Saturday, September 28, 2019

Township 7 adds bench strength

Photo: Winemaker and vineyard manager Ryan McKillop (courtesy Township 7)

Now celebrating its 19th anniversary, Township 7 Vineyards & Winery time in the industry has spanned the (so far) golden age of British Columbia wine.

When the original Township 7 winery opened in Langley in 2001, the VQA program was barely a decade old and still contentious; and there were perhaps 50 wineries.

Today, there are 350 wineries with so many under development that 400 is possible. The VQA program now is mature while a series of new sub-appellations are drilling down to an understanding of terroir wines barely contemplated 20 years ago.

Township 7 consists of two of those wineries. The initial winery in Langley is now dedicated to the production of sparkling wines. The much larger winery at the start of the Naramata Bench makes a full range of table wines.

There have been three sets of owners at Township 7 and each has been better resourced. Businessman Ge Song, who acquired the winery in 2014, has made major investments to expand the Okanagan winery and upgrade the equipment. In 2018, he allowed the winery to purchase the 12-acre Blue Terrace Vineyard near Oliver, securing total control over a vineyard from which Township 7 has been buying fruit almost from the beginning.

He also has supported the winery in critical personnel decisions. Mary McDermott, a skilled winemaker, was recruited from Andrew Peller Ltd. in Ontario. She has had a major impact on the quality of wines. And it was her idea to devote the Langley vineyard to sparkling wines.

This summer, Township 7 added bench strength by hiring Ryan McKibbon as assistant winemaker and vineyard manager. He is a graduate of Niagara College’s Winery and Viticulture program. His expertise includes organic and biodynamic grape growing.

He did a vineyard internship focussed on organic and biodynamic viticulture at Felton Road Wines in New Zealand. He has worked with other organic/biodynamic producers including Hidden Bench Winery on Ontario, Crystallum Wines in South Africa and Phantom Creek in the Okanagan.

Would anyone care to guess on the future direction of Township 7’s viticulture?

The Township 7 journey illustrates why British Columbia wines have improved so dramatically over the past 20 years: better equipped wineries, more experienced winemakers and, most fundamentally, much improved viticulture.

Current releases have benefited for all that.

Township 7 2018 7 Blanc ($18.97 for 888 cases). This is a blend of 56% Gewürztraminer, 22% Pinot Gris, 9% Viognier, 9% Riesling and 4% Muscat. All the varieties were fermented slowly at about 12◦C over three weeks to deliver maximum freshness and flavour. The aromas are predictably, and pleasantly, aromatic with notes of grapefruit and spice. On the palate there are luscious flavours of pink grapefruit and nectarine. The residual sugar adds to the lush texture and lingering finish. 91.

Township 7 2018 Sauvignon Blanc ($18.97 for 828 cases). The grapes for this wine are from the Blue Terrace Vineyard near Oliver. Long a supplier of fruit to Township 7. Most of the fruit was fermented cool in stainless steel; a two-barrel portion was fermented in oak and added to the blend for complexity. The wine begins with aromas of lime mingled with herbs. Crisp and dry on the palate, the wine delivers flavours of lime, grapefruit zest and herbs. The finish is very persistent. 91.

Township 7 2018 Reserve Pinot Gris ($26.97 for 148 cases). The wine is exclusive to Township 7’s wine club. The wine begins with aromas of pears and stone fruit. Rich in texture but with a dry finish, the wine delivers flavours of pear and nectarine mingled with a hint of orange and oak. The wine was barrel-fermented in neutral French oak. Lees stirring added to fullness of the texture. The finish of this delicious and complex wine lingers. 93.

Township 7 2016 Reserve Cabernet Franc ($45.97 for 198 cases). This wine is also a wine club exclusive. The fruit for this wine came from the Romar Vineyard in Osoyoos. The wine was aged 24 months in French oak (60%) and American oak. Dark in colour, the wine begins with very expressive aromas of cherry, blackberry and cloves that explode from the glass. On the palate, the wine has silky tannins and delivers flavours of black cherry, blackberry, tobacco and spice. 93.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Clos du Soleil releases new flagship vintages

Photo: Clos du Soleil winemaker Michael Clark

This excellent winery in the Similkameen Valley has been inspired from the start by the wines of Bordeaux. The styles of the two current releases continue in that direction.

