In order to help celebrate my birthday this year, J treated us to a weekend at Spirit Ridge Resort in Osoyoos, and treated me to some quality time at Solstice Spa at the resort. And of course, being down in Osoyoos and surrounded by some of my favourite wineries, I could not let a day go by without doing a bit of touring. On the Saturday, after I got off work, we stuffed the car with bags (me – a half dozen bags and a half a case of wine, J – one bag, half full) and headed down to Spirit Ridge. We were invited to share the evening with some friends who were celebrating their engagement and the first public release of their new line of sparkling wines: Bella Wines. This is the new venture of Jay Drysdale and his fiancée, Wendy Rose, in conjunction with Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland. They have produced two dry bubblies this vintage; one is 100% Chardonnay and the other is 100% Gamay Noir – a white and a pink. The Chardonnay has light flavours of citrus and a hint of peach. The Gamay Noir exhibits lovely flavours of berries, rhubarb and citrus. Both have beautiful tiny bubbles and are just delightful; I was hard pressed to pick a favourite, although I think the pink was edging ahead just slightly. The evening was lovely and I was thankful that Jay and Wendy included us in their special night.
Sunday, after a lazy morning, J and I headed up to the most northerly Osoyoos winery, LaStella; it is part of Enotecca, which also owns Le Vieux Pin in Oliver. LaStella’s main focus is on a more Italian-style of winemaking, and all of their wines are named for musical terms, which also describe each wine. We were greeted by very knowledgeable tasting room staff that ran us through the lineup. The 2011 Leggiero is their unoaked Chardonnay; it is light, crisp and elegant with some citrus and nice minerality. The 2011 Vivace is their Pinot Grigio; it has lots of peach and pear on the nose, which carries over onto the palate, along with some apricot and citrus. There is a slight oiliness to the mouthfeel and overall it’s quite tasty. The 2009 Fortissimo is a blend of 67% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Sangiovese (they are one of the few that use Sangiovese in the Okanagan), and 5% Cabernet Franc. This wine was aged for 18 months in a mix of Slavonian and French oak. The tannins are still quite heavy so this one can definitely be laid down for another few years; however, the rich flavours of cherry and blackberry are quite scrumptious right now. The 2008 Allegretto is a single vineyard Merlot. The vineyard where it is grown is pure silica sand and the vines are not grafted (only a small percentage of the vines in BC are not reliant on hardier rootstock. These vines have also been cropped quite low at 1.9 tons per acre, in order to concentrate the flavours of the remaining grapes on the vines. The wine was aged for 17 months in 30% new French oak. It has a cherry nose, medium tannins that are not at all aggressive, lovely cherry, plum and spice on the palate. This wine is perfect right now. The 2008 Maestoso is LaStella’s flagship Merlot. It is cropped even lower than the Allegretto, at 1.2 tons per acre and only the choicest grapes make the cut. This also spent 17 months in 40% new French oak. There is a hint of sage on the nose, deep cherry and plum on the palate and medium tannins. This is a very rich wine that I look forward to drinking on some occasion later this year. The Moscato d’Osoyoos is a lovely blend of three different Muscat varietals: Muscat Bianco, Muscat Ottonel and Orange Muscat. It is a lower alcohol, slightly off-dry and effervescent wine. It has a beautifully floral nose, orange blossom in particular, and luscious mandarin on the palate. It is beautifully balanced. I next did a side-by-side comparison between the 2010 and 2011 vintages of the LaStellina Rosé. The 2011 is paler in colour, has just a hint of sweetness, with lots of pink grapefruit on the palate, while the 2010 is a deeper pink, is sweeter and has more cranberry and citrus on the palate. My preferred choice is the 2011 LaStellina.
