Friday, February 3, 2012

Tastings to begin a new year

Photo: Jackson-Triggs's SunRock vineyard

 Because the last two months have been incredible busy at my desk, notes on interesting wines have begun to pile up. You might ask what have I been doing that is more important than drinking wine. To begin with, I have completed a revised fourth edition of John Schreiner's Okanagan Wine Tour Guide for release in the spring. The number of new wineries in the past two years is amazing, requiring a good deal of new research. Now that the book is locked down in final design, I have already found some new producers. They will have to wait for the fifth edition or the e-book.
 I have in fact been tasting steadily and making notes until such time as I have a window for blogging again. Some of the wines reviewed here are limited production wines. The wineries may have begun to sell out but that does not mean you can't find the wines in private stores and on restaurant lists. I hope these notes will be helpful. Here are wines tasted in the last two months.



CedarCreek Platinum Pinot Noir 2008 ($39.90). CedarCreek's style with Pinot Noir over the decade has produced wines that can be firm and closed when first opened. This wine, which spent 16 months in French oak, was deliberately decanted to help it open up. That liberated lovely aromas of strawberry and cherry. On the palate, there are flavours of raspberry and cherry, with a hint of cloves and mocha on the finish. 88.

CedarCreek Platinum  Chardonnay 2009 ($29.90 for 508 cases). Here is a subtle and polished Chardonnay with very subtle oak framing the citrus aromas and flavours. The wine was barrel-fermented and spent just 10 months in what tastes like very good French oak, lightly toasted. The wine has flavours of lime, lemon and apples, with refreshing acidity. 92.

CedarCreek Merlot 2008 ($19.99 for a production of 4,658 cases). This brand is bigger than many Okanagan wineries! A few years ago, CedarCreek eliminated a mid-tier price range of wines to reduce its portfolio either to top of the line Platinum wines or good value estate wines, produced in enough volume that you can buy them year round. This is a typical Okanagan Merlot, juicy with hints of blackcurrant jam on the palate and with a spicy finish. 88.

Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery Red Willow Shiraz 2008 ($15.99). If you have been a fan of the popular Australian Shirazes at this price point, you will like this accessible wine. A generous red with flavours of plum, black cherry, blackberry and white pepper, this has a core of sweet fruit but is not as sweet as the Aussie competitors. 88.

Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery Regatta #1 Red 2009 ($14.99). This interesting red blend extends the excellent budget portfolio of this producer. This wine is 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, supported by Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and a dash of Syrah. The Cabernet contributes a touch of bell pepper to an otherwise ripe and juicy red,with plum and cherry flavours. 88.

Hester Creek Pinot Blanc 2010 ($15.99). Pinot Blanc has been (and may still be) the largest block of white grapes in the Hester Creek vineyard. It is always one of the winery’s most reliable whites. This is a lovely mouthful of fruit – like biting into a fresh Gala apple. The minerality in the backbone reflects the maturity of the wines without taking away from the juicy, delicious flavours. 90.

class="MsoNormal"> Hester Creek Character Red 2010 ($19.99). This is the winery’s second vintage of its Character blend and it is ever bit as good, and good value, as the first. It is a blend of Syrah, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Malbec. The Syrah delivers the aromas and flavours of dark fruits, leather, earth and chocolate. This swaggering red has, dare I say it, lots of character! 90.

Herder Estate Chardonnay 2009 ($35 for a production of 109 cases).  Remember that Lawrence Herder started making wine in California and you will understand the style. One critic at a recent lunch suggested that the oak was a little bold; Lawrence, to his credit, stood his ground and said that was the way he wanted to make the wine. This is a big rich creamy Chardonnay, with generous tangerine flavours nestled in the barrel notes. There is also an intriguing hint of white pepper on mid-palate, probably echoing some of the minerality of the site here. 90.






Herder Estate Pinot Noir 2009 ($35 for a production of 68 cases). This wine establishes Herder as another top Pinot Noir producer in British Columbia. The wine presents with the lovely hue of a finely cut ruby. It has aromas and flavours of strawberry and raspberry, with a seductive and silky texture and a very long finish. 91.

Jackson-Triggs Gold Series Chardonnay 2009 ($17.99 ). Don't make the mistake of serving this wine too chilled. It shows its toasty/citrus/tangerine aromas and flavours best when moderately chilled. 88.

Jackson-Triggs SunRock Shiraz 2008 ($34.99). SunRock is the name of one of the winery's best vineyards in the south Okanagan. It is a hot site that grows great Shiraz; the winery has garnered awards internationally for this wine. This vintage begins with aromas of plum, spice, leather and even earth (that's meant to be positive). The wine is generous on the palate, with flavours of plum, fig, black cherry, spice and leather; there is liquorice on the finish. The wine has soft ripe tannins but will cellar well for a few more years. 90.

