By Robert K. Stephen (CSW)
(WINDSOR, ON) – British Columbia is a centre of Canadian wine excellence although given the approaching end of 2012 we really don’t have much time to digress and discuss the various VQA areas and the differing styles of wines. There is a bit of a last minute rush from B.C. wineries are hoping to have the Square Media Group review their wines and possibly make it into the “91 plus club listing” of the Square Media Group for 2012. This only means I have to get to the wines immediately without any background on the wineries. And I am glad I am rushing because we may just have discovered the red wine of the year.
Church and State is a consistent producer of high quality red wines. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is close to purple in colour. Big aromas of chocolate Serbian wafer cookies, hulking black cherry, old sweet strawberries. While Ontario Cabernet Sauvignons have a certain high pitched and nervous aromas accompanied by a relatively light structure this B.C. cousin has more confidence and power on the nose but is neither plush nor lush but is tad rotund. Solid tannins grip the palate along with a juicy coating of blackberry, tar, anise, charcoal and black cherry. Medium length finish. This is a rich and slightly rotund wine a la West Coast. If you like your Cabernet Sauvignons to be blockbusters knocking you on your ass or like the thinner and nimble Ontario Cabernet Sauvignons you won’t find it in this Church and State. You will find a happy camper with a big smile on its face like it has had a couple of extra coconut toasted marshmallows. (Church and State 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, B.C. VQA Okanagan Valley, 14.5%, $43.95, LCBO #307512, Square Media Group Rating 90/100). 741 cases produced. From gravel soils in the Vanessa Vineyard. Cheers to Vanessa. I hope you are in a happier place. There are many that miss you.
B.C. produces stunning Pinot Noirs less lush then California yet often more alluring than Burgundy. This Similkameen Valley Pinot Noir has the typical light beet red colour. It has aromas of plastic tube, smoke, earth, black cherry, beet juice, raspberry juice and half cooked strawberry jam. Sorry about the plastic tubing but often this is a characteristic of B.C. Pinot Noirs and I adopt is as a neutral descriptive term. Dynamite aromatics and no apologies for the plastic tubing. A very elegant and high toned finished wine like seeing Catherine Deneuve in a crowd. Incredible beauty but do not touch. Helluva serious Pinot Noir we are dealing with. No loose edges. Deep character hiding within a Prussian exterior. Lean, mid-weight and elegant. So much for the la dee la West Coast flakiness. This is a big boy with an identity somewhere between Sonoma and Burgundy. Beautifully crafted and disciplined if you like that type of wine and even if you like something more lush you really have to admire this one! With Pinot Noirs like this bye bye Burgundy and your variable quality at inflated prices. Yes let’s praise the Burgundian monks and their centuries old development of Pinot Noirs but cut the crap and stale text book “blah blah blah” and try a few B.C. Pinot Noirs and you may find the monks were a bit too slow on the draw. Lovely photo of the vineyards here. (Eau Vivre 2008 Pinot Noir, Similkameen Valley, British Columbia, Eau Vivre Winery & Vineyards Ltd., Cawston, British Columbia, $228 for a case of 12, 13.3%, Square Media Group Rating 95/100).
From the Thadd Springs Vineyard comes a B.C. Riesling which I am hoping will fare better than the majority of Rieslings I have encountered in Ontario being of sour nature. Yes we have the straw colour of many Rieslings. Thank goodness no grapefruit on the aromatics. In fact loads of peach and apricot like some Pfalz hot headed German! A certain earthiness adds traction to the aromatics like something serious is about ready to happen on the palate? Dry as a dinosaur bone with a very restrained acidity and encouraging minerality on the palate. Yes so big deal…minerality and good acids. Seems just about any Riesling can meet those requirements. Is there any quality to takes this Riesling above ho hum? There is an intriguing peach slider effect on the palate. A gentle finish that also gently escalates up the scale momentarily and then just as quietly fades into a walnutty, pear and melon quasi creamy finish. In my opinion Canadian Riesling is a very dangerous game. In this case the aromatics and intriguing finish rescue this Riesling from my wrecking ball. This is worth a try and a thought which is more than I can say for the vast majority of Canadian Rieslings. (Harper’s Trail 2011 Thadd Springs Vineyard Riesling, VQA British Columbia, $19.99. 11%, Square Media Group Rating 89/100).
This wine is produced at the Okanagan Crushpad Winery so there is no Harper’s Trail Winery to speak of. I suppose then Harper’s Trail is what we call a virtual winery however there are plans afoot to create a real functioning winery! They also produce a Field Blend White and a Rosé. All the grapes are produced from Kamloops fruit. Kamloops has a long growing season with hot summers but winter can bring destructive cold snaps that can destroy wines so, like Prince Edward County in Ontario, grapes are mounded under earth during the winter to protect them. Apparently aside from producing great hockey players Kamloops is trying its hands at wine!