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Le Vieux Pin and La Stella

I met Rasoul Salehi, the man in charge of Le Vieux Pin and La Stella, several years ago. At a young age he was one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met, spending all his free time reading books and tasting. And he knew his stuff.

In a short time he went from student to being Managing Director of 2 of the newer and more boutique wineries of the southern Okanagan.

Le Vieux Pin is on the Black Sage Bench, closer to Oliver, and is a characterful winery that strives to create small lots of hand-crafted wines. When I first visited I was very impressed with the marketing, with labels written in a handwriting style, noting the yield, maturation regime, and the number of cases produced. They certainly had the packaging right and the brand was positioned at the super-premium end with prices to match.

La Stella is situated further south and is themed on Italy. Again, the focus is on small batches of premium wines. I tasted through a range:

88 points – La Stella – Leggiero Unoaked Chardonnay 2009
Very pale, which is not surprising given it is 2009 and aged in stainless steel. The nose has a refreshing citrus and herbal note, and is the opposite to a fruit bomb aged for an extended period in new oak. The palate is dry, light to medium bodied, with a green apple flavour and bracing acidity. There’s some vibrancy, and a steely character, and it’s low in alcohol (12.5%) which is a nice change from the 14%ers.

The Merlot 2007 Allegretto is very plummy and rich on the nose, with plenty of body but currently shows heft tannins, so could benefit from some more time.

89 points – The Moscato is delicious. Light and sweet with tropical fruits, it’s a great way to finish a meal with some fresh fruits. Making a Moscato suits the style of the winery and should be a big hit.

With Rasoul at the helm, and some powerful backers, these wineries should go from strength to strenght as the vineyards are fine-tuned. What I like most is the vision. Alot of wineries don’t have one – but Rasoul is a fine wine man and so there’s tremendous dedication to producing quality wines.

Poplar Grove Syrah 2007

I vaguely recall Ian Sutherland giving me a bottle of his Syrah and saying words to the effect that I would like it. He’s an accomplished guy, the Winemaker and joint-owner of Poplar Grove. But frankly, comments like that are a dime a dozen.

Anyway, I cracked it open yesterday. I tasted it over 2 days. And I’m totally blown away. The Okanagan has done it again, making a wine that would stand up to the best of the Northern Rhone, Australia, Washington State, and other prestige Syrah producing areas.

93-95 points. It’s deep and dark, the way Syrah should be. The nose shows abundant ripe blueberry fruit and vanilla notes. It’s intense but not jammy. It’s fresh and fragrant, without any of the earthy aromas that can be a turn-off for many consumers.

But it’s the palate that really shines. Gorgeous depth of fruit, with black cherry, blueberry, vanilla and cream flavours and a touch of spice. It’s full but not heavy, with just enough tannins to give structure, but otherwise very fine, soft and silky. The mid-palate shows enough watery traces to prevent it being jammy and sweet – it’s the perfect combination. There’s not a hint of greeness anywhere to be found. That is high class Syrah.

You may think that I give out some high scores. But keep in mind that the last 15-20 bottles of BC wine did not get rated or written-up at all. I only bother with the really good wines. I’ve worked in production, and critics slagging off wines doesn’t do anyone any favours.

Poplar Grove is in a state of transition. A new winery is being built and the technology and equipment they currently use is not at the level it will be in 2-3 more years.
So if they can make this quality of Syrah now, hold on to your hat because this is already exceptional wine.

BC has the ripeness of fruit that the Old World struggles to achieve. But we don’t get the low acid and low tannin and jammy characters that the Aussies can get.

I’ll be buying a case of the 07 Syrah to show at our tastings. First class wine.