Photo: Chris Jentsch of C.C. Jentsch Cellars
Those who still remember the B.C. wine industries of the
1970s, when there were six wineries, no doubt were floored when they walked
into Bloom 2014, the recent spring tasting hosted by the B.C. Wine Institute.
More than 90 wineries were there, usually pouring four wines
each. With only three hours, no tasting strategy could cover more than a
handful of producers arrayed in that vast hall of the Vancouver Convention
I sought out several newer wineries, passing by producers
whose wines I have already reviewed or will review shortly. I also tried to
taste wines from several regions. That amounted to just seven producers. After
all, there needs to be time set aside for conversations and note taking. In the
1970s, I would have covered the entire industry – except that wineries in that
era were not even allowed to do public tastings.
These are certainly better times; and the wines without a
doubt are far superior.
Here are my notes.
Chris Jentsch (pronounced Yentsch) opened this winery last year
right beside Highway 97 between Oliver and Osoyoos. He is still getting the
brand established in the market with rather moderate prices.
The wines are made by Matt Dumayne, a winemaker at Okanagan
Crush Pad, assisted by Amber Jones, the on site winemaker at Jentsch. It is a
C.C. Jentsch Cellars
Viognier 2013 ($22.90). This is a crisp and refreshing white that
emphasizes the lovely aromatics of the variety. The floral aromas lead to
flavours of apple and apricot, with good spine of minerality. 90.
C.C. Jentsch Cellars
The Dance Rosé 2013 ($17.90). This wine was made primarily by Amber, who is
keen on rosé wines. The wine was made by the classic saignée method, in which
some juice is bled from each varietal’s must while the juice is cold soaking on
the crushed skins. The blend here is 50% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, 20%
Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% each of Malbec and Petit Verdot. This is a juicy
wine with aromas and flavours of cherries and plums. The texture gives it
weight on the palate and the finish is dry. 90.
C.C. Jentsch Cellars
The Chase 2012 ($19.90). It would be hard to find a better Bordeaux blend at this price. The wine is 35%
Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5% Petit Verdot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 7.5%
Malbec. The wine begins with aromas of toasty oak and vanilla. The flavours are
big and bold, including blueberry, blackberry and black currant with a
lingering finish that includes notes of spice and liquorice. 90.
C.C. Jentsch Cellars
Syrah 2012 ($28.90). Chris tells me that he likes this wine so much that he
drinks it most of the time. I would, too, if I had a cellar full of it. It
begins with floral aromas – probably the influence of the six per cent Viognier
that was co-fermented with the Syrah. On the palate, there are ripe and spicy
flavours of plum and black cherry. The long ripe tannins give the wine a plush,
mouth-filling texture. 91.
This West Kelowna
operated by the Slamka family. It opened in 1996 as Slamka Cellars. When the
family decided to rebrand several years later, they simply translated the
family name, which means little straw. Subsequently, they launched a companion
label in French, La Petite Paille. Part of the vineyard dates from 1968 and
includes the oldest Auxerrois block in the Okanagan. Peter Slamka (right) is the winemaker.
La Petite Paille
Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($16.90 for 334 cases). This wine appeals with fruity
aromas of lime and rhubarb, following up with tangy lime flavours on the
palate. It is dry and refreshing. 88.
La Petite Paille
Pinot Noir 2009 ($21.90 for 324 cases). There are cherry and strawberry in
the aroma and on the palate, along with a classic Burgundian earthy note on the
finish. The texture is concentrated, finishing with silky tannins. This wine is
superb value. 90.
Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($16.90 for 557 cases). This wine also has aromas and
flavours of lime, along with tropical fruit and gooseberry flavours. The wine
is also crisp and fresh but with a touch of sweetness on the finish. 90.
Little Straw Old
Vines Auxerrois 2012
($17.90 for 296 cases). The label of this wine is a
photo of Joe and Freya Slamka, who planted one of the vineyards here in 1968.
