The day after the 2013 Wine Bloggers’ Conference concluded in Penticton, I accompanied Gloria Chang (@IMBIBEandSAVOUR) and Lesley Trites (girlonwine.com) to an interesting tasting at Meyer Family Vineyards in OK Falls. On the tasting room patio we were greeted by JAK Meyer and Janice Stevens along with their two daughters, Sydney (10) and Kamryn (8). The question of the day was to do with minerality – can you smell or taste ‘minerality’? If so, what is it and how does it relate to the terroir? Can you taste it in the soil/stones? This topic had apparently stemmed from a discussion between Gloria and JAK at a recent tasting event in Vancouver. I thought that it might be an interesting experiment, if not necessarily scientific, so thought I’d join in. JAK had gathered stones from two of his vineyards – Reimer Vineyard, located in Kelowna, and the McLean Creek Vineyard where the winery is located in OK Falls. Our task was to taste the stones (yes, we were licking rocks) and to taste the wines from those vineyards to see if we could find any similarities, or differences that we could attribute to the stones. Also, could we detect any minerality in the wines, and if so, how do we describe it?
The Reimer Vineyard is made up of gneiss/shale/hard rock whereas the McLean Creek Vineyard is made up of river rock and gravel. There is a third vineyard, Old Main Road Vineyard located in Naramata, but as it’s made up of sandy loam, silt and clay JAK didn’t think we’d much enjoy tasting that, and I would have to agree. So, here we are with two stones in front of each of us, along with the Pinot Noir from each vineyard. The stone from the Reimer vineyard tasted of melted snow to me, clean and fresh, and I couldn’t taste anything from the river rock from the McLean Creek vineyard. The 2011 Reimer Vineyard Pinot Noir has a very clean nose, very fresh, with raspberry and cherry aromas. The freshness carries onto the palate along with the raspberry and cherry flavours. It has medium acidity, medium tannins and medium intensity with a long finish. The 2011 McLean Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir has more depth on the nose and smells of black forest cake. It has medium-plus acidity, medium tannins and flavours of cherry and raspberry, with a long finish. The wines were both vinified the same in order to showcase the terroir, with 15% being whole-cluster-pressed in order to increase the wine’s structure. There definitely were differences between the two wines and I would attribute them to the terroirs, however I couldn’t find any real similarities between the taste of the wine and the taste of the stone, barring the fresh snow flavour on the Reimer stone and a freshness in the wine – hardly scientific though.
We moved on to three Chardonnays: one from the Old Main Road Vineyard in Naramata (2010 Tribute Series), one from the McLean Creek Vineyard and the Okanagan Valley Unoaked Chardonnay, which is a blend from the two vineyards and also includes the hard press juice. The 2010 Tribute Series Chardonnay (Sonja Gaudet is the 2010 honoree) has a nose of peach and spice, with ripe peach, apricot, spice and some creaminess on the palate. It has a round mouthfeel and medium acidity with a long finish. The 2010 McLean Creek Chardonnay has apple, spice and pineapple on the nose, with minerality (yes, there’s that word that we can’t define), pineapple and spice on the palate, with medium-plus acidity and a long finish. The 2011 Okanagan Valley Unoaked Chardonnay was fermented with 100% wild yeast and aged in 50% stainless steel and 50% neutral barrels. It has citrus and apple on the nose, with some complexity and hints of rhubarb. It has flavours of peach, apple and citrus, with medium acidity and a long finish.
I don’t think we necessarily concluded how to be able to describe minerality, or proved whether or not it exists; however, it was a really fun couple of hours spent at Meyer Family Vineyards. JAK tends to believe that minerality comes from acidity, lending a clean-ness, a freshness to a wine. It’s not necessarily a taste but perhaps more of a style. Apparently the acidity in grapes changes depending on what sort of soil/stone it is grown in (i.e.: looser soil/stone = higher acidity), so perhaps there is something linking stones and minerality in wines. In the meantime, I know that whatever it is that lends “minerality” to a wine, I like it.