May 17, 2012

SOWF #10: Tinhorn Creek

Day two started off with a couple of false starts. From Penticton we headed south to do the Oliver / South Okanagan area. Our first stop was Hidden Chapel, but we were a little eager and got there before they opened. So then we drove up to Fairview, which was closed as well. Not wanting to waste any more precious tasting time, we headed over to the closest winery, which was Tinhorn Creek. We hadn't planned to stop there, and usually we give this winery a pass since it's definitely one of the big players and you can find their wines almost anywhere.

There is so much going on at Tinhorn I don't want to even get into it here. Apparently the restaurant Miradoro is very good if $17 for a grilled cheese sandwich doesn't bother you. Usually this place is busy, but at 11 o'clock on a Friday morning we had the tasting room to ourselves. Although Tinhorn is usually pretty reliable, I didn't find any wines that really impressed me.

  • Pinot Gris 2011 ($18)
We are striving to make a fruity dry wine with aromas of citrus, crisp acidity with a good amount of body for added mouth feel. 100% of this wine is fermented in Stainless Steel with 30% fermented in Stainless steel barrels and undergoing Malolactic fermentation giving the wine some added texture (mouth feel).

89 points.

  • Chardonnay 2010 ($18)

23% of this vintage was placed in new French barrels for 2 months and was stirred twice a week. This allows the wine to have contact with the lees and develop a silky mouth feel. The remainder of the Chardonnay was aged in stainless steel tanks to develop fruit characteristics.

89 points. Decent, mellow.

  • Gewurztraminer 2011 ($18)
Our aim is to show case the varietal characteristics of the Gewurztraminer grape. This includes floral and Lychee aromas with hints of spice. No oak aging or Malolactic fermentation. 100% of this wine is cold fermented in Stainless Steel tanks. This wine is made in a drier fruity style.

88 points. I found this tasted soapy.

  • Pinot Noir 2008 ($20)
The grapes were harvested in the early morning cool temperatures. This helps keep the fruit characteristics of the grape at their peak. The grapes then sat on their skins for several days in stainless steel tanks. The wine spent 10 months in older American oak and then two years in bottle before release on Canada Day!
87 points. Dry, thin, just sort of flavourless.

  • Cabernet Franc 2009 ($20)
Our Cabernet Franc comes 100% from our Diamondback Vineyard on the Black Sage Bench. The 2009 Cabernet Franc was brought in at cooler temperatures and after sitting on its skins for several days, yeast was added to start fermentation. After fermenting, the Cabernet Franc spent 12 months in American oak barrels prior to bottling in May 2011.

The 2009 Cabernet Franc is a vibrant dark cherry colour and is elegant and aromatic. There are aromas of blackcurrant and stewed cherries with forest floor characteristics. The palate is elegant and soft with luscious blackberries and black cherry flavours with muted expressions of pine and moss. A finely balanced wine with soft tannins and a lingering finish.

87 points. Cough syrup, fruity.

  • Oldfield 2Bench White 2010 ($23)
The 2Bench is a complex blend of 17% Semillon,  44% Chardonnay, 26% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Viognier and 1% Muscat. The crisp acidity of this wine compliments rich seafood dishes. The white peach, citrus, melon and mineral flavours beg to be enjoyed on a sun drenched patio.

87 points. Kris liked this one much more than I did.

  • Oldfield 2Bench Rosé 2011 ($23)
This wine is made from 100% Cabernet Franc. It will be a dry wine with light salmon pink in colour and have strawberry aromas and flavours with a hint of black pepper. The grapes are pressed off their skins allowing for the right amount of colour to be released. Cold fermented in Stainless Steel tanks without ML ensures the fruity aromas and flavours are preserved. This wine is made in a style that can be enjoyed on its own or good with light summer foods. 

88 points.

  • Oldfield 2Bench Red 2008 ($35)
The 2008 Oldfield Series 2Bench Red is the second vintage of this wine to be released. It is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 20% Cabernet Franc. The varietals for this wine are kept separate throughout harvest and fermentation. It spends approximately 18 months in new French oak barrels before being bottled and then aged for an additional 18 months in bottle before release.

The 2008 Oldfield Series 2Bench Red is densely extracted and ruby in colour. It is powerfully concentrated with black cherries, blackberries, black currant and notes of leafy tobacco, and menthol aromas. This wine has flavours of racy black fruit and delicate herbs. Firm tannins and refreshing acidity ensure that this wine will stand the test of time.

87 points. Lots of tannins, a little musty tasting.

