Thursday, August 21, 2014

Maverick opens its wine shop

Photo: Maverick Estate Winery's tasting room

Kelowna’s Robert Mackenzie is the architect of record for Maverick Estate Winery’s new wine shop – with a design capturing subtle notes of Cape wineries in South Africa.

The white stucco exterior and the tin roof are especially evocative of Cape wineries with which the winery owners and their families are familiar. Schalk de Witt is a doctor from South Africa who has been practising in Alberta and British Columbia for many years. Winemaker Bertus Albertyn is a 1978 graduate of Stellenbosch University who came to the Okanagan in 2009, after marrying Schalk’s daughter, who is also a doctor.

It proved to be a very convenient marriage (as opposed to marriage of convenience) for Schalk. He owns two parcels of vineyard land in the south Okanagan, one purchased in 2006 and the other, now occupied by the winery, in 2009. Having an experienced winemaker in the family allows him to unlock the potential of that vineyard real estate.

Bertus (left) spent four years as the winemaker at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery before leaving in mid-2013 to focus on Maverick. Concurrent with that career, he and Schalk converted the 2009 purchase – a former organic farm – into a 7 ½-acre vineyard planted to Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Planting is scheduled for the nearby second property, 15 acres in size, in 2015.

“The vineyard is doing really well,” says Bertus, who was able to produce 2,800 cases in the 2013 vintage with purchased fruit as well as with grapes from Maverick’s planting.

While Bertus and Schalk converted former farm buildings in a winemaking facility, they decided to build totally new wine shop. Visually, the 1,500-square foot building announces that Maverick is a must-visit winery.

The wine shop is perched on the west side of Highway 97, midway between Oliver and Osoyoos. The wine shop’s expansive windows look out on vineyards and farm.

The wine shop opened with three very interesting white wines, with a red blend and a port-style wine scheduled for release later in the year.

Here are notes on the wines.

Maverick Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($19 for 500 cases). The winemaking here involves great attention to detail, beginning with picking the grapes by hand into 30 pound trays; cooling them to 5-8 Celsius before pressing whole bunches; and then leaving the juice in contact with the skins for eight hours. The free run juice is fermented cool in stainless steel to preserve vibrant fruit flavours and aromas. The press wine, about 25% of the volume, is fermented in used French oak barrels and left on lees for three months before being blended with the free run portion. And did I mention it? Bertus sometimes ferments with natural yeast!

The style of this wine recalls good Sancerre. The wine begins with aromas of herbs and lime, leading to flavours of lime and grapefruit. The wine’s bright acidity gives it a tangy and refreshing finish. 91.

Maverick Pinot Gris 2013 ($19 for 270 cases). The winemaking techniques again are detail-driven, including hand picking, whole bunch pressing and gentle pressing. A quarter of the wine was fermented, with natural yeast, in old French oak. When fermentation is complete, the wine is racked and blended and then aged on the fine lees for three months to enhance its texture and eight on the palate. There is also 10% Gewürztraminer in the blend.

The wine begins with aromas of grapefruit and pear, leading to flavours of pear and apple. The winery describes the style as “unadorned” with mineral notes on the finish. This is such a complex wine that I would recommend decanting to fully liberate the fruit flavours.  90.

Maverick Origin 2013 ($16 for 170 cases).  The winemaking techniques are quite similar to those used to make the Sauvignon Blanc. This is 60% Gewürztraminer, 40% Sauvignon Blanc. A quarter of the blend was aged in used French oak barrels to enhance the texture. This is the winery’s third vintage of wine, which is packed with tropical fruit aromas and flavours. The wine has a luscious honeyed texture, with citrus and melon flavours and a crisp, spicy finish. 90.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A loaf of bread and a jug of wine

 Photo: Platinum Bench banners advertise its breads

Before Fiona Duncan and Murray Jones launched Platinum Bench Estate Winery in 2012, she had a high-stress job in Winnipeg as vice-president of production for Nygård International, the fashion designer and manufacturer.

To relieve stress, she took up the hobby of baking bread, taking courses at the San Francisco Baking Institute. It has now come in handy at the winery and she continues to take courses. This spring she added baking with ancient grains and making gluten-free bread to her repertoire.

The hobby has developed into one of the appeals to visiting this winery on Black Sage Road. Freshly-baked bread is available for sale. It is also paired with the wines served in the tasting room. It is a rare visitor not bowled over by the experience.

Both the breads and the wines are available for sale on the winery web site. The breads are shipped par-baked.

Murray, who owned a manufacturing company, and Fiona got into the wine business by buying a producing vineyard in 2011. For them, it was a major lifestyle change with a learning curve that was more or less vertical.

