Friday, July 31, 2020

Sea Star's secret: consistency

Photo: Sea Star's David Goudge

One might assume that the restrictions on ferry travel to the Gulf Islands this spring would have devastated the business of Sea Star Vineyards on Pender Island.

Not so, reports David Goudge, Sea Star’s owner.

“Tourists are not coming to Pender in any significant numbers so our winery is open for sales only (no tastings) on weekends,” he told me in a recent email. “Mostly our local 'cult' members are buying with overwhelming enthusiasm which has picked up all the slack from the lack of tourism and restaurants doing their best to survive.”

He continued: “Our sales are going to private buyers and wine stores in high volume - in fact sales are as strong in all avenues as last year. People are literally buying numerous cases based on previous vintages.”

I have tasted every Sea Star vintage since the first, 2013. The quality has always been outstanding. It is easy to understand why the winery has developed a cult following. “Incredible consistency,” David explains.

David resuscitated the property, investing in new equipment, a climate-controlled barrel cellar and an updated wine shop.  To manage the vineyard and make the wines, he hired Ian Baker, who had formerly done the same duties at Mistaken Identity Vineyards on Salt Spring Island. Ian’s winemaking talent flowered at Sea Star, with one fine vintage following on another.

That’s the good news. Now for the bad news: for personal reasons, David likely will sell the winery this year. The brand is so strong, however, that closure seems unlikely.

Here are notes on the recent releases.

Sea Star Salish Sea 2019 ($25). This is a blend of Ortega and Siegerrebe. It begins with fresh, spicy aromas with hints of citrus. On the palate, there are flavours of citrus, guava, apple and honeydew melon. The wine is crisp and fresh. 92.

Sea Star Ortega 2019 ($25). The wine has aromas and flavours of melon, passionfruit and stone fruit, with a dry and lingering finish; and with a surprising suggestion of white chocolate on the finish. This wine sets the benchmark for Ortega in British Columbia. 93

Sea Star Stella Maris 2019 ($25). This is quite a complex blend: Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir anchor the wine, with touches of Pinot Gris, Riesling, Ortega and Schönburger. Crisp and dry, the wine begins with aromas of spice and apple. On the palate, there are flavours of citrus, apple and pear. 92.

Sea Star Blanc de Noir 2019 ($25). Made with estate-grown Pinot Noir, this wine presents in the glass with a delicate rose petal hue. It has aromas and flavours of raspberry and watermelon with a surprising and interesting hint of white pepper on the finish. The wine is crisp and refreshing. 91.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Oliver Twist: even the pinup girls are serious

Photo: Oliver Twist's Gina Harfman 

The tasting room at Oliver Twist Estate Winery is as lively as any in the South Okanagan, especially when proprietor Gina Harfman is behind the bar.

Visitors are also entertained by the racy pinup girls on the labels of some of the wines. The labels – such as Pink Cadillac - bring the 1950s to mind. But these are serious wines, as serious as the limited production wines (with sedate labels) available only in the winery or to members of the Twist Club.
If the range is eclectic, it reflects Gina’s wide-ranging enthusiasm for wine.
For a bit more background, here is an except from The Okanagan Wine Tour Guide. The 510-page book was released for $25 at the end of April.

Gina Harfman, who purchased Oliver Twist in 2012 from founders Bruce and Denice Hagerman, decided to keep the winery name while creating a second label—Nostalgia—to put her own stamp on the business. The Nostalgia wines all have labels featuring pin-up girls created by Ralph Burch, a San Diego designer. “We have a lot of old things in here,” Gina explains. “We go for the 1950s, 1960s theme. The baby boomers really like it.”

Gina grew up around wine. Her maternal grandfather, Joe Fernandes, left Madeira in the 1960s to establish an orchard in Osoyoos. Her father, Fred, has 6 hectares (15 acres) of vineyard in Osoyoos. That sparked Gina’s winemaking career, starting with the assistant winemaker course at Okanagan College in 2009 and a crush and a half at Cassini Cellars (until she went on maternity leave). She helped Denice and consultant Christine Leroux with the 2011 crush at Oliver Twist. “We were bottling one day,” Gina remembers. “Bruce and Denice said, ‘Why don’t you buy the winery?’”

Denice continues to help Gina, now a single mother of two with a passion for winemaking. Gina has an extensive portfolio of small-lot wines, offered exclusively to members of the wine club that Oliver Twist established in 2013. The five or six wines in the Nostalgia series, along with the Kerner and Pinot Gris from Oliver Twist’s 17-acre vineyard, constitute the winery’s major volume.

