Sunday, November 25, 2007

RSVP Tasting: Only in restaurants you say?

Wine Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Gris 2004
From Okanagan, BC
Price $25.90 (MSL)
High hopes for any Blue Mountain product arise at least partly from the difficulty in getting them: Allocations are tight enough to make a retailer asking for more to sell feel like an envoy sent to lobby King Darius of Persia. Also, previous experience with their Pinot Blanc boded well. Unfortunately---perhaps because of over-praise from Darius’s rep, insults here fly thicker and faster than at a little-league baseball game: “Reminds me of a Sauvignon Blanc… or old sneakers” is Fearless Leader’s take. “Sweaty armpit” is another. The floodgates open: “I expected something softer.” “The fruit isn’t showing well.” “No varietal character whatever.” But mostly, the sense is one of irritation towards a ho-hum wine that’s been given a Paris Hilton-sized promo.

Wine Church and State Chardonnay Decleva 2005
From Twilight Zone, BC
Price $23.00 (MSL)
Young Grasshopper floats a theory for the lead taster: Expectation is not merely the source of all misery; expectation is the source of all everything. In tasting a wine, your sense of its quality will depend entirely on how it fits into your expectation of what that type of wine has come to taste like for you. (F'rexample, a Pinot, however terrific it tastes, will seem weird and disconcerting if it doesn’t taste like what you’ve come to expect from a Pinot.) So, after several faceless whites, the reason the group grabs onto this Church & State offering like a drowning submariner is because it actually tastes pretty much the way it is supposed to: New world-style Chard with hefty fruit in balance with big toasty oak. But under different circumstances, we might not have been able to pick it from a dozen others just like it. (History does not record the lead taster's response.)

Wine Orofino Chardonnay 2006
From Similkameen Valley, BC
Price $23.00 (MSL)
Orofino makes in-your-face products, and this one is no exception. We’re told that it’s a mix of 75% barrel-fermented and 25% in stainless steel, and this information leads to some hemming and hawing in the peanut gallery---among mere mortals, the distinction between 50-50 and 75-25 percent barrel/stainless fermentation is justifiably a teeny bit obscure. As a result, most taster's expectations are in limbo, and the comments become tentative: “Well, it tastes fairly sweet.” (And yes, it does.) “It has a sort of rhubarb aftertaste.” “Tastes more like a Pinot Blanc.” It’s left to the Boss to make sense of it all: “That bubble-gummy aspect you're tasting is a preservative.” He pours the rest of his glass out. “Terrifying.”

Wine Larch Hills Mad Angie 2006
From Shuswap Lakes, BC
Price $9.99 (MSL)
“Mad Angie” equals Madeleine Angevine, a cool-climate white varietal. This example has an indistinctly fruity nose and a musky finish on the palate, with nothing particularly memorable (or, to be fair, unbearable) in between. Everybody sips and catches up on their conversation, except Fearless Leader, who grumbles that it “smells like my old aftershave.” And I suppose he ought to know---he’s drunk enough of it.

Wine Summerhill Cabernets 2003
From Okanagan, BC
Price $22.95 (MSL)
A 50-50 mix of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc turns out to be a killer blend: Everybody likes it---even the most dyed-in-his-Aussie-wool Steven-Cipes critic among us is impressed. The Boss, having rinsed the after-shave from his glass, finds himself moved to plain-spun profundity: “Wow, is that ever good!” And it is---swell fruit, nice tannins and a wonderful, lengthy aftertaste. Will it ever come to a BC Liquor store near you? Stay tuned.

Wine Blue Mountain Pinot Noir Reserve 2004
From Okanagan, BC
Price $39.50 (MSL)
For once, the winery rep’s effusive praise doesn’t seem like overkill: This sends everybody’s eyebrows halfway up their foreheads. A very pale colour (almost a rosé) sets the tone for a far more elegant new-world Pinot than anybody felt they had a right to expect, with subtle fruit and a candy-like (but bone-dry), almost mystical finish. Everybody lingers over their glasses, nobody spits, and we all groan when we find out that restaurants have snagged every single bottle.

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