The 2011 vintage was a challenging one, especially for a couple learning viticulture on the fly (with the help of Okanagan College courses). Richard Cleave, one of their neighbours and a viticulturist with 40 years of experience, become a good friend and a valued mentored.

Judging from the wines recently tasted there, the stars have now lined up for Fiona and Murray. The 2012 and 2013 vintages were stronger than 2011 and, so far, 2014 is also looking very good. Helped by a veteran winemaking consultant, Murray has put some excellent wines in bottle.

The tasting room features a shaded deck overlooking the vines. In increasing number of visitors are stopping for a glass of wine and a few slices of fresh bread.

It brings to mind Edward Fitzgerald’s famously translated quatrain from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

 "A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!"

If you relax with your book of poems on the Platinum Bench deck, these are the wines:

Platinum Bench Pinot Gris 2013 ($20). This is a delicious wine, with rich aromas and flavours of citrus, pear and baked apples. 90.

Platinum Bench Chardonnay 2012 ($25). One-third of this wine was in new oak; one-third in neutral oak and one-third in stainless steel. The result is a crisp, fruit-forward Chardonnay with citrus and tangerine flavours. The buttery and oak notes serve as a subtle background. 90.

Platinum Bench Rosé 2013 ($20). This wine is made with juice from Merlot and Gamay grapes. The wine shows cherry and strawberry aromas and flavours with a touch of white pepper on the dry finish. 90.

Platinum Bench Gamay Noir 2013 ($20). This medium-bodied wine has spice and cherry aromas and flavours. It is a very quaffable red. 90.

Platinum Bench Merlot 2012 ($25). The wine has good concentration and ripe tannins, with aromas and flavours of black currant and black cherry. 90.

Platinum Bench Cabernet Franc 2012 ($25). This wine is just brimming with brambleberry aromas and lively red fruit flavours. 90.

Platinum Bench Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($25). This wine shows the vintage, with minty aromas, red cherry flavours and a lean texture. 88.

Platinum Bench Platinum Red 2011 ($30). This wine shows how Merlot helps fill out a 2011 blend. This wine is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 5% Gamay Noir. There are aromas and flavours of black currant and cherry. The texture is more generous than the solo Cabernet. 89.

Platinum Bench Meritage 2011 ($35). This is another illustration of good blending making a wine better than its parts might have been. All five Bordeaux reds are in this blend. It has a firm, age-worthy texture, with aromas of black currants, black cherry, cola and coffee. 90.

Platinum Bench Syrah 2012 ($N/A). This is an elegant Syrah with aromas and flavours of spicy black cherry supported by hints of deli meats and a touch of pepper. 91.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Class of 2014: Stable Door Cellars

 Photo: Scott Robinson (l) and Dave Tebbutt

One of the newest of Penticton’s wineries, Stable Door Cellars opened so quietly this spring that you may have missed it.

It is not that owners Dave Tebbutt and Scott Robinson are hiding their lights under a bushel. They only have limited quantities of two white wines and no tasting room in the stable that will be a character winery once renovations are finished.

Tastings are by appointment, and may remain so for a few years as the partners build volume. But the winery is worth a visit even now for its good whites. Besides, you can always talk baseball. The partners are fanatic fans of rival teams who insisted on wearing their ball caps for a photo.

Dave’s love of tasting wines, notably Bordeaux wines, was perhaps the trigger for this vineyard. He is a Vancouver native with degrees in engineering and accounting who moved to Penticton in 1997 with his wife, Susan, a doctor.

In Vancouver, Dave and one of his best friends “kind of went through the world together, drinking wines,” Dave says. They teamed up to buy the stable and the surrounded property at the edge of Penticton. They planted four acres of grapes in 2008 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Viognier). When the friend got too busy for the vineyard, the Tebbutts acquired his interest. “We’re still good friends,” Dave hastens to add.

To prepare for operating a vineyard, Dave took the viticulture course at Okanagan College in 2005. That’s where he met Scott, who was taking the winery assistant course. 

Scott is a New Westminster native for whom winemaking is a second career. A 1995 graduate of Simon Fraser University in kinesiology, he was a designer of orthotics, with several patents to his name. “It was very rewarding work but I didn’t see myself doing it forever,” he says.

In 2003, he and his wife, Danielle, took time off to travel in Australia and New Zealand. “I toured wine regions when I was down there,” he says.  “What really stood out was when we spent time in Margaret River. It is quite a magical place. I went to some wineries there and I thought this is something I might come back to.”

He already had a good knowledge of wines. While at university, he had also managed a wine store in Delta. “I started going to trade tastings and was responsible for buying wines for the store,” he recalls. “That’s what started my interest in wine.”

