Hester Creek was our next stop (after skipping Gehringer for the first time... ever). Hester has completed a large amount of expensive-looking renovations and expansions in recent years. We also missed it the first time the new tasting room was open about three years ago, because we drove up to the old wine shop and it was closed. We almost left but then we noticed a much larger building about fifty feet above us on the next plateau. It is stunning: a long wooden tasting bar, large store with wine and related goodies, a deluxe kitchen with room for about a dozen people, a barrel room (a sort of mini-cellar on the main floor, cool and dim with about 40 or so barrels) and a private dining/tasting area with a giant table that looks like something a French king would be comfortable with. There is also one of the best patios out front with a stunning view of the south Okanagan valley. There is not a single thing that was overlooked in the design, and everything is luxurious. But for all that, it doesn't feel exclusive or snobby in the least. The friendly, down-to-earth professionals pouring wine probably should get some credit for that.
According to my notes, I tasted ten wines here. Overall, Hester Creek offers good to very good wines at reasonable prices, and I preferred the reds over their whites.
- Pinot Gris 2011 ($17)
This Pinot Gris is a stunning example of our terroir, grown on both the east and west South Okanagan benches. Hallmark crisp acidity and tree fruit aromas reflect the land where the grapes are grown and mark it as different from its European relatives. Try this refreshing white with salmon flavoured with lemon and dill, pea or asparagus risottos, or a mustard tarragon cream sauce over chicken.
Found this one a little musty - the use Stelvin so it's not the cork. 87 points.
- Pinot Blanc 2011 ($16)
Hosting some of the estate's oldest vines, our east-facing bench is exemplary for Pinot Blanc. Cooler late afternoons and nights bring about crisp acidity and fruit flavours. Fresh and ready to drink, this wine is perfect chilled for summer sipping or to pair with oysters in the winter. Fruity with green apple, peach, melon and honey, the wine gives way to underlying balanced herbal notes. Enjoy this full BC classic with local fare: fresh BC spot prawns in a bright lemon spaghetti, organic local roasted chicken with garden herbs, and fresh Pacific oysters on the half shell.
- Character White 2011 ($20)
Sweeter, great chilled patio wine. 88 points.
- Trebbiano 2011 ($23)
The Okanagan's only Trebbiano, these vines are some of the oldest on the estate. Made with selected yeasts and a cool ferment, the resulting wine is fruity and crisp. The nose has apple, citrus and passion fruit, with mineral and grapefruit notes on the palate. Enjoy with Asian food like Pad Thai, spicy barbequed chicken, or an arrabiata pasta.
No nose at all! (Not good or bad, just very unusual.) 88 points.
- Selected Barrels Merlot 2010 ($19)
This special wine reveals how well Merlot has acclimatized to our environment, with great concentration of fruit. Aged in specially selected barrels, this Merlot is perfect for every occasion: a hostess gift at a dinner party, paired with summer burgers, or just as a week-night treat. Once uncorked, this deep rich Merlot reveals aromas of blackberry, plum, and black cherries. On the palate, discover plum and cherry notes with a hint of toffee. Smooth tannins and a full mouthfeel round out this special vintage. Pair this ruby-red gem with hearty winter stews, braised lamb shanks, bison burgers, roast pork with apple and sage, and grilled sirloin steak.
Medium dry, no finish, very tasty with red fruit and plum. 89 points.
- Selected Barrels Cabernet Merlot 2010 ($19)
Aged in specially selected barrels, this versatile Bordeaux-style blend embraces all the characteristics of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot grapes grown on our estate vineyard. The blackberry and blackcurrant flavours of the Cabernet are enhanced by the soft muted flavours of plum and black cherry found in our Merlot. Blended together before aging to ensure proper marrying, this Cabernet Merlot is loaded with savoury plum, currant, and spicy notes. Enjoy with grilled sirloin steak, falling-off-the-bone ribs, or with a burger.
- Character Red 2010 ($20)
Character emerges from our land and is vibrantly present in this rich red. Made from 100% estate-grown grapes, the Character Red is a true representation of Hester Creek. A blend of Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, and Petit Verdot, this wine has rich notes of coffee, spice, plum, wild cherry, and toasty oak. Ready to age for two to five years, savour this blend with grilled rosemary lamb chops, a medium rare steak, or fall-off-the-bone ribs.
One of their best - a peppery, earthy blend. 89 points.
- Reserve Merlot 2008 ($27)
Very smooth. 88 points.
- Reserve Merlot 2007 ($30)
This Reserve Merlot is ready to age five to 10 years. Old vines produce blockbuster wines and the vines chosen to produce this reserve wine are no exception - over 35 years old and they are still growing strong. Strong notes of mocha, plum, and a hint of toffee create a perfect pairing for rosemary garlic roasted chicken, barbequed rack of lamb, rich beef curries, or dark chocolate mousse.
A bonus tasting to compare to the previous Merlot. Unfortunately I think this one had oxidized so I'm won't give it a score. Apart from that I sensed it was quite different from the 2008.
- The Judge ($45)
As it wasn't too busy and we were asking good questions and generally being charming, we were offered a barrel tasting of this one. You need to have a little imagination when tasting from the barrel as the wine isn't ready yet. This is already a delicious and complex wine, and I think it will become noticeable better as the various flavours mingle and mature. 89 points now, probably more after a couple of years in a bottle.