Photo: Black Hills Wine Experience Centre
When Black Hills opened in 2000, there were only 60 wineries in
Not many of those were yet making great Meritage blends. As a result, Nota Bene, the Cabernet Sauvignon anchored-blend from
Black Hills, caused an immediate sensation. For many
years, it has been one of the hardest to get of the collector wines from the
Today, there are four times as many wineries in
British Columbia, and a
lot more good Meritage reds to choose from. Nota Bene no longer sells out in a
week. You might actually be able to find a bottle of Nota Bene 2011, the
current release, in your local VQA store – still in time to enjoy it for
The wine is just as collectible as ever. That it no longer sells out in a flash has nothing to do with quality; perhaps that has a little to do with its $52.90 price and everything to do with the vastly greater choice of icon wines that the collector has.
If you are not a collector with a big budget, don’t despair. A few years ago,
Hills launched a second label called Cellar Hand. Both the red
blend and the white blend under this label are $20 or less and the wines
over-deliver in quality.
The winery is based on a 27-acre property on
Black Sage Road,
much of which was planted in 1996. The founders made the wines for a number of
years in rustic Quonset hut before building a new winery in 2007, set amidst
the vines. The group of investors which bought Black Hills
in 2008 have since expanded the winery and further refined the winemaking
The new owners also have begun to offer regular tastings in an elegant Wine Experience Centre not far from the winery, whose tasting room always was too small. The Centre, which opened two years ago, is in a superb setting manned by well-trained tasting guides. This has become a priority stop on the wine tasting route every summer.
The wine lounge, which also has flatbread pizza available, added a charging station for electric cars this summer. This is the first winery charging station in the south Okanagan and one of only two in the Okanagan. The other is at Tantalus Vineyards, easily within range if you are tooling around the valley in your Tesla.
Here are notes on the current releases.
Cellar Hand Free Run White 2012 ($15.90). This is a complex, fruit-forward blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Chardonnay, Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. It begins with aromas of pear and citrus. On the palate, there are flavours of apple, citrus and ripe pineapple. The finish is crisp and refreshing. 88.
Cellar Hand Punch Down Red 2011 ($19.90). This is a blend of 45% Syrah, 28% Merlot and 27% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine begins with ripe aromas of black cherry and vanilla, leading to flavours of black cherry, black currant and plum with touch of pepper on the finish. The texture is generous and firm enough to allow aging this in bottle a few more years, if you can stay away from it. 89.