In a newer wine region it’s easy to get wrapped up in fresh and youthful wines, as those are the wines most often available. There might not be much to look back on or taste through. So when opportunity presents to reflect on a decade of wine production, it’s something to jump into with both feet. This is what the Similkameen Valley’s Clos du Soleil has done for six years: invite a group of wine enthusiasts from their wine club, the media, and people like me to taste through a Verticale of cellar wines from their collection, focusing on two flagship blends.
Presented as a wine-paired lunch, the Verticale has evolved from a smaller wine tasting with light snacks into a sensory exploration of wine and food stretching to a marathon 5 hours. Granted, each year adds more wines to the flights (although there is no more of the inaugural 2006 vintage wine). The invitation was ambitiously set for 2.5 hours, which took us about half-way through the experience. I’m not complaining – it was educational and delicious.
Why drink older BC wines? Because we can better see where we’re going if we look back at where we’ve been. In newer world wine regions like the Okanagan and Similkameen there’s a consumer affinity for drinking wines as we get them. Ageing a wine often means letting it sit for a few weeks in our basement. We need patience, and lots of it, to explore the potential of newer world wines and wineries haven’t the history (or often the capital) to cellar wines for us. That shouldn’t mean we can’t age wines from newer regions, but it requires some investment on our part and a good deal of restraint. One needn’t purchase a case of wine at a time, but we should tuck away a bottle or two when we can. It’s worth the effort.
Who: Clos du Soleil
What: Verticale, wine-paired tasting lunch (media invitation)
Where: Similkameen Valley
When: September 30, 2017
Standout wines: 2011 Capella & 2011 Signature
Looking over ten years of wine in one portfolio can offer a good indication of a winery’s growth, development, and focus. If the portfolio is solid, it can also provide a time capsule snapshot of a region’s growing conditions and a sense of that inexplicable terroir. While waiting for their estate vines to reach maturity, Clos du Soleil sourced fruit from other vineyards; it’s only as of 2012 that the winery produced wines from 100% estate fruit. When tasted side by side, the shift in wine profile is like a sensory bookmark.
Of the tasting notes below there is a similarity in the descriptors (these are, after all, the same wine), but take note of the order. We begin with older wines that show minerality and aged notes first, followed by fruit, if there is any. On the younger/newer wines the fruit takes centre stage as those tertiary and more mature tones have yet to develop.
Capella a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon
Flight One 2007, 2008, 2009 with fresh shucked oyster, smoked apple, pickled gooseberry, potato crusted west coast oyster, Cawston apple puree, pickled gooseberry, smoked lemon oil, garden nasturtium oil
2007: full tertiary notes, almond and honeycomb, marigold, bright acid with hay, honey, caramel, medium+ weight, almost woodsy and earthy
2008: seashore, brine, marmalade, honey, apricot, with round and supple mouthfeel, medium+ weight, and more stone fruit on the palate
2009: waxy, bergamot, seashore and brine, citrus marmalade, bright acidity, medium weight
Flight Two 2010, 2011, 2012 with crispy pork belly, late harvest peach slice and vanilla, young goat cheese and tarragon, slow braised pork belly, vanilla and goat cheese risotto, white tea compressed peach, smoked vanilla ash, tarragon oil
2010: brine, seashell, marmalade, hazelnut, gooseberry, lemongrass, grassy/herbal notes still evident, orange pith/rind, medium weight with complexity
2011: grass and hay, seashore, stone, lemon pith, lemon/lime zest, leaner and brighter with a foot in each new/old wine worlds, medium weight but with depth
2012: hay, grass, straw, green herbs, lemon/lime zest, citrus, fresh acidity, medium weight, youthful
Flight Three 2013, 2014, 2015 with pan-seared scallop, grapefruit segment, cucumber, scallop ceviche, “kimchi” pickled cucumber, saffron syrup, grapefruit, chili threads, micro greens
2013: hay, grass, chamomile & bergamot, honeycomb, floral/orchard blossom, with a creaminess and medium+ weight, acid zing
2014: citrus, rind, pith, lemon/lime, grass, fresh and tingly acidity, the best pairing with this course
2015: brine, lemon/lime, pith, citrus, honeysuckle, wet stone, grass, with a delicate floral on the post-nasal and a hint of cucumber & greens
Signature a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, malbec
Flight One 2007, 2008, 2009 with Brant Lake Wagyu, chocolate and olive, vanilla green bean, Brant Lake Wagyu steak, vanilla butter, tobacco, roasted green bean puree, cocoa nibs
2007: dark, brick-dust-brown, smoke, cocoa, tobacco, leather, soil, leather, baking spice, creamy palate, spice, soft tannins, full, lengthy
2008: dark dusted brick, cocoa, nuts, toasted tobacco, leather, earth, spice, bright acidity, sweet earth, grippy tannins, full, lengthy
2009: deep garnet, cherry, earth, wet stone, blackberry, dark berries, cocoa, grippy tannins, full, lengthy
Flight Two 2010, 2011 with smoked duck, brûlée plum, morel tea, black tea cured duck leg, shredded duck pancake, sautéed morel, julienne fig, black tea dust, black fruit glaze
2010: spiced plum, sweet earth, leather, tobacco, tea, firm but approachable tannins, the best pairing with this course
2011: graphite, cherry, earth, cocoa, tea, lean, granite/rock, elegant weight and texture, crisp acidity, smoke, a personal favourite
Flight Three 2012, 2013, 2014 with organic bitter chocolate, cherry, black fruit spoon, organic chocolate mousse, burnt cherry bark, black fruit meringue, bourbon cherries, vanilla strands
(all Similkameen fruit & wild/natural ferments)
2012: cola, flint, cedar, graphite, baking spices, deep and rich, chalky/round texture, fresh acidity, lengthy
2013: sour cherry, flint, cola, charcoal (next morning campfire), baking spices, grippy tannins, bright acid, weighty, lengthy
2014: cherry, red currant, sweet smoke (humidor), tobacco, cedar, fresh acidity, big grippy tannins, heft, lengthy
FOOD: exquisite food pairings by chef Natasha Schooten of Walnut Beach Resort, Osoyoos
it should go without saying, but in addition to the text all images are copyright of Jeannette Montgomery and republication or reproduction without permission is prohibited