Friday, April 17, 2015

Okanagan Falls wineries show their wines in 2015

Photo: Liquidity Winery's tasting room and bistro

The thirteen wineries that make up the Okanagan Falls Winery Association recently showcased their wines in Vancouver, to considerable acclaim from those attending.

This is an association which includes some of British Columbia’s longest producing wineries (Blue Mountain and Wild Goose) along with promising recent entries (Liquidity and Synchromesh).

What links the wineries geographically is that their vineyards either overlook Skaha Lake or are clustered around the town of Okanagan Falls. This is one of the oldest towns in the south Okanagan. It is a community so modest that wine tourists have been in the habit of driving through, perhaps just with a stop at Tickleberry’s for ice cream.

In recent years, however, the wineries have begun offering attractions to keep the wine tourists there. Painted Rock Winery has one of the most elegant tasting rooms in the valley. Liquidity and Wild Goose both have opened restaurants with spectacular food. See Ya Later Ranch has always had a spectacular view from the terrace beside the heritage house serving as a wine shop.

I suspect there are more attractions coming. Development in Okanagan Falls has been restricted by an inadequate sewage treatment system. I believe that has now been addressed.

As usual, I could get around to every table. I missed the excellent wines at Meyer Family Vineyards, Painted Rock Estate Winery and Stag’s Hollow Winery.

(I did taste some Stag’s Hollow wine the following day. I can report that the winery’s Tragically Vidal 2014, at $19, is the best the winery has made yet. It just brims with lemon and lime aromas and flavours.)

But here are notes on the rest of the wines I did taste.

There were a number of 2014 wines. That promises to be a very good vintage, the Okanagan’s third strong vintage in a row.

Blasted Church Vineyards opened in 2000 as Prpich Hills. After Chris and Evelyn Campbell took it over two years later, the name was changed. The name change and the brilliant caricature labels drew attention to the winery and the wines have held that interest.

Blasted Church 2014 Sauvignon Blanc  ($19.50). This is a delicious white with lots of tropical fruit aromas and flavours, along with notes of herbs and gooseberry. The finish is tangy and refreshing. 90.

Blasted Church Pinot Gris 2013 ($20.50 for 2,500 cases). This is a crisp white with flavours of pear, citrus and apple and a hint of anise on the finish. This wine is almost sold out. 90.

Blasted Church Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2011 ($26.50 for 2,721 cases). This is a fairly complex blend: Cabernet Sauvignon (53%) Merlot (38%) Malbec (5.5%) Syrah (2.1%) Petit Verdot (1.4%). There is lots of black cherry and cassis in the aroma and on the palate, with notes of leather and cedar on the finish. 90.

Blasted Church Nothing Sacred 2010 ($41). The winery is just releasing the 2011 vintage but you might be able to find 2010 in wine stores. This is a reserve Meritage that winery began making in 2007. Production typically is just 200 cases. This is a delicious wine, with flavours of plum, black cherry, cassis and a hint of mocha. 91.

Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars. The Mavety family has been farming its Okanagan Falls vineyard since 1972. The winery, opened in 1992, is arguably the anchor tenant in the Okanagan Falls wine region, now that it has begun to open its wine shop from spring through autumn.

Blue Mountain Chardonnay 2013 ($20.90). There is often an element of restraint in the elegant Blue Mountain style – there is never too much oak, never too much malo, never too much alcohol. This wine is bright flavours of citrus and apples with a crisp finish. 90.

Blue Mountain Pinot Noir 2013 ($25). The sad news is that this wine is sold out at the winery. No wonder. It is delicious, with a toasty note and cherry aromas on the nose, leading to flavours of cherry and raspberry. The texture is silky. This is an elegant and pretty wine. 90.

Blue Mountain Brut NV ($23.90). Arguably, this is the best value among the Okanagan’s sparkling wines. Toasty and bready on the nose, the wine has appealing hints of apples on the palate. The lively bubbles give it a creamy texture on the mid-palate; but the wine finishes dry. 90.

Blue Mountain Brut Rosé 2010 ($32.90). The Blue Mountain Rosé usually sells out in a flash. It is a lovely sparking wine, appealing to the eye and, with delightful strawberry and raspberry notes, satisfying on the palate. 91.

