Photo: Wild Goose Vineyards
Recently, the Painted Rock Merlot 2013 noted below was one of the Canadian wines served at a dinner in Stockholm at which Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf was a guest. The king was so impressed with the wine that he asked if he could buy it in Sweden. Painted Rock owner John Skinner (who was not at the dinner) has initiated talks with Sweden’s liquor monopoly, the Systembolaget.
The anecdote is an example of the reaction British Columbia wines are receiving outside the province. Painted Rock is just one of the wineries beginning to export some wines.
It is a question that is asked all the time: are BC wines exported? Yes – but not is great volume (except for Icewine). On a world scale, the BC wine industry is small – and lucky BC consumers drink most of the wine.
Here are notes on the second half of Okanagan Falls Winery Association’s recent tasting in Vancouver.
Noble Ridge “The One” 2012 ($40 for 234 cases). This sparkling wine is 81% Chardonnay, 19% Pinot Noir. It spent 41 months en tirage before being disgorged. Crisp and refreshing, the wine has aromas of green apples and citrus leading to flavours of apple and grapefruit framed by hints of biscuit. 92.
Noble Ridge Pinot Grigio 2015 ($19.90 for 422 cases). The winery delayed releasing this until this spring, having concluded that Pinot Gris benefits from some bottle age. The wine has aromas of citrus and peach which is echoed in the flavour. While the wine was fermented in stainless steel, two per cent was aged in four months in French oak. The touch of oak adds structure and complexity. 90.
Noble Ridge Reserve Chardonnay 2013 ($29.90 for 415 cases). The 14 months this wine aged in French oak contributed to a rich and creamy texture. The wine begins with aromas of citrus, toffee and vanilla which are echoed in the marmalade flavours. 91.
King’s Ransom Pinot Noir 2013 ($55 for 93 cases). This wine begins with aromas of cherries and raspberries. The palate is intense, with flavours of spicy cherries mingled with toasted oak. The texture is full, leading to a velvet polish on the finish. 94.
Painted Rock Estate Winery opened in 2009, based on a vineyard sandwiched between the Skaha Climbing Bluffs and Skaha Lake. The view from the wine shop – itself stunning architecture – is one of the Okanagan’s most dramatic vistas (left).
Painted Rock Rosé 2015 ($21.69 for 483 cases). This is a blend of juice from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot. It begins with aromas of strawberries, cherries and rhubarb, leading to tangy flavours of strawberries and red berries. 89.
Painted Rock Cabernet Franc 2014 ($44.99 for 438 cases). This wine was aged 18 months in French oak (30% new). It begins with rich, intense aromas of smoky black cherry and vanilla. The oak subtly frames the flavours of plum, black currant, black cherry and coffee. The finish is long, with hints of dark fruit and chocolate. The ripe tannins still have some grip, suggesting the wine will age well for a decade. Decant it is you want to drink it now. 92.
Painted Rock Merlot 2013 ($34.99 for 1,746 cases). The Swedish king got to taste a wine that is densely concentrated, delivering aromas and flavours of black currant, black cherry and blueberry, with dark chocolate on the finish. The oak aging has given this a touch of vanilla. 91.
Painted Rock Syrah 2013 ($34.99 for 1,622 cases). The wine begins with a whiff of pepper, plum and black cherry leading to earthy and meaty flavours of dark fruit, punctuated by pepper on the finish. 92.
Painted Rock Red Icon 2014 ($55 including tax). This is 33% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 19% Malbec, 16% Petit Verdot and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon. Once again, it was aged 18 months in French oak (30% new), accounting for the svelte, polished texture of its long, ripe tannins. It begins with aromas of black cherry, black currant, spice and vanilla. The palate is rich, with flavours of black cherry and black currant mingled with notes of blackberry, mocha, tobacco, vanilla and spice. The wine, if decanted, is accessible now but is built to age for 10 or 15 years. 94.
Pentâge Winery is on the southern outskirts of Penticton – too far south to belong to the Naramata Bench Winery Association. Its contribution to the Okanagan Falls group includes a unique 5,500-square-foot cellar and winery (right). Paul Gardner spent 10 years carving a cellar into rock at the top of the vineyard. The big glass doors at the front give him a view over the wines; and give visitors a view deep into cellar.
Pentâge Roussanne Marsanne Viognier 2012 ($27). This is a very complex white wine, with stone fruit aromas and flavours. Even though the wine is five years old, the fresh, crisp apple and pear flavours are remarkably youthful. Try it with fresh oysters. 90.
Pentâge Roussanne Fizz 2015 ($20). This is an excellent Charmat method sparkling wine with citrus aromas and flavours. The finish is crisp. 91.
Pentâge Hiatus 2013 ($23). The price signals the intention here is that this should be an approachable red. It is a blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Cabernet Franc, 17% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 2% each of Petit Verdot and Tempranillo. The wine has aromas and flavours of plums and ripe cherries. 89.
Pentâge GSM 2013 ($30). This is 40% each of Grenache and Syrah and 20% Mourvedre Pentâge. Dark in colour, this wine has spicy fruit aromas, leading to flavours where deli spice mixes with dark fruit, black cherry and licorice. 91.
See Ya Later Ranch is high up on a hillside with picnic area overlooking Okanagan Falls. The winery has a dog-friendly policy inspired by a former owner of the property (before there was a winery). Major Hugh Fraser loved dogs and, when they died, buried them under headstones. The headstones now have all been placed around a tree at the front of the tasting room. Several wines also are named after various of his dogs.
See Ya Later Ranch Sparkling Brut NV ($23). This is 100% Chardonnay, bottle fermented in the traditional method. The wine has aromas and flavours of apples and grapefruit with a hint of brioche. The bubbles give a richness to the palate while the finish is crisp. 89.