He resumed clinical work on orthotics when he and Danielle returned to Canada early in 2004. But Scott now began to look for opportunities in the wine industry. That led to working in the cellar at Township 7 Winery as he was finishing the winery assistant program.  “I really enjoyed that course,” he recalls. “It stimulated my thirst for more schooling.”

After three vintages at Township 7, Scott went to New Zealand to work the 2007 vintage with the Kim Crawford winery.  The following year, he enrolled in the master’s winemaking program at Adelaide University. When he came back to Canada in the spring of 2009, he immediately landed a winemaking job at the widely admired La Frenz Winery.

His professors at Adelaide had asked him if he wanted to continue his master’s research to a doctorate. “I said no, I have to go into the real world,” Scott recalls. But in 2013, after four vintages at La Frenz, he decided to return to research.

“I was going back to work on a PhD,” he recounts. “I was already accepted and I was going to work with my supervisor from Australia with whom I had done my master’s.” The plan was to combine that with the teaching he had taken on in the Okanagan College wine program. 

“Dave was taking a microbiology course that I was teaching last February,” Scott says. “We just got to talking and that was the launching pad for this idea. I wanted to make a bit of wine – I wanted to make some Riesling somewhere in additional to studying.  Dave wanted to start up this winery and I wanted a place to make wine.”

The winery was incorporated in May, 2013, and Scott put his PhD project on the shelf. “Doing this has brought me back to the reason I began making wine in the first place: small batch winemaking and attention to detail that I just want to focus on; experiment with fermentation regimes; all kinds of things. I have lots of ideas.”

In the 2013 vintage, Stable Door made about 90 cases of Viognier, 180 cases of Riesling and about 300 cases of a Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend (for release in 2015). Plans for a 2013 Pinot Noir were abandoned after those grapes were seriously damaged by that season’s plague of wasps.

The partners don’t intend to stay that small. Dave believes the capacity of the winery is about 5,000 cases. He and Susan have purchased another 10 acres nearby for future planting. Stable Door also has begun to contract grapes from select growers.

The Riesling, for example, is from a Naramata Bench grower who previously had sold to La Frenz. “I am a Riesling guy at heart,” Scott says. “That is my favourite white — just the versatility of it, the styles you can make, the fact that it really reflects site.”

The current releases:

Stable Door Riesling 2013 ($22). The wine appeals with aromas of peach and grapefruit and delivers refreshing flavours of lime and grapefruit. The wine is exquisitely balanced, with enough residual sugar to flesh out the texture and enough acidity to give the wine a crisp finish. 90.

Stable Door Viognier 2013 ($23). This wine begins with floral and white peach aromas, going on to honeyed flavours of apricot, pineapple and apple. The full texture is the result of fermenting half the wine in barrel, with lees stirring. The fresh acidity gives the wine a lively, fruity finish. 90.

Stable Door Cellars
475 Upper Bench Road
Penticton, BC V3S 0A1

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Brad Cooper's Township 7 farewell

Photo: Winemaker Bradley Cooper

This summer, the fans of winemaker Bradley Cooper will be drinking his final vintage for Township 7 Vineyards and Winery.

Brad, who had been with Township 7 for nine vintages, has just joined Serendipity Winery at Naramata.

While there has been no reason given for his decision to move on, Township 7 came under new (silent) ownership earlier this year. It is possible that the new owners are not as comfortable as the previous owners with a winemaker who also has his own label.

Brad and his wife, Audralee Daum, own a label called Black Cloud and make Pinot Noir only. In her news release, Serendipity owner Judy Kingston pointed wrote: “As Cooper's exclusive label, Black Cloud Pinot Noir will also find a new production home at Serendipity but remain a private label managed by himself and Daum.”

After an earlier career as a photojournalist, Brad became involved with the Okanagan wine business in 1997. “I started out in the wine shop at Hawthorne Mountain [now See Ya Later Ranch],” he says. He had briefly considered a different career change by taking a greenskeeping courses at Okanagan College. It was full; that turned out to be a stroke of luck because Brad spotted the newly-offered winery assistant program in the same catalogue.

“I did the winery assistant program in 1997-1999,” Brad says. ‘I worked the crush of 1998 [at Hawthorne Mountain] and have not looked back from the production side since then.”

He also grabbed opportunities to pile up experience. “I was going to get laid off anyway for the winter of 1998-99, so in the spring of 1999, I went to New Zealand and worked a vintage there, 3 ½ months, with Vidal in Hawke’s Bay.”

In 2002, he left Hawthorne Mountain to join the winemaking team at Mt. Baker Vineyards in Washington State. He returned to the Okanagan in time for the 2003 vintage at Stag’s Hollow and then joined Township 7 in 2004.

