Last week I took part in one of my favourite events of the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival – the Industry Trade Tastings at the Laurel Packinghouse in Kelowna. Most years it takes place within the 10 days of the Wine Festival but this year it was the Monday prior to the start of Wine Fest, which probably made things a bit easier scheduling-wise for the wineries, who are generally pretty busy then. A colleague and I attended the event to check out some of the new releases of Spring 2013. The main reason I enjoy this event, other than getting to taste so many wines, is that it is not too crowded with people and I can therefore take a bit of time to speak with the winery owners or reps about their wines. And of course, as with most medium-to-large tasting events, there are at least a couple of hundred different wines to choose from. This time I managed to sample 81 of these wines and took some brief tasting notes on them.
I started making my way around the room sampling sparkling wines, whites and rosés first. Then I took a bit of a break from tasting wines to sample some of the delicious cheeses and meats, flatbreads and olives that were available before moving on to some reds. Rather than following my tasting order completely I will describe the wines below grouped by winery – whites and reds together.
The first table I stopped at was 50th Parallel Estate Winery, from Lake Country at the north end of the valley. I was very happy to see them featured as I had been unable to visit them in during my touring last year and was looking forward to trying the wines. Owners Sherri-Lee and Curtis were both there and I enjoyed chatting with them. I will certainly head up to the winery for a visit now that their tasting room is open! I tried their 2012 Riesling which had a bit of sweetness to it but was very nicely balanced with the acidity and had lovely flavours. Their 2012 Rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir and is delicious, with flavours of rhubarb and strawberry.
Bella Wines was featuring their new sparkling wines and thankfully they have more than doubled their production in the 2012 vintage, now up to 550 cases. This year they have also added a new wine to their portfolio, a second sparkling Chardonnay. The Chardonnay grapes were picked from two different locations in Oliver – Chardonnay West Side from the Secrest Vineyard at the north end of Oliver (where the 2011 Chardonnay grapes came from) and Chardonnay East Side from the Black Sage Bench south of Oliver but they were picked at only 1 Brix difference between the two properties and both wines were made identically – this is a great experiment in BC terroir and the results are surprising! Being told that one Chardonnay came from the super-hot Black Sage Bench and the other came from a site a bit further north and at higher elevation I made the assumption that the wine from Black Sage would be full of ripe tropical notes whereas the Secrest wine would be more crisp citrus. It’s actually the reverse! The 2012 Chardonnay West Side is creamy, with tropical notes whereas the 2012 Chardonnay East Side is quite flinty with crisp citrus notes. The third wine on offer is the 2012 Sparkling Gamay, made from grapes from the Secrest Vineyard. The grapes were crushed and spent about 6 hours on the skins for the lovely shade of pale pink. It has quite a creamy texture, rounder than the previous vintage, with flavours of cranberry and raspberry.
The 2011 Viognier from Quinta Ferreira has a bit of residual sugar to it and light flavours of apricot.
At the Stag’s Hollow table the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc is clean, with some grassiness and citrus flavours. The 2011 Con-Fusion includes a bit of Semillon and is a nice clean aromatic blend, slightly off-dry.
Arrowleaf Cellars’ 2012 Pinot Gris is crisp and clean, with a round mouthfeel and nice flavours. The 2012 Bacchus has beautiful aromatics and the acidity balances this off-dry patio-sipper nicely. The 2012 First Crush Rosé is a little less sweet than the previous vintage, with flavours of citrus and strawberry.
Sperling Estate’s 2012 The Market White is once again a blend of Pinot Blanc, Bacchus and Gewürztraminer. It is crisp and clean with a round mouthfeel and lovely aromatics. The 2011 Pinot Noir comes from four different Dijon clones and has been bottle aged for 6 months now. It is quite full-bodied for a Pinot Noir, with beautiful balance and some nice complexity – very tasty!
The LaFrenz 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is very much in the New Zealand style, with grassy notes, gooseberry and citrus flavours – delicious!
Pentâge’s Gewürztraminer is full of heady rose petal, along with lychee and spice. Their 2009 Hiatus is a blend of 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 29% Cabernet Franc. At $20, this is a tasty well-made Bordeaux blend with great value for money. The 2009 Syrah has a bit of meatiness to it with pleasant flavours.
