Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Class of 2018: Mayhem Wines Inc.



Photo: Mayhem partner Terry Meyer



A new Okanagan producer, Mayhem Wines Inc., was launched in late October under the license of Meyer Family Vineyards of Okanagan Falls.

So far, most of the public tastings have been in various Penticton wine stores or at the Meyer tasting room. I was able to taste the wines in September and they are first-rate.

Mayhem succeeds Anarchist Mountain Vineyards, a boutique winery that was established after Terry Merry and Andrew Stone in 2010 purchased a 4 ½-acre vineyard on the side of Anarchist Mountain above Osoyoos.

Terry is the sister of JAK Meyer (below) who, with wife Janice Stevens, operates the Meyer winery at the Okanagan Falls vineyard he purchased in 2008. He asked his sister and Andrew, her partner, to help develop his winery and they quickly became involved with their own project. Anarchist produced about 500 cases a year (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) under a custom crush arrangement with Meyer.

Last summer, JAK and Janice initiated a formal winery partnership with Terry and Andrew to launch Mayhem. The business model allows Mayhem [ex- Anarchist] to grow its wine production while eliminating its former varietal overlap with Meyer. With the exception of a modest volume of Gewürztraminer, Meyer’s 8,500 cases of annual production are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

“I was not really interested in supporting my sister to make more Chardonnay and Pinot Noir here, which was going to compete against us,” JAK says. “That is why we launched the Mayhem brand, doing anything but Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.”

Meyer now takes all of the Chardonnay (three acres) and Pinot Noir (half an acre) in the Anarchist vineyard, leaving an acre of Merlot for Mayhem. As well, Mayhem is free to source other varietals, to grow its production and sales.

“This gives us some room if opportunity comes up,” Terry says. “For example, if somebody had a couple of tons of Riesling for sale, we can take advantage of that. We have got contract vineyards. We have Merlot from the Meyer property and Merlot from Anarchist, so we will always have those. We have Pinot Gris under contract.”

“We are very opportunistic,” Terry says of production plans for Mayhem. “The leading varietal would be Merlot; and when possible, a Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend. And then aromatic dry whites. We have Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc from 2017.”

In the 2018 vintage, Mayhem made most of the same varietals, along with Gewürztraminer, Riesling and a rosé.”

Like the Anarchist wines before them, the Mayhem wines are made at Meyer Family Vineyards, at least for the time being.

Last year, JAK bought a small vineyard in Kaleden with three acres of Pinot Noir. “There is a good space there and a good location for traffic,” JAK says. “That could be the future home for Mayhem, if it makes sense to go that route.”

Mayhem has its own wine maker, Simone Ardiel, who shares the Meyer winery with Chris Carson, Meyer’s long-time winemaker. “It works out well that we have two winemakers here,” JAK says. “It gives us that ability to keep things separate but to have the economies of sharing.”

“I am from Ontario,” says Simone (right), who has been at Meyer since June 2017. “I graduated from Niagara College. I spent two years at Tawse Winery and then I did a harvest for Clos Jordanne [which has since closed]. Then I went vintage hopping.” She has done vintages in New Zealand, Australia, Oregon and Burgundy, as well as the 2014 harvest at Meyer. Before returning to Meyer, she also worked with Bench 1775 Winery near Naramata.

The partners had to some up with a new winery name after they discovered that  - unknown to them – someone else already had trademarked Anarchist. The search for synonyms eventually led to Mayhem.

“Mayhem just seemed to ring a chord with everybody,” Terry says. “We knew we wanted something that reflected us personally. We are totally in that mayhem profile. Out of mayhem comes opportunity. We’re flexible. If the market says all it wants to drink is orange wine, we can say let’s do orange wine.”

Perhaps orange wine is not a good example, since neither the winemaker nor the owners are fond of that style. “We actually have to kind of like it ourselves,” Terry says. “We are always going to be terroir driven, clean, fresh, quality-focussed wines. But there is that fun element as well. Mayhem was a great descriptor for how it could go down.”