At Serendipity, he takes over from Richard Kanazawa who also has his own label and whose ambitions were also tolerated by Serendipity, but not by several of Richard’s previous employers. Richard has now leased a vineyard and is getting a license for Kanazawa Wines.

Township 7 has not announced who is taking over from Brad. Mike Raffan, the former Township 7 owner and still the general manager, has been working through a number of resumes from winemakers in Washington State, Ontario and the Okanagan.

Here are notes on the current Township 7 releases. Some of the limited production wines are offered only to the Township 7 wine club.

Township 7 Pinot Gris 2013 ($19.99 for 148 cases). This wine is 85% Pinot Gris, 15% Gewürztraminer, the latter to pop the spice in the peachy aroma. Cool-fermented for 14 days in stainless steel, this is a crisply fresh white with flavours of pear, apple and green tea. 89.

Township 7 Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($19.99 for 738 cases). This is the crisp herbal Sancerre style of this varietal. It begins with aromas of citrus, gooseberries and spice. On the palate, there are flavours of grapefruit and grapefruit zest, apple and sage. 90.

Township 7 Gewürztraminer 2013 ($19.99 for 158 cases). The wine begins with an alluring aroma of sage and spice, leading to elegant and concentrated flavours of lime and grapefruit. The touch of residual sugar lifts the fruit and fills out the texture while the fresh acidity balances the wine. The finish is dry and refreshing and the spice lingers ever so long. 92.

Township 7 Chardonnay 2012 ($20.99 for 328 cases). A gold medal winner at the All Canadian Wine Awards, this wine begins with toasty and buttery aromas of apples. The wine clearly has been aged in good oak barrels. The citrus and pear flavours mingle with toffee and a hint of fig on the finish. 90.

Township 7 Reserve Chardonnay 2012 ($25.99 for 58 cases). This is a bit more of everything compared with the regular Chardonnay. The wine was aged 16 months in French oak and went through malolactic fermentation. The wine has a rich buttery texture, with aromas of fig and caramel and with flavours of orange and baked apple. The toastiness of the oak gives the wine a smoky note on the finish. This would be an interesting wine to age if the closure were real cork, not synthetic. 90-91.

Township 7 Rosé 2013 ($16.99 for 128 cases). The winery set out to make a dry Provence style rosé, starting with a light hue. The surprise is the varietal mix here: Chardonnay 60%, Gewürztraminer 20%, Pinot Gris 14.5% and Merlot 5.5%. The wine begins with aromas of strawberry, leading to flavours of strawberry and cantaloupe. The texture is fuller than the hue suggests. The finish is dry, with a hint of cranberry. 89.

 Township 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($26.99 for 518 cases). The grapes for this wine, which also has 15% Merlot in the blend, came from the Blue Terrace Vineyard at Oliver. The wine, which was aged 28 months in French and American oak, begins with a dark hue and with aromas of vanilla and black currant. On the palate, there are flavours of currants, black cherries, black olives and coffee. The finish is persistent. The firm texture – the winery calls this “robust tannins” – suggest this cork-finished wine will benefit from cellaring another six or seven years. The wine is unfiltered and decanting is recommended. 90.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Godfather and other Cassini treats

Photo: Adrian Cassini

The summer releases from Cassini Cellars comprise a strong line-up, capped by the first release of The Godfather. This $70 red is built to become the winery’s icon wine.

Adrian Cassini, who opened this winery in 2009, has a notebook in which he regularly jots down ideas for wine names. When the winery’s first icon wine was getting close to bottling, he thumbed through his book and found “Godfather.” It was clearly the right name for a wine which makes a statement. “It’s big,” he says. “I want a full-bodied wine. I want a steel fist in a velvet glove.”

The Godfather was launched by putting his best wines in French oak barrel for 23 months and then selecting the six best barrels. The prolonged barrel aging (Maximus gets only 14 months) makes The Godfather even bigger. About 10% of the volume is lost to evaporation. This is what winemakers call the angel’s share.

The four varietals in the 2010 The Godfather all play a role in the blend. “The Cabernet Sauvignon creates the pillar,” Adrian says. “The Merlot and the Cabernet Franc are the mid-palate and Syrah is the glue of the whole blend.” Adrian stress that the wine is not made to a recipe. “I want people to look forward to what I come up with the next year,” he says. “It is always going to be good. We are dancing a little bit with the varietals.”

Here are notes on the wines.