Here are notes on some current releases.
Oliver Twist Kerner 2019 ($20.99 for 630 cases). The wine begins with ripe aromas hinting of Sultana raisins and ripe peaches. These are echoed on the luscious and off-dry palate, along with notes of lime and honey. The winery calls this “sunshine in a glass.” 90.

Oliver Twist Viognier 2019 ($21.99 for 300 cases). The wine begins with aromas of citrus and pineapple. On the palate, it delivers flavours of pineapple, mandarin orange and green apple. The finish is crisp but quite lingering, with a hint of spice. 92.

Oliver Twist Pink Cadillac 2019 ($19.99 for 260 cases). This is a rosé with what I consider an appropriate cherry hue. It begins with aromas of strawberry jam. On the palate, there are almost jammy flavours of strawberry and cherry, with a hint of residual sweetness and a long finish. 88.

Oliver Twist Malbec 2016 ($32.99 for 75 cases). This is exclusive to the winery’s Twist Club. Dark in colour, the wine begins with the lovely perfumed aromas of this varietal – hints of cherry, blackberry and spice. The intense flavours include notes of blackberry and black cherry mingled with cola and coffee. 92.

Oliver Twist Rockabilly Red 2018 ($26.99). This is a quaffable red with soft, ripe tannins and flavours and aromas of cherry and chocolate. There is a hint of pepper on the finish. 90.

Oliver Twist Proprietor’s Reserve Meritage 2017 ($36.99 for 268 cases). The blend is 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 3% Malbec. There are notes of black currant and mint in the aroma, leading to flavours of black currant and black cherry. If you must drink the wine now, you should decant it and allow it to open. Alternatively, cellar the wine for another five years. 91.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Hester Creek's The Judge and friends

Photo: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

This summer’s releases from Hester Creek Estate Winery included The Judge, the winery’s flagship red – and one of the best wines from the Okanagan vintage after vintage.

The dependability of The Judge brought to mind U.S. Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the dependable guardian of liberal values on that court since she was appointed in 1983 by Bill Clinton.

She is now 87, with so many difficult health issues that her survival until Joe Biden becomes president is in considerable question. Given the chance, Donald Trump will replace her with an ultra-conservative judge before he leaves office next January (I am assuming that will happen.)  Since Supreme Court judges are appointed for life (or until they retire), the ideologic balance of the court would have a persistent conservative slant.

Even with a Biden as president, a conservative court would enable the American right to continue dismantling socially progressive laws. As a liberal Canadian, I will raise a glass of Hester Creek’s The Judge and hope for Justice Ginsburg’s survival.

The judge inspiring the name of Hester Creek’s wine was Judge John C. Haynes, who is buried in the Osoyoos Cemetery. His eldest daughter was Hester and there is a creek flowing by the winery called Hester Creek.

(That may be a bit of a stretch on my part, as a spokesperson of the winery reminds me.  “As you note in your book Icon, the Judge wine came about from our former winemaker Rob Summer's determination to make an iconic estate blend and to make a wine that in his "judgement" uses the best barrels from the various lots in our cellar.” )

J.C. Haynes was born in Ireland in 1831 and emigrated to Victoria in 1858. He used his connections with the inspector of police to get an appointment to the B.C. Police. Within three years, he was the head Customs Collector for the Okanagan and Similkameen. He settled in Osoyoos where a Customs Port had been established.

Haynes and a partner acquired 22,000 acres, establishing a major ranching operation. The biography of Haynes on the Osoyoos Museum site suggests the budding ranchers bought livestock from the drovers passing through the valley.

Haynes came by his judge’s title through his numerous appointments as a justice of the peace and a district court judge in the B.C. interior.

He did not have Justice Ginsburg’s longevity genes because he fell ill and died in 1888, age 57, at Princeton as he was returning from a trip to Victoria.

Here are notes the recent Hester Creek wines that generated this diversion into history and politics. Prices are before tax.

Hester Creek Character White 2019 ($15.99.) This is a blend of 53% Pinot Gris and 47% Gewürztraminer.  This is a quaffable white that is crisp and refreshing. It has aromas and flavours of citrus, pear and melon. 89.

Hester Creek Terra Unica Sémillon 2019 ($19.99 for 180 cases). This wine is limited to members of the winery’s Bench Club. Crisp and lean, with a mineral spice, this begins with aromas of lemon and honey. On the palate, there are flavours of lemon and lime. Due the wine’s bright acidity, the finish is tangy. 91.