The Mayhem wines, notably the whites, has been released at lower price points than the Meyer wines, another differentiation between the brands. However, Mayhem over-delivers.

“We wanted wines that would be served in restaurants and hospitality,” Terry says. “So they are really well priced. If the bottle came out on the table, people would say this is fun; and that the wine would pair well with food.”

Here are notes on the wines.

Mayhem Pinot Blanc 2017 ($18). The winemaking here does justice to an underappreciated varietal. The wine has aromas and flavours of citrus and apple, with good weight on the palate and refreshing crispness on the finish. 91.

Mayhem Pinot Gris 2017 ($18). The majority of this wine was fermented in stainless steel; a minor portion was fermented in neutral oak barrels and added for texture and complexity. The wine has aromas and flavours of pear and citrus. The finish is crisp and refreshing. 90.

Mayhem Sauvignon Blanc ($18). The wine begins with herbal aromas mingled with lime. It is crisp and fresh on the palate, with an appealing core of lime and other tropical fruit flavours. 91.

Mayhem Merlot Cabernet Franc 2015 ($26). This is a blend of 67% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Franc. It is a juicy, appealing red, with aromas and flavours of black cherry and blackberry and with long ripe tannins. 91.

Mayhem Cabernet Franc 2015 ($30). This wine has the classic brambly aromas of flavours of the varietal, notably blackberry and black cherry. The wine is full on the palate. There is a lingering note of chocolate on the finish. 91.








Monday, January 14, 2019

Quails' Gate debuts new Pinot Gris at wine festival








 

Photo: Quails' Gate president Tony Stewart


Quails’ Gate Estate Winery will be one of the 26 British Columbia wineries at the Vancouver International Wine Festival.

Over the years, this winery has been a frequent applicant to attend the festival. Given the status of Quails’ Gate as one of the Okanagan’s leading wineries, choosing it is a no-brainer for the festival’s selection committee. Tony Stewart, the winery’s president, is the principal at the festival again this year.

This year, he will be accompanied by the winemaking team: Susan Doyle, the new vice-president of winemaking for California and Canada, and Ross Baker, the Quails’ Gate winemaker.

On reviewing the wines that Quails’ Gate will pour, I was a bit surprised that the selection committee did not lean on the winery to up one of its wines

Every winery is allowed to have four wines at its table, plus a fifth to be poured at the two trade tasting afternoons. The Quails’ Gate trade wine at the festival in February will be a $24 Pinot Gris. No doubt, it will be a delicious wine – but almost every winery in British Columbia also has Pinot Gris.

Last fall’s wine release from Quails’ Gate included a number of other wines that are not among a crowded field of varietals and/or are quite superb. If I were still on the selection committee, I might have suggested the winery offer its Totally Botrytis Affected Optima as the trade wine. This delicious wine is unique.

I appreciate that Quails’ Gate would have solid commercial reasons for offering what it did. It would like the trade buyers to put its Pinot Gris on their wine lists or liquor store inventories. This wine, made with grapes from a vineyard in East Kelowna, is a new offering from Quails’ Gate. Still …

For your information, Quails’ Gate will be pouring these wines at the festival: its always excellent Chenin Blanc 2017; the Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2016 and the Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2016, two of its flagship wines; the Merlot 2016 which is reviewed below; and The Bench Pinot Gris 2016.

Here are notes on the fall wine releases.

Quails’ Gate Old Vines Foch Reserve 2016 ($46.99 for 576 cases). Now in its second decade as a cult vine, the Old Vines Foch Reserve shows good viticulture and good winemaking can do for a sometimes maligned varietal. The wine begins with powerful aromas of spiced plum, fig and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of fig, black cherry and licorice mingled with vanilla. 92.

Quails’ Gate Old Vines Foch 2016 ($24.99 for 2,809 cases). Inky dark in colour, the wine has aromas of black cherry and plum mingled with oak. The wine was aged 18 months in American oak barrels (mostly neutral). On the palate, the flavours are meaty with notes of cherry, leather and chocolate, with lively acidity. 90.  

