Photo: the new Skaha Vineyard label
The booklet provided at the Okanagan Falls Winery
Association recent spring tasting disclosed that the 12 member wineries produce
only 110,000 cases of wine a year.
That may not be a lot of wine but the unofficial Okanagan Falls
sub-appellation is not very large.
The 12 wineries together farm about 185 hectares.
However, these are wineries that punch above their weight,
as my notes on the wines will indicate. Blue
and Wild Goose Vineyards, the
most senior of the Okanagan
wineries, have been
doing so for a long time. Wild Goose, for example, has probably won more
Lieutenant Governor’s awards of excellence than any other B.C. winery. Blue Mountain
doesn’t compete but if it did, it would also have amassed many awards.
The time available for the tasting was a little less than I
needed. That explains the absence of notes for Liquidity Wines, Meyer Family
Vineyards and Wild Goose Vineyards. I hope to catch up with them over the
One of the member wineries, Krāzē Legz Vineyard and Winery
Kaleden, unveiled its new label, Skaha Vineyard (pictured above). It
supplements, and perhaps will replace, the whimsical labels with which the
winery launched in 2010. Those labels –
dancers etched onto the bottles – celebrated the 1920s Prohibition era around
which the winery built a theme to make Krāzē Legz stand apart from the crowd.
As clever as the labels are, few sommeliers
like them well enough to allow the wines on restaurant wine lists, even though
the wines invariably have been very good.
“People have taken our wine seriously,” says
co-proprietor Gerry Thygesen, “but they haven’t taken our labels seriously.”
Before starting the winery, Gerry had a long
and successful career in food products marketing. After a few years in the wine
business, he knew when to stop banging against resistance.
The new label is far more conservative.
Sommeliers should be comfortable with it on their tables. The white labels have
the image of a horse in the left-hand corner, in part because Sue Thygesen,
Gerry’s wife, has a long-standing interest in equestrian matters, from riding
horses to photographing them.
There is a second reason. The word Skaha,
which the Kaleden winery shares with the nearby lake, is an aboriginal word. In
one dialect, it means “dog” – the lake once was known as Dog Lake
In another dialect, it means “horse”. The winery explains that on its back
The winery will still operate as Krāzē Legz, and may
produce wines under that label. The majority of wines, however, are being
released under the Skaha label.
Here are notes on wines from Krāzē Legz and its Okanagan Falls
Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2013
This is a classic expression of the variety, with fruity aromas, green apple
and stone fruit flavours and a crisp finish. 90.
Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
This unoaked Chardonnay is packed with fruit – flavours of apple, pear and
peach – with a touch of minerals in the structure and refreshing acidity on the
Vineyard Mystique 2013
This is a blend of 60% Pinot Blanc and 40% Chardonnay. The wine has just a few
grams of residual sugar – not enough to sweeten it but enough to pop the aromas
and flavours of the apple and pear fruit. 90.
Vineyard Rosé 2013
Made with Merlot, this is a refreshing wine that cries out for a summertime
picnic. Aromas and flavours of strawberry and cherry jump from the glass. The
texture is juicy, almost creamy. 90.
Church Vineyards OMG 2011 (sparkling wine)
($27 for 1,000 cases). The winemaker at Blasted Church
Mark Wendenburg, previously was at Sumac Ridge, where he made numerous vintages
of the award-winning Steller’s Jay Brut. OMG, made with 45% Pinot Noir, 45%
Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Blanc, is made to the same high standards. The wine
begins with fruity and toasty aromas. On the palate, there are notes of apples
and a creamy texture. The finish is crisp and refreshing. 91.
Church Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2012
($19.50 for 642 cases). This vintage is close to sold out to make way
for 2013. The time in bottle has accentuated the layers of tropical fruit on
the palate and the herbal and citrus aromas. The wine has a crisp finish. 90.
Church Vineyards Big Bang Theory 2012
($19.50 for 2,000 cases, of which three quarters has been sold). This
generous red is an unorthodox but successful blend: Merlot (65%), Lemberger
(14%), Malbec (10%), Syrah (7%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (4%). It is a juicy wine
with aromas and flavours of cherry and blackberry. 89.
