Friday, November 29, 2019

CedarCreek's home vineyard and winery are now organic

 Photo: CedarCreek winemaker Taylor Whelan

CedarCreek Estate Winery has, as usual, enjoyed a strong run of awards this year, capped with being named “Winery of the Year” at the 2019 InterVin Wine Competition.

Two of its current releases (reviewed below) won gold medals: the 2017 Platinum Haynes Creek Syrah and the 2018 Platinum Block 3 Riesling.

This reflects well on the skills of winemaker Taylor Whelan. It also reflects on the winery’s efforts to identify the superior sites in its vineyards. The wines from these sites often are designated “Platinum,” the reserve tag for CedarCreek wines.

In his technical notes on the wines, Taylor says: “Block 3 is one of our favourite blocks because of its age (planted in 1991) and the interesting flavour profiles it can display.”

The current releases include a Block 7 Pinot Gris. That site at the winery vineyard is a low vigour site because the soil is more stony than other parts of the vineyard. The low-yielding vines produce fruit and wine of considerable intensity. The resulting wine is quite exceptional.

The vines at the Haynes Creek vineyard near Osoyoos are now 10 years old. This is the winery’s first Platinum Syrah from this site.

In addition to winning awards, CedarCreek’s Home Block Vineyard and the winery were both certified organic in 2019. This completes a three-year of viticulture and winemaking practices at CedarCreek. Taylor writes that CedarCreek will be releasing its first organic wines next spring.

“The transition to organic continues to influence our philosophies and practices in the vineyard and the winery,” Taylor writes. “One highlight of our harvest this year was the fruit integrity we were able to achieve, despite higher-than-average rainfall. Our hands-on approach in the vineyard helped produce fruit with thick skins and open bunches, which in turn afforded us the opportunity to let the fruit hang through the rain undisturbed so we could pick when we wanted to, now when the weather forced us to.”

Here are notes on the current releases.

CedarCreek Platinum Block 3 Riesling 2018 ($29.99 for 863 cases). Half of this wine was fermented with wild yeast; half with organic yeast. Ninety percent was fermented in stainless steel, 10% in barrel. The wine was aged six months on the lees. The wine has appealing aromas and flavours of lime, lemon and peach. The fresh, bracing acidity is balanced with residual sugar, leaving the impression on the palate of a dry and tangy Riesling with a very long finish. This wine has scooped up gold medals at both national and international competitions. 92.

CedarCreek Platinum Block 7 Pinot Gris 2018 ($29.99 for 648 cases). This wine takes the Okanagan’s most widely grown white to another level. The texture, the aromas, the residual sugar and the flavours that include a note of botrytis recall the sophisticated Pinot Gris wines of Alsace. The wine was fermented 78% in oak puncheons, 22% in a concrete egg and spent six months on the lees. The aromas and flavours present a medley of tropical fruits mingled with tobacco. The 35 grams of residual sugar give the wine a rich mouthfeel and a very long finish. Pair the wine with cheese or savoury pate. 93.

CedarCreek Chardonnay 2018 ($18.99 for 3,195 cases). This wine was fermented slowly (115 days) and aged 10 months in French oak (76% barrel, 24% foudre). The oak is very well integrated and is subtle in the aroma. On the palate, the flavours of citrus and apple mingle with just a hint of oak. 90.

CedarCreek Pinot Noir 2017 ($26.99 for 1,350 cases). This wine was fermented 85% in stainless steel, 15% in concrete and aged 12 months in French oak. The wine’s appeal begins with its deep ruby hue and appealing aromas of cherries. Medium-bodied and silky, the wine has dark fruit flavours. 90.

