Sunday, January 2, 2011

Timbre with Darren

Mr. D. came by to drop a few things off. Seeing as how it was a pretty nice day, we decided to take a walk over to The Drive and grab lunch at Timbre, one of our preferred local restaurants and watering holes. As casual as Timbre is, I find that they have a nice, little compact wine list - it being particularly strong with its representation of BC wines.

678. 2009 Road 13 - Honest Johns' Red (VQA Okanagan)

I've previously mentioned that Golden Mile Winery was one of the BC wineries that I took an early interest in. A couple years back, it rebranded itself as Road 13 in a rather magnanimous gesture that allowed the region as a whole to use the Golden Mile moniker as a marketing tool. The new Road 13 has taken another big step over the last year. They've decided to phase out a number of their varietal wines and focus on blends.

It's been called a "bold move" - even by Michael Bartier, their winemaker of the day. Making and marketing wines as single varietals was a major part of the New World's means of educating its new wine-drinking public - particularly in California and Australia. It was felt that it would be easier to introduce new drinkers to a style or type of grape than it would be to teach them the concept of terroir or the idea of where the grapes came from.

Road 13 has stated that it thinks the BC public is ready to look beyond a label that announces Riesling, Chardonnay, Syrah or Merlot and look more to a wine that takes the various components of these varietals and blends them to make a more complex and enjoyable wine. Old World countries like France, Italy and Spain have been blending their wines for centuries. Even the New World has recognized the benefits of blending in that most regulatory structures have allowed additional grapes to be added to single varietal wines - up to as much as 25% in some cases.

The winery has stated that it's aware that it may be sacrificing some of its most popular varietal wines; however, as Bartier was quoted by various local wine writers, "This is not about Merlot - it's about the Okanagan. Wine that tastes like the Okanagan." When you consider that there are a great number of micro-climates throughout the Okanagan and no one seems to be able to reach a consensus about what the best varietals will be for the region, coming up with a wine that tastes like the Okanagan is a pretty hefty goal. Right now there are a great many wines, of an equally great assortment of styles that claim to taste like the Okanagan.

That being said, I think they might be on a path that will suit me fine. As a rule, I definitely like my blends.

Road 13 already has a number of blends available and Honest John's Red has been around for at least a couple of years now. Winemaker, Bartier stated that he thought the 2009 vintage was the strongest yet and that's after the 2008 won a Gold medal at the 2010 All Canadian Wine Championships. Honest John's is a blend of 43% Cab Franc, 29% Merlot, 14% Cab Sauv and 14% Syrah. The Merlot and Syrah are grown on the winery's Golden Mile home vineyards, while the two Cab's hail from their Black Sage Road holdings across the valley.

It will be interesting to see how the winery's new outlook unfolds over the next so many years. Bartier was known to particularly love his blends, but word is that he's about to leave the winery in the near future to start his own winery. To the point where Road 13 has already named its new winemaker, Jean-Martin Bouchard, who's done stints as a winemaker in Australia, Germany, Ontario and with Sumac Ridge further up in the Okanagan.

For the wine at hand though, at $20, most writers comment that it packs a bigger punch than you'd expect at this price point (at least for BC reds). And, no doubt, decidedly more than it would as a single varietal.

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