Merry Christmas and Season's Greetings
This is the season when many of us look for
something special in wine, either for the holiday dinners or as special gifts.
I have looked through recent tasting notes
and have come up with a long list of wines that I would not mind below my tree
this year. You need to check each winery’s website to determine where the wines
are available. Chances are that you will not find them in government liquor
stores; but more likely in VQA stores or in the better private wine stores.
Here are some recommendations.
Church Merlot 2009 ($25.99 for 612 cases). Here is
another big ripe (14.7% alcohol) red from a great vintage. Richly concentrated
in texture, the wine has aromas and flavours of black currant, plum, vanilla
and black cherry. There is a hint of chocolate and oak on the juicy finish. 91.
Church 10th Anniversary
Port de Merlot ($30 for 55 cases of 375 ml bottles). Not to be confused with the
winery’s Amen Port, this is a wine specially made from
the winery’s 1oth anniversary. It is a blend of fortified Merlot from the 2006
vintage, with the addition of wine from the 2007, 2008 and 2009 vintages; the
entire blend had extra time in barrel. Clearly, the winery set out to build in considerable
complexity. Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of plum, prune, black
cherry, vanilla and spice. The generous palate presents flavours of plum, black
cherry, liquorice, chocolate and espresso coffee. 92.
Owl Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($37.90). This wine
struts, beginning with aromas of cassis and mint. The flavours are rich and
ripe: cassis, blackberry, plum, with a long, lingering finish. The wine is
delicious now and also will age well for another five to 10 years. The wine has
just been released in the winery’s on-line wine shop. 93.
Owl Chardonnay 2010 ($24.90). This barrel-fermented
Chardonnay begins with aromas of toast, apples and citrus. On the palate, there
are flavours of grapefruit, apples and nectarines. The oak contributes a touch
of nut and toast flavours to the crisp finish. This is also a new release in
the on-line wine shop. 90.
Owl Pinot Noir 2010 ($29.90). Dark in colour, this
is a generous wine with aromas of toasty black cherries and a big dollop of
fruit – black cherry and raspberry – on the palate. The wine is still youthful
but the silky texture has begin to develop. There is an attractively spicy
finish. A good choice with the Christmas turkey. 90.
Cellars Quattro Rosso 2010 ($29 for 608 cases). This
full-bodied gold medal winner is 67% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11%
Cabernet Franc and 1% Syrah. It is a generous red with aromas and flavours of
black currants, plum, chocolate and vanilla. 90.
Cellars Maximus 2009 ($34 for 700 cases). This is the winery’s big red, a blend of 48%
Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec. It is
swaggering ripe and generous wine with aromas and flavours of plum, currants,
vanilla, chocolate and tobacco. 91.
Nihilo Vineyards Pinot Noir 2010 ($24.95 for 840
cases). This is a seductive Pinot Noir at a seductive price. Dark in colour, it
begins with dramatic aromas of cherries, blueberries and blackberries, leading
to luscious flavours of cherry and spice, with the classic velvet texture of
the variety. 92.
Krāzē Legz Vineyard and Winery Black Bottom Stomp 2009 ($28.95). This Merlot Cabernet
Franc blend is still available on the winery’s website. It is a ripe
cellar-worthy red even if it is already drinking well. It begins with black
cherry aromas and delivers rich flavours of black cherry, blackberry, chocolate
and vanilla. 91.
La Sophia 2009 (48 cases available only to the
winery’s wine club). This is a richly textured wine with aromas of black
currants, figs and cigar box; and with flavours of currants, figs and
chocolate, with a hint of cedar on the finish. 92.
Maestoso 2009 ($100 a bottle for 148 cases). This
is 100% Merlot, a big, ripe wine with 15.2% alcohol buried in a plush texture
of concentrated berries. The wine begins with a luscious aroma of sweet fruit,
with flavours of black currant, plum and blueberry jam. This is truly a
sybaritic wine. 93.
