The Wines I discovered at Taste BC 2010
By John Schreiner
January 21, 2010
The British Columbia wine industry never gets dull. As usual, there were producers at this year’s Taste BC (a tasting organized by Liberty Wine Merchants) that were new to most of those attending.
And the 70 producers in the room (including a few craft brewers and distillers) represent less than half of the licensed producers in British Columbia.
The tasting lasted only three hours. Since there was no way to cover all of the tables, I zeroed in, for the most part, on those producers that are new or just off the radar. And here is what I found.
*Misconduct Wine Co. This is a “virtual” winery, meaning it has not yet established a winery of its own or a tasting room. Richard Silva and his silent partners have made the initial vintages at a custom crush winery, deciding they would get the brand established first and then sink capital into their own winery. They might do that this year.
Richard was at last year’s Taste BC as well. He and his agent have spent the past year getting Misconduct into restaurants and private wine stores. Currently, Misconduct has three wines very nicely priced around the $20 range. The wines are a white blend called Misfit, a red blend called The Big Take and a rosé called Massacre Rosé. A second label, the Suspect Series, is due out in a month or so, featuring single varietal wines.
The branding at Misconduct is all about the Roaring Twenties, the bootleggers, gangsters and speakeasies, with graphic but interesting labels. To give you an understanding, let me explain the story behind Massacre Rosé, a Richard Silva wine made by “bleeding” juice from seven grape varieties and fermenting them together. The label says the wine is starring “The Southside Seven.”
The reference is to the Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago in 1929 when Al Capone’s gang set up a meeting in a southside garage with seven associates of a rival gang in order to gun them down. The vivid label is of a bullet-spattered wall of a garage, with pools of red wine on the floor. The story might be over the top but the rosé and the other wines are all quite good.
* Synergy Winery. This is another virtual winery owned by three Penticton businessmen who also are working on branding first. The wines are made by Lawrence Herder at his Herder Winery near Keremeos. Attractively priced between $17 and $19 a bottle, they were released in November. If they have not shown up in local wine shops, send an email to the agent at email@example.com.
The initial release quantity is quite modest: 96 cases of 2008 Pinot Grigio, 94 cases of 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, 164 cases of 2008 Syrah and 288 cases of 2008 Merlot. But this is just the beginning. Synergy’s owners have planted 80 acres of vineyard in the Similkameen Valley and have nailed down a spectacular winery site on the toe of Munson Mountain in Penticton. They intend to be players.
All of the wines are solid. In particular, I really liked the Syrah - peppery, full-bodied and rich with black cherry and blackberry flavours.
* Meyer Family Vineyards. This winery has been in the market for a couple of years with just two premium Chardonnays. The portfolio is growing. This spring the winery will release two Pinot Noirs, one from its McLean Creek Vineyard at Okanagan Falls (where Meyer now has a wine shop) and one from what it calls its Central Okanagan Vineyard. That vague reference means the grapes are from the Kelowna area. Both are classy wines, dark in colour, full of flavour and starting to show the elegant texture that is the hallmark of Pinot Noir. Both will retail for $40.
The other wine at the Meyer table was the winery’s just-released 2008 Tribute Chardonnay ($35), a wine with aromas and flavours of citrus and toast, with a tangy acidity and the structure for aging. It is called Tribute because each vintage, the Meyer family dedicates $5,000 from its sales to a charity chosen by the individual named in the tribute. This vintage, the honouree is hockey great Steve Izerman and the $5,000 is going to the Cranbrook Minor Hockey League, his alma mater.
* Orchard Hill Estate Cidery. This producer has been operating for a couple of years from a fruit stand beside the highway, half way between Oliver and Osoyoos. Orchard Hill is virtually unknown because, until it got an agent last year, it did almost no marketing and, out of sheer inexperience, made no effort to accommodate wine writers.
That’s a pity. The Red Roof Apple Cider at its table was crisp and refreshing. Here is a very well-made cider. I think it is not expensive. Orchard Hill’s web site currently has no prices but, at least, it does give a list of retailers.
* Tugwell Creek Meadery. Tucked away in a remote corner of Sooke, this is the oldest of British Columbia’s four meaderies. Since the property is off the beaten path, it was a treat to find Dana LeComte, one of the owners, at Taste BC, pouring four different meads.
I was particularly impressed with Tugwell Creek’s newest mead, Vintage Sac 2008, a fortified mead that was just released in December. Sweet in flavour and floral on the nose, this reminded me a bit of what a rich icewine might be like if fortified. This mead would be great for sipping on a winter’s afternoon or for enjoying with blue cheese.
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