On Wednesday the BC Wine Institute held their last Somm Smackdown semi-final in Victoria (the other two were in Vancouver and Calgary), in which three hotshot sommeliers (Adriano Cartuliares, Joey Sprout, Daniel Stiefvater) were tasked with pairing BC VQA wine with three dishes prepared by, you guessed it, three Vancouver Island chefs.
It was an awesome event, but perhaps the most illuminating aspect was the clear demonstration of the crazy ageability of BC wines.
Since COVID started, I've been pulling older B.C. bottles from my cellar—one-offs that I selected and stored myself—and at the Smackdown, it was clear that the somms likewise had the aged bug, All of them plucked bottles with some serious age from the various cellars of some of the BCWI members. The surprising part for me wasn't that wines were good—really good—but that every bottle they chose was available for purchase. In 2020. I was blown away so much that I'm letting you in on the age game right now.
Well this s**t is bananas. $65 for bottle of 17-year old wine that was $28 when it was released? The only explanation is that it's gonzo, right? Except it's not. It's a bit reductive, a bit green but it also offers some wonderful leathery notes, some real herbaceousness and weathered grit—a time travel machine for the price of dinner for two at White Spot. Any other wine region in the world and this is a $150 bottle of wine.
Well, this wine has the whole package: great winemaker, amazing track record, beautiful bottle. It's a classic Champagne formula of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and it somehow manages to emphasize both its creaminess and its laser acidity, which seems not possible. It also seems impossible that this wine is almost a decade old, as it tastes like it's raring to sit in a cellar for easily another 10 years.
Full disclosure: we actually had the 2008 Blanc de Noirs at Somm Smackdown, but this 100 percent Chardonnay is the wine the sommelier Joey Sprout had wanted to choose. And to be honest, this one wasn't huge surprise given that Summerhill has made a name by aging their sparkling wines (you can buy a 2000 and a 1996 on their site), but this one is just $40! The label is pretty traditional (I much prefer the Sperling in terms of visual wow) but the juice inside—wonderfully creamy texture, endless toasted brioche notes—is magic.
Now we're at least getting into a price point that's reasonable, all things considered. This is a merlot that thinks it's Sangiovese Grosso—it's very racy and has a backbone of acidity and tart notes of blueberry that hides its true identity. Somm Adriano Cartuliares chose this wine, and while it's definitely an acquired taste, with a touch of volatile acidity on the nose, its one that made it a wonderfully youthful revelation.
Winemaker Matt Dumayne chose only the parcels that gave him the acidity he thought was needed for aging when he made the purpose-built for the cellar sparkler. It has the telltale creamy mouthfeel of old bubbles along with some bread-y notes, but it also rocks some tart apple skin to keep things very lively. And topping itself with a bottle cap to show it knows how party, even at seven years old. All day long I'd drink this wine.