I decided to power through several wineries last weekend in Naramata, hitting more than I would normally try to do in a single day, but timing just seemed to work out well and in the end I managed to visit 11 wineries in one day! Mind you, I was also spitting all the wines as I was tasting, so that I could keep my head on straight, kept myself hydrated and had food packed. My first winery of the day was Kettle Valley towards the north end of the bench. The 2011 Riesling has a clean nose with a hint of petrol. There is more petrol on the palate along with green apple, lime and nice minerality; this Riesling is slightly off-dry. The 2009 Malbec has undergone full malolactic fermentation and was aged for 22 months in French oak. It has a clean nose of dark berries, medium-plus acidity, medium tannins and flavours of dark cherry and plum. The 2008 Syrah also underwent ML and spent 21 months in French oak. It has dark fruits on the nose and palate with a bit of spice, medium acidity and medium-plus tannins. The Caboose is fortified Petit Verdot Malbec blend done in a Solera style with wine from 2006 through 2010 in the mix. It has a black cherry nose and a rich raisin flavour – very tasty!
Serendipity Winery is one that I was introduced to early last year when its owner, Judy Kingston, and I were both pouring wines at the same event. I was very impressed with her wines then and she has maintained the same purity with the flavours this year. Judy believes that each grape varietal should be showcased in whatever way best shows its true flavours, and therefore sticks mainly to single varietals, although she has done a few blends. The 2011 White Lie is a blend of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. It is crisp and fruity, with flavours of green apple, lime and apricot. The 2011 Viognier was aged sur lies and has a beautiful tangerine nose. The 2011 Rosé is a blend of five different grapes and is crisp and dry, very food-friendly. It has lots of strawberry rhubarb and citrus on both the nose and the palate. The 2007 Pinot Noir has really nice spice on the nose with earthy cherry flavours. This Pinot Noir is more full-bodied that many in the Okanagan. The 2010 Devil’s Advocate is a blend of 60% Bordeaux grapes and 40% Syrah. It has dark fruit and blackberry on the nose, with black cherry, pepper and leather on the palate, with medium acidity and tannins. The 2008 Serenata is Judy’s flagship red wine that won a Double Gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition before she even had the winery up and running last year. It is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot. It was aged in 90% French oak and 10% American. It has dark cherry plum and spice on the nose and palate with medium acidity and medium-to-full tannins.
Bench 1775 is the new name for the former Soaring Eagle Winery. Paradise Ranch Wines purchased the property last year and has been putting it through a bit of a transformation both in terms of the wines and the actual property. There is a lovely large stone wall and sign that is almost complete at the top of the newly-widened driveway entrance to the winery. At the moment there is a mix of wines available at the winery. Some former Soaring Eagle wines are still available on the shelves, as well as for sampling. Then there are the Soaring Eagle ‘Intermission Series’ wines which were in tanks that were part of the winery sale that the winemaker from Paradise Ranch then finished and bottled. Then there are the new wines from Bench 1775 as well as the collection of Late Harvest and Icewines from the Paradise Ranch and Whistler labels. The 2011 Bench 1775 Sauvignon Blanc has citrus on the nose, grapefruit and gooseberry on the palate and has a round mouthfeel. The Bench 1775 Chardonnay is unoaked and has apple and citrus on both the nose and palate, along with some minerality. The Intermission Series White is a blend of 45% Chardonnay, 35% Viognier, 15% Riesling and 5% Pinot Gris. It is a pleasant sipper with flavours of apple, citrus and melon; it is fruity but dry. The 2007 Soaring Eagle Chardonnay was aged in Hungarian oak barrels. It has a soft round mouthfeel with flavours of caramel and citrus. The Intermission Series Red is a blend of 52% Pinot Noir, 33% Merlot and 15% Malbec. It is a pleasant light-to-medium bodied red with flavours of raspberry and a bit of spice. The 2010 Intermission Series Meritage is a blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. It is a good value-for-money Meritage blend, with softer tannins and good fruit flavours. The 2010 Intermission Series Merlot Rosé actually has about 10% Syrah added into it and is slightly off-dry with blueberry, raspberry and strawberry on the nose and strawberry, citrus and cherry on the palate. It is nicely balanced with decent acidity.
Hillside Estate Winery is one of the most recognizable on the bench with its towering rustic barn-like building. I always admire the building and its beautiful gardens every time I drive by. The 2010 Pinot Gris is unoaked, is dry and crisp with flavours of peach, citrus and melon. The 2009 Reserve Pinot Gris has spent some time in oak, sur lies for two months with weekly battonage. It has a nose of floral and spice, with flavours of vanilla, citrus and spice, well-balanced with medium body. The 2010 Viognier was partially fermented in French oak barrels and spent four months sur lies. It has a honeysuckle nose, crisp acidity, a round mouthfeel and flavours of apricot and citrus. The 2008 Syrah was quite delicious with violets, lavender and blackberry on the nose, blackberry and spice on the palate with medium-soft tannins, medium acidity and a pleasant violet finish. The 2009 Cabernet Franc has raspberry and cranberry on both the nose and palate along with some spice, tobacco and green tea flavours. It has medium acidity and tannins. The 2009 Merlot has cassis, cherry and coffee on both the nose and palate, with medium-plus acidity and medium tannins. The 2008 Mosaic is Hillside’s flagship red, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It has cassis, blackberry, mocha and cherry on the nose and palate, with medium-plus acidity and tannins.
