Le Vieux Pin and La Stella, sister wineries from the Okanagan valley in British Columbia, Canada are known for capturing an essence of old-world winemaking in the new world. I’ve made an acquaintance with their bounty from time to time, most recently in 2011, when I tasted some Le Vieux Pin’s wines after they had recently uprooted Pinot Noir vines from the vineyard and replaced it with Syrah. I was thoroughly impressed with the Syrah takeover (here are my tasting notes from that time).
So I was delighted and curious when I was invited to sample their two new limited release wines, the Le Vieux Pin Retouche 2009 and La Stella’s Maestoso 2009 as well as La Stella’s La Sophia 2009.
First up was the Le Vieux Pin Retouche 2009, a “hermitaged” Bordeaux. If that term catches you off-guard, here’s the skinny: in the 18th and 19th century, some Bordeaux winemakers added Syrah – at times from the famous vineyards in Hermitage – to their wines to add roundness and comfort. For example, in 1775 Chateau Lafite‘s Cab was blended with Hermitage and was noted as one of the greatest wines of its day. With Retouche (the name itself is an homage to this practise that was kept quiet back then), Le Vieux Pin have found a suitable balance of just enough Syrah that it brings out the best of the Cabernet but still stays behind the scenes.
My notes on the ’09 Retouche: Velvet smooth with aromas of blackberries and smoke in a subtle old-world manner. Tannins that have sufficient kick without knocking you off your stool. Big, bold finish. The Retouche is definitely still young and best saved for a couple years down the road.
Maestoso 2009 (100% Merlot) is La Stella’s flagship wine, and what an impressive one she is! The 2009 growing-season was especially kind in the south Okanagan and the winemaking team at Le Vieux Pin have done a splendid job bringing it to bottle.
My notes on the ’09 Maestoso: Deep and dark in the glass. Delectably sweet raspberries and blueberries mingling with spice and a hint of rustic, meaty fattiness. An elegant, pleasant finish. A fine example of Merlot done right in the Okanagan.
The La Stella La Sophia 2009, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine, which is a rarity in the Okanagan and a wine which the winery makes in years it makes sense. There were only 48 cases produced from this vintage (that’s 2 barrels for you math geeks) so availability is very limited
My notes on the ’09 La Sophia: Dominated by candied cherry that was truly unique and interesting in a very good way. Hints of liquorice, building up through the finish. Tannins that take no prisoners.
The folks at Le Vieux Pin were also nice enough to set up a horizontal tasting of Viogniers and Rhone-style white blends from across the globe to taste against their “Ava”s but more on that a little later.
Till then, keep on sipping and swirling!
For more on wines from the Okanagan valley, these are the best books I know.