Monday, April 30, 2018

Okanagan Falls nearing sub-appellation

Photo: Barrels and vineyards at Stag's Hollow

The wineries of Okanagan Falls are in a race with those of the Naramata Bench to secure the next sub-appellation designation in the Okanagan

Because sub-appellations are based in part on soil types, not all of the member of the Okanagan Falls Winery Association will be in the sub-appellation. No doubt, there will be a solution. Perhaps the wineries on the east side of Skaha Lake will come up with their own sub-appellation.

Whatever the outcome, all of the producers have interesting wines which they showed off recently at their annual Vancouver tasting. Here are notes.

Blasted Church Vineyards

This winery, which opened in 2000, has been operated since 2002 by Evelyn and Chris Campbell. Part of the success of this property are the colourful labels which are based on the story of how a church was dismantled in 1929 to move it from Fairview to Okanagan Falls. The contractor set off a dynamite charge in the church to loosen the nails. The church, still open in Okanagan Falls, became known as the “blasted church.”

Pinot Gris 2016 ($22). The wine is a basket of fruit, with aromas and flavours of pear, pineapple, peach and citrus. 90.

Mixed Blessings Viognier 2016 ($22). Fermented and aged in stainless steel, this wine has aromas and flavours of stone fruit, with the classic mineral spine of the variety. The finish is crisp and dry. 91.

Merlot 2015 ($26.99). This bold, ripe wine reflects the warm 2015 vintage. It has aromas of blueberries and black currants which are echoed on the palate, along with plums, chocolate and a hint of vanilla. 91.

Syrah 2015 ($29.15). This wine begins with aromas of blackberry, black cherry and pepper, leading to flavours of dark fruits. The long ripe tannins give the wine a satisfying elegance. 90

Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars

The Mavety family have been farming their Okanagan Falls property since 1972. Their vineyard, the largest in the region, is focussed on Burgundian varietals. All the wines are estate grown. Matt Mavety makes the wine and his sister, Christie (l), looks after the marketing.

Chardonnay 2016 ($20.90). This wine begins with aromas of citrus, a hint of  butter and very subtle oak leading to flavours of apple and citrus. This is a complex wine, rich on the palate but fresh on the finish, which lingers. 92.

Gamay Noir 2016 ($22.90). This deep-hued wine begins with aromas of cherry, leading to flavours of cherry, mocha and spice. The wine is full on the palate, with a velvet texture. 90.

Reserve Brut 2009 R.D. ($39.90). This elegant wine is 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, a classic Champagne blend. The wine was aged on the lees for six and a half years, was disgorged in August 16, and aged more than a year in bottle before release. The wine, which has a fine mousse, begins with aromas of brioche and apple which are echoed in the flavours, along with a hint of strawberry. Time on the lees has given this wine an appealing rich and creamy texture. 93.

Crescent Hill Winery

Crescent Hill is a small winery at the south end of Penticton, high above Skaha Lake. While the winery opened only recently, the vineyard is almost 40 years old. The winery pays tribute to Teresa Wiseman’s father, Glennallyn, who gets credit for planting Penticton’s first vineyard. She runs the winery with her partner, Russell.

Glennallyn Private Reserve Gewurzztraminer 2015 ($NA). The richness and depth of this wine reflects the benefit of old vines. It has aromas and flavours of spice, orange zest and lychee. 90.

Cristal’s Fault Riesling 2016  ($NA). This is slightly off-dry, with aromas of herbs and citrus echoed on the palate. 88.

Curvy Gurl Chardonnay 2015 ($NA). This unoaked Chardonnay is juicy, with flavours of  apples, peaches and melons. 88.

Olde Orchard Muscat 2016 ($NA). The Muscat grape in this wine is Pearl of Csaba, one of the earliest white vinifera planted in the Okanagan. There is rose petal spice on the nose and absolutely a ton of tropical fruit on the palate. 90.

Consensual Chaos 2016 ($NA). This is a Zweigelt rosé with a touch of Gewürztraminer to add spice to the strawberry and cranberry flavours. 89.

Krāzē Legz Vineyard and Winery

Gerry and Sue Thygessen opened this Kaleden winery in 2010. The wines and the tasting room reflected a Roaring Twenties theme that resonates well in the wine shop but not so well in restaurants and wine stores, where the name is unlikely to be explained. As a result, 90% of the wines now are sold under the more accessible Skaha Vineyard label.

Skaha Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2017 ($21.25). This is a textbook Pinot Blanc – fresh and crisp, with aromas and flavours of fresh apples and with a bright finish. 91.

Skaha Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay 2017 ($21.25). This wine is also crisp and fresh, with aromas and flavours of apple and pink grapefruit. 91.

