Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Why Naramata Bench is like winning the lottery

Photo: Serendipity Winery

A wine reviewer of Naramata Road wines has the same problem that wine tourists have: it is easy to lose yourself among the 40 or so wineries packed onto a scenic 20 km strip of vineyards.

This review deals with just two wineries that are almost neighbours on the southern edge of the village of Naramata.

Kettle Valley Winery, which opened in 1996, is one of the most seasoned of the Naramata wineries. Serendipity Winery is one of the younger wineries, having opened in 2011. Therapy Vineyards happens to be sandwiched between the two. For some wine tourists, this would be a full day of touring if one included lunch in Naramata.

Naramata does not yet have its own appellation, although it is probably in the works. A European winegrower would find this an astonishing appellation because the vineyards in this tiny area encompass varieties that are grown in numerous appellations the length and breadth of France.

The reviews below encompass Bordeaux varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon), Burgundy varieties (Pinot Noir) and Rhone varieties (Viognier).

How can one explain this? Is it that the people who planted the vineyards did not know what they were doing? Or is it because the terroir is quite special?

I lean toward the latter explanation. The Okanagan enjoys unusually good growing degree days for a viticultural area this far north. Naramata Bench’s exposure to Okanagan Lake assures enviably long hang times in the fall, without which Cabernet Sauvignon would not be sufficiently ripe. The soils are a complex medley of young, old and volcanic.

To be sure, one can find varieties planted in the wrong places – but not disastrously wrong if the grape growing is exemplary.

The wine growers who settled on the Naramata Bench seem to have won the lottery.

Here are notes on some wines.

Kettle Valley McGraw Estate Merlot 2012 ($38 for 119 cases). This wine’s seamless texture and intensity is due, aside from excellent grape growing in a fine vintage, to having been aged 20 months in French oak and one year in bottle before release. There is vanilla, black cherry and cassis in the aroma. The bold core of ripe red fruit on the palate echoes the aroma. 91.

Kettle Valley Crest Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($38 for 24 cases). Few winemakers with as much production as Kettle Valley would take the time to make a single barrel of anything. Hats off to winery owners Bob Ferguson and Tim Watts, who have something special in the Crest Vineyard’s Cabernet Sauvignon and don’t let it disappear into a blend. This begins with aromas of cassis, black cherry and chocolate, leading to flavours of black currant framed by the oak notes gained in 20 months in French oak. The bright fruit and the spicy finish are framed by firm, polished tannins. This will age superbly beyond its 10th birthday. 90.

Serendipity Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($20 for 300 cases). The aromas of herbs and lime that leap from the glass are echoed on the palate, along with flavours of green apples. The wine’s bracing acidity gives the wine a crisp and refreshing finish that lingers. 89.

Serendipity Viognier 2013 ($20 for 212 cases). The wine begins with floral aromas, along with apricot, tangerine and honey that are echoed on the flavour. The delicious fruity flavours dance pleasantly on the tongue and persist on the dry finish. 90.

Serendipity Rosé 2014 ($20 for 298 cases). The vibrant pink hue of this wine results from letting the juice soak 24 hours on the skins. The blend here is 40% Syrah and 20% each of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. The wine has appealing aromas of cherry and strawberry, leading to flavours of kiwi and pomegranate. The finish is dry. 90.

Serendipity Pinot Noir 2012 ($25 for 337 cases). The wine begins with aromas of plum and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of plum, black cherry, cola and oak. The wine appears to have spent about two years in oak. The sweet oak flavours are still integrating in this tasty wine. The wine is full-bodied with a velvet texture beginning to develop. 90.

Serendipity Estate Merlot 2011 ($40 for 550 cases). This wine, dark in colour, was aged two years in French oak. It begins with aroma of cassis and vanilla. In the palate, there are flavours of black currant and blueberry. The structure is firm. This wine benefits from decanting; it can also be aged another four or five years. 90.


At March 25, 2016 at 9:45 AM , Blogger Sam Hauck said...

Excellent article summing up the uniqueness of the Naramata Bench John. Thanks.



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