Sunday, October 16, 2011

Black Hills confirms it will launch second label

Along with its latest releases, Black Hills Estate Winery has disclosed that it will definitely launch a second label next June.

The new label will be called Cellarhand. There is no information yet on the wines but there will certainly be a red wine.

The role of Cellarhand is to be a home for the wines that are left over when Nota Bene and other blends have been assembled.

This is standard practice among wineries with icon wines. When the winemaker signs off on what he considers is the very best blend for the icon wine, there will always be a few barrels of this or that left over. These are not necessarily lesser quality wines. In fact, they are often quite good wines. It is just that adding them all to the icon blend will change it from what the winemaker considers the optimal blend.

Some wineries sell the extra wine in bulk to other wineries. But it is more profitable to bottle it and sell it as a second label.

The consumer, however, gets a bargain. For example, the second wine at Osoyoos Larose sells for $25 a bottle, almost half the price of Le Grand Vin. One would expect Cellarhand wines will also be lower priced that the Black Hills wines.

The current range of Black Hills wines includes the winery’s first Syrah and its second Viognier. I have reviewed several of these before from a tasting this spring at the winery. However, I include notes on all the wines. Nota Bene is technically sold out at the winery but there are bottles available in private and VQA wine stores.

Here are my notes.

Chardonnay 2009 ($30). The barrel-fermented Chardonnay is a lovely and complex wine, especially if it is not overly chilled, which will mask some of aromas and flavours. It begins with aromas of citrus and pears, with a touch of breadiness from the lees. The flavours follow through with notes of apple, citrus and a touch of butterscotch. The bright but balanced acidity leaves a crisp, refreshing finish. 90.

Viognier 2010 ($30). This is the winery’s second vintage of Viognier. This wine begins with aromas of grapefruit, pineapple and apricot and delivers layers of those flavours, especially stone fruit, to the palate. It has that delicate backbone of tannin that makes Viognier such a special white wine. The acidity assures a bright, crisp finish. 90.

Alibi 2010 ($25). A blend of Sauvignon Blanc (about 75%) and Sémillon, this is a lovely aromatic wine, with floral and herbal notes, and with flavours of grapefruit and lime. The crisp, refreshing finish lingers. 90.

Carmenère 2009 ($50). Black Hills was the first winery in Canada to release a Carmenère (from the 2005 vintage). This is a late-ripening red now most often seen among the wines of Chile. This wine’s 12.2% alcohol tells you that the grapes would have preferred to stay on the vine a few weeks beyond the October 13 harvest date of that vintage. The winery had no choice since a hard early freeze closed the door on an otherwise fine 2009 vintage. When there are no leaves remaining on the vines, ripening stops.

To his credit, winemaker Graham Pierce pulled off a good medium-bodied Carmenère. It begins with aromas of pepper and red fruit and delivers flavours of cherry, mocha and pepper. 88.

Nota Bene 2009 ($53). This wine, one of the best Nota Bene wines since the first vintage in 1999, was released in the spring. I repeat my notes from tasting it at the winery. This is 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, a fairly classic blend. Those who collect this wine will find this ripe, rich vintage reflects the house style that has been consistent throughout its history. There is vanilla, eucalyptus and dark fruits on the nose, with flavours of plum, black cherry and chocolate. The ripe tannins give the wine an immediate accessibility but it certainly will cellar well over the next five years. 93.

Syrah 2009 ($35 for a production of 1,200 cases). This is the first Syrah from Black Hills and seems an obvious companion to Nota Bene. Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of pepper, black cherries and game meat. On the palate, the flavours are generous, with flavours of plums and figs and the spiciness of good deli meats. The wine is full, with the textural elegance of ripe tannins. 90.


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