How they got Auxerrois into B.C. from Europe
is shrouded in history. The variety does well in the Okanagan but has never had
a huge consumer following. That is hard to understand when tasting this complex
barrel-aged wine with peach and apricot flavours and with a rich and satisfying
texture while finishing almost dry. 90.
Tim and Caroline Cottrill opened this Similkameen winery in
2008 on a vineyard near the historic Grist Mill. They have been expanding in a
measured way every since with additional wines and by planting a second
Robin Ridge Sparkling Finch 2012
($26.90). This is
the winery’s first traditional method sparkling wine, a cuvée of 75% Chardonnay
and 25% Pinot Noir. The wine has an appealing creamy texture with strawberry
and apple aromas and flavours. 90.
Robin Ridge Chardonnay 2012
($18.90). While this
wine was barrel-fermented, the oak is quite supple, supporting buttery, peachy
aromas and flavours. 90.
Robin Ridge Late Harvest Sun Sweet Chardonnay 2012
for 140 cases of 350 ml bottles). The grapes for this were picked November 15
when they were super ripe. The result is a luscious dessert wine tasting of
baked apples, mango and custard. 88.
Robin Ridge Flicker 2013
($N/A). This rosé is made
with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit. It is crisply refreshing with notes of
cranberry and strawberry and with a dry finish. 88.
Robin Ridge Pinot Noir 2012
($21.90). A pretty
wine in the feminine style, this wine has aromas and flavours of strawberry and
cherry with a silky finish. 89.
Robin Ridge Gamay 2012
($23.90). This has long
been my favourite red from Robin
. It is a bold
Gamay, tasting of spice, raspberry and cherries. The texture is rich and
velvety at the same time. 91.
Robin Ridge Merlot 2010
($24.90). This wine has
aromas and favours of black currants and plums, along with savoury and herbal
Robin Ridge Big Bird Meritage 2011
is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It
begins with aromas of mint and cedar, leading to flavours of black currant,
blackberry, tobacco, coffee and minerals. The texture is firm. This brooding
red needs to be cellared another three or four years to show its full
Sage Hills Organic Estate Vineyard & Winery
Rick Thrussel opened this Summerland winery last year. A
former home builder in Vancouver
he moved to the Okanagan in 2006, bought an 11-acre orchard and converted to
organically produced grapes. The vineyard and the winery are on a promontory
with a dramatic view over Okanagan
Sage Hills Pinot Gris
2013 ($28.90 for 844 cases). This wine is packed with citrus and apple
flavours, giving the wine a juicy and satisfying texture. The finish is crisply
Gewürztraminer 2013 ($28.90 for 342 cases). The low tonnage viticulture
practised here results in an intense wine with flavours of grapefruit and
Sage Hills Syrah Rosé
2013 ($28.90 for 287 cases). The nose is almost jammy, in a positive way,
leading to flavours of plum and boysenberry on a rich palate. The finish,
however, is pleasantly dry. 90.
Sage Hills Pinot Noir
Small Lots 2012 ($44.90 but sold out). This delicious wine has aromas and
flavours of strawberry and cherry, with the classic silky texture one wants in
Pinot Noir. 91.
This winery in East Kelowna
is an authentic estate producer, using grapes only from its contiguous
vineyards. The anchor vineyard here is Pioneer Vineyards which has been farmed
with vines since 1927. It is just two years younger than the Sperling family’s
Pioneer Ranch, which is nearby and which is the oldest vineyard in the Okanagan
farmed continuously by the same family. The Tantalus property was farmed for
much of its history by the Dulik family who started a winery here in 1997,
called Pinot Reach Cellars. It has been owned since 2004 by Vancouver
investment dealer Eric Savics, who
2013 ($22.90). This wine just tingles with racy acidity; the flavours of
lime, lemon and minerals are classic and appealing, with a very long finish.
This is balanced like a dry German Riesling, with 15.8 grams of residual sugar
and 10.5 grams of acidity. The wine is good now but has potential to age
several more years. 92.