CedarCreek Platinum Haynes Creek Syrah 2017 ($49.99 for 747 cases). The Haynes Creek vineyard is in Osoyoos. This wine, which has 1% Viognier, was fermented in concrete with wild yeast and aged 14 months in French oak. In the glass, the colour is so deep that it is almost opaque. The wine begins with meaty delicatessen aromas mingled with figs, plums and a hint of pepper. That is echoed on the full palate. The long, ripe tannins give the wine a polished roundness. On the finish, there are notes of leather, licorice, dark fruits and pepper. This is a robust and satisfying Syrah. 94. 

CedarCreek Platinum Riesling Icewine 2017 ($57.99 for 547 cases of 375 ml bottles). This wine was harvested on the night of December 27, 2017, at -10◦C. It was fermented in large oak vessels (47% German, 53% French). The residual sugar is 229 grams per litre. The wine begins with intense aromas of ripe apple, citrus and stone fruit mingled with a hint of oak. The palate is luscious with intense honeyed flavours of marmalade and ripe pineapple. The finish lingers and lingers. 95.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Wayne Gretzky scores with wine

Photo: Wayne Gretzy winemaker Sydney Valentino

In 2008 Wayne Gretzky, the Canadian hockey star, went into a celebrity winemaking venture with a Niagara winery. When the project struggled, it was taken over in 2011 by Andrew Peller Ltd. It has since become a major success there and now includes both a winery and a distillery.

As soon as the success seemed apparent, Peller launched the Wayne Gretzky Okanagan label with a 2011 vintage red and 2012 vintage white. Gretzky is one of four major brands made at the Peller-owned  Calona winery in downtown Kelowna. In style and in price point, the Gretzky wines occupy a position between the premium Sandhill wines and two value labels, Conviction and Peller.

“The whole idea with the Wayne Gretzky brand is that you could drink it at a hockey game,” says Sydney Valentino, who took over in 2019 as the winemaker for Wayne Gretzky Okanagan. “I don’t sit and watch hockey, but hockey is in my DNA, being Canadian. Everybody around me is into hockey. It just runs through your blood as a Canadian. It is such a cool brand to be part of.”

She is the third winemaker to make the Gretzky Okanagan brand. Born in Winnipeg, she grew up in Kelowna. She majored in chemistry and mathematics at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, graduating in 2010 and intending to be a science teacher. She did teach for a year. “I was not motivated and it did not appeal to me,” she says now. She worked briefly in a wine shop. Finding that winemaking did appeal, she joined the team at Calona Vineyards. Her university degree provided a solid technical foundation which she augmented by taking winemaking courses and mentoring with Howard Soon, the legendary winemaker then working there.  

The Peller group launched the Conviction label in 2015 to replace the Calona label. Sydney became the lead winemaker for Conviction until she was promoted to Gretzky. While the wines are made in the same cellar, the Gretzky wines are generally made from selected premium fruit. The Gretzky reserve tier, is called Signature. In style, the wines express varietal fruit and not much oak. The exception are two wines partially aged in whisky barrels. A recent trend in winemaking, the whisky barrel-aged fraction adds complexity to the finished wines.

Here are notes on the current portfolio from Wayne Gretzky Okanagan.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Chardonnay 2018 ($14.99). Fermented in stainless steel, this is a wine with aromas and flavours of apple, pear and citrus. The finish is crisp with lingering fruit. 90.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Pinot Grigio 2018 ($14.99).  The wine has appealing aromas and flavours of apples, pears and stone fruit. On the palate, the wine is crisp and refreshing, with a lingering fruity finish. 91.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Merlot 2017 ($16.99). The wine begins with aromas of cherry. On the medium-bodied palate, there are flavours of cherry and raspberry mingled with cassis and hints of chocolate. 88.