Blasted Church Vineyards Cabernet Merlot
($26.50 for 3,017 cases; only 150 still available). This is Merlot
(52%), 38.6% Cabernet Sauvignon (38.6%), Malbec (7.5%) and Petit Verdot (1.9%).
The wine has shown superb bottle development, with soft ripe tannins adding to
the rich texture. The fruit flavours move through plum, cherry and raspberry,
making for a lingering finish. 90.
Blue Mountain Brut NV
($23.90). This elegant but inexpensive bubbly has New Year’s Eve written
all over it. The wine, with fine, persistent bubbles, is crisp on entry and on
the finish but with a creamy mid-palate. There is a hint of bready aromas and
flavours of fresh apples and citrus. The finish is refreshing. 90.
Blue Mountain Vineyard 2009 Brut Rosé
with 84% Pinot Noir and 16% Chardonnay, this wine has a lovely blush hue. The
aroma suggests strawberries and apples and this carries through to the creamy
palate. The finish is crisp and clean. This wine is so delicious that you
probably want to buy it by the magnum, if you can still find one. A bottle is
not enough. 94.
Blue Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay 2012
This winery’s understated Chardonnay is designed to accompany food. It is an
elegant wine with hints of citrus in the aroma and on the palate, and with a
mouth-filling polished texture. The Blue Mountain
is to ferment 40% of the wine in stainless steel and 60% in a mix of new to
three-year-old barrels. The wine in barrels ages there for seven months, with
minimal battonage of the lees. Only 10% has gone through malolactic
fermentation. The fruit flavours remain fresh, supported by a fine skein of
Blue Mountain Pinot Noir 2012
($25). This is a seductively pretty wine, silky in texture,
with notes of strawberry, cherry and a spicy toast gained from 10 months aging
in French oak. This is a very complex wine, involving six clones of Pinot Noir
– the vines are between six and 28 years old. The lightly crushed grapes, along
with some whole clusters, were given 16 to 20 days maceration on skins in open
top fermentation tanks. Half the wine was fermented with wild yeast native to
the vineyard. The winery suggests this vintage will age six to seven years. 91.
Noble Ridge Vineyard
The One 2010 ($39.90 for 265 cases). This sparkling wine cuvée is 70%
Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. The wine spent about 26 months en tirage before
being disgorged in June 2013. It displays the toasty, bready aromas and
flavours one expects with Champagne.
The bubbles give the wine a creamy mid palate but the finish is crisp and dry.
Noble Ridge Reserve
Chardonnay 2011 ($23.90). The oak is bold but well integrated with the
citrus and buttery flavours. It is a big wine on the palate, almost creamy in
Noble Ridge Pinot Noir 2010 ($25 for 568 cases). In style, this wine
is darker and more muscular than the Blue Mountain. Noble Ridge says it will age gracefully another five or six
years. The grapes for this wine, after a cold soak on the skins, were fermented
cool in stainless steel. The wine then was racked into French oak. It aged
there a year and then spent another two years aging in bottle before release.
The wine begins with aromas of cherry and raspberry, leading to a medley of red
fruit flavours against an underlying earthiness. 89-90.
Noble Ridge Meritage Reserve 2009 ($30 for 538 cases). This is 80% Merlot,
20% Cabernet Sauvignon – and from one of the Okanagan’s best recent vintages.
The wine was aged 15 months in French and American oak (40% new) and then
bottle aged 14 months. I would be surprised much is still available because
this wine picked up two golds and two silvers in competition last year. It is a
bold, satisfying red, beginning with aromas of black cherry, vanilla and spice.
That leads to flavours of black cherry, vanilla, chocolate and coffee. The long
ripe tannins give it accessibility now as well as age-ability. 91.
Painted Rock Red Icon 2011 ($55). 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 Merlot 2011 ($40). 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. 92.
Painted Rock Syrah 2011 ($40). 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.