Vieux Pin Ava 2011 ($N.A. for 496 cases). This is
78% Viognier and 11% each of Marsanne and Roussanne. According the winery
website, it is not yet been released. I can’t imagine why not. The wine has
aromas of apple and citrus, with a core of melons, apples and minerals. The
finish is crisp and refreshing. 91.
Vieux Pin Retouche 2009 ($60 for 62 cases). This is
a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah. The name recalls an old (and no
longer permitted) practice of “re-touching” Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah. The
wine is available online, with a three-bottle limit. Dark in colour, it begins
with appealing aromas of cassis. On the generous palate, there are flavours of
black currant, figs and plum, with a touch of pepper. 92.
Collection Chardonnay 2011 ($29.95 for 295 cases).
This is the second release of Chardonnay from Harry McWatters. The ripe style
reflects the terroir of his Sundial Vineyard on Black Sage Road, soon the site for
Harry’s new Time Estate Winery. The wine begins with aromas of citrus, nutmeg
and butter, leading to flavours of tangerine, pineapple and butter with a hint
of honey on the finish, even though the wine is dry. 90.
Family Vineyards Tribute Chardonnay 2010 ($35 for
640 cases). Made with grapes from the winery’s Naramata vineyard, this powerful
wine has aromas and flavours of tangerine, orange peel and spice. The oak
subtly frames the vibrant fruit. 93.
Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery Family
Reserve Cabernet Franc 2009 ($35 for 112 cases). This is a fine expression of the
varietal, with brambly aromas and with flavours of black cherry, blackberry and
raspberry. The texture is rich and the finish is spicy. 91.
Cellars Riesling 2010 ($18 for 1,300 cases). This
crisp and dry white, with aromas of citrus and a hint of petrol, has a style
recalling the complexity of mineral-drive Australian Rieslings at twice the
Cellars Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay 2010 ($25 for 927
cases). This complex barrel-fermented Chardonnay (including some wild yeast
ferment) has lively citrus aromas and flavours, underpinned with toasty
butterscotch notes. The fresh acidity of the vintage has made this an age-worthy
Cellars Qwam Qwmt Pinot Noir 2010 ($29.99 for 956
cases). Dark in hue, this almost cerebrally complex wine begins with aromas of
strawberry and blackberry, leading to flavours of cherry and spice. There is
just a hint of oak. The texture is rich and silken but the wine has the
structure to age well. 92.
Cellars Qwam Qwmt Syrah 2008 ($34.99 for 883
cases). Big, bold and satisfying, this is one of the Okanagan’s best Syrahs.
The gamy rare steak aroma goes on to flavours of black cherry, dried plum,
black pepper and spice. 93.
Cellars Qwam Qwmt Riesling Icewine 2011 ($60 for
533 cases of 375 ml bottles). This begins with an appealing aroma of apples and
citrus, leading to fruit flavours of pineapples, baked apples and apricot, with
a touch of honey. The fresh acidity of the vintage gives a superbly refreshing
balance to this elegant Icewine. 95.
Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($40 for 300 cases).
This is an excellent gift for someone prepared to cellar the wine for a few
years. It is drinking well now but has even better years (five to 10) ahead of
it. It begins with appealing aromas of black currant, plum, cherry and
chocolate which are delivered to the palate as well. The wine has firm, ripe
tannins, with hints of liquorice, vanilla and cedar on the finish. 92.
Rock Syrah 2010 ($35.63). Deep in colour, the wine
begins with aromas of pepper, cedar and black cherry. On the palate, there are
flavours of pepper, figs and plums. The texture is generous, with just the
perfect backbone of ripe tannins and oak to give this wine a long life in the
cellar as well. Think of this as a Rhone-style red, disciplined and elegant,
with a long finish. 93.
Gate Chardonnay 2011 ($20 for 5,500 cases). This
excellent value begins with appealing aromas of tangerine, peach and hazelnut.
