B.C. wine stands up in blind Mer­lot tast­ing

The Georgia Straight - - FOOD -

I’ve been to a fair num­ber of events where a win­ery’s new vin­tage of their flag­ship wine was launched, but I had never ex­pe­ri­enced some­thing quite like this.

It was just last week in a hand­some room at the Van­cou­ver Club, where Bri­tish Columbia’s Cul­mina Fam­ily Es­tate Win­ery was pre­sent­ing its 2013 Hy­poth­e­sis, its lat­est red Bordeauxblend wine com­ing from es­tate fruit grown on Oliver’s Golden Mile.

As­sem­bled in the room were

40 of Van­cou­ver’s top som­me­liers, re­tail­ers, and me­dia, who were fac­ing the pre­sent­ing panel: fam­ily win­ery own­ers Don, Elaine, and (their daugh­ter) Sara Triggs, along with the Van­cou­ver Sun’s An­thony Gismondi, who acted as moderator.

So why the need for a moderator when it’s just the launch of the new wine?

Here’s where things get bold, and why it was a new ex­pe­ri­ence for me. The Triggs fam­ily opted to launch their wine in a blind tast­ing, where their new re­lease would be pre­sented along­side global icons of a sim­i­lar style. That’s gutsy, yeah?

Now, con­sider that the wines they poured shoul­der to shoul­der with their own were all priced higher than theirs. As some­one who of­ten tastes wines blind, I can as­sure even the biggest skep­tics that noth­ing is ever a lock. When it comes to un­veil­ing a wine in any sort of ex­er­cise like this, it’s pretty much guar­an­teed that gasps will em­anate from a few mouths. This is why I’d ven­ture that it is po­ten­tial sui­cide to launch a wine this way, to a room full of the city’s biggest buy­ers and in­flu­encers. Here are the five wines that were poured, in the or­der they were pre­sented in front of us. All we were told was that they were all Mer­lots, or Mer­lot-dom­i­nant blends. (The 2013 Hy­poth­e­sis is 38 per­cent Mer­lot, 36 per­cent Caber­net Franc, and 26 per­cent Caber­net Sauvi­gnon.) That’s it. We weren’t aware of prove­nance, prices—noth­ing.

SCHIOPETTO RIVAROSSA 2013

(Fri­uli, Italy; $55.99, Kit­si­lano Wine Cel­lar) No one, no one, in the room opined this wine was Ital­ian. Words like Wash­ing­ton, Napa, and Chile were ut­tered, but I can’t even re­call any­one go­ing Old World. Ninety per­cent Mer­lot, with Caber­net Sauvi­gnon round­ing it out, this north­ern Ital­ian won­der leads with mocha notes, fol­lowed by well-in­te­grated dark berry fruit, with a good min­eral un­der­cur­rent. It’s well con­cen­trated, and al­though it’s well bal­anced with al­co­hol and said min­er­al­ity, there’s an op­u­lence here. In­stinc­tively, I thought New World, warm cli­mate—pin­ning it as Wash­ing­ton state. Nev­er­the­less, a new favourite for me.

CLOS DES MENUTS SAINT-ÉMILION GRAND CRU 2012

(Bordeaux, France; $46.99, Kit­si­lano Wine Cel­lar) This was text­book right-bank Bordeaux, and most of us made that call. Cur­rants, plums, spearmint, and a dust­ing of co­coa are all in fine re­straint; the wine is so damn el­e­gant, and the value here is im­pres­sive.

CUL­MINA FAM­ILY ES­TATE WIN­ERY HY­POTH­E­SIS 2013

(Okana­gan Val­ley, B.C.; $46, www.cul­mina. ca/) A few thought the Cul­mina wine was Chilean, and there was a smat­ter­ing of dis­cus­sion about it be­ing Bordeaux as well. I en­joyed the sticky black fruit, mul­ber­ries, crack­ling min­er­al­ity, and bright acid­ity. The give­away (to me, at least) was the hall­mark Okana­gan sage­brush, along with rich con­cen­tra­tion and the tan­nins be­ing fairly grippy, all things we’re known for around th­ese parts. This and the pre­vi­ous Saint-émilion wine were my two favourites of the tast­ing; stylis­ti­cally at op­po­site ends of the spec­trum, yet each won­der­ful in its own way. There were many in the room of sim­i­lar opin­ion.

CHÂTEAU GAZIN POMEROL 2013

(Bordeaux, France; $142.99, Kit­si­lano Wine Cel­lar) By far the most ex­pen­sive and, frankly, my least favourite. I found the blue­ber­ries and sour cher­ries to be a bit soupy, and al­though there were de­cent tan­nins, it some­how seemed as if that fruit and some oregano flavours were still spilling over the edges. Many agreed it was an out­lier, though there were a fair num­ber in the room who liked the style. Oddly enough, this is the wine that most thought was the Cul­mina. By far the prici­est wine in the flight. I got noth­ing, other than a cu­rios­ity as to how I would have per­ceived the wine if I had known both where it was from and that jaw-drop­ping price.

MERRYVALE MER­LOT 2013 (Napa Val­ley, Cal­i­for­nia; $94.99, Ev­ery­thing Wine) Back on track, most of us nailed this wine as com­ing from a Napa pro­ducer. Rich warm­cli­mate Mer­lot is much of what one would ex­pect: stewed dates, Ital­ian plums, and blueberry com­pote are rich and invit­ing, kissed with a touch of sweet­ness on the fin­ish. Oh, the deca­dence here.

I don’t know what’s more im­pres­sive. Is it the Triggs fam­ily stick­ing their necks out for such a re­ally coura­geous event? Is it that their wine showed very well among its global con­tem­po­raries? Or is it that—with all the yakking from many lo­cals that B.C. wine can be so damn ex­pen­sive—it was the least ex­pen­sive wine that many pre­ferred in the flight?

It doesn’t mat­ter what is more im­pres­sive. What mat­ters is that the wine is wor­thy. It’s just be­ing re­leased this week; you should jump on it while you can.

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