Monday, May 17, 2010

Take Note - It's a Night in the Library

I think I mentioned how disappointing it was the other night, at the BC Wine Appreciation Black Hills wine dinner, that my self-imposed "rules" didn't allow me to add a bottle to The List since our table didn't actually get to enjoy an entire bottle.

Well, fancy this, but I was able to more than make up for that problem when Beamer and The Divine Miss M came over for a BBQ. I'd been looking for an excuse to open a bit of a series of vintage Black Hills Nota Bene to do a bit of comparative tasting and I'd had Beamer in mind for that occasion - particularly since he offered to bring along a bottle that he still had in store.

To top that off though, he also brought along a bottle to start off the evening.

449. 2009 Laughing Stock Viognier (Okanagan Valley)

This is the inaugural release of a Laughing Stock Viognier. It's a new varietal that the winery is working with from grapes that are grown on its Osoyoos vineyard. Continuing to play on their stock market persona, the wine is part of its "Small Cap" program that looks to "explore smaller market plays to take advantage of unique characteristics of select lots...or simply the need for adventure."

Only 150 cases of the wine was made and Beamer managed to get his hands on some. Being a first attempt at the varietal, it will be interesting to see if their approach to vinifying the wine changes with time. The winery used a blend of stainless steel tanks and four months in previously used French oak for the aging process. It'll be worth keeping an eye open for future vintages since Sandhill's 2008 Viognier was made from fruit grown near by and it was chosen as the Canadian White Wine of the year for 2009 by the Canadian Wine Awards.

These Laughing Stock vines were young - at only three years of age - so the base grapes will likely see noticeable changes over the next so many years, but the winery states that it was very pleased with the ripeness of the fruit given a shortened growing season in 2009. There was plenty of mouth feel and a decent dose of fruit on the nose and the palate. Coming in at $26, that's fairly comparable for the BC Viogniers that I've seen. So, all in all, I'd say that it was a pretty decent first showing.

We lucked out with the weather and got to enjoy the Viognier out in the garden. But, one bottle didn't last all that long and, who's kidding who, the real reason for the night was to jump into a whole bunch of Nota Bene. As one of the original, and still reigning, BC cult wines, this Bordeaux or Meritage blend, indeed, causes BC wine lovers to look up and "take note." In fact, Beamer took a picture of the wines on his iPhone to send a text to Miss M's wine-drinkin' bro' and say, "Take a look at what we're drinking right now!"

Beamer brought along the bottle of 2004 that he still had and I tried to complement it by opening a bottle of 1999 and another of 2006. We'd hoped that three different vintages would give us an appropriate look at how the wine had developed over the years.

450. 1999 Black Hills Nota Bene (Okanagan Valley)

2004 Black Hills Nota Bene (Okanagan Valley) ('04 vintage already added to The List at #312)

451. 2006 Black Hills Nota Bene (Okanagan Valley)

The '99 vintage was the first year that Nota Bene was produced and the buzz it created, right out of the starting blocks, was the stuff of legends. As I've written in this blog previously, Boo and I just happened to drive by the old quonset hut winery one afternoon and stopped in for a look-see. We didn't even know if there was any wine available. This was our last bottle from that initial visit and I was actually a tad concerned that the bottle might not have any life left in it. There can't be that many of them still around.

Back at the turn of the century, there was no real coin given to the aging qualities of BC wine and we took a bit of a chance laying it down for as long as we did. That's partially why I was looking for an opportunity to try a tasting like this. Luckily for us, the wine was still fine. You could tell that it had some age on it. The colour was certainly more of a garnet than the deep purple of the two newer wines and there wasn't a heckuva lot of fruit left. Nor were the tannins or acidity that notable, but it was still a nicely structured wine and there was enough complexity to the flavours that you could savour and enjoy it.

Nowadays, the winery is quick to point out that Nota Bene is Cab Sauvignon dominant - unlike the majority of Okanagan Bordeaux blends that are Merlot driven. The 1999, however, was actually 64% Merlot with 26% Cab Sauv and 10% Cab Franc. The '04 was 46% Cab Sauv, 36% Merlot and 18% Cab Franc and the '06 was a similar blend of 47% Sauv, 37% Merlot and 16% Franc.

The '99 was even Boo's favourite of the evening - not too surprising since he appears to be particularly drawn to more Old World-y, rustic wines.

It was the 2006 that caught the most kudos from the rest of us. It was pretty much a consensus that the latest vintage still featured the most fruit on its profile and that seemed to be the deciding factor for us. This is still no Aussie or California fruit bomb, but there was enough black fruit in the 2006 to make it noticeably different. The 2004 seemed a bit tired - featuring neither the complexity of the 1999, nor the more upfront taste of the 2006. If I was told that I'd have to pay $60-plus for a bottle, I'd likely pass on the 2004 - not that you could buy a bottle at that price today.

In fact, shortly after the BBQ, I saw a marketing e-mail from Black Hills that was offering a boxed collection of all ten vintages of Nota Bene for $2,000. You can do the math as well as I can - and I don't know how much the wooden box would go for - but I'm just glad that we still have seven of the ten vintages in our cellar.

I'll be honest. None of us cried out in joy over any of the evening's wines. Some times, we just sit back and say, "We need to get another bottle of that!" That didn't happen tonight. It was great to try the wines and make a special occasion of the evening, but I'm not going to start proselytizing to get everyone to join the "Cult of Nota Bene." I'm not exactly sure why I feel kind of guilty saying this, but considering the variety of wines that are available nowadays - for appreciably less than $60 a bottle - our cellar may be looking to some other "star" BC wines to fill the racks in days to come.

We've still got some vintages of Nota Bene to add to The List - and they will make it - but for the time being, "cult wine" or not, just tell Reverend Jones that I'm not drinking the kool-aid.

No comments:

Post a Comment