Monday, February 13, 2017

Township 7 adds key vineyard sources

Photo: Township 7 winemaker Mary McDermott

One of the most effective winery marketing tools is the “wine club.”

The clubs were non-existent a decade ago. Today in British Columbia, it is a rare winery that does not have one.

For the consumer, they also are a benign tyranny. They put you at the front of the line for the most desirable wines. But winery followers often get locked into wines by the case even if that quantity is more than one might buy at any one time. But if you do not join the club, chances are that you will not get a sniff at some of a producer’s better wines. Those are often allocated largely, if not entirely, to the wine club.

I am not being critical of wine clubs for the sake of being grouchy. I just want to suggest consumers can learn to live with them by creative buying. A certain Okanagan wine that I collect every year is now limited to wine club members; and I am not a member. But a friend of mine is. He orders a case every year. He keeps four bottles for himself while another of his friends and I each get another four bottles.

Perhaps the winery would discourage that practice if they knew. Too bad … there is only so much room in most wine cellars. And there are far too many fine Okanagan wineries to buy case lots of all the finest, in the hope you live long enough to drink it all.

This reflection was brought on by the most recent samples from Township 7 Vineyards & Winery. These included several very fine wines from the superb 2014 vintage, among them wine club allocations. Indeed, by the time you read this, club members will have swallowed by the entire allocation of some.

The winery’s clubSEVEN is sensitive to the fact that some consumers have limited storage space. Members receive three shipments a year, each with eight bottles of wine chosen by the winery. Several of the selections are limited edition wines exclusive to the club. Membership obligations beyond that are simple, as explained in the Township 7 website:

·        Choose from 2 membership rewards: 1) pick up your shipment and receive 15% off the cost of your wines or 2) Free shipping right to your door anywhere in Canada.
·        Each shipment includes limited edition wines available only to club members.
·        Other perks include special members-only pricing (10% off) on all wine purchases outside of club shipments, invites and VIP treatment at our special events and two clubSeven parties a year.
·        No membership fees just membership rewards.

I noted a significant development at Township 7 from reading the technical sheets on the wines. Mary McDermott, the winemaker, has been able to source fruit from two vineyards never before used by the winery. One is the historic Sperling Vineyard in East Kelowna which has a relatively young block of Pinot Noir. The other is Vanessa Vineyards in the Similkameen.

As well, judging from the concentrated texture of the Bordeaux reds, it seems she has persuaded the winery’s long-term growers to up their games. While 2014 was one of the Okanagan’s best vintages ever, that alone does not account for the obvious step up in wine quality.

Here are notes on recent releases, some of which have already been sent to clubSEVEN members. Prices do not include taxes.

Township 7 Seven Stars 2014 ($29.97 for 114 cases). This limited production sparkling wine is exclusive to clubSEVEN.  Crisply dry and refreshing, this wine is made with Chardonnay. It has toasty and citrus aromas with flavours of green apple and lime mingled with the biscuit notes imparted by 18 months aging on the lees. 91.

Township 7 Pinot Noir 2015 ($30.97 for 248 cases). This is also a wine club exclusive; a pity because this is the winery’s first Pinot Noir and deserves wider distribution. The fruit is from the Sperling Vineyard in East Kelowna, where Ann Sperling also crafts excellent Pinot Noir. I thought the Township 7 wine was going through one of those notorious Pinot Noir phases and I left half a bottle until the second day. Then it showed its potential: bright fruit with delicate cherry flavours that were richer on the second day. The texture is wonderfully silky. 88-90.

Township 7 Merlot 2014 ($22.97 for 1,168 cases). This wine is widely available. The wine was aged 18 months in French and American oak barrels, polishing the long ripe tannins. It begins with aromas of cassis, black cherry and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of black cherry and blackberry. The texture is firm but it opens up if you decant the wine or give it time to breathe. 90.

Township 7 Reserve Merlot 2014 ($34.97 for 300 cases). This is exclusive to clubSEVEN. This intense and complex wine is made with grapes from Blue Terrace Vineyard near Oliver. This has been a source of grapes for Township 7 for almost 20 years, so the vines have excellent maturity. The wine begins with aromas of black cherry mingled with vanilla and minerality. There are flavours of dark red fruits, including plum and cherry, with dark chocolate and black licorice on the finish. Extended aging in French and American oak (30% new) has contributed to a svelte, elegant finish. 92.

Township 7 NBO 2014 ($27.97 for 278 cases). This is available only at the Township 7 wine shops in Langley and Penticton. NBO stands for North Bench Oliver, the location of Blue Terrace Vineyard. This wine is 58.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 41.5% Merlot. This wine is so rich in flavour – plum, fig, black cherry, dark chocolate, licorice – that it seemed almost port-like. It is not: the wine is ripe but the alcohol is a reasonable 14%. Like all the other reds in this release, NBO will cellar well for the next decade. 91.

Township 7 Syrah 2014 ($30.97 for 368 cases). This is exclusive to the wine club.  The grapes for this wine are from Vanessa Vineyards, a vineyard which has turned heads with two Syrah vintages under its own label. The wine begins with appealing aromas of sweet fruit (plum and currants) along with notes of pepper and smoked meat. On the palate, the wine is robust and full-bodied with meaty flavours of fig, black cherry and dark chocolate. 91.

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