Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Pinot Fit For a Lieutenant Governor

Seems like we're on a bit of a run with tasty wine choices. Our last couple bottles - the Skillogalee Cab and the Ostler Pinot Gris (both from the Southern Hemisphere) - were real treats.  We've returned closer to home tonight with an Okanagan Pinot Noir, but it definitely kept our streak of happening wines alive.  I'm not overly surprised that tonight's wine was thoroughly enjoyable since it won one of only eleven Lieutenant Governor's Awards for Excellence in BC wine in 2011.

Despite the fact that this is the third L-G Award that Stoneboat has won, it doesn't seem to me that the winery has achieved the cachet or cult status that some of the other big names in BC wine have garnered.  Indeed, I've probably added four or five Stoneboat wines to The List already, but it's not a winery that I particularly know much about or treat as an annual "must buy" producer.

The "lack" of bottles in our cellar may relate to the fact that there isn't a whole lot of Stoneboat wine to be found.  The winery only produces about 3500 cases annually and, as such, you won't find it on a whole lot of shelves around town.  I was lucky enough to grab this bottle when I made a quick, side trip visit to the winery while heading to the Okanagan for the 2011 BC Wine Appreciation Society Bus Tour.  The L-G Award had already been announced but, surprisingly, they still had a couple boxes of wine still available.

Lucky us!

1286.  2009 Stoneboat Pinot Noir (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Stoneboat is a small, family run operation.  Having only been open and releasing wines since 2007, that's still a relative newcomer to the BC scene.  That doesn't mean that they appeared one day and started selling wine the next however. The story goes that the Martiniuk family (mére et pére - or mother and father) was looking to relocate to the Okanagan back in 1979 and they set about looking for a vineyard to purchase.  They managed to purchase their estate property on the Black Sage Road; however, it wasn't a vineyard at the time.  There were no vineyards for sale and the current estate vineyard was originally a 15-acre orchard that they had to "settle" for.

As has been told many a time when discussing BC wine, the introduction of Free Trade with the US in the 80's saw an industry-wide ripping out of the old hybrid varietal vines.  So, the timing for the Martiniuks was probably fortuitous in that they didn't have to rely on or rip out already established vines.  Rather, they "simply" ripped out the old fruit trees and started looking at what varietals of vinifera vines might be appropriate for the region.  Father Martiniuk, Lanny, played a big part in planning the fledgling industry's future during the formative years of restructuring.  He has been a director of the BC Grape Growers Association, the Grape Marketing Board and the BC Wine Institute.  Lanny is also a successful grapevine propagator and has grown millions of vines for vineyards all over BC.  He used all that burgeoning experience to good effect when designing his own vineyards.

 I was advised at the winery tasting room that being as knowledgable about grapevines as he was, Lanny had identified a short stretch of the local Southern Okanagan bench that was slightly cooler than the surrounding area.  He was pretty sure that he'd never be able to fully ripen Cab Sauv or any of the other big red varietals that were being grown nearby; so, he planted that section with Pinot Noir.  Considering the fact that this is Stoneboat's second L-G Award for Pinot Noir, he must have been onto something.

This was a glass of Pinot that packed plenty on the nose and the palate; yet it remained subtle with its overall presentation.  I doubt you'd mistake it for some of the bigger Pinots that are being made by New World producers but the abundance of red fruit and candied spice (the Tasting Room called it "a hint of lavender that lingers on the palate") set it apart from any French Pinot that you'd likely find for the same price - being an entirely reasonable $25.

As mentioned, we found it very tasty and the bottle quickly disappeared.  I might not have been quick to find Stoneboat wines previously, but I might need to re-think that strategy down the line.

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