Monday, July 6, 2020

Mt. Boucherie's new releases





 Photo: Winemaker Jeff Hundertmark

The current releases from Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery reflect the handiwork of Jeff Hundertmark, the winemaker here for several years.

“The 2018 vintage was my first full vintage here, so it is near and dear to my heart,” he writes in a note accompanying the wines.  “2019 was a great vintage for us: lower sugars, lower alcohol but still with amazing phenolic ripeness. This vintage is one to keep a close eye on across the region, I think.”

He adds: “I am really excited for you to try the 2017 Summit. Even though the harvest happened a month or so prior to my arrival at Mt Boucherie, I painstakingly tasted through a lot of barrels (tough work!) to come up with the perfect blend, in my estimation.”

For more background on the winery, here is an except from the new Okanagan Wine Tour Guide, which was released in April. The pandemic prevented book launch events. The 510-page book, selling for $25, is now in bookstores.

The dramatic new winery, tasting room, and restaurant that is Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery show that it has emerged with new ownership and new direction after a tumultuous recent past of family feuding.

When the winery opened in 2001, it was operated by three brothers: Sarwan, Nirmal, and Kaldep Gidda. Their father, Mehtab, brought his family to the Okanagan from India in 1958. The family began growing grapes in 1975, eventually owning significant vineyards in both the Okanagan and the Similkameen Valleys. Sarwan, the eldest brother, withdrew from the partnership in 2008 to establish his own family winery, Volcanic Hills. Several years later, an acrimonious split between the other brothers ultimately landed Mt. Boucherie in bankruptcy in 2014.

The winery attracted interest from several groups when the receiver put it on the market in 2015. The successful bidder, a group headed by Vancouver businessman Sonny Huang, took over Mt. Boucherie on March 30, 2016. Born in China, Sonny is a long-time resident of British Columbia and a self-made entrepreneur who started with a pizza shop and now is a real-estate developer as well an importer/exporter of produce and wine.

Sonny has breathed fresh life into Mt. Boucherie; its future has never been brighter. The winery’s 120 hectares (300 acres) of vineyards throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys have been rejuvenated; a quarter has been replanted, with better varieties such as Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon replacing such unfortunate original choices as Dornfelder. The new winery has a capacity to produce 55,000 cases a year, double a previous high. The facilities include a 15,000-square-foot wine experience centre. It is located at the highest point on the property with a dramatic view of Okanagan Lake.

Winemaking was taken over in 2018 by Saskatoon-born Jeff Hundertmark. He started out in the hospitality industry, eventually becoming a sommelier; he was once the sommelier at the Château Laurier hotel in Ottawa. He then spent almost 20 years operating restaurants. “I feel in love with the whole aspect of wine,” he says. “I decided in my 40s to go back to school and learn to be a winemaker. I was tired of wearing suits and ties.” He worked with several Ontario wineries including Marynissen, Stoney Ridge, and Mike Weir Winery before he moved to the Okanagan in 2017, working initially at Rust Wine Co., which shares ownership with Mt. Boucherie.
Here are notes on the wines.

Mt. Boucherie Pinot Gris 2019 ($19.99). This wine was partially fermented on the skins in stainless steel. The wine displays an appealing blush hue, and aromas of citrus and apples which are echoed on the palate. The wine has good weight and a clean, dry finish. 90.

Mt. Boucherie Riesling 2019 ($17.99). This wine was finished off-dry and with soft acidity. The wine has aromas and flavours of peach and citrus. The style lends itself to an aperitif wine. 87.

Mt. Boucherie Rosé 2019 ($21). This wine is a co-fermented field blend of Zweigelt, Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer. It begins with an appealing rose petal hue, leading to aromas and flavours of watermelon, strawberry and apple. On the palate, the wine is juicy and refreshing. 90.

Mt. Boucherie Pinot Noir 2018 ($24.99). With fruit from the Similkameen, this is a spicy, medium-bodied wine with aromas and flavours of cherry, chocolate and forest floor. A core of sweet fruit mingled with oak lingers on the palate. 91.