On the palate, there is a basket of tropical fruit flavours – peaches, mangoes,
mandarin orange, with notes of butter and biscuits. The bright acidity,
precisely balanced with a touch of residual sweetness, gives the wine a
refreshing, fruit-forward and crisp finish. 91.
Gate Merlot 2010 ($22.99 for 2,892 cases). This
wine begins with aromas of blackberry and blueberry, leading to bright berry
and spice flavours, with a touch of pepper. The firm texture signals that this
wine needs a few more years in the cellar to peak – although the impatient
consumer should decant this for current consumption. 88+.
Gate Old Vines Foch 2010 ($24.99 for 2,766 cases). This
gamey, full-bodied red with its own cult following is made with grapes from
28-year-old Maréchal Foch vines. The wine has cinnamon spice and plum aromas,
with flavours that run the gamut from deli meats to spiced plums and chocolate.
Gate Optima Late Harvest 2011 Totally Botrytis Affected ($29.99 for 715 cases of 375 ml bottles).This is one of the finest
dessert wines in the Okanagan, made in the classic Sauternes technique. Quails’
Gate has been making it for more than 20 years. Naturally occurring botrytis
(or noble rot) on the ripe grapes causes some dehydration, concentrating
flavours and sugar. This wine began with 48 Brix, the same degree of sweetness
as Icewine. About half of that sugar remains in the wine, superbly balanced
with acidity. The wine begins with aromas of apricots, honey and tobacco. On
the rich palate, there are flavours of honeyed apricot and orange peel. This
elegant wine has a long, lingering finish. 95.
Ferreira Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($30 for 200
cases). Here is a classic expression of a great vintage in the south Okanagan.
The wine’s ripe flavours include plum, black currant and black cherry, with a
touch of vanilla on the finish. The ripe tannins give the wine a deceptively
soft texture … but the structure will carry this wine for three or four more
years, if there is any left! 91.
13 Chardonnay 2010 ($24). This wine begins with a
hint of toast and citrus in the aroma. On the palate, there are flavours of
tangerine and grapefruit, with bright refreshing acidity and minerals in the
background. The core of tropical fruit flavours linger on the palate. 90.
Winery Vanguard 2010 ($29.90 for 275 cases; 48
magnums also produced). This is 48% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4%
Cabernet Franc. The wine spent 18 months in French oak (55% of it new). It
begins with appealing aromas of cassis and vanilla. It is bright and vibrant on
the palate – like so many 2010 reds – with flavours of black currant, cherry,
blackberry and raspberry and with a hint of spice on the finish. 91.
Winery Pursuit 2010 ($21.90 for 375 cases). This is
a bargain Bordeaux
blend with 57% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Cabernet Franc. It also
spent 18 months in French oak (44% new). The wine begins with aromas of black
currant, blackberry and herbs. On the palate, there are flavours of black
currant, coffee and cedar on a firm texture. 89.
Hollow Renaissance Merlot 2010 ($29.99 for 100
cases). Deep purple in colour, this is a concentrated red that will benefit
with cellaring to let all of its expressive aromas and flavours to develop.
There is blackberry, blueberry, mocha and spice on the nose and palate. 91.
7 Chardonnay 2010 ($19.99 for 818 cases). The wine
begins with aromas of baked apples, fresh bread, nutmeg and tangerine. On the
palate, there rich flavours of honeyed stone fruit and tangerine. 90.
7 Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($18.99 for 708 cases).
Aromas of lime and grapefruit surge from the glass. On the palate, the flavours
are herbal entwined with lime and grapefruit. The finish is crisp and
refreshing and dry. 90.
7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($25.99 for 428 cases). Dark
in colour, the wine begins with aromas of cassis, cherry and vanilla. On the
palate, there are flavours of cassis, cherry and chocolate. The long ripe
tannins gave this wine a supple, appealing texture. 90.