Quails’ Gate Fortified Vintage Foch 2016 ($25.99 for 507 cases of 375 ml). Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of fig and plum mingled with oak and spice. On the palate, the wine is rich in texture. It presents sweet flavours of plum, cherry, fig and spice that persist on the finish. The wine carries its 18% alcohol very well. 91.

Quails’ Gate Merlot 2016 ($25.99 for 3,713 cases). This is a sveltely-textured wine already drinking well but with the ripe tannins that will support aging. It begins with aromas of black cherry, cassis and vanilla, which are echoed on the palate. The fruit flavours are rich and bright at the same time, for a hedonistic experience. 92.

Quails’ Gate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($35.99 for 3,000 cases). Eighteen months aging in French oak contributed to the lush texture of this wine. The aromas of black cherry, mint and cassis are echoed on the palate. 92.


Quails’ Gate The Connemara 2016 ($84.99 for 280 cases). The blend in this tour de force is 40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc. The wine is dark, with a concentrated texture. It begins with aromas of dark fruit mingled with cassis and vanilla. On the palate, there are layers of fruit – black cherry, blueberry, mulberry – with a lingering finish of spice and chocolate.  Decant this wine if you drink it now; or age it up to 15 years. 94.


Quails’ Gate Totally Botrytis Affected Optima Late Harvest 2017 ($28.99 for 791 cases of 375 ml). This wine is legendary among Okanagan dessert wines, and not just because few wineries have the terroir and a grape susceptible to Noble Rot. Lightly golden in the glass, it begins with the classic sweet tobacco aromas of botrytis, along with notes of apricot. The palate is luscious, with flavours of apricot, peach and orange marmalade. The intensity of the aromas and flavours are heightened by the residual sugar (164 grams per liter), superbly balance with 10.8 grams of acidity. There is nothing cloying here. The lingering finish is fresh. 95.

Quails’ Gate Cailleteau Gamay Nouveau 2018 ($19.99 for 180 cases). Several years ago, Quails’ Gate revived the Beaujolais Nouveau tradition in the Okanagan with this wine. Exuberant and youthful, it is made from grapes picked at the end of September. The wine was bottled a month later and released mid November. Since this style is meant to be consumed by Christmas, this review is probably irrelevant. It has aromas and flavours of cherries and plums mingled with mocha and spice. 88.





Thursday, January 10, 2019

Harmonious caps the Siren's Call wine portfolio









Photo: BC Wine Studio's Mark Simpson


Winemaker Mark Simpson put an audacious marker down in 2010 when he launched his Siren’s Call with a portfolio including a premium red blend called Harmonious.

The wine was competing with as such icons as Nota Bene. The audacity was that Mark’s fermenting expertise to that point was primarily in beer.


His transition from brewing to winemaking has succeeded. His BC Wine Studio, a custom crush wine producer based on an Okanagan Falls vineyard owned by partner Steve Carter, has nurtured several start-up wineries as well as expanding the Siren’s Call portfolio. And it is just launching wines, including a traditional method sparkling wine, under the Hawk’s Vineyard label (Steve Carter’s brand).

Harmonious has taken its place among the leading red blends. It was one of the wines entered last November in the BC Iconic Reds tasting. As it happened, Harmonious 2014 was my favourite red that evening. Harmonious 2015, which will be released in mid-2019, is as good.

Recently, I sat down with Mark to taste the new Siren’s Call releases.


In 2007, he set up Artisan Food and Beverage Group Inc., his consulting company. Working in another winery’s facility, he created Siren’s Call three years later, in part to establish his credibility with his wine industry clients. “It is like buying a billboard,” he said once.

In 2012, Steve Carter, an Artisan client who wanted to establish a winery, bought a 6.5-acre vineyard near Okanagan Falls. The site is now called Hawk’s Vineyard. Mark moved his winemaking to this site, calling it BC Wine Studio and making it home for Siren’s Call, among other labels.

Successful producers have begun as virtual wineries at BC Wine Studio and now have developed their own wineries. These include Nagging Doubt Wines, now based on a vineyard in East Kelowna, and Black Market Wines, now on its own vineyard in Kaleden.


