Photo: C.C. Jentsch winemaker Amber Pratt
Like most who review wines, the volume of samples is such that a reviewer who wishes to remain coherent cannot drink them all for dinner.
It is not a solution just to dump the wines because most are too well made. The universal solution is for reviewers to pass on wines to obliging neighbours after having tasted them and made notes.
I suspect we are popular with our neighbours. I also know that our neighbours occasionally buy wines they have been exposed to.
One lucky neighbour got to finish the Jentsch Small Lots Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. He liked it so much that he said he would order a case, at least until he discovered the price. At $50 a bottle, it was outside his comfort zone.
Once in a while, however, a wine lover needs to treat himself or herself to bottles like this. These are not wines for Tuesday night’s burgers. For most, these will always be special occasion wines. Amber Pratt, the winemaker at C.C. Jentsch, is making them in small volumes for your special occasions.
She also gets to make large volume wines for everyday drinking – wines that consistently over-deliver. But when a special lot of grapes comes into the winery, winery owner Chris Jentsch, her boss, allows her to small lot wines that just turn heads.
Consider how these wines have done at competition. The Small Lots Malbec was a double gold winner at the All Canadian Wine Championships this year. The Small Lots Cabernet Sauvignon won gold this year at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. The Small Lots Cabernet Franc won silver at the same competition. And the Small Lot Chardonnay was a bronze medalist at both these competitions this year.
The problem with small lot wines is that they are not always easy to find. It may require a visit to the winery if, like my neighbour, buying case lots online is not in your budget.
But always keep in mind that there is a reason why these wines are expensive. The winery is not gouging you.
By the way, if you think these are expensive, check out the 2015 Bordeaux futures. You have not seen anything yet.
I recommended that my neighbour might like the C.C. Jentsch Cabernet Merlot 2014, which is $15.60 a bottle and is widely available. It is my experience that producers of expensive wine also do a good job with their budget wines. It is all about protecting the reputation of the entire portfolio.
Here are notes on current Jentsch releases.
C.C. Jentsch The Quest 2015 ($17.90 for 328 cases). This delicious wine is a blend of 84% Chardonnay, 14% Gewürztraminer and 2% Viognier. It begins with aromas of citrus and melon, leading to flavours of melon, apple and pineapple. There is a delicate touch of herbs and spice on the finish. 90.
C.C. Jentsch Small Lot Series Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2015 ($35.90 for 98 cases). This wine was fermented in two-year-old French barrels for 15 days and then matured in those barrels another six months. As a result, the oak here is subtle, leaving the fruit to show well. It has citrus aromas and flavours of lemon and apples. The flavours have a pristine clarity and the finish is dry, with perhaps a hint of nutmeg from the time in barrel. 90.
C.C. Jentsch Syrah 2014 ($29.90 for 511 cases). This full-bodied, brooding red is Syrah co-fermented with nine percent Viognier. The latter adds a floral note to earthy dark fruit aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of fig, black cherry, blackberry, dark chocolate and espresso with some black pepper. The winery says this has a “velvety” texture. The backbone seems firmer than that. It takes decanting to reveal the generous texture of the wine. 91.
C.C. Jentsch Small Lot Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($49.90 for 161 cases). The wine appeals with a deep garnet hue in the glass. It begins with aromas of cassis, black cherry and vanilla which are echoed in the flavours. The polished tannins give the wine an approachable texture but the wine has the wine certainly will cellar well, peaking in about five years. 91
C.C. Jentsch Small Lot Series Cabernet Franc 2014 ($49.90 for 151 cases). This is a ripe and exuberant wine, with a spicy, brambly bouquet and flavours of cherry, raspberry and blackberry. There is a note of vanilla and spice on the finish, reflecting the 17 months this aged in oak. 92.
C.C. Jentsch Small Lot Series Malbec 2014 ($49.90 for 84 cases). This glorious red begins with aromas of cherry and plum mingled with exotic floral, spice and white pepper notes. On the palate, the flavours of black cherry and pomegranate are framed by notes of vanilla and oak. 92.