Skaha Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2014 ($25.85). This is a bold and dark wine with brambly blackberry and cherry aromas and with layered flavours of dark fruit. 92.

Skaha Vineyard Impulsion Reserve 2013 ($29.75). This is a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc, aged 24 months in French oak. It is a harmonious wine with a generous texture. It has aromas and flavours of black cherry and blackberry mingled with vanilla and chocolate.

Liquidity Wines

Ian MacDonald, formerly a businessman specializing in uniforms for Olympic events, now leads a group of investors who operate this winery. The wine shop houses a bistro and an art gallery. Winemaker Alison Moyes makes increasing artistic wines to match.

Liquidity Estate Chardonnay 2016 ($26). Crisp and clean, this is a lovely fruit-driven wine. It begins with aromas of citrus and apple. On the palate, there is a medley of peach and ripe pear flavours. 90.

Liquidity Estate Pinot Noir 2016 ($26). Dark in colour, this is an intense, concentrated Pinot Noir with aromas and flavours of cherry and vanilla and a hint of spice on the finish. There is a good cellar life ahead of this wine: I would recommend not opening it for another couple of years. 90-92.

Meyer Family Vineyards
JAK  (left) and Janice Meyer offered just Chardonnay when they debuted wines from a Naramata Vineyard in 2008. Then they bought a larger Okanagan Falls vineyard as well. Now, the winery produces 8,000 cases a year, including Pinot Noir and sparkling wine. And a budget Gewürztraminer because that variety was already planted.

Extra Brut Methode Traditional ($40). Crisp and dry, this wine has flavours of lemon mingled with the bready notes of lees. 91.
McLean Creek Gewürztraminer 2016 ($18). This is a refreshing wine with aromas and flavours of lychee, grapefruit and spiced herbs. 90.

McLean Creek Chardonnay 2016 ($33). This was aged 11 months on the lees in French oak (20% new). It begins with aromas mingling lees notes with lemon and apple. On the palate, the wine is crisp, with bright acidity and with citrus flavours. 90.

Reimer Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 ($40). The grapes for this wine come from a fine Kelowna vineyard that now makes its own wine under the Mirabel label. The wine is bright, with aromas and flavours of cherry mingled with vanilla. The texture is silky.

Nighthawk Vineyards

Nighthawk Vineyards, which is operated by Daniel and Christy Bibby, is located on a vineyard so near to Green Lake that the Gewürztraminer vines got an bath in this spring’s floods. With any luck, it will only mean a saving in irrigation for this three-year-old winery.

Gewürztraminer 2015 ($19.90). This is a classic Alsace style wine, with spice, grapefruit and lychee aromas and flavours and a rich, concentrated palate. The finish is crisp and balanced to dryness.

Chardonnay 2016 ($24.90). This wine has had eight months in French oak, just enough to impart a Burgundian personality. There are aromas and flavours of citrus and herbs mingled with a moderate touch of oak. The finish is crisp. 90.

Pinot Noir 2015 ($24.90). This wine was aged in concrete with the result that the fruit flavours are bright – cherry and strawberry – while the finish is silky. 90.

Cabernet France 2015 ($39.90). Here is another example of a winery raising the profile of a red variety that does so well in the Okanagan. This wine begins with aromas of blackberries and cherries that are echoed on the palate. The long, ripe tannins give the wine a generous texture. 92.

Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery

Former Calgarians Leslie and Jim D’Andrea opened this winery in 2005. Several years ago, when Jim retired from practicing law, they moved to a home on site, with great views of vineyards and Vaseux Lake.

“The One” Sparkling Wine 2014 ($39.90 for 310 cases). The is a traditional method sparkling made with 82% Chardonnay and 18% Pinot Noir. The wine spent 27 months on the yeast lees before being disgorged. The wine begins with aromas of biscuits and citrus, leading to flavours mingling biscuit, apple and citrus. The bubbles give it a creamy texture. The finish is crisp and fresh. 92.

Pinot Grigio 2016 ($19.90 for 422 cases). The wine begins with aromas of pear and apple, echoed on the palate. The winery describes this as “surprisingly voluptuous” – and I would agree. It should be labelled Pinot Gris, except that this has become something of a brand in the Noble Ridge portfolio. 89.

Mingle 2016 ($19.90 for 637 cases). This is almost sold out and will soon be succeeded by the 2017 vintage. Mingle has always been an appealing white blend. This vintage is 45% Chardonnay, 29% Gewürztraminer and 26% Pinot Gris. The Gewürztraminer contributes spice in the aroma and the palate. The other varietals add texture and flavours of apple and grapefruit. 90.