Hester Creek Terra Unica Viognier 2019 ($19.99 for 200 cases). Also restricted to the Bench Club, this is an exceptional Viognier: rich, with focussed aromas and pure flavours. It begins with aromas of stone fruit and pear, leading to generous flavours of apricot, peach and apple. The finish is quite persistent. 92.

Hester Creek The Judge 2017 ($43.99). This is 36% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 29% Merlot. The wine was aged 24 months in oak (75% French, 25% American). The wine begins with a powerful aroma of cassis, black cherry and vanilla. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied with flavours of dark cherry, fig, plum, chocolate and dark licorice. 94.  

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Harper's Trail highlights Kamloops Wine Trail

Photo: Bighorn sheep near Harper's Trail

There was some skepticism about the viability of the Thompson River Valley as a wine region when Harper’s Trail Estate Winery – the region’s first winery – opened in 2013.

The skeptics have been vanquished. In June, the area’s four wineries marked the fifth anniversary of the Kamloops Wine Trail. The wineries had welcomed more than 16,000 visitors in 2019 and would have surpassed that this year but for this spring’s closure of tasting rooms to combat the pandemic. The tasting rooms all have opened this summer.

“It’s hard to believe how far we’ve all come since the beginning,” said Vicki Collett, who owns Harper’s Trail with her husband, Ed. “Kamloops is a wine destination: we are on the map.”

The region’s first commercial vineyard was planted in 2005 by Kamloops physician Dr. Doug Wood who subsequently opened the tiny Sagewood Winery in 2014.

Harper’s Trail planted the second commercial vineyard and the Colletts dived in with both feet. Their winery bottled its first vintage in 2011. Harper’s Trail was the largest planting until Monte Creek Ranch Winery began developing its property in 2010. Monte Creek also opened in 2014.

The area’s fourth winery is Privato Vineyard & Winery, which opened in 2012 and which had based its reputation on Pinot Noirs – although the winery this spring had a limited release of a very fine Merlot.

Harper’s Trail did much of the early marketing that made consumers aware of the wine region developing around Kamloops.

The winery and its vineyard are both named for Thaddeus Harper, a pioneering 19th century rancher near Kamloops.

“Tucked into the city outskirts on the bank of the South Thompson River, Thadd Springs Vineyard sits among rolling hills of sage and grass, home to Bighorn sheep, bears and myriad birds,” the winery says of itself. “The backdrop of limestone, Hoodoos and a natural spring set the biodiversity of this rare place.”

The wines attracted a following from the initial vintages. “The wines reflect the purity of fruit and juicy acidity that exemplify Thompson Valley wines,” the winery adds.

Here are notes on current releases.

Harper’s Trail Field Blend 2019 ($13.99 for 547 cases). The blend is Pinot Gris, Riesling, unoaked Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer. The wine begins with aromas of citrus, pineapple and peach. The medley of fruit is echoed on the palate. The wine is crisp and refreshing, with a lingering finish. 90.

Harper’s Trail Riesling Silver Mane Block 2019 ($19.29 for 781 cases). The wine begins with aromas of citrus and peach. On the palate, there are flavours of citrus and apple with a spine of minerality. The wine is balanced to finish dry and to linger on the palate. 90.

Harper’s Trail Riesling Pioneer Block 2019 ($19.29 for 315 cases). The wine has aromas and flavours of citrus, apples and stone fruits. The vibrant, well-balanced acidity gives the wine the ability to develop further over the next five years. The texture is generous and the finish is persistent. 91.

Harper’s Trail Pinot Gris 2019 ($17.99 for 324 cases). The wine begins with aromas of citrus, pear and apple. On the palate, there are flavours of pear and peach. The wine has a lush texture and a long dry finish.  90.

Harper’s Trail Rosé 2019 ($16.99 for 705 cases). This is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Pinot Gris. The color is delicate salmon pink. The aromas and flavours also are delicate, with notes of raspberry and watermelon. The finish is crisp. 88.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Painted Rock wines: blink and they are gone

Photo: Painted Rock's John Skinner

Painted Rock Estate Winery’s sales appear to have been robust despite the market disruption caused by the pandemic.