One of the wines is the red blend called Signature. This was the wine recommended in my 2017 book, Icon, for those building a cellar vertical.

Here is an except from the book to provide some background on the winery:

The winemaking aesthetic at Clos du Soleil is an echo of Bordeaux. “But while we talk about our French philosophy, our wines are never going to taste like Bordeaux, and they shouldn’t,” cautions Michael Clark, the managing partner and winemaker. “They should taste like Upper Bench Keremeos in the Similkameen Valley, and I think they do.”
The founding partners, all lovers of French wines, planted just Bordeaux varieties—five reds, two whites—on a 4-hectare (10-acre) farm purchased in 2006. Formerly a honey-producing farm, the property’s lean soils lie on a moderate south-facing slope against a mountainous rock face. The vines are grown under both organic and biodynamic disciplines.

The Bordeaux-inspired wines were initially crafted by Ann Sperling, a consulting winemaker of national repute and one of the owners of Sperling Vineyards in Kelowna. And before Clos du Soleil built its own winery in 2015, the wines were made at the Sperling winery. Winemaking was taken over in 2013 by Michael Clark, who grew up in a home where the wine cellar included classified growth Bordeaux wines.

Born in Cambridge, Ontario, in 1972, Michael began reading wine books when he was 10. Initially, he pursued careers in science (he has two degrees in theoretical physics) and finance (he has a master’s of business administration). After managing hedge-fund portfolios in Switzerland, he surrendered to his passion for wine, studying viticulture there and making wine in Bordeaux. When he returned to Canada to join Clos du Soleil in 2012, he had also received a winemaking certificate from the University of California. “Anybody will tell you that I am a bit of a detail person,” he says. “I think that plays well in winemaking, because it is the sum of a million little details that add up to the final wine.”

Michael believes that “the star of our vineyard is Cabernet Sauvignon, which is planted right below the rock face. The Similkameen terroir is expressed in the Cabernet Sauvignon, which is so unique. It doesn’t taste like an Okanagan Cabernet or a California Cabernet or a Bordeaux Cabernet. It really tastes of here. It has a spicy, floral, violet component. It has density, lots of complexity, but it isn’t heavy.”

That defines the style of Signature, the winery’s flagship Bordeaux red, and also the limited-production Estate Reserve, first produced in the 2010 vintage.

“To me, delicacy matters,” Michael says. “My philosophy is that our best wines demonstrate their quality in ways other than bigness or heaviness. A great wine, whether you are talking about Clos du Soleil or a classified growth in Bordeaux, is determined by elegance, complexity, layers and ageability, not by huge, chewy fruit or aggressive tannins.”

Here are notes on the wines.

Clos de Soleil Capella 2017 ($24.26 for 471 cases). This wine is 71% Sauvignon Blanc and 26% Sémillon. The aromas immediately take one to Graves: citrus, herbs, minerals. The palate delivers flavours of grapefruit, lime, herbs and spice, leading to a crisp, dry finish. The fruit was fermented 60% in French oak barrels and 40%, with wild yeast, in stainless steel barrels. All lots were aged nine months on the lees, with the best barrels selected for the final blend. 91.

Clos de Soleil Signature 2015 ($39.04 for 20 barrels). This is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. This wine, the flagship at Clos du Soleil, was aged 15 months in French oak barrels. The wine, dark in colour, begins with rich aromas of cassis, black cherry, raspberry, mingled with floral notes. On the palate, there are layers of flavour: cherry, black currant and blueberry mingled with sage. The texture is firm, with long ripe tannins; the finish is very long. 94. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Blue Mountain launches three Grand Cru Pinot Noirs

 Photo: Blue Mountain winemaker Matt Mavety

In a significant evolution of its portfolio, Blue Mountain this month is releasing its first three single vineyard block Pinot Noirs.

If this were Burgundy, those would be called Grand Cru wines. Blue Mountain, of course, is not using that designation. It is my way of signalling where the three wines fit at the top of the Blue Mountain portfolio.

These wines are being released simultaneously with Blue Mountain’s Estate Pinot Noir and Blue Mountain’s Reserve Cuvee. This is the first time that those two wines have been released at the same time. The reasoning is that consumers might not appreciate the differences among the wines if the release dates had been staggered.

Blue Mountain has been a leading Okanagan producer of Pinot Noir since releasing its first from the 1991 vintage.

