June 8, 2012

SOWF #13: Rustico

Continuing down 97 towards Osoyoos. I'd read a bit about Rustico but we had never visited, so another first. (It's amazing that we've been doing this for years and still haven't covered everything.) This is a themed winery, that of the old west including some of the local history as a mining region. I was afraid that Rustico might be all hat and no cattle, as they say on the ranch. The emphasis on brand and marketing is often compensation for a lack of substance. In this case, the wine was, on the whole, pretty good. Good enough to conclude that this is a legitimate winery that wants you to have some fun.

But the whole experience does make you feel at times like you're being gently hustled, albeit in a folksy way. Every wine has a little story. Our server was Ken, a seasoned horseman from Cochrane, Alberta. Ken is about the last guy you'd expect to see in a tasting room discussing wine, and he admits he is still learning about wine. "I only ever drank beer and whisky before coming here," he told us. He is an authentic cowboy, the real deal, and that adds to the experience. An example of the blend of originality and kitsch at Rustico is the way they pour the wine: into tumblers lined up in a row, pouring up and down the line of glasses like a bartender from Bonanza.

Sorry - no price information either from my notes or the winery website. They are mostly in the $20-30 range if I recall.

  • Isabella's Poke Pinot Gris

Isabella’s Poke Pinot Gris gives off aromas of pear, vanilla and the skin of new peaches. A wine with a light, fruity air, this Pinot Gris pairs well with seafood and light creamy pastas. It was named for an entertainer in Fairview, the turn-of-the century mining town above present-day Oliver.

Dry, refreshing, floral, easy to drink. 88 points.

  • Farmer's Daughter Gewurztraminer

Farmer’s Daughter Dry Gewurztraminer features a tartly citric taste and the scent of lavender and roses. As the story goes, the wine has everything you’d expect from a sassy farmer’s daughter with classic Alsace parentage. The wine is a perfect date with ethnic dishes. It also goes well with free-range chicken or broiled quail with polenta.

A little sweet for me, floral, so-so. 87 points.

  • Saloon Sally Rosé
Made from Cabernet Franc. Dry, crisp, light bodied. 88 points.

  • Doc's Buggy Pinot Noir

Named after Rustico’s own vintage Baynes Carriage, a restored Doctor’s Runabout at the entrance to the winery’s Tasting Saloon, Doc’s Buggy is a well crafted Pinot Noir with nose hints of ripened Okanagan ground fruit, and the subtly sweet smokiness of sautéed strawberries. Doc’s Buggy well complements pan-seared trout, plank-grilled salmon, apple/grape-stuffed pork or gourmet goat cheeseburgers with caramelized onions and field tomatoes.

Fruity, somewhat thin, strawberry. 88 points.

  • Mother Lode Merlot
Miners dream of finding the Mother Lode Merlot, the big one, the strike-it-rich magical gold vein discovery that One-Armed Reid and his cronies at Fairview yearned to yell out loud. Rustico’s barrel-aged big, bold Merlot is richly complex with peppery ripe cherry overtones. Mother Lode goes well with leg of lamb, maple-sugar basted sweet ham or grilled Fraser Valley duckling.

Big up-front spiciness but not much finish. Thought I detected some rhubarb and cherry. 88 points.

  • Last Chance

A blend of old-vine, small-lot Zinfandel, barrel-aged Merlot, first plantings of Chancellor and a hint of Blaufränkisch, Rustico’s Last Chance honours legendary miner, One-Armed Reid and his “last chance” to make the big time. As the story goes, he’s thought to be the first to stake a legitimate mining claim in the Fairview area starting a mini-gold rush. Last Chance with its bold, earthy characteristics and tobacco-saddle leather overtones partners well with thickly cut, well-marbled steaks or, as One-Armed Reid might have bellowed, “with roasted Muley!”

Dark, rich but somewhat of a grape jelly taste. Kind of like a thin port. 88 points. 

  • Bonanza Zinfandel

Rustico’s Bonanza Zinfandel honours those who journeyed across the globe in search of uncovering their own riches in the South Okanagan. This old-vine, small-lot Zinfandel takes its character from Rustico’s vineyard’s flinty rock, and coarse, sandy terrain and Zin aficionados can expect a toast-and-jam fruit nose with a hint of violets, clove and blackberry. With spicy-sauced beef or slowroasted pork back ribs, this Zinfandel is bound to be the hard-to-find Bonanza of the Golden Mile.

Very nice - deep and rich tasting. Chokecherry. 89 points.

