B.C.’s Jackson-Triggs & Inniskillin, Australia’s C
In my conversations with Constellation they have said nothing will change. They told me, ‘Keep on doing what you are doing’”. Which suits Jackson-Triggs Okanagan winemaker Bruce Nicholson perfectly. The former Niagaran has piloted JTO to critical acclaim in international and domestic competitions since the turn of the millennium, and if Constellation Brands, the new American owners of Vincor Canada, do not make changes, then we should all be glad. He and viticulturalist Mark Sheridan are doing fine work with grapes from the massive Bull Pine, Bear Cub and SunRock vineyards planted in the Sonoran Desert astride Osoyoos Lake in southern B.C.
I was able to try most of Vincor’s Okanagan portfolio last week, with tastings at Hawthorne Mountain Vineyard, Inniskillin Okanagan, Nk’Mip Cellars, Jackson-Triggs Okanagan, Osoyoos-Larose and Sumac Ridge, the latter celebrating its 25th anniversary with a week-long series of parties. No other winery in the group showed the same high quality consistency across its range as the JTO wines, although Sumac Ridge is not far behind. Nicholson’s wines sport purity of grape and stylistic expression, pitch-perfect ripeness, well-handled barrel complexity, and length of finish that almost always exceeds their price points. The basic Proprietors Reserves are under $15, the Grand Reserves range from $15 to $25, and the new single vineyard SunRock wines reach $30. At this higher level, I have rated four wines at four-stars or better—including ’04 Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, ’04 SunRock Shiraz, ’04 SunRock Meritage and ’05 Proprietors Reserve Riesling Icewine. None are yet released but watch for some to come our way late this year or in 2007.
The other highlight of the 48-hour Vincor tour was a tasting of Inniskillin Okanagan’s small production Discovery Series wines by Hungarian-born winemaker Sandor Mayor. As one of the smaller Vincor properties it has taken on the role of experimenting with new grape varieties in the southern Okanagan. To date, the Discovery Series is showing success with red varieties like California’s zinfandel, Argentina’s malbec and South Africa’s pinotage. Slated for future development are white varieties like marsanne, roussanne native to the southern Rhone, Austria’s gruner veltliner, plus red tempranillo. Canada’s viticultural future is far from being decided it seems. Says Australian-trained Mark Sheridan, “We’re writing the book on viticulture in B.C., and we’re only at chapter two”.
A new matched white and red set from Australia has joined the LCBO general list from a vineyard called Cookoothama (pronounced, in the Australian tongue, Cook-a-tharma). It’s named for a large Riverina vineyard owned by the Nugan family, who began their agricultural life in Australia’s interior riverlands as market vegetable farmers. Bottled under screw cap, the Cookoothama 2004 Shiraz ***1/2 ($13.85, LCBO) is fragrant, bright and almost vibrant with eucalyptus, cranberry and blackcurrant fruit, a light touch of oak, firm acidity and easy tannin. Enjoy lightly chilled with lamb kabobs, grilled sausage. The Cookoothama 2004 Chardonnay **1/2 ($13.85 LCBO) is less interesting, with rather dull, sawdusty, spicy notes dominating the apple-like fruit. Its saving grace is a bright, lemony acidity and good length on the palate. But better to await the vibrant 2005 vintage which I tasted blind at the Wine Access International Value Wine Awards in Calgary last month, with a rating of ***1/2. “