Thursday, May 31, 2012

Spring releases from BC wineries

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 shortly.

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.

Baillie-Grohman 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.

Baillie-Grohman 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.

Blackwood 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.

Calliope 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.

Calliope Viognier 2011 ($15.99). This displays the classic weight and minerality of the variety, with aromas and flavours of pineapple and green apples. 88.

Calliope 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.

Calliope 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.

Gehringer Brothers Dessert Sun 2011 ($13.99). This is an easy-drinking white blend with juicy grapefruit flavours. 88.

Gehringer 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.

Gehringer 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.

Howling 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.

Jackson-Triggs 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.

Jackson-Triggs 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.

Mission 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.

Mission 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.

Painted 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 delicious. 92

Painted 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.

Painted 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.

Sandhill 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.

Sandhill 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.

Sandhill 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

Sperling 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 citrus. 90.

Sperling 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.

Sperling 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.

Stoneboat 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.

Stoneboat 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.

Stoneboat 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.

Stoneboat 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. 90.

Time 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.

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