John Schreiner

By John Schreiner
reprinted with permission

John Schreiner is Canada's most prolific writer of books on wine. Since his first book in 1984, The World of Canadian Wine, he has written 15, including multiple editions of The Wineries of British Columba, British Columbia Wine Country and John Schreiner's Okanagan Wine Tour Guide. John has always been supporter of our website.

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BC Red Icons: the fourth annual tasting

Painted Rock Estate Winery, which John and Trish Skinner opened only two years ago, is on a roll.

In the recent Canadian Wine Awards, Painted Rock was first among British Columbia wineries for the Winery of the Year award and third overall, just pipped by two Ontario wineries.

Painted Rock entered 13 wines in competition and came away with three gold medals, four silvers and six bronzes. One of the three golds was the winery's 2009 Red Icon, which finished second as the top British Columbia red after Church & State's Coyote Bowl Syrah 2009.

And at Sip Wines fourth annual tasting of B.C. Iconic Reds, Painted Rock Red Icon 2009 was scored in first place among the 19 great Okanagan and Similkameen blends.

Sip Wines is a VQA wine store in Richmond. The first three tastings of “iconic reds” were held in the store. This year, the demand of Sip's customers was so great that the tasting was moved to a room at the Richmond Country Club big enough to handle a sit-down tasting for more than 100.

This is a very professionally-run tasting. To begin with, the wines were all decanted several hours before the tasting. These were all young wines made, in general, to be cellared for 10 or so years, in the tradition of great Bordeaux reds. Decanting the wines and letting them breathe accelerates their development and enables us to enjoy them sooner.

The wines were served blind, one at a time, and in good stemware. No one, other than Sip proprietor Simon Wosk – who did not have a vote - had any idea what the order was until all the wines had been tasted and all the ballots were tallied.

Guests at the event were able to order their favourite wines. When a winery agrees to enter its wine, Simon makes every effort to get an allocation set aside for attendees at the tasting. For the most part, these wines are produced in small volumes, with sales limited to the winery and to very few wine stores.

There was one wine here that I had never even heard of. I suspect most of the attendees have not tasted most of these wines because they are so hard to get.

For collectors of fine British Columbia wine, this tasting should be one of the highlights of the year. None of these wines disappoint. Only three of the wines has less than 90 points on my score card (one 88 and two 89s). The others ranged from 90 to 95: impressive winemaking!

Here are my notes on the wines in the order that they were ranked by the attendees.



Painted Rock Red Icon 2009 ($55). This is a big, unfiltered red, a blend of Merlot (30%), Cabernet Franc (29%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Petit Verdot (15%) and Syrah (1%). This is the third vintage of Red Icon and the first with no Malbec in the blend. It begins with aromas of spice, blackberry, black currant and dark cherry. It shows a rich texture with flavours of berries, plums, dark chocolate and vanilla. This is a wine, while still youthful and in need or cellaring, which has both power and elegance.


Church & State Quintessential 2008 ($50). This is a blend of five Bordeaux varietals (the percentage of each is not available). Each varietal was aged separately in French oak for 12 months and then, after the wine was blended, it spent another 12 months in French oak. The wine soaked up the wood very well; it does not intrude on the vibrant aromas and flavours of red fruit (raspberry, cherry), with hints of mocha and red liquorice. The fine-grained tannins give the wine a supple, accessible texture.

Laughing Stock Portfolio 2008 ($40). The wine is 53% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 9% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. This is a big, satisfying wine with 14.6% alcohol. It shows spicy red berries and vanilla on the nose, flavours of plum and black cherries and ripe tannins that make the wine rich on the palate.

Mission Hill Oculus 2007 ($70). This is 50% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot. It is a big wine with muscular, but ripe, tannins, a structure to enable to wine to age 10 or 15 years. The wine offers layer upon layer of flavour. The initial aromas were primarily oak and dark chocolate; plum and cherry aromas developed with time. On the palate, the flavour layers revealed plum, currants, figs, chocolate, with a hint of spice on the finish.

Poplar Grove Legacy 2007 ($50). This is 71% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. Here is a wine that spent two years in barrel and another two in bottle before release. Even with all that barrel and bottle age, it retains vibrant flavours of currants and blackberries, aromas of plum and vanilla. The fine-grained tannins contribute to a full texture.

CedarCreek “Colbert Edition” Platinum Reserve Meritage 2006 ($45 for a production of 144 cases). This is a blend of 40% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Malbec, 9% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. There are aromas of cassis, spice, vanilla leading to plum flavours with a hint of eucalyptus. The texture is still firm enough to suggest aging this wine a few more years.

Lake Breeze Tempest 2008 ($35). This is 50% Merlot and 25% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The wine begins with an attractive perfume of blueberries and cassis. Rich on the palate, it tastes of plum and black currant and red liquorice. The wine is elegant and balanced.

Hester Creek The Judge 2007 ($50 for a production of 220 cases). This is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon with about two years of barrel age and more than a year of bottle aging before release. It is a big wine with firm tannins, with mint, vanilla and black currants on the nose and with a complex flavour profile – currants, black pepper, figs, with a hint of liquorice on the finish. The 2008 vintage of The Judge has just been released through the winery's website.

Nk'Mip M?R'R'IYM 2009 ($50). This wine is a blend of 45% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. In keeping with the winery's name – which means marriage – this struck me as quite a pretty wine with sweet aromas of cherry and blueberries and with flavours of cherry and blackberry.

Mission Hill Compendium 2008 ($40). This is 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. This is a richly satisfying wine, beginning with appealing aromas of black cherries, vanilla and spice. On the palate, there are flavours of black currants and plums with notes of sage and tobacco.


Fairview Cellars Bear's Meritage 2008 ($35 but sold out). The blend is not available on the label but the minty note on the nose suggests this might be built around Cabernet Sauvignon. On the palate, the fruit flavours are vibrant, with notes of black currant and liquorice. There is also a taste of black chocolate in this interesting wine


Please see Robert's Selections

Previous articles:

Reviews Dec 2011
Banee Celebrations
Lieutenant Governor's Awards for Excellence in British Columbia Wines
40 Knots Winery
Quails Gate
Fairview Cellars
Crushpad
Prospect Winery
Ruby Blues
South Okanagan Wineries
Vancouver Island Wineries

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