Wine Review: Dirty Laundry, Pink & Red

26 10 2017

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]


Okanagan label mastery.

Dirty Laundry is a winery best experienced in person, as it features a combination of location, history and brand awareness that is next to impossible to top.  It is perched up above the ideally named Summerland, BC, elevated over the Okanagan’s main highway, with vineyard views for miles and a patio strategically located to be drenched in scenery.  This spot was once, back in the era of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s initial construction, the home of a renowned and well-attended laundry service run by an AWOL railroad construction worker who had found a more lucrative calling; his fortune, and the popularity of his laundry business, was due in no small measure to the brothel being run discreetly on the upper floor while the clothes were cleaned below.  A couple of centuries later, the business currently occupying the land knows a good story when it sees one and has turned the tale of the dirty laundry into a branding behemoth that seeps into everything from wine names to labels to tasting room decor to the guest homes for rent on the property, the Bordello House and the Parlour House.  They commit to the identity, keep their humour on high alert and leave their prudishness at the door, and people keep coming back.

The wines themselves may be in a state of flux, caught between wanting to appeal to the widest possible audience and the crowds in for a good time and a novelty bottle-stopper and aiming for a higher level of quality, a product that captures attention in a different way.  I am rooting for them to succeed, as personality and creativity and branding effort are more than welcome in my own world of wine.  The below releases, recent rose and red offerings from Dirty Laundry and the first of a two-part review series, were an excellent chance for me to check in on the winery for the first time in a while and see where they were on their cheeky, quirky voyage.


Stelvin Rating:  9/10 (These are some seriously sweet screwcaps.)

2016 Dirty Laundry Hush Rosé ($25ish AB retail)

I was somewhat surprised to be reminded by Google search results, when I went to try and find more information about this bottle, that I had reviewed it before, WAY back in the 2010 vintage.  I won’t link to the review yet, but it ended up directly confirming my initial assessment of the wine.  My very first note was that this bottle was already far different than past vintages before you even opened it:  while I remembered prior renditions being a near-disturbingly deep shade of pure vivid pink, the 2016 was paler, more orangey and much more comfortably within the standard spectrum of rosé.  Compare the colouring of this bottle:


…to the bottle-of-blood colouring of the 2010 Hush I reviewed previously.  I like my pink wine with some colour, but WOW is that a dark rosé.  Its younger brother had also matured aromatically, foregoing easy thrills with a dialled-back, flirting-with-austere nose of blood orange, grapefruit, lemongrass and Nerds candy, with a hefty dose of Epsom salts around the edges.  In the same vein, sweetness of flavour and opulence of body were replaced by a tart tangerine and cranberry attack and a pervasive powdery, chalky, mineral character almost like Tums, angled towards subtlety and refreshment.


But the wine tends to sit and focus on the centre of the tongue instead of expanding outwards, and the flavours hit at various different times, like firecrackers on uncertain fuses.  The vision is trending in the right direction, but the whole is not quite yet the sum of its parts.  In a thoroughly unplanned bit of synergy, the 2016 Hush ended up in an identical spot scoring-wise to its 2010 ancestor.

86+ points


2015 Dirty Laundry Kay-Syrah ($33ish AB retail)

Unlike my forgotten history with the DL rosé, I had never previously tried the Kay-Syrah, not even at the winery.  I have just recently pointed out that I think Syrah is on the upswing and has massive potential in BC, so the chance to immediately test that theory was highly welcome.  This is deep, dark and highly purple, an abyss at the core but thinning to translucence at the edges.  Its sweet, glossy dark fruit aromas are apparent before your nose is even halfway to the glass:  blackberry and blueberry and grape, Bazooka Joe and vanilla, mocha and saltwater taffy and smoke.  It gears itself up to be a massive beast of a wine.


And then it isn’t.  The blockbuster aromas do not fully translate into tastes, as the wine hits in a form much less massive than expected:  midweight, interestingly primary, its bombast deflated but its impact still pleasurable.  I am not a proponent of Hulk-like bruise-the-world Syrah, but this initially showcases itself like it is going for a Shiraz style and then pulls up short, its forward and boisterous fruit and baking spice and potpourri notes present but in hologram form, conveying the sensation of the flavour without the density or weight.


I’m scratching my head about this wine a bit.  Some elements are quite enjoyable, if a bit jumbled, while others leave me wanting.  It is a lipstick and nail polish Syrah that offers up style and glamour but that doesn’t quite ever let its guard down and let you see behind the mask.  Here’s to more attempts to pierce the veil in future vintages.

87- points




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