Friday, February 11, 2011

Winter Treats

The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family and friends and when those closest to you are as enamored with wine as you are, some very nice bottles get uncorked. This year I decided to get a bit more organized and created a "BC Icons" theme for our Christmas Eve dinner. We tasted three iconic BC wines: Blackwood Lane's Alliance, Fairview Cellars' The Bear and Mission Hill's Oculus.

All three wines were made (primarily) from southern Okanagan Valley fruit, all three were from the 2004 vintage and each wine was very distinctive. I might also add that each wine is sold-out and thus sourcing these wines for your own horizontal tasting may be difficult - but not impossible. Best to talk directly with the winery, in person, and ask if they are willing to sell any of their reserve stock or have a planned "library release" upcoming - you will pay a premium, but the experience is worth it. Mailing lists are also a great way to stay informed about back-catalog releases.

We tasted in order from lightest to heaviest:

Fairview Cellars 2004 The Bear - $70-80 (est)
With a fresh and vibrant bouquet of both red and dark berries, orange peel, minerality and mellowed oak, the nose offers impressive complexity. The palate of the 2004 is reletively light for a Meritage blend - not uncommon for wines of the vintage. Red fruits dominate the palate. This wine has peaked and is drinking beautifully now. Don't wait too much longer to open yours if it's waiting patiently in your cellar.
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Blackwood Lane 2004 Alliance - $80-90 (est)
The Alliance, a Cabernet Sauvignon-leading blend, surprised with its youthful, vibrant nose that suggested a wine that was still years away from its peak. Cassis and other dark fruits mingled on the developing bouquet with aromas of graphite (a Blackwood Lane signature), fig, stewed plums and licorice. A very complex nose. The palate wowed everyone with its intense concentration and complexity. Full bodied and powerful, but not over-extracted. Dark fruits, plums, cassis and savoury oak flavours with mulled-wine spices. The wine has aged beautifully and effortlessly. Drinking well now and suggests, with its fine structure of tannins and near perfect balance, it won't peak until 2014 and then hold for further 5 years.
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Mission Hill Estate Winery 2004 Oculus - $80-90 (est)
The group agreed that the Oculus is an exceptional wine worthy of one's cellar but one that it is slightly dishonest. The high tannins, crucial to longevity, seemed a bit too "by design" rather than a more natural by-product of the oak treatment and extended skin contact. Right Bank Bordeaux is certainly served well here in tribute with a brooding, Merlot driven blend, but not in an organic, effortless way. Should your cellar already contain a bottle, I recommend another 2-3 more years - an exceptional incubation time for a BC wine. How long will it last beyond that? Will it hold once it has peaked? Hard to say with certainty.
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The only "winner" at the tasting was each guest as all of the wines were fantastic but the consensus was that the Alliance stood above the rest and stole the show. It was the wine everyone wanted a second serving of before revisiting the other wines and the wine everyone was eager to try and source for futures wine tastings. A fun and tasty horizontal tasting of true BC icon wines.

 - Liam Carrier (with tasting notes from Hugh Carter and Jordan Carrier) ©copyright 2011

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