Photo: Mission Hill Family Estate Winery
The spring wine tasting season has come on
in a rush. The British Columbia Wine Institute has sponsored three tastings in Vancouver during the past
six weeks. As well, the Naramata Bench Wineries Association did its annual
spring release event in New
Westminster. And the Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country
members will be in Vancouver
The point is to whet our appetites for the
wine touring season or for finding some favourites to buy among the large
number of wines available.
This year, there is considerable excitement
about the white and rosé wines from the 2011 vintage. They are proving to be
some of the best white and rosé wines yet from British Columbia – wines often with the
vintage’s bracing acidity, lively flavours and invariably moderate alcohols.
Wines from earlier vintages, including
reds, also are on display at various tastings. Here are notes on some of the
wines that I have had a chance to taste so far.
Estate Winery Gewürztraminer 2011 ($17.99). This is
the only one of the three Creston wineries with wines in Vancouver market. The wine begins with aromas
of rose petals and spice, continuing to spicy citrus flavours, with just a
touch of sweetness on the finish. 89.
Estate Winery Pinot Gris 2011 ($21.99). A quarter
of this wine was fermented on older barrels. That gives the wine additional
texture but without oak flavours. The wine is tangy, with citrus aromas and
flavours of grapefruit and green apples. 88.
Lane Alliance 2007 ($59). This is one of two Bordeaux blends which
this Langley-based winery makes from Okanagan grapes. The wine was aged more
than two years in small barrels and then almost two more years in bottle. The
result is a wine with smooth, silky tannins; with vanilla and oak mingled with
rich fruit aromas; and with a core of plum and cassis flavours. 92
Blackwood Lane Chardonnay 2010 ($24). This is a wine in the style of Chablis – crisp on the palate,
with citrus aromas and flavours. Half the wine was matured in stainless steel
and half was in neutral oak. 88.
Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($16.99). Burrowing Owl Estate
Winery uses the Calliope label for appealingly-priced wines made, at least in
part, with purchased grapes. This is a refreshing, tangy white with herbal and
lime flavours and with a crisp finish. 88.
Viognier 2011 ($15.99). This displays the classic
weight and minerality of the variety, with aromas and flavours of pineapple and
green apples. 88.
Figure Eight White 2011 ($21.99). This is a
delicious blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. It begins with
herbal and citrus aromas and delivers citrus and melon flavours, with a finish
that is crisp and fresh. 89.
Figure Eight Red 2010 ($17.99). This red blend
probably employs Bordeaux
varietals. I could not verify that on the quirky Calliope website. This is a
solid barbecue red, with aromas and flavours of black currants and plum. 88.
Brothers Dessert Sun 2011 ($13.99). This is an easy-drinking
white blend with juicy grapefruit flavours. 88.
Brothers Auxerrois 2010 ($14.99). This is the wine
if you want the weight and complexity of Chardonnay but a different flavour
profile. There are flavours of peach, apricot and melon, with a lingering,
refreshing finish. 89.
Brothers Dry Riesling 2010 ($14.99). This wine,
with citrus aromas and flavours, is balanced to finish dry but not austere.
This is a crowd pleaser. 89.
Bluff Summa Quies Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon 2011 ($20).
This racy white has intense aromas and flavours of lime and minerals, with a
crisp and focussed finish. 91.
Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2011 ($13.50). This wine is
so tasty that I will forgive the marketing department from attaching “reserve”
to wines selling for less than $20. This is a refreshing and focussed white,
with grassy aromas and with flavours of grapefruit and lime. The lively acidity
gives this wine a crisp finish. 89.
SunRock Vineyard Shiraz 2011 ($35). This is a
barrel sample unlikely to be released until next year. The wine has spicy and
smoky berry aromas, with flavours of spiced cherries and chocolate, with soft
tannins and with a very long finish. 90.
Hill Five Vineyards Pinot Grigio 2011 ($15.99).
This is always one of Mission Hill’s best-selling wines because it is a juicy
and quaffable fruit bowl of flavour (citrus, apple, peach). 89.
Hill Five Vineyards Rosé 2011 ($15.99). Made with
82% Merlot and 18% Cabernet Sauvignon juice, the wine begins with an appealing
hue of dark rose petals. It has aromas and flavours of watermelon and
strawberry. Balanced to finish dry, it is a delightfully refreshing. 88.