Stony Knoll Chardonnay 2016 ($24.90 for 486 cases). This is also almost sold out. The wine is fruit forward with flavours of citrus, apples and peaches. It was fermented 94% in stainless steel and 6% in year-old barrels, primarily to contribute texture. 90.

Reserve Chardonnay 2014 ($29.90 for 300 cases). Almost sold out, this award-winning wine was fermented in stainless steel, not allowed to have malolactic fermentation and aged 14 months in French oak ($20% new). Aromas and flavours of toast and vanilla mingle with mandarin orange and almonds. The finish lingers. 92.

Estate Meritage 2016 ($24.90). The wine has aromas and flavours of black currant and black cherry with notes of vanilla and chocolate on the long finish. 90.

Reserve Meritage 2015 ($34.90 for 750 cases). This is 77% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% each of Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The wine was aged 15 months in French (75%) and American (25%) barrels, of which 40% were new. This is a bold wine, with 15% alcohol reflecting the hot vintage. Aromas of blackberry and blueberry jump from the glass, leading to richly satisfying flavours of dark fruits, chocolate and tobacco. 93.

Painted Rock Estate Winery
This winery opened in 2009 on a vineyard overlooking Skaha Lake. It is also near the Skaha climbing bluffs. Painted Rock arguable has the most elegant tasting room among this group of wineries. You can sometimes find owner John Skinner holding court here.

Merlot 2014 ($34.99 for 1,356 cases). This is a bold (15.2% alcohol), richly flavoured and concentrated Merlot. It was aged 18 months in French oak (30% new). It begins with aromas of spicy red fruit, leading to flavours of black cherry, blueberry, mocha and vanilla. 92.

Cabernet Franc 2015 ($44.99 for 400 cases). This is a wine remarkable for its power (15.3% alcohol) and intensity of flavour. Aromas of cassis, blackberry and cherry bound from the glass, followed by a rich medley of red fruit on the palate, including cherry, blackberry and raspberry. The hint of mocha on the finish supports a lush texture. 93.

Syrah 2015 ($39.99). This wine delivers terrific fruit aromas and flavours – black cherry, blackberry and fig, with notes of leather, vanilla and pepper. The wine was aged 18 months in barrel (30% new), of which 80% was French oak and 20% American oak. 92.

Red Icon 2015 ($54.99 for 1,487 cases). This blend is 45% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 11% Malbec, 11% Petit Verdot and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine begins with aromas of black cherry, cassis and vanilla which are echoed in the flavours. The texture is rich and concentrated, backed by long ripe tannins. On the finish, mocha and coffee mingle with spicy dark fruit. Decanting helps open up the aromas and flavours. It would be preferable to let it blossom in bottle for five or 10 years before opening it. 94.

Pentâge Winery

Julie Rennie and Paul Gardner (left)  opened this winery in 2003 on a vineyard high above Skaha Lake. The signature feature here, aside from excellent wines, is the cave that Paul blasted from solid rock, a work that consumed about 10 years of labour. If no tour is available, you can always peer in through the massive windows in the aircraft-hanger-sized door.

Pinot Gris 2016 ($20). This crisp wine has aromas and flavours of pear and citrus. 90.

Viognier 2015 ($23). The wine was fermented and aged half in stainless steel and half in older French oak for about eight months. The wine has aromas of citrus, pear and stone fruit that are echoed on the palate. 90.

Syrah 2013 ($26). This wine was aged 15 months in oak and a further two years in bottle before release. Time has polished the tannins. The wine has aromas and flavours of fig and black cherry with notes of spice and black pepper punctuating the finish. 92.

Pentâge 2012 ($35). This is 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 2% Syrah. It has aromas and flavours of dark fruit mingled with dark chocolate, tobacco and toasted oak. 91.

Play Estate Winery
This winery’s attractive wine shop and restaurant are perched on a Penticton hillside overlooking the north end of Skaha Lake. The labels are replete with theatrical references because one of the ownership group, the Pechet family of Calgary, operate Stagecoach Theatre. The partner at the winery is sommelier Mohammed Awad (right).

Ad Lib 2016 ($20). The wine is 75% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Sémillon. Crisply dry, the wine begins with herbal and spicy aromas, leading to flavours of lime and a hint of anise on the finish. 89.

Moscato 2016 ($20). This crisp and refreshing Muscat wine has spicy aromas with flavours of spice and lime.  90.

Improv 2015  ($25). The blend is 55% Merlot, 20% Syrah, 17% Cabernet Franc and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine has a mouth-filling texture with flavours of black cherry, tobacco and vanilla. 90.

Applause 2015 ($40). The blend is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot. This wine was aged in oak for two years, polishing the texture. Full-bodied, the wine has aromas and flavours of dark fruits with a touch of dark chocolate. 91.

