Vineyards along Naramata Bench
How much time should you set aside for visiting wineries on the Naramata Bench?
As much as you can. Here are my notes from a day and a half on the Bench, during which I covered perhaps a quarter of the producers. That included a break for a delicious lunch at the bistro at
Red Rooster Winery, washed down by a glass of one of
the best Pinot Blancs I have yet had in the Okanagan.
As I have the opportunity, I will review other Naramata Bench wines (as I have been doing throughout the year).
Bench 1775 Winery is the new name for the former Soaring Eagle Winery, now under the ownership of Jim Stewart and Peter Wille. The name, quite simply, uses the winery’s address on
Naramata Road. The owners are clever in
other ways as well: this summer, they hired the excellent Richard Kanazawa as
Bench 1775 Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($17.90). This is a delicious white and well priced. There is lots of lime and grapefruit on the nose and on the palate, with herbal notes. The finish is refreshingly tangy. 90.
Bench 1775 Winery Chardonnay 2011 ($18.90). Here is a refreshing unoaked Chardonnay, with fruity flavours of peaches and citrus and with a crisp dry finish. 89.
Black Widow Winery is operated by Dick and Shona Lancaster. He is a former amateur winemaker who has made a very successful transition to the professional ranks.
Black Widow Winery Pinot Gris 2011 ($21 for 360 cases). Crisp and refreshing, this wine has flavours of apples, peach and citrus. 90.
Black Widow Winery Gewürztraminer 2011 ($23 for 90 cases and now sold out). Light and crisp, the wine has spicy aromas and spicy lychee flavours. 88.
Black Widow Winery Oasis 2011 ($22 for 320 cases). This is a blend of Schönburger, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris. Not surprisingly, it is quite aromatic, has flavours of herbs and spice and a pleasantly off-dry finish. 88.
Black Widow Winery Schönburger 2011 ($25 for 105 cases, and sold out). This rare varietal appeals for its floral aromas and its spicy citrus flavours. 91.
Black Widow Winery Syrah Rosé 2011 ($22 for 35 cases and sold out). Juicy and refreshing, this off-dry rosé tastes like a mouthful of wild strawberries. 91.
Black Widow Winery Phobia 2010 ($25 for 240 cases). This is 80% Syrah, 20% Merlot. It is an accessible red with flavours of cherry and currants and some leather and coffee on the finish. 88.
Black Widow Winery Merlot 2010 ($28 for 140 cases). A wine that merits cellaring, this still shows youthful grip on the palate, with flavours of black currants. The winery recommends cellaring it for a few months “minimum” but I would cellar it for about three years to let all of the sweet fruit and complexity emerge. 90.
Black Widow Winery Hourglass 2010 ($38 for 100 cases). This is the winery’s signature red. In this vintage, it is 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The flavours are bold and ripe, including black currants, blueberries, chocolate. 92.
Black Widow Winery Vintage One 2010 ($25 for 580 half bottles). This Port-style wine is fortified Merlot aged 20 months in old oak. The flavours are rich; it tastes of figs, plums and chocolate and has a lingering sweetness of fruit on the finish. 88.
Hillside Winery’s Kathy Malone, formerly with Mission Hill, now crafts interesting wines on the Naramata Bench.
La Frenz Winery is run by Jeff and Niva Martin (left), who first came to the Okanagan in 1994 from
. Jeff’s winemaking put
Quails’ Gate on the map before he moved on to his own winery on the Naramata
La Frenz Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($22). This is a zesty and racy wine with lime and herbal aromas and refreshing lime flavours; the finish just won’t quit. 91.
La Frenz Winery Sémillon 2011 ($20). This varietal has slightly softer acidity than the Sauvignon Blanc, leading to juicy flavours of lemon and lemon pie. 90.
La Frenz Winery Chardonnay 2011 ($20). This is always quite distinctive, with aromas and flavours of peaches and nectarines, cushioned in buttery and toasty notes. The oak is well in the background, allowing the fruit to be the star. 89.
La Frenz Winery Reserve Chardonnay 2010 ($29). Here is a full-on, hedonistic, gold medal barrel-fermented Chardonnay, with rich tangerine and cashew flavours. 92.
La Frenz Winery Rosé 2011 ($18). This wine was made by bleeding some juice (a traditional method) from various lots of Merlot, Pinot Noir and
The wine’s colour alone sets you up for
a delicious taste experience; on the palate, there are flavours of rhubarb,
cranberry and strawberry. 90. Shiraz
La Frenz Winery Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 ($32). This was a double gold at the All Canadian Wine Championships and was named the best Pinot Noir in the show. Intense and concentrated, the wine has aromas and flavours of black cherry with toasty oak on the background and spice on the finish. 90.