Rock Estate Winery Chardonnay 2011 ($30). Just
being released, this is an elegant and polished wine, beginning with appealing
aromas of tropical fruit (lime, grapefruit, even lychee). It delivers exuberant
flavours of lime, apple and lychee, lifted vividly by refreshing acidity (only
a quarter of the wine went through malolactic fermentation). The wine spent
five months in oak, gaining texture without gaining oak flavour. This is simply
Rock Estate Winery Syrah 2009 ($40). This wine has
just collected a silver medal at the Syrah du Monde competition in France.
This is a bold, meaty wine in every way – bold flavours of plum, black cherry
and blackberry framed by oak and vanilla and finishing with a touch of spice.
The tannins are firm; this is a wine for cellaring a few years. 90.
Rock Estate Winery Red Icon 2009 ($55). This is the
winery’s flagship red, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, with a
touch of Syrah. It begins with aromas of mint, cedar and red berries. On the palate, it is so complex that it is hard
to find enough descriptors: black currant, chocolate, olives, prunes, with a
firm, age-worthy structure. 92-94.
Pinot Gris King Family Estate 2011 ($18.99).
Beginning with citrus aromas, this crisp, fresh wine delivers flavours of pear,
apple and melon, with bright but balanced acidity on the finish. 90.
Pinot Gris Hidden Terrace Vineyard 2011 ($N.A.).
This is a debut Sandhill wine from a vineyard at Covert Farm near Oliver. The
vines were three years old last fall, yielding wine with delicate fruit aromas
and flavours, as well as softer acidity than the King Family wine. 88.
Chardonnay 2010 ($17.99). This was the only
Canadian Chardonnay to win a gold medal at the Chardonnay du Monde competition
this year. This is a textbook oaked Chardonnay, with flavours of honey,
butterscotch, tangerine and apple, with good acidity to keep the aromas and
flavours fresh and lively. Great value. 92
Vineyards Market White 2010 ($16). This is a tasty
aromatic blend of Pinot Blanc and Bacchus, with a dash of Perle of Csaba. It is
a juicy wine, with aromas of lime and herbs and with flavours of apple and
Vineyards Old Vines Riesling 2010 ($32). As the
price suggests, this is one of the two or three best Rieslings in British Columbia, with
savoury, mouth-watering flavours of lime and minerals and with bracing acidity.
This is a wine to age for a few years, even if it tastes great now. 91.
Vineyards Old Vines Foch 2009 ($26). Chewy and
full-bodied, this red has flavours of black cherry and mocha. The silky, ripe
tannins contribute to a lingering finish. 89.
Vineyards Pinot Gris 2011 ($18.90). This is a
delicious wine, beginning with aromas of herbs and citrus. It has tangy
grapefruit flavours, with an herbal note on the finish. The wine has a zesty
and refreshing finish. 90.
Vineyards Chorus 2011 ($17.90). This is delicious
and complex blend of six what varieties: Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Müller
Thurgau, Viognier, Kerner and Schönburger. The wine presents juicy tropical
fruit flavours – lime, guava, melon and apple – with spice and herbs on the
crisp finish. 90.
Vineyards Pinot Noir 2010 ($24.90). The previous vintage of this wine won a
Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence. I believe this vintage will also win
its share of awards. Dark in colour, with a concentrated texture, it has cherry
and strawberry aromas and flavours with spice on mocha on the finish. 90.
Vineyards Pinotage 2010 ($24.90). The winery earned
a Lieutenant Governor’s Award for the 2007 vintage of Pinotage. In my view, it
has refining the wine even more. Dark in colour, it begins with an appealing
aroma of red fruit (the winery’s notes say brambleberries). On the palate,
there are flavours of cherry, plum and pomegranate, with spice on the finish.
Estate Winery McWatters Collection Meritage 2009 ($29.99).
Time is the new winery being launched by Sumac Ridge founder Harry McWatters.
He has already been preparing the market with a Meritage and a Chardonnay
labelled McWatters Collection. The 2009 Meritage (700 cases) is the latest
release. The wine is 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot and 24% Cabernet Franc.
It is a full-bodied red with long ripe tannins, red berry aromas and flavours
of black currant, black berry and vanilla. There is a touch of spice and black
pepper on the finish. 90.