Penticton Speed Blogging (Part 2)

9 June 2013
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I can’t deny that — as challenging as these speed wine blogging sessions can be — I am rubbing my hands together in anticipation of tasting some more British Columbia reds. The ones I’ve sampled so far at this conference have been, by and large, of good to excellent quality. There is some serious wine being made in these sunny, lakeside hills, and I am seriously ready to wrap my palate around some more of it.

Here we go!

2007 D’Angelo Sette Coppa: This blend contains all five of the classic Bordeaux varieties, grown on just eight acres of vineyards. It smells red and surprisingly minerally, and wow, that flavor. It has bright red fruit, focused acids, well-finessed tannins and some metallic earth on the finish. It’s a delight to drink. And though it’s above my usual budget at $25 per bottle, this is a wine I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase with my own money.

2009 Mt. Boucherie Zinfandel: Only three wineries make Zinfandel in the Okanagan Valley, and this is one of them. It’s a very transparent brick-red, which would have led me to guess it was a Pinot Noir. Could this Canadian Zin possibly work? The aroma of raspberry jam and cardamom is certainly appealing. The flavor is not what I think of as Zinfandel, but that’s not a bad thing — it has plenty of red fruit, some white pepper and something herbaceous in there. This is no pot of jam, but if you think good Zin can’t be made in BC, think again.

2006 Summerhill Pyramid Winery Cabernet Franc: The Cabernet Franc fruit ripens latest in the Summerhill vineyards, and the harvest usually comes just before winter’s chill sets in. This could just be the winemaker over my shoulder influencing me, but this wine really does smell like fruitcake. Ripe fruit, a tobacco middle, and a zing of focused acids. Summerhill was the first organic winery in British Columbia, and they’re working towards being biodynamic, an effort I can only applaud, especially when it leads to wines of this quality. If you don’t like herbaceous Cab Francs, this could be your wine. A good value at $30.

2009 Hillside Winery Cabernet Franc: This winery is one of the oldest on the Naramata Bench, founded in 1984. According to the presenter, 2009 was one of the hottest years in recent memory, which theoretically leads to a lot of big fruit extraction. In this case, the wine has a creamy red fruit aroma mixed with some black pepper, a winning combo in my book. It starts really fruity but quickly dries right out, blanketing my tongue with tannins. Again, there’s none of that green pepper quality often associated with Cab Franc, which is a plus in my book. Even so, it seems a bit of a stretch at $25.

2009 McWatters Collection Meritage: This is only the second vintage of the McWatters label, but it comes from relatively old vines planted in 1993. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, it has a heady, almost jammy aroma. And woo! It has big ripe fruit, full but focused acids, and a spicy, tannic finish. A very fine value at $30. Can I get a steak over here please?

2010 Laughing Stock Vineyards “Portfolio”: This winery is a husband and wife team, but they work on opposite ends of the business “in order to keep the marriage intact.” In equally sensible fashion, the blend of this wine changes a bit from year to year, depending on what happened in the vineyard, and in this vintage, it’s 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 18% Malbec, 6% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. What a lovely aroma of mocha and black peppercorns. Richly ripe fruit, big body and a bang of tannins on the finish. Not too shabby! Wait, I have to move on to the next wine?

2011 Bench 1775 Cabernet Merlot: A blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, this Bordeaux-style blend has a surprising and intriguingly creamy aroma, tight fruit up front and some dry pasta in the middle, with some nice tannins on the finish. It’s a restrained wine, without too many fireworks, but it’s undeniably classy. Still, I won’t be rushing out to buy it at $23.

2010 Cedar Creek “Home Block” Pinot Noir: The winery’s top Pinot Noir, this is a 50/50 blend of their block 2 and block 4 Pinot vineyards, each of which has its own character, according to the presenter. The aroma certainly supports that distinction. It smells almost jammy, with a little chocolate in there. Fascinating! It has a really lush texture, ample fruit, and a quick hit of white pepper before it resolves into a wash of tannins. Unexpected, but undeniably well-made, and priced just about right at $40.

2009 Quails Gate Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir: This is the flagship wine of Quails Gate, a winery located in Kelowna, about an hour north of Pentiction. It has that classic meaty red-fruit aroma mixed with earth, cherry/Robitussin-flavored fruit, some violets, bright acids and even some tannins on the finish. Nicely balanced. It’s $45, but hey, it’s pretty darn fun, and it will surely surprise your dinner party guests.

2010 Gray Monk “Odyssey” Merlot: Gray Monk is British Columbia’s oldest family owned and operated winery, and the founders have been making wine for 30 years. The vineyards are in the south of the Okanagan Valley, growing in a combination of sand and clay, depending on the specific vineyard. It has a green, spicy aroma, along with some creamy fruit. I would give you some tasting notes, but the presenter was listing off flavors literally right in my ear as I took my taste. “Do you get the sage? Or is that leading you?” Yes, it’s leading me. $23

There were a number of home runs in that tasting, and if there were any lingering doubts in my mind about the capacity of British Columbia to produce big, delicious red wines, they have been decisively and permanently quashed.