Mt. Boucherie Syrah 2018 ($27.09). The wine has aromas of white pepper and plum. On the palate, there are flavours of plum, fig, smoked meat and pepper. The fruit brightness has been maintained because the wine was matured only in older oak. 91.

Mt. Boucherie Summit 2017 ($60). The flagship red at this winery, it is a blend of 43% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Syrah and 2% Malbec. The individual varietals were aged 13 months in French oak. After the blend was assembled, it was aged a further 11 months in barrel. Dark in colour, the wine begins with powerful aromas of black currant, black cherry and blackberry. It is full on the palate with flavcours of dark fruits and a hint of pepper on the finish. 93.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

TIME Winery changes hands






Photo: Ron and Shelley Mayert (credit Chris Stenberg)

TIME Winery and Evolve Cellars, the sister wineries founded by the late Harry McWatters, have emerged from creditor protection proceedings under new ownership.

Abbotsford businessman Ron Mayert and his wife, Shelley, have acquired Encore Vineyards Ltd., the holding company under which TIME and Evolve operated.

Christa-Lee McWatters, formerly Encore’s president, continues as general manager of TIME and Evolve. Her sister, Darrien, continues as operations manager.

Encore filed a restructuring proposal with the courts on May 7. The company had liabilities of $17,953,699.22 against assets of $3,366,005.46.

In a memo to Encore shareholders in early May, Christa-Lee laid out the impossible situation in which she found herself after her father died in July 2019.

“Unfortunately, upon taking control of the business and after significant review of its affairs, it was confirmed that the Company has sustained continued losses since inception,” she wrote.

She decided the best course was to sell the business. A marketing document was prepared in December 1919, with seven parties exploring potential investment. “All but one of the parties chose not to proceed further with their exploration,” she wrote.

Ron Mayert was the remaining party, with an offer of about $5.8 million to the creditors of Encore. That was subsequently accepted by the receiver. Mayert took control of the Penticton winery on July 1.

Ron Mayert was born in Summerland and grew up on an orchard. Shelley is from a Fraser Valley farm. “Before getting into wine, Ron was a co-founder [in 1999] of Petcurean Pet Nutrition, Old Yale Brewing and Napa Vineyard Inn,” according to a news release from Time.

The release quotes Ron: “We are honoured to join the BC wine community and are excited about making world class wines from one of the most unique and beautiful wine valleys of the world.”

Winemaker Lynzee Schatz, who had joined Evolve Cellars last year, will continue as the winemaker for all the labels here, including TIME, Evolve and McWatters Collection.

Here is a biographical note on her from Okanagan Crush Pad, where she had worked previously:

Raised in Kelowna BC, Lynzee Schatz was introduced to wine through her mother, who was a budding wine aficionado and avid gardener. In 2006, Lynzee worked at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, where her inquisitive nature gained her the opportunity to start shadowing the cellar hands. These early experiences left Lynzee with a fascination for wine, planted the seed for her future career, and provided her first efforts in organic winemaking.

Lynzee has a Bachelor of Wine Science from Charles Sturt University in Australia. She has traveled widely, completing many vintages abroad including stints at Pisoni Vineyards and Winery in California, Domaine Chandon and Yeringberg in Australia's Yarra Valley, and Tawse and Angels Gate in Ontario. Her travels have gained her extensive experience with sparkling wine production, and while at Yeringberg, she realized her love of farming; in particular, rearing lambs, minding sheep, and cattle work.

Lynzee returned to Canada in 2014 and for three years, split her time between making wine at Vancouver Urban Winery and brewing for their sister company, Postmark Brewing. Longing to bring her experience and education back to the Okanagan, Lynzee relocated to Penticton in August 2018.

Harry McWatters’s initially started building TIME winery on his Black Sage Road vineyard. However, in 2015, Richter Bai bought the entire property, including a partially-completed cellar, for his Phantom Creek Estates winery.

Harry then purchased a recently shuttered four-screen movie theatre in downtown Penticton (as a teenager, he once took a date to a Saturday matinee here). By 2018, it had been converted into the largest of Penticton’s urban wineries, with a capacity to produce 25,000 cases a year and with room to expand.