I tried the FizzioTherapy from Therapy Vineyards for the first time, after having many people ask me about it last year. This is a pleasant sparkling wine made from 90% Chardonnay and 10% Orange Muscat, giving it a lovely fruitiness.
I had recently tried many of the Volcanic Hills wines so the only one that I tasted at this event was the 2012 Pinot Gris. It has lovely flavours of pear and white peach, with a bit of citrus. The finish was a bit shorter than I would’ve liked but overall I quite enjoyed it.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Calliope, it is a label produced by Burrowing Owl, at a much more approachable price point. Their 2011 Figure Eight White is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Viognier that has a hint of sweetness and pleasant flavours. The 2011 Riesling has nice acidity and a hint of diesel and at $12.99 would be an easy choice for me if I felt like a bit of Riesling on a Tuesday night. The 2011 Rosé is a blend of Syrah and Viognier, with flavours of berry and citrus.
The Road 13 Mitchell’s Vineyard 2012 Pinot Gris has really nice flavours of pear, a hint of honey and great minerality. I enjoyed it as much as the previous vintage, possibly more.
The Rosé from Sonoran Estate Winery is definitely one that I’ll be seeking out for some of this summer’s patio time. It has such a beautiful nose, that I think there must be a bit of Oraniensteiner in the blend. The primary flavour is strawberry, with a bit of floral and honey.
Lake Breeze’s 2012 Pinot Blanc is nice and crisp, quite light in flavour and body. The 2012 Pinot Gris is a fabulous sipper, with flavours of pear and peach.
I think I found my favourite buttery Chardonnay of the day with Township 7. Their 2010 Chardonnay has a pretty golden colour, lovely notes of brioche, apple, spice and caramel with a nice full body and flavours of buttered popcorn, apple and peach with a hint of spice. Yum!
8th Generation had a tasty lineup as usual. The 2012 Pinot Gris has spent some time in oak, giving it a nice mouthfeel. The 2011 Riesling Classic is the driest of their Rieslings, at 8 g/L RS, with crisp Granny Smith apple flavours. The 2011 Riesling Selection is my favourite of the bunch, with huge petrol notes. The 2012 Riesling is off-dry but well balanced between the acidity and the 24 g/L RS, with more tropical notes. The 2012 Pinot Meunier Rosé is no doubt going to be a top choice for patio wines once again, with a bit of sweetness and flavours of strawberry and cranberry. The 2011 Integrity Frizzante is off-dry, very fruity and has nice mousse to it. The 2012 Confidence Frizzante is pure strawberry deliciousness.
St Hubertus offered one of my favourite aromatics of the day with their 2012 Schönburger, available only at the winery due to small production. It has beautiful floral notes and a rich lychee flavour. The 2010 Pinot Blanc has a nice round mouthfeel. The 2010 Riesling isn’t quite as lean as the 2009 (which won the Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence in BC Wine in 2011) but has a nice touch of diesel and lots of peach notes. The 2012 Frizzante Rosé has flavours of strawberry, black cherry and citrus. The Gamay is quite light, with flavours of strawberry and sour cherry.
As usual, Mount Boucherie did not disappoint. The 2012 Gewürztraminer is dry, with floral and citrus notes. The 2012 Pinot Gris has lovely aromatics and the 2012 Ehrenfelser (for some reason I had forgotten that they make an Ehrenfelser!) is lovely! I definitely need to stock up on some of it.
Moraine Estate has a larger number of wines available from the 2012 vintage than their first year last year. The 2012 Pinot Gris has crisp flavours of citrus and pear. The 2012 Viognier has a pretty nose, is dry, with nice apricot flavours. The 2012 Chardonnay is oaked lightly, although there is not much fruit either. I will have to try it again at a later date – perhaps it is just going through a bit of a muted phase.
Gray Monk has done it again with their Pinot Gris – the 2012 does not disappoint, with lovely fruit and good balance. The 2011 Riesling has a fabulous petrol nose and delicious flavours of lime and green apple. The 2012 Gewürztraminer has nice flavours of lychee.