Wayne Gretzky Estates The Great Red 2018 ($16.99). The wine is a blend of Merlot, Malbec and Syrah. It begins with aromas of plum and fig mingled with earthy and gamey notes. On the palate, there are flavours of cherry and plum with deli meat and spice. 90.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Cabernet Franc Syrah 2018 ($16.99). The wine begins with ripe raspberry aromas, leading to flavours of blackberry, with a hint of chocolate and tobacco on the lingering finish. 90.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Signature Series Chardonnay 2017 ($23.99). The wine begins with aromas of citrus mingled with buttery oak. The palate is rich with flavours of citrus and butterscotch, with a hint of oak. 90.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Signature Series Riesling 2016 ($22.99). The wine begins with classic petrol aromas mingled with grapefruit rind. It is rich on the palate, with flavours of lemon and lime mingled with hints of petrol. The finish is persistent. 92.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Signature Series Cabernet Merlot 2016 ($24.99). This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, aged 14 months in American and French oak barrels. Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of black cherry. On the palate, the red fruit flavours are supported by notes of oak, tobacco and spice. 91.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Signature Series Pinot Noir 2017 ($24.99). Delicate in colour, the wine begins with aromas of cherries, which are echoed on the palate. The wine is light in body and the flavours are also delicate. 88.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Signature Series Shiraz 2016 ($24.99). Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of black cherry and plum mingled with white pepper. The palate delivers flavours of fig and pepper mingled with notes of deli meats. The texture is firm but rounds with decanting. 90.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Whisky Oak Aged Chardonnay 2018 ($17.99). This was fermented 52% in stainless steel and 48% in oak barrels. While 90% of the barrels are new and one-year-old French oak, 10% are whisky barrels. The wine begins with aromas of ripe apple, ripe pineapple and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of ripe apples and ripe peaches, with a touch of vanilla and spice on the finish. 91.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Whisky Oak Aged Cask Red 2018 ($18.99). This is a blend of 47% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec and 4% Cabernet Franc. Some 63% was aged in barrel of which 15% were whisky barrels, 30% was French oak and 55% was American oak. The remainder was aged in stainless steel. Dark in colour, the wine begins with a rich and jammy aroma of black cherry. On the palate, the cherry and plum flavours mingle with black pepper and the toasty notes of the whisky barrels. 91.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Fort Berens succeeds with Lillooet grapes

Photo: Heleen Pannekoek and Rolf de Bruin (courtesy Fort Berens)

The current releases from Fort Berens Estate Winery include five reserve wines made with grapes from the winery’s Lillooet estate.

This confirms the success of the “gamble” that Fort Berens’s founders, Rolf de Bruin and Heleen Pannekoek, took when they planted grapes near Lillooet a decade ago. While there were trial plantings in the region, there had never been a commercial vineyard.

The terroir has now proven itself. Additional planting this year by Fort Berens has doubled the estate vineyard acreage to 38 acres. As well, four smaller vineyards have been developed in the region and provide fruit to Fort Berens. Lillooet has now earned its own sub-appellation.

“All of this means,” Rolf writes, “that we can continue our transition from sourcing grapes in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson appellations to our goal of being 100% Lillooet-grown in the future.”

One beneficiary of well-grown estate grapes is James Cambridge (below), the winemaker who rejoined Fort Berens in 2019. He had made the Fort Berens wines in 2012 when the vines had just begun producing and when the winemaking facilities were primitive.

James, who spent the intervening years at Backyard Winery in Langley, returned to an established vineyard and the $7.5 million winery that Fort Berens built in 2014.

The wines currently released by Fort Berens are from the 2017 and 2018 vintages. They were made by Danny Hattingh, a talented South African winemaker who produced five or six vintages here before leaving.

The wines are very well grown and very well made. In my judgement, these are the best wines so far from Fort Berens.

Here are my notes.

Fort Berens Chardonnay 2018 ($19.99 for 1,115 cases). Some 83% of the fruit for this wine was estate grown; the rest was from a vineyard in the Similkameen. Most of the wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel, with a small portion fermented and aged five months in French oak (new and used). This is a refreshing fruit-driven wine with aromas and flavours of citrus, apple and pear, with very subtle oak adding complexity. 91.