SOWF #9: Robin Ridge

After Clos du Soleil we drove into downtown Keremeos to find the Thai restaurant that had been recommended to us by a few different people. Benja Thai delivered, and we had some good Thai soup and curry for lunch. It could have been even spicier for our taste, but everything was very flavorful. This is a great place to stop for food when touring the Similkameen valley.

After lunch we decided we were running out of steam, so we made one final stop before heading up the 3A back to Penticton. Our overall impression of Robin Ridge was average, but to be fair this was the end of a long day and right after a big spicy meal. Apart from the wines listed below, they also produce Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and something called "Robin's Return".

  • Gewurztraminer 2011 ($19)
Combines intense tropical papaya and pineapple with ripe melon, grapefruit, baking spice and floral notes. Just off-dry with crisp balanced acidity and fresh lemon, grapefruit, mandarin orange, peach and a hint of honey

88 points. Dry, slightly musty but nice.

  • Flamingo 2011 ($18)
Pale pink in colour with intense aromas of stone fruit, ripe golden apples, honey, lemon sherbet and subtle floral notes. The palate is off-dry, balanced with fresh acidity and with flavours of juicy citrus fruits, strawberry, peach, apple and flowers. Pair with a warm summer breeze.

88 points. This is made with the Coronation grape, which I had to look up. It is a labrusca (table grape) hybrid, not vinifera, actually developed in Summerland in the 1970s. It is similar to Concord, but can withstand the cooler Canadian climate better. I thought the wine was pretty good but there was some faint chemical taste that I wrote down as "windex". Either the glass may have been contaminated with some detergent that wasn't completely rinsed out, or my taste buds had given up after fifty tastings, or possibly this is what a Coronation wine tastes like. Probably not the last one, so a retaste may be in order here.

  • Gamay 2010 ($23)
Intense and welcoming aromas of plum, cherry, ripe strawberry and complex floral and meaty notes. The palate has a velvet texture and is elegant yet powerful with ripe red fruits, roasted herbs and great length. The juicy acidity and complexity will leave the palate insisting for more.

88 points. A fairly full-bodied Gamay, heavy on the oak.

  • Reserve Merlot 2009 ($25)
A big brooding wine, deep ruby in colour with intense ripe blackberry, blueberry and plum with toasty toasty vanillin oak and subtle violet notes. The palate is full bodied and structured with sun sweetened brambly berries, grilled herbs, cinnamon, charcuterie and dark chocolate.

88 points. Astringent, full flavour, nice.

And that was the end of our first day of wine tasting.

SOWF #8: Clos du Soleil

Another short hop along Upper Bench Road to Clos du Soleil. Many wine shops have dedicated staff whose only job is to pour. Other wineries are smaller and require more of a "chief cook and bottle-washer" approach to getting all the work done. You know you're at one of the smaller operations when it takes a couple of minutes for someone to come to the tasting room from out in the field. I always feel a little guilty for interrupting their work, but at the same time you know you're going to get an opportunity to talk to someone who knows the intimate details about how the wines were made. Such was the case at Clos du Soleil, where the vineyard manager Jean-Félix arrived and was able to give us a few insights that you can probably only get from someone with a little dirt under their fingernails. This winery appears less concerned about making a big splash and is focused instead on slowly but surely producing the best possible wines. From what I tasted I think they're on the right track.

  • Pinot Blanc 2011 ($19)
Grown near Middle Bench Road in Keremeos by the Baessler family, this fruity and fresh Pinot Blanc opens with a nose of delicate tropical fruit on a backdrop of orchard apple and citrus. The palate is bright and clean, shows great balance and body, and has a pleasantly crisp, refreshing finish – perfect for spring and summer time patio fare or enjoy as a refreshing pre-dinner interlude.  

89 points. Dry, no finish, delicious.

  • Capella 2010 ($25)
The 2010 Capella is elegant and rich, demonstrating the classic notes of this French influenced blend. The nose starts with refreshing gooseberry, lemon rind and honeysuckle. As the bouquet opens, the crisp scents of pear and star fruit join in. In the mouth, the subtle flavours are clean and fresh, adding depth to the aromas.

88 points. Bordeaux Blanc blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Semillon. This tasted off - I think the bottle was open too long and the wine was oxidized. What we tasted does not match the description above. I'd like to try this again to make sure.

  • Fumé Blanc 2010 ($23)
Inspired by the traditional barrel-fermented white wine from the Bordeaux region, our Fumé Blanc is a classic old-world styled white with a new world taste. It opens up on a sweet note of pineapple, vanilla and toast, followed by hints of citrus, orchard apple, honey-comb and the classic mineral touch. In the mouth it is clean, smooth and exhibits a nice balance between bright acidity, oak nuances, and residual sweetness. It finishes long with a slight grassy note from the Sauvignon Blanc grape that is both refreshing and satisfying.

