A holy grail wine: Keplinger Basilisk

Once in a while, you find a wine that captivates you. A wine that makes you reconsider some of your assumptions. A winemaker doing things that make you sit up and pay attention. And sometimes that wine and the winemaker stop you in your tracks. I’m reluctant to say that I first learned about Helen Keplinger, the winemaker when she was featured on the front cover of Wine Spectator but given her track record, I should have known about her much earlier than that. I was fascinated by her take on varietals that you don’t always think about when it comes to iconic California wines.    

The pursuit of these holy grail type wines, which had never made it to Canada before, began immediately yet it took over a year until I had the good fortune to meet the amazing couple who bring these wines to life. Rarely will you meet two more passionate advocates for respecting the source of fruit and creating masterful wines from those vines. They craft their wines from vine to bottle with incredible attention to detail and critics certainly pay attention with many of their wines regularly scoring 95pts and above year after year. Yet that dedication to only the best fruit means they can be difficult to find as they’re often made in volumes of less than 200 cases and in fact our first allocation of Basilisk was less than 200 bottles!     

Every time I taste this wine, I find it focused, concentrated and full of intense fruit – and yet it’s never what I expect it will be! When I think of Grenache I often associate it with a softer and more plush fruity style but this is something different. It’s much more structured with a great tannic backbone and on the palate, you find notes of black tea, dried red berries and dark fruit. It’s as if this wine is alive with a brooding ‘wild’ side! 

Dave Smith, Director of Buying 

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