Thursday, April 26, 2012

Black Hills opens $1 million wine shop

Photo: Black Hills wine shop






On June 8, Black Hills Estate Winery is opening a $1 million wine shop right on Black Sage Road.

It will be a welcome improvement in the wine touring experience. Initially, Black Hills opened in 2001 in a large Quonset hut. The tasting room, when it was open, was a couple of planks over several barrels.

When a modern winery was built several years ago, it was sited well downhill from Black Sage Road. It was a bit of a hike down to the winery; and the climb back up to the road took away one’s breath, especially if you were carrying your wine purchases.

The new wineshop is “on the level”. It is a few hundred yards south of the winery on a 14-acre vineyard that Black Hills purchased last year. The wine shop, which is just at the edge of the road, sits on a knoll with a grand view of the valley.

Black Hills has had a tasting room open at the current winery location. But improved access of the new wine shop will enable the winery to ramp up what it will be offering visitors. Tutored tastings of five wines conducted by a so-called wine evangelist will be available at $20 a person. Plans are being made as well to offer occasional vertical tastings of Nota Bene and other Black Hills wines.

The proposed wine shop hours are 10 am to 6 pm from spring to fall. Appointments will not be necessary but are advisable when the wine touring season gets busy.

Black Hills has just released its new wines for this season. The initial offering of Nota Bene 2010, the flagship red blend, is technically sold out at the winery. However, Black Hills always holds some back for special releases later in the year. As well, you can usually find some in private wine stores. Just this week, I spotted Nota Bene 2008 in a wine store in the airport at Calgary.

Photo: Graham Pierce 


  Here are my notes on the releases.

Black Hills Nota Bene 2010 ($53 for a production of 3,300 cases). As usual, this blend is anchored with Cabernet Sauvignon, at 57%, with Merlot at 32% and Cabernet Franc at 11%. The Cabernet Sauvignon contributes a touch of mint to the aroma and flavour, complementing the cassis aroma. The wine has luscious  flavours of black currant and plum, with long, ripe tannins. The wine finishes with a polished elegance. 92.

Black Hills Carmenère 2010 ($50 for a production of 300 cases).  This  wine has become the other cult red wine at Black Hills. Made from vines planted in 1999, it was the first Okanagan Carmenère and remains one of a very few examples of this late-ripening variety. The wine is so eagerly sought that Black Hills converted its entire (small) Chardonnay planting to Carmenère. More Carmenère will be planted in the recently acquired vineyard, to increase total production to about 1,000 cases a year.

This is an interesting and complex red with aromas of pepper and red berries. The pepper carries through to the palate, along with flavours of plum, black cherry and chocolate. The alcohol is a moderate 12.2%, as it was in 2009, a much warmer vintage. This seems to be a variety that develops flavour before packing on the sugar. 90.

Black Hills Syrah 2009 ($35). In his notes on the wine, Graham Pierce, the winemaker, accurately describes this as an “exuberant wine with aromas of raspberry, cherry cola, blackberry and chocolate.”  On the palate, it has the classic flavours of a South Okanagan Syrah – deli and game meats, plum, fig, mocha and vanilla. It is a big, satisfying red. 91.

Black Hills Alibi 2010 ($25). This is 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Sémillon. “I don’t want to make a one-dimensional New Zealand style of Sauvignon Blanc,” the winemaker says. The Sémillon was fermented in oak puncheons before being added to the blend. The wine begins with herbal and citrus aromas. On the generous palate, there are flavours of apricot, pineapple and grapefruit. The tangy finish is clean and refreshing. 90.

Black Hills Viognier 2010 ($25 for 700 cases). The wine begins with a dramatic and fruity aroma – pineapple, grapefruit, peach – and delivers that bowl of fruit on the palate. The wine also has a crisp spine of minerals, and perhaps a touch of the tannin that resides in the skin of this white. The finish goes on and on. 91.

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