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After a week of holidays (without a single winery visit, if you can believe it), I’m feeling refreshed and so we headed out for some touring around Oliver and back up to Kaleden. We started our day at Hidden Chapel Winery, at the north end of Oliver. This lovely new addition to the Oliver wineries (opened last year) is named for the small chapel that is located to the rear of the property, secluded by the trees and the top of its roof just visible over the top of the sod-covered barrel cellar. The names of the wines are also in keeping with this name.  The 2011 ‘St Vincent’ is a blend of Riesling and Viognier, with apple, pear and apricot on the nose and palate. It is clean, fresh and slightly off-dry. The 2011 ‘Blushing Bride’ (also packaged as ‘St Nick’ for the Christmas beverage option) is a rosé made of Cabernet Sauvignon that had been soaked on the skins for 3 days and then later on blended with some Riesling. It is dry but quite fruity, with cherry and berry on the nose and cherry, cranberry and spice on the palate. The 2010 ‘Merry Monk’ is a Merlot with black cherry on the nose, plum, cherry and chocolate on the palate with nice acidity and softened tannins. The 2010 ‘Shotgun Wedding’ is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Petit Verdot. This has nice acidity and structure, with flavours of berries. The 2010 ‘Soul Sister’ is a blend of 80% Syrah, along with Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. This is a medium-to-full bodied wine with nice acidity and flavours of spice, leather and pepper. The 2010 ‘The Collection’ is a Meritage blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It has flavours of berries, smoke and a touch of espresso, with medium acidity and good structure. The 2009 ‘Trilogy’ is another Meritage blend but this one is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It has berries and butterscotch on both the nose and palate, with a hint of anise, medium-to-full tannins and medium acidity. This is a nicely balanced wine that is drinking quite nicely right now but could certainly be laid down for a while.

Next we headed over to the Black Sage Bench to Quinta Ferreira Estate Winery. Many of the names of the wines here pay tribute to the family’s Portuguese heritage. The 2009 Mistura Branca (‘white blend’ in Portuguese) is a blend of 44% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Gewürztraminer, 20% Pinot Gris and 6% Chardonnay. It is clean and light with floral notes, citrus and tropical fruits on the nose and palate. The 2010 Unoaked Chardonnay is one of my favourites in the valley, with its peach, citrus and apple on the nose and palate, crisp, with a nice round mouthfeel. The 2009 Mistura Tinto (‘red blend’ in Portuguese) is a light-to-medium bodied blend of Gamay, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. It has nice acidity and would be a great partner to pizza night! The 2008 Merlot has black cherry, vanilla, cinnamon and clove on the nose, with black cherry and cocoa on the palate and a coffee finish, with medium plus acidity and tannins. The 2009 Merlot Cabernet is a medium-to-full bodied wine, with medium acidity and flavours of cassis, chocolate and cherry. The 2009 Alagria is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Zinfandel with flavours of black cherry, raspberry and vanilla. It has high acidity and medium to full tannins. I think this one could use a bit of time. The 2009 Syrah is so tasty, with violets, blackberries and pepper on the nose and palate. This wine is well balanced with medium plus acidity and tannins and great flavours. The 2008 Obra-Prima is Quinta Ferreira’s flagship red blend, with black cherry and chocolate on the nose, cherry, mocha, cedar and spice on the palate with medium plus acidity and tannins. The 2009 Porta D’Ouro is a decadent fortified wine with flavours of dark black cherry and blackberry with nice acidity. We finished off with something a big lighter – the 2008 Vinho du Sol, a late harvest Chardonnay with luscious flavours of melon, peach and honey; so very tasty!

Silver Sage Winery was our next stop and is now one of J’s favourites due to the off-dry whites and fruity dessert wines, not to mention The Flame! This winery is always entertaining to visit as Elena’s personality and passion for the wines just takes over the entire room! There are always plenty of suggestions of different ways to use the wines, from martinis to drizzled over ice cream or waffles. The 2011 Gewürztraminer is slightly off-dry with flavours of lychee and a hint of Orange Tang. The 2011 Pinot Blanc is slightly off-dry with the distinct flavour of apple. The 2011 Sage Grand Reserve is a Gewürztraminer that was co-fermented with wild sage plants, making it a great pairing with turkey dinner. The 2010 Merlot has flavours of red berries and blackberry. The 2010 Pinot Noir ‘The Passion’ has flavours of black cherry, black currant and spice. Then we moved on to the dessert wines, all of which taste precisely of the fruits that have been added. The 2009 Merlot Raspberry/Blackberry is pure raspberry and blackberry. The 2010 ‘The Pearle’ is a fortified wine of Black Currant and Blackberry – quite tasty, with nice acidity. The 2012 Blueberry is another fortified wine and it tastes of pure blueberry. The 2010 Pinot Blanc Peach/Apricot tastes like a Bellini – summer in a glass! How can that be wrong?! Next we got on to one of the wines that Silver Sage is really well-known for: The Flame, a late harvest Gewürztraminer with the addition of a chili pepper. There are two versions: mild or hot. I opted for the mild while J tried the hot one, with the pepper still in the bottle. It is definitely interesting and something to try. It is not my cup of tea, but J loved it and bought a couple bottles of it! To do a bit of palate cleansing (although it is quite tough to put the burn completely out) we were then offered some of the 2012 Raspberry – another fortified fruit wine. This one would be a fabulous pairing with dark chocolate!

Finishing up with the Black Sage Bench we headed across to the Golden Mile to visit with Stella and Cashew (the winery dog) at Castoro de Oro Winery. The 2009 Heartbreaker is only available at the winery shop and is a blend of Chardonnay, Vidal and Pinot Blanc. The Chardonnay has undergone malolactic fermentation, contributing to a rounder mouthfeel and a hint of creaminess. It has an apricot nose and a fruity front palate and is nicely balanced. The 2010 Pinot Noir has a strawberry cherry nose, with cherry, earthiness and spice on the palate. It spent 3 months in Hungarian oak and 7 months in French oak. We finished with the 2006 Vidal Vin de Curé. Vin de Curé undergoes the special process of drying the grapes for 7 weeks after they’ve been picked, almost turning them to raisins before undergoing the fermentation process. I like this as a dessert as it’s not overly sweet (only about a 3 on the sweetness scale) and has nice acidity.

A bit further south along Highway 97, where it widens to 4 lanes, is a fruit stand that also contains a cidery. This is Orchard Hill Estate Cidery, which features the Red Roof Apple Cider. This is a lovely crisp dry cider with tiny bubbles. Samples are served in an area slightly separated from the rest of the fruit stand, in ice cold champagne flutes. The Red Roof Cider is available in 4-bottle packs (355mL bottles) or larger 1L bottles with the always-fabulous swing top closures (typical of German beer bottles and now many craft beers).

Back up in Kaleden, I decided to stop in at one winery that I had missed out on during an earlier tour – Top Shelf Winery, the newest addition to Kaleden’s wine scene. The hockey theme behind this winery stems from the owners’ passion for hockey and they were encouraged by their youngest son who is currently finishing his professional hockey career in Switzerland. He also contributed to the label design that features a goalie mask. The Slapshot Chardonnay is unoaked, with crisp citrus flavours and a hint of floral. The Pointshot Pinot Gris has a citrus nose, with lemon, lime and grapefruit on the palate. The Over The Top Merlot has black cherry and plum on the nose, with raspberry and black pepper on the palate with medium acidity and nice approachable tannins; quite tasty.