The wine samples reviewed here arrived about six weeks ago. I have taken my time reviewing them. These are wines meant to be paired with good food – and not every meal merits a Painted Rock wine – although, on one occasion, a sausage in a bun was elevated by the wine in my glass,

It was a surprise to discover how many of the wines are now sold out. My guess is that Painted Rock has a strong and loyal wine club. They order the wines as soon as they are released. Even if they are not inexpensive, these wines  are among the very best being produced in the Okanagan,

Painted Rock’s wines have been impressive since the first vintage in 2007 from the winery’s Skaha Bench vineyard. And they have been getting steadily better as the maturing vines have put roots through the topsoil and the alluvial silt layers of varying thickness to reach deep into underlying gravels. The majority of the 52,500 vines in the 25-acre vineyard were planted in 2005. The flavours have become more intense and complex with each vintage.

“When I started Painted Rock,” founder John Skinner says, “we augured a hole every three meters. We know the depth of the alluvial silt layer everywhere on the vineyard. We have a map of it.”

The thinnest layer of silt was in the two Merlot blocks. “That’s where we first noticed the most profound change in the flavours,” he says. “Once the roots reached into the gravels, the flavours opened up like a flower. That happened first in Merlot, then in Cabernet Franc. Now it is in Malbec and Petit Verdot and everything. The flavours are just exquisite and markedly improved year over year.”

The thickest layer of alluvial silt was in the Chardonnay block. In the fall of 2016, when John and Alain Sutre – his Bordeaux consultant - were tasting the fruit before harvest, the consultant noted a significant step up in the complexity of the flavours of Chardonnay. A trench was dug beside the vines and confirmed that the roots were now 10 feet down into the gravel.

A corollary benefit of vine age is that Painted Rock now is releasing more single varietal red wines. Individual varietals now have enough flavour that the wines need not be tweaked with a dash of another variety or two. In 2015, for example, there was enough Malbec left over after making blends that a small lot was produced just for the Painted Rock wine club.

By the 2017 vintage, there was enough Malbec available that the winery released 170 cases. It was one of the earliest to sell out.

Here are notes on the current releases.

Painted Rock Chardonnay 2019 ($39.99 but sold out). The winery produced 320 cases. It is a wine crafted to be complex, starting with harvesting the grapes four times over two weeks, when each block is at its peak. Eighty per cent aged six months in French oak (44% new) and the rest – the fruit from the final harvest - was aged in stainless steel. Only 29% of the wine went through malolactic fermentation. This kept the fruit flavours fresh. The wine begins with aromas of citrus and peach. The flavours are remarkably intense, with notes of citrus and stone fruit mingled with subtle notes of oak and cloves wrapped around good minerality. 93.

Painted Rock Rosé 2019 ($24.99 but sold out). This is a saignée method rosé. The blend is 37% Merlot, 33% Syrah, 26% Malbec and 4% Chardonnay. Two hours of skin contact resulted in what the winery called “a perfectly pale pink hue.” I agree: the vibrant hue is quite lovely in the glass. The wine has aromas of strawberry and watermelon, leading to flavours of strawberry, red plum and cranberry. The finish is dry. 91.

Painted Rock Merlot 2016 ($34.99). This is a bold Merlot. The alcohol is 15.1% but the wine has the substance to carry it. It begins with aromas of black cherry and black currant mingled with vanilla (the wine spent 18 months in French oak – 30% new). The palate is generous with flavours of dark fruits with a touch of chocolate and spice. 92.

Painted Rock Syrah 2017 ($39.99). Dark in the glass, this wine has aromas of cherry and plum. On the palate, there are flavours dark fruit, including figs, with crushed black pepper punctuating the finish. The wine was aged 18 months in French oak (30% new). The long, ripe tannins give it a generous texture. 93.

Painted Rock Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($34.99 but sold out). This is 80% Syrah and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The varieties were fermented separately and aged in oak (30% new). It begins with aromas of black cherry and cassis, leading to flavours of dark berries with a hint of pepper and chocolate on the finish. It is generous on the palate. 92.

Painted Rock Malbec 2017 ($44.99 but sold out). Sadly, only 170 cases of this magnificent wine were made. It is dark, with the floral aroma classic to this varietal, mingled with cassis and blackberries. It is rich on the palate with flavours of dark cherry and blackberry mingled with spice. 93.

Painted Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($39.99). This is an elegant, polished example of Cabernet Sauvignon, beginning with aromas of red currant, blackberry and spice. There are layers of cherry and other dark fruits on the palate that carry through to a long finish. 93.

Painted Rock Cabernet Franc 2017 ($44.99 but sold out). The wine was aged 18 months in French oak (40% new). It begins with appealing brambly red fruit aromas mingled with hints of eucalyptus. The spicy dark berry flavours are rich on the palate, with a hint of chocolate and tobacco on the finish. 92.

