In his seminal work, Walden, Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle dove, and am still on their trail.” The line seems to speak of our need to search, to seek out the elusive – to remain in search of what is just out of reach. In many ways, Carlos Lee’s dream of The Referènce was born of this same desire to chase the elusive, which, is his case, was to create the first wine to score 100 in Canada.
Making the Dream a Reality
Carlos is not one to rest on his success. After releasing Alliànce, one of the best wines in Canada, he decided he wanted to challenge himself and create a wine that would top it. Considering how incredible Alliànce is as a wine, that certainly set the bar as high as it can go! Indeed, that was the genesis of its name. Carlos wanted his new wine to set the bar, to be the reference point for the highest quality of wine in Canada. Hence, The Referènce!
How to Get to 100
What does it take to score 100? A lot of time, knowledge, expertise, passion, dedication, love, and the desire to achieve greatness. Luckily Carlos and his team have all those qualities!
To create The Referènce, Carlos starts with a blend of 5 Bordeaux varietals. To put things in context, Alliànce has the traditional three. He then adds Petit Verdot and Malbec, all from fine Okanagan Vineyards, to achieve the perfect blend. He uses Petit Verdot to create the beautiful, rich, dark colour. The Malbec, of which he only uses a small amount, adds a refined robustness.
Good Wines Come to Those Who Wait
For The Referènce to come to fruition, each individual grape varietal is aged in their respective barrels, and then blended according to Carlos’ expert taste. Normally, he would bottle the wine, but not when creating The Referènce. Instead, he takes the blend and ages it a second time.
Perfection in Puncheons
In order to avoid “over-oaking,” Carlos buys larger barrels called puncheons. They’re twice as large and more expensive than regular barrels, but when it comes to making The Referènce, he doesn’t spare any expense. Carlos uses puncheons from four distinct Bordeaux forests in France: Allier, Tronçais, Nevers, and Jupille. They age in those puncheons for another year.
Membership Has Its Privileges
After the blend has rested, Carlos draws some from each puncheon and keeps these unique blends for his personal collection. However, he does release a limited quantity of Allier, Tronçais, Nevers, and Jupille to his members as well. Definitely a benefit of having a membership!
After Carlos has drawn from each puncheon, everything is blended together. As Carlos explains, “in making The Referènce, we only use free-run juices and just a very small percentage of pressed juice, which is used for structure. The complexity of the individual yeasts and individual barrels, and having aged for 2 years before being blended together, is a process that is unparalleled.” After Carlos bottles the wine, it ages for another year or so. On average, it takes about 7 to 8 years to produce one bottle of The Referènce!
Closing in on 100
The first year Carlos released The Referènce, it scored a 96. The following year, a 97! And he is confident that the newly released 2009 The Referènce is even better. The elusive 100 is within reach! Carlos further explains that with The Referènce, “we have created a bottle of wine that is worth over $1000, but costs only $150!”
Truly, it’s a wine that every oenophile will want in their collection!