Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Award Winning Neighbours

In the cause of brevity and catching up, I'm going to add the next two wines to The List on the same post. They might not have been opened on the same night but they are neighbours on the Naramata Bench and both appear regularly in this blog.

1043. 2005 La Frenz Merlot (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

La Frenz is definitely one of our favourite "Go To" wineries. Consistent quality is a hallmark for La Frenz, but that being said, I think we might have been better off had we "gone to" this bottle a little while ago. Boo's tightening of the "No Buy Leash" is going to see our opening more bottles like this - ones that have seen a bit of ageing - and maybe that's a good thing. As much as I enjoy La Frenz on the whole, I think the integration of fruit, acidity and structure that we're used to with their wines had passed us by with this bottle.

On the other hand, our slight disappointment in the wine might just show how little Boo and I know when it comes to fine wine. The 2005 Merlot won Gold at the All Canadian Wine Championships and won "Best Wine of Show" and "Best Red Wine" at the 2007 Northwest Wine Summit. Awards don't get much bigger than that for BC wines.

What the heck do I know anyhow? Guess it's a good thing that we have one more bottle to give it another go.

1044. 2010 Red Rooster Pinot Blanc (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Red Rooster's home estate vineyard and winery is located less than a mile down the road from La Frenz and, as often noted in this blog, winemaker, Karen Gillis, and team have been raising the bar year after year of late. Karen's had a banner year of awards herself in 2011. Her Chardonnay was named one of the top five in the world at the Chardonnay du Monde competition in France; the Pinot Noir won Best New World Pinot in California; her Syrah was named Best Red at the 2011 BC Wine Awards and a recent Meritage won one of eleven Lieutenant Governor's Wine Awards given last summer.

The Pinot Blanc hasn't garnered huge press and hardware yet; but, boy, were Boo and I ever pleasantly surprised when we opened this bottle! As participants in the Adopt-A-Row program, we receive a mixed case of wine every year and this year's case recently arrived. (Thankfully, it doesn't contravene the No Buy Leash.) We simply grabbed the Pinot Blanc as an easy weeknight wine. I could easily have opened a second bottle right then and there.

Most folks go right past Pinot Blanc on the wine shelves. It generally doesn't tend to stir much in the way of flavourful emotions. This bottle proves that such a statement doesn't have to be the case. I know that Barbara Philip, Canada's first female Master of Wine, feels that Pinot Blanc could be the best choice of a varietal for the Okanagan Valley to adopt as a signature grape and help the region make a splash on the world wine scene - much along the lines that Sauvignon Blanc became synonymous with New Zealand.

This is a prime example of a wine that can turn heads. It did just that for us. With its partial exposure to a bit of French oak and 6 months of ageing on its lees, the wine was rich and complex in a way that I don't usually associate with Pinot Blanc. There was plenty of Okanagan tree fruit front and centre and a real nice, but bracing, acidity and citrus note on the finish.

A $17 price tag isn't going to hurt at all either.

I'm going to look forward to another bottle of this one.

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