McWatters Collection Chardonnay 2010 ($25) This Chardonnay is the first white wine release (a red Meritage was released earlier this year) from Sumac Ridge founder Harry McWatters’s new Okanagan wine venture. The grapes for this wine – two clones of Chardonnay - are from mature vines Harry’s 60-acre Sundial Vineyard on Black Sage Road. The vine maturity and the good farming in this vineyard show through in the richness and complexity of this lush and opulent wine. he wine begins with lovely aromas of citrus and that buttery note created by the malolactic fermentation and aging in small French oak casks. The wine has flavours of citrus and tropical fruit accented by just the right touch of oak. The acidity is still bright (a reflection of the 2010 vintage) and the wine has a lingering but refreshing finish. 91

Mission Hill Pinot Noir Reserve 2010 ($24.99). During the past several years, Mission Hill has quietly but successfully raised the bar on its Pinot Noir, having mastered most other varieties. This is a robust wine with aromas and flavours of cherry and raspberry, with spice on the finish and with the classic silky texture of the variety. 90.

Mission Hill Chardonnay Reserve 2010 ($19.99). Here is a textbook example of oak need only be a grace note if the objective is to make a fruit-forward Chardonnay. Only 45% of the wine in this blend was aged in oak, and then just four months. The wine begins with aromas of citrus and butter, with a hint of toast. On the rich, creamy palate, there are flavours of  pineapple, apple, citrus and hazelnut. The finish is clean and crisp. 90.

Peller Private Reserve Syrah 2009 ($20). Here is a muscular wine with 14.9% alcohol but with so much substance that it does not have a hot finish. It has leathery, smoky aromas and flavours of figs, dark chocolate and pepper, with a gamey, earthy finish. 89.

Nk’Mip Qwam Qwmt Syrah 2008 ($34.99 for a production of 1,216 cases). This is a bold and satisfying red, with aromas of the spice and pepper of delicatessen meats, and with flavours cherry, blackberry and vanilla. Full and rich on this finish, there is a delicious wine. 91.


Nichol Vineyard 9 Mile Red 2009 ($27 for 108 cases). This is a cheerful blend of quite complementary varieties - St. Laurent, a red grown mostly in Austria - and Pinot Noir. The winery used to release the St. Laurent on its own. This is a more interesting blend, a little more robust that Pinot Noir but with all the charm of that variety. 89.


Nichol Vineyard Syrah 2009 ($35). Nichol was the first to plant Syrah in the Okanagan in 1990, making a reputation both for itself and for the variety. With just 12% alcohol, this release is not as powerful as some Okanagan Syrahs but it makes up for that with elegance. It has lovely aromas and flavours of black cherry, pepper, spice, liquorice and deli meats. 91. 


See Ya Later Ranch Rover 2009 ($24.99). This Syrah is one of several wines from this winery named for the dogs that an early owner of the property owned (and buried under on-site headstones). The wine begins with aromas of plum, cherry and pepper. It is full-bodied, tasting of plum, fig, blackberry and chocolate. 89.


Sumac Ridge Private Reserve Gewurztraminer 2010 ($14.99). This is believed to be the largest selling Canadian Gewurztraminer, and has been so for a long time. It has the classic spicy aromas and grapefruit flavours of the variety, with a defining note of Muscat bitterness on the finish. 89.


Sumac Ridge Steller's Jay Brut 2007 ($26.99). If you did not have this on New Year's Eve, get a bottle for Valentine's Day. This is as fine a vintage as the winery has yet released, with notes of toast and yeast on the nose (classic Champagne!), with delicious fruity flavours and a creamy texture. The bubbles create an active and long-lasting display. The finish is clean and dry. 91.

Terravista Figaro 2010 ($24 and available at Marquis Wine Cellars in Vancouiver). This Rhône blend is the initial release from Terravista Vineyards, the new winery launched by Senka and Bob Tennant. It is a blend of Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne. It begins with appealing aromas of melons, apples and apricots. On the palate, there are flavours of apples, citrus, honeydew and apricot, with a fine spine of minerals that helps give this sophisticated wine a crisp dry finish. 90.

Township 7 Syrah 2009 ($24.99 for a production of 366 cases). This wine begins with typical spice and pepper aromas of an Okanagan Syrah. On the palate, there are flavours of cherry, plum, with the earthy leather notes one also sees in this variety. 88.



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