See Ya Later Ranch

High on the side of Hawthorne Mountain and backing onto a high elevation vineyard, Sea Ya Later Ranch offers visitors stunning views over Okanagan Falls and the valley. It also maybe the most pet-friendly winery in the valley. One of the former owners of the property was a dog lover. The 12 dogs he owned all were buried here under headstones. The names of some of the dogs, like Ping, now appear on wine labels. The winemaker is David Saysomsack (left).

Riesling 2016 ($16.99). The wine is crisp, with tangy notes of lemon mingled with good minerality. 90.

Pinot Gris 2017 ($16.99). Appealingly fresh, with aromas of pears, peaches and ripe apples. 90.

Pinot Noir 2016 ($19.99). There is three per cent Zinfandel in this wine, presumably to darken the colour. The wine has a juicy texture, with aromas and flavours of cherry and ripe strawberry. 90.

Ping Meritage 2015 ($24.99). This is a good value Meritage. It begins with aromas of cassis and black cherry, leading to flavours of black cherry, black currant, chocolate and vanilla. The long, ripe tannins help make the wine easy to drink. 90.

Stag’s Hollow Winery

This Okanagan Falls winery which opened in 1995 has been expanding its portfolio in recent years with Italian and Spanish varietals. Stag’s Hollow is one of just two wineries with Dolcetto. Winery owners Larry Gerelus and Linda Pruegger are among a group of wineries from around the world who have been invited to pour Dolcetto at big tasting in Italy in May while winemaker Dwight Sick (right) minds the store.

Albariño 2017 ($18.99). The wine begins with floral and citrus aromas that lead to intense flavours of lime and grapefruit mingled with herbs. 91.

Dolcetto 2016 ($21.99). Dark in colour, the wine has aromas of cherry and raspberry which are echoed on the palate. There is an intriguing hint of almond on the finish. 91.

Pinot Noir 2015 Shuttleworth Creek Vineyard ($25.99). When this vineyard was planted in 2012 and 2013, Stag’s Hollow made a big bet on Pinot Noir, planting five clones. The bet is paying off. This is bright, vibrant wine with aromas and flavours of cherry and strawberry and a silky texture. 91.

Renaissance Pinot Noir 2014 ($30). This bold, intense wine begins with  aromas of cherries and strawberries mingled with notes of earth and spice. Savoury flavours of plum and black cherry framed by oak make a statement on the palate. The wine, which was aged 13 months in French oak (50% new), is age-worthy. 92.

Synchromesh Wines
This small winery is about to get bigger. Last year, proprietor Alan Dickinson (left) bought 102 acres of raw land adjoining Synchromesh’s five-acre Storm Haven vineyard. This year, he will begin planting about 30 acres, primarily with Riesling and Cabernet Franc, the signature varieties at Synchromesh. The remainder of the land, which wraps around Peachcliff Mountain, will remain a nature preserve.

Riesling 2017 ($23). This wine is a blend of the four vineyards from which Synchromesh draws Riesling grapes (three on the Naramata Bench plus the estate vineyard). It begins with aromas of lemon and lime. These are echoed on the palate along with flavours of pineapple and apple. In the signature Synchromesh style, the wine balances 42 grams of residual sugar with 10.3 grams of acidity to deliver bold flavours and a tangy finish. 91.

Riesling 2017 Storm Haven Vineyard ($40 for 186 cases). Here, 53.5 grams of residual sugar are balanced with 11.4 grams of acidity, almost creating a tension on the palate and a finish that, remarkably, is dry. The aromas and flavours are intense: lime, lemon, grapefruit and ripe mango with a backbone of minerality. 93.

Cabernet Franc 2016 Cachola Family Vineyards ($28 for 487 cases). This vineyard is just north of Oliver. In style, this vibrant and fresh red recalls Loire Valley reds. It has aromas and flavours of blackberry, raspberry and cherry. 92.

Tertre Rouge 2014 Turtle Rock Farms ($40 for 200 cases). Motor racing fans – Alan Dickinson’s father once raced sports cars – will know that Tertre Rouge is a famed corner at Le Mans. This is “where perfect driver balance and finesse are key to a clean exit leading to one of the longest straightaways in motor racing,” the winery explains. It is a simile for this long-lived wine, a blend of 54% Merlot and 46% Cabernet Franc aged 20 months in French oak (45% new). The winery describes it aptly as a dark and brooding wine with flavours of brambly, dark fruit. 92.

Wild Goose Vineyards & Winery
I ran out of time to stop at this table but I will visit the winery this year. The wines never disappoint. More often, they sweep you away with their quality. Visitors to the winery in recent years also have been able to  enjoy the food at the Smoke & Oak Bistro, with a patio overlooking vineyards.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                


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