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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars.
family has been farming its Okanagan
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.
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.
Legz Vineyard and Winery,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Liquidity Pinot Gris
2014 ($19.90). The wine has aromas and flavours of pear and apple with a
backbone of minerality. 89.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
Vines Riesling 2014 ($22). This wine offers intense aromas and flavours of
lemon and lime, with lively acidity and a long finish. 90.
Hancock Vineyard Riesling 2014 ($22). This is another wine with vibrant
acidity, flavours of lime and lemon and a nice spine of minerality. 91.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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
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.