Red Rooster Winery has really come a long way in the past 3-4 years, at least as far as my palate is concerned. I wasn’t really a big fan of their wines but in the past year or so I have really been enjoying their wines. The 2011 Pinot Gris won Gold/Best in Class at the 2012 Pacific Rim International Wine Competition, Double Gold at the 2012 All-Canadian Wine Championships and Gold at the Los Angeles International Wine & Spirit Competition. It has apple and pear on the nose and grapefruit and tangerine on the palate. The 2011 Gewürztraminer has lychee and citrus on the nose, is slightly off-dry with crisp citrus, apple and lychee on the palate. The 2010 Cabernet Merlot is a blend of 58% Cabernet Franc, 27% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Malbec and is currently Red Rooster’s top-selling red wine. I can easily see why, with its spicy meaty nose, medium acidity, medium-soft tannins and rich flavours of dark cherry, blackberry, smoke and spice. The 2010 Reserve Syrah is only available at the winery or online. It has blackberry, cherry and toffee on the nose, with black pepper, cherry and blackberry on the palate with a caramel finish. It has medium-plus acidity and tannins and could easily be laid down for another few years. The Reserve Merlot has smoky cedar and black cherry on the nose, with black cherry, spice and smoky meat on the palate, with medium acidity and tannins. Another wine at Red Rooster that intrigues me but unfortunately was not open for tasting and was over my budget that day to simply purchase is their Golden Egg, a Rhône blend of 59% Mourvèdre, 24% Syrah and 17% Grenache. I do believe that this is the first GSM produced in the Okanagan and I look forward to perhaps trying it at some point through the Fall Wine Festival.
La Frenz Winery has built a reputation for well-made elegant wines on the Naramata Bench since 2002. The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc is grassy, with green bean and passionfruit on the nose. It is crisp and dry with citrus, gooseberry and grassiness on the palate, very much a New Zealand-style of Sauvignon Blanc. The 2011 Chardonnay is 50% barrel fermented in French oak barrels and has citrus, peach, spice and vanilla on the nose. It has pineapple and peach on the palate, with a nice balance between oak and fruit and a medium-to-full body. The 2011 Rosé is a blend of Merlot, Pinot Noir and Shiraz. It has a nose of strawberry and cranberry, with strawberry, cranberry and rhubarb on the palate. It is very fruit-forward with a nice dry finish. The 2010 Montage is 60% Merlot, with the remaining 40% made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Malbec. It has blackberry, plum and smoke on the nose with an earthy smoky palate along with blackberry, plum and some cocoa on the back palate. It has medium-plus acidity and medium tannins. The 2010 Merlot has a nose of plum, liquorice and dark chocolate. It has a richness on the palate with medium-plus acidity and tannins with flavours of cherry, plum and chocolate. The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon has a dark chocolate nose with black cherry and dark fruit on the nose and palate. This wine has some complexity and flavours of cherry, cassis, mint and dark chocolate.
Township 7 Winery has locations in both Langley, BC and on the Naramata bench and this past summer they had the honour of having their wines being chosen to be the official wines for the Calgary Stampede’s 100th Anniversary. The 2009 Chardonnay and 2010 Merlot had special labels specifically for the Stampede. Rheagan greeted me in the Naramata tasting room and led me through the wines available for tasting. The 2010 Sauvignon Blanc has a grassy nose with crisp citrus, with gooseberry and lime on the palate. The 2009 Chardonnay was 100% barrel fermented in a mix of French and American oak and has a great balance between fruit and oak on the palate. The 2011 7 Blanc is a blend of 60% Gewürztraminer and 40% Pinot Gris with peach, pear and citrus on both the nose and palate. The 2009 Rosé is a blend of 56% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, 21% Muscat, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Merlot. It has a clean nose with flavours of strawberry and citrus; it is very refreshing with nice acidity. The 2009 Merlot has 4% Cabernet Franc added in to it. It has raspberry, black olive and cocoa on the nose, with medium-plus acidity and tannins and cassis, raspberry, cherry and chocolate on the palate. The 2010 Merlot-Cabernet has 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has cassis, plum and blackberry on the nose and palate, with medium-to-full tannins and medium-plus acidity. This wine is still a bit tight so could use a bit of time, or a big meaty meal with which to be paired. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon happened to be open for tasting although it was not available for sale (the 2009 vintage will be released shortly). It has cassis and cocoa on the nose, with a hint of green bell pepper. It has flavours of cherry, cassis and spice. The 2008 Reserve 7 is a blend of 75.7% Merlot, 16.8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7.5% Cabernet Franc and spent 30 months in oak. It has dark fruit, vanilla and spice on the nose, and cherry, plum, liquorice and chocolate on the palate with medium acidity and tannins that are softening nicely.