Tasting room facilities at BC Wine Studio are informal, in part because the steep and narrow road into the vineyard is somewhat challenging. However, Mark and Steve have begun planning a readily accessible wine shop on Oliver Ranch Road.

Here are notes on the wines.

Siren’s Call Viognier 2017 ($21). This is a classic expression of the varietal, with aromas and flavours of stone fruit mingled with citrus and spice. The finish is crisp and refreshing. 91.

Siren’s Call Grüner Veltliner 2015 ($25). Maturity has given this wine a rich texture with flavours of lemon and lime. 90.

Siren’s Call Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon 2016 ($22). The blend is two-thirds Sauvignon Blanc and one-third Sémillon. The wine begins with herbal and citrus aromas that lead to tropical flavours of lemon and lime. The finish is crisp and fresh. 91.

Siren’s Call Cabernet Franc 2016 ($25). This wine was made with fruit from a Similkameen vineyard, with Mark aiming for a lighter Loire style red. The wine begins with aromas of raspberry and sage. There is bright red fruit on the palate with a hint of pepper on the finish. 90.

Siren’s Call Pinot Noir 2016 ($25). Made from grapes sourced from an Oliver vineyard, this wine begins with aromas of cherry and spice. This is echoed on the palate, along with subtle hints of vanilla. The texture is fleshy, with a silken finish. 91.

Siren’s Call Syrah 2015 ($35). Syrah is one of Mark’s favourite winemaking varietals. This wine incorporates grapes from both the Similkameen and the south Okanagan. Aged 18 months in American oak, the wine begins with aromas of black cherry and white pepper. On the palate, the flavours mingle black cherry with deli meats. There is a smoky note on the finish. 91.

Siren’s Call Petit Verdot 2015 ($27). This varietal is rarely bottled on its own. Almost black in colour, the wine is dense and concentrated. Aromas of black fruits including black currant lead to flavours of black cherry and black currant, with leather, slate and licorice on the finish. Pair the wine with dark chocolate. 92.

Siren’s Call Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($35). The 2015 vintage produced exceptionally ripe and full-flavoured Cabernet Sauvignon, leading to a special bottling for Siren’s Call. The wine, aged 18 months in French and American oak, has aromas and flavours of black cherry and black currant. There are layers of fruit on the palate. Long ripe tannins give the wine an elegant and polished texture. 93.

Siren’s Call Harmonious 2014 ($35). The blend is 44.4 % Merlot, 10.5%, Cabernet Franc, 14.4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.9% Malbec, 12% Petit Verdot, 3.9% Syrah 3.9%. The wine begins with perfumed aromas of black cherry, cassis and spice. On the palate, there are mouth-filling layers of fruit including black cherry and blackberry with a hint of pepper. The finish is persistent. 95.

Siren’s Call Harmonious 2015 ($35). This wine is anchored around 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah in the blend. Dense and layered, the wine has aromas and flavours of black cherry, black currant and spice. 94 – 95.






Monday, January 7, 2019

Sunrock Vineyards emerges as its own wine brand





Photo: Sunrock winemaker Dave Carson


Arterra Wines Canada, which farms almost 1,300 acres of Okanagan vineyard, has carved out one of its best properties for a single vineyard red wine brand.    
                                                                                                                        
Sunrock Vineyards is a sunbathed 180-acre vineyard on the Osoyoos Lake Bench that was developed twenty years ago by Vincor International, the predecessor to Arterra.

This is one of several single vineyards that Arterra has launched in recent years. Wines from Black Sage Vineyard, formerly the flagship at Sumac Ridge Estate Winery, have become a stand-alone brand.

At Inniskillin Okanagan, wines from the Dark Horse Vineyard are emerging similarly as single vineyard wines.

Sunrock Vineyards was a star in the Jackson-Triggs wine portfolio, along with the Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve wines. The latter continue to be produced and now sell at slightly lower prices than Sunrock. For Grand Reserve and other Jackson-Triggs wines, the winemakers have the flexibility of selecting fruit from any and all of the many Arterra vineyards in the south Okanagan.

