Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Wrath of Bill

Since Boo and I were grilling up a big-ass steak tonight for dinner, I thought why not splurge and go all out with a big-ass bottle that I've been dying to pull the cork on. This baby's "big-assed" not only in its profile but in its story as well and it's likely one of those "once-in-a-lifetime" wines.

My last entry's Cab was from an iconoclast from south of the 49th Parallel. Tonight's wine is a Cab as well but it hails from one of the most colourful characters that the Okanagan Valley has to serve up: Bill Eggert. (As a bit of a side note, Bill even produces a wine that he calls Iconoclast.)

Bill - and his winery Fairview Cellars - was one of the eight wineries that I featured in posts leading up to the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference that was about to be held in Penticton. In that post, I mentioned that I would dearly loved to have opened a bottle of The Wrath Cab Sauv" but that it still had some ageing to do. Well, I've held off this long but I bumped into Bill at a recent BC wine tasting and he said that The Wrath was drinking beautifully right now.

I'm happy to report that his assessment was bang on.

More than a few local wine personalities have publicly stated that they don't feel the thick-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon grape can fully ripen on a consistent basis in the cool climate Okanagan. Bill begs to differ. He figures he grows as much Cab Sauv, if not more, as anyone in the valley and he finds that his Cab Sauv ripens more consistently than his Cab Franc - the grape variety touted as BC's answer to Cab Sauv simply because it's generally seen as an earlier ripener. A few years back, Bill told our BC Wine Appreciation Society Bus Tour that he prefers to listen to the vines rather than wine writers.

1888.  2009 Fairview Cellars - The Wrath (Okanagan Valley VQA)

I mentioned that this is likely a "once-in-a-lifetime" bottle - not because it's 100-point Premiére Cru Bordeaux that you could only afford to taste on a single occasion. Rather, it's because this is a one-off release that Bill and Fairview will likely never be able to replicate as much as he might like to produce it every year in ever-growing numbers.

The name of this wine is a tip of the hat to James Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" - partially to capture the hardship that Bill endured in preparing the vineyard for his Cab vines but perhaps even more so to commemorate the particular weather conditions that prevailed just prior to harvest time. A little "wrath of God" if you will. If I remember the story correctly, Bill had been nurturing a new vineyard for five years and 2009 was to be the first year that the vines would produce wine-worthy grapes. For Bill and the Okanagan, he finds that September makes or breaks the vintage. Lo and behold, as the 2009 vintage was just hitting stride and after one of the most outstanding growing seasons the region had experienced, pockets of the Okanagan were hit with a lightning and hail storm that nearly wiped out the entire season's fruit. The vineyard that Bill had worked so hard on and where the fruit for this wine originates was one of the hardest hit.

Following an assessment of the vines after the storm, Bill was left with the conclusion that the grapes had generally been destroyed. However, rather than seeing all the fruit rot from the broken skins, the heat that came after the storm fortuitously dried out the damaged grapes and Bill was left with enough of a crop to make 250 cases of an almost Amarone-like Cab.

Rich, balanced and full flavoured, this was a wine that I could drink as my house wine every day. We squeezed the bottle for every last drop and, surprisingly (for me when it comes to Cab Sauv), the sip was every bit as tasty on its own as it was with the steak.

Due to the production difficulties and the limited release, The Wrath started out at $65 - a hefty sum for an Okanagan wine. In comparison to other wines that fall into that "one-in-a-lifetime" category, I suppose it was a bargain. I heard Bill tell that he has a few cases of the wine left for library release but that they now retail at $100 a bottle. My $65 bottle was a bargain indeed.  If only I'd picked up a whole case.

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