Question: Do you know a wine made out of an identical grape as Chardonnay but going by a different name?
Answer: Yes a few including my fav “Beaunois” for Chardonnay in Chablis. However believe the one you are searching for is “Morillon”. It is the local name in Styria for Chardonnay. Lots of regional ones there including “Muschelkalk”. Check some top producers out and let us know what you think.
The Vancouver Branch of The International Wine & Food Society held their insightful Annual Wine Tour of the Okanagan organized superbly by knowledgeable member Larry Burr for three full days May 27-29, 2022. This time the focus was on Similkameen & South Okanagan limited to 16 enthusiastic members in a Top Cat Tours van, staying at Watermark Resort, and visiting 12 key wineries. Lots of educational benefits plus camaraderie fun with a few highlights noted from your scribe as follows:
DAY 1: The Similkameen Valley in Southern BC west of Osoyoos has hot dry very windy conditions at higher altitude (400-480 metres) with 633+ acres planted by 15 wineries (6% BC vineyard acreage). Steep mountain walls background vineyards with diverse soils ranging from rich sandy loam to gravel & large granite rocks. Also growing there lots of fruits and vegetables with two towns of Keremeos named “Fruit Stand Capital of Canada” and Cawston the “Organic Farming Capital of Canada.” We visited four wineries:
1. VANESSA VINEYARD: Legendary winemaker Howard Soon (only 2 wineries over 42 year of experience) with Kristi Short Tasting Room Manager showed us their “carved from stone, fueled by sun, a vineyard like no other” in a wind tunnel with rows of rocks everywhere advising that “sometimes a bear comes down the steep hill to enjoy their juicy Syrah grapes”.
Sampled 5 wines:
(a) 2021 V Series: new white blend 12 abv 70% Semillon & 30% Riesling shows interesting ripe smooth textures; (b) 2021 Rose: 2/3 Syrah & 1/3 Merlot very pale pink but dry and acid balanced with only 250 cases at 14.1 abv; (c) 2018 Syrah: First of three powerful reds all from 100% Estate grown fruit and all long aging in American & French oak. 27 barrels (co-fermented with Viognier) 20 months open spicy enticing aromas. Full peppery statement 15.2 abv; (d) 2018 Right Bank: Merlot-dominant 24 barrels served decanted displaying unique “sagebrush” terroir 15 abv; (e) 2018 Meritage: Cabernet-dominant 31 barrels Big rich and loaded but needs time. Getting up there at 15.6 abv
2. OROFINO VINEYARDS: Owners John & Virginia Weber are “Purveyors of Premium Wine” focusing on wines from vineyard specific sites to show the terroir with all reds unfiltered and unfined.
(a) 2021 Rose: Utilizes 12 hour skin contact on Cab Franc. Stylish. The heat dome of 2021 has worked well in ripening their fruit. (b) 2020 Home Vineyard Pinot Noir has substance “very waxy spicy riper notes” using 5 clones. John says the 2020 reds were cooler than 2019 but with more aromatics. (c) 2020 Syrah has “white pepper” and they have planted 6 more acres at the top of Passion Pit (as no longer have access to Scout vineyard fruit). (d) Riesling – Like their direction here with 3 distinct ones produced from dry typical “zippy” Clone 239, richer sweeter balanced old vines, and Clone 21B Weis Clone from Mosel. Check out their Rieslings!
LUNCH AT ROW FOURTEEN RESTAURANT AT KLIPPERS: Admire everything about this outstanding place. Even a welcoming turban squash at reception desk. Killer food prepared by talented Chef Derek Gray and awesome brigade. Look at the radishes with honey; mushroom broth, dashi & leek oil; freshly baked hot whole wheat farmer’s bread with smoked butter sea salt & black pepper; fresh asparagus leek sabayon parsley garlic cheese pangrattato; oyster mushroom frittata, and potato gnocchi. Added treat was tasting of 5 Untangled Craft Ciders:
(a) Newton – Mostly dry Spartan Apples with a touch of strawberry (b) Tangled – Off dry apple (c) Blue Pear – Semi-sweet blueberry, pear & apple (d) Black Plum Basil – Off dry apple, plum, & basil (e) Lavender – Brand new about to be released. Unbelievably fragrant with apple sauce jumping out of the glass. My fav.
