Monday, October 26, 2015

Road 13's Old VInes Chenin and friends

Photo: Winemaker J-M Bouchard

In an interview last fall, I asked Road 13 Vineyards winemaker J-M Bouchard which of his wines was an icon wine.

Most would say that the winery’s flagship red, a blend called Fifth Element, has emerged in recent years as the icon.

“A lot of names come to mind that are iconic today or should become iconic tomorrow,” J-M replied. “We have our Chenin Blanc, which I think is world class.”

I would agree totally. The Chenin Blanc in the winery’s vineyard was planted in 1968. It is one of a handful of Chenin Blanc plantings in the Okanagan. The other winery making a world class Chenin Blanc is Quails’ Gate.

The total acreage of Chenin Blanc in British Columbia produces enough grapes for perhaps 6,000 cases of wine, which does not go far when spread among several producers.

There likely are good viticultural reasons why there is not more planted. In the book, Wine Grapes, Jancis Robinson and her colleagues write that the variety is “early budding, thus at risk from spring frosts, and [is] mid ripening. Very susceptible to botrytis bunch rot, powdery mildew and diseases of the wood.”

Road 13 says the variety, at least in its vineyard, is a late ripener. The grapes for the 2014 wine, reviewed below, were picked on October 29, at the tail end of the Okanagan harvest.

“Picking was a bit stressful, as this grape is very sensitive to rot late in the season,” the winery comments. “2014 was a high pressure year in this respect ….”  The pickers had to be careful to pick just the healthy bunches.

Commentary like that seems to explain why there is not more Chenin Blanc grown in the Okanagan. That makes Road 13’s Old Vines Chenin Blanc all the more special.

It was among a small number of wines released this fall by Road 13. The samples, curiously, included the 2011 Fifth Element which was released last year. I reviewed it last year; I made notes on it again this year and arrived at the same score.

Here are notes on the wines.

Road 13 Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2014 ($27 for 599 cases). This is a terrific wine, beginning with aromas of pineapple, melon and apple and continuing to flavours of lime, pineapple and cantaloupe. The texture is rich and the wine has a very long and generous finish. 92.

Road 13 Marsanne 2014 ($24 for 114 cases). The wine begins with herbal aromas, along with notes of melon and apricot. On the palate, there are intense flavours of apricots, orange zest, pear and nuts. The texture is rich and the alcohol, although only 14.1% seems a touch hot. 88.

Road 13 VRM 2013 ($29 for 145 cases). This wine is a blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne; barrel fermented and aged nine months in neutral oak. It is a delicious wine with aromas and flavours of peaches, apricots and guava with a hint of vanilla. Fat in texture, it has a long, dry finish. 91.

Road 13 Seventy-Four K 2012 ($25 for 4,878 cases). One of Road 13’s signature red blends, this is assembled with Merlot, Syrah, Malbec and a touch of Viognier. Grapes come from both Black Sage Road and the Similkameen Valley. The wine was polished with 14 months of aging in French and American oak. There is an appealing core of sweet fruit here – flavours of black cherry, plum and black currant, along with vanilla, coffee and liquorice. 90.

Road 13 Syrah Mourvedre 2013 ($35 for 120 cases; sold out). This is a bold, earthy wine, beginning with aromas of pepper and plum. There are flavours of plum, blueberry and blackberry, accented with deli spices, pepper and coffee. 90.

Road 13 Fifth Element 2011 ($49.99 for 588 cases). There are now six varieties – five Bordeaux reds and a Syrah – in Road 13’s flagship wine. The wine begins with aromas of black olives, blackberry and blueberry. Ripe and rich on the palate and benefitting from 16 months in French oak, the wine has savoury flavours of dark plum, black currant and blackberries. 92.

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