Over the past month or so I’ve managed to attend a few tasting events and visited a handful of wineries to sample the new spring releases; some have certainly surprised and delighted me.
At the trade tasting for the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival, I was able to sample wines from many producers within a few short hours within the same room at the Laurel Packinghouse in Kelowna. A few of the standout whites for me included a couple of selections from Tantalus Vineyards. Their 2011 Old Vines Riesling Natural Brut is the sparkling wine made in the traditional method from the free-run juice from the fruit of the single block of 36-year-old Riesling vines, with 24 months en tirage. It has persistent tiny bubbles, crisp acidity and flavours of citrus, pear and apple with hints of toastiness and minerality. The Old Vines Riesling (still wine) is usually one of my favourites, and the 2011 vintage is no exception with its high acidity, little bit of residual sugar to balance the acidity beautifully with minerality, crisp lime and green apple flavours with a hint of stone fruit. St Hubertus Winery has come out with a great budget-friendly ($12.50) white blend of Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Chasselas. This is a tasty patio sipper, clean and fresh flavours of ripe fruit with a hint of sweetness. Gray Monk has always been consistent with their ever-popular Pinot Gris but I think they’ve really outdone themselves with the 2013 vintage. It has a clean fresh nose, a real zing from the acidity and delicious flavours of pear and melon. The Pinot Gris from relative newcomer Maverick Estate Winery has 5% Gewurztraminer added to the mix. It is clean, fresh and well-balanced, with tasty pear and citrus. The 2013 ‘The Spice Jar’ from Lake Breeze is a new blend for them, combining Gewurztraminer, Schonburger and Ehrenfelser. It has a clean nose of lychee fruit, is off-dry with flavours of lychee, rose and tropical fruit – a great patio sipper. Intrigue Wines‘ 2013 Social has a fun bottle and what’s inside is tasty too, with a blend of 74% Riesling, 20% Gewurztraminer and 6% Muscat Canelli. This off-dry aromatic wine has flavours of banana and tropical fruit is well-balanced with the acidity, and is clean and fresh. My favourite whites of the day included the 2013 Arneis (Italian varietal, originally from the Piedmont region) from Moon Curser, with its flavours of citrus and spice and wonderful complexity. Another favourite was the 2013 Amicitia White from Covert Farm Family Estate, a blend of 60% Roussanne, 20% Semillon and 20% Viognier. It has nice acidity, good fruit flavours and again, nice complexity. I believe that my overall favourite came from Intersection Winery – the 2013 Reserve Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc has a toasty nose, is dry with great acidity, tropical fruit flavours and is wonderfully complex on the palate – delicious!
A few highlights from recent winery visits include the 2013 Amphora VRM from Laughing Stock Vineyards in Naramata. This is a blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne that was fermented (whole cluster wild ferment) in clay amphorae. It spent approximately 6 months in the amphorae with full skin contact, producing a medium gold wine with an intensely perfumed nose with floral aromas and apricot. It is dry, with medium-plus acidity, medium-minus tannins (yes, this is a tannic white wine), and complex flavours of apricot, citrus, spice with some oiliness and briney-ness and a medium-plus finish. I really enjoyed it, having become acquainted with the amber wines of Georgia, made in a somewhat similar method.
Last week, along with a couple of my colleagues from Liquidity Wines, I attended a tasting at Culmina Family Estate, hosted by Don & Elaine Triggs. We were introduced to their new releases including the first Gruner Veltliner to be produced in the Okanagan Valley. Its name is Unicus, from the Latin for “single” or “unique”. The 2013 Unicus is a clear bright pale lemon with a hint of green. It has a rich nose of citrus, celery and stone fruit with hints of floral. On the palate it’s dry with medium-plus acidity and a medium body with flavours of lemon, celery, white pepper and stone fruit with lovely minerality and a medium-plus finish. The 2013 Decora is their newly-released Riesling. The name again comes from Latin for “adorn”, or “add beauty to”. It is clear bright pale lemon in colour with a rich nose of white peach and citrus. It is dry, with high acidity and a medium-minus body. It has juicy flavours of lemon, lime, apple, greengage plums and peach with lovely minerality. It is very well-balanced with a long finish.