Sunday, May 17, 2009

Black Hills signals it is in the big leagues

Nota Bene, the Bordeaux red blend from Black Hills Estate Winery, achieved cult status from its very first vintage in 1999. The latest release, from the 2007 vintage, confirms the view of the winery’s new managers that this following is well entrenched. The wine was released at $52.90 a bottle – the first time it was ever been priced above $50 on release.

The result? Black Hills released 2,500 cases on April 18 and they were all spoken for on April 20. The total production was 3,990 cases, a portion of which has been held back for the winery’s own tasting room. If last year is any guide, Nota Bene will sell for a premium at the cellar door.

While the winery considers the public release sold out, in fact some private wine stores are actually retailing the 2007 Nota Bene, including VQA stores. The Edgemont Village VQA store in North Vancouver, as an example, had a generous allotment of four cases. It was be instructive to see if Nota Bene moves any faster than the other excellent $50 wines that store has in stock.

Nota Bene has always commanded a premium (and, I would argue, deserved a premium). The 2002 vintage, for example, was $32 a bottle and the 2005 vintage was $36. Last year’s release was around $40 and fetched $60 in the aftermarket, an indication that Black Hills was leaving money on the table.

Nota Bene (Latin for take notice) is a departure from most Okanagan Meritage blends, the majority of which are built around Merlot. Nota Bene has always put Cabernet Sauvignon first. That is a daring choice since Cabernet Sauvignon, if not fully ripe, can infuse a (not necessarily unpleasant) minty aroma and flavour to the wine. That was not the case with 2007, the last vintage in which the vineyard was farmed by the founders of Black Hills and in which the wine was made by Senka Tennant.

Late in 2007 Senka and her husband Bob, along with partners Susan and Peter McCarrell, sold the winery to a large group of investors whose numbers include actor Jason Priestley. When the investment syndicate’s manager was raising money for the deal, he stated in the offering circular that Nota Bene was underpriced for the quality. Hence, the subsequent price adjustments.

The 2007 is a typical Nota Bene blend: 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. The wine is as bold as the price. In the glass, the colour is almost black. It has aromas of black currants, blackberries and cedar. On the palate, the wine is big and rich, tasting of currants, plums, chocolate, tobacco and vanilla. The texture is richly concentrated with a pleasant earthiness. The tannins are ripe but firm; this wine is structured to develop very well in bottle over the next five, and probably 10, years. Earlier vintages of Nota Bene sometimes peaked at seven years. This wine, the best Nota Bene so far, should peak a little later. Score: 91 points.

If you must drink it now, try to decant it an hour or two before the meal.

1 comment:

Thriller said...

They gotta lot of nerve charging $52.90 a bottle. For that price, they can keep it.