3. CLOS DU SOLEIL: Bordeaux-inspired winery under winemaker & managing director Michael Clark. Impressive selection of 11 wines on their chart as shown. 2020 Capella Classy blend of 77 SB 7 23 Semillon Wild ferment in Stainless & 500 litre puncheons 9 months lees with batonnage 100% malo gives rich creamy textured wine Feature tasting compared two vintages of their Signature blend:
2019: 42 Merlot, 31 CS, 13 Malbec, 10 CF, 4 PV Young vibrant quality with all 5 Bordeaux grapes. Patience. 2013: 51 Merlot, 34 CS, 2 Malbec, 11 CF, 2 PV Evolving well with clean cool balanced velvety textures. Well done. Expecting 2021 to be their highest yielding total crop ever.
4. CORCELETTES ESTATE WINERY: Managing Partners Charlie & Jesce Baessler on the old Herder site since 2013 are showing fantastic abilities as quality conscientious growers selecting the right sites on stemwinder soils to grow the right varieties there. Amazing vineyard specialists!
(a) 2020 Chardonnay 13.5 French oak 11 barrels (45% new) fermented sure lie batonnage with harvest by hand, unfined unfiltered. Advise “approachable now on release or cellar 2-8 years” Wide window. (b) 2021 Rose 12.5 70 Pinot Noir & 30 Syrah Freshness floral raspberry & grapefruit. (c) 2019 Syrah 13.5 $32.90 680 cases Two Estate soils including Rocky Ridge sandy loam in 90% French & 10 American for 16 months, Will co-ferment Viognier for even deeper colour starting in 2020. (d) 2020 Pinot Noir Reserve 14 (Micro Lot Series) $39.90 110 cases Elegant earthy stylish all 115 clone “Passion, Precision, Purpose” (e) 2019 Talus Red 14.5 $51.90 using “Talus slides of mixed earth and broken stone” blending 45 Merlot, 28 Cab Franc, 23 Cab Sauv 4 Malbec, and 2 Petit Verdot (back label adds up to 102% but probably rounding up).
DINNER AT 15 PARK BISTRO WATERMARK: Organizer Larry cleverly arranged for us to pre-order our meals which worked efficiently. Also compliments to Larry on letting each guest order his or her own choice for wine by the glass. Smart idea allowing you to get what you actually wanted to pair with your course. The food was a delightful surprise highlighted by an artistic hummus with naan starter & Yarrow Farms duck breast, and Roberto’s freshly made fruit gelato and sorbetto.
Question: What are your early reactions to the 2021 Rosés from British Columbia?
Answer: Yes, lots of British Columbia 2021 white & rosé wines are being released currently. Summer heat dome & smoke from forest fires are a concern on everyone’s mind for the resulting wines. Blue Mountain Winery won’t release anything from their 2021 vintage. Generally, though the Rosés are showing good balance and rather charming fruit. Lots of intensive exposure and tastings for your scribe this month at Top Drop (May 10-11), @WineBCdotcom Media Preview (May 17), 43rd Annual @VanWineFest (May 19-21), and IWFS Vancouver Branch Wine Tour Similkameen & South Okanagan (May 27-29). My main early reaction is how surprising it is that so many different grapes are being utilized in the production of the 2021 Rosés. Some recent 2021 examples tasted:
SEVEN STONES Pebble Beach Rose Similkameen: 100% Pinot Noir VANESSA Similkameen: 2/3 Syrah & 1/3 Merlot at 14.1 abv OROFINO Similkameen: Cabernet Franc CLOS DU SOLEIL Similkameen: Malbec (before used Cab Sauv) CORCELETTES Similkameen: 70% Pinot Noir & 30% Syrah BARTIER Osoyoos: 41 Gewurz, 30 Chardonnay, 25 Pinot Gris, 4 Syrah CULMINA Golden Mile Bench: 66 Malbec, 34 Merlot LE VIEUX PIN Black Sage: Mainly Pinot Noir (splash of Syrah) MOON CURSER HEIST Osoyoos: 90 Syrah (10 Malbec & Nebbiolo) SANDHILL Estate Vineyard Block C9: 100% Sangiovese (intense lower vine yields fresh holding acidity well for a hotter year)
So many different choices of grape varieties! What is your preference?
