Blackwood Lane Winery in South Langley has been creating a buzz by putting forth superlative wines for a while already. I first heard about them from one of my Wine Club Members who had been there. Almost cautiously he asked me, ‘have you been to Blackwood Lane?’ The answer to that, before today, was no. So he told me about a winery in a house on a hill that was charging a small fortune for its bottles of wine, and that they were exceptionally good. A few years passed and I kept hearing about Blackwood Lane Winery. The reporting was always favourable, and one day one of my employees at Whatcom Wine & Spirits went to visit and came back to tell me that we really needed to consider buying Blackwood Lane wines to sell in our store. So I called the winery and Carlos Lee, the owner, came to visit and pour us his wines. I remember it well. Carlos has an interesting life-as-it-relates-to-wine story, and the wines he gave us as he told us his tales were certainly elevated above many that I had experienced.
I finally found a few hours to go visit Blackwood Lane today, after having wanted to for ever so long. I called Carlos to let him know that I would be there, and hoped that he would be around for me to say hello.
When I got to the winery I busied myself by taking photographs of the view, and soon I got my turn at the bar to try Blackwood Lane’s 2010 Riesling and their 2010 Viognier. I was impressed by the intensity of the aromas lifting from both samples, and the clean bright fruit playing on my palate. Carlos wasn’t there when I arrived, but I was assured that he expecting me. That was nice, knowing that the owner of the winery which is making some of the most iconic wines in the province was rushing back because he wanted to make sure to see me while I was at his winery.
Soon he was there and we were on our way down the hill with winestems in our hands, heading to the outbuilding that houses the tanks, barrels, and other winemaking equipment at Blackwood Lane. There were two fortunate young women in the tasting room who found themselves included in our excursion. Upon entering the barrel room, Carlos drew each of us a taste of the 2010 Chardonnay which was still in the tank and ready to be bottled. He also allowed us a few sips of the 2007 Alliance which was also ready to go and simply waiting in the tank until the 2006 vintage had been sufficiently depleted. It was lovely, and I had one of the girls photograph me with Carlos in the barrel room. I thought our tour was over… but Carlos had more ideas. Eagerly he ran to grab his ‘wine thief’ which is a long glass cylinder shaped like a giant eyedropper but without the bulb at the end. Then he motioned us to follow him as he ventured farther into the darkened depths of the building. Soon he was filching wine from barrels and allowing us to taste the differences between a 2010 Merlot that was aging in an oak barrel that had been seasoned for three years (the wood had been split and dried outdoors for three years before being made into barrels) and the exact same Merlot that was aging in a barrel that had been seasoned for four years. The first hand comparison of oak influence on wine was truly enlightening. Carlos then took us to a 2009 vintage Merlot and allowed us to make the exact same comparisons with another pair of wines in three and four year barrels.
When I believed that our tour and tasting were done, Carlos was simply finding a different wine thief to get the really good stuff. He leaned against a large barrel and pointed to the label on it. When I gasped and reverently whispered ‘the 2008 Reference’ Carlos smiled in a knowing way, then he removed the stopper and dipped in the wine thief. Good lord. I may have swooned a little bit and my knees gave way ever so slightly, I am sure of it. Soon a barrel sample of the 96 point Holy Grail of British Columbia wine was in my glass, and I was swirling it around and inhaling its aromas before taking a sip. Words cannot describe… and so I won’t, but… it was sublime. Carlos just continued to smile his secret smile; he already knew that there was one more barrel he was going to draw wine from. He told us that if he were to release this particular Cabernet Sauvignon as a single varietal, it would be a given 100 points and be considered a perfect wine. I wondered how anything could top the sample of Reference we had just been given, but being a good sport I dutifully held out my glass. And yes, this particular barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon truly did rise above everything else we had been given to taste before that. How do I describe it? It was like an intensely concentrated red and black berry syrup (without the sweetness… hard to understand but completely possible) swirled with molten dark chocolate, sprinkled with espresso powder, and supported by oak of exceptional quality. The flavours lingered… the wine was gone… and we were transported back from sheer bliss.
We made our way back to the tasting room just a little bit wiser, and I bought a bottle of the 2006 Reference because I believe that someday, there will be a special moment when it will be the only perfect thing to open.
Blackwood Lane Winery is located at 25180 8th Avenue in Langley. Their tasting room is open from 11am to 5pm from Wednesday to Sunday. Please note that for a group of six to twelve persons, by appointment and for $35 per person, Carlos will personally lead visitors on a barrel room tour very similar to the one I was treated to, with cheeses, chocolate, and other treats to complete the wine tasting experience. More information is found on Blackwood Lane Winery’s website: blackwoodlanewinery.com.