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.
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
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.
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.