulous attention to produce the best possible quality of grapes in every vintage. The grapes are picked by hand. The winemaking equipment has become increasingly sophisticated and the very costly barrels are coopered from the best forests.  Wineries need to recover that expense and book a profit to stay in business. In fact, many producers subsidize their icon wines by making and selling great volumes of popular-priced wines, like Mouton Cadet ($16 a bottle for the red, $14 for the white).

This reflection was prompted by a recent tasting of wines from sister Okanagan wineries LaStella and Le Vieux Pin that included a $100 Merlot called LaStella Maestoso 2010. You should put it on your bucket list.

While LaStella and Le Vieux Pin have had other aggressively priced wines, the owners also are realistic about what the market will bear. The current releases begin with a $21 rosé and a selection of $25 wines.

All are well made, in part at least because the production of an icon wine has the effect of raising the bar for the entire the range.

Le Vieux Pin, which is just south of Oliver on Black Sage Road, opened in 2006. LaStella, which is on the northeast shore of Osoyoos Lake, opened in 2008. Currently, the winemaker for both of these boutique wineries is Severine Pinte, a talented winemaker with training and previous experience in France.

These are my notes on the wines that were released this spring.

LaStella Leggiero Unoaked Chardonnay 2012 ($25 for 432 cases). Think of Chablis as the model for this wine, made from Inkameep Vineyard grapes. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and left on the fine lees – without stirring – for five months. The result is a clean, refreshing Chardonnay with aromas of citrus and apples, with lots of fruit flavours – apple, lemon, tangerine – on the generous palate. 90.

LaStella Vivace Pinot Grigio 2012 ($25 for 866 cases).  Whole cluster pressing and a cool ferment yielded a refreshing white, with lime, grapefruit and green apple aromas that are echoed on the palate. The finish lingers, with notes of pear and citrus. 91.

Le Vieux Pin Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($35 for 350 cases). Just over a third of this wine was fermented and aged in French oak, adding complexity. The wine begins with aromas of herbs and grapefruit, leading to crisp herbal flavours, along with grapefruit and apple. The finish is zesty and lively. 91.

Le Vieux Pin Ava 2011 ($35 for 494 cases). This is 78% Viognier and 11% each of Marsanne and Roussanne, a classic trio for Rhone whites. The aromas suggest honeyed citrus and apple, with flavours of apricot, peach, melon, apple and subtle oak. From the Viognier, the wine gets its rich texture and long finish. 91.

LaStella LaStellina Rosato 2012 ($21 for 578 cases). This rosé is 80% Merlot and 10% each of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc, made in a juicy off-dry popular style. It has intense aromas of strawberry and plum which are echoed on the palate. 89.

Le Vieux Pin Vaïla 2012 ($25 for 698 cases). This rosé, one of the wines that ignited the passion for Okanagan rosé with its first vintage in 2005, is made from Pinot Noir. What consumers like about the style shows well here: aromas of rhubarb and strawberry explode from the glass. On the palate, there is a medley of fruits, including strawberry, raspberry and pink grapefruit. The wine is refreshingly crisp. 91.

Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvée Violette 2011 ($29 for 416 cases). There is a small percentage of Viognier which was co-fermented with the Syrah and probably accounts for floral aromatics that inspired the use of violet in the name. The wine also has a touch of pepper in the aroma. On the palate, there are flavours of plum and cherry with spice and white pepper on the finish. The vintage did not yield the usual Okanagan alcoholic powerhouse with this variety; instead, the wine is elegant, with a moderate 12.9% alcohol. 91.

LaStella Maestoso 2010 ($100 for 120 cases, plus 28 cases of half bottles, 24 magnums and six double magnums). The winery describes this as a “hedonistic” wine. It is a bold and luscious Merlot with intense aromas of spiced black currant jam and mocha. The rich palate delivers sumptuous berry flavours that fill the mouth and then linger a very long time. Yes, the wine is worth the price. 95.


Mean Dean said...

Hi John, I haven't tried the Maestoso but I have had the Le Vieux Pin Merlot Reserve, 2007, which is in the same price ballpark ($75). Wondering if you have tried it and if you thought it was comparable? Thanks!


JohnSchreiner at Goodgrog said...

Yes, this is also a very good wine.

Unknown said...

John, re $100 wines, could you comment on Fairview Cellars "Iconoclast" at $120 per bottle

JohnSchreiner at Goodgrog said...

I have not tasted that wine, to the best of my knowledge.

darren v said...

Mean Dean, I had a 2007 Maestoso which I opened a few months ago. It was good, (and I love merlot), but I don't think I would pay $100 for it again. I would instead go for Cassini Nobilus, but you need to open it for a while, recork and have it the next day, or try decanting for a couple hours. The Poplar Grove Legacy or Fairview Cellars "the Bear" are as good as Maestoso for half the price.
Lawrence, I have a 2009 The Wrath from Fairview, but am sitting on it for several years. I can't be bothered with something as pretentious as Iconoclast (and I love Fairview cellars). There's too much great BC red for $40-50!