Back in June I toured a few of the wineries in Okanagan Falls, but one afternoon was nowhere near enough time to visit them all so I recently dedicated a day to touring the rest of them. I started off my day up Hawthorne Mountain at See Ya Later Ranch. I have tried most of their wines at one point or another and had even driven past a few times (outside of wine shop hours, unfortunately) but had not ever stopped in to taste at the winery. I had heard many people say how gorgeous the view is from the patio and I discovered that they have been telling the truth, especially on such a gorgeous day as this. I definitely must return sometime to take advantage of the lunch menu in such a picturesque setting, overlooking OK Falls and Skaha Lake beyond. As there is quite an extensive list of wines available, I decided to limit myself to those that I have not recently tried. The 2011 Pinot 3 is a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir (without skin contact). It is a dry white wine, with apple on the nose, crisp acidity, a round mouthfeel and flavours of peach, apricot and green apple. The pleasant flavours linger for a while on the palate. The 2010 Jimmy My Pal is a blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Ehrenfelser. It has a bit of petrol on the nose from the Riesling, followed by some melon. The acidity is quite high, with green apple, pear and melon on the palate. The 2011 Chardonnay has spent 6 months in a mix of French and American oak and undergone partial malolactic fermentation, giving it a soft buttered-popcorn nose, with a hint of pineapple. The pineapple carries over to the palate and it has a caramel finish – quite tasty. The 2011 Riesling is pure green apple and lime. The 2009 Ping is a blend of 57% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc and 19% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has prune plum and cherry on the nose, medium acidity, medium to heavy tannins and a medium to long finish, with flavours of plum, cherry and blackberry.
Meyer Family Vineyards has decided to focus primarily on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, although they do also produce a Gewürztraminer and a Merlot Rosé, which is now sold out. The 2011 Gewürztraminer has spice on the nose, with lychee and spice on the palate and a round mouthfeel. The 2011 Chardonnay, from vineyards in OK Falls and Naramata, is a blend of 50% stainless steel and 50% French oak. Flavours of citrus and spice dominate the palate and the oak flavour is quite mellow. This is a nice Chardonnay for those who don’t want too much oakiness. The 2010 Tribute Chardonnay (paying tribute to Sonja Gaudet) is from the Old Main Road Vineyard in Naramata and is a beautiful balance between French oak and creamy pineapple. The 2010 Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir has cherry and spice on the nose, is quite light in body, with cherry on the palate, with a hint of spice and a medium finish. The 2010 Reimer Pinot Noir is a medium to dark ruby colour and is much richer in flavour than the previous Pinot Noir, with medium tannins and acidity, and rich cherry flavour. It is elegant and well-balanced. The 2010 McLean Creek Pinot Noir has softer tannins, flavours of cherry and plum, with balanced acidity. My favourite of the Pinot Noirs is the Reimer Pinot. Meyer now has a lovely patio and has picnic packs available to enjoy outside with some of their wine.
I’m so happy that Blue Mountain Vineyards no longer requires appointments to visit (although they do ask groups of more than 4 people to call ahead). I always enjoy their wines so much. Tomasz started off the tasting with their Brut, made in the traditional method, with a blend of 61% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 4% Pinot Gris. It spent 24 months in bottle sur lies in contact with the dead yeast cells, giving it a lovely biscuity nose. That biscuit characteristic continues on the palate along with a lovely lemon. It has tiny prolonged bubbles. Next up were a couple of new releases: the 2011 Pinot Blanc and the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, released just 3 weeks earlier. The Pinot Blanc comes from 16 year old vines and has a lovely apricot and pear nose, a round mouthfeel and citrus and apricot on the palate. 30% of the wine spent up to 6 months in French oak sur lies, contributing to the mouthfeel and creaminess. The Sauvignon Blanc comes from approximately 15 acres of high-density planting on the property. The higher density planting helps to stress the vines. The nose is relatively subdued, with grassy notes on the palate, along with flavours of citrus and gooseberry. The 2010 Pinot Gris has pear and melon on the nose and palate, with relatively high acidity. The Pinot Noir was not open for tasting, but it is always one of my favourites.
Next I met with Matt Holmes, the winemaker at Liquidity Wines, a new neighbour to Blue Mountain that is slated to open in May 2013. He graciously took me on a tour of the property, explaining the vision for the final setup. The overall property is 30 acres, with 20 acres planted to vine. The breakdown of varietals is approximately in thirds: one third Pinot Noir, one third Chardonnay, Viognier and Pinot Gris and one third Bordeaux varietals. 10 acres are older vines originally planted by Ian Mavety, the owner of Blue Mountain Vineyards. Prior to the purchase of the property by the current owners of Liquidity, Ian MacDonald and his partners, the vineyard had fallen into a bit of a state but their team has brought it back to good health. It is now a lovely vineyard in a beautiful setting. As much as possible, the vineyard is treated naturally, with chemicals only being used as a last resort. The entire property, which backs onto a nature reserve, is very respectful to the natural surroundings. The existing southwest-style house on the property is slated for some renovations to turn it into the tasting room and bistro with indoor and outdoor seating, along with an infinity pool feature that looks out over the stunning view of the vineyard and Vaseux Lake, with McIntyre Bluff in the distance. The 5,000 sq.ft winery building in the northwest corner of the site is nearing completion and will accommodate the anticipated future production of 4,000 cases per year, with a large covered crush pad, tank room, lab, barrel room and plenty of storage space all enclosed in a high-efficiency building clad with Kingspan insulated panels. It’s a very cleanly designed building. Throughout the entire property there will be water elements, all tying in to the Liquidity name. I very much look forward to its completion and to try the wines next spring!