The project, however, had endured significant delays and cost overruns which contributed to its financial situation. The trustee’s report noted “large carrying costs on debt, the need to pay for rental production facilities and higher than expected marketing costs in order to grow market share as well as factors outside of the company’s control, such as the Alberta wine boycott and forest fires impacting tourism.”

“It’s been a massive since last year,” Christa-Lee says in the TIME announcement. “The Mayerts could not be the more perfect people to join the winery, and bring both the experience and the wines to the next level.”


Monday, June 29, 2020

Mission Hill's astonishing wine release








Photo: Ben Bryant, former Mission Hill winemaker


This spring’s pack of samples from Mission Hill Family Estates was an astonishing 18 wines.

Astonishing because I don’t recall receiving as many wines at one time from Mission Hill. The quality of these wines is very high. That is not so astonishing: I have come to expect high quality from Mission Hill and the other wineries in Anthony von Mandl’s growing family of Okanagan producers.

The group now owns and farms close to 1,000 acres of some of the best vineyards in the Okanagan. The viticultural team delivers exemplary fruit to the winemakers. Good wine, as the aphorism goes, is made in the vineyard. Those vineyards are also in transition to organic practices.

Mission Hill has a team of winemakers in its cellars and they get involved in making many of the wines. The lead winemaker for these wines was Ben Bryant, the Australian winemaker who joined Mission Hill in the fall of 2018 and had a hand in making two vintages before leaving the winery in April this year.

Here are notes on those wines.

Mission Hill Reserve Sparkling Brut N.V. ($23.49). This is 90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir. The wine was matured in stainless steel. There are aromas and flavours of apple, peach and citrus. The Charmat method wine is clear and fresh, with a charming elegance. 92.

Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Gris 2019 ($21.99). The fruit for this wine blends two quite distinct terroirs: 79% is from Oliver, 21% from the winery’s Naramata Ranch. The wine, 20% fermented in oak, begins with aromas of pear and apricot. These are echoed on the palate, wound around a mineral backbone. 90.

Mission Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($21.99). The wine jumps from the glass with aromas of lime, grapefruit and herbs. That is also repeated richly on the palate with a persistent finish. The bright acidity assures a lively and refreshing personality. 92.

Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2018 ($21.99). This wine was 75% fermented and aged in oak (11% new) and 25% in a combination of concrete eggs and stainless steel. It begins with aromas of citrus and stone fruit mingled with buttery oak, echoed on the palate. There is a lingering finish with notes of tangerine. 90.

Mission Hill White Meritage Reserve 2019 ($21.99). This is 80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Sémillon. Twenty-five per cent was fermented in neutral oak and another 15% was fermented in new French oak. The wine begins with aromas of grapefruit and peach. On the palate, there is more grapefruit with a spine of minerality. The finish is crisp and fresh. 90.

Mission Hill Reserve Rosé 2019($21.99). A rosé with an appealing rose petal hue, the wine is 50% Merlot, 45% Syrah and 5% Pinot Noir. It has aromas and flavours of strawberry, raspberry and watermelon with a touch of spice on the dry finish. 91.

Mission Hill Reserve Merlot 2017 ($26.99). This wine is made with grapes from vineyards near Oliver and Osoyoos. The grapes ripened fully, yielding a big wine with 14.9% alcohol but with so much structure than there is lots of fruit to carry the alcohol. The wine, which was aged 15 months in French and American oak, begins with aromas of cassis, blackberries and cherry. The aromas are echoed in flavours that explode on the palate and linger on the finish. 92.

Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2018 ($27.99). This wine appeals to those of us who like bold Pinot Noirs. Aromas of cherry and blackberry mingle subtle toasty oak (the wine aged 10 months in French oak). The palate delivers layers of dark fruit. The colour is also dark and the finish persists. 91.

