Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Okanagan Falls wineries tasting 2017: Part One

Photo: Liquidity Winery's hospitality centre

The recent spring tasting by the Okanagan Falls Winery Association provided an early and comprehensive look at wines from the 2016 vintage.

The news is very good. The white wines and the rosé wines are among the best yet from the Okanagan. (Red wines, of course, have not been released yet).

The wines reflect a vintage that began with bud break in early April, giving the vines a three-week head start on the season. That was fortunate because there was frost one night in mid-October that froze a lot of leaves. But it had been a generally even growing season without much excessive heat. Flavours developed well and the essential acidity was maintained.

The result: white and rosé wines with good to intense flavours. The wines are focussed and clean, with long and refreshing finishes. It bodes well for the reds.

The 2017 vintage is starting much more slowly, as one might guess from the snow  on the Coquihalla. It is, of course, much too early to start tearing hair out about the 2017 vintage, especially when the 2016s are showing so well.

Also note that wines from earlier vintages were being poured as well. The Okanagan has had five good vintages in a row.

This is part one, with a concluding part to follow, just to keep the size of the blog manageable.

Here are notes.

Blasted Church Vineyards. Elaine Vickers (left), who has a graduate diploma in winemaking from the University of Adelaide, was so determined to become a winemaker that she took a job as a cellar hand at Blasted Church late in 2010. After working with consultant Mark Wendenburg, she was promoted to winemaker within a few years. AS well-earned promotion. Little known fact about Elaine: she once played Ultimate Frisbee. But wine is what she does best.

Blasted Church OMG 2012 ($24.90). This sparkling wine is 66% Pinot Noir, 22% Chardonnay and 12% Pinot Blanc. It begins with aromas of pear and apples that are echoed in the flavours, along with a hint of brioche from the yeast lees. The finish is crisp. 90.

Blasted Church Hatfield’s Fuse 2015 ($17). This is a 10-grape blend: 22% Gewürztraminer, 21% Pinot Gris, 20% Viognier, 13% Optima, 8% Ehrenfelser, 5% Pinot Blanc 4% Chardonnay, 4% Chardonnay Musqué, 2% Orange Muscat and 1% Riesling. The wine, as a result, is a big, delicious fruit bowl. 90.

Blasted Church Pinot Gris 2015 ($20.50). This is a crisply dry wine, with aromas and flavours of melon and green apple. The finish is refreshing. 89.

Blasted Church Big Bang Theory 2015 ($19). This is a blend of 50% Merlot, 15% Malbec, 10% each Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, 9% Lemberger and 6% Syrah. Here is an accessible red, ready for the barbecue this summer. The aromas and flavours of cherry and blueberry mingle with generous, toasty oak. 90.

Blasted Church Nothing Sacred 2014 ($45). This is the winery’s flagship Bordeaux blend: 40% Merlot and 20% each Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a full-bodied wine with aromas and flavours of blackcurrant, blackberry, and spicy fruit cake. 92.

Blue Mountain Vineyard & Cellars. This producer has always impressed as an anchor of the Okanagan Falls group of wineries. This is doubly so now that the winery opens its tasting room to the public each summer, something it has done for five or six years.

Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut NV ($23.90). This wine has long been a benchmark for affordable quality sparkling wines. It is crisp and fresh, with some citrus on the nose and in the flavour. 90.

Blue Mountain Reserve Brut 2008 Recently Disgorged ($39.90). Here is an elegant sparking wine that goes toe to toe with Champagne. It is a blend of 50% each Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It was on the lees for six and a half years before being disgorged, acquiring the classic brioche aromas and flavours of Champagne. The finish is crisp. 92.

Blue Mountain Chardonnay 2015 ($21). Half of this was fermented and aged in stainless steel while the other half was fermented and aged on the lees in oak for 11 months. The result is satisfying complexity, with notes of citrus and vanilla in the aroma. The wine has flavours of lemon and lime with a hint of butter. The texture is rich and the finish lingers. 91.

