Photo: Winemaker Robert Summers
During the recent International Wine
Festival in Vancouver,
Hester Creek Estate Winery rolled out the second vintage of its icon red, a
wine called The Judge, along with several new releases.
The superb quality confirms the turnaround
at this winery. It was in bankruptcy in 2004 when Prince George trucking company owner Curt
Garland bought it.
He put the winery solidly back on its feet
* Recruiting veteran Ontario winemaker Robert Summers to reshape
* Building a totally new winery, filled
with state of the art equipment for making quality wines.
* Recruiting Australian Mark Sheridan, formerly
the viticulturist with Vincor, as Hester Creek’s general manager. He in turn
has added a depth of talent in the winery’s sales team as well as a social
* Hiring a marketing agency to refresh the
look of the brand. The unappealing, even funereal, labels of old have been
replaced by crisply clean white labels that stand out in wine stores and look
elegant on restaurant tables.
* Building six luxury villas on the
mountainside above the winery, helping gives the Okanagan more of the quality
lodging that goes with a world-class wine region.
* And opening last year an acclaimed
restaurant at the winery, called Terrafina.
All of these moves constitute the
foundation for excellent wines at prices that, for the most part, are
Perhaps the exception is the $45 price on The Judge 2008. However, this is a
limited production “best of the best” red aimed at the knowledgeable collectors
and their cellars. You will get the message just by lifting the bottle. A
package this heavy certainly raises expectations that this blend of Bordeaux reds is not any
old judge but the chief justice himself!
In the glass, the wine does not disappoint.
It is a big, ripe wine, with aromas and flavours of vanilla, plum and figs. On
the palate, it presents with a rich and generous texture, with flavours of
coffee, chocolate, liquorice and spice on the finish. It is a powerful and
satisfying red. 94.
A recent release is Hester Creek Reserve Merlot 2008 ($26.99). Here is one of those
firm Okanagan Merlots with a backbone of minerals and tannin and oak that will
repay anyone who cellars this wine a few more years. The ripe black currant
aromas and flavours need a bit more time for the core of sweet fruit to
The new red at the festival was Hester Creek Select Barrels Merlot 2010
($18.99). This is a marvellously ripe
and concentrated wine for the price with bold flavours of black currant, coffee
and chocolate. The wine seems more approachable than the reserve Merlot even
though it is two years younger. 90.
Creek Pinot Gris 2011 ($19) is the winery’s first 2011
release. While it might be suffering a touch of bottle shock, it delivers
excellent flavours of citrus and peach. It has the crisp finish that likely
will be the hallmark of 2011 excellent whites. 88-90.