  • Threesome Meritage

As good things often come in threes, the Oliver and Osoyoos area of the South Okanagan saw ranching, mining and farming as the big threesome that busted the valley wide open to where it is today. To complete its first portfolio, Rustico is currenty combining three popular varietals – Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – to create Threesome. A bolder blend, Threesome pairs well with barbecued meats or rib-sticking foods like cassoulet, hunters’ stew or confite.

Good, rich but thin, quite astringent "mouth-puckering". 88 points. 


SOWF #12: Road 13

Road 13 is one of the gems of the Okanagan, but it's no longer a "best-kept secret" as word is getting out. Some of the very best Canadian wines I have ever tried were from here. I wrote about Road 13 (and its previous incarnation as Golden Mile) in a couple of previous posts, so if you're interested in a little background you can click on the links. Road 13 is still in the medieval castle building but they have built a new "Tasting Lounge" that we have yet to experience. This is a winery that somehow manages to keep it real despite growing recognition and popularity. For example, the "Wienery Dog Day" where the owner will barbeque a hot dog for you for $3.50. (Which goes well with an Honest John's Red, by the way.) And having a couple of wiener dogs trotting around is fun for the kids, so we usually manage to squeeze in a "family" visit each summer. Whatever the excuse, don't miss Road 13 as there are always at least a couple (and often many more) of terrific wines to bring home.

  • Honest John's White 2010 ($17)

The 2010 Honest John’s White is light gold with undertones of pale green; this wine starts with aromas of banana, rock melon and ruby grapefruit. Fresh pears in the mouth combine with citrus, followed by melon, green apple and banana. There is a great balance between acidity and the concentrated fruit sweetness with a luxurious mouth feel and a long, lingering finish. This wine’s unorthodox blend will surprise you with its versatility and value. Honest John Oliver would be proud of us!

A blend of Riesling, Kerner, Bacchus and Sauvignon Blanc, this was a nice, light and tasty wine. 88 points.

  • Stemwinder 2010 ($20)

The 2010 Stemwinder has a luminous gold color with an intense and complex nose. A Larousse Gastronomique is almost required to be able to describe everything going on in the glass! This wine has green apple, pineapple, flinty and smoky mineral, with a hint of fresh coconut on the nose. I almost forgot to mention the herbes de Provences... The palate is smooth and rich with a long finish and fresh acidity from the cool 2010 growing season. The flavours are similar to the aromas and require referencing our culinary encyclopaedia. This unorthodox blend is sure to confuse and intrigue any wine aficionado in a blind tasting!

Blend of Chardonnay, Sauv Blanc and something described as Chardonnay Musqué. ("Musqué" is not a separate varietal but a description of a clone or strain of a grape that is "musky" - more aromatic and perfumy.) I thought this blend was great, a bit sweet with a bite of citrus. Looking at the winemaker's notes I may have missed a lot. 88 points.

  • Honest John's Rosé 2011 ($16)

The 2011 Honest John’s Rosé is a bright salmon colour; this “foodie” wine starts with aromas of white pepper, fresh strawberries and herbes de Provence. The palate is generous and savoury showing flavours of fresh ground pepper, red cherries, strawberries and dry herbs. The wine has a beautiful mouthfeel with a long, lingering, dry finish. This summer sipper is begging for food. Honest John Oliver would be proud of us!

Great, nice balance, could use a little tartness. 88 points. 

  • Honest John's Red 2010 ($20)

The 2010 Honest John’s Red has a deep red hue with hints of violet. The fruit explodes out of the glass with aromas of red currant, black raspberries and bing cherries. The nose also shows signature Okanagan character of black sage brush, followed by subtle layering of chocolate, cedar and tobacco. This wine boasts a soft and luscious mouth feel supported by fine grainy tannins from the Black Sage Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2010 Honest John’s Red never disappoints and is begging for friends around a BBQ.

Another classic tasting note from the field: "Yummy, complex." Nailed it. 90 points.

  • Rockpile 2010 ($25)

The 2010 Rockpile has a beautiful dark garnet colour. There is an explosion of aromas coming out of the glass as soon as the wine is poured. The nose is complex with aromas of plums, cloves, violet, dark liquorice, hazelnut and dry coconut. The voluptuous palate is full of generous flavours such as blackberries, plums, mocha and chocolate. This multilayered wine also has some meatiness character and great structure with fine, ripe tannins. The long and lingering finish simply doesn’t want to stop. Enjoy this ‘rock star’ with friends!

I gave the 2008 version a 92 some time ago, and I was specifically looking forward to tasting the Rockpile again. I have to say it was a bit disappointing, in that I was expecting genius and the wine was merely very good. This vintage has four Bordeaux grapes as opposed to the eight varietals that went into the 2008. Still a great wine. 89 points.