Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sandhill Malbec

I did a quick search of the blog postings and the wines I've already mentioned and I was rather surprised to see that this entry is going to be only the eighth Sandhill wine that will actually be added to The List. I suppose that eight wines from one winery is still fairly hefty but I thought we drank more Sandhill than that. Guess I've been saving them for too many special occasions.

I'll have to remedy that over the next so many months because I know we've got more than a couple more bottles hanging around the house.

718. 2001 Sandhill - Small Lots Phantom Creek Vineyard Malbec (VQA Okanagan Valley)

With time and space a premium, I won't regurgitate a lot of what I've already written about Howard Soon and Sandhill in those earlier postings I mentioned, you could always use the search function on the blog and take a look at them if you're interested. Rather, let me say that it wasn't easy to find out much about this Malbec on the net - even Sandhill's very complete website, in its section on past vintages, only starts with the 2002 vintage.

Sandhill's first vintage for any wine was 1998 and the earliest reference I could find to the Small Lots Program was the 1999 Barbera. I think this 2001 was the first bottling of Sandhill's Malbec and there were only 288 cases produced. I no doubt picked it up because I'd never seen a BC Malbec before this. It may well have been this first Malbec varietal wine ever released in the province. There may be more and more Malbec being grown in the Okanagan but the grapes are largely used in Bordeaux blends. There still aren't all that many wineries that produce a Malbec varietal wine.

Interestingly enough, at least for me, Boo's and my "adopted row" at Red Rooster is Malbec and Red Rooster and Sandhill are both owned by Peller Estates. No doubt Howard Soon and Red Rooster's personable winemaker, Karen Gillis, have had more than a couple chats about the qualities and capabilities of the Malbec grape in the Okanagan. I know that Red Rooster only started growing their Malbec to add to a Bordeaux, Meritage blend but the Malbec proved to be so good that they bottled it on its own - that's another story though.

I'm a tad surprised that it's taken us this long to open the bottle. I generally don't think of Malbec as being a wine to lay down for a long time. Further, I'd think that an early venture into the varietal - like this Sandhill - might not be the best bottle to experiment with for aging. It wasn't deliberate on my part, but I guess it's safe to say that my faith in Soon is strong enough that I figured the wine could handle it.

I'm sure that the wine likely had more fruit on both the nose and palate when it was released seven or so years ago, but at least a wine that's well-balanced when it's released has a much better chance of standing the test of time - even if it doesn't hold all its fruit. At this point in its life, this particular bottle wasn't going to take on big Argentine Malbecs, but then I doubt that was ever the intent of the winery. We thought it held its own for dinner though - even after all these years - and I'm sure that the newer vintages will be even stronger.

I'll have to look for a same year vintage of both the Sandhill and the Red Rooster and taste them together. It would be fun to see how the master and one of his protegees approach the same varietal.

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