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Wine column: Iconic reds for the season

Sip Wines recently hosted its 17th Annual BC Iconic Reds Tasting and Competition
Sips Wine
John Schreiner and Simon Wosk

It’s not every day you meet an icon, let alone 16 of them! And these icons came in one of my favourite packages -— red wine. This month I was thrilled to be invited to Richmond’s most prestigious wine event, Sip Wine’s 17th Annual BC Iconic Reds Tasting and Competition.

Sip owner, Simon Wosk assembled a collection of the best B.C. reds for guests to judge. Among the judges, was iconic B.C. wine expert, John Schreiner.

All of the wines had been decanted three hours before tasting to allow them to “breathe” and strut their stuff. Most red wines benefit by being poured into a decanter ahead of tasting. Aerating them encourages the wine’s bouquet and flavour, which has been constricted in the bottle for years, to evolve. It’s like releasing the genie out of the bottle!

The reds were tasted blind so fancy labels and prestigious names didn’t influence the scores.

All of the wines were Bordeaux-style wines. They were blends with at least two of the following: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.

As my wife says, “There is no such thing as a perfect husband.” And similarly, there is no such thing as a perfect grape. Cabernet Sauvignon, has structure but lacks softness. That’s why winemakers blend in Merlot. And Cab Sauv’s cassis nose is wonderful, but Cabernet Franc’s perfumed bouquet adds elegance. Blending is all about adding balance and complexity. 

After all of the hard work of tasting and judging 16 wines (and it really is hard work), the results were revealed. Among the top three wines, the first choice was Church and State 2011 Quintessential ($55), followed by Poplar Grove 2009 Legacy ($50) and Hester Creek 2011 The Judge ($50).

But I didn’t always follow the pack. I included the Lake Breeze 2010 Tempest ($45) as my favourite and was also impressed with Gray Monk 2011 Odyssey Meritage ($35).

I was pleasantly surprised with Church and State’s 2012 Trebella Meritage Red ($20), which was inserted into the tasting to cleanse the palate after a mid-tasting snack. It was my fifth favourite although it wasn’t considered an icon because this is its inaugural release. 

And I really enjoyed the See Ya Later Brut ($23), which was used to toast a venerable Richmond Icon, the late John Levine. Levine came up with the idea of this Iconic Red Tasting, as well as the Vancouver Wine Festival. 

“Brother John” worked at Sip and was the resident wine guru whose presence was larger than life. His knowledge of wine was as infinite as the grapes in the Okanagan. 

If you want to find out why they’re considered to be among the best that B.C. produces, visit Sip Wines in Ironwood very soon.

Eric Hanson is a local retired teacher and wine educator