89 points. Recently bottled so a little bottle shock but a very nice wine. Kris really liked it so we purchased this one.

  • Rosé 2011 ($18)
Created with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, this rosé is the perfect everyday wine. The nose begins with sun-kissed fresh raspberries, tangy cranberry and vanilla bean. On the palate, the sweet fruit motif continues with the addition of strawberry. A full-body mouth feel and long length make this a perfect food wine. It is summer in a bottle. 

89 points. Fairly complex for a Rosé. Bought it too.

  • Célestiale 2009 ($23)
This juicy and fruit-forward Bordeaux-style red has a Canadian twist of Cabernet Franc and Merlot dominance. It was matured for 18 months in French oak which gives it a glimmer of spice. It softly opens up to bright notes of strawberry, raspberry, sweet red cherries and hints of coffee and chocolate. In the mouth it’s juicy, almost refreshing, and is nicely framed by just the right amount of well integrated tannins and weight. There is great balance and a long finish.

90 points. Bought this as well.

  • Signature 2009 ($40)
The use of all 5 red Bordeaux varietals and maturation for 18 months in French oak before bottling without fining or filtering gives this wine great complexity. It greets the nose with vibrant strawberries and blackberry with hints of sandalwood and spice. As it opens dark cherries, plums and soft hints of caramel, espresso and chocolate come into play. When first tasted, the fresh fruit is echoed on a soft tannin base. After decanting, a balanced yet solid tannin structure frames the fruit and the aromas intensify. This wine shows promising longevity in the cellar.

90 points. Nice, peppery, delicious.

  • Saturn (375 ml) 2010 ($29)
The Sauvignon Blanc grapes for this Select Late Harvest delicacy were intentionally picked overripe in the cold of November. Inspired by the great dessert wine tradition of the Sauternes region of the Bordeaux, this wine exhibits a lovely pale golden hue in the glass. Enticing aromas of ripe pineapple, apricot, honey and citrus rind are followed by a long, hypnotic finish adding toffee and a suggestion of fresh sage. This luscious, balanced creation will pair nicely with foie-gras, creamy blue cheese or a delicate dessert

89 points. Late harvest but not as sweet as you would expect.

SOWF #7: Orofino

A very short drive to our next destination, Orofino. Another husband-and-wife team, the Webers are non-farmers from Saskatchewan who decided to relocate to the Similkameen over ten years ago and start making wine. A courageous move, but it seems to be working out quite well judging from the quality of their wines. They have a dog Cooper (so do we), the name probably inspired from their barrels.

Orofino uses their own grapes and those from four other Cawston vineyards plus one in Kaleden just south of Penticton. In addition to the wines tasted below, Orofino also makes a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and a Bordeaux blend called Beleza which appears to be their flagship red. We ended up purchasing two bottles of Syrah.

  • Moscato Frizzante 2011 ($25)
Our first sparkling wine release! This refreshing bubbly is a blend of Muscats, with just a little bit of Riesling and Pinot Gris all grown in Cawston. Some of these vines are over 20 years old. The wine exhibits exotic orange blossom notes and tropical flavours with a clean, dry finish. Our intention was to create a versatile wine that is enjoyable on its own and with a variety of foods. It is a beautiful bottle that we are proud to offer.

88 points. Surprisingly dry considering the Muscat.

  • Riesling 2010 ($20)
The Orofino style of Riesling focuses on opulent flavours and expression of the Similkameen dirt. The wine has a rich mouth feel with a fine balance of acidity with a small amount of residual sugar. Lime, mango, pineapple, green apple.... this wine has a multitude of potential food pairings from baked ham to seafood, to summer salads. The grapes are sourced from our vineyard's old vines, our neighbour's vineyard and a one acre Riesling planting just south of Cawston. This is Riesling terroir! 

88 points. Also quite dry, very drinkable.

  • Pinot Gris 2011 ($20)
The grapes for this wine were grown in 3 separate vineyards. The Hendsbee Vineyard and Blind Creek Vineyard are beside Orofino on the hot Cawston Bench. The Scout Vineyard grapes come from a block grown right beside the Similkameen River about 10kms south of our winery. The wine was pressed after several hours of skin contact and was then fermented in stainless steel. It shows orchard fruit with melons and a pronounced minerality. Very dry with good acidity makes this an excellent food wine. 275 cases produced. 

88 points. Dry, mineral, heavy mouthfeel. My favorite of the whites.

