Saturday, September 8, 2012

Summerland Fall Fair winning wines



Photo: The view over Thornhaven Estate Winery's vineyard


Within the past year, the wineries in and around Summerland have formed what they call Bottleneck Drive – The Summerland Wine Route.

It occurred to the producers that they needed to achieve a higher profile in order to lure passing wine tourists off the highway and into the bucolic countryside where the wineries are located.

Everybody knows Sumac Ridge Estate Winery, of course, because it has been there – right beside Highway 97 – for more than 30 years.

It might come as a surprise that there are 13 other wineries in the area, counting The Vinegar Works, which also has a tasting room for its products. One can spend a full day touring these producers, if not more. Bonitas Winery and Sonoran Winery both have food service while Heaven’s Gate and Thornhaven have patios. Visitors are welcome to unpack their own picnics and buy accompanying wines from the wine shops.

The other thing the producers are doing to raise their profile is to participate in a wine competition during the Summerland Fall Fair.

The second annual competition has just concluded. I was one of three judges, along with Rhys Pender MW and broadcaster Terry David Mulligan.

Most of the Bottleneck Drive wineries submitted entries. There were 40 wines which were submitted for judging in several different flights. Of course, the judging was blind and the judges set rigorous standards for gold and silver awards. We decided from the outset not to award any bronze medals. Had we done so, almost every wine would have won a medal; however, many wineries are not interested in bronze medals since these have little weight with consumers.

The general quality of the Summerland wines is competitive with wines from any other region of the Okanagan. Bottleneck Drive is worth the drive.

Here are the winning wines. The descriptors are mine alone.

Gold

Gold and best of show: Dirty Laundry Kay-Syrah 2011 ($24.90). A big, lush red with vanilla and black cherry flavours, this is 85% Syrah, 15% Merlot

Dirty Laundry Hush Blush Rose 2011 ($19.99). A juicy wine with aromas and flavours of strawberry and with a nice dry finish.

Bonitas Winery 2011 Viognier ($24). A wine with herbal aromas and flavours of peaches, melons and citrus.

Bonitas Merlot 2009 ($40). A dark wine with bold oak, complementing red berry and vanilla flavours.

Silkscarf Winery Ensemble Blanc 2011 ($21.90). This is a blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, with intense aromas of spice and flavours of spice, tangerine and orange peel.

Thornhaven Gewurztraminer 2011 ($17.90). This winery often wins awards for its Gewürztraminer wines, made in a bold style, with aromas and flavours of lychee, peach, apricot and spice.

Thornhaven Syrah 2010 ($24). Dark in colour, this wine presents gamey aromas and flavours of the variety, with flavours also of pepper, fig and liquorice.

Heaven's Gate Gewurztraminer 2011 ($20). This wine begins with spicy rose petal aromas. The residual sugar in this off-dry version delivers appealing flavours of lychee and peach.

Sleeping Giant Black Currant Wine ($17.95). From Summerland’s one fruit winery, this is a classically intense black currant wine, with a tart finish.

Sumac Ridge Steller's Jay Brut ($24.99). Half the price of Champagne but just as delightful. The wine begins with toasty citrus aromas. On the palate, the bubbles give it a creamy texture; but the finish is crisp and refreshing.


Silver

Thornhaven T0rtured Grape 2011 ($17.90). This is a  blend of Orange Muscat, Riesling and Chardonnay. The Muscat contributes spice to the aromas; on the palate, there is spice, peach and citrus.

Summergate Muscat Ottonel 2010 ($19.90). The wine has, as you would expect, spice on the nose and on the palate, along with flavours of apple and citrus.

Sonoran Rosé 2011 ($17.90). The hue is pale rose and that colour does not quite prepare you for what comes next – an explosion of fruit on the nose and the palate. The flavours recall strawberry and rhubarb.

Silkscarf Winery Shiraz Viognier 2008 ($37.90). A mature red with long ripe tannins, the wine has aromas and flavours of vanilla, black cherry, figs and chocolate.

Dirty Laundry Merlot 2011 ($22.99). This wine has notes of toasty oak and red berries in the aroma. The savoury palate has flavours of cherry and blue berry.

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