A very good friend of mine, the inimitable Jake Skakun of Toronto's Grey Gardens, casually mentioned something to me at least 10 years ago when we were working together in Vancouver. We were tasting a new listing we'd just added to the wine program, I *think* it was a Zinfandel from Hendry, and he mentioned a toasty gingerbread note he often gets from the variety.
Now, I don't often taste Zinfandel, but it's a comment that always stuck with me.
I recently received a sample of Rust Wine Co.'s 2014 Zinfandel from the Golden Mile Bench in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. The vines were planted in 2002, so they've had a good amount of time to establish themselves, but I was still VERY, VERY APPREHENSIVE about how a local Zinfandel would play.
(For those not from around these parts, the region's a literal desert, with cacti, rattlesnakes, and a GDD higher than Napa; this wouldn't be the most unlikely variety to work here.)
The aromatics? BOOM! Jake's gingerbread notes wafted HARD. Currants, mulberries, blackberries and cocoa nestled well in polished tannins, while pitch-perfect acidity kept things lifted with charm.
There's a balance here; it's by no means sweet or cloying. Yeah, it's boozy (the label has it at 14.9% alcohol) - but here in Vancouver, we have a long, dark and rainy winter coming soon enough....
A premium, perennial British Columbian classic: the 'Nota Bene' Bordeaux-inspired red blend from Black Hills Estate Winery has always delivered quality and elegance. The soon-to-be released 2016 vintage (a mix of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc) continues the trend, offering sage-dusted black and red currants, plums, espresso and finesse at a $59 price. There is solid value here; the wine is both drinkable and age-able, and carries a good deal of complexity. In a local climate where premium wines can come out of the gates at ridiculous prices like, oh, $165 a pop, this gem at 60 bucks can almost be seen as a steal. Look for it to be released from the winery on September 1st.
Tucked in with this sample-drop was a new-to-me label from the winery, the 2016 Ipso Facto. This turns out to be the second edition of this wine, a broad-shouldered, Syrah-forward red, balanced with 25% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Now, I'm a big Syrah fan, and inclined to go in that direction rather than a Bordeaux-ish route on most occasions.
In my (yes, biased) opinion, the Ipso Facto is the superior wine of the two. Hey - the Nota Bene's no slouch, at all, but holy shit!
The fresh violets and forest floor aromatics! The mulberries, cocoa, mint, and fresh-cracked pepper! The well-integrated tannins! That drop of balsamic reduction on the finish! Spirited and tasty, I'm now pining for cold and rainy winter days so I can swaddle myself in the stuff.
ALSO: at $49, it's $10 less than the Nota Bene, and that's juuust enough coin to get some awesome charcuterie to go with it.
We definitely have another local legend on our hands.