Fort Berens White Gold 2017 ($25.99 for 183 cases). The fruit, entirely estate-grown, was fermented with wild yeast in French oak barrels; and aged about nine months in barrel. The oak is very well integrated and supports the aromas and flavours of butter and mandarin orange. The wine is well-balanced with bright acidity leading to a long and fresh finish. 93.

Fort Berens Riesling Reserve 2018 ($23.99 for 328 cases). Made entirely with estate fruit, this wine was fermented cool with wild yeast for seven weeks in stainless steel. This technique preserved the fresh fruit aromas and flavours. The wine was aged nine months in bottle before release. Savvy consumers should lay this away for another year or two to further soften the bracing acidity and to fully develop the flavours. In its youth, the wine has aromas and flavours lemon and lime. 91.

Fort Berens Cabernet Franc 2017 ($27.99 for 765 cases). The majority of the fruit is estate-grown. The wine, which was aged nine months in French and American oak, begins with aromas of black cherry, blackberry and mint. On the palate, there are flavours of black currants and blackberries. Long, ripe tannins give a lovely texture to this delicious wine. 91.

Fort Berens Cabernet Franc Reserve 2017 ($31.99 for 174 cases). The fruit for this wine was entirely estate grown. The wine’s mouth-filling concentration results from the “passimento” technique adopted by the winemaker: a portion of the grapes were air dried for about six weeks, losing about 30% of their liquid volume. These raisined berries were fermented in open-top French oak barrels for a month to extract even more flavour. The final wine was aged in French and American oak for 10 months. The result is a powerful wine with aromas and flavours of blackberry, raspberry, cherry and liquorice. 93.

Fort Berens Pinot Noir Reserve 2017 ($29.99 for 228 cases). The fruit for this wine is entirely estate grown. Fort Berens has five clones in its vineyard and each clone was fermented separately before being blended and aged 10 months in French oak. The wine is rich, with aromas of cherries and spices. On the palate, there are more spicy cherry notes mingled with earthy forest floor notes. The texture is silky. 92.

Fort Berens Meritage 2017 ($29.99 for 1,146 cases). The fruit is both from the estate and from vineyards in the Okanagan and Similkameen. The blend is 65% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Cabernet Franc. The wine was aged about a year in French and American oak barrels. The wine begins with aromas of cherries, blackberries and spice, which are echoed on the palate. There is a hint of chocolate and vanilla on the finish. 90.

Fort Berens Meritage Reserve 2017 ($31.99 for 173 cases). The blend is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon (from the Similkameen), 30% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. The three varieties were vinified separately, blended, and aged in French and American oak for 10 months. This is a full-bodied wine that benefits from decanting. It begins with aromas of cassis, black cherry and chocolate. On the palate, there are flavours of plums and cherries. The finish lingers. 92-94.

Fort Berens Red Gold 2017 ($44.99 for 138 cases; $99 for 78 magnums.) This is 67% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Franc, all of it grown on the estate. The latter grapes were airdried for six weeks prior to fermentation to enhance the concentration. The wine’s initial aroma signals its richness, with notes of plum and blackberry. The fruit on the palate is luscious, with flavours of black cherry, plum, chocolate, liquorice and vanilla. The finish is persistent. 94.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Moon Curser mixes novelty with quality


Photo: Moon Curser's Chris Tolley

 This year, Moon Curser Vineyards had on a remarkable roll at wine compositions.

At the National Wine Awards, it was judged the best performing small Canadian winery and the second most awarded winery in the entire competition.

In the BC Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards, Moon Curser’s Touriga Nacional took one of the 12 platinum awards. That is the equivalent of an Award for Excellence under the previous format for these awards.

And the list goes on. None of the wines reviewed here have won less than silver; most have come away with gold medals. Clearly, the quality is consistently high and the wines are always interesting..

Here is an except from the fifth edition of John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide that provides some background on this Osoyoos winery which opened in 2006.

