Like many of the great Okanagan wine families, the Martiniuks began in the roller-coaster business by growing great grapes before they got round to producing wines. Since their first vintage just a few years ago, they have made fast friends with their outstanding varietal releases, and—for some of us—even more so with their fantastic blends, under the Stoneboat label. If you don’t know what a stoneboat is, here’s the winery’s definition: “a flat sledge for carrying stones; originally used to clear our home vineyard of its abundant river rocks”.
The winery is your best source for Stoneboat wines, although better indie stores and adventuresome restaurants also carry them. Here are four recent arrivals.
Stoneboat Chorus Original Vines Blend 2011 ($17.90)
This fabulous blend is one of the portfolio’s tastiest, to say nothing of its being the cheapest. Full disclosure: I love this wine! Can’t get enough of it. The “original vines blend” is made up of “the first varietals we planted in ’63”, according to Tim Martiniuk, those being Pinot Blanc, Müller-Thurgau, Schoenburger, Kerner, Pinot Gris, and Viognier. Surely, it is one of the top three white blends made in B.C. today. It’s complex, juicy and fleshy, aromatic, and beautifully balanced, with ultraripe fruit. A stunningly good blend. And a great food wine—it just seems to get better with each successive vintage. A buck more gets you one of the components all on its own (below) no slouch either.
Stoneboat Pinot Gris 2011 ($18.90)
This superfresh, crisp, and full-fruited PG is another outstanding food wine, 80 percent tank-fermented and 20 percent fermented in neutral barrels. Its opening statement is “a perfumed note of blossoms and grapefruit, with intense citrus flavours and refreshing acidity”. Look for lots of lime and a satiny finish. Serve it well chilled but never iced.
Stoneboat Pinotage 2010 ($24.90)
The famous South African grape is still an acquired taste for many—and this is the perfect way to acquire it. The Martiniuks have tamed the “wildness” right down and fashioned it into a mellow, hearty dinner red. It starts with a big, ripe, what-is-that-berry nose, and has a sturdy backbone and a stylish finish. I never figured I’d use the term stylish when describing Pinotage. The recipe: “Fermented in small lots before 13 months of aging in French and American oak”. Intense, very dark, chocolate-y fruit with “baking spice and cedar flavours”. This is the mellowest Pinotage in the Okanagan and smoother than most of the South African ones we see here. It may not be to every taste, but it’s an outstanding example of what’s possible, if you know how to handle it in the growing and winemaking process.
Stoneboat Solo Pinotage Reserve 2010 ($34.90)
If you’ve tried the “regular”, above, you’re ready for the big-ticket one. Yes, it costs 10 bucks more, but it delivers 10 bucks (at least) more smoothness and softness, with big, ripe Bing cherries preceding a spicy finish. These are, they say, “specially selected Pinotage grapes from the Home Vineyard”. The wine is “aged for 46 months in 80% new oak”, making it a beautiful and complex wine that’s especially good with great cuts of roasted meat. It might well be the best Pinotage I’ve ever tasted, certainly in B.C. and also in South Africa. One to treat yourself with, for any special occasion.
A brace of Australians and a twin set from California follow.
Wakefield Clare Valley Riesling 2011 ($19.99)
Australian Riesling is vastly different from the German, Alsatian, and certainly the B.C. versions. Here’s a classic example that really brings the Down Under difference to the fore. It’s got distinctive aromas and unique flavours, and is not a bit sweet; for food, for sure. Lots of lime and lemon with a lively, acidic finish. Taste it alongside some of the more familiar Rieslings and note the difference.
Wakefield Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($22.99)
Many Australian wineries have forsaken Cabernet in favour of Shiraz. Here’s one that hasn’t; this Cab is excellent, showcasing “cassis, mulberry [and] hints of regional eucalypt”. Lots of French-oak maturation imparts cedar, spice, and dark chocolate, as well as plummy aromas. They suggest cellaring for five to 10 years; who can wait that long? Lovely and intense flavours culminate in a rich finish that wants a full and festive meal.
Lange Twins Lodi Zinfandel 2009 ($23.99)
Zinfandel has to be spicy for my palate. This one, from a new-to-us label out of California, certainly is: very spicy, very big, with excellent Zinfandel aromas and tastes. The finish may be a bit abrupt, but it’s very rich. Have food at the ready, absolutely, or try it in a small welcome glass for your dinner guests. Or both.
Lange Twins Moscato 2010 ($19.99)
Like all good Moscatos, this is fairly low in alcohol (10.5 percent). There’s lots of fruit and marzipan for both the nose and the tongue. It’s sweet but not cloying (like some icewines can be); you’ll love it with Christmas stollen if you have any left, or even better with fresh-cut pineapple or a rich fruit salad. A deliciously refreshing Moscato.
Select Lange Twins wines are available in limited supply at private stores around the Lower Mainland, including Everything Wine, Legacy Liquor Store, and the Coal Harbour Liquor Store.
More sweets (and Stoneboat. too) will kick off our next visit here.