Time flies. It does not seem to go in a linear fashion. Things that have happened long ago, seem like yesterday. Time compresses to me, the further things have happened in the past. One such point to note is that the LaStella Winery in the Okanagan started in 2006; 10 years ago. Yet to me, building my relationship with this winery and tasting their wines, it seems like only a few years have passed. But with this 10 year anniversary, Rasoul Salehi, Managing Partner, and wine maker, Severine Pinte, brought me and other wine professionals together to taste through, experience, and celebrate their wines, with verticals of their LaStella Fortissimo, and their LaStella Maestoso. The former being a Bordeaux blend, but with an Italian twist; Sangiovese is added to the blend. The Maestoso is 100% Merlot.
Severine joined LaStella in 2010 as wine maker from France, and had to learn this new terroir and how to get the best from the grapes. 2010 and 2011 were cool years, and were more trying for Severine to learn about their red grapes. 2012 and 2014 were warm years, and in theory should be easier to make excellent red wine. The cooler years though, with their challenges, may have been a blessing for Severine as you are forced to figure out the vineyards more quickly. Let’s explore together these two wines, and maybe help give you a glimpse into the future of the latest vintages, which you may want to purchase and cellar. LaStella’s red wines are built for longevity.
Talking About Fortissimo
Fortissimo is a Bordeaux blend, as mentioned, with a dash of Sangoivese. Its largest component is Merlot, with the other grape varieties; Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sangiovese, coming in different percentages each year, as the vintage dictates. All the grape varieties are picked, fermented and aged separately before blending. We tried the Fortissimo 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 vintages. On my 5 point scale, I gave the 2010-2014 wines produced by Severine, 4.5/5 stars. Regardless if it was a cool, warm, or hot vintage, quality grapes and attention to wine making detail, can bring out the best in any wine in my opinion.
Fortissimo 2009 – (67% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Sangiovese, and 5% Cabernet Franc). 2009 was a very hot year, which should bring out full phenologic ripeness with great fruit flavour. This is what we get in this wine. It was medium translucent garnet. Very aromatic with ripe red and black fruit, a hint of herbs, and some oak. With air exposure in the glass during tasting aromas of ripe raisins and some tarriness also became evident. Medium minus body, dry, with higher acidity. Higher acidity is surprising when you hear about a hot vintage, as that usually means you get high sugar and low acidity, but BC’s Okanagan is special. With our desert climate, the evenings cool down significantly so that we do not lose too much acidity, which can add to the ageability of the wine, as well as make the fruit flavours bright. The wine has flavours of cedar, black and red fruit and oak, along with a hint of minerality. With all the flavours in the wine, you would think that the wine would feel full-bodied in the mouth, but it was quite light. A dry finish with medium plus tannins and medium length. A very interesting wine. Rating:
Fortissimo 2010 – (41% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, 8% Sangiovese, and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon). A cool year, but again we get light intensity, deep, ripe dark fruit aromas, together with a hint of herbaceousness. Deeper garnet in colour; semi-translucent. Medium body, round and smooth, with a medium plus mouth feel. Again medium plus acidity and a hint of minerality on the palate. Ripe plums, cassis, and red cherries, along with hints of violets on the mid palate and some chocolate. Sweet ripe fruit on the finish. Rating:
Fortissimo 2011 – (71% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Sangiovese, and 6% Cabernet Franc). A cool year, but a nice fall helped the grapes ripen nicely. This wine has the highest percentage of Merlot of all the vintages. Rasoul and Severine mention that they think this is the most elegant vintage of Fortissimo to date. It is deep; almost opaque garnet in the glass. Light intensity nose, with red fruit, light capsicum and some dustiness. Medium body, round and silky on the palate. Medium plus tannins. Ripe fruit; plums and cherries; together with violets, cedar on the mid palate, and nutmeg on the finish. Again, I picked up some minerality in this vintage. Firm tannic finish together with balanced acidity. A finesse wine. Rating:
Fortissimo 2012 – (39% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Franc, 6% Sangiovese, and 17% Cabernet Sauvignon). This vintage came from a hot summer, but did not overly stress the vines. The result was more ripe aromas and softer tannins. Bigger intensity of aromas, including cassis, capsicum, and over-ripe dark fruit. Medium bodied with light mouth feel, medium to fine tannins. The wine was quite mineral this vintage. Flowers, cedar, red fruit, sweet red cherries, vanilla, and some chocolate flavours, along with pepperiness on the finish. A fuller bodied wine. A very nice wine, which I think the widest range of people and palates would enjoy. Rating:
Fortissimo 2014 – (57% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Sangiovese, and 11% Cabernet Franc). In all the previous vintages Sangiovese was 5-8% of the blend, but for this vintage it is up to 21%. How did that affect the blend? The colour of the wine is more translucent, and lighter than the other vintages. It has a medium intensity nose, with aromas of cedar, red and black fruit and light oak. Medium minus body, dry, light mouthfeel, and silky smooth on the palate. The flavours in this wine come at you in layers, which was quite nice. Flowers, dancing minerality, cedar, baby powder, plums, and red cherries, with light sweet spices on the finish. The fruit flavours were restrained, not over the top. A very elegant wine. Rating:
Talking about Maestoso
Maestoso is LaStella’s flagship wine, with very low grape yield, between 1-2 tons/acre. Gravel and clay soils are where these grapes are grown around Osoyoos Lake. Merlot loves to grow in clay soil, which is why you find more of it on the more clayey soils of the Right Bank in Bordeaux.
Maestoso Merlot 2006 – A single vineyard wine, which after the 2007 vintage had grapes also brought in from the Golden Mile. Deep opaque garnet, almost to the rim in colour. Medium intensity nose. Dark, ripe fruit and mocha aromas. Medium plus body, dry with fine tannins. Very ripe dark fruit (fresh fruit flavours), together with a hint of minerality and cocoa. Creamy tannins. Very smooth. Rating: –
Maestoso Merlot 2011 – Very deep garnet, but still translucent in the glass. Deep aromas in the glass of ripe plums and cassis, along with light cocoa and dried herbs. Full body, round, dry, with medium acidity. Ripe, dark fruit, violets and light toasted oak flavours. Very fine tannins which firm up on the finish. Rating:
Maestoso “Solo” Merlot 2012 – Medium minus translucent garnet in colour. Very aromatic, with scents of cocoa, and sweet dark chocolates. Fuller body, dry and mouth filling. Minerals, herbs, plums and ripe black fruit flavours. Medium plus tannins and acidity. The higher acidity helps keep this wine fresh. I recommend buying this wine and letting it age a few more years before drinking, as the tannins are quite strong on the finish. Rating:
Where Can I Buy LaStella’s Wines?
LaStella produces quality wines each year, so you should feel confident with your purchase; whether you drink it sooner, or let it age in your cellar for a few years. Where can you buy LaStella’s wines? You can join their Piccolo Club through their website, as well as through many wine shops, or at various restaurants in BC. This link takes you to LaStella’s Where to Buy page.