“The wines that are made today are definitely different than the wines that were made in the 1990s and the 2000s.” says winemaker Matt Mavety. “The winemaking has definitely been refined and changed over the last five years.”

The quality of Blue Mountain’s Pinot Noirs has been remarkably consistent over the years. The reflects the fact that all the grapes are grown on the estate; and that Matt and his father, Ian, have been the only winemakers at Blue Mountain. However, Matt disclosed that the winery has used a consultant from Burgundy since 2001 – not to make the wines but to suggest or confirm techniques to improve wines that were already good.

For example, the consultant (whose name is not disclosed) prodded the Mavety family to begin fermenting with natural yeasts. Now, virtually all the wines are fermented with wild yeast. The argument for doing so is to let the terroir show in the wines.

That same objective has driven other refinements in the Blue Mountain cellar, including the release of three single vineyard block wines.

“With the single vineyard bottlings, we are trying to put in bottle a wine that expresses the site itself, not the hand of the winemaking,” Matt says. “We have been working over the last 10 vintages to remove some of our input or our stamp on the wines, to allow more of the site to show through. Not that at any time we were heavy handed but there was room for refinement.”

The handling of both the grapes and the wines has become gentler.

“The refinements in winemaking have allowed the personalities of the vineyards to become very expressive,” Matt says. “Before, when our extraction levels were a bit higher, they started to hide, or muddle, the nuances in the wine. That becomes a very significant evolution in what has happened. It is not one that happened all of a sudden.  It is something we have been working on since, I would say, the 2010 vintage, to try to pull back our activity during the fermentation.”

There has been a significant change in how the wines are racked when wine is being taken off the lees. Previously, Blue Mountain – like most wineries – typically pumped each barrel into tank and, if further barrel aging was required, pumped it back into barrel.

Now, pumping has virtually been eliminated except for filling the barrels initially from primary fermentation vessels. After that, Blue Mountain moves the wine by gravity. A stainless steel tap is inserted into a specially-made bung hole in the head of each barrel. The barrel is then tilted or rocked so that the wine flows from that barrel into the receiving barrel. “It is an old school technique,” Matt observes. “A lot of domains in Burgundy still do it.”

“We would have minimized our rackings in the past but when we were assembling wines for bottling, they were never as clear as they should have been,” Matt says. “We would have to filter the wine. In this case, we are able to handle the wines very gently, step by step, to get to the point where we can bottle unfiltered, no question.”

The decision to bottle single vineyard block wines in the 2017 vintage was the culmination of at least a decade of experience with the Blue Mountain vineyard.  

“As our understanding of the vineyards and the wines we are making from specific blocks emerged, we had three blocks we could isolate as three unique personalities,” Matt says.  “We definitely have differences in the soils here. One of the blocks in particular is different, based on the soil. But quite often, we find the topography is what is giving us a significant difference in the sites.”

Wine from these blocks was already part of the estate and reserve blends. In order not to strip quality from those, only small bottlings – 1,800 bottles each – have been released as single block wines. When the wines being released are lined up side by side, the differences are evident.

“Our customer may have a preference one way or another, but we are not ranking them,” Matt says. “There is an order in which they are poured but not necessarily an order of one, two and three.”

Each block has been named in an attempt to telegraph the personalities of the wines. Block 9, a vineyard block just under a hectare in size with undulating terrain and multiple exposures, is now Wild Terrain. Block 14 is Gravel Force because the soil is a mix of gravel and clay. Block 23’s name, River Flow, is suggested by the sandy soils.

“I would hope customers could taste through the five wines and see a couple of things,” Matt says. “You can see the reflection of the estate. All of these wines were grown here on the bench in Okanagan Falls. They are hopefully all an expression of the land they were grown on, not the winemaking. If our winemaking is too aggressive, the nuances we captured here would be more hidden.”

Here are notes on the wines.

Blue Mountain Estate Cuvee Pinot Noir 2017 ($35). The bright notes of fruit, cherry and raspberry, reflect that much of the fruit is from younger vines. The texture is silky and finish is elegant. 91.

Blue Mountain Reserve Cuvee Pinot Noir 2017 ($45). Dark in colour, this wine begins with aromas of spice and dark fruit, followed by layers of concentrated flavour. The finish is elegant with classic velvet tannins. 93.