Tantalus Old Vines
Riesling 2011 ($34.90 for 150 cases). This wine is a little drier and a
great deal more intense than the “regular” Riesling because the fruit comes
from a two-acre block of Riesling planted in 1978. The wine has developed the
classic aromas and flavours sometimes called petrol. Citrus and green apple
flavours mingle with minerality on a rich palate. 93.
2012 ($29.90). Here is a crisp Chablis style Chardonnay with minimal oak.
The wine showcases the green apple and mineral flavours, with a touch of citrus
on the lively finish. 90.
Tantalus Rosé 2013 ($21.90).
Here is a crisp and dry rosé made with food in mind. It is 60% Pinot Meunier,
40% Pinot Noir. It has aromas and flavours of strawberry, cherry and pink
grapefruit. The wine is remarkable for a vibrant colour, the result of long
skin contact. 88.
Pinot Noir 2012 ($22.90). As the name suggests, this wine is made from
fruit of the youngest Pinot Noir plantings on the estate. The wine is light but
pretty, with notes of strawberry and cherry on the nose; and raspberry and
cherry on the palate. 88.
The View is one of the group of interesting wineries in East Kelowna
. What sets the winery apart is its big block
of Pinotage, the red variety created in South Africa
almost 100 years ago.
Somehow, I missed tasting the 2012 Reserve Pinotage ($24.50), so I will need to
see if my local VQA store has any. It has always been a solid red.
The View Hail Mary 2013 ($16.40 for 195
cases). Perhaps the wine is so named because Jennifer Molgat, the winery’s
president, needed a few prayers to get through the 2013 vintage after 15
minutes of hail devastated about 70% of the crop in her vineyard. Her prayer
was answered when she found enough Müller-Thurgau
in nearby vineyard to blend it with her surviving Riesling (50% each). It is a
pleasantly fruity white, a perfectly refreshing summer wine. 88.
The View Gewürztraminer 2013 ($15.90
for 367 cases). The touch of residual sugar here lifts the spice and lychee
flavours while the balance still leaves a crisp, spicy finish. 88.
The View Riesling 2013 ($18.90). Again,
there is excellent tension between the racy acidity and the residual sugar,
leaving a crisp and refreshing finish. The wine shows aromas and flavours of
lime and lemon. 88.
The View Well-Heeled 2013 ($19.90 for
174 cases of 350 ml bottles). This is delicious desert wine, a blend of 85% Müller-Thurgau and 15% Ehrenfelser.
A wine with ripe peach and apricot aromas and flavours, it has been slightly
fortified to 15.2%. You don’t notice the alcohol behind the 50 grams of
residual sugar. A true sticky, as the Australians would say. 90.
Young and Steve Wyse run this winery in Osoyoos, near the border crossing into
He is a member of the family that owns Burrowing Owl and that’s where he got
his training. Some people think Young & Wyse is the go-to winery when
Burrowing Owl is sold out. For consumers, the good news is that the winery’s Vancouver agent recently
rolled back some of the prices a few dollars.
Young & Wyse Amber 2011 ($18.90).
This is a fresh and tangy blend of 43% Viognier, 37% Pinot Gris and 20%
Gewürztraminer. Beginning with floral aromas, it has flavours of nectarines,
apples and honeydew melons. 90.
Young & Wyse White Label Viognier 2012 ($21.90).
Beginning with orange blossom aromas, this wine has flavours of apricot, peach
and apple. The texture is full but the finish is crisp. 90.
Young & Wyse White Label Merlot 2011 ($21.90).
Here is a good value Merlot with plum, blueberry and black currant aromas and
flavours and a generous, chewy texture. 90.
Young & Wyse Black Label Cabernet
Sauvignon 2010 ($23.90). This is an elegant winem beginning with aromas of
cassis and blackberry. On the palate, there is a medley of berry flavours
including black currant and blueberry. 91.
Young & Wyse Black Sheep Blend 2011 ($23.90).
This Meritage blend begins with aromas of spicy plum and blueberry. On the palate, the texture is ruch, with
appealing flavours of cassis, coffee and liquorice. 91.