Saturday, May 25, 2019

Black Widow can now use Naramata Bench sub-appellation

Photo: Black Widow's Dick Lancaster

On the afternoon of June 2, wineries of the Naramata Bench are hosting an open house at the Naramata Wine Vault to celebrate the official approval of a sub-appellation.

This is the fourth sub-appellation in the Okanagan. The others are Golden Mile, Okanagan Falls and Skaha Bench. It means that producers in each of these regions can use the sub-appellation’s name on the labels of wines made from grapes grown in the region.

Naramata Bench is roughly defined as the bench lands between Penticton Creek and Okanagan Mountain Park on the east side of Okanagan Lake.

Kathy Malone, the winemaker at Hillside Estate Winery and a member of working committee for the sub-appellation, offered this comment to the official announcement: “Being the third region to receive sub-GI designation is especially exciting for the Naramata Bench as we have a long history of taking great pride in our terroir. I committed years ago to using only Naramata Bench-grown fruit, and we at Hillside, together with our supplying vineyards and our winery neighbours along the Naramata Bench, are pleased that we can now state on the label clearly where the grapes are grown: Naramata Bench — the heart of the Okanagan Valley.”  

These designations have not been without controversy. Several of the leading Naramata Bench producers are wary of the red tape and auditing that comes with the move.

Consumers, on the other hand, are likely to appreciate wines whose labels tell them where the grapes were grown. Naramata Bench, in particular, is arguably the most popular wine region in the Okanagan.

One beneficiary of the sub-appellation will be Black Widow Winery, which makes wine exclusively from Naramata Bench grapes.

The winery, which opened in 2006, is based on a vineyard that Dick and Shona Lancaster, then living in the Lower Mainland, bought in 2000 while searching for get-away residence in the country. From there, it was a short step to starting a winery, since Dick had long been an award-winning amateur winemaker. It was another short step to him becoming an accomplished professional winemaker.

The Lancasters also have succeeded in getting some of their family involved in the winery. Daughter Shannon has been helping make wine since 2011 while James, one of their sons, looks after marketing for Black Widow.

Judging from the current releases, they have a good Black Widow legacy to carry forward.

Here are my notes.

Black Widow Pinot Gris 2018 ($22.90 for 685 cases). This wine begins with aromas of citrus and pear. On the palate, there are flavours of pears, peaches and apples. The texture is generous, the result of fermenting 10% of the must in new French and American oak barrels. The wine lingers on the palate with a long, dry finish. 92.

Black Widow Dry Gewürztraminer 2018 ($22.90 for 209 cases). The winery has gone the extra mile to make a truly interesting Gewürztraminer from a grape whose popularity has been sliding. The must was fermented very cool in stainless steel to preserve the aromas and flavours; five percent was fermented in barrel, adding texture. The wine begins with aromas of lychee, grapefruit and spice. On the palate, the layered fruit flavours echo the aromas. The finish is crisp and dry. 91.

Black Widow Oasis 2018 ($22.90 for 687 cases). This is a blend of Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Schönburger, fermented separately in stainless steel. The wine begins with spicy aromas of citrus. On the palate, there are flavours of ripe pear and pink grapefruit, with a spicy, dry finish. 90.

Black Widow Schönburger 2018 ($26.90 for 42 cases). This wine begins with delicately spicy aromas leading to flavours of pear, with hints of mango and papaya. It has a crisp, dry finish. 91.

Black Widow Muscat 2018 ($24.90 for 65 cases). The wine begins with floral and spicy aromas that are typical of the variety. On the palate, the wine – with 11.5% alcohol – does a delicate dance with spicy fruit flavours and a hint of sweetness. The finish is clean and refreshing. 91.

Black Widow Sparkling Web 2018 ($24.90 for 350 cases). This is a blend of Muscat, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris. The wine was fermented dry and carbonated at a low temperature to create this “frizzante” style. The bubbles create a creamy texture that enhances the tropical fruit on the palate. This is an appealing and refreshing sparkling wine. 90.

Black Widow Rosé 2018 ($24.90 for 167 cases). This wine is primarily a blend of Syrah and Merlot. With a ruby hue, it looks appealing in the glass, unlike the anaemic rosés that have become fashionable. This wine begins with aromas of raspberry and strawberry and delivers a fruit bowl of flavours, including strawberry, cherry and plum. 90.  

Black Widow Phobia 2017 ($31.90 for 143 cases). This wine is a 50/50 blend of Merlot and Syrah, aged 17 months in barrel. It is a big, rich wine that manages to carry its 15.7% alcohol without finishing hot. There are aromas of cherry, plum and vanilla that are echoed on the palate. It is a generous wine with a long, ripe tannins and a long finish. 91.


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