I’m getting a kind of crash course refresher on Canadian wine these days. I’m working on a story for En Route magazine that will try to give a sense of just how diverse Canadian wine has grown in recent years, as new wineries constantly come online and previously little-known regions come to the fore. Great fun, as I touch on wines from Coast to Coast, from the sparklers of Nova Scotia to the reds of British Columbia.
Along the way, one of the people I got to talk to is Leanne Clemens Froese, from Coletta& Associates, who does PR for Vincor out of Vancouver. Along with samples of one of the vineyards featured in the piece, she also sent other “goodies” my way. Clever girl.
I have to say I’m very grateful to have a chance to sample more wines from British Columbia, which we get very few of in Quebec. Hopefully, that situation will evolve over the coming years, as more and more wineries show their potential. A lot of vineyards are coming “online” right now, after years of planting, so the quality and diversity of the wines should only grow over the coming years.
Of course, to make this recent vineyard explosion possible, there had to be pioneers who believed that the Okanagan could be a great wine-producing region. Sumac Ridge, founded by Harry McWatters in 1981, was quite ahead of the curve. It is, they say, the oldest operating winery in BC.
The Black Sage Vineyard, where the 2006 cabernet sauvignon I received from Leanne was grown, was planted in 1993. 115 acres in total: quite the show of confidence in the future. Sumac Ridge produces over 100,000 bottles a year, now, making it a significantly large producer on the Canadian scale.
After 13 years, the Black Sage vines, producing Sumac Ridge’s second-tier wines (just behind the Pinnacle series) are getting to an age where they can start showing what they’re all about. Especially in the 2006 vintage, described as pretty much ideal in the vintage reports I’ve seen.
The 2006 cabernet sauvignon shows a lot of intensity from the get-go. The nose of this dark ruby wine is tightly wound: a few years in the cellar probably wouldn’t hurt it. Black fruit and coffee aromas dominate the nose, with corresponding flavors jumping at you when you taste it. The coffee distinctly turns into Tia Maria, the famous coffee liqueur, showing the richness and the toasted character of the wine. Maybe a little too toasted, though: the finish is a bit bitter, although the dark fruit does hang out around it with what lingers in the mouth. For a wine of that price (25$ in B.C., probably closer to 20$ in Ontario and Quebec), it does show a fair amount of complexity: a bit of orange marmelade and green pepper also popped up in the mix, from one sip to the next.
Grilled meats easily come to mind as a food match, to go with the wine’s toasted character. I can see it as a perfect companion to the barbecue season, once all the snow we have finally clears up.
Overall assessment? I really have to get myself to the Okanagan…