  • Red Bridge Merlot 2010 ($25)
The premium Merlot grapes for this wine were grown by Chris Scott in his fabulous 5 acre Oak Knoll vineyard. It was aged in the finest American and French barrels for 16 months and then bottled unfiltered. This is the sixth vintage we have put Oak Knoll Merlot exclusively into Red Bridge! This vintage shows big aromatics and complex flavours. This label has become a "go to" wine over the years and this vintage will not disappoint! 

89 points. Medium oak, cherry, actually a little sweet but fresh. Little finish. Very nice.

  • Syrah 2010 ($29)
This single vineyard syrah is grown just south of the Cawston Bench at the picturesque Scout Vineyard. The grapes are grown in rocky soils and cropped to under 2 tons per acre. The resulting wine is awash with brambly fruit, gamey notes and black pepper playing a supporting role. Aged 15 months in French and American oak barrels and is silky and very drinkable. A terrific follow-up to our gold medal winning 2009 syrah!

90 points. There's a lot going on in here, red berries and peppery. Unique.

May 16, 2012

SOWF #6: Crowsnest Vineyards

Well, you knew the hot streak couldn't last forever. Just around the corner we found Crowsnest Vineyards on Surprise Drive. It was a surprise all right, but not a pleasant one. Actually, the wines weren't all that bad. The winemaking is definitely Germanic, and reminded us of Gehringer Brothers in style. The Rieslings and the Gewurz were true to form although drier than their German cousins. If you like German wines then I think you would enjoy a visit to Crowsnest, but it's not really my cup of tea.

Crowsnest is also heavily into other activities. They run a restaurant, bakery and guesthouse, and even host a Harley Davidson riders' club. The website seems out of date (although there are recent events posted), so I didn't reproduce their wine notes as they don't correspond to the wines we actually tasted.

  • Chardonnay  ($18)

88 points. Unoaked, nice crispness.
  • Gewurztraminer  ($19)

88 points. 1 on the sweetness scale. Pretty good, dry Germanic style, honey.
  • Riesling 2011 ($20)

88 points. Apple cider taste, tart.
  • Riesling 2009  

88 points.

  • Pinot Noir  ($23)

87 points. Stewed strawberry.
  • Merlot 2008 ($21)

87 points. More strawberry, definitely not Kris' favorite.


SOWF #5: Eau Vivre

Our next stop on our Similkameen journey was Eau Vivre. This is a very unassuming little winery, presumably a husband and wife operation although I have very little background on this place. I think they only make four wines, and we got to try them all. Holy smoke - what a find! And for around twenty bucks these were some of the very best value wines we came across.

Our rule of thumb is to try to purchase one bottle per winery, since they all have to be brought back on the plane. We bought three here, everything but the Gewurz (I just can't bring myself to call it "goo"). We have a family vacation planned for the Okanagan in July; we may just have to drag the kids out to Cawston to scoop up a few more bottles.

  • Gewurztraminer 2009 ($17)
Light in colour, with intense nose of white flowers, orange blossoms and candied fruit.  The palate is equally balanced with soft acids and lush fruit mouth feel that is produced in the classic dry but fruity style.  Designed with medium body and plush rich fruit this wine has the profile of a much sweeter wine.  This small lot production of 2009 Gewurztraminer is made from 100% Similkameen grapes.  With only 200 cases produced, this very popular wine is building a following of fans and will surely sell out.

89 points. Floral but not syrupy. Fresh.

  • Chardonnay 2008 ($18)
A nice pale straw colour shows that this wine has a great aging potential. The nose smells of honey, with a baked pastry component, leading to apple pie and pear. Hints of citrus and stone fruit on the nose as well. The palette is intense and balanced, with apple and lemon curd, white peach and nectarines, showing a full round mouth feel but enough acidity to give it good length and freshness. Very versatile food wine, that can pair well with seafood, but has the acidity to cut through creamy dishes as well. 

90 points. Complex, sweet and tart, bright, good acidity balance.

  • Pinot Noir 2008 ($19)
On the nose it is constantly developing, starting with typical cherry and cranberry before leading into more earthy tones and the darker side of this wonderful variety. The longer this is open the more complex it becomes as the fruit nose subsides and the leathery and soy notes come forward. Built with some considerable structure, despite having very little oak on nose or palette. The wine has great intensity and length, tannins taking the fruit and acidity long into the finish. Great balance. Drinking well now and will age wonderfully for years to come. 

91 points. Only two other wineries had a 91 point wine on our tour - Fairview and Laughing Stock. That's pretty exclusive company for Eau Vivre. "Warm, smooth, chocolate and sweet tones. Wow." (That's a direct quote from my notes.) A preposterous value.