In the crowded field of Okanagan wineries, Moon Curser Vineyards differentiates itself with innovative wines from varietals that almost no one else grows. These include Arneis, an Italian white; Tannat, a red identified with Uruguay; and Touriga Nacional, the great Portuguese red. Soon, the winery may offer a Dolcetto after planting that Italian red in 2013.

Another example of how owners Chris and Beata Tolley think outside the box was their decision in 2011 to rechristen the winery and put edgy gothic labels on the bottles. The couple – she is a former chartered accountant, he a former software engineer - decided that the winery’s original name, Twisted Tree, was bland and too similar to other winery names. With the help of marketing consultant Bernie Hadley-Beauregard (of Blasted Church and Dirty Laundry fame), they researched South Okanagan history and discovered a tale of gold smuggling.

“Moon Curser is a synonym for a smuggler,” Beata says. “The whole idea is that the wine is all about the place. We picked Osoyoos for the sunshine and the heat. We wanted something that talked about the location but we did not want to do it in the traditional way. There is a history of gold smuggling that took place here during the gold rush of the 1800s. The smugglers would curse at the moon because the border agents would catch them” in its light. The labels echo this story: Dead of Night, an excellent blend of Tannat and Syrah, features a fox and an owl with a lantern.

Moon Curser makes excellent wines with mainstream varietals but Chris cannot resist pioneering new varietals. A few years ago, a neighbour, a fruit packer of Portuguese heritage, planted a small vineyard with just over a hectare (three acres) Touriga Nacional, a notoriously late ripener. The young vines were decimated by an early freeze in 2009 but the surviving vines, harvested in November, produced a ton and a half of the ripest fruit Chris bought in 2011. Chris purchased the vineyard and replaced the ailing Touriga Nacional with mainstream varieties, but not before propagating Touriga cuttings for his own 2014 planting.

The payoff is coming in the multiple awards the winery is getting. I suspect the awards come not only because the wines are good but also because they are different. When a panel of judges has had to plough through, say, 40 Merlots, it is quite refreshing to be presented a Touriga Nacional or a Tempranillo or a Carménère. Consumers should have a similar experience.

Here are notes on current releases from Moon Curser.

Moon Curser Arneis 2018 ($22.99 for 252 cases). Arneis is an Italian white variety that has been revived from near extinction – thankfully. The wine is delicious with aromas of honeydew melon and apple, leading to flavours of apple and nectarine. The palate is refreshing with lively acidity. 92.

Moon Curser Afraid Of The Dark 2018 ($29.99 for 706 cases). This wine is 45% Roussanne, 37% Viognier and 18% Marsanne. The grapes were co-fermented. This is a luscious wine with aromas of nectarine, peach and tropical flowers. The palate echoes those flavours along with apricot and pear. The finish is crisp and fresh, with a very clean focus. This is drinking well now but has the potential to develop even more complexity with a few more years of bottle age. 92.

Moon Curser Dolcetto 2018 ($24.99 for 438 cases). This is another Italian variety. It is a fruity red for early and easy drinking, with aromas and flavours of blueberries, blackberries and cherries. 90.

Moon Curser Carménère 2017 ($39.99 for 291 cases). This is the winery’s seventh vintage of Carménère, an old Bordeaux red that is adapting very well to the South Okanagan. This wine begins with what the winery calls an “opulent nose”  - and I quite agree with that. There are aromas of cherries mingling with pepper. On the palate, there are flavours of cherry, raspberry and blackberry mingled with pepper. The texture is plush and the finish goes on and on. 92.

Moon Curser Tempranillo 2017 ($39.99 for 345 cases). This is a Rioja grape variety that Moon Curser planted in 2005. The wine begins with aromas of cherry and plum. It delivers a ton of fruit to the palate: cherry, ripe blueberry and plum with a hint of vanilla. 92.