The 2011 Riesling from Harper’s Trail Winery in Kamloops is starting to show a hint of petrol on the nose and palate and has lovely citrus and minerality. I look forward to trying the 2012 vintage.
Heaven’s Gate Winery’s 2010 Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend was a bit too light for my taste but their 2010 Pinot Gris has lovely flavours and the 2011 Gewürztraminer has great aromatics – huge lychee flavour, along with honeysuckle and spice. The 2011 Rosé is a medium ruby colour, darker than some Pinot Noirs that I’ve seen. It is a blend of Gamay, Merlot and Malbec. It has a fuller body and flavours of strawberry and spice. This is definitely a rosé for red wine fans – tasty! The 2011 Gamay has nice raisin flavours. The 2010 Malbec has some floral notes with dark fruit and nicely softened tannins. The 2009 Merlot has nice flavour and tannins. The 2010 Revelation is a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend, along with Merlot and Malbec. It is still quite tight but has some nice flavours coming through.
Hester Creek’s new 2012 Cabernet Franc Rosé is lovely – I’ll definitely have to pick some up from the winery. The 2012 Pinot Gris is light, fruity and crisp. The 2011 Character White is a pleasant white blend that has apparently just dropped in price by a couple of dollars.
The Hillside Estate 2012 Muscat Ottonel has a nicely perfumed nose and nice flavours. It also comes across as a little bit drier than the last vintage that I had tried. The 2012 Rosé is full-bodied with ripe strawberries on the palate.
The Jackson-Triggs 2012 Viognier has nice flavours of citrus and apricot and nice weight to it.
The Fumé Blanc from Clos du Soleil is 100% Sauvignon Blanc with crisp citrus flavours. The 2011 Célestiale is a Merlot-dominant blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Considering how young it is, it’s drinking quite well, although the tannins are certainly a bit grippy. The 2010 Signature is, as the name suggests, Clos du Soleil’s signature red blend. This is an elegant Bordeaux-style blend that can be aged for several more years. It has lovely flavours but the tannins are still huge so needs some time to soften out.
The 2011 Cactus White from Desert Hills is a nice easy-drinking white blend. The 2012 Viognier was only bottled 3 days earlier so was undoubtedly going through some bottleshock but has some nice aromatics and mouthfeel. The 2012 Gewürztraminer is quite tasty.
Fort Berens’ new 2012 Riesling is light-bodied with nice citrus and green apple flavours. The 2012 Rosé is made from 100% estate-grown Pinot Noir and only 50 cases were made. It has tasty strawberry aromas and flavours.
Blue Mountain’s 2011 Pinot Noir is delicious, with great spice and earthiness on the nose and cherry on the palate.
The Upper Bench 2010 Pinot Noir is nice with some strawberry, cherry and spice and a nice mouthfeel. The 2011 Zweigelt is still a little bit tight but has nice spice and dark fruit.
The Oliver Twist 2010 Syrah has nice peppery spice and rich dark fruit flavours. It recently won Gold at Intervin International Wine Awards as well as the Canadian Wine Awards, which made me a bit proud as I helped make that vintage!
I’m usually a fan of Nk’Mip Cellars’ Qwam Qwmt line of wines and this year is no different. The 2010 Qwam Qwmt Pinot Noir is quite delicious – elegant and a bit fuller bodied than some. The 2008 Qwam Qwmt Syrah is big, bold and tasty, with pepper and black fruit. The 2009 Mer’r’iym is a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant Bordeaux blend with flavours of cassis and spice and huge tannins. This is definitely one for the cellar.
The 2011 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir from Inniskillin is medium-bodied with flavours of strawberry and cherry.
Perseus Winery’s 2011 Merlot has nice flavour and quite grippy tannins. The 2011 Cabernet Shiraz is soft and fruity. The 2010 Tempus Syrah has nice pepper to it and the tannins are softening nicely. The 2010 Invictus had been decanted for a while when I had tasted it but is still had huge tannins but was very tasty.
I look forward to trying more new releases as I visit wineries this spring and summer throughout the Okanagan Valley and at various wine events through the season.
Note: Bottle shots are from the respective wineries’ websites.