  • Cabernet Franc 2009 ($22)
Fermented on the skins for 18 days to extract deep dark color, this wine was aged in French Oak barrels. The aromas boldly convey the grape variety's floral and herbal character, in this case suggesting tobacco and spice. On the palate spice and pepper enhance those characteristics and finish dry. This wines style has serious charm and complexity and will excite fans of cool-climate Cab Franc fans. Only 270 cases produced in 2009 from 100% Okanagan Valley grapes.

90 points.

SOWF #4: Seven Stones

I can't remember the last time we visited the Similkameen valley, but it's been a few years. It's seems like a long way to go but it's only 20 minutes west of Osoyoos on highway 3, and not much longer to drive from Keremeos up to Penticton. There are maybe ten wineries out here, including two fruit wineries. Some of the best wines we tasted the entire weekend were from Similkameen, and I suspect they might be growing grapes that are as good or better than the Okanagan. If you've never been out here, or it's been a while, you won't regret taking the extra few minutes drive to check out the wineries in Cawston and Keremeos.

A quick travel note: if you're driving west from Osoyoos, you have to check out Spotted Lake about ten minutes along the Crowsnest. This is a small lake with high concentrations of minerals and salt in the water that somehow form large circles on the surface. It's truly unique and worth a stop for a picture or two.

Seven Stones was the first of our six stops on our loop. There is a whole story about the seven stones of the Similkameen, but the winery website is down right now so I don't have the details. Something about glaciers and native legends. Instead of doing any serious research, I stole a photo from another website of the mural in the Seven Stones wineshop showing the seven stones on a map of the valley. Now then, on to business: the wines we tried here were mostly outstanding. I can't explain why but I got the feeling that the terroir here produces some outstanding fruit. The combination and complexity of flavours here was quite amazing.

  • Pinot Rosé 2010 ($19)
Intense strawberry aromas; a delicate balance of citrus and exotic fruit flavors on the palate along with a pleasing natural acidity and minerality and a soft dry finish. This wine is reminiscent of the Rosés found in the south of France. Perfect for the deck!

88 points. I found this one a bit musty, with some grapefruit in addition to the strawberry.

  • Chardonnay 2009 ($25)
The 2009 vintage is a bit softer and creamier than the 2008 vintage yet it retains the same vivid mouth-feel and delicate balance of citrus and tropical fruit flavors permeated with an earthy minerality that had become the signature of our Chardonnays. Sur-lies aging and barrel fermentation give this wine a luscious toasty and buttery finish.

90 points. If I recall there were two different yeasts involved in the making. I thought I tasted some pineapple. Long, lingering, creamy finish. Beautiful. We brought back this one.

  • Row 128 Merlot 2009 ($25)
Aged for 17 months in French and American oak barrels Row 128 Merlot offers seductive aromas of cherry, mint, olive and leather followed by a soft mouth-feel and flavors of plum, chocolate and blueberry .The finish is smooth and long lasting. 

90 points. Wish we'd bought this one too. A very unique and interesting Merlot. I did indeed taste most of the flavours listed above, including olive.

  • Cabernet Franc 2009 ($28)
The nose features fragrances of plum, black pepper, raspberry and toasty vanilla. Layers of elegant and well structured flavors of  raspberry , chocolate and coffee on the mid-palate are followed by a soft spicy finish.  Aged 17 months in new French oak barrels.

89 points. Feisty, peppery, lively, bold.

  • Meritage 2008 ($32)
This blend consists of 58% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot aged 17 months in new and 1 year old French oak barrels. The 2008 Meritage has round juicy flavors, a soft velvety mid-palate and an elegant finish that is prolonged by fine grained tannins and reveals hints of chocolate, espresso and raspberry. 

89 points.

  • Syrah 2009 ($35)
Enticing aromas of smoked meat and white pepper on the nose; layers of ripe blackberry, spicy licorice and bittersweet chocolate on the palate; well integrated tannins and a long smooth finish. 17 months in new French oak barrels. Small lot production 

88 points. Kris liked this more than I did, likely the pepper. I remember it tasting like tart cherry juice.

May 15, 2012

SOWF #3: Young & Wyse

It's not the Young & Wyse Winery, or Cellars, or Vineyard: it's a Collection. Hmm. Well, seems a little vague but I guess it's different. A partnership on several levels between Stephen Wyse, whose family runs Burrowing Owl, and Michelle Young. Fortunately their surnames form an interesting and provocative combination, unlike the ill-fated partnership of John Old and Susan Idiotic. Apart from the name, the wines are terrific and it's worth a visit to the south end of Osoyoos if you're in the area.

