Welcome to Second Ferment! Wine pairs well with life ... and food, travel, people, work and play. Grab a glass and join me as I explore the wine scene in Ottawa, Canada, and beyond. Love hearing from my readers, so please leave a comment. Cheers! - Bethany

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Sound investments

I've never been to a futures tasting before. I've read, with a smidge of envy, about my fellow bloggers' experiences sampling direct from the barrel, but haven't had a chance to try it out myself. So when I heard Derek Barnett from Lailey Vineyard was coming to town with a trunk full of samples, I signed up.

The term 'futures' refers to investing in a wine that has yet to be released. Futures frequently get sold during particularly exceptional vintages, when all the elements of terroir have come together like planets aligning in the heavens. Before the wine has even finished its fermentation, winemakers just know. They siphon out a few drops from the barrels and taste the promise brewing within. They know that when this wine emerged from its oaky cocoon, when it's ready to be presented to the world, it will be a thing of beauty, indeed.

Savvy Company hosted the tasting at Exposure Gallery, in Westboro. It's a cozy little space above Thyme & Again Catering, with rough-hewn floors and colourful mish-mosh of artwork clamouring for space on the walls. (Currently, the delightful fabric and mixed-media works of Judy Doherty are on display.) This eclectic backdrop was the perfect fit for Derek and his latest vintages.

His Blackberry pinged with new tweets all night long as he bounced between pouring, describing the wines and joking with guests. This guy isn't just down-to-earth, he's one with the earth. He wears his passion for winemaking on his sleeve and wants everyone to get that same comfort and pleasure from every glass.

I've got a long-standing crush on Derek's cabernet franc. It's a tricky varietal, though not as delicate and high-maintenance as pinot noir, say. The thing with franc is that most of the ones I've tried have been too green, reeking of under ripe fruit and tasting chalky, unbalanced and rough on the tongue.

Not Lailey's. Dedicating only the best from exceptional vintages for his single-varietal offerings, Derek coaxes plush, velvety textures and rich fruit out of grapes that have had just the right amount of hang time, sun exposure, warm days and cool nights.

It was no surprise to me, then, when I poked my nose into a glass of the future 2010 Cabernet Franc and swooned. Swirling aromas of buttery caramel and candied apple, with a hint of cinnamon, followed by a soul-pleasing mouthful of red-carpet luxury. I can't wait for this to be bottled and delivered to my door. Thank you, Derek!

Here are a few other favourites I tasted (Futures wines marked with an '*')

2011 Sauvignon Blanc - Just bottled the previous weekend, showing beautifully under the circumstances. It has all the characteristics of classic s.blanc without the over-the-top acidity. Sweet lemon, muted flint notes and a lingering finish.

2012 Vidal - Flint, gooseberry and other, vague green elements on the nose, the palate opens up with spice and tropical fruit. Again, the focus here is on subtlety and balance; nothing is overpowered by anything else. The slightly creamy texture is divine.

2009 Chardonnay - Striking acidity right off the bat, with loads of pineapple, mango and peach. Refreshing and crisp on the palate. I was floored to find out this spent any time at all in oak; it hung out in older barrels, which allowed the wine to breathe without imparting too much of the wood into the juice.

2008 In Unison - This is the 'little brother' to Impromptu, Derek's other syrah-based premium blend. (On 'off' vintages, the In Unison is made, which features merlot in addition to the Syrah, Petit Verdot and Malbec of Impromptu. To be honest, I liked In Unison more.) Complex nose of raspberries, chocolate, salami and smoked meats. A surprising floral finish rounds out the glass.

*2010 Old Vines Pinot Noir - More of that same caramel and candied apple on the nose. Texture is soft, fruit has a subtle sweetness with a bit of green pepper/peppercorn to it. Firm tannins provide just the right amount of structure without being restrictive.

*2010 Cabernet Sauvignon - Jammy—think more along the lines of Bonne Maman than Smuckers. Big and bold, with undercurrents of leather and smoked meat, held together by a solid tannic structure that will grow old gracefully.

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