Photo: Naramata winegrowers Will (l) and Bryan Hardman
The most crowded wine real estate in the Okanagan is the Naramata Bench, a loosely defined area that stretches from
to the turnoff north of Naramata. Chute Lake
Including a few virtual wineries, there are 38 producers. You can drive from one end to the other in 45 minutes, without breaking the speed limit. Only a teetotaller would fail to find something to drink here. Most wine tourists are just overwhelmed by the choices.
The Naramata Bench Wineries Association represents 25 of those producers. The association has just concluded its annual spring tasting events in Victoria and Vancouver. Those attending likely also were overwhelmed by the choices. Even after spending six hours at the
Vancouver tastings, I still missed a few
That is not to complain. Two decades ago, there were not this many wineries in all of
Columbia. There certainly was not the quality of wine
either. British Columbia’s
wine consumers are fortunate indeed.
For those unable to attend, here are my notes on some of the wines. I am dividing the reviews in several parts, so as not to post an excessively long document.
The prices are close but sometimes not exact, thanks to the government’s decision to separate the taxes. Add about 15% to prices ending on odd numbers.
Deep Roots Winery, which opened last year, is one of the newest of the Naramata wineries, but, as the name suggests, one with roots. Bryan
and his son, Will, the winemaker, are one of the two winery owners actually
born in the region. (Robert Van Westen of Van Westen
Vineyards is the other.)
Deep Roots Pinot Gris 2014 ($19). This wine begins with honey and mango aromas, leading to flavours of pear and apple. The slightly off-dry finish gives the wine a plump texture. 90.
Deep Roots Unoaked Chardonnay 2014 ($21). Long, cool fermentation with this wine (as with the Pinot Gris) have preserved aromas and flavours of tropical fruit. It begins with aromas of mango and cantaloupe leading to flavours of mango, melon, peach and papaya. 89.
Deep Roots Rosé 2014 ($19). This is two-thirds Merlot, one-third Gamay, with a deep colour from four days of skin contact. The wine has aromas and flavours of cherry and strawberry, with an off-dry finish that gives the wine a fleshy texture. 89.
Deep Roots Gamay 2014 ($22). Approachable and easy drinking, this wine has aromas and flavours of cherry and blackberry with white pepper and spice on the finish. 88.
Deep Roots Merlot 2013 ($26). This is a full-bodied Merlot with intense aromas of plum and blueberry, leading to flavours of black currant, blueberry and vanilla. 90.
Deep Roots Malbec 2013 ($28). This begins with the classic and appealing Malbec aromas – violets, spice and plums. On the palate there are flavours of plums and mulberry. The firm texture suggests this will age well. 90.
Deep Roots Syrah 2013 ($34). This wine has the typical note of black pepper on the nose and the palate, accentuating the earthy, gamey flavours that mingle with dark chocolate and plum. 90.
Deep Roots Frosted Pinot 2014 ($22 for 375 ml). The bounteous harvest of 2014 allowed the
Hardmans to leave some Pinot Gris for late harvest.
The grapes for this were picked on three days, all at or near Icewine
temperatures. Will blended the three lots to make a delicious dessert wine with
intense tropical fruit aromas and flavours. The fresh acidity balances the
sweetness and leaves the palate refreshed. 90.
Unconventional Wisdom “The Other Way” Chardonnay 2014 ($17.39). This is a brand new wine from this producer, made because owners
and Miranda Halladay bought a small vineyard a few years ago that grows, among
other varieties, some Chardonnay. This is a crisp and refreshing wine, with
just three months in oak, recalls a Chablis, with citrus aromas and flavours
and a backbone of minerals. 90.
Unconventional Wisdom “I Told You So Viognier” 2013 ($22.99). This is a glorious expression of tropical fruit aromas and flavours, with notes of spice, pineapple and ripe apricots. 91.
La Frenz Winery, which opened in 2000, has a very long portfolio. This is the one to take to a dessert island because it covers almost all wine styles except sparkling wine.
La Frenz Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($18.99). This is refreshing, with aromas and flavours of lime and lemon around a backbone of crisp acidity and minerality. 91.
La Frenz Sémillon 2013 ($19.09). This is loaded with tropical aromas and flavours – honeyed notes of lime and papaya. 91.
La Frenz Riesling 2014 ($17.29). New to the portfolio, this is from a young planting near the winery. The wine is crisp and tangy, with aromas and flavours of citrus around a spine of minerals. 89.
La Frenz Viognier 2014 ($18.99). This begins with aromas of pears and apricots, leading to flavours of apricots, figs and marmalade. A gentle warmth of alcohol lingers in the background of this ripe and rich wine. 89.
La Frenz Reserve Pinot Noir 2013 ($27.79) and ‘Desperation Hill’ Pinot Noir 2012 ($19.99). The grapes are from the same vineyard but the reserve, a selection of best lots and best barrels, is more of everything. The reserve has aromas of strawberries, cherries and vanilla, with a refreshing and silky structure. A very pretty wine. 92.
La Frenz Grand Total Reserve 2012 ($34.69). This blend of the five
Bordeaux varieties is the pinnacle of the La
Frenz reds. A powerful wine, it has notes of black cherry, cassis and leather
on the nose, leading to rich, ripe flavours of black cherry, dark chocolate and
Lake Breeze Vineyards, coming up to its 20th anniversary next year, is planning to enlarge its tasting room and add a new barrel cellar. Currently, an expanded winery park lot is being completed to handle the crowds at this popular winery.