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Wineries make it and then they store it for years... but they don't charge near enough for this service.
As a general rule, library wines are a great deal. These are bottles that, upon release, the winery squirrels back into the cellar, frequently for many years of extra bottle-aging before bringing them out again for sale.
They’re often only available at the winery, or are special treats for wine club members, but sometimes you’ll see them pop up, hidden in plain sight on the winery’s website. And in a newer wine region like the Okanagan, getting these bottles is even more special as they’re not only rare (new wineries rarely have the money it takes to cellar wines at the expense of their cash flow), but they give a wonderful insight into where the industry was at during a certain time.
Oh yeahand given all those factors, they don’t charge nearly enough for them. Here are four spots that offer wonderful opportunities for unicorn bottles.
There are wineries that offer older wines, but the quality of what Meyer offers is absolutely top notch. I’m often at a loss to decide whether Meyer’s Pinot Noir is my fave or is it their Chardonnay, so I’ve decided the answer is “yes” to both. And when I spied their 2017 McLean Creek Chardonnayone of the most well regarded Chardonnays in the countryI was a big “yes please.” And then I checked the price: an oddly precise $35.74. I was blown away: that’s less than $5 difference from the current 2020 McLean Creek for a wine that has three years of bottle age and some serious accolades behind it. (There are some other Chardonnay gems in the Library section, as well as a trio of 2017 Pinots that I had upon release and loved. Stock up.)
One of the problems with finding Library wines is that so many of the wineries are too new to have thembut that’s not a problem with OG Tinhorn Creek, and its selection is crazy good. It has Merlot going back to 2002! That is not a typo. And for this time capsule of the industry what do you pay? $75!
Are you kidding me? These bottles are incredibly rare, and they cost less than a decent bottle of Right Bank Bordeaux does at the BCLDB. And there’s some quirky old Cabernet Franc and a Kerner Icewine from 1994 (the first vintage and, given that ice wine has a pretty consistent aging pattern thanks to all that sweetness, a pretty interesting bet). I almost don’t want to publicize this treasure trove so I can keep it as a go-to for special presents.
Mission Hill is the paradigm for Library wines in the Okanagan. Owner Anthony von Mandl had the vision (and bankroll) to get serious about setting wine aside early on, and as a result this is the library program against which all others are measured.
It also helps that the Bordeaux-style blends that form the backbone of the program are the exact wines that really benefit from a bit of extra time in the bottle.
The only rub is that they’re a bit pricier than most bottles… but then again they were pricey when they were released, so really, you’re getting a crazy bargain for this cellaring service.
One bottle that grabbed my attention was the this magnum of 2013 Crosswinds Syrah. It’s $110, but it’s a magnum (which is great for aging) and when you figure that works out to $55 a bottle, it’s actually $5 cheaper than the current 2019 Terroir Collection Syrah (the Jagged Rock) which is bonkers. And aged Syrah is such a treat, its wildness tamed just so, its ample fruit muted and the secondary notes of tobacco and pepper come through a bit more expressively.
Poplar doesn’t have a “Library” section per se on its site, but a quick perusal of the current offerings show that owner Tony Holler likewise subscribes to the ethos that nothing beats giving some big reds a few years to chill out in the bottle (and then to essentially not charge his customers for the service).
He also subscribes to the the “go big or go home” ethos because Poplar offers one of the best large format bottle programs in the Valley. Those two proclivities come together in some seriously baller big bottles with serious age, like the 3L (that’s a Double Magnumor Jeroboam if you want to co-opt a Champagne term) of their 2013 Merlot. Poplar has always made a very muscular Merlot, so the eitght years should be a wonder on this wine.
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