Krāzē Legz Vineyard and Winery, the first winery in Kaleden, opened in 2010. Gerry Thygesen, who runs the winery with his wife, Sue, is the current president of the Okanagan Falls Winery Association. Since last year, the winery has released its wines under a new label, Skaha Vineyard.

Skaha Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2014 ($18.95). Crisp and refreshing, this wine’s flavours of apples and melons just explode on the palate. 90.

Skaha Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay 2014 ($19.95). Like the Pinot Blanc, the flavours have a laser-like focus and a pristine freshness. This wine has notes of apple and citrus in the aroma and on the palate. 91.

Skaha Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2012 ($25.85). This wine was aged 20 months in French oak, which accounts for the polished texture. The wine has aromas of blackberry and mocha leading to spicy, brambleberry flavours enhanced with a touch of vanilla. 91.

Skaha Vineyard Impulsion Reserve 2012 ($23.85). This is a blend of 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc. It also spent 2o months in oak. The wine has aromas and flavours of black currants, cherries and vanilla with notes of mocha and coffee on the finish. The long ripe tannins add to a generous texture and finish. 91.

Liquidity Wines opened in 2012. The winery has an elegant wine shop and bistro, with a shaded patio on which one could doze through an afternoon with a nice wine in the ice bucket.

Liquidity Pinot Gris 2014 ($19.90). The wine has aromas and flavours of pear and apple with a backbone of minerality. 89.

Liquidity Chardonnay 2012 ($23.90). This lightly oaked Chardonnay has aromas and flavours of citrus, with buttery and spicy tones. 90.

 Liquidity Merlot 2012 ($25.90). This is a tasty Merlot, supple on the palate with flavours of black cherry and black currants. 89.

Noble Ridge Vineyard and Winery has now been open 10 years. Jim and Leslie D’Andrea are Calgarians but in transition to the Okanagan. Leslie now lives in the new house on the property while Jim splits his time between a Calgary law office and the vineyard. Phil Soo, a consulting winemaker, makes their wines.

Noble Ridge Pinot Grigio 2013 ($19.90). This winery is one of the few in the Okanagan still using the Italian varietal name rather than the French. The wine tastes good in either language. This has aromas and flavours of pear and apples, with spice and herbs on the finish. 90.

Noble Ridge Reserve Chardonnay 2011 ($29.90). This is a big, mouth-filling Chardonnay with flavours of tangerine, ripe apples and the nutty/buttery/ spicy flavours of well-integrated oak. 90.

Noble Ridge Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 ($29.90). Big and bold best describes the Noble Ridge Pinot Noir, always a powerful wine. It has aromas and flavours of cherry and strawberry, with earthy chocolate notes on the finish. 91.

Noble Ridge Reserve Meritage 2012 ($29.90). The specifications are not on line but this is almost certainly a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a judicious amount of barrel aging. There is a touch of oak in the aroma. On the palate, there is a rich basket of flavours, including black cherry, vanilla, black currant, dark chocolate and espresso coffee. 91.

Pentâge Winery, which opened in 2003, is actually within the southern limits of Penticton but it is a better marketing fit with the Okanagan Falls wineries and with the Naramata group.

Pentâge Roussanne Marsanne Viognier 2011 ($27). This wine shows intriguing tension on the palate, with flavours of stone fruit and with a spine of minerals. With a dry finish, it is a very good Rhone blend. 90.

Pentâge Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon 2012 ($21). This is a complex dry white, beginning with herbal aromas. On the palate, there are herbal and nutty flavours, along with notes of lime. 90.

Pentâge Rosé 2013 ($NA). This is a Zinfandel rosé for serious rosé drinkers. The colour is deep, the weight is good and the finish is dry. It is packed with flavours of plum, cherry and blackberry. 91.

Pentâge Gamay 2013 ($21). Another taster in the room directed me to this wine. Recommendations are always good. This is a structured red with a delicious core of earthy, cherry flavours. 90.

Pentâge 2010 ($30). This is a blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Cabernet Franc, 17% Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot, 3% Syrah and 1% Gamay. The chewy ripe tannins give it a generous texture there are flavours of black cherry, dark chocolate and vanilla. 91.

