October 2010 Vintages Pre-Release Tasting—California

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Reported by Rod Story

Guild members gathered at the Vendange Institute to sample a selection of wines from the upcoming Vintages release. The tasting was led by Guild Director Richard Thibodeau. The focus of this release was wines from California but several wines from other regions/countries were added to provide contrast. There were four flights with three wines each for a total of 12 wines. Each flight focused on a single grape varietal with generally two wines per flight from California and one from another region.

The first flight was a study of Chardonnay. The crowd favourite was the first wine and it was the least expensive at $20. Its nose at first was of volatile acidity but this disappeared and was replaced by a baked apple fruit nose with a hint of lemon. In the mouth it had the creaminess of a full malolactic fermentation with the apple fruit coming through. It is ready to drink now and over the next year. The second wine of the flight was the crowd’s third favourite. It had fresh acidity but at 14.6% alcohol was a bit hot for the fruit that it had. Its finish was also a bit short. At $34.95, it didn’t provide value for the money. The last wine of the flight was the second most popular wine. This Ontario Chardonnay is for those that like wines that have been aged in heavily toasted barrels. The heavy toast on the barrels had imparted a sulfur nose that some did not like at all. Those that weren’t put off by the sulfur nose liked the smoky oak nose, its big mouth feel of lemon and butter and a very long finish. Definitely a wine for those that like big but well structured Chardonnays.

The second flight were all Syrah, with each one from a different region. The first wine was again the crowd favourite and it was from California. It was more in the Shiraz style with a jammy, black pepper nose that followed through on the palate with the addition of chewy tannins. A wine to drink now or to cellar for 2 or 3 years. The second wine of the flight was from Crozes Hermitage in France. It was a classic cooler climate, old world red. It had a nose of white and black pepper with a hint of earth. On the palate it was less fruity than the first but had great structure and finish. For those that liked old world wines it provided good value for $17.95. It was the second favourite of the flight. The third wine, the Southbrook Triomphe from Niagara, had a nose of plum jam that disappointed on the palate as it was not as rich as the nose lead one to believe and the finish was rather short and acidic.

The third flight consisted of Zinfandel and marked the beginning of the big reds. All wines were enjoyed by the crowd though the crowd favourite was the second wine followed by the third wine and then the first wine. The first wine, Cantine di Marco, was great value at $15. It tasted like it was $17 or more. It had a rich, warm, cooked raspberry nose. The raspberry came through on the palate with great acid balance. It was lighter than the following two wines but for a half or a third the price, it was still great value. The second wine, the Haywood Los Chamizal Zinfandel, was noticeably more mature than either of the other two wines even though it was only one year older. The other two wines had purple rims while this wine was more of a ruddy garnet. Its nose was of warm ripe berries that came through on the palate with good acid but not much tannin. Well balanced and warm. Drink by the fire on cold winter nights. The Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel was a very big wine that needed considerable more time before it would be ready. It had both lots of berry fruit and tannins to match. It came second only because it needed more time to mature.

Saving the best for last, the final flight was Cabernet Sauvignon. The disappointing wine of the flight was the Osoyoos Larose. Its rim was an opaque, brown-purple with a nose of cooked fruit. On the palate there was the cooked fruit as well as tar, cooked green pepper and huge tannins. Overall it wasn’t that appealing and those in the crowd that had the previous vintages were disappointed as well. This knowledge paid the price of admission since it saved them from buying it. The Duckhorn Decoy always provides good value and this vintage didn’t disappoint. It was the crowd favourite of this flight. It had a purple rim with spice, leather, and a bit of heat on the nose. On the palate it had big berry fruit with tannins and some fresh acidity. One could drink it now with a rare steak but it would be better with a couple of years of bottle age. The final wine of the evening from Stags’ Leap was a tightly structured wine with a long finish. It had pleasant green notes, cigar box, leather and menthol on the nose. It came a close second to the Decoy and it really depended on the taster’s preference of wine style.

Flight 1: Chardonnay

  • Napa Creek Chardonnay, 2008, Napa, #197418, $19.95
  • Vine Cliff Proprietress Reserve Chardonnay, 2007, Napa, #198903, $34.95
  • Norman Hardie Unfiltered Chardonnay, 2008, VQA PEC, #184432, $35.00

Flight 2: Syrah

  • Adelaida Cellars Anna’s Estate Vineyard Syrah, 2007, Paso Robles, #194316, $26.95
  • Cave de Tain Crozes Hermitage, 2007, Rhône France, #572230, $17.95
  • Southbrook Triomphe Syrah, 2008, VQA Niagara, #129809, $24.95

Flight 3: Zinfandel

  • Cantine di Marco, Terer Puglia Primitivo di Manduria 2007, Italy, #181248, $14.95
  • Haywood Los Chamizal Vineyard Zinfandel, 2006, Sonoma, #949255, $29.95
  • Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel, 2007, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, #982413, $44.95

Flight 4: Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin, 2006, VQA Okanagan, #626325, $45.00
  • Duckhorn Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008, Napa, #186171, $29.95
  • Stags’ Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006, Napa, #996405, $49.95