See Ya Later Ranch Gewürztraminer 2016 ($18). The north-facing vineyard on the slope above winery is regarded one of the best sites in the Okanagan for this varietal. The wine begins with aromas of rose petals, spice and lychee which are echoed on the palate. Hats off to the winemaker: this is dry, food-friendly Gewürztraminer. If only more Okanagan wineries had the courage to dry out this varietal instead of producing palate-boring off-dry versions. 90.
See Ya Later Ranch Pinot Gris 2016 ($18). Pinot Gris also does well on this slope, although much of the fruit is from the Thomas Vineyard just south of Okanagan Falls. Six percent was fermented in stainless steel, 40% in French and American oak barrels. The oak notes remain in the background of this dry, fruity wine with flavours of apple and pear. Bright acidity leaves a crisp and fresh finish. 90.
See Ya Later Ranch Rover Shiraz Viognier 2014 ($25). Rover was the name of one of the major’s 12 dogs. The wine barks boldly with black pepper and dark fruit aromas. It has flavours of plum, fig and fruit cake punctuated by pepper on the finish. The firm texture suggests the wine will age well under its screwcap closure. 90.
Stag’s Hollow Albariño 2016 ($21.99 plus tax). This is the second vintage of Albariño, which Stag’s Hollow grows in its Shuttleworth Vineyard, just south of Okanagan Falls. The Spanish white seems to do well in the Okanagan. This is a zesty and fresh wine with aromas and flavours of melon and green apple. 91.
Stag’s Hollow Tragically Vidal 2015 ($16.99 plus tax). Vidal was already in this vineyard when Larry and Linda bought it. They began grafting some to Chardonnay, calling Vidal “tragic” because it was a vanishing variety. Then the wine developed a loyal following, perhaps because the juicy, tangy flavours of lime, lemon and apple are so appealing. 89.
Stag’s Hollow Tempranillo 2013 ($25.99 plus tax). This is a blend of 85% Tempranillo, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Syrah and 2% Petit Verdot. The wine begins with what the winery calls “masculine” aromas of leather, prunes, coffee and sweet tobacco. I agree entirely with those descriptors. On the palate, there are flavours of black cherry, plum and vanilla. 91.
Stag’s Hollow Renaissance Merlot 2014 ($34.99 plus tax). This is perhaps the flagship red at this winery and this is the first closed with a screw cap. There is 10% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. The wine was fermented in small fermenters, finishing its fermentation and aging in small French oak (50% new) for 15 months. The wine begins with aromas of black cherry and vanilla. On the palate, the suite of dark fruit flavours includes black currant, black cherry and plums mingled with mocha and coffee. 92.
Synchromesh Wines, opened in 2011 by Alan Dickinson (right), is emerging as a pre-eminent specialist in Riesling. Synchromesh fans will be delighted to learn that he has recently bought more land adjacent to his vineyard. The intent is to plant more Riesling.
Synchromesh Riesling 2016 ($22). This is a blend of grapes from four different vineyards. The wine is juicy with flavours of lemon and lime. The balance between the residual sugar and the bright acidity gives the wine a crisp finish. 90.
Synchromesh Riesling Bob Hancock Vineyard 2016 ($26 for 442 cases). This vineyard is at the northern end of Naramata Road. The wine balances 38.2 grams of residual sugar with a total acidity of almost 10. The aromas and flavours are intense, beginning with apple and lemon on the nose and evolving to lime and grapefruit on the palate. 92.
Synchromesh Riesling Four Shadows Vineyard 2016 ($26 for 504 cases). The Four Shadows Vineyard is just east of Penticton. This wine has 52.2 grams of residual sugar balanced with 8.85 total acidity. This gives the wine fleshy texture on the juicy palate, with flavours of pineapple, grapefruit and mango. 92.
Synchromesh Riesling Stormhaven Vineyard 2016 White Label ($26 for 88 cases). Stormhaven is the vineyard at the estate in Okanagan Falls. The grapes for this wine are from a 2010 planting. This wine again balances racy acidity against residual sugar. The perception is that the wine is dry (technically, it is not) but with generous fruit flavours of lime, apple, mango with a spine of minerality. 91.
Synchromesh Riesling Stormhaven Vineyard 2016 Black Label ($40 for 182 cases and 24 magnums). In typical Synchromesh style, bright acidity balances 38 grams of residual sugar, resulting in a perception of dryness. The wine is packed with intense aromas and flavours of lime, mango and peach with a spine of minerality. This wine will age spectacularly well. 93.
Wild Goose Vineyards & Winery was opened in 1990 by the Kruger family; it was the original farmgate wine in the Okanagan Falls area. Adolf Kruger, the family’s elder statesman, died last year, leaving the business in the hands of his sons, Hagen and Roland, and grandson Nik.
Wild Goose Riesling 2016 ($16.62 plus tax). This is a crisp, refreshing Riesling with aromas and flavours of grapefruit and lemon with a backbone of minerals. 90.
Wild Goose Pinot Gris 2016 ($16.52 plus tax for 5,200 cases). The winery boasts that this wine “will make you the most popular person at dinner parties!” It just might. It is packed with generous fruit, with peach and pear aromas and flavours. There is a touch of spice on the finish. 91.
Wild Goose Mystic River Gewürztraminer 2016 ($20 plus tax for 200 cases). This is a wine of superb intensity, beginning with aromas of spice and lychee. On the palate, there are flavours of lychee and grapefruit, punctuated with rose petal spice. 93.
Wild Goose Red Horizon Meritage 2014 ($21.74 plus tax for 500 cases). This is a blend of 55% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Petit Verdot., It begins with aromas of cassis and black cherry, leading to flavours of dark fruit, dark chocolate and licorice. 90.