Mission Hill Reserve Shiraz 2017 ($26.99). This wine was made with grapes from the Black Sage Bench. It was aged 14 months in barrel (20% new French, 65% used French, 15% used American). The wine is dark, with aromas of plum and blueberry jam. There are flavours of plum, blackberry and cherry mingled with toasty oak. The long, ripe tannins give the wine length. There is a persistent and savoury finish. 91.

Mission Hill Terroir Collection Simes Vineyard Riesling 2018 ($35). This wine was fermented entirely in stainless steel. It begins with aromas of lime, lemon and apples. On the palate, the flavours echo the aromas with an intense electricity of bright acidity. While the wine is showing well now, it will reveal its potential fully with another four or five years of bottle aging. 92.

Mission Hill Terroir Collection Jagged Rock Vineyard Chardonnay 2018 ($45). This wine was fermented and aged in French oak barriques and puncheons. It begins with aromas of citrus and apples. On the palate, there is a buttery note along with flavours of apple and an intriguing core of cloves. 93.

Mission Hill Terroir Collection Border Vista Vineyard Rosé 2019 ($30). The blend is 74% Merlot, 13% Syrah and 13% Cabernet Franc. The wine is made in the classic style of a Provence rosé, with a delicate hue and a dry elegance. There are aromas and flavours of raspberry and wild strawberry. 90.


Mission Hill Terroir Collection Jagged Rock Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc-Sémillon 2019 ($35). This is 70% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Sémillon. It begins with aromas of grapefruit. On the palate, there are flavours of grapefruit, passionfruit and apple wound around a spine of minerals and lovely acidity. The finish is persistent. 91.

Mission Hill Terroir Collection Vista’s Edge Cabernet Franc 2017 ($50). The wine, which was aged 15 months in French oak (25% new), beings with powerful aromas of cherry, blueberry, cassis and spice. On the palate, the layers of fruit reflect the aromas. 92.

Mission Hill Terroir Collection Reed Creek Organic Merlot 2017 ($50). This vineyard in the south Okanagan was a former orchard that had been farmed organically for 40 years. The wine, which was aged 18 months in French oak (20% new), is dark in colour. It begins with spicy, brambly aromas of red fruit. On the palate, there are flavours of dark cherry, black currant and spice. 93.

Mission Hill Terroir Collection DeHart Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018 ($45.99). This is made with clone 777 Pinot Noir. The wine was matured 10 months in French oak. The colour is deep. The wine begins with aromas of cherry mingled with toasty oak and hints of forest floor. The texture is full. The flavours reflect the aromas and show an earthy complexity on the lingering finish. 92.

Mission Hill Terroir Collection Simes Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018 ($50). The clone here is 667. The wine was aged 10 months in French oak. The wine has aromas and flavours of dark berries mingled with toasty oak. The texture is full, with a silken polish. There is a note of leather and spice on the finish. This is a bold and satisfying Pinot Noir. 93.

Mission Hill Terroir Collection Border Vista Syrah 2017 ($50). The fruit for this wine is from a vineyard on the east side of Osoyoos against the U.S. border. The wine was aged 14 months in a combination of new and used barrels. Aromas of dark fruit mingle with notes of oak. On the palate, there are rich flavours of blueberries, plums and dark cherries. The tannins are long, ripe and polished. 91.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Terravista maintains high standard with new owners






Photo: Terravista's new owners: Dallas and Eric Thor


Terravista Vineyards on the Naramata Bench has now announced weekend openings of its tasting room. Appointments are encouraged. This is not a large winery – but it is a producer of very good wines.

For background on the winery, here is an excerpt from my Okanagan Wine Tour Guide. The 510-page book was released at the end of April. Pandemic restrictions cancelled book signings. However, it is in bookstores and some wineries at $25.

When Dallas and Eric Thor acquired Terravista Vineyards in 2019, it was the culmination of the wine journey Eric began as a bar manager in a Vancouver restaurant in 2000. He was showing off his wine knowledge to a guest. Then he discovered he was talking to Harry McWatters, the founder of Sumac Ridge, who promptly hired him to work that fall’s vintage. He even got to put the Christmas lights on Harry’s house before work ran out at Sumac Ridge.

