Friday, November 14, 2014

Church & State Quintessential 2011 wins icon tasting

Photo: The BC iconic red wines for 2014

The results of the seventh annual B.C. Iconic Red Wines tasting saw last year’s winners trade places.

This year, the top wine was Church & State Quintessential 2011 with Poplar Grove The Legacy 2009 in second place.

At the 2013 tasting, the winner was Poplar Grove’s 2007 The Legacy with Church & State Quintessential 2009 in second place.

Talk about consistency!

The tasting was conceived and is sponsored by SIP Wines, the Richmond VQA wine store operated by Simon and Sandy Wosk. The idea of a competition among the best of British Columbia’s Bordeaux style reds emerged from a brainstorming between the Works and the late John Levine, an extraordinary wine lover.

The iconic reds are wines priced at $35 and up. The highest-priced red in this year’s tasting sells for $70.

These are world class wines and should command aggressive prices. It costs money to grow premium grapes and turn them into premium wines.

For most consumers, these would be special occasion wines. They are the kind of wines bought by collectors with wine cellars. Most of the vintages tasted here are comparatively young; all of them will be even better with four or five years of bottle age.

For this tasting, the wines were all double decanted and allowed to breath for several hours, effectively softening the tannins to make the wines more approachable now. The wines were served blind and in a random order. The 70 or so tasters scored each wine and voted for their favourites at the end of the evening.

The list below begins with the six top wines as chosen by the tasters. The remaining wines are listed alphabetically because SIP’s backroom boys did not crunch the numbers for all. Judging from my own scores, you would be happy with any of these wines on your table. Limited quantities of most of these wines can be purchased at the SIP.

I have included winery tasting notes where available and added my own where required.

Church and State Quintessential 2011 ($55). Merlot 70%, Cabernet Franc 15%, Cabernet Sauvignon 5%, Malbec 5%, Petit Verdot 5%.  This is a wine with a track record: in the spring, it won gold and was judged the best Canadian red at the International Wine Challenge in London. Here are notes from   “It’s been a while since I’ve tasted Quintessential in fact the last time was the 2005 vintage when it was put together by Napa Valley legend Bill Dyer. Clearly he made a lasting impression with his blend. The 2011 is very hedonistic in style and well, more California than Okanagan at this point. There is a ripeness you don’t often see in BC Bordeaux blends; this red has all five grapes: cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot. All grown on the Black Sage Bench. The nose is more South Okanagan, fragrant, savoury, dried herbs mixed with ripe cassis. The attack is skinny and warm with more dark fruits, tobacco, cedar and a hint of dried tomatoes. This needs another three years to put some fat on to balance off the fruit and spice. Not expected to be release until 2015 but you can grab some now off the website.”

Poplar Grove The Legacy 2009 ($50). This is 56% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec.  The alcohol is 15.3%. The winery’s notes: “Deep crimson red in colour. Distinct aromas of plum, leather, and cedar mingle in the glass. The first sip delivers cassis, plum, and vanilla flavours infused with orange zest on the palate. Mature integration of fine tannins and balanced acidity create depth of flavour in the mid palate with a long exploratory finish. A glorious expression of the 2009 vintage that will age gracefully for over a decade. Drink 2014 - 2030.”

Hester Creek The Judge 2011 ($45). This is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Production 800 cases. Winery’s notes: “This big, ripe wine offers smoky aromas of fig, plum and leather followed by generous flavours of coffee, chocolate and blackberry in the mid-palate, all finishing with long, silky tannins.”

Black Hills Nota Bene 2012: ($55 for 3,200 cases). The blend for 2012 is 57% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Cabernet Franc. In every previous vintage but the first, the blend contained around 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, creating a familial consistency in the wine. The wine has sage and herbal notes on the aroma and the finish. The fruit flavours include black cherry, plum, coffee and chocolate. The texture is rich and ripe, with long tannins. The winery says this was “more masculine” than previous vintages – even after dialling back the Cabernet, which speaks well of the quality of the Merlot. This will age as well as any Nota Bene, which is seven to 10 years. 

Clos Du Soleil Signature 2012 ($44.90) This is Cabernet Sauvignon (48%), Merlot (42%), Cabernet Franc (9%), Petit Verdot.  Winery notes: “Signature is Clos du Soleil’s flagship Bordeaux-style blend, produced by hand and aged for 18 months in French oak barrels.  The 2012 vintage is a stellar example of this iconic wine. The nose opens with aromas of cassis, blueberry and dark cherry, on a background of spice and mixed herbs. On the palate the wine is full, long and elegant.  Bright fruit flavours of cherry and black and red currant flow seamlessly into a long finish with notes of tobacco and black pepper.  Enjoyable in its youth, the fine tannins and beautiful balance of this wine ensure its ability to age for a decade.”

Church and State Quintessential 2009 ($54.90 for 750 cases).  Winery notes: “Dense and dark in colour, with ultra-black cherry and cassis aromas complexed by notes of coffee, baker's chocolate, pencil shavings and graphite aromas. On the palate, there is dark concentrated black cherry fruit and gorgeous tannin structure producing great richness and length, but with impeccable balance. The wine coats and totally fills your mouth, and a staggering array of complex flavours continue to linger in your mouth long after swallowing. Drink now through 2020, possibly aging longer, depending on your preferences and individual assessment of the wine over the years.”

