Fancy yourself a wine geek? How about this?
This week I went to one of the more unusual tastings in which I’ve participated. The idea was to bring the excitement of the harvest right to Vancouver—for those of us city slickers who aren’t able to make it to the Okanagan (or elsewhere). The B.C. Wine Institute organized a tasting of four, 2014 just pressed juices (different varieties) alongside comparable VQA wines from current releases.
Juice on the loose
Now, to be honest, tasting ‘juice’ isn’t one of my favourite things. Fermenting grape juice just doesn’t agree with me. But a few sips don’t hurt. Plus, I was spitting. And it’s really fascinating to realise that this cloudy, often quite sedimentary liquid will one day emerge as a finished wine.
The tasting was led by Rhys Pender—who knows a thing or two about grapes and wine. First of all, he’s a Master of Wine—one of the youngest around, as far as I know. Also, he grows his own grapes, while his wife Alishan Driediger makes the wines at their Little Farm Winery, in the Similkameen Valley.
You don’t usually get to taste free-run juice, except at the winery. As it happens, one of the times I tasted BC juice was at Rhys and Alishan’s, last year. I remember being pretty impressed, as we swirled and spit the definitely apple toned juice that would become Little Farm Riesling.
A taste of things to come
So what’s so great about tasting fresh pressed or fermenting juice, aka ‘must’?
What was fun about this tasting was that you could see that the Pinot Gris juice would indeed wind up not unlike the finished Lake Breeze 2013. And while the Gewürztraminer juice didn’t (yet) sport those classic rose petal notes, it was delicious to taste—and reminded me a little bit of quince jelly: Bring Me My Toast!
Must be Merlot …
Probably, of the the four we tasted, the Merlot must (from Sandhill, complete with a swack of whole berries!) resembled most closely the finished wine beside it. Also, again, it emphasized just how good the fruit is this year. Keep an eye out for the 2014 Sandhill Merlot, a couple of years from now.
In fact that was the overall message this tasting conveyed: 2014 is shaping up to be one of the best Okanagan (make that B.C.) vintages on record.
If you’re in the Okanagan (or on Vancouver Island or anywhere…), and have a chance to taste some juice, go for it! Not only will you get to share in the sheer excitement of harvest, you’ll get a real sense of what’s to come.
The finished wines for this tasting were all part of BC Liquor Stores current BC VQA Harvest Promotion
They offer a good cross section of the value that BC can deliver, most priced around or under the magic $20 mark. Standouts include:
• NkMip Pinot Blanc 2013 – Hard to believe that Pinot Blanc was once BC’s most widely planted white. But when you taste wines like this you can see why. Think orchard fruits and citrus wrapped in juicy acidity—a bargain at $15.99 – 90 pts
• Lake Breeze Pinot Gris 2013 – You could really see the flavours in the must mirrored in this wine. Orchard notes on top with tropical and stonefruit and a touch of spice, juicy acidity and good length. $19 89 pts.
• Wild Goose Gewurztraminer 2013 – Hints of rose petal and sage on top, followed by a textured, slightly viscous palate of ginger spice, floral and mineral notes with well balanced fruit and acidity through a dry finish. BCLS $18.50 91 pts.
• Moon Curser Cab Merlot 2012. From one of the South Okanagan’s most prolific red wine producers. Solid, equal parts blend adds up to a plush and rounded drop with luscious cassis notes and blue fruit underpinned by added structure from the Cabernet. Think braised meats or hot pots. $20.90 90 pts.