Moon Curser Syrah 2017 ($25.99 for 1,228 cases). This wine begins aromas of plum, cedar and black pepper. On the palate, there are generous flavours of plums and figs with a touch of pepper on the finish. 90.

Moon Curser Malbec 2017 ($30.99 for 515 cases). The wine begins with aromas of blueberry and raspberry. On the palate there are flavours of blueberry, black currant, fig and a touch of pepper. 91.

Moon Curser Petit Verdot 2017 ($30.99 for 368 cases). Dark in hue, this powerhouse wine needs to be decanted and given time to reveal its complex flavours. It begins with aromas of blueberries, fig and plum. On the palate, there are flavours of fig, dark chocolate and cigar box with a spine of slate. 93.

Moon Curser Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($39.99 for 335 cases). This wine begins with aromas of black cherry, cassis and blueberry. These dark fruits are echoed on the palate where the long, ripe tannins give the wine length and elegance. Decanting is recommended. 91.

Moon Curser Tannat 2015 ($N/A for 76 cases). This robust red is seldom grown outside of Uruguay and the south of France. Moon Curser is believed to be the only producer of Tannat in the Okanagan. The wine begins with a medley of floral and spicy dark fruit aromas. On the palate, the wine is rich, almost porty, with flavours of plum and black cherry. There is a note of spice on the finish. 92.

Moon Curser Touriga Nacional 2017 ($39.99 for 337 cases). This Portuguese red is rarely grown in the Okanagan but, on the evidence of this, makes an excellent wine. It begins with aromas of blackberry, raspberry and cherry, echoed on the palate where the flavours mingle with white pepper and leather. 93.

Moon Curser Border Vines 2017 ($25.99 for 1,372 cases). This is a blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec, 4% Carménère and 2% Cabernet Franc. It begins with aromas of black currant and spice, leading to flavours of black currant and black cherry. The lingering finish has notes of red berries and spice. The tannins are ripe but firm and the wine should age well for up to 10 years. 91.

Moon Curser Dead of Night 2017 ($39.99 for 387 cases). This is a 50/50 blend of Tannat and Syrah – not co-fermented. It begins with aromas of black cherry, plum, raspberry and spice. On the palate, there are flavours of plum, fig and deli meats. The texture is fleshy and generous. 93.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Iconic Reds 2019: BC's leading Meritage wines

Launched in 2008, the BC Iconic Reds tasting has now established itself as the premier annual tasting of the best red Meritage wines from British Columbia.

The recent 12th annual tasting featured 20 wines, merely a slice of the top reds that are available.

Consumers familiar with British Columbia reds could readily come up with another 20. That would make for a great but long, palate-tiring evening. As it is, the tasting lasted about three hours.  

The Iconic Reds competition originated with the SIP Wines VQA store in Richmond. When that store closed four years ago, sponsorship was taken over by Sutton Place Wine Merchants.

The tasting emerged from brainstorming between the late John Levine and the owners of SIP Wines, Simon and Sandi Wosk. John had volunteered to advise the Wosks soon after they opened the store; and they welcomed his enthusiastic input.

John, a restaurateur and the founder of the Vancouver International Wine Festival, was an extraordinary wine lover and a perceptive champion of British Columbia wines. He recognized the dramatic increases that were taking place in the quality of the wines. The Iconic Reds competition was conceived to bring more attention to the growing number of  superb wines.

This year, about 110 tasters converged at a ballroom at Vancouver’s Sutton Place Hotel to judge 20 of the Okanagan reds. The wines, which had been decanted in the afternoon, were served blind one at a time in a random order. The wines were not identified until the three-hour tasting was over.

At the end, the tasters voted for their top five picks, an arbitrary but sensible number to prevent overwhelming the computer tabulation. In fact, the points were tabulated for the top six.

I have listed the winners, followed by the others in alphabetical order. The tasting notes are from the wineries where notes are available. Otherwise, I have inserted other tasting notes.