La Frenz Winery Malbec 2010 ($25). This is a big red, with spicy blueberry aromas and with flavours of blueberries and other dark fruits. The tannins are long and ripe, making for a wine that drinks well now but also has several years of development ahead of it. 91.
La Frenz Winery Montage 2010 ($22). Here is an easy drinking blend (not that any of the La Frenz wines are hard to drink) of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Malbec. It has aromas and flavours of black currant and plum with earthy notes of chocolate and liquorice. 90.
La Frenz Winery Merlot 2010 ($26). This is a dark and concentrated wine a nice chewy texture and flavours of black currant, fig, chocolate and tobacco. 91.
La Frenz Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($28). This has the classic varietal notes of eucalyptus on the nose. On the palate, there are flavours of mint, blackberry and chocolate. The structure is elegant and ageworthy. 91.
La Frenz Winery Grand Total Reserve 2009 ($40). This fine red lives up to its slightly pompous name. It is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet
and Malbec from the excellent 2009 vintage. Inky dark in colour, it is
full-bodied, with aromas and flavours of blueberry, black currant, mint,
chocolate and vanilla. 93. France
Moraine Estate Winery was formerly sardonically named Zero Balance when it was the last winery opened by Keith Holman before going into bankruptcy. It has reopened under the management of Oleg and Svetlana Aristarkhov who, in a change of lifestyle, have moved to the Okanagan from
. They have retained Jacqueline Kemp as their
consulting winemaker. Alberta
Moraine Estate Winery Pinot Gris 2011 ($21). Almost austerely dry, this wine shows chalky notes from extensive lees stirring. Flavours of pears and pineapples come through on the finish. 87.
Moraine Estate Winery Cliffhanger White 2011 ($19.50). This is an interesting blend of Pinot Gris and Viognier, with flavours of pear and stone fruit and with a crisp, dry finish. 88.
Moraine Estate Winery Viognier 2011 ($23). The wine has aromas and flavours of lemon and stone fruit with a crisp tangy finish. 88.
Moraine Estate Winery Cliffhanger Red 2011 ($24). This wine is 70% Gamay, 22% Syrah, 7% Merlot with a dash of Dunkelfelder for colour. It is a soft, easy-drinking red, with aromas and flavours of raspberry and blackberry. 88.
Moraine Estate Winery Meritage 2008 ($23). A blend of the five
reds, this wine is still a touch firm, with aromas and flavours of black
currants and leather. 88. Bordeaux
Perseus Winery & Vineyards is located in a heritage house in
. The winemaker
is Tom DiBello, formerly the winemaker at CedarCreek Estate Winery. He took
over from Penticton (vineyard view to left)
Herder, who made the 2009 and 2010 vintages. Lawrence
Perseus Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($17.90). This is a crisp, flinty Sancerre style wine with tangy notes of lemon and lemon rind and with a dry finish. 88.
Perseus Pinot Gris 2011 ($16.90). DiBello says this is his favourite among all the Pinot Gris he has made. It is a crisply focussed wine with aromas and flavours of apples and citrus. 90.
Perseus Merlot 2011 ($21.90). There are simply gobs of juicy berry flavours. The wine has generous ripe textures. The grapes for this come from the winery’s Similkameen Vineyard. 90.
2011 ($21.90). This is another juicy, ripe red with
luscious textures on the palate. It tastes of spicy plums and has enough tannin
to age for a few years. 89. Shiraz
Perseus Invictus 2009 ($32.90). This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, along with small quantities of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. It is a delicious, mouth-filling red with flavours of spice, vanilla, black currant, cherry and chocolate. 91.
Perseus Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($50). Only 88 cases were made of this elegant red; the grapes come from Inkameep Vineyard’s U2 block, arguably the most legendary Cabernet Sauvignon in the Okanagan. The wine shows mint, figs and black currants but it would be infanticide to drink this before 2015. 91.
Ruby Blues Winery is where Prudence Mahrer, the co-founder of
Rooster Winery, now meets the public in one of the liveliest
tasting rooms on the Naramata Bench.
Ruby Blues Winery Riesling 2011 ($20). This is a wonderfully intense Riesling, with aromas of green apples and citrus and flavours of citrus spun around a core of minerals. The wine is well-balanced with residual sugar popping the flavours and aromas while the racy acidity give the wine a dry finish. 89.