Cassini Cellars The Godfather 2010 ($70 for 120 cases). This is a blend of             33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc and 17% Syrah. For this bold and elegant wine, I defer to the winery’s notes: “Nice integration of oak and dark fruit flavours like cherry, black currant and plums gives this wine a rich and complex taste with silky tannins to round out the wine to enjoy now or put down for years to come. Drink now to 2020.” My score: 92-94.

Cassini Cellars  Nobilus 2011 Grand Reserve ($39 for 125 cases). This is a Merlot. Dark in colour, it begins with aromas of black cherry, vanilla and black currant which are echoed in the flavours. There is appealing spice on the finish. The texture is firm, suggesting that this wine will age superbly for another five to seven years. 88-90.

Cassini Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($40 for 125 cases). The winery  also calls this an “iron fist in a velvet glove,” meaning that the long ripe tannins enclose a wine with a lot of power. The aroma appeals with notes of cassis, black cherry, vanilla and spice. The generous palate delivers flavours of black currant, black cherry and vanilla, finishing with hints of spice and mint. For a Cabernet from a cooler vintage, there is not a trace of green flavours in this ripe and totally delicious wine. 92.

Cassini Cellars Cabernet Franc 2011 Collector’s Series ($29 for 400 cases). This is a surprisingly ripe wine (13.1% alcohol) for a cool year. Dark in colour, it begins with aromas of blackberry, with a touch of raspberry and cherry. On the palate, there are vibrant flavours of blackberry, black currant and cola, with a spicy finish. The wine has long ripe tannins. 90.

Cassini Cellars Syrah 2011 Grand Reserve ($N/A). The unfiltered Syrah begins with aromas of white pepper, plum and black cherry. The complex and brooding flavours include plum, prune, espresso coffee and black chocolate, with a touch of pepper and earthiness on the finish. 90.

Cassini Cellars Chardonnay Reserve 2012 ($25 for 225 cases). This is a rich and ripe Chardonnay (14.6% alcohol). It begins with aromas of mandarin and subtle oak. On the palate, there are honeyed flavours of mandarin, ripe mango and butterscotch. Even with a full-bore barrel and malolactic treatment, enough acidity remains to leave a tangy note on the long finish. 90.

Cassini Cellars Viognier Marsanne Roussanne 2012. ($25 for 225 cases). A few years ago, the winery bought a nearby vineyard from Inniskillin Okanagan for growing Rhone varietals. Judging from this wine, it was a brilliant idea. Here is a wine with aromas of honey, tangerine and ripe apricot. Rich and even unctuous on the palate, the wine delivers a glorious basket of tropical flavours, including tangerine, guava, papaya and apricot. 91.

Cassini Cellars Unoaked Chardonnay 2012 ($19). This wine is an excellent example of a typical Cassini wine: it is packed with fruit, beginning with aromas of pear and apple and tasting of apples, peaches and passion fruit. The wine has good length and a long, crisp finish. 90.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Val Tait and friends on Naramata Road

Photo: Bench 1775 general manager Val Tait

The readers of USA Today recently chose the Okanagan as one of the world’s best wine-touring regions.

I have no doubt that some, if not all, of those who voted have spent time on the Naramata Bench. There they would have found a concentration of wineries offering very good wines, often excellent food, and always great views. Several wineries even offer bed and breakfast accommodation.

The tasting notes below were collecting during several recent visits to the bench. Before the summer is out, there will be another collection of reviews. Will I get around to them all? Not likely. I estimate there are about 500 wines to taste from Penticton to the Chute Lake turnoff. I would be surprised if there were a poor one.

Here are the latest notes. They cover tastings at Bench 1771, Hillside, Lake Breeze, Perseus, Red Rooster and Ruby Blues.

Bench 1775 Winery Chill 2013 ($16.90 for 1,130 cases). This  crisp and refreshing white is Pinot Gris 46%, Chardonnay 25%, Sauvignon Blanc 11%, Viognier 6%, Semillon 6% and Gewurztraminer 6%. It has citrus aromas with flavours of lemon, lime and apples. There is an herbal spice on the dry finish. 90.

Bench 1775 Winery Pinot Gris 2013 ($17.90 for 600 cases). This wine appeals with its aromas of pear and quince and flavours of tropical fruit, including lychee on the mid-palate. The finish is crisp and tangy, making for a refreshing wine. 91.

Bench 1775 Winery Gewürztraminer 2013 ($19.90 for 280 cases). This is a classic, with an aroma of spice and lychees and flavours of lychee and grapefruit. The finish is crisply dry. 90.

Bench 1775 Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($17.90 for 465 cases). This is a tangy, zesty Sauvignon Blanc recalling its New Zealand cousins. There are aromas of lime and grapefruit that are repeating on the palate. 90.

