More wineries than ever are shipping us proprietary blends. Are we coming full circle to the days of Hearty Burgundy and the Kressmann twins? Will we stop drinking varietals? Hardly—the surfeit of Chardonnays and Cabernets continues unabated. But there certainly is room for these often oddly monikered blends.
A little boxful today, well priced from $15 into the 30s, all of them well worth your attention and subsequent summer sipping.
So what exactly is a Barossa Blonde? An Australian white grape blend that’s just the thing for the balance of the summer.
Peter Lehmann Barossa Blonde 2009 ($14.99)
Pretty wine—the label, and the green-gold colour when it gets into the glass. A blend of Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills grapes, mostly Riesling, plus Chenin Blanc, Sémillon, and Sauvignon Blanc. It starts with lovely aromas—citrus, flowers, more than a hint of gooseberry, apples, you’ll find others. Sensible alcohol (11 percent), a crisp but not acidic finish; a fine wine for good fish and chips, or just about anything you’re eating in the sunshine—fried, barbecued, deep-fried, baked, steamed, whatever. Solidly food-focused, which is only right since the wine isn’t in the LDB system but instead is a restaurant exclusive for Earls and Joeys eateries that’s also available from select private retailers. The price is as nice as the taste. Maybe they’ll get ’round to listing it; we can always hope.
Neck of the Woods Winery Paradiso 2009 ($15.99)
Neck of the Woods is the phoenix of the former Glenugie operation in Langley. New name, new labels, new varieties; Paradiso is their nomenclatural improvement on the varietal called Zweigelt, which nobody could pronounce anyway. Try this one chilled or even with an ice cube. It’s very light and berry-juicy but full of fresh fruit, fine for fresh, light cheeses—young Cheddar, creamy chí¨vre, Boursin with pepper—or those golf ball–sized Okanagan cherries that are still out there. I’d like to see someone fortify it and create an original, B.C.–only port-style wine with it. That’d be the one for the eight-year-old Balderson, or a wedgelet of Mimolette.
Road 13 Stemwinder White 2009 ($21.99)
More than many Okanagan wineries, Road 13 has headed solidly in the proprietary blend direction. This is one of two new white blends. Stemwinder is what they call their “heavy, rich, and well-drained soils”. What’s in it? Winemaker Michael Bartier hedges his bets: “We could go on ad nauseam about the grape varieties, but these are secondary to making this wine special.” This much I can tell you: it’s big and fruity, rich and intense, a fine food wine all around the palate (and the menu). There’s a companion red called Rockpile too.
Salt Spring Vineyards Blattner White 2009 ($22.90, at the winery only; they made all of 100 cases)
What’s a Blattner, then? According to Salt Spring Vineyards’ Dev McIntyre, “a new B.C. coastal grape variety developed by Valentin Blattner, a Swiss horticulturist and Paul Troop, our winemaker”. Set up your palate for this intriguing newcomer. It’s a very proprietary blend of Petite Milo and Epicure varieties; back to McIntyre for a description: “This full-bodied, fruit-forward wine shares characteristics of Alsatian wine, comparable with Riesling and Gewurztraminer, but with a hint of gooseberry to indicate its Sauvignon Blanc heritage.” More info can be found at www.omegavines.com/.
Fascinating and delicious stuff, with a sweet aroma but dry taste at the entry, followed by a rich and food-friendly finish; I can’t wait to get a good, spicy curry next to it. It’s rich and round and full-fruited all along the palate, with a clean, slightly caramel-y edge; a lovely new wine for adventurous foodies. I expect it will be on the best-of-the-year list. Also nice with European wieners and red potato salad, a Moccia salami and green onion quiche. (No wine with quiche? Don’t tell that to me, or any Frenchman.) Also counterpoints creamy blue cheese nicely. Ordering info at www.saltspringvineyards.com/.
Laughing Stock Blind Trust White 2009 ($25.10)
So a blind trust is a trust in which the executors have complete discretion over the assets and the beneficiaries have no idea what the trust’s holdings are. Which is all well and good when you’re investing money, perhaps, but recently the LFNG proprietors have added a little wrinkle of disclosure. Once you peel away the foil covering the cap, there it is: Pinot Gris 59 percent, Sauvignon Blanc 15 percent, Viognier 13 percent, Pinot Blanc 13 percent. This blend has been around for a few vintages, and if anything it just keeps on getting better. The Viognier really pulls it together and mellows it out. Olive oil–poached chicken with herbs and greens handles it perfectly, even the “Fire Chef” David Veljacic’s flank steak salad works wonders.
Conundrum 2008 ($27.99)
Reputed to be (or have been) one of Sarah McLachlan’s favourites, we’ve been enjoying it for many vintages too. This one is sweeter than some of the previous, making it a lovely afternoon wine: rich and aromatic; showing a little licorice, anise, and honey; all in a luscious, tropical-dessert-topping wine. Delightful with well-chosen food, but perhaps best all on its own, for slow sipping.
Stoneboat Verglas 2008 ($32.90 per 200-millilitre bottle; available only at the winery in the South Okanagan)
Had to look up the name. Apparently it refers to a thin layer of ice that coats a rock surface—very slippery and practically invisible, and thereby hazardous to people walking on hills or climbing on rocks. Hardly hazardous is this fantastic ultra-late-harvest blend of Oraniensteiner and Pinot Blanc. A tasting companion pointed out hints of marigold in the finish; this is candy of the highest order, one of those sweets you won’t want to serve with dessert, but as dessert.
Orofino Beleza 2008 ($33.90)
The word means “beauty” or a perfect feeling or moment in Portuguese, and the outstanding Keremeos winery gave its Meritage-style wine that appropriate name. Mostly Merlot (60 percent), plus Cabernet Sauvignon (20 percent), and Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (10 percent each), it sat in oak for almost a year-and-a-half and came out inky-dark, all unfined and unfiltered. A special-dinner treat: rich and heady, it loves well-cooked rare meats and maybe even an after-dinner cigar if you do that sort of thing. Available primarily at the winery, sometimes in magnum too.