Misconduct Wine Co is a fun winery to visit, with everything tying back into the Prohibition era from the appearance of the building, to the names of the wines, to the events that are held at the winery. Earlier this summer the approvals came through from City Hall for The Kitchen to open to the side of the tasting room and since then Executive Chef Abul Adame has been producing some amazing meals available on the deck overlooking the orchards and vineyards of the Upper Bench. I have yet to eat there but keep drooling over the amazing images that get posted on Facebook and really must try for myself soon! The wines at Misconduct are split into two series: Bootleg Series and Suspect Series, with each being made up of three wines. The Bootleg Series consists of Misfit, a white blend, Massacre Rosé, and The Big Take, a red blend. The Suspect Series is made up of a Chenin Blanc – Viognier, a Syrah – Malbec, and soon a Pinot Noir will be added to the series. The Misfit is 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Gris and 20% Viognier. It has citrus and pear on the nose with citrus and melon on the palate. The Chenin Blanc Viognier is 69% Chenin Blanc and 31% Viognier and has a tropical fruit nose with a round mouthfeel and a complexity in flavours. The Massacre Rosé is primarily Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris along with Merlot, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Syrah and Malbec. It has a strawberry nose with strawberry, rhubarb and citrus on the palate. The Big Take is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has violets, cherry, plum and a bit of meatiness on the nose, with flavours of cassis, plum and smoky meat, with medium-plus acidity and tannins. The Syrah-Malbec is a 50/50 blend that then spent 46 months in French oak. It has blackberry, vanilla, smoke and plum on the nose and palate with medium acidity and medium-plus tannins.
Poplar Grove Winery has a beautiful new winery that opened last year on the southwest slope of Munson Mountain, overlooking all of Penticton. It is a clean, modern open space that lends itself easily to events. This summer, the Vanilla Pod Tapas Restaurant formerly of Summerland relocated to Poplar Grove Winery, lending to the natural synchronicity between food and wine. The 2011 Pinot Gris has peach and apple on the nose, with peach and pineapple on the palate, crisp acidity and nice minerality. The 2010 Chardonnay is only 20% oaked and has a tropical fruit nose, nice oak integration and flavours of grapefruit and vanilla. The 2009 Syrah has dark berries and spice on the nose, with blackberry, cherry, spice, vanilla and liquorice on the palate with medium-plus acidity and tannins. The 2008 Merlot has a rich black cherry mocha nose, smooth tannins and medium acidity with flavours of cherry, chocolate and spice. The 2006 Legacy had been decanted at 10am and I was tasting it at 4pm. It has cherry, liquorice and chocolate on the nose, with cherry, plum, cassis, spice and chocolate on the palate, medium-plus acidity and medium-to-full tannins.
Monster Vineyards is the second label of Poplar Grove Winery and they finally have their own tasting room facility just down the hill from Poplar Grove. Their White Knuckle is a non-vintage blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. It has slightly grassy notes and peach on the nose and flavours of melon and peach. The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc was quite tasty, with gooseberry and honey on the nose, a round mouthfeel and floral, citrus and gooseberry on the palate. The 2011 Rosé comes from the bleed-off of Merlot from Poplar Grove after 4 hours of skin contact. It has a pure strawberry nose, with rich strawberry, cranberry, and cherry on the palate with a pink grapefruit finish. The 2009 Merlot spent 8 months in French oak and has a nose of cherry and cassis, medium acidity and tannins with flavours of cherry, plum, cassis and spice. Red Eyed is a non-vintage (2008 and 2009) blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec. It has a nose of raspberry and violets, with cherry, red currant, chocolate and spice on the palate with medium tannins and medium-plus acidity.
Perseus Winery is the closest winery to downtown Penticton, just up the top of Vancouver Hill, making it an easy winery to visit even if you don’t have much time to get out and about. The 2010 Sauvignon Blanc has a round mouthfeel and flavours of citrus and green apple. The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc has crisp citrus on the nose and features much brighter flavours than the 2010, with pear, apple and citrus. The 2010 Viognier has an amazing amount of pink peppercorns on the nose, along with peach and apricot. It has a round mouthfeel with flavours of apricot, tangerine and freshly-cracked pink peppercorns. The 2010 Pinot Grigio has flavours of citrus and apple. The 2011 Pinot Gris has apple and pineapple on the nose, with a round mouthfeel and flavours of pineapple, apricot and apple. The 2009 Tempus is 100% Syrah, with blackberry jam, blueberry and spice on the nose, medium-plus acidity and tannins and blueberry, blackberry, spice, fruitcake and cocoa on the palate. The 2009 Invictus is a blend of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec. It has cassis, blackberry and eucalyptus on the nose, with some earthiness on the palate along with flavours of tobacco, cassis, blackberry and spice, with medium-plus acidity and full tannins.