Eric, who was born in 1978 and grew up in Penticton, went back to school to learn accounting. In 2003 he joined Point Grey Research, a technical start-up (digital cameras) launched by five University of British Columbia graduates. Eric had become the company’s chief financial officer by 2016 when Point Grey was taken over for $250 million. Eric’s share was more than enough to get him and Dallas, his wife, back into the wine business.

A teacher with a master’s degree in science, she shares his passion for wine. In 2016, when they were buying an ocean-going catamaran in the south of France, they lived for seven weeks at the village of Canet en Roussillon, working the harvest at a small winery. They returned to Penticton to buy some land in 2017 on the Naramata Bench for a vineyard. And they asked Senka Tennant to be their consultant.

Senka and her husband, Bob, are legendary in the Okanagan. They were co-founders of Black Hills Winery, where the flagship red, Nota Bene, acquired a cult following. Two years after Black Hills was sold in 2007, they established Terravista Vineyards, based on a 1.6-hectare (four-acre) vineyard with the Okanagan’s first planting of Albariño and Verdejo, two Spanish white varieties. Once again, the wines attracted a cult following.

Senka thought it was premature for Eric and Dallas to seek her advice before they had planted a vineyard. (A small block of Pinot Noir was planted in 2019 while Syrah was planted in 2020 on most of their two-hectare vineyard.) The Thors continued to consult with Senka; and they joined Terravista’s wine club. The relationship blossomed. “They did not bother letting us know they were selling for a couple of meetings,” Eric recalls. “When they decided we would be suitable candidates to take over their baby, they let us know they were selling.”

To ensure a continuity of Terravista’s style and quality, the Thors have continued their relationship with Senka. They also hired Nadine Allander, a New Zealand-trained winemaker who worked previously at Time Winery and Poplar Grove Winery. “She eats and breathes wine,” Eric says.

Here are notes on the current releases.

Terravista Albariñ0 2019 ($25 ). The wine has aromas and flavours of citrus and melon mingled with fresh peaches. The texture is juicy but the finish is crisp and refreshing. 91.

Terravista Fandango 2019 ($25). This is a blend of two Spanish whites, 61% Albariño and 39% Verdejo. Citrus aromas mingle with melons on the nose. On the palate, there are flavours of nectarine, lime and green apple. The finish is crisp and refreshing. 92.

Terravista Fandango 2018 ($25). This is 63% Albariño and 37% Verdejo. This wine has flavours and aromas of white peach and melon mingled with hints of grapefruit. An extra year in the bottle has rounded the texture without taking away from the refreshing and juicy fruit. 92.

Terravista Viognier 2019 ($23). This wine begins with aromas of stone fruit with a touch of almond. On the palate, flavours of apricot and ripe apple mingle with almonds. The wine has the classic firm backbone of the variety. 91.

Terravista Figaro 2018 ($26). This is 80% Roussanne and 20% Viognier. The wine begins with appealing aromas of apricot and ripe apple. On the palate, there are layers of fruit flavours, primarily stone fruits around a mineral backbone. The finish lingers. 92.





Thursday, June 25, 2020

Winemaker's Cut: wines packed with flavour





Photo: Winemaker Michal Mosny


Michal Mosny, the co-owner and winemaker Winemaker’s Cut, has created a clever web site to introduce his wines.

For each wine, he has recorded a 90-second video in which he speaks about where the grapes come from and how he made the wine, followed by a brief comment on the appearance, aroma and flavour.

For most consumers, it is a sufficient introduction to his interesting wines. The production volumes are sufficient that online buyers or visitors to the tasting room south of Oliver should be able to find the wines.

For more background, here is an excerpt from the new Okanagan Wine Tour Guide. The book was published at the end of April and is available in book stores at $25 a copy. Except for the pandemic restrictions, I would have been in the Okanagan this spring to sign books.

Classical music in winery is the signature of a Michal Mosny winery. “In all the wineries I have ever worked in, there is classical music in the vineyards and classical music in the cellars,” he said as speakers were being installed here in 2019. “That’s a must.” In Slovakia, where he was born in 1982, he and Martina, his wife, had a small winery (about 500 cases a year) near the village where Beethoven is said to have written “Für Elise.”