I have to confess that even though I have a few notes, I don't seem to have written down any scores for the four wines we tasted. It was not even noon when we tasted. We purchased the Amber and the Cab Sauv. When we open them up I may come back and update this entry. But my recollection is that all of them were very good, in the 89 point range. Here are the winemakers' notes.

  • Pinot Gris 2011 ($20)
An intriguing nose that combines cantaloupe and apple blossom aromas with hints of stonefruit, citrus and dried summer herbs. The palate is dry with crisp, refreshing acidity launching into an intense combination of lemon, nectarine, apple, grapefruit and a complex white pepper note that lingers on the long finish.

  • Amber 2011 ($20)
This special blend is named after our daughter Amber. The jasmine and rose petal aromatics of Viognier and Gewurztraminer combine intriguingly with the citrus, grapefruit and anise notes of Pinot Gris. Aromas of orange, cinnamon, and melon add further complexity. The palate is dry combining apple, pineapple and apricot flavours with lemon and orange notes. The finish is long and complex with essence of gingerbread and minerality.

  • Merlot 2010 ($22)
A bouquet of fruit, floral and spice aromas, displaying black cherry, red raspberry, lilac, exotic spice and even a touch of minerality. On the mouth, the wine coats and lingers with a sumptuous viscosity and beautifully ripe tannins. Bottled without fining or filtration.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($27)
This Cabernet has distinct flavours of black currant, blueberry, blackberry and cassis with enticing aromas of mocha and nutmeg. Notes of smoke, cedar and tobacco round out the lingering finish. Bottled without fining or filtration.

[Edit May 16: Well, that didn't take long. We opened this up last night. A very nice cab, robust but smooth and it does indeed have a long finish as advertised. If we didn't already drink it, it would improve with age. 90 points.]

SOWF #2: Nk'Mip

Nk'Mip (pronounced in-ka-meep) is a desert cultural centre, luxury resort and spa, golf course, winery and an aboriginal success story all at once. We'll focus on the wine, but the Nk'Mip Resort website has lots of interesting info. We even looked into investing in one of the Spirit Ridge strata suites a while back.

Nk'Mip manages to win a fair bit of recognition for their wines. Overall I find them good but nothing that has ever knocked my socks off. Generally at Nk'Mip, the more unpronouncable the name the more expensive the wine. We hadn't been here for a few years and things change, so it's a good idea to go back to the source once in a while to see (and taste) what's going on. Again, winemaker's comments in regular text, my notes and scores in italic.

  • Pinot Blanc 2010 ($17)
This wine is bright and lively with an explosion of citrus and orchard notes followed by a crisp, racy finish. Generous notes of apple with an underlying mineral nuance complete this well-balanced wine.

88 points.

  • Riesling 2010 ($18)
Classic granny smith apple and crisp, fresh citrus notes give way to a gentle layering of luscious orchard fruit and honeydew melon. Dry in style, the flavours are well balanced and are supported by a crisp, refreshing finish. 

88 points.

  • Chardonnay 2010 ($17)
The Chardonnay grapes were stainless steel fermented and 40% of the vintage was aged in French oak barrels for 10 months while 60% remained in stainless steel fermentors to retain a crisp, fruit forward flavour with a smooth finish.

Fragrant granny smith apple and summer fruit are joined by fresh pineapple and melon layers that lead into a rounded expression of butterscotch and vanilla bean.

88 points.

  • Pinot Noir 2010 ($20)
The inviting nose displays elements of luscious Okanagan black cherry and plum with a hint of rosemary spice. The soft tannic structure is very approachable with substantial berry and spice flavours despite its delicacy. A liquid silk texture leaves a soft finish on the palate.

88 points.

  • Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay 2009 ($25)
Extended lees contact gives depth and complexity with rich and nutty flavour, offering lots of caramel, marzipan and pear. Enticing and aromatic with subtle layering of citrus is followed by a lingering mineral finish. 

89 points. The best wine I tasted here, almost a 90 - delicious!

  • Qwam Qwmt Meritage 2008 ($30)
This Meritage is a blend of 69% Merlot, 28.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2.5% Cabernet Franc grapes. This wine exhibits an intense ruby colour with aromas and flavours of mint, chocolate, tobacco and cassis with a well-structured palate and a long toasty finish.

89 points.

  • Qwam Qwmt Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($30)
Rich with dried black fruit and cassis wrapped in toasty spicy cedar, this fully structured Cabernet Sauvignon leads the palate to contemplate complex flavours of berry, vanilla, coffee, capsicum and cherry.  