These are 20 of the best reds from excellent recent vintages. Some of these wines are hard to find but Sutton Place Wine Merchants has allocations of all. The limited volumes mean buyers will need to move quickly to get these.

1. Lake Breeze Tempest 2014 ($57.50). Winery notes: A classic Bordeaux blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. Aged in new French oak for 15 months, this wine is full and rich.

2. Mt. Boucherie Summit 2016 ($54.99). This is 51% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Malbec and 3% Syrah, aged 24 months in French oak (35% new). Winery notes: The 2016 Summit is a proprietary red blend with intense aromas and flavours of cassis, black and red fruits, fresh tobacco, cedar, and distinct minerality.

3. Intersection Axiom 2014 ($45). This is a blend of 33% each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Winery notes: The wine is full and robust with chocolate and cocoa notes from 12 months in oak, ripe roasted red pepper from the Cabernets, and dark fruit from the Alluvia Merlot. A wine with vivacious tannin and fantastic ageing potential, the Axiom can be enjoyed for many years to come. Ground coffee, dark chocolate, and cherry jam on the nose open up into star anise, roasted capsicum, and black pepper. Hints of mushroom and cedar on the palate point to the wine’s time in oak. Mouthfeel is rich and developed with well-structured tannin that will continue to age for more than a decade. The long finish lingers with tones of earthy plum preserves.

4. La Stella Espressivo 2016 ($49.99). Tasting note by Anthony Gismondi: “Like its sibling, Fortissimo, the Espressivo is a Tuscan-inspired red blend, identified by its dominant Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese, all sourced from the home vineyard on the Osoyoos west bench in the southern Okanagan. After 20 months in Slavonian and French oak barrels, puncheons, and botti, the 2016 Espressivo expresses very ripe, soft, plump fruit, with plush plum, blackberry jam, thorns and mild baking spices.”

5. Black Hills Nota Bene 2016 ($60). The blend is 43.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 14.5% Cabernet Franc; aged 16 months in barrel. Winery notes: This wine possesses intense aromas of raspberry, crushed violets and cassis on the nose. A second sniff presents gentle scents of leather, white pepper and subtle menthol. Flavours of raspberry and cocoa hit the palate and linger, revealing a full and elegant mouthfeel with notes of earth and cigar box in the background.”                 

6. Summerhill OM 2014 ($65).  This is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot and 5% Malbec, aged 30 months in French and American oak barriques. Winery tasting note: “Unfined and unfiltered. Cellaring and decanting highly recommended.”

The remaining wines are listed alphabetically.

Black Sage Meritage 2015 ($60). Winery notes: There are plenty of cassis, blackberries, vanilla, dark chocolate and roasted coffee notes on the nose. The palate displays luscious blackberries, rich dark plums, smoky toasted notes and a lengthy finish of dark chocolate. The acidity is well balanced with the rich full tannins in this full-bodied wine.

CedarCreek Desert Ridge Meritage 2016 ($49.99). This is 43% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Malbec, aged 18 months in French oak. Winery notes: Brambly dark fruit, cassis, toasted clove and sweet baking spices are abundant in this intensely fruitful wine. Full-bodied with structured tannins.

Clos du Soleil Signature 2015 ($44.90). This is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. It was aged 15 months in French oak barrels. Winery notes: Enjoyable in its youth, the balance and structure of this wine will ensure its ability to age for many years. The taster is enveloped in a dense aromatic profile of cassis, raspberry and blackberry, with hints of violet. On the palate the wine is layered with flavours of sun-ripened cherries, raspberry, cassis, mint and blackberry, with complex notes of graphite, sagebrush and pepper. Structure is provided by the soft but full tannins, and a stony mineral quality to the long finish.