Michal and Martina immigrated in 2011, frustrated with the obstacles to assembling vineyards in Slovakia and also wanting to travel. Martina chanced to see a television documentary about Nk’Mip Cellars. That led to them to the Okanagan, where Michal set up a vineyard-management company. He spent five years as the winemaker and vineyard manager at Lunessence Winery & Vineyard near Summerland while developing Winemaker’s CUT, based on the Deadman Lake Vineyard.

He had met the vineyard’s owner, Colin Stevens, in 2013 while buying grapes for one of Michal’s winery clients. The Stevens family had originally grown tree fruits since the 1920s on this property beside the highway midway between Oliver and Osoyoos. About 3.2 hectares (8 acres) of vines—Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Franc—were planted between 2000 and 2005. The Stevens family had considered developing a winery but never did.

Michal discovered that the vineyard, rich in organic matter and minerals, produced wines of exceptional flavour. With the 2015 vintage, he began making wines for his Winemaker’s CUT label. He leased the vineyard and, after leaving Lunessence in 2019, turned a small fruit-packing house into a winery. “I am a proud garagiste winery,” Michal said after making 800 cases in 2018 and doubling production the next year.

While he purchases some grapes, the vineyard is being expanded modestly with varieties such as Grüner Veltliner and Welschriesling that Michal knows from Slovakia. “I have never worked with Grüner Veltliner in the vineyard,” Michal says. “I am looking forward to that. I just love those Grüner flavours that give me goosebumps because they remind me of my home country.”

Here are notes on the current releases.

Winemaker’s Cut Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($26 for 800 cases). The wine begins with aromas of lime. On the palate, it is crisp and zesty with lime, lemon and herbal flavours. 90.

Winemaker’s Cut Muscat Canelli 2019 ($24 for 250 cases). Lightly effervescent, the wine begins with lovely spice, orange and rose petal aromas typical of the variety. On the palate, the wine is intensely fruity, but has a crisp and dry finish. 92

Winemaker’s Cut Grüner Veltliner 2019 ($26 for 300 cases). The winemaker has an affinity for this varietal, having made it in his native Slovakia. The wine begins with generous aromas of peach, honey and almonds. Those are echoed on the fleshy palate. On the finish, there is the hint of white pepper that is typical of the variety. 92.

Winemaker’s Cut Rosé 2019 ($26 for 700 cases). This is 90% Cabernet Franc, 10% Syrah, fermented and matured in stainless steel. The colour is fashionable light because the grapes were crushed but not given any skin contact. The aroma is delicate, with a hint of watermelon and grapefruit which is echoed on the palate. The texture is juicy and the finish is slightly off dry but refreshing. 90.

Winemaker’s Cut Syrah 2018 ($34 for 600 cases). This wine begins with aromas of dark fruit and black pepper. On the palate, there are flavours of plum and prune mingled with pepper. The wine is delicious, with long ripe tannins. 91.

Winemaker’s Cut Bohemian Cuvée Rouge 2018 ($36 for 200 cases). This is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 10% Syrah. It begins with aromas of cherry along with a hint of pepper. It is fleshy on the palate with layers of dark fruit and a persistent finish. 91.

Winemaker’s Cut Boho Beat 2019 ($22 for 1,500 cases). This is an unoaked blend of Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Riesling and Kerner, fermented with both wild and organic yeasts.  The wine begins with aromas of spice and stone fruit. The palate is luscious with flavours of peach, pear and melon. The wine is refreshing. 90.

Winemaker’s Cut Boho Zen 2019 ($26 for 700 cases). This is a blend of Syrah and Merlot, fermented with natural yeast. The wine is intensely fruit, with aromas and flavours of cherry and blackberry. This is for natural wine fans. 88.



Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Play Winery's 2019 call for an encore








Photo: Winemaker Stephanie Bryers

Play Estate Winery, which is perched on a hill overlooking the Penticton airport, has benefited significantly from its management and winemaker changes during the past year.