See Ya Later Ranch has been opened under several owners and names since 1986. The current name celebrates the legend that a long-time ago owner of the property was abandoned by his wife, who left a note saying “see ya later”. The more prosaic story is that he signed his letters that way. Whatever the truth, the wines are good and surprisingly inexpensive.

See Ya Later Ranch Gewürztraminer 2014 ($14). This vineyard here is said to be North American’s biggest single block of Gewürztraminer. True or not, it is one of the best. This is an appealing wine with aromas and flavours of spicy grapefruit. A dash of Ehrenfelser in the blend adds flesh and tropical fruit flavours. 90.

See Ya Later Ranch Chardonnay 2014 ($15). The winery is practically giving away a very fine barrel-fermented Chardonnay. The wine has aromas of apple and pear, with a hint of cloves to light up the mid-palate. The finish is fresh and crisp. 91.

See Ya Later Ranch Ping 2012 ($22). This is a blend of 55% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 18% Cabernet Franc, aged 19 months in French (60%) and American oak barrels. A generously textured wine, it begins with aromas of plums and cherries which are echoed in the flavours, along with vanilla and espresso coffee. 90.

Synchromesh Wines, which opened in 2011, has developed a reputation for its Riesling table wines.  At the recent show, three single vineyard Rieslings from the Naramata Bench were offered in addition to the winery’s budget Riesling.

Synchromesh Riesling 2014 ($17). This is the winery’s 1,000-case entry level Riesling that is also available in kegs for restaurants. It is a tangy, refreshing wine with lime and lemon aromas and flavours. It is balanced to finish dry but is not austere. 89.

Synchromesh Thorny Vines Riesling 2014 ($22). This wine offers intense aromas and flavours of lemon and lime, with lively acidity and a long finish. 90.

Synchromesh Bob Hancock Vineyard Riesling 2014 ($22). This is another wine with vibrant acidity, flavours of lime and lemon and a nice spine of minerality. 91.

Synchromesh Four Shadows Riesling 2014 ($22). This wine is somewhat restrained on the nose, likely because it is still getting over bottle shock. It has appealing flavours of lime and grapefruit with good minerality. 90.

Synchromesh Cachola Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2013 ($19). This is a Cabernet Franc for Pinot Noir lovers, with its light color, silky tannins and flavours of strawberry and blackberry. The wine is appealing even though it is hardly a mainstream Cabernet Franc. 88.

Synchromesh Tertre Rouge 2012 ($39.90). This is a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Firm on the palate, the wine has flavours of plum, black currant, coffee and dark chocolate. It has a core brimming with fruit that will develop superbly in bottle over the next three years. 90-92.

Topshelf Winery is one of two wineries in Kaleden. It also opened in 2011. The labels are all built around hockey jargon. Does it get any more Canadian?

Topshelf Slapshot Chardonnay 2013 ($18). This is an unoaked Chardonnay. The wine is crisp and refreshing with flavours of apples and melons. 88.

Topshelf Point Shot Pinot Gris 2013 $18). This wine is packed with flavours – apple, citrus and pear – with good minerality and a crisp dry finish. 89.

Topshelf Over The Top Merlot 2013 ($20). Here is a juicy and approachable wine, with jammy flavours of black currant and black cherry. 89.

Topshelf Hat Trick Meritage 2013 ($33). This is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Merlot. Dark in colour and firm in texture, it has aromas of red fruits with a hint of violets. On the palate, there are spicy flavours of black currant, coffee and chocolate. 90.

Wild Goose Vineyards opened in 1990. At the time, a government official told them they would be lucky to sell 1,000 cases. This has become of the Okanagan’s best and most successful wineries, both for the quality of the wines and for the warm welcome visitors always get from the Kruger family, the owners.

Wild Goose Pinot Gris 2013 ($18). Pinot Gris is one of those whites that tastes better a year after release. This wine has rich flavours of peach and ripe apples. 89.

Wild Goose Gewürztraminer 2013 ($18.50). The same goes for an extra year of bottle age for Goo. The spice and grapefruit aromas and flavours are intense and the wine has a long finish. 91.

Wild Goose Red Horizon Meritage 2012 ($22). This is the second vintage of the winery’s Merlot-anchored Bordeaux blend. It begins with aromas of black cherry, cassis and vanilla, leading to flavours of cherries and black currants. The long, ripe tannins give this wine a rich and satisfying texture. 90.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home