J and I ventured out on our first little winery tour of the season on the last weekend in April – the week before the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival kicked off. We were heading down to Rustico Winery to visit with Bruce over dinner so decided to stop in at a handful of wineries in the Oliver area through the afternoon.
Our first stop of the day was at Stoneboat Vineyards, on the Black Sage Bench just south of the town of Oliver. This year is particularly exciting for Stoneboat as they received some money from the Canadian government, in the form of an interest-free loan as part of the Agricultural Innovation Program, to help get set up with special pressurized stainless steel tanks in order to be the first winery in BC to make a Charmat method sparkling wine, also known as ‘Méthode Cuvée Close’. Using the Charmat method, the second fermentation happens within these special tanks, which allow a certain amount of the carbon dioxide to remain within the wine, creating the bubbles. In keeping with Stoneboat’s musical theme for the naming of their wines, this delicious sparkling wine is called Piano. It was inspired by the Proseccos of northern Italy is made from Pinot Blanc grapes from some 30-year-old vines. Piano offers delicate bubbles with aromas and flavours of peach, pear, green apple and citrus – delightful! The 2012 Faux Pas Rosé had recently been released and, as with many other 2012 rosés that I’ve come across in the past couple of months, it is sporting a much deeper colour than previous vintages – a pale purple-y fuchsia that is in the same colour tones as Stoneboat’s labels for their reds wines. It is a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinotage and is once again delicious! It has a rhubarb citrus nose with flavours of rhubarb, citrus and raspberry. I tasted the 2010 Pinotage to finish off. It offers aromas and flavours of black currant, cinnamon and allspice with nice acidity and medium tannins – very tasty.
Next we headed down the road to Church & State Wines to visit Mandy in the tasting room. We started with the 2012 Cuvée Blanc, which is an aromatic blend of Pinot Gris (a new addition to the blend this vintage), Riesling, Orange Muscat and Gewürztraminer. It has lovely flavours and crisp acidity. The 2011 Cabernet Blanc is holding up very nicely (I find that many rosés drop off in flavour by the following year). It has nice flavours of strawberry and citrus. The Chardonnay from Coyote Bowl has once again returned and I am celebrating! While the Gravelburg Chardonnay last year was nice, it just didn’t compare (in my opinion) to the previous Coyote Bowl Chardonnay. So, for the 2011 vintage it is only the Coyote Bowl Chardonnay that is available at the winery and I therefore did my little happy dance. It was aged in 1/3 new French oak, has a buttery nose with some hints of pineapple and flavours of creamy pineapple and buttered popcorn and a deliciously long finish. Needless to say, I left with several bottles of it. The 2010 Coyote Bowl Merlot is medium ruby in colour with cherry, chocolate and spice on the nose, medium-plus acidity, medium-plus tannins and cherry plum and spice on the palate, with a decent finish. The 2010 C&S Cabernet Franc has flavours of spice and cherry with nice grippy tannins – pairs wonderfully with roast lamb. The 2009 C&S Meritage is Merlot dominant and includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It has aromas and flavours of spice, cassis, plum and cherry. It is still a bit tight but is starting to open up. It has medium-plus tannins and medium acidity. Mandy made a quick call up to Fairview Cellars to see if it was open for us and off we went up the hill to Fairview.
Bill Eggert answered the door buzzer/intercom with “Just follow the noise of the excavator!” so over to the side of the tasting cabin we went, to look down into the pit that will become the new winemaking facility of Fairview Cellars. The concrete walls were up and Bill was on the excavator, seemingly levelling out the ground inside for the concrete floor to be poured. He joined us up top and brought us into the tasting cabin to try the new 2012 Sauvignon Blanc before escorting us across his property to check out the three baby owls (babies of the “Two Hoots”) that were sitting in a nest, clearly visible through some greenery. They’re just such cute little fuzz balls! Back to the wine though, the Sauvignon Blanc is wonderful, possibly even better than the 2011 vintage. It has flavours and aromas of citrus, white floral and melon, with crisp acidity and a round mouthfeel – delicious! We headed back to the tasting cabin to try out the reds on offer that day. The 2011 Crooked Post Pinot Noir is a pale ruby colour with raspberry and cherry flavours. It is very light in body so would likely make a tasty summer sipper, slightly chilled.
The 2011 C-2 is Bill’s entry-level Cabernet Sauvignon, with 10% Cabernet Franc added in. It has flavours of cassis and chocolate with a tiny bit of bell pepper – very tasty. It has medium tannins and medium acidity. The 2010 Two Hoots is drinking quite well at the moment. It has flavours of cassis, plum and spice, with medium-plus acidity and tannins. The 2006 B.O.S (which stands for Bill, Olivier & Sam – the names of the growers) is a Cabernet Merlot blend with tannins that are still quite firm, but beginning to soften, with flavours of cassis, plum and cherry, and which is beautifully balanced. The 2011 Cabernet Franc is almost completely sold out. It has an earthy nose, with aromas of cherry and spice, medium tannins and medium-plus acidity. It has flavours of sour cherry, spice, and some well-integrated oak. Finally, last but certainly not least, was the 2009 Iconoclast, a Cabernet Sauvignon that Bill reserved only 4 barrels and aged them for 27 months. This wine is deep ruby with a purple tint. It has pronounced intensity and incredibly rich beautiful flavours. This is still very much a young wine and the bottles that I picked up will be very much appreciated in three to five years, or perhaps longer.
Off to Rustico we went, to visit with Bruce and cook some burgers on the BBQ. First up, Bruce had some tank samples that he wanted me to try. The first comparison was between a 2008 Pinot Gris and a 2012 Pinot Gris. The 2008 was clean, but did not offer much in the way of aromatics on the nose. The palate had great complexity though, and flavours of grapefruit and apricot. The 2012 had beautiful aromatics on the nose – floral, pear and white peach. On the palate it had flavours of peach, pear, apricot and citrus, with a lovely round mouthfeel. Next comparison was between a 2009 Gewürztraminer and a 2012 Gewürztraminer. The 2009 had some of the aromatics lost on the nose, and had flavours of citrus, lychee and a hint of rose. The 2012 had much more aromatics, was overall fresher, with nice floral, white peach, apricot and lychee. A 2012 Unoaked Chardonnay (to be named Silver Garter, vs. her oaked counterpart Golden Garter) had a lovely citrus nose with tropical flavours, a round mouthfeel and crisp acidity. Finally we tried a 2012 Semillon, which excited me as there aren’t too many Semillon’s available in the Okanagan. This one had peach and stone fruit on the nose, with citrus, apricot and almond on the palate. It had a medium body and a long finish. Of all the tank samples, the 2012 Semillon and 2012 Pinot Gris were my favourites and I look forward to seeing them bottled!
Overall, this was a great day of winery touring and just makes me look forward to getting back out there again this season, although I’m not looking to visit each and every winery again this year – I do need a bit of time to relax and garden this summer!