Photo: Grapes ripening on the vine
The trio of wineries presented here
includes Mission Hill, perhaps the best known of the Okanagan wineries, along
with Therapy Vineyards, a rising star on the Naramata Bench, and Backyard
Vineyards, a fairly new Fraser
These wines were originally going to be
tasted not only by me but also by my neighbours at our annual block party. The
foul weather recently has led to a two month postponement of the party. That’s
too long to sit on these wines, so I have gone ahead to taste them now.
Backyard operates under the umbrella of
Neck of the Woods Winery in Langley.
Formerly known as Glenugie Winery, the winery was purchased from the founding
family several years ago by real estate developers Ewen Stewart and Trent Blackwell.
They also own a vineyard near Abbotsford
and plan a second winery there, which will be called Backyard Vineyards. The
application was recently filed with the city of Abbotsford.
The wines being released now are
establishing the brand. Many of the wines are made with Okanagan grapes. The
Glenugie and the Backyard vineyards in the Fraser Valley
grow Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and
Merlot. A significant amount of the Fraser
Valley fruit is being turned
into sparkling wine under the direction of Mark Wendenburg, who formerly made
the award-winning Steller ’s Jay Brut at Sumac Ridge Estate Winery.
Therapy occupies the original location of Red Rooster Winery. When the latter winery moved to larger
buildings on Naramata Road
in 2004, the property was acquired by a group of Alberta
and British Columbia
investors. They came up with the name, Therapy, because they found the scenery
over the vineyards to be therapeutic.
Almost all of the Therapy labels are
inspired by psychoanalysis and by Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis.
Mission Hill releases its wines in four
tiers. The Five Vineyards tier is the lowest-priced tier, with the Reserve
wines one rung up in price.
Here are my notes.
Vineyards Nosey Neighbour White 2011 ($14.99). This
is a blend of 61% Pinot Gris, 17% Riesling, 17% Siegerrebe and 5%
Gewürztraminer. The Siegerrebe gives this wine a floral aroma and quite fruity,
spicy flavours. Think of crossing fresh apples with rose petals. This is a good
apéritif wine. 88.
Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($17.99). Once
again, the style leans to flinty austerity (think of Graves),
with herbs and citrus on the nose and a touch of herbs and grassiness on the
Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($19.99). This
red, along with the next two, are made with Okanagan grapes since it is next to
impossible to ripen these varieties in the Fraser Valley.
This Cabernet begins with aromas of mint, blueberry and vanilla. On the palate,
the tannins are ripe but firm enough to allow some cellaring. There are
flavours of black currant and vanilla. 87.
A word on cellaring these reds: Backyard
currently uses synthetic (plastic) closures. I would not trust these closures
for storing wines for more than three years.
Vineyards Merlot 2010 ($16.99). This wine begins
with aromas of black currants, with a hint of coconut that likely reflects the
barrels it was aged in. On the palate, it is still tight, with dry tannins that
need time to soften. When they do, they reveal bright red berry flavours. 86.
Vineyards Syrah 2010 ($24.99). Here is a wine with
excellent varietal expression: white pepper, plum and black cherry aromas and
flavours. It is a full bodied red. With breathing, the cherry flavours pop out
vividly amid the pepper and vanilla notes. 88.
Hill Family Estate Reserve Pinot Gris 2010 ($19.99).
The winemaker aimed for complexity here, fermenting 10% of the juice in new
French oak and leaving the wine on its lees for four months. The result is a
fleshy wine with toasty notes on the palate and flavours of ripe pears. 88.
Hill Family Estate Reserve Riesling 2011 ($19.99).
This expressive wine begins with appealing aromas of lemon and lime. On the
palate, the flavours of lime and grapefruit are crisply focussed, with good intensity.
The bright acidity and the spine of minerals add to the wine’s laser-like
focus. This is good now but also will develop further complexity with a year or
two of bottle age. 91
Hill Family Estate Five Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2011 ($14.99).
Here is a wine for seafood – crisp, with aromas and flavours of apples, and
with a backbone of minerals. 87.
Hill Family Estate Five Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($14.99). This is 91% Sauvignon Blanc, 9% Sémillon. Light in body,
this is a refreshing white with aromas and flavours of lime, grapefruit rind
and herbs and with a racy acidity. 88.
Hill Family Estate Five Vineyards Pinot Grigio 2011 ($15.99). The style is deliberately different from the Pinot Gris.
The emphasis here is juicy freshness with flavours of citrus, pear and peach.
Hill Family Estate Five Vineyards Pinot Noir 2010 ($19.99).
This is a charmer, with aromas of strawberries and cherries which follow
through to the silky palate. 88.
Vineyards Freudian Sip 2011 ($17 for a production
of 2,388 cases). This is a blend of 54% Pinot Gris, 27% Riesling, 12% Sauvignon
Blanc and 7% Sauvignon Blanc. The appeal starts with the floral and herbal
aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of orange, apricot and papaya. The
tangy finish is crisp and refreshing. 90.
Vineyards Artist Series Riesling Kerner 2011 ($20
for a production of 204 cases). This blend is 75% Riesling, 25% Kerner. This is
a juicy, off-dry white with citrus aromas. The residual sugar balances the
acidity, lifts the aroma and enhances the flavours of lime and apricot. 88.
Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($20 for 337 cases).
The freshness of the aroma reminded me of an early morning meadow. The wine is
light and delicate, with a touch of lime on the palate. 88.
Vineyards Alter Ego 2011 ($24 for 510 cases). This
blend is 45% Pinot Gris, 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Viognier and 5% Chardonnay.
Each variety was fermented separately in stainless steel and then given some
time in barrel. The final blend also had three months in oak. The oak treatment
is evident mostly in the rich texture of this complex white, with its flavours
of ripe pear and herbs. The finish is dry. 90.
Vineyards Chardonnay 2010 ($22 for 305 cases). Twelve
months in French oak have given this wine toasty notes on the aroma. It has
flavours of pear, citrus and coconut and a full texture. The oak treatment,
however, does not overwhelm the fruity flavours. 89.
Vineyards Pink Freud 2011 ($17 for a production of
930 cases). This rosé is 78% Merlot and 22% Pinot Noir. A fellow taster spent
six months in the south of France
some years ago. This wine took her back to fond memories of drinking rosé! It
has appealing aromas of raspberry and plum, with flavours of raspberry, cherry
and cranberry. There are layers of juicy flavours but the finish is dry. 90.