Wine Review: The Reds of Castoro de Oro

14 08 2019

By Raymond Lamontagne

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

Welcome back for part 2 of my coverage of a cross-section of the current lineup of the Golden Mile’s Castoro de Oro, following on the heels of last week’s assessment of a trio of their whites. Those wines were fun, clean examples of how a savvy winemaker can produce something that is capable of appealing to a rather broad swath of the wine-drinking public. One can simply enjoy such wines in a purely casual fashion, equal parts pleasant taste and social lubricant, or one can, likely on a different occasion, plumb and probe for something deeper. Will the reds (and a rosé) paint a similar picture?

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Before I attempt to answer that question, a few words about the winery name (see my last post for more about the vineyard conditions). The name “Castoro de Oro” is a tribute to how Canada was founded and gives a nod to our majestic country’s national animal. Yes, the pictures on the label and your phrasebook Spanish do not deceive you: “Castoro de Oro” really does mean “golden beaver”, with a nod towards Canada’s roots in the fur trade.  Back in our colonial days, beaver pelts were deemed “soft gold” because they were in tremendous demand on the market. Additionally, it was none other than beavers who created the small lake that helps provide a key moderating influence on the climate at Castoro de Oro’s vineyards. The top hat seen on the winery mascot above embodies the fashion that was vaunted at the time of the soft gold rush. Truly, what fantastic branding. Ultimately, though, what matters to me is in the bottle.

2017 Castoro de Oro Pinot Duetto Rosé (~$23)

I suppose I could have featured this wine in the previous post, although doing so here yields a better symmetry of 3 and 3. Plus, pink is closer to red than it is to white, no?  In terms of pairing versatility, certainly. As rosé continues to soar in popularity, I gleefully enjoy the ride. As I sip rosé on my balcony this summer, heedless of the specific provenance, my mind conjures up all kinds of associations with the sun and surf, fresh flowers and cut leaves, more carefree times that I’d probably appreciate more if I could go back there with my current mindset. Fortunately, there is now. This particular rosé, named for its duet performance between (white) Pinot Blanc and (red) Pinot Noir, seems to capitalize on this winery’s proclivity toward the full-bodied end of the Pinot Blanc spectrum. I assume this is the base wine here, with the black Pinot used for coloration and flavour enhancement? The tech sheets accompanying the wine and Castoro de Oro’s website are oddly silent as to these details. The wine is therein simply described as a “rosé for the red wine drinker”.

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Not sure I fully concur with that assessment. When it comes to body, perhaps. This is thick as a brick, with a rather palpable residual sweetness. I check the promotional materials and sure enough note that the wine is marketed as “off dry”. Not an aperitif style rosé. The nose is lush with red Twizzlers, hibiscus blossoms, watermelon Jolly Ranchers, grenadine syrup, more red candies (strawberry Starbursts?). In short, many of the things I love in a confected rosé that’s here to party, plus sun-dried rhubarb, Black Forest cake, hazy smoke from cherry pipe tobacco. The surprisingly long finish suddenly denudes all this candied stuff in favour of stark cranberries. OK, I’m slowly starting to get the “rosé for the red drinker” tagline.

87+ points

2017 Castoro de Oro Pinot Noir (~$25)

If a BC winery makes my acquaintance and happens to offer a Pinot Noir, my immediate knee-jerk response is that I must try it, post-haste. This is less about an allegiance to BC wine (as much as I do appreciate our close neighbour’s viticultural work) and more about my general obsession with all things Pinot. My view is that Pinot Noir does well in the province if careful attention is paid to how and where the grapes are grown…something which can equally be said about Pinot around the world. The grape is a diva everywhere it is planted. On paper, Castoro de Oro’s vineyard should be conducive to decent Pinot Noir, given the site’s combination of sufficient sun to ripen the grapes and shade in the evenings to help preserve acidity.

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The nose of this young Pinot is a little…on the nose. I’m slammed with fresh, vibrant pomegranate, cranberry, tart wild cherries, rose hips, a handful of potpourri with extra cinnamon stick, with a slight fade into black plum and blood orange territory. It is basically a field guide to classic Pinot Noir aromatics with a slight skew towards the realm of old spice rack. If the above Pinot-assisted rosé was dominated by red liquorice and other confections, at least initially, this provides a striking mirror inversion: nary a bonbon in sight until the medium-length finish, which yields an inescapable impression of cinnamon Hot Lips with a splash of cola and cape gooseberries. I get just a wee bit of the dried leaf. The body is on the lusher side for this grape, but acid is twilling away most brightly. The oak is superbly dialled down, trance music in the background as opposed to pulsating bass, recalling something between toast and a plain cone without the ice cream. The complexity is there and the wine is in balance. In the beaver we trust.

89 points 

2016 Castoro de Oro Merlot (~$28)

Along with a red blend called “Crimson Rhapsody”, this seems to represent the zenith of Castoro de Oro viticulture, based on price point and promises of further glories with age. As is still the case in Pomerol (we shall see what climate change has to say in the future), Merlot typically triumphs over Cabernet Sauvignon in BC. I’ve steadily grown to appreciate this grape’s blueberry and spice charms. Said charm often sneaks up on me, like a song I recall hating when I was 11 years old but have now grown to love when it comes on the radio. Once again, this vineyard site ought to favour a ripe rendition balanced by clean acidity. Sure enough, this bottling won an Alberta Beverage Award in 2018.

IMG_0891Initial impressions on the nose include something exactly between black plums and prunes: is this the “sugarplum” often seen listed on Merlot tasting wheels? Something almost meaty is there and then gone. A bright bloom of dark berry jam encompasses all kinds of diverting details: chocolate-covered raisins, potting soil, a few old roots and stems, menthol lozenge, figs, Crystal Pepsi. That’s right, I remember what that tastes like. The oak is understandably more prominent than on the Pinot, with ample cedar and vanilla bean to buttress the full spectrum of ripe to dried blue and black fruits. There’s that blueberry I was hoping for… The tannins provide a diffuse structure, and it is probably the bright acidity that really shines forth here. A Pinot lover’s Merlot? Converging evidence for a Castoro de Oro red wine “house style”? Is this truly going to improve with age? Whatever this may be or do, it is quite darn delicious right now.

89 points

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Cork Rating: 1/10 (Seriously guys…with awesome labels like that your corks need some attention.  Put a top hat design on here or something.)

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One response

16 09 2019
Greg Zyn

Castoro de Oro is one of the best wines I’ve had in my life, and this review here confirms that. I would like to know if I can buy this wine right now. I am craving this wine, and I’ll do anything to get my hands on it right now.

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