July 22, 2005

Summer Patio Wines

I should preface this write up with the caveat that I was not in the best of moods going into the tasting, uncomfortable due to the heat and an unfortunate overindulgence in potato chips that left me feeling rather grotesque.

Note to self: enough with the potato chips, already.
Note to busybody Superego: La la la la la-la! (fingers in ears).


The Summer Patio Wine tasting has become an annual event. Every July, we stagger into the restaurant out of the oppressively humid heat, and set about drinking wines that fall into the category of refreshing, inexpensive (usually), and "quaffable."

We started with a sparkling Veuve du Vernay Blanc de Blanc Brut from France, an impressively inexpensive $13. There was a crisp dry scent of apples that reminded me of a good sparkling cider, and sure enough, that was reflected on the palate, too. This definitely hit all the critera, being refreshing, cheap, and at only 11% alcohol, pretty quaffable.

The next two wines were from a small, new winery in the Okanagan, Joie, in Penticton. We had their Unoaked Chardonnay 2004, and their "Noble Blend" 2004. It should be noted that the "noble" comes from the last name of one of the winemakers, and is not related to botrytis affected grapes. Both clocked in at $18, which is actually a little on the high side for the Patio category, but not completely out of the ballpark. The Chardonnay was devastatingly true to typicity: soft, slightly grassy, but most of all - buttery and oily. Thank goodness, for my sake, it was unoaked, because I do not care for oak in my white wines. Given how big and true to form this Chardonnay was, I suspect that if it were oaked it would have that awful acrid wood taste that I associate with Chardonnay's from California (especially in the early 90s). The Noble Blend was a blend of Gewurtztraminer, Kerner, and Muscat, and smelled tropically sweet. Everyone at the table agreed on apricots, and I got a strong hit of guava, too. The palate was thick, sweet, and overwhelmingly apricot. I could have made cake with it, but it wasn't nearly refreshing enough for a hot summer patio. A bit cloying, really. I will be interested to see what this winery does in the future.

From there, we re-visited an old favourite - Cloudy Bay's 2004 Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand. Cloudy Bay is one of the more famous of the New Zealand wineries, Oyster Bay hot on its heals. Along with the fame has come a corresponding jump in prices, so our little Sauv. blanc came in at $35 - a bit ouchy for patio sipping. Its good acids cut nicely through the stickiness of the weather, and its aromas of grass, foliage and dusty road were right on target. The palate was cool and crisp and mild, with a touch of raw green vegetable that wasn't unappealing. It wasn't as good as I remember it being, but it was quite enjoyable. It may have suffered in the line-up placement behind something as sticky-sweet as the Joie Noble Blend.

Our fifth wine was the universally reviled Famiglia Bianchi 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina. In my experience, Argentina does not do wine well. I've had a handful of drinkable Malbecs, and the rest, in my opinion, has been dreck. This was no exception: Smelling predominantly of oily rubber, the combined flavours of wood, grease, pitch earned a "nastiness" notation on my tasting sheet. (((shudder))) That was not worth the $20. Don't pour for me, Argentina.

Moving on rather rapidly, we hit the Quail's Gate Old Vines Foch from 2002. Another BC winery, and one that's produced a number of very respectable wines, this particular wine is of limited availability and has something of an almost cult-following. The nose was quite closed, but the flavours were juicy and dark. At $19 per bottle it's not bad value, but I wasn't blown away by it, either. Still, this was one that I finished the glass on, so perhaps that speaks for itself.

The final wine was a 2003 Paradise Ranch Late Harvest Merlot, also from BC. Like most late harvest wines, it was sweet - but not as cloying to me as the Joie Noble Blend. The colour was a light, pinkish red, and the nose and palate both reflected honey very strongly. I got a taste of raspberry, but other than that the fruit seemed to come under the category of miscellaneous. Perhaps some berry? By this point in the tasting, I was fairly distracted and quite irritable, so I may not have done it justice, but I didn't enjoy this one as much as some of the other tasters. It was $30.

There wasn't a really clear winner, and we actually failed to take our usual poll at the end of the tasting (I guess I wasn't the only one that was distracted and tired). I would say that in pure Patio requirements, the Veuve Vernay reigned, but I also enjoyed the Cloudy Bay and the Old Vines Foch. Our next tasting will focus primarily on BC small lots. I intend to refrain from the potato chips before that one.

Previous Tastings:
Portugese Table Wines
Pinot Noir
South African Red Wines
Spanish Wines


linda said...

Was this tasting at Cru? Because they sent me the "summer patio wine" tasting notice and I was seriously tempted ( I love that place).

Dawna said...

Hi Linda,

No, not Cru - although I've been meaning to go there! This is a monthly club that meets in Kitsilano at The VineYard Restaurant.

Just Me said...

thanks for the heads up, dawna. i think i'll steer clear of all of them myself.