Wine Review: It’s Go TIME!

17 01 2018

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

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NHL-licensed wine.  Bring on the themes!

No, that title isn’t me exhorting myself into giving 110% on this wine review, playing for the crest on the front of the jersey and leaving it all out on the ice.  It is in fact the actual, somewhat-punny name of a red and white wine duo made as a commercial and charitable collaboration between the Okanagan’s TIME Winery and my local NHL squad the Calgary Flames, with some of the proceeds from bottle sales going to the team’s philanthropic Flames Foundation.  Having recently been to a WHL Hitmen game, I can confirm that the Saddledome boards themselves officially confirm TIME as the team’s official wine supplier (yes, such a designation is a thing), and the bottles are both served at the arena and sold at a wide array of retailers across town.  TIME is a brand owned by Encore Vineyards, a group led by Harry McWatters, a Canadian wine pioneer who founded Sumac Ridge winery the year I was born (1980) and who already has 50 years of local wine business experience under his belt, perhaps more than any other living person in Canada.  After selling Sumac Ridge, McWatters launched TIME in 2013, basing his winery inside an old movie theatre in Penticton and focusing on grapes from the southern Okanagan for his production.

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It is a long-standing tenet of this blog that I am fully on board with a good theme wine, as long as the gimmick doesn’t come at the expense of the underlying substance.  When theme bottles are done well, you win twice, augmenting the already-pleasurable experience of drinking well-made juice with the added enjoyment of the marketing cleverness surrounding it.  When they are not done well, not only are you left drinking crappy wine, you end up feeling a bit like you’ve been had while doing it.  These two bottles stake a sort of middle ground between those extremes, but when combined with their inoffensive price tag ($19.99 SRP) and their charitable underpinnings, they take no steps to dampen my theme wine enthusiasm.  Let’s get into them; it’s go t– …well, you know what time it is.

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2016 It’s Go TIME! Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris is the Okanagan’s ubiquitous tasting room floor varietal, one that tends to sell easy and be enjoyed by most, even if it may not be the pinnacle of the region’s present and future potential.  There is a distinct pink tinge to the pale metallic beige colouring of this wine, likely from a brief brush with Pinot Gris’ famously tinted skins, giving the whole thing a unique gasoline-in-a-puddle sort of visual vibe.  This first hits aromatically with that sweet anonymous fruitiness common to many Okanagan PGs, cotton candy meets tutti frutti, gradually coalescing into musky banana, melon and peach laced with flower petals.  A slight chalky bitterness and astringency on the palate is masked by a trace of residual sugar and a pleasantly weighty mouthfeel, which lends some presence to grassy cantaloupe, Gala apple and Runts candy flavours.  It is a touch light on cleansing acidity, but it tastes like what it is, is true to genre and goes down easy.

85 points

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2016 It’s Go TIME! Cabernet Merlot

As soon as I saw “Cabernet Merlot” on the label, my immediate thought was:  if a wine describes itself in those words, does it matter WHICH Cabernet it’s referring to?  The natural assumption is Cabernet Sauvignon, which is Merlot’s most common counterpart in the world of Bordeaux blends, but the word “Sauvignon” appears nowhere on the bottle, and the wine does not hold itself out as predominantly Cab Sauv.  While it turns out to be next to impossible to find any hard technical information about these two bottles, it appears from a few scant Internet tidbits that this is in fact a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with Franc occupying the largest part of the blend (the varietal listed first in a blend has to be the biggest component of the wine).  This makes some sense, as crafting a Cab Sauvignon-dominant red from the Okanagan at this price point is a task that Sisyphus would turn down as being overly difficult.

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Stelvin Ratings:  1/10 & 7/10 (Why are the screwcaps different on these wines???  Why would you ever opt for plain black over an actually-cool, on-brand, already-designed Stelvin?)

This Cabernet (Franc) Merlot is a lurid purple in the glass, just a hair shy of opaque.  It is no olfactory wallflower, catapulting Grape Kool-Aid, blackberry, ginger snap and malted chocolate into your waiting nostrils.  There is a slightly shellacked, ultra-glossy feel to the dark fruit, where even the tannins seem rounded off and muted, but the wine holds together fairly well on the tongue, with raspberries and violets fighting for space ahead of a finish that is an absolute dead ringer for a Coffee Crisp.  Sub-$20 big red blends have to be one of this region’s biggest challenges, but It’s Go TIME! does a credible job of it, and it supports the home team to boot.  I don’t cheer for the Flames (go Caps!!), but for those fans smart enough to find a team closer to home, they now have a club-sanctioned option for the cellar.

86- points

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2 responses

18 01 2018
Steve Hicks

Damned by faint praise,I would say.

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18 01 2018
Peter Vetsch

Hi Steve – from my perspective at least, I think it’s more about setting realistic expectations for what a $19 AB retail Cab Merlot blend from the Okanagan made for mass consumption is likely to accomplish. I think the wine had a goal that it met and understood its audience. I did not expect more than it delivered, so it did its job.

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