Wine Review: 2007 Laughing Stock Portfolio

12 05 2011

Attention-grabbing headline:  This is the best bottle of Canadian red wine I’ve ever had.

Charter member of my Canadian Wine Hall of Fame.

This wine has everything going for it:  great back story, great marketing, great product.  Laughing Stock Vineyards is located in (on?) the Naramata Bench, one of the most prestigious and quality-driven areas of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley wine region.  The winery’s name comes from the fact that its two proprietors both once had successful careers in the financial/investment sector before giving them up to pursue their vinicultural dreams, thus opening themselves up to failure and ridicule if things didn’t go well (note: if you want to win my heart, make your winery name a pun).  Their cleverly-designed bottles reflect their past lives, and they’re not just empty packaging for what’s inside — the juice lives up to the allure of its container.

The Portfolio is Laughing Stock’s top-end red wine, and it’s a Bordeaux blend (i.e. a mixture of two or more of the five red grapes that go into red wines in Bordeaux, France).  In this case, all five of the Bordeaux grapes are used:  56% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot.  Each of them are separately vinified and aged into base wines which are then blended together, in different proportions each year, to make the finished wine, which is then briefly aged again before bottling.  Full disclosure:  I am not generally a fan of Canadian producers feeling the need to make a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Bordeaux blend wine, as I would rather see Canada’s wine industry focus on what works within its own unique wine regions as opposed to trying to recreate or mimic another more famous wine area’s product.  I have tried many a Canadian faux-Bordeaux wine and found that it fell flat because, well, we’re not in Bordeaux, and the grapes and wines that work in Bordeaux don’t always translate halfway around the world.  I say all of that to point out that the Portfolio had a lot of my built-in prejudice to overcome for me to like it.  But overcome it did.

Cork Rating: 7/10 (Penalty points for website listing on cork, but otherwise stock-ticker-tastic.)

The wine had a bright, deep ruby colour and a perky, intense nose that first and foremost projected huge hits of cassis, with supporting notes of anise, blackberry and cinnamon.  What impressed me most was that the nose was super ripe (it’s not that easy to get Merlot and Cab to ripen fully in northern latitudes) but yet not sweet — it was juicy without being candied.  Big bold black currant flavours continued along on the palate, which also offered more complex tastes like tobacco, dark coffee and cherry cola.  The Portfolio has a lot of “stuff” to it — full body, medium-to-high acidity levels and firm, chewy tannins — while still being approachable without a decade of aging.  It has good fruit now but also the structure to last awhile, and its quality of production was evident in a surprisingly long finish.

Quite simply, I didn’t think that Canadian red wines could be like this.  I started my experiments with my home and native land’s wine awhile back with one disappointment after another, and I was about ready to give up on the Okanagan as a worthwhile wine region, but producers like Tantalus (amazing Riesling) and now Laughing Stock are starting to pull me back from the brink.  I still think it’s way harder than it should be to find a good $20 bottle of Canadian wine (when Spain, Italy, France, California and even Germany have them lined up down the block, and when I’m IN CANADA), but a wine like this one keeps my hopes up that this might change sooner rather than later.

91 points

$35 to $40 CDN

 

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4 responses

24 05 2011
Cynthia Enns

Wow, great discussion on Portfolio (and love the poke at the website on the cork). Glad you enjoyed the wine.

Where did you try it? Always curious,

Cynthia Enns
Owner & Vineyard Manager, Laughing Stock

24 05 2011
petervetsch

Hi Cynthia,

Thanks for reading! I really appreciate the feedback. The Portfolio I had was actually a direct purchase from your vineyard — a friend of mine went to the Okanagan last summer and brought me back a few different bottles, and yours was the last I tried and the best of the bunch. I’ve since picked up your Chardonnay from The Ferocious Grape in Calgary…next up, Blind Trust! Thanks for restoring my faith in Canadian reds, cheers,

Peter

30 05 2011
Cynthia Enns

Fantastic! Look us up on the Naramata Bench next time you are in the area. I actually grew up in Calgary so it’s been great to see our wines more available in Alberta too.

Cheers
Cynthia

6 08 2011
petervetsch

Hi Cynthia,

We’re going to be in the Kelowna area over Labour Day weekend (Sept. 2 to 5), so if anyone will be around, I will definitely take a day and drive down to Naramata so that I can pay my respects to your winery. Save some Syrah for me!!

Peter

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