Bench 1775 Winery Chardonnay 2012 ($18.90 for 900 cases).  This is a refreshing unoaked Chardonnay, with aromas and flavours of apples, peaches and limes. The good texture reflects the impact of lees stirring while the wine was in tank. The bright acidity gives it a Chablis-like crispness. 88.

Bench 1775 Winery Glow 2013 ($19.90 for 367 cases). This is one of the Okanagan’s best dry rosé wines from the 2013 vintage. It is 48%Malbec, 26% Merlot, 14% Syrah and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes were picked and kept cool under dry ice and were pressed within an hour of being picked. The hue does indeed have an orange glow. The wine has delicate strawberry aromas with flavours of strawberry and grapefruit. There is an herbal note to dry finish. 92.

Bench 1775 Winery Groove 2012 ($17.90 for 1,250 cases). This is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 7% Malbec and 5% Syrah. Eighty percent of this wine was matured in stainless steel, only 20% in barrel. The result is a bright, juicy and quaffable red, with aromas and flavours of cherries and other red fruit and with spice on the finish. 89.

Hillside Winery Pinot Gris Reserve 2012 ($23.99 for 364 cases). Winemaker Kathy Malone builds complexity into the reserve Pinot Gris by fermenting almost half in Hungarian oak. The wine is left on the lees for five months and the lees are stirred regularly. As a result, the wine has a luscious, creamy texture with aromas and flavours of pears and apples. 91.

Hillside Winery Unoaked Pinot Gris 2013 ($19.99 for 877 cases). For those who prefer a less cerebral Pinot Gris, this is a delicious wine with a slightly pink hue. The texture is juicy with favours of citrus and fresh apples. 90.

Hillside Winery Pinot Noir 2011 ($21.73 for 233 cases). Here is a bold Pinot Noir from Naramata Bench fruit, delivering aromas and flavours of spicy cherries. The texture is juicy. 90.

Hillside Winery Mosaic 2009 ($40 for 499 cases). This is Hillside’s flagship Bordeaux blend – 55% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% each of Cabernet Franc and Malbec and 5% of Petit Verdot. It is a point of pride that every vintage of Mosaic since 2006 has been made entirely of Naramata Bench fruit. The wines arguably are more vibrant and brighter that Bordeaux blends from the south Okanagan. This is a firm, age-worthy red with flavours of black currant, coffee, chocolate and liquorice.  93.

Lake Breeze Pinot Blanc 2013 ($19). Made with fruit from old vines, this is the wine that defines British Columbia Pinot Blanc. It begins with appealing aromas of apples and honeydew melons. On the palate, there are flavours of apples and citrus, with a spine of fresh acidity and minerals. 91.

Lake Breeze Pinot Gris 2013 ($19). This is a juicy wine with mouth-filling flavours of pear and peach. This is a hint of spice on the tangy finish. 90.

Lake Breeze Ehrenfelser 2013 ($19). This off-dry white begins with floral and citrus aromas. On the palate, it is a bowl of tropical fruit – peach, apricot, mango, lychee. 88.

Lake Breeze Sémillon 2013 ($19). This delicious white begins with aromas of lime and herbs. The herbal and lime flavours are intense, giving good weight to the palate. The finish is crisp. 90.

Lake Breeze Winemaker Series Windfall 2013 ($19). This is a complex blend of four white varietals. It begins with aromas of peach, apricot and tangerine. It delivers flavours of tangerine, papaya and guava with the impression of caramel even though this is a dry wine. 90.

Lake Breeze Seven Poplars Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($22). This vibrant, zesty wine has aromas of lime and lemons which are repeated on the tangy palate. A fine skein of minerality gives it a backbone that supports the long finish. 90.

Perseus Pinot Blanc 2013 ($16). Crisp and refreshing, the wine has aromas and flavours of tangy green apples, with a note of citrus. 88.

Perseus Pinot Gris 2013 ($16.90). This is a juicy wine with tropical fruit aromas and with flavours of pears and apples. 89.

Perseus Viognier 2013 ($17.90). Made from Osoyoos grapes, this a ripe Viognier with a fleshy texture, with aromas and flavours of apricots and with a spine of minerality. Even with the texture, the wine finishes dry. 88.

Perseus Viognier Special Lots 2013 ($25). This unctuous Viognier, made with grapes from vineyards on Black Sage Road and the Similkameen, has fresh, fruity flavours of peaches and apricots. This satisfying wine has a lingering finish. 90.

Perseus Chardonnay 2012 Special Lots ($25). Most of the grapes in this wine are from the exceptional Anarchist Mountain vineyard at Osoyoos. The wine, unapologetically oaked, has aromas and flavours of tangerine and is rich on the palate. 89.

