Bloom: VQA Spring Releases

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I always enjoy the opportunity to taste across a broad array of British Columbia’s wineries. At this year’s spring release tasting VQA designated wineries showcased their newest releases. Despite the spring timing, many of the wines were in fact reds (and when it comes to B.C. most wineries are going for pretty big red wines), though plenty of aromatic whites found their place.

Each time I taste through this many B.C. wines I am increasingly impressed with the improvement in quality. Many likely know me as a sceptical taster who doesn’t mince words or play nice, and with that for context I was truly impressed with more than one of the wines I tasted at this event. We are on the cusp of the big leagues.

My favourite overall winery of the tasting was hands down Laughing Stock Vineyards whose reds – The Blind Trust Red 2009 ($29) and Portfolio 2008 ($40) – coupled opulence with freshness in a manner similar to the Bordeaux blends of Washington State. The whites were also fun, though not quite as exciting as the reds. I was particularly into the Blind Trust White which was rich, fresh and balanced being both aromatic and structured. At $25 it’s a no brainer for a fuller style of B.C. white wine. The 2009 Chardonnay was also good, though I’d take the Blind Trust White over it. The wines are reasonably priced for the quality, which is refreshing in a market where certain new wineries enter the market with $50 over extracted reds of little interest.

Another exciting ‘find’ was Haywire Winery’s Pinot Gris 2010. Amazingly, this was my first taste of any of Haywire’s wines and it was again a balanced and fresh Pinot Gris with far more interest than pretty much any other Pinot Gris I’ve tasted out of British Columbia. I’ve been following the controversy over this ‘custom crush’ winery for some time, and will refrain for the time being from entering the debate. What I can attest to, though, is the excellent quality of the wines coming from this facility.

I also enjoyed the prestige focused wines of Osoyoos Larose, whose Petales d’Osoyoos 2007 was quite drinkable and enjoyable but whose Le Grand Vin 2006 was the true piece de la resistance. It is a very good wine, even at $45.

Last but not least is the ever stalwart Tantalus Vineyards, which makes the best Riesling in the province. Of course the entry level 2010 Riesling is a great off-dry summer wine that will go with most of B.C.’s pacific northwest cuisine, especially for $23. However, it is the 2008 Old Vines Riesling that showcases what is truly exciting about Tantalus. This is a massively acidic wine with incredibly deep character. In some ways it is bigger and more aggressive than many red wines and certainly would benefit from more time in the bottle. It is, however, the most complex expression of B.C. Riesling out there and the best example of what is possible with the grape in B.C.’s terroirs. It’s $30, but worth the price.

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