Blue Mountain River Flow Block 23 Pinot Noir 2017 ($55). This wine begins with aromas of cherry mingled with toasty oak. That is echoed on the silky palate. A wine with finesse and with flavours that linger on the palate. 94.

Blue Mountain Wild Terrain Block 9 Pinot Noir 2017 ($55). This wine does indeed have an unruly edge to it, with aromas and flavours of herbs mingled with cherry. The flavours are bright and the texture is firm. 94.

Blue Mountain Gravel Force Block 14 Pinot Noir 2017 ($55). This wine delivers an edgy tension on the palate, with aromas and bright flavours of cherry mingled with spice. The structure is firm and age worthy. 94.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

River Stone's Corner Stone and friends

Photo: River Stone's Ted Kane

Judging from this winery’s website, River Stone owners Ted and Lorraine Kane’s children have grown up to the point where one son is old enough to work in the tasting room.

Ted, on the other hand, was still under age when he started making wine. While he initially pursued a medical science career, his passion for wine just kept getting stronger. When Lorraine, already a nurse, began a four-year program in Alberta to become a doctor, he fretted that all the good vineyard land in the Okanagan would be gone before she finished her studies.

As it turned out, there were happy endings for everybody. In 2001, they found 9.5-acres of raw land just north of Oliver that proved to be an outstanding vineyard. By the time Ted planted the vines, Lorraine had finished her degree and established a family practice in the South Okanagan.

It has been a happy ending for consumers as well. Since the winery opened in 2011, River Stone’s wines have never disappointed.

I included Corner Stone, the flagship red wine, in my 2017 book Icon because I consider this a very fine cellar-worthy Okanagan red blend. Here is an excerpt from the book.

Ted Kane had Corner Stone in mind back in 2003, when he began planting the River Stone vineyard on Tuc El Nuit Drive, just outside Oliver. In the French tradition, he planted Bordeaux varietals—Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec—in the proportions he believed he needed for his blend.

“I knew at the beginning it was going to be a Merlot-forward, Right Bank Bordeaux style because of our cool-climate growing conditions,” Ted says. “Merlot is the most reliable ripener as opposed to Cabernet Sauvignon, which I knew would be the last to ripen.” Consequently, Merlot was the biggest block on the well-drained south-facing slopes. Subsequent experience led him to increase the planting of Cabernet Franc, another reliable ripener. He also replaced five rows of Cabernet Sauvignon with Petit Verdot in order to grow the full suite needed for a Bordeaux-type blend.

Ted says some have drawn parallels between Corner Stone and Bordeaux’s Château Cheval Blanc, although in the latter’s vineyard, Cabernet Franc takes the lead, followed by Merlot. While he does not mind the compliment inherent in that comparison, Ted says that Corner Stone is made in the New World style, closer to reds from California or Chile. “I wanted to produce wines that had concentration and weight,” he says. “I also found after a short time in France that what I didn’t want was the astringency that was still there after year six on some of the wines.”

The individual varietals are fermented in small lots that are aged separately in French oak barrels for 14 to 18 months. By blending time, Ted has identified the best barrels of each varietal. Wine not needed for Corner Stone is blended into Stones Throw, which, in the French tradition, is made for earlier consumption. He also bottles modest volumes of single varietals, offering them in the wine shop and to his wine club.

Perhaps the most notable of these single varietals is the Cabernet Franc, which grows very successfully in the River Stone vineyard. “If I knew back when I planted what I know now, I would have planted more Cabernet Franc,” Ted admits. Much like Cheval Blanc.

Here are notes on the current releases.

River Stone Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($21.90 for 234 cases). The wine begins with aromas of lime and lemon mingled with herbal notes. The palate is packed with fruit – lime, guava, stone fruits. The finish is dry and it lingers. 91.

River Stone Pinot Gris 2018 ($20.90 for 236 cases). This is a crisp white with good weight on the palate and with a mineral back bone. It has aromas and flavours of citrus, pear and apple. 91.

River Stone Malbec Rosé 2018 ($22.90). The dark hue announces that this is a bold rosé meant to be enjoyed with food. It has aromas and flavours of cherry and plum, with a lingering finish. 91.

River Stone Cabernet Franc 2017 ($34.90 for 145 cases). A classic Cabernet Franc, the wine shows brambly blackberry aromas and flavours. The texture is youthfully firm. This wine should either be decanted or cellared for a few more years to best unlock the potential. 91.