Spinning out Sunrock indicates that the team at Arterra realize how exceptional this vineyard is.

Troy Osborne, Arterra’s director of viticulture, has been involved with farming Sunrock from the start.

“When I first drove into that vineyard, it was jaw-dropping,” he recalls. “It is textbook viticulture. You have the massive granite face, a south-facing slope and then a lake at the bottom of it. You get very good air movement through the vineyard. And it is just big. There are not a lot of sites in the south Okanagan where the heat units compare with that site.”

A winery brochure provides additional detail: “Ripening potential is extended into late October as the site is adjacent to a massive south-facing outcropping known as ‘Sunrock’ that reflects the sun’s rays during the day and holds the desert heat well after sundown. These factors contribute to the huge varietal expression for late ripening varieties that can only be achieved on limited sites in the South Okanagan Valley.”

When the vineyard was being planted in 1998-1999, the viticulturists at the time hedged their bets by planting both white and red varietals. The reds included a 30-acre block of Pinot Noir. When it was realized within a few years that the vineyard is far too hot for Pinot Noir, those vines were all grafted over mostly to Shiraz.

(Perhaps because Mark Sheridan, the original vineyard manager, is Australian, Vincor took to call the varietal Shiraz, not Syrah. Arguably, the style of the wine from the Sunrock property is more Australia than Rhone.)

Chardonnay also was planted in Sunrock originally but that variety also has been replaced with heat-loving reds. The major varietals grown here are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet France, Shiraz and Zinfandel.

The Sunrock wines are made by Dave Carson, a veteran Okanagan winemaker and now the senior winemaker in Arterra’s British Columbia team.

“I started in the industry in 1982,” he says. “I worked at Sumac Ridge for 23 years. I became the winemaker at See Ya Later Ranch for a few years. I did not start with Sunrock and that particular team until 2007. I still remember going up there with the team to taste the grapes. It was a beautiful October day. One of the bird bangers went off and echoed off the rocks. I felt a shiver go up my spine and I said, yes, I have arrived.”

He continues: “The site produces great wines year after year. 2015 was a year where you could hit the ball out of the park. Even in those years not as good, Sunrock always comes through.”

Here are notes on the current releases.





Sunrock Shiraz 2015 ($34). Big and ripe, this wine begins with generous aromas of plum, fig and black cherry mingled with black pepper. On the palate, there are flavours of dark fruits, vanilla and oak. 92.

Sunrock Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($34). This wine begins with aromas of black cherry, cassis and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of black cherry, black currant mingled with spice and dark chocolate around a spine of firm but ripe tannins. 93.

Sunrock Red Meritage 2016 ($34). The blend is 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. The wine begins with appealing aromas of plum and cassis. On the palate, there are opulent flavours of plums, black cherries, vanilla and chocolate. 92.

Sunrock Illumina 2016 ($39). This is a blend of 67.5% Shiraz and 32.5% Zinfandel, an inspired blend created several years ago by Dave Carson. It is a bold wine with aromas of blackberries and black cherries. On the palate, the wine is juicy, offering layers of jammy fruit framed by subtle oak. 93.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Pinot Blanc …. Seriously?









Photo: Pinot Blanc booster Anthony Buchanan


When vinifera varietals were being trialed in British Columbia in the 1980s, Pinot Blanc came through with flying colours.

The reliable vine was planted widely. It was, I suspect, also overcropped because a fair number of nonmemorable wines were made. I took to calling it the Holiday Inn of varietals because there were no surprises.

I even discouraged Barbara Philip’s view that Pinot Blanc could become the signature varietal of the Okanagan. She persisted in her research and, in 2007, became Canada’s first female Master of Wine. Now a senior buyer with the Liquor Distribution Branch, she remains passionate about Pinot Blanc.

Happily, a growing number winemakers have developed the same passion. Pinot Blanc still is a long way from becoming a signature Okanagan varietal, if only because the styles now are all over the map, but some interesting examples are being made.

