Van Westen Voluptuous 2007


Classic, classic, classic.  If more meritage blends from BC were built this way, we would get a decent reputation for quality.

Here the problem!!    I recommend this wine, you go out and pick up a bottle or few and you take it home and drink it.  How many of you are going to hold onto this wine for the 5 plus years it needs to show even better?  The statistics say – very few of you.

The wine maker grew incredible fruit, oak aged the wine to give it structure and balance, and deep down knows it will show its best in the future.  Then you have this fundamental reality of business called cash flow.  Having already invested 2-3 years of inventory and production, the wine needs to start earning its keep.  As with the majority of the wineries in the world, very few have the financial capabilities to age their wines till perfection before releasing to the public.  Not to mention the winery would have to charge more for the wine to age it for you.

Here’s the incentive – my crystal ball tells me if you held this wine for at least 3 more years and opened it on a wonderful fall day in 2015 the wine would likely be rated 93+ points.  Would that convince you?

I preach understand your palate.  In other words discover what you like to drink, the more you ask “why” you like it, the more answers will help you define the wine styles you like best.


Nichol Pinot Gris 2011 – 89 pts and defining minerality

Minerality in wine is not easy to define.  Some experts argue minerality expresses a sense of place, others struggle with the definition of minerality and whether one can actually taste it or is it simply a lack of fruit flavours.

If we look to examples like Chablis in Burgundy with its chalky limestone, or the reds of Pauillac with its gravel from the Médoc, or the slate you find from the Mosel region in Germany, they all offer a unique flavour that defines a sense a place.  When you have tasted enough wines from around the world, you recognize subtle details that define the essence of a region that speaks to your gut when your tasting blind.  Old world wines tend to show minerality better than new world wines and many believe it has to do with the reserved expression of fruit and the lack of prevalent oak.

The reason i’m babbling about minerality is the wines from Nichol Vineyards tend to show this character of restrained fruit and sense of minerality.  The 2011 Pinot Gris is a great example for those of you not sure about this term.  The fruit is not as ripe and intense as previous vintages and the extended cold soaking they normally do provides a slight increase in tannins that are felt throughout the palate.  This combination, along with the lack of oak, allows for better expression of minerality to be tasted.

I really like this expression and as it settles into the bottle (just recently bottled) we will see even better definition of fruit and rounder texture as the natural acidity drops slightly.  This is a serious wine that isn’t afraid to show its little imperfections and that makes it honest and that earns my respect.

Sumac Ridge Stellars Jay 2006

Sumac Ridge Winery has been making bubbles since the late 80’s and the Stellars Jay label since the mid 90’s.  You may even luck out and still find some 98 or 2000’s on some specialty retail shelves.  Absolutely worth the buy and if you don’t pick it up, please email me the location and I will go grab it.  Sumac Ridge allows their bubbles to sit three years in the bottle with the yeast (en tirage, or on the lees) before taking the yeast out (disgorgement).  This allows the wine to develop more complexity and round out the higher acidity.  The longer it sits en tirage, the more likely the wine will develop more complexity with yeast and bread like flavours to compliment the fruit.  

How long a wine spends on the lees is up to the winemaker and all depends on the wine. I have had some older sparkling wines made by Eric von Krosigk, who is the winemaker again for Summerhill Winery, that spent 7-8 years en tirage to be these complex and sophisticated sparkling wines with lots of life in them.  Sumac Ridge follows traditional AOC standards from France that stipulate a sparkling wine with a vintage on it must remain in bottle with the yeast for a minimum of 3 years.  If it is a non vintage, then its only 1.5 years.

This 2006 is still available but 2007 is becoming the more common vintage on retail shelves, I will have a review of the 2007 coming soon.  With 6 years of age, the bright acidity is starting to drop and give the wine some weight and fleshiness to the mouth feel.  I like bubbles with some depth and weight to the palate as it lends itself better to food.  I will enjoy drinking this wine for the next three to four years.  Please don’t wait for a special occasion to open some bubbles, do like Bella Wines says and “Celebrate Today”.