Photo: Zinfandel in the boiler
Move over, Amador
. Kettle Valley
Great Northern Vineyard in the Similkameen has arrived.
is the viticultural area in north central California
its powerful Zinfandel wines.
The 2013 Great Northern Zinfandel just released by Kettle Valley
is strikingly reminiscent of a premium Zinfandel from one of Amador County
This is the third vintage of Great Northern Zinfandel. The
2013 vintage took that wine to another level, reflecting perhaps the increasing
maturity of the vines. The first vintage was 2011, all of 46 cases. My review
of that wine indicated it already had power.
wrote: “Think California ripeness! The wine has 15.6% alcohol. It is a big,
almost porty wine with vanilla and black cherry aromas; spicy brambly flavours;
and – as you would expect – a touch of heat on the finish.”
In 2012, 191 cases of Great Northern Zinfandel were
produced. I liked it as well: “This wine begins with earthy aromas of plum and
leather, leading to robust flavours of plum, black cherry and blackberry. The
wine presents a huge dollop of ripe sweet berry flavours to the palate.” The
alcohol was 15.5%.
In 2013, 239 cases were produced. As indicated, I think this
is the best one yet. The review follows.
The vineyard, which grows Syrah and Viognier as well as
Zinfandel, is on a hilltop east of Keremeos, just beside Highway 3 en route to
Osoyoos. It is owned by sisters Colleen
Ferguson and Janet Watts. With their husbands, Bob Ferguson and Tim Watts, they
own Kettle Valley
, which opened in 1996. The
vineyard is managed by Andrew Watts, Tim and Janet’s son and an enology
graduate of Lincoln University
in New Zealand
The robust performance of Zinfandel speaks well for the
sun-drenched terroir of the Similkameen
. Zinfandel can be
problematic in British Columbia
Because the variety ripens late and unevenly, it needs a lot of hang-time. It
seems to be getting it in the Great Northern Vineyard.
The vineyard is named for the railroad that formerly
operated through the Similkameen. This proved to be convenient for Kettle Valley
The winery now puts the image on a locomotive on the labels of both brands,
neatly telegraphing the family relationship.
Here are notes of current releases from both labels.
Kettle Valley Riesling 2014
($26 for 189 cases).
This wine is made with Naramata Bench grapes. The winery says the wine is
“slightly off-dry with significantly less residual sugar than prior vintages.”
I don’t recall those vintages; but it seems to me Kettle Valley
nailed it with the 2014. The tiny bit of sweetness shows only in the depth and
honeyed richness of what is essentially a dry wine. Lightly golden in hue, the
wine has aromas of lime and lemon. On the palate, there are flavours of herbs
and lime. The wine has good weight and a long finish. 90.
Kettle Valley Barber Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
for 45 cases). The leanness of this wine reflects a cool vintage that did not
ripen the Cabernet Sauvignon as much as one would have liked. The wine has
aromas and flavours of black currant and spice. By aging it 20 months in French
oak, the winery achieved elegant tannins. 88.
Kettle Valley Pinot Noir 2012
($26 for 688 cases).
This robust and fleshy wine is made with grapes from four different vineyards,
presumably giving the winery a good selection of clones to work with. The wine
was aged in French oak barrels for 20 months. It has aromas and flavours of
cherry and vanilla. 90.
Viognier 2014 ($21 for 317 cases). Here is a rich, ripe Viognier, with a
honeyed texture and aromas and flavours of apricot. It is a delicious wine with
a long finish. 90.
Great Northern Syrah
2012 ($24 for 239 cases). The vineyard was farmed at just over one ton an
acre in a quest for concentrated flavours. The wine, which aged 22 months in
French oak, has a rich and plummy aroma, with almost jammy flavours – a meaty
melange of plum, black cherry and blueberry. 90.
Great Northern Zinfandel 2013 ($24 for 263 cases). This has 16%
alcohol but the wine is so rich that it does not come across as hot. It has
appealing aromas of blackberry and black cherry, echoed in the rich and ripe
flavours and the long spicy finish. This is a big, swaggering red wine. One of
my table companions took a mouthful and, quite spontaneously, said “yum.” She
made the point. 93.