Blue Mountain Vineyard & Cellars has grown Pinot Blanc since at least the mid-1980s and has always been serious about the variety. Its current release is from the 2017 vintage and sells for $18 a bottle. I liked the wine when I tasted it this spring. The wine is crisp and focussed, with aromas and flavours of green apple and melon. There is a hint of lees on the nose as well. The wine has good weight on the palate but a tangy finish. 91.

One of the earliest vintners to espouse Pinot Blanc was the late Frank Supernak after he (and partners) in 1996 took over what became Hester Creek Estate Winery. Pinot Blanc was, and still is, one of the largest blocks in the vineyard. In one or two vintages, Frank made at least three different styles of Pinot Blanc: a crisp white fermented in stainless steel, a fuller wine aged in oak and a big barrel-fermented Pinot Blanc that tasted a lot like Chardonnay.

It showed the versatility of Pinot Blanc but it was commercial folly. Consumers had a difficult time remembering which style they preferred. Hester Creek, blessed with one of the oldest plantings in the Okanagan, still produces Pinot Blanc. It is fermented cool in stainless steel. I have always found the crisply refreshing style immensely appealing and I rate the current vintage at 92..

Two other exponents of this style are Lake Breeze Vineyards and Nk’Mip Cellars, with a pair of 91 point wines. Both have access to mature vines which deliver grapes with lots of flavour. Both wineries ferment and age the wine in stainless steel, preserving crispness and freshness.

Other exponents of differing Pinot Blanc styles have emerged recently from winemakers pushing – as Frank Supernak did – the limits of the varietal.

JoieFarm owner and winemaker Heidi Noble released a Pinot Blanc this fall under her Chic Fille label (the label she has developed for her more experimental wines).

“I have been working with Pinot Blanc for 11 years,” Heidi wrote in covering letter when her wine was released. She was inspired by Barbara Philip’s thesis research and called her first Pinot Blanc Dedication “as a nod to Barbara’s efforts and to curiosity of exploring the potential of how Pinot Blanc could express itself in the Okanagan Valley’s cool-climate, lake-moderated desert terroir.”

Heidi has often treated Pinot Blanc like Chardonnay, giving the wine lots of lees contact “to make it texturally more lush and mouth-filling on the palate.” She has fermented the wine in oak. “In 2009, I had the opportunity to start working with Pinot Blanc from a 30-year-old site in the Mission of Kelowna,” Heidi writes. “Working with older Pinot Blanc that had started regulating its own low yield produced a magnificently aromatic and honeyed Pinot Blanc which was unexpected.” In 2013, she released a single varietal Pinot Blanc.

Her exploration of the variety also took her in 2007 to fermenting Pinot Blanc on the skins to see how that would affect the flavour of the wine. “Not a huge success organoleptically, but very interesting nonetheless,” she writes.

However, all her experience with Pinot Blanc led to the making two barrels of the 2017 Chic Fille, which sells for $34.90. In this wine she re-explored on-skin fermentation.

The method was quite complex. Half the grapes were destemmed and whole berries were placed in an open-top bin fermenter. The berries started fermenting spontaneously. When they began to pop, they were crushed by foot and continued to ferment on skins until just over half the sugar was gone. They were then pressed, with the must finishing fermentation in stainless steel. The wine was then racked in a neutral barrel where it went through spontaneous malolactic fermentation.

The free run juice pressed from the other half of the grapes was racked to a neutral barrel where it fermented naturally. The wine was then racked off the fermentation lees but returned to the same barrel for spontaneous malolactic fermentation. Both barrels were aged over winter, combined in stainless steel in late spring and bottled a month later.

As you might imagine, the Chic Fille Pinot Blanc presents a taste profile considerably different from, say, Hester Creek. The wine has a full texture with aromas and flavours of apple and citrus. The style will appeal to those who appreciate “natural” wines. 90.

Anthony Buchanan, the chief winemaker at Desert Hills Winery, specializes in Pinot Blanc (and Pinot Noir) under his own label, Anthony Buchanan Wines. Earlier in his career, he worked at Blue Mountain Vineyards and Cellars.

