SEVERAL years ago, Quails Gate coowner Ben Stewart did something unprecedented.
He held a tasting of his wines at the Four Seasons, mixed in with comparable drops from elsewhere in the world. When the wraps came off (it was a blind exercise) it turned out that the Quails Gate wines had held their own. It also underscored another point: that Quails Gate was in tune with wine styles, quality and comparative values from other wine regions - which, at least at the time, was not always the case with most Okanagan producers.
Last week Wines of British Columbia, with the assistance of Master of Wine (and Similkameen grapegrower) Rhys Pender pulled off a similar exercise, to give a sense of how B.C. wines might fare beside those from elsewhere.
So, how did they do?
In a word: Well.
On occasion, some critics of B.C. have been quick to condemn the home team for wines that they perceive to be overpriced in world terms. This may be a fair comment in the case of the hotly contested $10 to $20 price range, where it's tough to beat. But what happens when you up the ante and start talking better quality and pricier comparisons?
Over five flights of three wines each, the B.C. wine generally held its own or, dollar for dollar, easily matched value of its competitor. It's also worth noting that when choosing the wines for comparison the organisers didn't hold back. These were for the most part worthy competitors - and while some prevailed, it was usually at a cost.
CedarCreek Riesling 2010 (reviewed here last week) truly delivers zippy value at $17.90, even beside a stalwart such as the layered St. Urbans Hof Bockstein Kabinett (Mosel, $29.99). In the Chardonnay department it was less convincing, while Quails Gate's textbook Okanagan Pinot Noir ($24.99) held its own with pricier contenders from both Central Otago and Burgundy.
B.C. Syrah's star has been on the rise for some time now but even at BCLS $59.99 the superbly meaty, spicy and black fruit Cornas Delas Chante Perdrix 2007 was a show-stopper. Yet at half the price ($34.99), the black pepper spiced Nk'Mip Syrah '08 yielded more proof that Syrah's foothold in the Okanagan is firm.
At the end of the day, the exercise wasn't so much about the best "deal" but more about B.C.'s more consistent producers being able to hold their own on the world stage, which they certainly can. And, sometimes, as in the case of Osoyoos Larose 2008 ($45) deliver considerably more.
- QwAM QwMT Pinot Noit 2009. Speaking of B.C. Pinot, this just released "2Q" (top tier) from Nk'Mip Cellars is one of the best to come out of the valley for quite some time. Look for bright cherry and strawberry flavours along with gently savoury, earthy notes wrapped up in fine, wellintegrated tannins for a smooth mouthfeel; and then go think about some wild mushroom risotto. BCLS $30.
Belly's Budget Best
- Pascual Toso Brut. Here's a wallet-friendly, early patio season budget sparkler that you can pair with just about anything, or just sip and celebrate spring's overdue arrival. Made from 100 percent Chardonnay. Lively bubbles, some citrus hints, with pretty decent acidity for the dollars. BCLS $14.99