Friday, August 21, 2015

Two by two: whites for Noah's Ark

Photo: Blue Mountain's best Sauvignon Blanc yet

By sheer coincidence, two wineries – one an old favourite, one I had not hear of – each sent a pair of white wines from the 2014 vintage.

So I take the liberty of reviewing them together, if only to accelerate the pace of publishing reviews. Two by two, as they say of Noah's Ark.

The familiar winery is Blue Mountain Vineyard & Cellars, which has been producing interesting wines from its Okanagan Falls vineyard since 1991.

Recently, I was suggesting to a friend that he send a California house guest and Pinot Noir fancier to Blue Mountain. He was unaware that the winery has had a public tasting room for two years now.

It shows how long it takes the word to get out. Blue Mountain has always accepted visitors who had the foresight to make appointments. Those without appointments sometimes were turned away.

Blue Mountain got the reputation of being an unfriendly winery. That was not deserved: the owners were not hostile to people; they just were far too busy to drop things whenever an unexpected car pulled into the driveway.

With additional family members now in the business, the winery’s tasting room is as friendly as any other in the Okanagan.

The winery I had not heard of is Fern Walk Vintners. The label says it is in Kelowna but don’t drive around the city in search of it. It is one of that stable of labels under Mark Anthony Fine Wine Merchants. You will have heard of the major label in the group: Mission Hill Family Estate Winery.

The place to find the Fern Walk wines is in the Liquor Distribution Branch and probably in the various Mark Anthony wine stores.

There are at least 29 labels under the Mark Anthony umbrella, including such strange labels as Kindle, Screw It and Yolo. I presume it makes business sense to someone.

Fern Walk is a label no one would be embarrassed to have on the table. In fact, the packaging is quite elegant. You would expect these to be $30 wines and you will be happy to know they are not.

Here are my notes on the four wines.

Blue Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($19). This is Blue Mountain’s  fourth of fifth vintage of this varietal and, in my view, the best so far. It begins with aromas of herbs, fresh grass and lime. On the generous palate, there are flavours of lime and lemma with a defining spine of minerality.  The wine has a crisp, vibrant finish. 91.

Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2014 ($18). Few wineries take Pinot Blanc as seriously as Blue Mountain. The wine is made from 29-year-old vines and shows the depth of flavour minerality that comes with old vines. Forty percent of the wine was fermented in neutral French oak; the rest in stainless steel. The wine has aromas and flavours of apples, peaches and apricots. It is crisply dry on the finish. 91.

Fern Walk Pinot Gris 2014 ($16.99). No oak is used here; this is all about freshness and crispness. There are aromas and flavours of pears, apples and citrus, with just a hint of bready lees. The golden colour obviously results from a little skin contact which picked up flavour but also very slight hint of bitterness on the finish. 87.

Fern Walk Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($16.99). Aged seven months in stainless steel, this is a crisp and refreshing wine with aromas of herbs mingled with grapefruit. On the lively palate, there are flavours of lime and kiwi. 89.


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