“I think Pinot Blanc is extremely undervalued,” he told me last year. “There are not a lot of wineries that produce Pinot Blanc. I have got to know a few people over the last five years who have, in my opinion, very good vineyards of Pinot Blanc. And I enjoy drinking the wines. One of the interests in Pinot Blanc is that it can be manipulated a bit in the cellar. It can go to stainless steel fermentation; it can handle some barrel. The 2016 Pinot Blanc we produced, this is 30% concrete-fermented and aged. It holds up nicely with concrete.”

For his 2017 Pinot Blanc, which sells for $20 a bottle, he obtained organically farmed grapes from a vineyard planted in 2002 on the Black Sage Gravelbar. Whole cluster berries were pressed in neutral oak barrels (70%) and concrete (30%) and allowed to ferment with wild yeast. The wine was aged 5 ½ months in a combination of a second-fill French puncheon, neutral French oak barrels and concrete barrels, with lees stirring every two weeks.

“Simple but sensible winemaking,” Anthony writes in his technical notes on the wine.

The style leans more to the crisp, refreshing expression of Pinot Blanc, with aromas and flavours of apple and pear mingled with a touch of brioche and a spine of minerality. 91.

Keep an eye out for an emerging winery called Rigour & Whimsy. I happened to meet owner/winemaker Costa Gavaris this fall at another Okanagan Falls winery. He gave me a bottle of his 2016 Pinot Blanc, which was fermented on the skins for two months and aged in barrel for 15 months. The back label offers no more detail but I suspect the wine was fermented with wild yeast as well. Light gold in colour, the wine is intensely fruity, with flavours of apple, quince and pear. The texture is rich and the finish is quite long. 91.

“Our plans include building a land-based winery at 4112 McLean Creek Rd,” Costa told me in an email this fall. “Currently we have planted approximately 3.5 acres of the 5 acres we own. This is half and half Gamay and Chenin. The unplanted areas are for winery and home (eventually). We hope to begin build on the winery in the next 2-3 years.

“As far as wine-making goes; we have been working with Pinot Blanc since 2016. This year we have added in Roussanne and Gamay. In the end the varietal focus will be on Pinot Blanc, Roussanne and Chenin, and Gamay and Syrah.”

I am not sure where to find Rigour & Whimsy’s wine at this time, but the winery has a nascent website, giving consumers an opportunity to sign up. On the strength of this wine, I recommend signing up.




Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Stag's Hollow adds to its portfolio



 Photo: Stag's Hollow Winery owners (photo courtesy winery) 

Stag’s Hollow Winery has always had a fairly large portfolio of wines- and that is the way the owners like it.

“You know us,” laughs Linda Pruegger, who owns Stag’s Hollow Winery with husband Larry Gerelus. “We can never go a vintage without making a new wine.”

New next spring, there will be a 2018 Blanc de Noirs from Stag’s Hollow. It is made primarily with the winery’s Ritter Clone of Pinot Noir, with a little Gamay Noir. The wine, which shows a slight blush, is being aged in oak and is getting regular lees stirring to build texture. About 200 cases will be bottled.

The winery’s penchant to be different has been aided its Shuttleworth Creek Vineyard. This 18-acre property just north Okanagan Falls was acquired in 2011. To date, 10 acres has been planted, with about three more plantable acres remaining.

Shuttleworth Creek is just two km north of the winery’s estate vineyard. The two properties have begun to produce enough fruit that Stag’s Hollow is about 85% self-sufficient. The two vineyards are quite different aspects, giving the winery the option to grow a wide variety of grapes.

Shuttleworth Creek grows two Spanish varietals, Albariño and Tempranillo; two Italian varietals, Dolcetto and Teroldego; six clones of Pinot Noir and a small block of Vidal. This spring, Stag’s Hollow planted Syrah here as well.

“Our goal is to make rosé from the Syrah vines,” Linda says.

The winery’s current releases include an Albariño from Shuttleworth Creek, a Pinot Noir from the estate vineyard, and a Syrah from the grower-owned Amalia Vineyard near Osoyoos.