Perseus Syrah 2012 ($19.90). Made with grapes from a Skaha Lake bench vineyard, this wine has aromas and flavours of plum and black cherry, with notes of black pepper. 89.

Perseus Merlot 2012 ($19.90). The grapes for this big, ripe Merlot comes from the Blind Creek vineyard in the Similkameen. The wine begins with aromas of blueberry and cassis, leading to juicy flavours of black currants and cherry. 90.

Perseus Cabernet Shiraz 2012 ($19.90). The blend is 48% Shiraz, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. The wine is still firm and benefits from decanting if you don’t have the patience to cellar it. There are aromas and flavours of black currant and plum, with a touch of pepper and with notes of cedar on the finish. 89.

Perseus Invictus 2011 Select Lots ($32.99 for 300 cases). This is the winery’s flagship Bordeaux blend. It is 40% Merlot, 21% Malbec, 18% Petit Verdot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc.  There is an appealing  new oak in both the aroma and the palate, along a whiff of violets and with flavours of black currant and black cherry. There is also a touch of graphite on the finish. This clearly is a wine meant for cellaring. 91.

Perseus Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Select Lots ($50).  The grapes here are from the most famous Cabernet Sauvignon block in the Okanagan – the U2 block at Inkameep Vineyards. This is a wine with a long life ahead of it, allowing the black currant and raspberry flavours to meld with the vanilla, cloves and leather notes here. 91.

Red Rooster Riesling Classic 2012 ($16.99). A portion of this wine was fermented in one of three recently-acquired 600-litre concrete eggs, enhancing its texture, before being blend with the remainder, which was fermented in stainless steel. The wine has developed a touch of petrol. While it is dry, the texture leaves the impression of honeyed flavours of grapefruit. 90.

Red Rooster Bantam 2012 ($14.99). This is winemaker Karen Gillis’s favourite wine to make, likely because the blend is so complex: 27% Pinot Auxerrois, 22% Pinot Gris, 17% Chardonnay, 17% Riesling, 10% Viognier and 7% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine impresses with tropical fruit aromas and flavours, along with juicy peaches and crisp apples. 89.

Red Rooster Viognier Reserve 2013 ($21.99 for 317 cases). This wine is available only at the winery. It is well worth the stop. The wine begins with floral and fruity aromas of apricot, pear and peach. On the rich palate, there are flavours of apricot and peach, with a lingering finish of tangerine and strawberry. 91.

Red Rooster Rosé Reserve 2013 ($21.99 for 480 cases). Here is another complex blend - 35% Malbec, 27% Cabernet Franc, 15% Syrah, 8% Mourvedre, 7% Petit Verdot, 3% Pinot Noir and 3% Grenache. It was made by bleeding juice from tanks of pressed red varietals. The wine delivers aromas and flavours of strawberry and cherry, with the dry finish of a Provence rosé. 89.

Red Rooster Merlot Classic 2011 ($18.99). Here is a Merlot designed for easy drinking, having been aged around 12 months in older barrels, mostly American. There are aromas and flavours of black currant and blueberry. The texture is still firm and the winery recommends decanting it for immediate drinking.  88.

Red Rooster Merlot Reserve 2010 ($29.99 for 494 cases). This wine has had 14 to 16 months in oak barrels. It begins with aromas of cassis and cherry. On the palate, the bright fruit flavours display notes of cherry and lingonberry, with a spicy finish. Available only at the winery. 90.

Red Rooster Pinot Noir Reserve 2011 ($24.99 for 478 cases). The nine months this spent in newer French oak comes through with the toasty aromas, along with strawberry and spice. On the palate, the bright fruit flavours include cherry, strawberry and red currant. The silky tannins add to the appeal of this pretty wine. 90.

Red Rooster Syrah Reserve 2011 ($29.99 for 476 cases). Available only at the winery, this bold red is made mostly with Similkameen grapes. The wine has spent 14 months in barrel, developing typically gamey aromas recalling bacon fat and delicatessen spices. The wine has big meaty flavours, along with plums, black cherry and spice, along with a hint of white pepper. 90.

Red Rooster Golden Egg 2011 ($49.99). Always made in a limited quantity – three barrels in this vintage – this is Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre blend. The wine shows a lovely core of brambly fruit – blackberries, blueberries, black and red currants, with appealing aromas of violets and red fruit. The firm texture indicates the wine has the ability to age. 93.

Ruby Blues Commune Series Pinot Gris 2013 ($20). The bus on the label signifies that the grapes came from several neighbouring vineyards. The winery is calling these “commune series” wines. Clearly, these are good growers. The wine has juicy, mouthfilling flavours of pear and peach. 90.