The remaining 11 wines are listed alphabetically.

Cassini Cellars The Godfather 2010: ($70.) This is a blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc and 17% Syrah. Aged in oak for 23 months. Production 120 cases. The winery’s notes: “Nice integration of oak and dark fruit flavours like cherry, black currant and plums gives this wine a rich and complex taste with silky tannins to round out the wine to enjoy now or put down for years to come. Drink now to 2020.”

Gray Monk Odyssey Meritage 2011: ($35). This is a blend of Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The winery’s notes: “Our reserve series now includes the Odyssey Meritage. This full bodied wine is composed of the four traditional varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, all grown in the South Okanagan Valley. Aged in new French oak barrels, the result is flavours reminiscent of blackberry jam with a hint of vanilla.”

Hillside Mosaic 2009 ($40 for 499 cases).  Merlot 55%, Cabernet Sauvignon 22%, Cabernet Franc 9%, Malbec 9%, Petit Verdot 5%.  My notes: "This is Hillside’s flagship Bordeaux blend. It is a point of pride that every vintage of Mosaic since 2006 has been made entirely of Naramata Bench fruit. The wines arguably are more vibrant and brighter that Bordeaux blends from the south Okanagan. This is a firm, age-worthy red with flavours of black currant, coffee, chocolate and liquorice."

Lake Breeze Tempest 2010 ($45). The winery’s notes: “The sum is greater than its parts in this classic Bordeaux blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec. Aged in new French oak for 15 months, this wine is full and rich. Following on the heels of the 2008 Tempest, which won “Red Wine of the Year” at the All Canadian Wine Championships, this wine will continue to improve over the next several years.”

La Stella Fortissimo 2012: ($35 for 857 cases). The blend is 39% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Sangiovese. The winery’s notes:
“The 2012 Fortissimo sees the highest percentage of Cabernet Franc in the blend ever! This was necessary as means to maintain a below 15% alcohol in the final wine as well as better balance of acid/tannins/fruit. 2012 Fortissimo is as outstanding and forward as we thought it would be; all the components are married seamlessly together. The large format puncheons and Hungarian/Slavonian oak are evident in the subtle way the oak presents itself. Deep ruby in the glass, the 2012 Fortissimo is packed with bright, luscious fruit of a perfect ripeness, harvest-ready cherries and raspberries, more anise than liquorice and a wink of a spicy zing, supported by smooth tannins and balanced out nicely by a backbone of acidity.” 

Mission Hill Compendium 2010: ($60). This is 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot and 21% Cabernet Franc.  The winery’s notes: “The grapes were selected from designated blocks within our estates in Osoyoos and Oliver; they were hand harvested and hand sorted and then gravity filled to small French oak fermenters. After 3 weeks extended maceration the free run wine and a small portion of lightly basket pressed wine was aged separately in French oak barrels for 13 months. It is a dark, dense and brooding giant of a wine, featuring a complex mix of black currants, blueberry, liquorice, mint and dark chocolate. The palate is rich and full-bodied with muscular tannins and well-focused flavours.

Mission Hill Quatrain 2010: ($60). This is 40% Merlot, 20% Syrah, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, with fermentation and extended maceration in small French Oak Fermenters. The wine was aged in French oak barrels for 15 months. The winery’s notes: “The 2010 Quatrain is an elegant wine, boasting red berry, black cherry, eucalyptus and cedary spice aromas and flavours. Syrah adds a juicy-fleshy texture to this uncommon blend, lending a seamless profile of ripe fruit, dark chocolate and spice to the gutsy structure of the three dominating Bordeaux varietals. ”

NK'Mip Mer'r'iym 2010: ($50). A blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot. The winery’s notes: “The wines were fermented in separate lots and pressed into a combination of French and American oak barrels. We began with 28 potential lots from various vineyard blocks within the three vineyards and a total of 350 barrels – all to make a 20 barrel blend. After hours of trials and tasting we determined the percentages of each varietal in the blend. In the end we hope we got it right. It is a wine that is not necessarily about power but more of balance and harmony – about elegance and length – important qualities in any marriage.”

Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2009 ($45 for a production of 16,000 six-bottle cases). This is 58% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec. Winery notes: “This rich full-bodied wine features a deep intense ruby colour, and deliciously persistent aromas of ripe red raspberry, dark chocolate with toasty caramel and vanilla notes. Opulent flavours of blackberry fruit, spice and pepper grace the palate with a well-rounded tannin structure and fruit-driven lingering finish.”

Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2010 ($45). Winery notes are not yet available. My tasting notes speak of aromas of black currant, ripe raspberry, sage and graphite. On the firm palate, there are flavours black currants, dark chocolate and espresso.

Painted Rock Red Icon 2012 ($55).  This is 31% Malbec, 28% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc and 15% Petit Verdot. The winery notes: “This wine is rich and seductive with dark chocolate, coffee and black cherry combined with vanilla, showcasing the predominant varieties in the blend. More mocha and rich tones of black cherry, tobacco and cassis. A long, well balanced and polished finish.”

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