Your scribe is a long time follower and admirer of the work of both Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe De Rothschild. There were so many aficionados of their wines (Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon & Chateau Mouton Rothschild) that the launch of their joint project of Opus One in Oakville California with the inaugural 1979 vintage was met with highly enthusiastic anticipation. In the early years the wine was produced at the Mondavi winery and was very California. Initially it was somewhat difficult to reach the unique perfect Opus One style with Bordeaux experts first Lucien Sionneau and in the late eighties Patrick Leon seeking more elegance & finesse while the Mondavi family (Robert, MIchael & Tim with Genevieve Janssens) focusing on the rich bold riper Napa fruit. From about 1986 on some Bordeaux vinification methods were being deployed and by the early nineties harmony developed between the Bordeaux & Napa contributions. 1990 was the last vintage made at the Mondavi facility and 1991 the first one in that spectacular new Opus One winery (plagued by water issues built over a geothermal spring with cost overruns). Another issue was the vines as Mondavi sold a key 35 acre Q block parcel of To-Kalon to the venture plus in 1983-84 they acquired two more vineyards across Highway 29 from Mondavi totalling 138 acres of which 108+ were planted. However in 1990 phylloxera was discovered in Q Block that resulted in a replanting on St. George rootstock (instead of AXR1). The positive result was that denser replanting was key going from rows 12 feet apart with vines every 8 feet to 4 by 4 closer together competing. This also helped vine management (looking for sunlight rather than heat to ripen the grapes), canopy, and pruning of the fruit with closer vines providing some shade themselves against the hot midday sun. The resulting wines have improved each decade after trying times early on and are looking at their 43rd vintage in 2022. Presently winemaker Michael Silacci picks early to maintain freshness maintaining vineyard wild yeasts, using 100% new French oak from 10 coopers aiming for accessibility of the wine on release though best drinking for him around 15 years of age but capable of going 40 years. We thought it would be fun and educational to look back at some of these earlier vintages so the Vancouver Group of 8 scheduled a dinner at Blue Water on May 24, 2022.
A few brief impressions: The bookends both were formidable from Dom Ruinart first 2004 Blanc de Blancs 100% Grand Crus low dosage delicately structured with creamy silky textures; finishing up with Dom Ruinart 2007 Rose using B/B with 18% added pinot noir from Ay. Wines were 8 vintages of Opus One ranging from 1982 to 2014 plus a ringer of 2012 Mondavi Reserve. Congrats go to Opus One for their impressive website with details on all the vintages listed there which is outstanding and most helpful for consumers. Highly recommend this procedure to all wineries around the world as providing a most valuable history story. Check it out.
1982 OPUS ONE: 82/16/2 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot only 9 days skin contact & long 23 months in new French oak. 1979 was 2000 cases, 1980 4000, and 1980 & 1981 6000. Surprisingly good showing with easy elegant flavours though drying a bit on the finish.
1996 OPUS ONE: 86/8/3 + 3 Malbec with increased skin contact to 37 days and reduced time in new French oak to 19 months at 13.9 abv. More bright fruit with some softer middle seduction but rather lean dry ending.
1997 OPUS ONE: 82/8/5 + 4 Malbec & 1 Petit Verdot with 32 skin days and 18 months new French oak at 13.9. First vintage using 90% Estate fruit. Showing the best fruit so far with some depth and texture complexity. Rather good.
2005 OPUS ONE: 14 abv HIgher CS 88% with 5M, 3PV, 3CF, 1 Malbec after very wet May & prolonged harvest starting in September and finishing up in early November with very low yields using 29 days of skin contact and 18 months in oak. Darkest colour by far of the first 4 shown in the photo attached and is just a juicy “baby” compared to the first 3 older ones. Killer match with a superb rabbit ravioli dish!
2006 OPUS ONE: 14.4 abv Cooler year 77CS 12M 5CF 3PV & 3 Malbec with 26d skin & 17 months showed sweeter “caramel” notes and your scribe much preferred the 2005.
2007 OPUS ONE: 14.7 abv 79CS 8M 6CF 6PV 1 Malbec 20d 19m seems ripe and generous but rather flat needing more Bordeaux-styled lift.
2009 OPUS ONE: 14.5 81CS 9CF 6PV 3M & 1 Malbec 20d 17m another cooler year with a softer entry which accentuates the floral mineral elements of this property.
2012 MONDAVI RESERVE: 15 abv 90CS 7CF 3PV shows better structure, lift and balance compared to Opus One but not the classy depth of the memorable 1974.
2014 OPUS ONE: 14.5 80CS 7PV 6CF 5M 2 Malbec 20d & 18m from a higher yielding crop displays young most spicy fragrant aromas quite stylish with better structure and fine tannins for aging.
Question: What is the main white grape grown in Switzerland?
Answer: It is the early ripening native grape CHASSELAS prominent in the Vaud region. Goes by FENDANT in the driest region of Valais with those warming foehn (fohn) winds. Other names for it include DORIN, GUTEDEL, and PERLAN. Nearly all Swiss wine is consumed within Switzerland with very little exported (mainly Germany).