The winery’s 2019 white and rosé releases are a clear step up from earlier vintages. As wine touring and tastings reopens, visitors to the Penticton wineries should not miss Play.

For some background, here is an except from my recent book, Okanagan Wine Tour Guide:

Everything about Play Estate Winery is theatrical, from its perch on a hillside overlooking Skaha Lake to wines with names such as Improv and Ad Lib. The winery is owned by Calgary hotelier Stagewest Hospitality which includes dinner theatres in many of its hotels. The company is managed by Jason and David Pechet, third generation members of a family that got into the business by building hotels along the Alaska Highway. Both are graduates of Cornell University’s renowned hotel management school.

Both are also wine lovers. The winery was conceived Jason and Mohamed Awad, a former hotelier and winery manager in the Okanagan. On land leased from the Penticton Indian Band, they arranged to plant a 4.8-hectare (12-acre) vineyard and build the winery on a slope surrounded by an elegant residential development and close to Penticton’s airport. The winery, which opened with wines from the 2014 vintage, now produces about 5,000 cases a year, with triple that capacity. The winery also includes a year-round bistro, in line with the Stagewest philosophy of including multiple attractions in its properties.

The estate vineyard is planted to Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Orange Muscat and Muscat Ottonel. Play also leases a three-hectare (eight-acre) vineyard in Kaleden which has Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier and White Muscat.

The style of Play’s wines is still emerging. The original vintages were made by Mohamed. After he  left Play, the winery early in 2019 recruited Stephanie Bryers, formerly the assistant winemaker at Culmina Family Estate Winery. Born in Ontario in 1988, she acquired a passion for wines while working in a wine shop and taking sommelier training.

“I decided I did not want to work in restaurants and pour wine,” Stephanie says. “I liked the idea of making it. We always had a couple of days [in sommelier training] where we would go to a winery and do a couple of punch downs for the fun of it, or help on the bottling line. I liked that so much more, so I went to school.” A 2015 graduate of Niagara College, she made wine in New Zealand, Portugal and Ontario before coming to the Okanagan.

Here are notes on the wines.

Play Teatro Moscato Frizzanté 2019 ($22 for 238 cases). The wine is delicately effervescent, with aromas of spice and fruit. The fruit flavours echo the aromatics of the Muscat varieties in the wine. Residual sugar of 16.4 grams per litre, nicely balanced with acidity, enhances the fruit. With alcohol just under 12%, the wine is refreshing. 90.

Play Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($22 for 100 cases). This wine was matured in 75% stainless steel and 25% new French oak. It begins with aromas of herbs and grapefruit, which are echoed on the palate. The oak adds a note of spice to the flavours and the finish. This is a complex wine, reminiscent of a good white from Sancerre. 91.

Play Viognier 2019 ($24 for 240 cases). About half the fruit had 23 hours of skin contact. The wine was matured in 69% stainless steel, 31% in new French oak. The wine has aromas and flavours of apricot wrapped around the classic firm spine of Viognier. The wine is crisp and dry on the finish. 90.

Play Gewürztraminer 2019 ($24 for 100 cases). The wine, which had 15 hours of skin contact, begins with classic spicy aromas. On the palate, the wine is fleshy in texture, with flavours of citrus mingled with hints of ripe raisins. The lingering finish is dry and crisp. 90.

Play Rosé de Syrah 2019 ($24 for 100 cases). The wine presents with an appealing rose petal hue. It has aromas of raspberry. On the palate, there is an explosion of fruit – cherry, red plum and strawberry. The wine finishes crisp and dry. 90.

Play Saignée 2019 ($25 for 67 cases). The wine, made with juice from Bordeaux varieties, presents with an appealing light pink hue. It has aromas and flavours of cherry and plum. The finish is dry, even slightly robust for a rosé. This is a serious food wine. 90.




Monday, June 22, 2020

Rocky Creek's tastings include optional photo op





Photo: Rocky Creek's Mark Holford


About two decades ago, various Vancouver Island (and Fraser Valley) vineyards planted hybrid varieties that had been developed by a Swiss plant breeder named Valentin Blattner.