Down to the border we go! Well, almost to the US border anyway, as Young & Wyse is located practically spitting distance from the duty-free shop. I only became acquainted with the Young & Wyse Collection last year, but have yet to be disappointed by any of their wines. The people behind the wine are Michelle Young and her husband Stephen Wyse, of the Burrowing Owl Wyse family. Stephen and Michelle decided to venture out on their own and have been producing some beautiful wines ever since. The 2011 Pinot Gris has a nose of melon and apple, with crisp acidity, lemon and nectarine on the palate. The 2011 Amber, a blend of Viognier, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer has a beautiful nose of jasmine. Apple, citrus, apricot and spice rule the palate and there is a lovely minerality to this wine. The 2010 Merlot has opened up a bit more since I tasted it this winter. There is blueberry and spice on the nose, and on the palate it is pure blueberry jam, with some raspberry, spice and a hint of lilac, with medium tannins. The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon has a black currant nose, with black currant, blueberry and blackberry on the palate. This is not a huge Cab Sauv, but it is elegant. I was very happy to see a little bit of the 2009 Black Label 33-30-24-13 in stock and grabbed a couple of them. The numbers relate to the blend that goes into this tasty wine: 33% Merlot, 30% Syrah, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Cabernet Franc. This has espresso on the nose and rich flavours of cherry and plum, with a bit of espresso and cocoa.
Moon Curser Vineyards is one of my favourites in the Okanagan. Unfortunately, since their rebranding last year (they used to be Twisted Tree), many people have taken issue with their new name and their labels and want nothing more to do with them. I do find this a bit sad on one hand, but then again, it does mean that they’re not fighting me for the amazing wine in those bottles. More for me! Once again, Chris and Beata Tolley have released a great new vintage of wines. The 2011 Afraid of the Dark is a white blend but has changed a little bit from the 2010. In 2010 it was a blend of Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne. In 2011, the Viognier was removed and instead it is a blend of 42% Marsanne, 33% Rousanne and 25% Chardonnay. It is a lovely crisp dry wine with hints of ginger and grapefruit. The 2011 Viognier has a candied peach nose, with peach, honey and ginger on the palate. The 2010 Tempranillo is the lightest red that Moon Curser produces and is medium-bodied, with lots of cherry and violets on the nose. On the palate it is a bit meaty, smoky and the cherry and violets carry through. The 2010 Syrah is aged in a mix of 20% new Hungarian oak and 10% new French oak. It is beginning to open up a bit more since I last tasted it about a month ago. There is lots of black cherry and pepper on the palate, with a bit of dried fruit. This could easily be put away for another 5-7 years. The 2010 Merlot has a nose of plum jam, with cherry, plum, coffee and spice on the palate – very tasty! It was aged in 25% new American oak and could be cellared for another 3-5 years. The 2010 Border Vines is a blend of all six approved red Bordeaux varietals: 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec, 7% Carmenère and 3% Petit Verdot. It was aged in 25% new French oak and has black currant, blackberry, plum and spice on the palate, with medium tannins, although the tannins seems to be a bit heavier this year than with the 2009 vintage at the same time last year. This year Moon Curser has done single varietals of both Petit Verdot and Malbec and I was quite impressed by both! The 2010 Malbec was aged in 20% new French oak. It has lots of blueberry, black cherry and plum on the palate, with medium-firm tannins. The 2010 Petit Verdot has quite a bit more structure and is a lot darker, with a huge nose of violets. The violets carry over to the palate, joining some deep cherry flavour. The 2010 Dead of Night is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Tannat. Moon Curser is the only winery in Canada to produce the Tannat grape which, incidentally, is the national grape of Uruguay. Dead of Night is full of cherry, prune plums and violets, with a hint of tobacco. It was aged in a mix of French and Hungarian oak, with 20% new oak. This wine could be laid down for another 7-10 years.
We lucked out with the timing of our visit to the next winery, Adega on 45th, as they were celebrating their Grand Opening the day that we were touring the area. This has been a project long in coming for the Farinha and Nunes families but their winery has finally opened; and if the crowds that day were any indication, it’s a resounding success. They had set up stations all around the large tasting room as well as on the patio to sample all of their wines on offer and each station also had some tasty food pairings. The 2011 Chardonnay is unoaked, offering some grapefruit on the nose, with citrus, apple and peach on the palate. The 2010 Felicidade is a wine made of Viognier. This wine has lovely mouthfeel and flavours of citrus, apple and pear. The 2011 Viognier has a nose of citrus and peach with a hint of floral. The palate is full of peaches and a hint of spice. The 2011 Pinot Gris is slightly off-dry, with a lovely round mouthfeel and really clean flavours of melon and pear. The 2011 Rosé is a blend of Viognier and Merlot and has just a hint of sweetness to it. It is quite full-bodied for a rosé, with lots of berry flavour – quite tasty! The 2010 Syrah is the only red on offer at the moment. It has lots of cherry, black currant and pepper on the nose, introducing some blackberry on the palate, with more pepper and tobacco on the palate. It has some nice structure as well and could be laid down for a few more years.
