Friday, May 30, 2014

Bloom 2014 tasting discoveries

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 Centre.

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.

C.C. Jentsch Cellars

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 solid team.

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.

Little Straw Vineyards

This West Kelowna winery is 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.

Little Straw 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.

Robin Ridge Winery

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 vineyard nearby.

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 ($16.90 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 Ridge. 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 notes. 88.

Robin Ridge Big Bird Meritage 2011 ($31.90). This 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 potential. 91.

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 Lake.

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 refreshing. 90.

Sage Hills Gewürztraminer 2013 ($28.90 for 342 cases). The low tonnage viticulture practised here results in an intense wine with flavours of grapefruit and spice. 90.

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.

Tantalus Vineyards

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 rebranded it.

Tantalus Riesling 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.

Tantalus Chardonnay 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.

Tantalus Juveniles 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 Winery

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 & Wyse Collection

Michelle Young and Steve Wyse run this winery in Osoyoos, near the border crossing into the U.S. 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.


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