Painted Rock Red Icon 2017 ($54.99). The blend is 38% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 20% Petit Verdot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 2% Syrah. The constituent lots were fermented separately and barrel-aged for 18 months (with 30% new oak). This is only the second time – the first was 2009 – that a touch of Syrah has been added to the blend. The wine begins with aromas of cassis and black cherry. These are echoed on the palate, along with notes of blueberry, spice and chocolate. This is an age-worthy wine; if you need to drink it now, decant it and let it open up to reveal layers of flavour. 94.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Mayhem is spawned by Meyer Family Vineyards

Photo: Mayhem's Terry Meyer Stone

The current releases from Meyer Family Vineyards were accompanied by wines from Mayhem Wines, a relatively new label.

The explanation is provided with the specifications of the Mayhem wine.

 “Mayhem Wines is a fun collaboration between two established wine industry siblings – Terry Meyer Stone of Anarchist Mountain Vineyards and her broke, JAK Meyer of Meyer Family Vineyards, along with their respective spouses, Andrew Stone and Janice Stevens.

“The portfolio consists of aromatic white varietals and Bordeaux red varietals. We source our grapes from our home vineyards and from established growers of the Okanagan, with an eye for detail in the vineyard and producing quality grapes in a sustainable manner.”

Mayhem was profiled in the current Okanagan Wine Tour Guide, which was released this spring and is in book stores for $25. Mayhem is one of the 40 or some producers that are new since the previous Tour Guide was published in 2014.

Here is an excerpt.

This winery emerged from a small virtual winery called Anarchist Mountain Vineyards, which was established near Osoyoos after Terry Meyer and partner Andrew Stone bought a 1.8-hectare (4½-acre) mountainside vineyard. She is the sister of JAK Meyer, owner of Meyer Family Vineyards at Okanagan Falls. Terry and Andrew, both Albertans, set down roots in the Okanagan after coming to help her brother in 2008 as he entered the wine industry.

Terry, who had her own daily television show in Edmonton for seven years, has had an extensive career in marketing and public relations. That included running the wine club for Tinhorn Creek. Andrew was born in in 1972 in Fort Vermilion, Alberta. After a career working in the oil fields, he became a corporate systems analyst. He missed working outdoors, and after JAK invited him to the Okanagan, he took up viticulture and embraced the wine-industry lifestyle.

The Anarchist wines, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir, were made for them at the Meyer winery, which specialized in those very same varietals. “I was not really interested in supporting my sister to make more Chardonnay and Pinot Noir here, which was going to compete against us,” JAK says (right). “That is 
why we launched the Mayhem brand, doing anything but Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.” For copyright reasons, the Anarchist name was dropped in favour of Mayhem.

The business arrangement opens growth opportunities for both Meyer, which took over the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown on the Anarchist vineyard, and for Mayhem, which is no longer limited to the 500 cases that Terry and Andrew’s vineyard could produce. Mayhem’s flagship red is Merlot. The other wines in the portfolio, including Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling, are made with grapes sourced from contract growers. “We are opportunistic,” Terry says.

Mayhem has continued to make its wines at the Meyer winery but may eventually establish itself on a Meyer-owned vineyard in Kaleden.

Here are notes on the current Meyer and Mayhem releases.

Meyer McLean Creek Road Gewürztraminer 2019 ($15.75 for 250 cases). This wine is astonishing good value. If boring Gewürztraminers have becoming tiresome, this wine resurrects the variety. It has intense aromas and flavours of spice, lychee and grapefruit. The crisp dry finish makes it an excellent wine with food. 91.

Meyer Rosé 2019 ($20.19 for 300 cases). This was made with Pinot Noir by the saignée method – the grapes were crushed and juice was drawn off after 12 hours. (Some batches were destemmed and allowed a two-day cold soak). The wine presents in the glass with appealing rose petal hues. Strawberry dominates the aroma. The wine is refreshing, with flavours of strawberry mingled with watermelon. 91.

Meyer Micro Cuvée Chardonnay 2018 Old Main Road Vineyard ($56.61 for 150 cases). The wine begins with buttery and citrus aromas. The palate delivers flavours mingling mandarin orange and apple with a hint of cloves and very subtle oak. This is an elegant and refined Chardonnay that began fermentation in stainless steel and finished in French oak (33% new). The wine was left on the lees for 11 months without stirring. 95.  

