Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hester Creek releases The Judge

There seems to be a growing trend for wineries to restrict the distribution of their special wines to their wine clubs and/or the winery tasting rooms – perhaps with an allocation to favoured restaurants.

Hester Creek Estate Winery has now done this with its icon red, The Judge 2012 and with its 2013 Syrah Viognier.

If I put on my commercial hat, I get the strategy. The most profitable sales are those made direct to consumers.

However, you need to be a dedicated consumer. Wine club members typically need to commit to buying six or 12 bottles. Or you need to head out to the fall wine festival in the Okanagan (where you can also take in Hester Creek’s garlic festival on October 3). Or you can see if you can find a restaurant with the wine, in which case The Judge will set you back about $100.

I can’t argue with the winery’s strategy but I do express some concern about the lack of accessibility to special wines for the average consumer. A colleague tells me he has seen The Judge in a private wine store (which he did not name). You just might get lucky.

Having said that, other Hester Creek wines are widely available. This winery has improved its wines immensely since it was taken over in 2005 by Prince George businessman Curt Garland.

Under winemakers Rob Summers and Mark Hopley, his assistant, a distinctive house style has emerged. The red wines in particular are full of flavour, have appealing aromas and supple tannins. That is as true of the $20 blend called Character as it is of The Judge.

The Judge 2012 is the sixth vintage of this flagship red. It has become a favourite wine for collectors of Okanagan icon red wines. I was able to taste a vertical last year with the winemaker. It is a delicious and complex red. The winery recommends aging it up to eight years. I think it might go 10 years but the house style - soft, round tannins – might limit the longevity. On the other hand, you can open the bottle now and enjoy it for dinner.

Here are notes on the wines.

Hester Creek The Judge 2012 ($45). This is a dark, concentrated wine beginning with aromas of black cherry, plum and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of black cherry, dark chocolate, vanilla and cedar. The texture is rich and elegant with a long, long finish. Retasted on the second day after being opened, the wine was even more generous and satisfying. 93-95.

Hester Creek Syrah-Viognier 2013 ($25 for 500 cases). This is a bold wine, with aromas and flavours of black cherry, coffee and chocolate and with notes of black pepper. The flavours just fill the mouth. The soft tannins give the wine a generous texture. 91.  


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