88 points.

  • Mer'r'iym 2008 ($50)
Mer’r’iym is a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 7% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot epitomizing balance, respect and dedication. The 2008 Mer’r’iym Meritage is the result of our tireless pursuit of excellence at Nk’Mip vineyards. We combined only the best blocks of grapes with some of the finest French and American oak barrels in an effort to produce a wine of genuine elegance and finesse. 

89 points.

SOWF #1: Moon Curser

(Spring Okanagan Wine Festival, by the way.)

We booked an early morning flight since it was cheaper; we arrived just before 7am. Since not much is going on winery-wise at this time of day, we decided to head south to Osoyoos. Most wineries are open from 10am to 5 or 6 in the afternoon. We would arrive in time to have breakfast and plan our attack. First up: Moon Curser. 

Moon Curser was formerly known as Twisted Tree. I just assumed that someone sold to someone else, but I just learned from John Schreiner's blog that actually it's the same owners. They found the old name was being confused with two other Okanagan vineyards, Tangled Vines and Oliver Twist. The new name is inspired by the cross-border gold smuggling that went on under cover of darkness years ago. This is fine except the labels all have a Halloween, howling coyote theme that sort of confuses their brand.

The tasting room (which just opened May 1st) is stunning. One of many new and expensive-looking wine shops we visited, this one has a huge window looking west over Osoyoos and the lake. Generally the wines here were very good, the Petit Verdot being the only one I found less than average (and this is a varietal that is mostly used in blends).All notes in regular text are from the winemaker; if I have anything to add it will be in italics. Scores are mine alone.

  • Afraid of the Dark 2011 ($22)
Afraid of the Dark is a blend of Marsanne (42%), Roussanne (33%) and Chardonnay (25%). Grown on our Class 1 home vineyard on Osoyoos East Bench, the Marsanne and Roussanne are made from vines in their 7th leaf. The rare Muscat clone of Chardonnay is grown on a tiny one acre block on the west side of Osoyoos Lake.

This is a dry, light to medium bodied white wine. The nose is highly aromatic with notes of nectarine, candied ginger, grapefruit and stone fruit (mainly peach and apricot). On the palate the wine is quite crisp, with stone fruit and clean bright citrus notes as the dominant notes. Some melon and mineral characteristics can also be found. The wine has a crisp finish with good finesse and length.
89 points.

  • Viognier 2011 ($28) 
The Viognier for this varietal bottling was grown in our Class 1 home vineyard on Osoyoos East Bench, as well as a newer, small vineyard also located on the East Bench. The wine underwent cold fermentation entirely in stainless steel in order to preserve the complexity and freshness of its fruit character. Whole bunch pressing, and slight extended skin contact on portions of the fruit contributed to the mouthfeel and flavor profile of the wine.

This is a dry, medium bodied white wine. The nose is very delicate but with pronounced peach and stone fruit notes. Floral, lemon and candied aromas round out the nose and the overall impression is that of delicate but intense character. On the palate, the acidity is in balance with the delicate character of the wine and, similar to the nose, peach and honey as well as a candied ginger impression are present. The wine has a round finish with finesse and length.

89 points: very flavourful.
  • Tempranillo 2010 ($29)
This wine is grown in its entirety in our Class 1 Osoyoos home vineyard planted in the spring of 2005. It was aged in 225 L American barrels, about 20% of which were new.

This is a dry, medium-bodied red wine. On the nose the characters of red cherry, violets, tobacco and vanilla can be found. The palate, similar to the nose, adds elements of black pepper, black cherry jam, leather and a bit of cedar. Rich and round, with abundant soft tannin, the wine finishes long.
 88 points.

  • Merlot 2010 ($25)
The bulk (over 90%) of this wine is grown in the Kelliher vineyard on Osoyoos East Bench, two properties north of our home vineyard. The wine was matured in 225 L barriques, about a third of which were new American oak.

This is a dry, medium-bodied red wine. On the nose, plum and ripe black fruit are the dominant notes, followed by coffee and dried spice characteristics. On the palate, the wine is generous, mouth filling, with both black and red cherry, vanilla and nutmeg. The finish is long, with considerable yet round and soft tannin.

88 points - robust and woody. 
  • Syrah 2010 ($25)
Our Syrah is grown in two neighboring Osoyoos East BenchVineyards, both Class 1 viticultural properties. The wine was matured in 225 L barriques, about a third of which were new oak of French and Hungarian origin.