Meyer Micro Cuvée Pinot Noir 2018 McLean Creek Road Vineyard ($56.61 for 300 cases). The wine has been aged in French oak, including two new 500-litre puncheons from the Tronçais forest. The wine begins with toasty aromas mingled with cherry. On the palate, there are flavours of dark fruit with a hint of toasted oak. A touch of spice remains on the lingering finish. The texture is firm. This is a wine that can be cellared at least for 10 years. 94.

Mayhem 2019 Riesling 2019 ($18.26 for 128 cases). The wine begins with aromas of stone fruit and citrus. On the palate, there is bright acidity and flavours of lemon mingled with minerality. The finish is persistent. 90.

Mayhem Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($15.65 for 270 cases). The wine begins with aromas of lime, guava, green apples and grass; the aromas spring from the glass. The wine is refreshing and bright on the palate, with notes of herbs, green apples and grapefruit. The finish is dry and very long. 90.

Mayhem Rosé 2019 ($20 for 169 cases). Made with Merlot, the wine is fashionably pale in the Provence style but, with 24 hours of skin contact, not excessively pale. It begins with aromas of strawberries. On the palate, there is strawberry, cherry and peach, with an herbal note on the dry finish. 90.

Mayhem Merlot Cabernet Franc 2018 ($21.74 for 785 cases). This wine, which is 84% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, was aged 11 months in oak. It begins with appealing aromas of cassis. The palate delivers luscious flavours of black currants, cherries and pomegranate, leading to a soft and spicy finish. 90.

Mayhem Cabernet Franc 2018 ($30.44 for 44 cases). This wine was fermented with indigenous yeast in stainless steel and then transferred to two French oak barrels (one new) for 11 months. The aromas of blackberry, blueberry jam and cassis are echoed in the palate. The long ripe tannins give the wine great length and a long finish. 91.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Culmina's Unicus and friends

 Photo: Culmina winery and vineyard

Culmina Family Estate Winery was so named because it is the culmination of a career in wine for Donald and Elaine Triggs.

Donald was one of the founders of Vincor International, which was taken over in 2006 by Constellation Brands. Donald and Elaine then founded Culmina in 2007 on property south of Oliver. It was a solidly established winery when they sold it in 2019 to Arterra Wines Canada. A few years earlier, Arterra had acquired the Vincor Canadian assets when Constellation decided to leave this market.

When Donald and Elaine decided to retired last year, the sale of Culmina to Arterra had considerable symmetry for the Triggs family. Arterra’s wineries include the Canadian wineries that once formed the heart of Vincor in Canada. Jay Wright, Arterra’s president, formerly was a right-hand man to Donald at Vincor.

The quality of the current releases indicate that it is business as usual at Culmina under new management.

Here are notes on the wines.

Culmina Unicus 2019 ($27). This winery was the first to release a Grüner Veltliner in the Okanagan; and it continues to produce one of the best. In making the wine, Culmina winemaker J-M Enixon has pulled out all the stops. Some 36% of the wine is fermented in a concrete egg; 28% in a concrete amphora, 26% in stainless steel and 10% in neutral French oak barrels. The wine delivers aromas of passion fruit, lemon, lime and peach. On the palate, there are layers of tropical fruit flavours wrapped around mineral notes. 91.

Culmina Decora Riesling 2018 ($21). This is a dry Riesling with racy acidity. The additional year in bottle took the edge off the acidity. The wine has aromas of lemon, lime and a hint of petrol. The palate delivers flavours of lemon, green apple and grapefruit with a spine of minerals. An elegant wine, it will age readily through this decade. 92.

Culmina Saignée 2019 ($24). This rosé is made by bleeding juice from tanks of red grapes shortly after pressing; hence, the colour is not too dark. This is an attractive wine in the glass. The blend is 32% Malbec, 31% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon. It begins with aromas of strawberry, rhubarb and apple, leading to luscious flavours of strawberry and plum. The wine is full on the palate and the lingering finish is dry. 91.

Culmina R&D Dry-ish Riesling 2019 ($19.99). This an easy drinking Riesling while you wait on its companion to evolve in the cellar. The moderate residual sugar lifts the citrus aromas and gives flesh to the palate, with its flavours of citrus and apple. 90.

Culmina R&D Chardonnay 2019 ($20). This is a crisp, fruit forward Chardonnay – think Chablis – with aromas and flavours of apple and citrus and just a hint of butter. 91.

Culmina R&D Rosé 2019 ($19.99). This light-coloured rosé is a blend of juice from Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, fermented cool in stainless steel. It begins with aromas of strawberry and delivers flavours of strawberry, cherry, apple and watermelon. The texture is generous and the finish is dry. 91.