Ruby Blues  Commune Series Viognier 2013 ($25). This wine won a Lieutenant Governor’s Award. It is fresh and vibrant, with aromas and flavours of peaches, pineapples and apricots. 92.

Ruby Blues  Commune Series Gewurztraminer 2013 ($20). Intense and expressive, this wine announces itself with a spicy aroma, leading to flavours of grapefruit and lychee. 90.

Ruby Blues  White Stiletto 2013 ($20). This is a blend of  Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. An appealing aromatic white, it has flavours of apples, guava, mango and pear. 90.

Ruby Blues  Strawberry Heels Rosé 2013 ($25). This was made entirely with Pinot Noir that was allowed a long cold soak. The hue is vibrant. There are aromas and flavours of strawberry and cherry, with a crisp, dry finish. 90.

Ruby Blues  Red Stiletto N.V. ($25). This unusual blend is anchored on Syrah, with Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The wine is eminently soft and drinkable, with black cherry flavours and black pepper on the finish. 90.

Ruby Blues  Merlot Cabernet 2009 ($30).  There are not too many of the splendid 2009 reds left in the market. This is a typically big, ripe red with good concentration. There are aromas of black currants and blueberries, leading to flavours of black cherry and black currants. 90-91.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Six wines to show off Mt. Boucherie's vineyards


Photo: Kal and Nirmal Gidda of Mt. Boucherie

From time to time, some wineries talk about reducing the number of wines they produce.

It does not seem that is much of a conversation at Mt. Boucherie Family Estate Winery where winemaker Jim Faulkner and his team get to make at last 21 different wines.

In fact, there are more “SKU’s” than that because the winery releases some of its wines in three litre boxes. That package does not qualify for the VQA designation but these are VQA quality wines at a very good price. The box of unoaked Chardonnay, at $38.50, works out to $9.63 a bottle.

Each year Mt. Boucherie produces around 25,000 cases of wine, all of it estate-grown. Kal and Nirmal Gidda, who own the winery with their families, have 300 acres of vineyard in three regions: West Kelowna, Okanagan Falls and the Similkameen Valley. This gives the winemaker many options for making varietals and blends.

Six examples from the winery’s current releases show the depth of the portfolio and the skill of the growers and the winemaker.

Here are notes on the wines.

Mt. Boucherie Riesling 2012 ($16 for 560 cases). The wine begins with aromas of grapefruit and tangerine with just a faint whiff of petrol (a good thing in Riesling).  On the palate, there are flavours of lemon and green apple with a touch of slate on the finish. The balance is exquisite: the residual sugar, which lifts the flavours, is offset by crisp acidity, give the wine a dry finish. 88.

Mt. Boucherie Sémillon 2011 ($15.50 for 112 cases). This wine, from grapes grown near Okanagan Falls, reminds me of a Hunter Valley Sémillon. I think it would a worthwhile idea (especially at this price) to set some of this wine aside for five or 10 years, allowing the nascent complexity to develop in bottle, as it does in the Hunter. The wine begins with aromas of lemon and lemon oil, leading to flavours of citrus, honeydew and apple with a silky spine. The finish is dry. 90.

Mt. Boucherie Family Reserve Gamay Noir 2012 ($20 for 1,338 cases). The wine begins with aromas of cherry and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of cherries and red currants with a good shake of black pepper. This might be a candidate for decanting; as it breathes, the texture become fleshy. 88.

Mt. Boucherie Pinot Noir 2011 ($21 for 1,356 cases). The fruit for this wine is from the Gidda family’s vineyards near Cawston. The wine begins with aromas of cherries, leading to flavours of cherry and strawberry with a hint of spice (the winery’s notes say fennel) on the finish. The silky tannins add to the appeal of a very drinkable wine at bargain price for Pinot Noir. It is a versatile wine: served chilled on a hot day, it was quite refreshing. 88.

Mt. Boucherie Summit Reserve Syrah 2009 ($25 for 350 cases). The wine begins with heady aromas of black cherry, plum and vanilla. It is generous on the palate, with meaty flavours, mingling plum, prune, liquorice and salami. There is a touch of black pepper on the lingering finish. The wine shows all the ripeness (alcohol of 14.5%) of a great vintage. The wine needs to be decanted because it has begun to throw sediment, as most good reds will. 91.

Mt. Boucherie Family Reserve Zinfandel 2010 ($35 for 250 cases). The bold, rustic personality of this wine should appeal to all Zinfandel fans. It begins with peppery aromas of raspberry and blackberry. On the palate, there are flavours of blackberry over an earthy undertone. When this wine is decanted – as it should be – a rich texture emerges with hints of chocolate and liquorice on the finish. 91.