Here are notes on the wines.

Stag’s Hollow Albariñ0 2017 ($18.90). This wine begins with appealing aromas of citrus and melon with floral notes. On the palate, there are flavours of apple and tropical fruits around a spine of minerality. The finish is crisp. 91.

Stag’s Hollow Pinot Noir 2016 ($21.99). In the technical notes accompanying the wine, Stag’s Hollow notes that the wine is “slightly more masculine” than its Pinot Noirs from Shuttleworth Creek. That reflects the fact that the estate vineyard, a sunbathed bowl, is the hotter of the two vineyards.  Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of cherry mingled with earthy notes. The palate is juicy, with flavours of cherry and good acidity to keep the fruit bright and lively. The texture is silky. 91.

Stag’s Hollow Syrah 2016 Amalia Vineyard ($25.99). The wine begins with aromas of black pepper, fig and plum. There is a big gob of sweet fruit on the generous palate, with the flavours echoing the aroma. 92.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Noble Ridge's 2015 King's Ransom Cabernet is a stunner




Photo: Noble Ridge's Leslie and Jim D'Andrea


Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery has two remarkable vineyards in Okanagan Falls. The one at the winery’s tasting room is a rounded peak, with grape vines on all four exposures.

The result: fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon on one slope, fabulous Pinot Noir on another, and terrific fruit for sparkling wine on a third.

Retired lawyer Jim D’Andrea and his wife, Leslie, purchased this 25-acre hilltop in 2001. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay were already planted. They added Pinot Noir (for sparkling wine) and Pinot Gris. In 2006, they purchased an existing vineyard across the road.

Whenever the vineyards yield superlative fruit, the winery makes an ultra-premium wines that are released under the label, King’s Ransom.

This fall Noble Ridge released its first King’s Ransom Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2015 vintage. If ever there was a vintage to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon in the Okanagan, it had to be 2015. This is an expensive wine but it is also one of the best Cabernets ever from the Okanagan.

Earlier in the fall, the winery also released some reserve wines, with the head of a lion on each label. Think of them as the King’s pride of lions.

The most recent release also includes the 2015 vintage of “The One” – the winery’s                     traditional method sparkling wine. At the recent Judgement of BC tasting, where six BC sparkling wines were matched against six imported sparkling wines, The One was judged number two among the BC wines and fifth overall.

The bottom line: Noble Ridge is delivering very high quality wines.

Here are notes on the wines.

Noble Ridge Reserve Chardonnay 2015 ($N/A for 233 cases). This wine, which was aged 14 months in French oak, begins with aromas of peach and citrus. It is rich, even creamy, on the palate with flavours of butterscotch, hazelnut and marmalade. 91.

Noble Ridge The One Brut Sparkling Wine 2015 ($39.90 for 324 cases). This is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. The wine was 28 months en tirage. It is delicious, with notes of brioche on the nose and palate, along with subtle flavours of apple. The wine has two grams of residual sugar, just enough to support a generous texture on the palate. 92.

Noble Ridge King’s Ransom Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($109.90 for 170 cases). The bold and concentrated wine begins with aromas of black currant, black cherry and plum. On the palate, there are layers of dark fruit – black cherry, mulberry, black currant. The finish is enriched with flavours of dark chocolate, leather and cigar box. It is imperative to decant this wine so that it can express its power. The ripe tannins give it a generous texture. 95

Noble Ridge Reserve Meritage 2015 ($34.90 for 670 cases). This is 77% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, two per cent each of Cabernet Franc and Malbec. This wine, which was aged 14 months in French and American oak, was double-decanted. It has aromas of black currant, black cherry and chocolate, which are echoed on the palate along with notes of chocolate and tobacco. 93.

Noble Ridge Reserve Pinot Noir 2016 ($34.90 for 648 cases). This is a dark and muscular Pinot Noir that was aged 14 months in French oak (20% new). It has aromas and flavours of plum and cherry with a toasty note on the finish. Decant this wine. 91.