Blue Mountain Pinot Noir Reserve 2013 ($N/A). I cannot find this on the winery’s website; perhaps it is sold out but was poured as a treat. The wine begins with aromas of cherry and vanilla, leading to intense flavours of cherry with a touch of good French oak. The texture is evolving towards silkiness. 92.

Crescent Hill Winery is the northern-most and newest member of the Okanagan Falls Winery Association. The winery, which is just completing its tasting room, is at the southend of Penticton with a view to the west over Skaha Lake. Owner Teresa Wiseman honours her father, Glennallyn Murray, in the label of the Gewürztraminer. He was a pioneering grower here.

Crescent Hill Glennallyn Gewürztraminer 2014 ($NA). This intense wine, with notes of spice and lychee, recalls Alsace in its style. 88.

Crescent Hill Cristal’s Fault Riesling 2015 ($NA). With notes of citrus and apple on the nose and palate, this is a crisp and refreshing wine. 88.

Crescent Hill Olde Orchard Pearl of Csaba Muscat 2015 ($NA). Pearl of Csaba (with variations on the spelling) is a spicy white variety that once had a greater role in Okanagan winemaking. Hats off to Teresa for continuing to feature it. The wine has delicate aromas of rose petals, with spicy fruit on the palate and a dry finish. 89.

Crescent Hill Consensual Chaos 2016 Rosé ($NA). Crisp and dry, this rosé has aromas and flavours of cherry and cranberry. 88.

Krāzē Legz Vineyard & Winery opened in Kaleden in 2010. Susan and Gerry Thygeson  (below) named it Krāzē Legz, theming the labels and the wine shop around the high kicking dance steps of the Roaring 20s. In recent years, the labels have transitioned to the more contemporary Skaha Vineyards.

Skaha Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay 2016 ($21). This fruit-forward Chardonnay is bursting with aromas and flavours of apple, pineapple and stone fruit. The flavours are clean and refreshing; the spine of minerality adds a note of complexity. 90.

Skaha Vineyard Mystique 2016 ($21). This is a blend of 60% Pinot Blanc and 40% Chardonnay. The wine was fermented cold in stainless steel and the result exhibits a pristinely fresh focus of aroma and flavour. The wine delivers notes of apple, melon and pineapple. 90.

Skaha Vineyard Rosé 2016 ($21). This is a Merlot rosé with an appealing pink hue, aromas of strawberry and flavours of strawberry and cranberry. The finish is crisp and dry. 89.

Skaha Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2014 ($26). This is a bold wine with aromas of blackberry and raspberry and flavours of blackberry and black cherry. The structure is firm, suggesting the wine has five to seven years of further development in your cellar if you are patient. 90.

Skaha Vineyard Rogue 2014 ($49 for 500 ml). This is a fortified Merlot in the style of Port. It is a rich wine with flavours recalling a good fruit cake. 90.

Liquidity Wines occupies one of the most attractive wineries in Okanagan Falls. Its wine shop is in an architecturally-striking building that also includes an excellent restaurant and a small art gallery.

Liquidity Pinot Gris 2016 ($18). This wine sparkles with focussed fresh fruit flavours – lime, grapefruit, pear – with a crisp, tangy finish. 92.

Liquidity Collage 2016 ($18). This is a blend of 34% Pinot Blanc, 34% Gewürztraminer, 21% Sauvignon Blanc and 11% Pinot Gris. It begins with aromas of herbs and spice and delivers a basket of tropical fruit flavours. The finish is dry. 91.

Liquidity Viognier 2016 ($25). This crisp and refreshing wine delivers flavours of citrus and stone fruit, with a touch of anise on the finish. 91.

Liquidity Chardonnay Estate 2015 ($26). Winemaker Alison Moyes (right) built complexity into this wine by fermenting and aging it 11 months on French oak; and allowing just one third to go through malolactic fermentation. The result is a wine with bright citrus and apple flavours supported by notes of vanilla and a rich texture. 91.

