Photo: Bench 1775's Val Tait
every winery on the Naramata Bench has a superb view over vineyards and
can match Bench 1775 Winery with its expansive patio. The winery, once known as
Soaring Eagle, was renamed in 2013 to Bench 1775, its address on Naramata Road.
The winery thus is hard to miss.
an idyllic morning this summer, I shared a corner table on the patio with
general manager and winemaker Val Tait, tasting through most of the current
wines. The wines hold up to the view.
a noted viticultural consultant in the Okanagan, joined the winery in 2013,
partnering with Jim Stewart, one of the former owners. The winery was sold the
following year to low profile immigrant investors who maintained Val in her
role, recognizing her immense depth of experience.
Born in 1964, she
has an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and a master’s in integrated pest
management. She started working at the Summerland research station on plant
viruses and then developed her independent consulting business with grape
growers in the early 1990s as new vineyards were being planted. “I was lucky to
get in on the industry when it was starting to grow,” says Val.
At Bench 1775, she
has reorganized the winery and quickly upgraded viticulture. “We have to be
impeccable in the vineyard,” she vows. “It’s such a beautiful site and it has
such great potential.”
(18.5-acre) vineyard’s remarkable features include a lengthy private beach on
Okanagan Lake. “There are very few wineries in the world that are on the
water,” Val says. “It is like we are working on a vacation site.” Indeed, one
of the privileges to members of the Bench 1775 wine club is access to the
It is worth noting that a
number of the wines reviewed below are available just to wine club members.
Even if a dip in Okanagan Lake does not appeal, the wines should. "I am
trying to make wines that do not have an abrupt finish," Val says.
1775 Chill 2015 ($17.90 for
1,640 cases). This is a blend primarily of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Viognier.
The wine begins with herbal aromas that continue to aromas of melon and pear.
These fruits and the herbs are echoed on the palate, along with a hint of
grapefruit. The finish is crisp and dry. 88.
Bench 1775 Pinot Gris 2015. ($19.90
for 1,685 cases.) This delicious wine is packed with fruit aromas and flavours,
including citrus, peach and pear. Four per cent Gewürztraminer in the blend
pops the aromas. The texture is full and juicy. 90.
Bench 1775 Sémillon 2015 ($19.90 for
75 cases). This is a dramatic white wine, bursting with tropical aromas and
flavours including melon and cantaloupe. There is a hint of olives on the
complex finish. 92.
Bench 1775 Sauvignon Blanc
2015 ($24.90 for 880 cases). There is 10% Sémillon in this blend.
The wine begins with aromas of lemon and lime, leading to lime and herbs on the
Bench 1775 Muscat 2015. ($19.90).
Three clones of Muscat are combined in this lovely aromatic wine, delivering
spicy citrus aromas and flavours and finishing with spicy herbs. The wine is
Bench 1775 Viognier 2015 ($24.90 for
180 cases). This wine has 10% Gewürztraminer and 5% Pinot Gris in the blend.
The wine begins with stone fruit aromas. On the palate, the texture is creamy,
with flavours of ripe apricots. The finish is very long and generous. 91.
Bench 1775 Glow 2015 ($19.90 for 360 cases).
This copper-hued rosé is 70% Malbec and is filled out with Syrah, Cabernet
Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The aromas and flavours of cherries and raspberry
are intense. This wine, with its dry finish, is a food wine. 90.
Bench 1775 Groove 2014 ($19.90).
Here is a soft juicy red that can be
chilled for summertime drinking. Made primarily with Malbec and Cabernet Franc,
it is a bowl full of cherries with vanilla on the finish. There seems to be a
touch of sweetness. 88.
Bench 1775 Pinot Noir 2014
($25.90. This silky wine has aromas and
of strawberry with hint of vanilla. 90.
Bench 1775 Malbec 2013. Dark in
colour and rich on the palate, this begins with aromas of Violets and red
berries. On the palate, there are flavours of plum and cherry that move on to
earthy flavours of dark fruit. 92.
Bench 1775 Cabernet Franc
Malbec 2014 ($25.90) This is an inspired 50/50 blend of these
two varieties. The wine begins with a bold aroma of blackberries and violets,
and goes on to deliver layers of bramble fruit flavours and a spicy finish. 93.
Bench 1775 Merlot 2013. A Merlot
with good concentration of bright fruit, this has aromas and flavours of black
currant and black cherry. 91.
Bench 1775 Syrah 2013 ($27.90
for 370 cases). Juicy, almost jammy in its richness, this wine has aromas and
flavours of plum and black cherry. 90.
Bench 1775 Cabernet Franc
c. 214 2013. Only the
Bench 1775 wine club can buy this superb red ($28).
is a big, ripe wine with
layers of blackberry, black currant, black cherry and mulberry. 92.
Bench 1775 Cabernet
Sauvignon Merlot 2013 ($26.90). This is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon,
30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc. The fruit flavours are boldly ripe. There are
aromas and flavours of black cherry, black currant, mulberry. 92