Saturday, January 22, 2011

Petales from La Rose

With our last wine documenting a snippet of a French excursion into Mendoza and Argentina, it seems only natural to follow it up with a story of the French venturing into our Okanagan backyard.

The first of its kind in Canada, 1998 saw the commencement of a joint venture between two wine powerhouses in their respective countries. Vincor was Canada's largest wine producer with such names as Jackson-Triggs, Nk'mip, Sumac Ridge and See Ya Later Ranch in its portfolio. If you know anything about BC wines, you know of Vincor wines - even if you don't recognize the corporate name. They were negotiating to bring in a French partner to look at producing a premium Bordeaux-style blend in the Okanagan.

That partner turned out to be Groupe Taillan - a superstar in French wine, with a handful of top tier estates under its control in France, including the "classified" second growth St. Julien producer Chateau Gruaud- Larose.

After locating the chosen vineyards outside of Osoyoos (hence the combined name Osoyoos-Larose) and a painstaking planting of those vineyards, the label debuted in 2001 under the firm hand of Pascal Madevan, one of the most passionate winemakers to make it to the Okanagan. Le Grand Vin was unveiled to much local press and rather glowing reviews. For a first effort, from new vines, buzz for the new kid in the valley was ripe.

710. 2004 Osoyoos Larose Petales (VQA Okanagan Valley)

A few years later, as the vines began to produce more and better grapes, there was enough fruit to release a second label - just as most of the top Bordeaux chateaux do as well. Petales is that second wine and the 2004 was its first vintage.

With a slightly different blend than its older sibling, the powers that be go to great lengths to instruct that Petales is not a lesser wine. All the vineyards and vines are tended in the same manner and to the same production levels. It's simply a fact that different barrels will have different effects on the flavour profile of the wines inside. Some of the resulting wines may not fit the needs of the master blend, but can still be used in a second bottling. Indeed, for many of us who can't afford the classified growth wines of Bordeaux, second labels from those chateaux, especially in good vintages, are often a great means of sampling some of the big names of France.

This initial release of Petales featured a Merlot backbone (60%) with the balance of the blend split between the four remaining Bordeaux varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Malbec (6%), Cab Franc (4%) and Petit Verdot (4%).

I'm a little surprised that I've taken this long to add bottle of Petales to The List. For me, at most tastings, the Petales actually comes across as the more approachable of the two wines and at $25, I think it's very reasonably priced, particularly when compared to any number of similar wines from the Okanagan.

I think we might just have waited a bit long too open this bottle. I've generally recalled and enjoyed a more prominent fruit presence in the Petales than I noticed in this bottle and the winery does say that - unlike Le Grand Vin which almost needs some extra time in the bottle - Petales is pretty much ready to drink right away. Even if this bottle didn't impart wild eruptions of joy, I do know this won't be the last bottle of Osoyoos Larose, whether it will be a second wine or a grand one. It matters not.

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