His varieties were designed to be disease resistant and to mature in cool climates. One of the most successful is Cabernet Foch, so named because it is a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Foch.

Mark Holford, the co-owner and winemaker at Rocky Creek Winery near Duncan, planted Cabernet Foch in his Cowichan Valley vineyard in 2008.

His partner, Linda, writes that Mark planted this vine “in the hopes that one day he would be able to produce a red wine from Vancouver Island that had the depth and colour of a warmer climate vineyard, ‘his serious red’.”

Sirius is that wine. While the name seems to be a play on serious, the inspiration in fact was Rocky Creek’s vineyard dog, named for the dog star Sirius.

“This is the first authentically estate premium red for Rocky Creek Winery,” Linda writes. The debut Sirius was announced in late December and has now become available in wine stores and at the Rocky Creek wine shop.

Like all wineries, Rocky Creek went through a three-month shutdown as part of the province’s defence against Covid-19. “One positive thing is our online sales have increased dramatically, so maybe a new world?” Linda wrote in May.

Rock Creek re-opened its tasting room on June 19. As is the case with all wineries, this summer’s tasting experience will be a little more formal, maintaining the defence against the virus. Here is what Rocky Creek announced recently:

We are open now Fridays to Sundays from 11 to 4 pm.   We are only booking online and if you show up you can always look online and see if there is space on the day, even in our parking lot.  See our new experiences here.

Tastings:  There will be 3 spots for tasting areas in the winery tasting room.  So let me know how many people in your group so we  know which spot to book.  Tastings for you are free for the group up to 4 people. 

Flight of wines in the picnic area:  There is a deposit of $12 for the first flight of wines.  We can settle up after the experience.  You get your flight of wines straight to the cash register and then enjoy your own tasting with tasting notes.  Also, you can pre-order foods or purchase when you arrive or bring your own picnic.

Bottle of wine in the picnic area:  There is a $20 deposit fee and same as the flight experience but you can have the bottle ordered and ready to go.  Also, you can pre-order foods or purchase when you arrive or bring your own picnic.

Our Photography Session on the sectional:  So this is something new we came up with. Katherine is our tasting room manager and has been doing photography for us and other clients.  We thought it would be a lasting memories if you you can book her during this time to have a professional photography session here, a Bottle of wine your choice and enjoying the wine with 4 people and our stemmed Riedel glasses specific for the wine.  You will get 5 photos professionally edited within 5 days of your experience.  The fee for everything is $75.  Any food is extra.
Here are
Some of the wines available for tasting and purchase:

Rocky Creek Pinot Gris 2018 ($22). Modest skin contact has given this wine a lovely blush and, no doubt, accented the aromas and flavours. There is a hint of strawberry and red apple on the nose, leading to flavours of watermelon and apple. The wine is crisp, with a dry finish. 90.

Rocky Creek TLC 2018 ($22). This a blend of Viognier, Albariño, Madelaine Sylvaner, Siegerrebe, and Ortega. It begins with fruity and floral aromas, leading to flavours of cantaloupe, honeydew melon and Asian pear. While the winery describes this as off-dry, the balance is such that the finish is dry. 90.

Rocky Creek On The Mark 2016 ($25). This is a blend of six grapes led by Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Maréchal Foch, with the latter dictating the bold, dark colour. There is a spicy aroma with hints of cherry. On the palate, the cherry mingles with blueberry. There is a hint of pepper on the finish. 88.

Rocky Creek Sirius Red Cabernet Foch 2017 ($40). Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of plums and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of black currant and black cherry, with dark chocolate and earthy notes on the finish. The tannins are firm. The wine will cellar well for several more years. 91.

Rocky Creek Wild Blackberry NV ($25 for 500 ml). A wine with 16% alcohol, this is Vancouver Island’s answer to Port. It is made with wild blackberries. The aromas are of fully ripe berries. There is an explosion of fruit on the palate, with ripe berry flavours mingled with chocolate. The wine is off-dry but well-balanced; the sweet notes lift the berry fruit aromas and flavours. 90.