Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Eye candy in Okanagan Falls wine country

Photo: Painted Rock's new wine shop

Stunning new tasting rooms have been opened by two wineries that are members of the Okanagan Falls Winery Association, giving wine tourists one more reason to stop in this region.

Two-year-old Liquidity Winery opened its hospitality centre and bistro several weeks ago. The modernistic building represents a complete rebuilding of the adobe-style house that was on the property when the Liquidity partners bought the vineyard several years ago.

Photo: Liquidity's hospitality centre

The new building has a sparkling and spacious wine shop with a stunning view over undulating vineyards and Vaseux Lake in the distance. The view is somewhat similar to the much photographed view over neighbouring Blue Mountain’s vineyards.

The landscaping here is also impressive. The long driveway to the wine shop sweeps past a beautiful lily pond at the entrance to the property. The plain jane building to the right is the very functional winery the Liquidity completed just before the 2012 vintage. Prior to that, winemaker Matt Holmes made several vintages in another winery.

The new winemaking facility, coupled with extensive vineyard improvements, has led to excellent wines from 2012. Just over a third of the 20-acre vineyard is planted to Pinot Noir, the rising star here. Liquidity replaced its Malbec and Petit Verdot with Pinot Noir, a variety better suited to this site.

Liquidity tasting room

The portfolio of wines is focussed. Liquidity currently offers Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Pinot Noir and a rosé made from Dornfelder grapes. The wines all are delightful.

Painted Rock Estate Winery began welcoming visitors last weekend to its gleaming wine shop. The building, designed by Penticton architect Dominic Unsworth, replaces the cramped cabin that served winery visitors for the previous two years.

“It’s just about time we increased the experience,” says winery owner John Skinner. “The old room put people off.”

Painted Rock's sunbathed wine shop

The new tasting room is perched at the top of the vineyard. The floor to ceiling glass doors – which are opened in fine weather – give views over the vines and Skaha Lake. The interior is gleaming white, with a display of wine bottles breaking up the space behind the extensive tasting bar.

There is seating and a catering kitchen for special events. There has already been one wedding at this spectacular venue.

Painted Rock's John Skinner with winery sign

The Painted Rock Winery, which opened in 2009, is just beside the road to the renowned Skaha climbing bluffs. The new wine shop has a sign that can be illuminated at night and can be seen from the other side of the lake.

Members of the Painted Rock wine club, along with other guests, were invited last weekend to inaugurate the wine shop. They had several treats in store, starting with a view of a dramatic thunder storm that swept across Skaha Lake during the event.

They also got to taste wines that either are just released or are about to be released. These include reds from the 2011 vintage, an Okanagan vintage that has been dissed a bit by critics. That is not entirely fair; wineries that practiced good viticulture are now releasing excellent wines. “The 2011 vintage really worked here,” John says, waving a hand toward the neat vineyard.

Here are my notes.

Painted Rock Chardonnay 2012 ($29.90). The appeal of this wine is the admirable restraint shown in its production. By aging it only 5 ½ months in oak and by putting just half through malolactic fermentation, the winery has given the central role to the variety’s bright citrus aromas and flavours. The wine is refreshing on the palate, with a finish that is both crisp and lingering. 93.

Painted Rock Red Icon 2011 ($54.90). This is a blend of 30% Malbec, 27% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. In the glass, the wine announces itself dramatically with perfumed aromas that include cherry, plum and vanilla. The wine is rich and ripe on the palate, with flavours of black cherry, cassis and mocha. The balance is exquisite and elegant, with a suave and polished texture and a very long finish. 95.

Painted Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Est. $39.90). The wine begins with a touch of mint and black currant on the nose, leading to flavours of currant, coffee and leather. The firm texture suggests a wine that should be aged five or 10 years. The tannins, however, are ripe. 91.

Painted Rock  Syrah 2011 (Est. $39.90). This is made in the classic northern Rhone style, with pepper and black cherry aromas and with a medley of flavours, from black cherry to spiced deli meats. On the palate, this complex wine surprises by delivering a delicious core of sweet berry flavours. 93.

Painted Rock Merlot 2011 (Est. $39.90). This is a generous Merlot with luscious flavours of black currant and blueberry. Richly concentrated on the palate with long ripe tannins, this is a textbook Merlot. 93.


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