River Stone Stones Throw 2016 ($28.90 for 860 cases). This is a blend of 78% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. The wine was aged 14 months in French oak. This is a delicious blend, with bold, ripe aromas and flavours of black cherry, blackberry, blueberry and black currant. 92.

River Stone Corner Stone 2016 ($36.89 for 500 cases). This is the winery’s flagship red, a blend of 42% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. It was aged 18 months in French oak. It begins with aromas of black cherry mingled with oak, eucalyptus, spice and the singular perfume of Malbec. The palate delivers flavours of black cherry and black currant, with a persistent spicy finish. 93.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Kettle Valley's new releases

Photo: Kettle Valley's Tim Watts and Bob Ferguson

Bob Ferguson and Tim Watts, the partners at Kettle Valley Winery in Naramata, are about to begin their 28th vintage.

It is a remarkable run, considering that the winery is a second career for both. Previously, Bob was a chartered accountant and Tim was a geologist. As it happens, they are taking their feet off the pedal, just a little.

This year, the partners and their assistant winemaker, Haley Fisher, expect to process about 120 to 130 tons of grapes. At the peak of production earlier this decade, the winery handled 220 tons. (A rough rule of thumb is that each ton of fruit yields about 50 cases of wine.)

“It was just too much work,” Bob told me in an interview in August. “I turn 69 next month and Tim is 62. It is physical work. By slowing it down a little bit and dropping the volume, it has made it easier for us. We both still enjoy it but it has made it more fun.”

The volume may be down but, judging from the five wines just released, the quality remains high.

Two of the wines are from the winery’s Great Northern Vineyard near Keremeos in the Similkameen Valley. Acquired in 2008, it has 12 acres under vine. This vineyard was one of the reasons for the lift in Kettle Valley’s overall production.

The current releases allow for a comparison of Syrah wine from this terroir against one from a Naramata vineyard. The clay soils of the Naramata Bench, where Kettle Valley grows much of its fruit, appear to produce wines with more depth than the river gravel soils in the Similkameen.

One of the varietals grown in Great Northern – but not included in this release – is Zinfandel. After dipping a toe in with a one-acre test planting, Kettle Valley added at least two more. Zinfandel is a difficult varietal to grow because of its tendency to ripen unevenly, even within the same bunch. “We have a handle on both the growing and the winemaking,” Bob says.  

Look for the wine in a future release.

Here are notes on the current releases.

Kettle Valley Pinot Gris 2018 ($24). This is Kettle Valley’s best-selling wine. It is notable for is rosé colour and its depth of flavour, the result of allowing the juice to remain on the skins for up to three days before pressing. A portion is fermented in stainless steel and a portion is fermented on neutral French oak barrels. The wine has aromas and flavours of raspberry and pink grapefruit, with a lingering dry finish. 91.

Kettle Valley Old Main Red 2015 ($38 for 390 cases). This is Kettle Valley’s flagship red, made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot touched up with a total of five percent Petit Verdot and Malbec, all grown on the Naramata Bench. Reflecting the vintage, the wine is bold and ripe, with aromas of cassis and black cherry and with flavours of black currant, plum and black cherry. The ripe tannins give the wine a generous and persistent finish. 93.

Kettle Valley Stern Vineyard Syrah 2016 ($38 for 50 cases). This wine, which as aged 21 months in French oak, is quite exceptional. Plump and rich on the palate, it begins with aromas of sweet dark fruit leading to flavours of black cherry, plum and fig  mingled with black pepper. 93-95.

Great Northern Viognier 2018 ($22 for 466 cases). A portion of this wine was barrel-fermented in older French oak; a portion was fermented in stainless steel. Good acidity gives this wine bright fruit flavours, including stone fruits and apple, with fresh floral aromas. 91..

Great Northern Syrah 2015 ($24 for 318 cases). There is five per cent of Viognier in this wine, giving some floral lift to the aromas. The wine was aged 22 months in in French oak. It is a bit leaner than the Stern Vineyard Syrah but it also has power, with flavours of fig, spice and white pepper. 90.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Bordertown adds value wines to portfolio

Photo: Bordertown's Mohan Gill

Mohan Gill summarizes his biography concisely. Born in India in 1976, he came to the Okanagan in 1993 with his immigrant parents. “I went to Oliver Secondary School,” he recounts. “Then I started working.”

