Friday, April 20, 2012

A boutique trio and their wines

Photo: Clos du Soleil's Spencer Massie



For wine lovers, one the most anticipated signs of spring is the release of the new wines.

In recent weeks, I have been at several release events. Because the notes are beginning to pile up, I have grouped three boutique winery tastings into this posting. Many are wines from 2011, a vintage with surprisingly good whites and rosés.

The first was a tasting of 2011 wines from sister wineries Le Vieux Pin and LaStella, both owned by Enotecca Winery & Resorts. These are two boutique wineries in the south Okanagan, both with premium wine portfolios and, occasionally, bold pricing because it is expensive to make premium wines. The whites and the rosé are more moderately priced.

These are my notes.

Le Vieux Pin Vaïla 2011 ($25 for 989 cases). This dry Pinot Noir rosé has developed such a cult following that one fan has already ordered nine cases for hopefully a great summer. It begins with a lovely rose petal and salmon hue; it has aromas of rhubarb, grapefruit and strawberry and flavours of strawberry. 90.

Le Vieux Pin Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($35 for 535 cases). Think of a subdued Loire style Sauvignon Blanc, with herbal aromas and flavours along with the varietal’s characteristic gooseberry and grassy notes. The finish is dry. About 24% of this was fermented in French oak with weekly lees stirring to add to the rich texture. 89.

LaStella Leggiero Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2011 ($25 for 340 cases). The grapes for this wine are from 20-year-old vines at the Inkameep Vineyard. Fermenting and aging this wine in stainless steel preserved the pure and focussed fruit flavours. The wine is crisp like Chablis, with apple and citrus flavours.

LaStella Vivace Pinot Grigio 2011 ($25 for 960 cases). This wine begins with alluring aromas of pear and guava. On the palate, it has juicy flavours of pear and kiwi, with a finish that goes on and on. 92.

LaStella La Stellina Rosato 2011 ($25 for 560 cases). This is an off-dry rosé made with Merlot that was picked with rosé in mind. The hue is dark; the aromas show notes of plum and earth; it tastes of plums and black currants. The touch of residual sweetness gives the wine a fleshy texture. 90.

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Clos du Soleil Winery is a boutique winery in the Similkameen Valley with a Bordeaux focus on the wines it makes. The winery is owned by four couples but the public face is Spencer Massie, a retired – but still youthful – naval officer who has graduated from passing the port to  a serious winery.

If the winery still flies below the radar screen, that is because it has not had a tasting room until this year. Even then, an appointment is a good idea because the individuals who look after the wineshop also have vineyard and winery duties.

Here are my notes.

Clos du Soleil Rosé 2011 ($17.90 for 390 cases). The varietal in this dry rosé wine is Cabernet Sauvignon.  The raspberry and cranberry notes on the nose transform to strawberry and cherry flavours on the palate. The finish is crisp and refreshing. 90.

Clos du Soleil Capella 2010 ($24.90 for 535 cases). This is a crisp, disciplined Sauvignon Blanc, with herbal and grassy aromas and flavours and with a dry finish. 90.

Clos du Soleil Pinot Blanc 2011 ($18.90 for 180 cases). This is a departure from the Bordeaux  theme here, because, for the second year in a row, the winery has been able to purchase excellent fruit from one of its Similkameen growers. The wine is varietally classic – apple aromas and flavours, full on the palate, with minerals on the backbone. 88.

Clos du Soleil Signature 2009 ($39.90 for 275 cases). This red blend incorporates all five Bordeaux red varieties in a full-bodied wine with aromas of black currants and vanilla and with flavours of fig, black cherry, vanilla and chocolate. This is a wine for cellaring. 91.

Clos du Soleil Winemaker’s Reserve 2009 ($58.85 for four barrels). This is a blend of 50% Merlot and 25% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The wine is big and concentrated. It presents a core of sweet fruit flavours – plum, fig, mocha, vanilla – supported elegantly with long, ripe tannins. The wine is definitely built for the long haul; the winery estimates 10 to 15 years of development. 92.

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Alto Wine Group of Okanagan Falls is a custom crush winery that serves several labels. Alan Dickinson, the lead partner at Alto, has a label called Synchromesh which emerges from his family’s long interest in motor cars. His father, John, used to race in Britain; and the Dickinsons remain active in British car circles in Vancouver, as well as in wine.

Alan and John recently hosted a tasting of new releases for the friends of the family who have discovered the wines.

Here are my notes.

Synchromesh Amelia Block Gewürztraminer 2011 ($30 for 23 cases).  This wine got its name when Alan’s partner, Amelia, asked that he spare the remaining block of Gewürztraminer after frost had wiped out many of the vines. Good call. The wine is delicate and fresh, with notes of grapefruit on the palate and with minerals and white pepper on the finish. 88. 

Synchromesh Riesling 2011 ($30 for 41 cases). At this stage in its development, this is a tangy, well-balanced white with citrus notes and aromas. But to understand where this wine is going, you need to taste the spectacular 2010 Riesling to see how much richness and depth and kerosene characters develop when this German-style Riesling gets to age. 88-90.

Synchromesh Pinot Noir Rosé 2011 ($20 for 125 cases). This begins with a vibrant strawberry hue and aroma. On the palate, there are flavours of cherry and strawberry. The wine shows the silken texture of Pinot Noir. 88.

Synchromesh Tertre Rouge 2010 ($35 for 70 cases). If you are a motorsport fan, you will know that this wine is named for a corner at the Le Mans racing circuit in France. The wine is 66% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon. I know the math does not add up but it is on the website. “New” math certainly does not interfere with the taste of the wine, a delicious drop with sweet fruit on the mid-palate – flavours of black currant, blueberry and chocolate. 89-90. 

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