The next three wineries that I visited are all very close neighbours, next door and across the street from each other, so I certainly didn’t have far to go. At Stag’s Hollow, their winemaker Dwight Sick took me on an informative tour of their relatively new winery facility that will soon also house a bright new tasting room. The building has a geothermal heating and cooling system which is tied in to each of the tanks independently. Dwight was spending the day in the cellars getting ready for the next day of bottling their 2010 Heritage Block wine, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and their first red to be bottled under screw cap. The 2010 vintage is also the first time that Cabernet Franc will make up 40% of the blend. I was able to sample each of the wines from their tanks. The Merlot is still a bit tight but has beautiful structure and texture. The Cabernet Sauvignon also has good structure and texture and just a hint of green characteristics. The Cabernet Franc is absolutely beautiful! I look forward to trying the 2010 Heritage Block upon its release at the Fall Wine Festival this year! Dwight also treated me to a barrel sample of their Tempranillo. Stag’s Hollow is one of only a handful of Okanagan wineries who produce Tempranillo. This one has great complexity, with flavours of raisin and dried fruits. The tannins are fabulous, and the acidity is medium-to-high. By the time this is released in the fall of 2013, this wine will have spent two years in barrel and one year in bottle. I look forward to it! We returned to the tasting room, where Linda Pruegger (co-owner with Larry Gerelus) ran me through a cross-section of their wines. The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc has grassy notes, pear and grapefruit on the nose, with lots of lime on the palate. The 2010 Viognier spent some time in French barrels and has apricot on the nose, a round mouthfeel and citrus and apricot on the palate. The 2011 Riesling only had 93 cases produced, as Stag’s Hollow’s inaugural release of Riesling. It has lovely flavours of Granny Smith apple and lime. There is some initial sweetness on the front palate but has crisp acidity for the finish. The 2011 Tragically Vidal has lovely aromatics and a fuller body. It is off-dry, with tropical fruits and pineapple on the palate and would make a lovely summer patio sipper. The 2009 SHV Pinot Noir has a cherry and cotton candy nose, with cherry and spice on the palate with medium acidity and soft-to-medium tannins. This is absolutely lovely! The 2009 Heritage Block is a blend of Merlot, Cab Franc and Cab Sauv, with flavours of plum and cherry with a hint of green but more of the richness and a bit of tobacco leaf. The 2010 Hart is a fortified Merlot with absolutely beautiful flavours; I couldn’t walk out of there without a bottle of it.
Wild Goose Vineyards & Winery is just up the street and it was great to visit their brand new tasting room. It’s a large bright space that opens up onto a large deck that overlooks the vineyards. As I have recently sampled several of the Wild Goose wines at a couple of events, I decided to focus on some wines that I hadn’t tried. The 2011 God’s Mountain Riesling has high acidity and a lovely minerality, with flavours of green apple and lime. The 2011 Autumn Gold is a blend of Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Blanc. It is off-dry with flavours of apricot and caramel and is very nicely balanced. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon only had 90 cases produced. It has raspberry and cocoa on the nose, with raspberry, blackberry and cassis on the palate with cocoa on the finish. It is very well balanced and has a lovely long finish. As many of the popular and award-winning wines are quickly selling out (or have sold out), the wine shop is offering a special ‘Gold Medal 6-pack’ which contains a bottle of each of the 2011 vintages of: Pinot Gris, Mystic River Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Autumn Gold, Chardonnay and Mystic River Pinot Gris, all for $126.32. For those wines that are otherwise sold out, this is a great way to pick them up!
The final winery of the day is right across the road from Wild Goose – Tangled Vines Winery. Elaine greeted me in the tasting room and poured through a sampling of four whites and a rosé. The 2009 Pinot Blanc has apple, pear and citrus on the nose, with lemon on the palate. The 2010 Sauvignon Blanc has crisp lemon and lime on the palate. The 2010 Gewürztraminer tastes of citrus and pear. The 2010 3 Blancs is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris. It is an off-dry wine with nice flavours and good acidity to balance the sweetness. The 2009 Tickled Pink is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Pinot Blanc, with strawberry and black cherry flavours with a hint of spice on the back palate.