See Ya Later Ranch Pinot Gris 2012 ($16.99). Crisp and lean in style, this
wine has citrus and herbal aromas and flavours. 88.
See Ya Later Ranch Gewürztraminer 2013 ($15.99). The winery, which is near Okanagan Falls,
has one of the largest, and best, blocks of Gewürztraminer in North
America. This wine is a fine dry Gewürztraminer with notes of
grapefruit and herbs. 90.
See Ya Later Ranch Rover 2011 ($21.99). This wine is 98% Shiraz co-fermented with
Viognier. There is pepper and spice in the aroma and finish, along with cherry
and red berry flavours. 89.
See Ya Later Ranch Ping 2011 ($24.99). This is 45% Cabernet Sauvignon,
45% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The texture is full, even chewy, with
flavours of black currant and appealing sweet fruit on the lingering finish.
Stag’s Hollow Winery Riesling 2013 ($20 for 380 cases). This wine is
bursting with youthful flavours of grapefruit and pineapple. The soft acidity
gives it a juicy texture. 88.
Stag’s Hollow Winery Syrah Grenache Rosé
2013 ($22 for 168 cases).
This wine is 85% Syrah and 15% Grenache. It begins with aromas of strawberry
and raspberry. The juicy palate echoes those flavours, along with watermelon and
a hint of pepper. The finish is dry; think of a Provence rosé. 90.
Stag’s Hollow Winery Renaissance Pinot
Noir 2010 ($35 for 236
cases). This is a charmer, with strawberry and cherry flavours nestled in silky
tannins. The finish has a kiss of spice. 90.
Stag’s Hollow 2012
($30 for 170 cases). The wine glows in the glass with a plum-like
hue. The aromas are a medley of berry notes with cloves and cinnamon. The
palate is soft and juicy, with bright flavours of currants, cranberries and
mocha. As the winery notes, the flavours recall a “bold New
style Pinot Noir.” That’s hardly a bad thing. 92.
Synchromesh Wines Thorny Vines Vineyard Riesling
2013 ($18.90). With clone
21B Riesling from a Naramata Bench vineyard, Synchromesh has made a wine combining
racy acidity with a well balanced residual sweetness. The wine has lime and
lemon aromas and flavours. The wine is showing well already but has potential
to develop appealing complexity with another year or two of age. 90.
Synchromesh Wines Palo Solara Vineyard
Pinot Noir 2012 ($24.90).
The grapes for this wine come from a vineyard in East
Kelowna. The wine has a bit of that intriguing earthy character
sometimes called barnyard, which usually signals ability to age into a complex
wine. At this time, the flavours of cherry and plum dominate. The firm texture
is moving in the direction of silkiness. 88.
Synchromesh Wines Turtle Rock Farms Tertre
Rouge 2011 ($34.90). This
is 62.5% Cabernet Franc, 37.5% Merlot, from a Naramata Bench vineyard. It shows
vibrant flavours of blackberry and cola with a touch of vanilla. The long ripe
tannins give the wine a rich texture. The wine is named for a corner at the Le Mans racing circuit in France. 90.
Topshelf Winery Slapshot Chardonnay 2012 ($18). Because the winery owners had two
sons in professional hockey, they have exploited hockey terms for all their
wines. This unoaked Chardonnay has crisp apple flavours with a hint of citrus.
Topshelf Winery Point Shot Pinot Gris 2012
($18). Slightly off-dry,
this wine has aromas and flavours of apple, pineapple and grapefruit. 88.
Topshelf Winery Penalty Shot Blush 2012 ($19). This is a blend of Chardonnay and
red varietals that delivers strawberry and cherry aromas and flavours. 88.
Topshelf Winery Over The Top Merlot 2011 ($20). The oak frames flavours and aromas
of vanilla and black currant. The ripe tannins give the wine a general texture.
Topshelf Winery Hat Trick Meritage 2012 ($33). This is 80% Merlot, with Malbec and
Cabernet Franc. It shows aromas and flavours of blackberry, plum and cherry
with notes of vanilla. Only 300 bottles were made. 90.