Ruby Blues Winery Pinot Gris 2011 ($20). Juicy in texture, this wine has aromas ands intense flavours of pears and citrus, with lingering finish. 89.
Ruby Blues Winery Gewürztraminer 2011 ($20). This wine is made from 36-year-old vines. That accounts for its full-bodied intensity, with aromas and flavours of spice and grapefruit. This won a Lieutenant Governor's award. 90.
Ruby Blues Winery White Stiletto 2011 ($20). This is a blend of 40% Viognier, 40% Chardonnay and 20%
Ottonel. This is a delicious, off-dry
sipping wine with aromas and flavours of peaches and apricots. The Muscat adds a delicate
floral spice note. 89. Muscat
Ruby Blues Winery Red Stiletto N.V. ($25). This is a soft, accessible blend (about 80% Syrah) with flavours of black cherries and raspberries. 88.
Ruby Blues Winery Syrah 2009 ($30 for 120 cases). This wine begins with aromas of spice, white pepper black cherry. On the palate, there are flavours of plum, blackberry and spice. Medium-bodied, the wine is elegant. 90.
Ruby Blues Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($30). The grapes for this wine were picked November 7, 2009, with the winery taking full advantage of moderating impact of the lake on the Naramata Bench vineyards. It has aromas of vanilla, blackberry and blueberry, with flavours of black currant and chocolate. There is a hint of liquorice on the finish. 90.
Ruby Blues Winery Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($30). There is 55% Merlot in this blend. It is a big ripe red with aromas of vanilla and red berries and with flavours of plum, black currant and chocolate. The finish is long. 90.
Ruby Blues Winery Merlot Grand Reserve 2009 ($40). Dense and concentrated, this is a ripe and complex red with flavours of figs, plums, black currants and chocolate. 91.
3 Mile Estate Winery was opened last year by Jake and Colleen Gunther (left) and Gayle and Darry Rahn. The women are sisters and provided a cheery tasting room welcome all season.
3 Mile Estate Winery Gewürztraminer 2011 ($21.30 for 190 cases). The wine begins with floral and spicy aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of grapefruit and lychee. The finish is defined by a spicy note of
. 88. Muscat
3 Mile Estate Winery Pinot Gris 2011 ($19.95). The wine is fresh and juicy with aromas and flavours of peach, ripe pear and guava. 90.
3 Mile Estate Winery Pinot Gris Viognier 2011 ($21.30 for 135 cases). The wine begins with aromas of pear and toastiness from lees contact. It has a rich palate with flavours of tangerine and apple. There is only about six per cent Viognier in the blend but that added significant complexity. 89.
3 Mile Estate Winery Cabernet Merlot 2010 ($24.90 for 160 cases). The wine begins with aromas of cherry, black currant and vanilla. Those are delivered on the palate, along with notes of pepper and chocolate. The tannins are still firm. 89.
3 Mile Estate Winery Trio 2010 ($29.90 for 225 cases). This is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a dash of Syrah. The texture is still youthfully tight, suggesting this is an age-worthy red. There are flavours of black cherry, black currant and cedar. 90.
3 Mile Estate Winery Late Harvest Viognier 2011 ($24.95 for a 350 ml bottle; 94 cases made). This delightful dessert wine is sweet, but not overly sweet. There are aromas and flavours of apricot and peach. The balance is clean and refreshing. 89.
Township 7 has an enviable location at the start of
Naramata Road. I
have stopped at the tasting room many times just on impulse, because it is
right there. Many others do the same.
Township 7 Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($18.99). This is a crisp and tangy white with hints of herbs, grass and green beans. 87.
Township 7 Chardonnay 2009 ($19.99). This is a classic oaked Chardonnay, fat and rich on the palate with notes of caramel, nuts and tangerine. 88.
Township 7 Unoaked Chardonnay 2011 ($17.99 for 388 cases). Crisp and fresh, with aromas and flavours of green apples. This is a tangy, refreshingly dry white that cries for pairing with seafood. 89.
Township 7 2011 7 Blanc ($18.99 for 508 cases). This is a blend of 60% Gewürztraminer and 40% Pinot Gris. The wine is bright and crisp with aromas of citrus, herbs and spice and with flavours of apples and citrus. 89.
Township 7 Rosé 2009 ($15.99 for 465 cases). Salmon pink in colour, the wine has aromas and flavours of strawberry and cherry. 88.
Township 7 Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($19.99 for 400 cases). This is 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The latter varietal adds a note of mint to the aromas of black currant, chocolate and tobacco. On the palate, there are flavours of black currant and cherry. Another year of bottle age will polish the firm tannins. 88.