Friday, April 10, 2009

No New Number, But a Great Tasting

Boo and I attended a BC Wine Appreciation Society tasting on Wednesday night.  The Society is feeling a bit of buzz after all the exposure - both to the Society and to BC wines - at the recent Playhouse Wine Festival and IMHO the Society has lately been seeing better interaction and participation with more of the wineries and personalities in BC wine.  The tastings continue to become more and more interesting.

Since I wasn't specifically involved in finishing off a bottle of wine this night, I'm not going to count any of the wines in the 2001 bottle count.  There are definitely a couple that will make it to the list down the road though.

Wednesday night's tasting saw a visit from Jane Hatch, Sales Coordinator, for Tantalus Vineyards in Kelowna.  I'll start by saying that I know of Tantalus and have heard very good things about their riesling, but I don't think that I've ever actually  had more than a fleeting swirl and spit at a big tasting event.  I've also read that Jancis Robinson, one of the most-revered names in the wine biz, declared an earlier vintage of Tantalus as the "creme de la creme... of Canada.  Seriously good."  So, I was really looking forward to this tasting.  I think it lived up to expectations.

The winery poured three wines (two rieslings and a pinot noir) blindly with three additional rieslings and four pinots that hailed from areas well-known for producing riesling and pinot (at comparable price points - we didn't taste their pinot against a grand cru burgundy; this time).  The idea was to show how BC wines (and Tantalus' efforts in particular) fit into the greater scheme of, perhaps, more established areas.  

Also participating in the presentation and discussion was Mark Davidson, one of my favourite wine commentators in Vancouver.  Knowledgeable and witty, he's always good to keep you interested in the activities.  Having professed my penchant for riesling just a couple posts ago, I had to chuckle when he advised the tasting that he always tells his wine classes that "by the end of the course, you will understand riesling.  If you don't, you will fail the class - and in life."

I'm not going into all sorts of tasting notes and comparisons - because we leave that to the experts, don't we.  But, I will say that I'm very sure that Jane (if I might be so bold) must have been pleased when a show of hands clearly declared her 2008 Riesling and 2007 Old Vines Riesling as the two favourites among the crowd.  The other rieslings were from the Aussie hot beds for riesling - Clare and Eden Valleys - and from Alsace. BCWAS didn't pair the wines with a German riesling as many BC producers, including Tantalus, produce a different style of wine - more acid and citrus notes, less residual sugar.    This is not your momma's old Blue Nun-ish idea of riesling from when you were growing up.

The Tantalus pinot noir didn't wow as many of the participants when they were asked to indicate their favourite red of the night.  That honour was more divided between two California (Sonoma) and  New Zealand wines.  I liked the fact that Jane refreshingly admitted that  their pinot still has a ways to go and that they are introducing new clonal varieties to the vineyard that should allow them to start altering the profile of their wine as the new fruit becomes more established.

We don't tend to make it up to the Kelowna wineries on the rare occasions that we get to tour a bit in the Okanagan, but I would definitely like to pay Tantalus a visit to see the new winery.  I was excited to hear that all their grapes are estate-grown and that they practice organic and sustainable viticulture.  They are a relatively new winery in BC, having opened its doors in 2004.  The vineyard itself, however, is one of the oldest, continuously producing vineyards in the province, dating back to 1927.  

If the winery is capable of this much in such a short existence, I'd keep a serious eye on them to see where they go in the years to come. 

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