If you liked this round-up of British Columbia reds, check out my previous red wine speed blogging effort here.

Penticton Speed Blogging (Part 1)

8 June 2013

Once again, the speed blogging challenge is upon me. An array of wineries are about to come visit our table here at the Wine Blogger Conference in glorious Penticton, Canada, and I will be writing about the wines as we are tasting them. Normally I take notes in 20th-century fashion in my notebook, but here, the wine will go directly from my tongue to the blog.

Let the onslaught of British Columbia whites and rosés begin!

2012 Bartier Brothers Gewürztraminer: This is the first vintage from a brand-new vineyard called “Lone Pine,” so-called because they couldn’t take a century-old Ponderosa pine out of the vineyard. What a lovely floral, minerally aroma! This 89% Gewürztraminer and 11% Semillon tastes perfectly dry and floral, with focused acids and a hint of tropical fruit. A fine effort for a first vintage. Just the kind of Gewürz I like to drink. A good value at $16.

2012 Tantalus Riesling: Located in Kelowna, this winery makes a number of Rieslings. This particular version comes from vines aged five to 35 years. I like the subtle minerally, appley aroma. On the palate, it has rich red apple fruit, zesty lemony acids and some gingery spice. Focused and delicious. At $23, and one of Jancis Robinson‘s favorite Rieslings from the region, it seems like a pretty darn good buy.

2012 Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris: This winery is devoted to keeping its 130 acres sustainable, which these days is ever more important. A creamy, tart lime aroma, and a surprisingly lush pear flavor combined with tart acids and a zing of warm spice on the finish. Priced at $18, and again, not a bad value at all. I’d much rather spend $18 on this than on certain mass-market Pinot Grigios I could name…

2012 Hester Creek Trebbiano: Hester Creek is perhaps the only BC winery producing Trebbiano, yet the vines date way back to 1968. Dusky, overripe, almost funky nose. Fascinating! Rich texture, but with a real spine of white-pepper spice. As one of my compatriot bloggers just remarked, “It’s much better than most Italian Trebbianos.” About $23.

2012 Fizzio Therapy Blanc: This wine with a rather cutesy name is an unusual blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Orange Muscat. I felt suspicious, because cutesy names tend to mask boring wines, but the aroma of sweet orange blossoms started to win me over, and the zippy, tart fruit along with some lively pétillance sealed the deal. A fun pool wine, assuming you have a pool, and can afford the steep $23 price tag.

2012 Joie “A Noble Blend”: A noble blend indeed — this is an Alsatian-style mix of Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Auxerrois and Schönberger. That aroma is lovely, with some caramel and honey, yet the wine is surprisingly dry and aromatic, with well-balanced acids and a touch of spice on the finish. This is a wine I would spend $24 for.

2012 Poplar Grove Pinot Gris: Poplar Grove has 50 acres of Pinot Gris here in Penticton and 50 acres in Osoyoos, and some feel this variety should be the signature grape of Okanagan. This expression has a wild, tart and funky nose. Whoa. I mean funky. I’m extremely intrigued. The flavor delivers with ringing minerals, green apples, taught acids and an aromatic finish with just a touch of b.o. And yes, that turns out to be a good thing. $20.

2012 Gray Monk Estate Pinot Gris: This is the first winery to bring Pinot Gris into British Columbia, importing vines from Colmar (one of my favorite cities) in 1976 (the year of my birth). I will try to remain objective while tasting this wine. The aroma here is a little more conventional, with white flowers, unripe pear and chalk. What lively fun — the flavor is cheery and sunny, with ginger spice, a breath of flowers and a zing of minerals. A great buy for $18.

2012 Black Hills Estate “Alibi”: Good thing I’m spitting — this white weighs in at a hefty 14.5% alcohol. Black Hills is in Canada’s only official desert, an extension of the Sonora, believe it or not. The wine, a blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon has an elegantly creamy, minerally aroma, and a rich texture leavened with a big blast of white-pepper spice. Zesty and fun, and with that alcohol content, it’s bound to get your intended unintentionally drunk. So that’s worth $25, eh?

2011 Monster Vineyards Riesling: Monster is the second label of Poplar Grove (see above), named after the monster in Okaganan Lake, Ogopogo. The one acre of Osoyoos vineyards benefit from the cooling influence of the lake, and I am digging the aroma of apples and rubber. It starts sweet before tart acids blast to the fore. There are some flowers in there, some spice… It’s great fun, and well worth the $17 or $18 price tag.

Woo! There wasn’t a stinker in the bunch. Maybe there’s something to this British Columbia wine…

If you liked this round-up of British Columbia whites, check out my previous white wine speed blogging effort here.

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