Sunday, March 28, 2010
A few days ago, Road 13 Vineyards announced something quite shocking: They are retiring a bunch of their single varietal wines in favour of two new blends: Stemwinder and Rockpile. On the chopping block are the Riesling, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Icon Wines has written about the move here, and an official bunch of answers from the winery are available on the winery site.
The two new blends will be released on April 1. Stemwinder, the white blend, will be $22, and Rockpile, the red, will be $25.
We'll be hearing more about this move in the next few weeks. Road 13 has been very PR proactive, sending out samples and information to wine media around the province. Not only do Road 13 make fantastic wine, but they really must be the most PR-savvy winery in the province. They produce videos on their winemakeing process, update their website regularly, Tweet enthusiastically, and send out detailed vintage reports immediately on request. If a great product combined with sincere, detailed communication can't produce a successful winery, well, nothing will.
Pam Luckhurst, owner of Road 13, asks us to think about this change as a new era not only for Road 13, but also for BC wines. And winemaker Michael Bartier calls this a sacrifice for the greater good. Hmmm. But that doesn't quite answer the question of why they are they killing off no less than six of their varietal wines.
The view from Road 13's tasting room.
I've heard a lot of talk lately about blends being the wave of the future, but there are many arguments for and against this concept. For example:
Con: After years of building recognition for varietal names and getting consumers used to the idea of buying wine by varietal, blends can be confusing. The consumer won't know what they're getting.
Pro: There is so much quality difference among varietal wines that people don't really know what they're getting anyway. People may like a Merlot (for example) from one winery, but be disappointed by another from a different winery. Both wines may be good, but tastes and expectations differ.
My theory (only a theory, with no actual evidence) is that Road 13 is making a savvy business move. They want to play in the pool with the big boys. To do that they need volume, and with their existing vines they can only get that volume with two blends. With six varietals there is not enough volume. But with two blends from those varietals? Maybe.
I could go on, but I'll let you fill in your own theories, pros, and cons. Suffice it to say that Road 13's move is controversial. I'm quite devoted to their Cabernet Sauvignon, and I'm sad to see it go. However, I'm glad that their Old Vines Chenin Blanc hasn't been sacrificed.
But what about the wine anyway??
Road 13 Stemwinder 2009
Tonight my honey and I tasted the Stemwinder -- it was delicious. The blend is 60% Chardonnay, 32% Sauvignon Blanc, and 8% Chardonnay Musqué.
On the nose: Apple, clover, and honey. Not sweet, but fresh and gentle like a breeze.
On the palate: Big, complex, intense, and dense! Round and full, minty caramel, green plum, and Macintosh apple with hints of citrus -- especially grapefruit. The finish is long and intense -- with a hint of ginger flavour but no ginger spice. Minerality -- fresh mountain stream. Dry, and really well balanced. Not tart at all even though it's only been in the bottle for about 6 weeks. What kind of stunner will this be after another 6 months or year?
It's all here, it's gorgeous, and it stands up to intensely flavoured food. We tried it with smoked and fresh cheeses, dried olives, and even a light chicken molé. Fantastic.
Okay Road 13, you've come up with the goods. This is one delicious blend.