Often, our early experiences lead us on a trajectory that will shape our adult lives. A chance meeting with JFK, for instance, lead William Jefferson Clinton to become President of the United States decades later. A book on science read as a child lead Isaac Newton to change the course of our understanding of the cosmos. Similarly, with Carlos Lee, it was an early experience with a very old bottle of wine that set him on a journey that would culminate in Blackwood Lane Winery.
Indeed, the story of Blackwood Lane begins when owner, Carlos Lee, was a young man. Born in South Korea, but raised in Peru, Carlos was exposed to a unique blend of cultures and culinary palates – something that would prove to be a gastronomic advantage later in life.
“I have to go back to when I was young,” Carlos responds when asked from where his passion for fine wines came. “When living in Peru, I had an opportunity to sample several exclusive premier grand cru bottles of wine.” This early experience would forever change the direction of Carlos’ life.
Carlos makes his wine with unparalleled passion.
Searching for the Elusive Bottle
Years later, when Carlos moved to Toronto to study Engineering, he noticed that his French roommate would always enjoy a glass of wine with meals. Carlos recounts, “that was my first experience with mediocre wine, so I decided to go in search of that elusive bottle I had as a young man in Peru. I still remembered the name and shape of the bottle, but we couldn’t find the bottle on the shelves of the liquor stores, as they kept it locked up in the back.”
From Cars to Wine
Years went by and Carlos graduated from university and was working in Detroit’s automotive industry. One night, his company took some auto executives out to dinner and ordered the wine that he had imbibed years earlier in Peru. Carlos explains, “these auto execs are very rich and powerful, and they are used to the very best.”
“When the bill arrived, the total came to $8000! I thought the waiter had made a mistake so I called him over and told him that he had added an extra zero to our bill. Surprisingly, the waiter confirmed that the price was correct.” It was at that moment that Carlos realized the value of the wine he had snuck a sip of so long ago. He also realized his taste for wine was expensive! It would be impossible to accept anything lesser now.
Carlos’ budget would not allow him to drink wine at these exorbitant prices, so he decided on a very novel idea – to recreate the wine himself!
“I thought, if I can make cars, I can make wine!”
The Birth of Alliànce!
Fast forward to thirteen years ago, when Carlos started Blackwood Lane with the introduction of Alliànce, which is still his biggest seller. “It went straight to the top. 94 points out of 100, which was the highest ever recorded score for a BC wine! Ever since then, we’ve been improving.” It’s big brother, The Referènce, scored 97 points, and is currently the most expensive wine in the province at $150 per bottle.
Carlos is proud to announce that the 2009 bottle of Alliànce is now out! He explains that it takes 8 years to release it to the public. “I create carbon copies of expensive wines. I don’t try to change or deviate from the original perfection. I strive to maintain the consistency of these original wines, and create what tastes like a $3000 wine for $69.”
Passion and Pride
Carlos makes his wine with unparalleled passion. When he talks about the process of winemaking, he lights up. He makes his wine with oenophiles in mind, but he seems to take singular delight in watching the uninitiated taste his wines for the first time.