Mohan has never stopped working. He opened Bordertown Winery in 2015 and is now expanding to cider production. Together with a brother, he farms 110 acres of vineyards and orchards, all near Osoyoos. Fourteen grape varietals are grown in these vineyards, supporting Bordertown’s growing wine production.

Mohan dipped his toe into viticulture by planting two acres of grapes in 2005. A quick study, he began increasing his vineyard area in 2007 and was soon selling grapes to both large and small wineries. One of his clients was Mark Simpson, who operates B.C. Wine Studio, a custom crush winery near Okanagan Falls. On Mark’s urging, Mohan opened Bordertown, locating it strategically on the highway just north of Osoyoos. The expansive wine shop signalled Mohan’s ambition that Bordertown become a substantial winery quickly. The winery produced 3,000 cases in 2013, its first vintage. That rose to 13,500 cases in 2017 and Mohan’s goal is to reach 40,000 cases.

Employing consulting winemakers Jason Parkes and, latterly, Daniel Bontorin, Bordertown established its credentials quickly, winning in 2016 a Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence in Wine for debut vintage of its signature red blend, the 2013 Living Desert Red.

The winery’s current releases include a new budget label, Desert Sage. The wines are exceptional value for the price.

Here are notes on the wines.

Bordertown Desert Sage The White 2017 ($12). This white blend is anchored with Gewürztraminer, supported with Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Viognier and Muscat. Predictably, aroma is a basket of fruit. That is echoed on the palate – apple, melon, peach, citrus. The finish is crisp and dry. 90.

Bordertown Desert Sage The Red 2017 ($14). This is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The wine begins with aromas of cassis, blueberry, black cherry and vanilla. Long ripe tannins support flavours of black cherry with hints of tobacco and mocha. 89.

Bordertown Dry Riesling 2018 ($19) The wine begins with aromas of citrus leading to flavours of lemon and lime and an herbal note on the dry finish. Good acidity gives a refreshing zest to the mid-palate. 88.

Bordertown Pinot Gris 2017 ($20) The wine begins with aromas of melon and pear which are echoed on the palate, along with flavours of orange. The mid-palate texture is rich but the wine finishes crisply. 91.

Bordertown Pinot Gris 2018 ($20). The wine begins with aromas of pear, apple and banana. It is rich on the palate with flavours of orange and nectarine. The finish is persistent. 92.

Bordertown Unoaked Chardonnay 2018 ($22). The wine begins with aromas of peach and apricot. On the palate, it is a bowl of fruit – apples, peaches, nectarines – with a long refreshing finish. A textbook example of pure and intense fruit. 92.

Bordertown Grüner Veltliner 2018 ($22) The wine begins with aromas of melon and new mown hay. The palate has good weight and delivers flavours of green melons with a note of herbs on the dry finish. 90.

Bordertown Living Desert White 2017 ($18). This is the winery’s signature white blend: 46% Muscat, 34% Gewürztraminer and 20% Grüner Veltliner. The wine begins with spicy and floral aromas, leading to a medley of refreshing fruit on the palate, including citrus with a hint of ginger. The finish is dry, with a lingering spiciness. 91.

Bordertown Cabernet Franc Rosé 2018 ($23) The wine presents with a delicate rose petal hue. Aromas of rhubarb and strawberry jump from the glass and are echoed on the palate. The wine has a zesty freshness that shout spring is here. 91.

Bordertown Merlot 2016 ($25) This is a big, ripe wine (14.9% alcohol), dark in the glass, with aromas of black currant, black cherry and blueberry. On the palate, the vibrant black fruit flavours explode, delivering black currant and black cherry mingled with tobacco and cedar. There is good concentration here, with a satisfying finish. 91.

Bordertown Cabernet Franc 2017 ($24). Here is a classic brambly expression of a varietal that is a rising star. It begins with aromas blackberry and black cherry. On the palate, there rich flavours of dark fruits mingled with tobacco, chocolate and spicy oak. Full-bodied, the wine has a lingering finish. 92.

Bordertown Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($35). The wine begins with inviting aromas of cassis and black cherry. These are echoed in the lively and appealing flavours of black currant, black cherry, mingled with a note of mint. The tannins are long and polished. 93