As we were staying at Spirit Ridge Resort, we had a winery right on our doorstep with Nk’Mip Cellars (pronounced In-ka-meep). They have been producing consistently tasty wines for almost a decade now. The 2010 Pinot Blanc is full of citrus and green apple. The 2010 Riesling is one of my favourites in the valley for a dry mineral-style Riesling. It has beautiful minerality, with granny smith apple and a lime finish. The 2010 Chardonnay is a blend of 40% French oak and 60% stainless steel and is a great blend of fresh crisp fruit with a touch of oak; it has flavours of pineapple and melon. The 2009 Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay on the other hand has spent 10 months in 100% French oak and is delicious! It has a buttered popcorn nose, with a hint of citrus on the palate with a lovely nuttiness and some caramel too; yum! The 2010 Pinot Noir is quite light, with a raspberry nose, with plum, black currant and some spice on the palate. The 2009 Qwam Qwmt Pinot Noir is a little more fruit-forward and not quite as rich and earthy as the 2008 vintage. The 2009 Merlot is medium-bodied with lots of plum, cassis and tobacco on the palate. The 2008 Qwam Qwmt Merlot is full of cherry, blackberry, coffee and cocoa, with medium-firm tannins and nice balance. The 2008 Qwam Qwmt Syrah, which won ‘Red Wine of the Year’ at Cornucopia and a Bronze at Syrah du Monde, has beautiful flavours of blueberry, baking spice, cedar and white pepper. The medium tannins are softening nicely. The 2008 Qwam Qwmt Meritage is a blend of 69% Merlot, 28.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc. Its nose offers hints of cherry, chocolate and mint, while the palate features cherry, cassis, tobacco and a hint of cocoa. The 2008 Qwam Qwmt Cabernet Sauvignon offers lots of cassis, cedar, cherry, spice and tobacco. This wine has lovely structure and is nicely balanced. The 2009 Mer-r-iym (pronounced Mur-reem) is a rich and decadent blend of 46% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. This is one that could easily be put down for another 5 years. If offers lots of black cherry and chocolate on the nose, to which is added smoke, tobacco and leather on the palate. This is one to savour.
I had to make a stop up in Oliver to Fairview Cellars as over a month ago I had asked Bill Eggert to hang onto a bottle for me and I get yet to get down there to buy it. So J and I headed up to the little log cabin on the hill overlooking Fairview Golf Course to sample some of Bill’s lovely wines. The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc has lovely crisp citrus and bright apricot flavours. The 2010 Eagle Bluff Crooked Post Pinot Noir is delightful, with a pale ruby colour, beautiful cherry flavours and nice structure. The 2010 Cabernet Franc has flavours of cherry, raspberry and spice, with medium tannins. The 2010 Two Hoots, named for two Great Horned owls that return year after year to nest on the property, is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. It has beautiful structure and flavours of blackberry and blueberry. Bill had a few Library Wines available for tasting and I will never turn down the offer to try older vintages! The 2005 The Bear is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The tannins have softened beautifully and the flavours are very rich and luscious, with cherry and plum, along with a bit of caramel and toasty oak. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon still has medium-to-heavy tannins, is nicely balanced with great acidity and fruit. Flavours of black currant, plum, cocoa and a hint of coffee. The 2008 Iconoclast was Bill’s best barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon of that vintage, which was then treated to 100% new French oak. It is absolutely beautiful and something I would like to lay down for another few years. Finally, the wine that I came for – 2009 The Wrath. This is a wine never again likely to be replicated as it came from a culmination of events: a hailstorm that wiped out a large portion of the fruit in the vineyard, plus perfect ripening temperatures which brought the remaining fruit to an overwhelming concentration of flavours. This wine has an incredibly deep dark colour and rich decadent flavours of dried cherries and plums and some lovely smokiness. This is one that Bill recommends for cellaring up to 20 years, although I’m not sure if I can hang onto it quite that long! I’ll certainly try for 5 or so.