This is a dry, medium-bodied red wine. On the nose, there is the hallmark black pepper of Okanagan Syrah accompanied by strong black cherry, sweet beet, and clove and allspice aromas. The palate is generous with rich mulberry and dried cherry flavors, along with earthy chocolate and leather notes. Tannins are smooth, and the finish is long.

89 points.

  • Border Vines 2010 ($25)
This blend of six Bordeaux varietals consists of Cabernet Sauvignon (35%), Merlot (33%), Cabernet Franc (15%), Carmenere (7%), Malbec (7%) and Petit Verdot (3%). The wine is grown in five Osoyoos East Bench vineyards, all within a short tractor-driving distance from one another.

This is a dry, medium bodied wine. The nose shows good intensity with strong elements of dark berry and typical cabernet notes of cassis and blackberry. On the palate this mouthfilling wine has good weight and intensity, with highlights of plum and spice notes, and long smooth finish.

89 points.

  • Malbec 2010 ($29)
The Malbec for this inaugural single varietal bottling was grown in a Class 1 vineyard located on Osoyoos East Bench, from vines now in their 7th leaf. The low cropping during the 2010 growing season resulted in high fruit quality at harvest, and the decision to bottle the wine on its own.

This is a dry, medium to full bodied red wine. Characters of blueberries, black cherry and plum dominate the nose. The palate follows the nose, and is full and round, and displays notes of chocolate licorice and cola. The plushness of this wine is its dominant character. Acidity and tannic structure marry well but play a background role. The finish is long and balanced, with ripe soft tannin. With its strong blueberry character this wine drinks well right out of the gate, but it could be cellared for two to four years. We recommend limited aging. With bottle age expect leather and tobacco characters to develop.

89 points. I got earthy, mushroom notes in here as well. 

  • Petit Verdot 2010 ($29)        
The Petit Verdot for this inaugural single varietal bottling was grown in a Class 1 vineyard located on Osoyoos East Bench, from vines now in their 7th leaf. The low cropping during the 2010 growing season resulted in high fruit quality at harvest, and the decision to bottle the wine on its own.

This is a dry, medium-bodied red wine. Notes of violets, both red and black currants, black cherries and raspberries dominate the nose. The palate follows the nose, and also displays some notes of licorice and cola. The acidity and the tannic structure, marry well with the predominant notes of violet and result in a wine that is powerful and elegant. The finish is long and balanced, with ripe tannin. On first release the wine drinks well, but might have a little tightness. As little as 6 months aging will be probably well rewarded. This wine will also age well over five to seven years. Expect secondary characteristics of bottle age like licorice, graphite, sweet beetroot and leather to develop.

87 points - fresh cherry, probably needs aging.

  • Dead of Night 2010 ($38)
This blend of Tannat, a noble red varietal traditionally grown in the Madiran region in the south of France, and Syrah, is grown in two Class 1 vineyards on Osoyoos East Bench, and aged in 225 L French, as well as Hungarian, oak barriques.

This is a dry, medium bodied wine. The nose displays aromas of dark cherry, prune plum and violets. Notes of pepper and tobacco can be found as well.On the palate the wine is rich but with good acidity. The palate is consistent with the nose with its cherry and plum notes, but also displays meaty and smoky characters. The finish is long and generous with impressive fine and soft tannin.

89 points. Very noticeable tannins, needs a year or at least a good aeration. Tannat - another new grape for the Wine Century Club!

May 14, 2012

Spring Okanagan Wine Festival

Just got back from the sunny Okanagan last night, after catching the second half of the Spring Wine Festival. We think we've been doing this for seven years now.

The "festival" part of it really just marks the kickoff of summer hours in tasting rooms. There are also a number of events, most of which seem to be related to food (and an excuse to overcharge). This event used to be just four days at the beginning of May; somewhere in the last few years it was expanded to a week and a half. We found touring around on Thursday and Friday that there weren't a lot of other people around. The weekend was quite busy, especially Sunday which was Mothers' Day.

Some highlights were an overdue return to the Similkameen Valley, several wineries visited for the first time, cowboy Ken from Rustico, some great stinky cheeses from Poplar Grove and Upper Bench, and Bill from Fairview going back to his house to find us a couple of bottles of The Wrath.

This was also the first year I took notes. The quality of some of the tasting notes inexplicably declined during each day, as did the quality of my handwriting. But at least I have a record of everywhere we went and what we tasted. I plan to write it all up here in the next few days, but here are the raw numbers:
  • 85 hours in the Okanagan
  • 36 wineries visited
  • 221 wines tasted
  • 60 wines brought back
  • $100 in extra baggage fees
It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.