On Wednesday I had the opportunity to check out a preview of the Flavours of BC’s Naramata Bench Wine Tasting & Auction. The 3rd annual fundraiser for the Winspear Centre and Edmonton Symphony Orchestra takes place on January 28, and features the sounds of Sandro Dominelli performing smooth jazz plus more than three dozen wines. At the preview, we got to taste nine of them.
We tasted wines from four different wineries: Kettle Valley, La Frenz, Lake Breeze, and Laughing Stock Vineyards. I enjoy wine, but I am definitely not a connoisseur. Usually I am more than happy to select a bottle from the shelf based on just the name or label. Fortunately for me, there was a little of both at the preview!
David and Cynthia Enns both had established careers in the investment business when they purchased Laughing Stock in 2003. The name is a play on the risk of launching a winery, and the financial references don’t end there. When they released their first wines, they called the event Laughing Stock’s Initial Public Offering (IPO). And they have some of the most unique bottles I’ve seen – instead of traditional sticker labels, they feature information printed directly on the glass. The bottle says “LFNG”, the would-be stock symbol for Laughing Stock, and features the date and a variety of stock prices from that day printed in the style of a stock ticker tape. It’s eye catching!
We tasted three wines from Laughing Stock: Portfolio 2007, Blind Trust Red 2008, and Chardonnay 2009. Portfolio (the winery’s flagship) is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, and retails for around $40. Blind Trust Red is a blend of Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and retails for around $29. The Chardonnay is aged in larger format French oak barrels, and goes for about $26. Of the three, I enjoyed the Portfolio most.
La Frenz was started by Jeff Martin, known for spearheading Quails’ Gate in Kelowna. Their bottles feature a QR code on the back, which is still fairly unique, but something I expect more wineries will adopt in the future. We tried two of their wines: Semillon and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Semillon, which sells for about $28, is blended with 10% Sauvignon Blanc and had a nice citrus flavor. The Cabernet Sauvignon sells for about $37 and had great color. Among other awards, it won Double Gold and Best Over $25 at the All Canadian Wine Championship last year.
We tasted two wines from Kettle Valley, which features the Kettle Valley Railway on its labels: Merlot and Pinot Noir. The Merlot, which sells for about $26, was one of my favorites of the night. The Pinot Noir, which sells for about $36, was good as well, with earthy tones. Both are multi-sourced wines, fermented in French oak.
We also tasted two wines from Lake Breeze: Seven Poplars Sauvignon Blanc and Seven Poplars Merlot. Seven Poplars denotes the winery’s premium wines, created from select barrels and select vineyards. The Sauvignon Blanc, which sells for about $27, was sweeter than I prefer, which made me think that Sharon would really have enjoyed it. The Merlot, which sells for about $37, was my favorite of the evening. It was full bodied and very flavorful.
If the wines at the preview were any indication, the fundraiser later this month will be an enjoyable affair. Tickets are $90 per person for the main event, or $150 if you’d like to sample the VIP tasting, which gives you access to exclusive library wines and the chance to learn from the winemakers themselves. For more information, including a list of the featured wineries, check out the Winspear Centre’s website.