Fort Berens Red Gold 2016 ($44.99). Winery notes: On the nose, Red Gold opens with notes plum, dark chocolate, and tobacco leaf. This age-worthy, full bodied red boasts flavours of black plum, blackberries, and raspberries. This vintage of Red Gold is a blend of five different vineyards. More than a quarter of the wine was made from estate Cabernet Franc, which was dried after harvest in a passimento style increasing the grape’s sugar and flavour concentration. The blend ratio is 38% Cabernet Franc, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% merlot and is a culmination of the finest select barrels in our cellar.

Hester Creek The Judge 2016 ($43.99). This is 37% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. The wine was aged 24 months in barrel (75% French, 25% American). Winery notes: From an outstanding season, our winemaker has selected the best barrels in our cellar for a Merlot dominant Bordeaux style wine. Beautifully balanced, this vintage has concentrated sage, sandalwood, malt and Italian plum aromas. Plush flavours of ripe dark cherry, black currant, mocha, anise and a hint of spearmint greet the palate. A long savoury finish follows with well integrated, finely woven tannins.

Kettle Valley Old Main Red 2015 ($38). This a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with a total of 5% Malbec and Petit Verdot. The wine was aged 20 months in French oak. Author’s notes: “This is a rich, bold red with aromas and flavours of plum, cherry and other dark fruits.”

Lariana Cellars Sixteen 2016 ($44.90). This is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Syrah, 9% Carménère. Winery notes: In the glass, wafting with aromas of black crunchy fruits and sweet spice layered with cassis. Lip smacking flavours of dark plums wrapped in mocha notes with deep umami undertones follow. All this voluptuous fruitiness is supported by fine structure with suede-like texture delivering sweeping grip at the end.

Laughing Stock Portfolio 2016 ($49.99).  This is 51% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot, aged 20 months in French oak (33% new). Winery notes: Baked plum, red fruits and baking spice rise up from the glass like the TSX in a bull market. On the palette this wine is lively and powerful with fresh tobacco leaves, vanilla brioche, and cherry on the finish. This elegant blend has round tannins and a long finish with lots of aging potential.  

Noble Ridge Reserve Meritage 2016 ($34.99). This is 59% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% each Cabernet Franc and Malbec. It was aged 15 months in French and American oak (40% new). Winery notes: Aromas of cranberry and cassis are complimented by hints of spice and savoury earthiness. 

One Faith Certitude 2016 ($49.99). This is 45% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, and 1% each of Petit Verdot and Malbec, aged 16 months in new French oak. Author’s notes: “This begins with a dramatic cassis aroma that simply bounds from the glass. The palate is rich in fruit flavours – black cherry, black currant and blackberry. The tannins are long and supple.”

Painted Rock Red Icon 2016 ($54.99).    This is 45% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 11% Malbec, 11% Petit Verdot and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 18 months in French oak (30% new). Winery notes: This wine invites you in with rich aromas of blackberry, dark plums, cassis and sweet spices. The palate, with its velvety tannins and high acid, offers bold and juicy black fruit layered with pepper, baking spices, vanilla and chocolate. 

Poplar Grove The Legacy 2015 ($52). This is 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. The wine was aged 21 months in French barriques and a further two years in bottle before release. Winery notes: Rich intensity begins with deep garnet hues in the glass. Bold aromas of cassis and black cherry arrive first with a strong and sultry backbone of dark chocolate. Our Legacy’s prominent and considerably big mouthfeel is a culmination of plums, vanilla and blackberries.

Road 13 Fifth Element Red 2017 ($46.99). The blend is 52.2% Merlot, 42.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. The lots were aged separately in French oak (25% new) before being blended. Winery notes: This impressive wine opens with powerful notes of black cherry, black currant, roast beef, sage and wild game interwoven with lashings of pepper, tobacco, vanilla and cream. The tremendous aromatic complexity carries onto the palate, which is supremely rich and supple, with abundant silky tannins.

Siren's Call Harmonious 2015 ($35). Author’s notes: “This wine is anchored around 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah in the blend. Dense and layered, the wine has aromas and flavours of black cherry, black currant and spice.”