Monday, April 21, 2014

Okanagan Falls Wineries Association spring tasting 2014

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 Mountain and Wild Goose Vineyards, the most senior of the Okanagan Falls 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 summer.

One of the member wineries, Krāzē Legz Vineyard and Winery
of 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 label.

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 colleagues.

Skaha Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2013 ($18.95). This is a classic expression of the variety, with fruity aromas, green apple and stone fruit flavours and a crisp finish. 90.

Skaha Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 ($19.95). 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 finish. 90.

Skaha Vineyard Mystique 2013 ($19.95). 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.

Skaha Vineyard Rosé 2013 ($19.95). 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.

Blasted 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.

Blasted 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.

Blasted 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 2010 ($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 ($32.90). Made 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 ($21). 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 style 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 minerals. 90.

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 texture. 89.

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. 90.

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 Grenache ($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 World 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  Thorny Vines Vineyard Botrytis Affected Riesling 2013 ($14.90 for 375 ml). This wine definitely was being shown too soon; the botrytis characters have yet to develop the honey and tobacco notes that come with a year or two in bottle. Not rated.

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. 88.

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. 88.

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.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home