Monday, August 24, 2009

Barrel Tasting at Blackwood Lane Winery

August 24th, 2009

Any modest chef will tell you that the best ingredients make the best dishes. Of course, as any layman knows, the best ingredients are only one part of the equation; you also need someone in charge who is a master at their craft. Such is the formula for Blackwood Lane Winery. (

Winemaker Charles Herrold sources the best grapes in the Okanagan from vineyards he and his partners either own or have secured on long-term lease. He employs the consulting services of renowned Viticulturist Sam Baptiste and uses the newest technology at their modest winery in the Fraser Valley. Herrold, over his 19 years of experience (and of experimentation), has refined his process to produce exceptional wines.

Herrold’s winemaking philosophy could be summed up as “pure”. He uses no additives for extra tannins or flavour but rather experiments with different oak barrels to add complexity to the final blend. He uses a “free-flow” method to extract juice for his icon wine, The Reference, which is to say that the best juice is allowed to flow from the crush prior to the final violent press. This helps impart a smoothness to the wine that allows the drinker to examine and appreciate the multitude of flavours and tannins. Simply amazing.

Blackwood Lane Winery is the brainchild of Herrold and business partner Carlos Lee. They have recently opened a tasting room (open 11-6, Wed-Sun) at their Langley facility where the wines are produced and aged. For a $10 tasting fee (which includes a take-home Riedel glass) you can try:

2008 Chenin Blanc ($24) - Sommelier Series
- Beautifully balanced acidity and mineral finish.
2008 Vicuna Blanco ($19) – Gold Label Series
- A mostly Alsatian blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Gewurztraminer.
2005 Chardonnay ($19) – Gold Label Series
- An oak-lovers treat. Butter bomb with perfect acidity to balance the flavours.
2005 Vicuna Roja ($24) – Gold Label Series
- Unique and very successful mélange of 42% Pinot Noir with the balance a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
2006 Alliance ($59) – Sommelier Series
- Powerhouse Bordeaux blend. 58.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot and 12.5% Cabernet Franc.

Look for full reviews of these wines over the next few weeks on our sister site:

We also tasted the 2006 Reference ($89) which is Blackwood Lane’s signature and a true Canadian Icon Wine. To say this wine is a powerhouse of flavour is an understatement - it’s an entire power station of flavour. Yet, it is also full of refinement and complexity. This is a wine to watch and will surely be a cornerstone of the Icon Wines portfolio.

We were fortunate to be invited into the cellar for a barrel tasting:

The 2007 Alliance was tasted in its final blend and barrel: four-year smoked American Oak. This wine had all of the complexity of the current release.

The 2007 Reference is currently aging in four large barrels made of French Oak sourced from different forests. We tasted each barrel separately, and found that each barrel imparts a unique tannin and flavour. The 2007 may be the winery’s best vintage yet.

We also tried a new port-style wine which is nearly ready. This is a Merlot-based, brandy-fortified treat that should command a $90+ price. Keep your eyes out for its release sometime in 2010. - LC

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