Meyer Family Vineyards, which opened in 2008, has a rising reputation as a producer of elegant Chardonnay and sophisticated Pinot Noir. It is one of the few Okanagan wineries that have begun to export to the British market.

Meyer Traditional Method Extra Brut NV ($40 for 550 cases). This is 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. The wine has had a total of four years aging in tank and bottle before its release. It has the slight bready note of classic Champagne. It also has brightly focussed fruit showing notes of lemon and granny smith apple. It is clean and fresh on the palate with crisp finish. The bubbles are fine and persistent. 92.

Meyer Gewürztraminer 2015 ($18). This wine delivers lychee and spice on the palate. The texture is juicy and the wine is balanced to finish dry. 88.

Meyer Okanagan Chardonnay 2016 ($20). This is an uncomplicated fruit-forward wine, with a crisp aroma and with appealing flavours of peach and apple. 89.

Meyer Micro-Cuvée Chardonnay 2015 ($65). This powerful wine is the winery’s flagship Chardonnay.  It was aged 11 months in French oak barrels (50% new). Brioche in the aroma and flavour mingles with lively citrus flavours. This elegant wine will age superbly. 95.

Meyer Stevens Block Chardonnay 2016 ($28 for 300 cases). The grapes are from a viticulturally distinctive block in the winery’s Old Main Road vineyard near Naramata. The wine is intensely fruity, beginning with citrus aromas that lead to flavours of guava and citrus. The lingering finish is crisp. 92.

Meyer Rosé 2016 ($20 for 175 cases). This is a Pinot Noir rosé made with juice bled from crushed grapes. The technique usually is a win/win situation: the pink wine is delicate but fruit and the subsequent Pinot Noir is more concentrated. This wine has aromas and flavours of strawberry, with a dry finish. 89.

Meyer McLean Creek Pinot Noir 2015 ($40). The wine begins with aromas of cherry mingled with toasted oak. On the palate, which is becoming silky, there are flavours of spicy black cherry with a hint of cloves on the finish. 91.

Meyer Pinot Noir Reimer Vineyard 2015 ($40). The grapes are from a vineyard in East Kelowna. It is a bright and appealing wine with cherries and red berries dancing across the palate. 91.

Meyer Old Block Pinot Noir 2015 ($50). This wine is made from a small Pinot Noir block in the McLean Creek vineyard that was planted in 1994. The clone is unknown but the wine is very good. It begins with aromas of black cherry and plum with hints of forest floor. This is echoed on the palate, where the finish is spicy and savoury.  91.
Meyer Micro-Cuvée Pinot Noir 2014 ($65). This wine is made by choosing the best block and best clones from the McLean Creek Vineyard and then selecting the best barrels to produce 110 cases. This was aged 11 months in French oak (50% new). The wine has aromas of cherry and vanilla. On the palate, the flavours of plum and cherry are subtly integrated with toasty oak. The finish has savoury notes of forest floor. 95.

Nighthawk Vineyards opened in 2015 on Green Lake Road, a few kilometers west of See Ya Later Ranch Vineyards. Initially, it was a partnership of two couples. Recently, Daniel Bibby and his wife, Christy (right), acquired 100% ownership.  Because Danial manages a leading Kelowna hotel, he relies on Matt Dumayne of Okanagan Crush Pad to make the wines.

Nighthawk Gewürztraminer 2015 ($19.90). Fleshy in texture and slightly off-dry, this wine delivers abundant flavours of spice and lychee. 89.

Nighthawk Chardonnay 2015 ($24.90). This wine was aged in oak for 10 months – just enough to add a hint of vanilla to the sweet citrus flavours. 89.

Nighthawk Rosé 2016 ($NA). This is a Pinot Noir rosé. Close your eyes and it takes you to Provence, with its hints of cherry and with its dry finish. 90.

Nighthawk Merlot 2012 ($26.90). This wine was aged 18 months in French and American oak barrels. It begins with smoky and toasted aromas from the oak, mingled with black currant. On the palate, there are flavours of plum, black cherry and dark chocolate. 90.

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