Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! This week I took a look at a brand from BC’s first sub-appellation known as the Golden Mile Bench VQA. This region is known for producing award-winning wines near Oliver, BC and this is where C.C. Jentsch was previously located. I say previously because unfortunately, the winery closed its doors in August of 2021. Why am I discussing a winery that no longer exists? To be honest, the bottles I tasted have rested in my cellar for several years and I forgot they were hidden away. In other words, I slept on the brand and after tasting the wines I wanted to share the quality of the wine and share the story of the company.

The Jentsch family started growing apples in the Okanagan around 1929 and eventually moved into growing cherries. After successfully growing fruit for decades, the family began growing and selling grapes to local wineries. C.C. Jentsch (pronounced as Yench) was a newcomer in the BC wine world when they started their winery in 2012 but they quickly made a name for themselves and became a beloved winery creating Bordeaux-style wines with an Okanagan twist.

The story of Jentsch cannot be told without Chris Jentsch who was the owner and head grape-grower for the winery along with his wife Betty. After Chris passed away in April of 2021, the company made the difficult decision to shut down the winery for good as of August 2021. Sadly, this meant the end of production for a winery that focused on small-scale winemaking with an emphasis on quality. Chris had said that he was a farmer at heart and while he loved winemaking, he left that part of the business to his lead winemakers to manage.

Chris loved working with the earth and said that site selection and the grapes chosen for those sites were paramount. Certain grapes work best in certain spots and that was his focus; growing the best grapes that he possibly could. Chris was often described as “Gung-Ho” about grape-growing, an attitude that was contagious for those that worked with him.

Learning that the winery was no more and its story was in the past brought a certain reverence to the wines as I tasted them. The experience reminded me of stumbling onto someone’s forgotten or abandoned project like an art maker or writer that for some reason or another moved onto something else. Do people still appreciate their work? Do their wines still exist out there in the world? It put melancholy in my heart and made me pay more attention than I may have with other wines since there won’t be new wine from this BC winery. The bottle shop is no longer open and the Jentsch website isn’t available anymore which reminds me of the Pink Floyd lyric, “No one told you when to run, you’ve missed the starting gun…”. I missed out on C.C. Jentsch while it existed, assuming it would be there when I got around to reviewing their wines.

The wines of C.C. Jentsch had garnered national and international acclaim with awards from the All-Canadian Wine Championships, International Wine and Spirits Competition, the Decanter World Wine Awards and the Okanagan Wine Festival. The wine company also had a big heart as in July 2020, they donated 100 cases of their award-winning Viognier at $200 a case to raise funds for Highway to Healing, a charity designed to help transport children in need of medical care. C.C. Jentsch was on its way to building a wonderful legacy in the Okanagan but life took a different path.

I wrote about C.C. Jentsch because it connected with my heart even more than my tastebuds. I think talented, down-to-earth people who care about their craft deserve to be celebrated and encouraged and even though this wine will be very difficult to find and not many people are talking about it anymore, it existed, it meant something and it made an impact on the world. I apologize that this wine will not be found in Prince Albert (or possibly Saskatchewan) since I try to taste and discuss wines that my readers can also taste and enjoy but I felt this brand needed a mention or recognition at least one more time. Here are my wine and cigar picks of the week!     

C.C. Jentsch Small Lot Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2014: (VQA Golden Mile Bench, BC). Dry red, deep purple color with garnet edges. The aromas of this Cab Sauv jump from the glass with juicy blackberries, black currants, plums, vanilla, sweet tobacco, petrichor (fresh rain on rocks or earth) and tomato vine. The intensity is high on the palate and dark fruits dominate the flavor profile with those juicy blackberries, currants, brambleberries, berry compote, mellow cigar box and dark cherries. Tannins are medium-plus providing a silky, grippy texture while flavors of cocoa, light pepper spice, chocolate wafer and earthy tar take over after the fruity mid-palate. The wine never feels too heavy or full and sits around a medium-plus body. The powerful flavors of this red are tempered by its balance of intense fruit and earthy finish while medium-plus acidity gives it some zip. Black currants, plums, sweet tobacco notes and gentle spice all settle on the deliciously long finish. Savory oak toast is also present on both the nose and palate adding a further layer of complexity. Will taste amazing with grilled steak in a peppercorn sauce, aged cheddars or cured salamis. Even though the wine is past its recommended drinking date, the wine is still surprisingly lively and delicious. Very good! $50, 14.4% ABV  

C.C. Jentsch Small Lot Series Cabernet Franc 2014: (VQA Golden Mile Bench, BC). Dry red, deep ruby color with garnet tinge at edges. The bouquet of scents from this wine opens with a rush of wild red fruits (red cherry, raspberry, wild strawberry) and currants with a floral edge (potpourri) rose petal, vanilla, oak spice and fruity balsamic. On the palate, the wine is dry but fruity with delicious, mouth-coating tannins (high), medium-plus concentration and balanced, medium acidity. After the initial flavors of cherry, raspberry, vanilla and dark chocolate comes the spicy bite of pepper and cloves. Currants, raspberries, vanilla and pepper spice all carry through into a long finish. I found myself running my tongue along my teeth and savoring the satisfying tannins which blend perfectly with floral notes and white pepper. Medium body and medium-plus intensity remind me of the structure and flavors of the old-world with the fruit of new-world wines. The wine spent 17 months in oak and that can be tasted through the vanilla, clove and pepper notes. Extremely easy to sip on and the medium body keeps it fairly light. Beautiful balance and range of flavors. Not complex, but extremely sip-worthy. Pair with salt & pepper ribs, pasta with Italian sausage or roasted lamb. Very good! $50, 14.8% ABV

El Artista Buffalo Ten Natural Toro: (Nicaragua, Ecuador, Dominican Republic). This cigar has a beautiful box-pressed shape and a medium-brown colored wrapper with the scent of toasted hay, hints of sweet earth and nuts. The cigar lights easily and creates voluminous clouds of bright, white smoke. The flavors of the cigar are mild and creamy with notes of toasted tobacco (from the Habano wrapper) and hints of nuts (almonds, hazelnut). The body of the smoke is full and creamy with a pleasant, easy-going finish (no bitterness). This is the perfect cigar to light up on a Sunday morning with a cup of coffee in hand and a good book or movie like the 3-hour beast that is Avatar 2. The price point is exceptional for the quality of the cigar. This is considered a “budget” smoke but it definitely holds its own in the premium category (premium meaning high quality and handmade). Very good! $8/cigar

Cheers and thanks for reading!