Saturday 30 June 2012

Wine Club Wine Tour: Naramata Bench

Compared to the expansive spaces in the southern Okanagan, the Naramata Bench is a much more compact wine trail, accommodating quick, almost methodical wine touring (if so desired). As a result, many area wineries have small, efficient tasting rooms that need to focus on selling the wines, with less time to discuss the winemaking techniques and vineyards themselves (not to mention that many have larger vineyard holdings further south). The wineries are accustomed to plenty of tourist visitors making their way up and down the bench, and some have been forced to adopt an assembly-line approach to accommodate crowds (particularly in the late summer). It can be challenging to shift gears when you are used to what seems like a more leisurely pace down south, exploring the vineyards and gazing out across the valley from sun-drenched patios and terraces – hence our two-hour experience at LaStella the day before!

In the face of growing crowds one winery is pushing back by moving to an appointment-only schedule: well-known producer Laughing Stock barred the gate earlier this year as unpredictable car and tour bus traffic began to overwhelm the small parking lot and hamper production activities. Doing much of their business online and via restaurant and retail sales the winery can obviously afford this measure of privacy, but it’s still a surprising development when others such as Blue Mountain are going in the opposite direction. Fortunately appointments are not hard to come by, so we had no trouble booking a 10:00am opening appointment on our final day of wine touring.

After punching in the top-secret gate code for entrance, we arrived as the morning mists were lifting to be greeted by Tasting Room Manager Addy Gowe, who it turned out was a former co-worker of one member of our party! While trying not to get too distracted chatting about shared times at the Vancouver Aquarium, Addy poured us the new release whites, including Viognier, Blind Trust White, and Pinot Gris – follow-up to last year’s Lt. Governor’s Award winner. The second vintage of Rosé produced by Laughing Stock followed, this one to see more wide distribution than last year, where it was served exclusively at Yew Restaurant in Vancouver’s Four Seasons Hotel. Admirably, the winery is continuing to donate $2 from each bottle of Rosé to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Laughing Stock Guest House?

After enjoying all the new spring wines we tried out some of the definitive Portfolio red blend, and my friends picked up magnums of the current 2009 release, in what is quickly becoming a tradition when we visit! We felt quite lucky next when owner and winemaker David Enns was gracious enough to show us the winery and his many tricks of the trade. David was excited to point out recent infrastructure upgrades that will help improve efficiency in the winery, plus some upcoming treats that will likely greatly benefit members of Laughing Stock’s Wine Club.

With magnums carefully packed away, we set off for the next stop on our agenda to view the new Poplar Grove location further south towards Penticton. Upon entering the large Tasting Room, we were very impressed by the expansive views of Penticton, and felt instantly comfortable amongst the warm natural wood and smooth polished concrete. We were two weeks too early for a chance to try the new winery restaurant, but by the end of June the Vanilla Pod had completed its transition from Summerland to Poplar Grove’s showpiece location. Fortunately it was easy to console ourselves with plenty of excellent wine from the sleek tasting room stations, and this early on a Monday we had the whole place virtually to ourselves!

Poplar Grove's New View

Purchasing some of the delicious Pinot Gris for immediate enjoyment was an easy decision, and I was particularly excited to find that the 2008 “CSM” was still available for sale. Because it is exclusive to the winery, I never expected to acquire this powerful blend of Cabernets, Syrah, and Merlot which I had enjoyed so much at the Playhouse Wine Festival’s BC Paired Luncheon in February. Needless to say I immediately snagged a bottle to join the other 2008 vintages from Poplar Grove in my collection; only the 2008 “Legacy” red blend remains outstanding, as I await its release in September (along with the 2009 red varietals).

After a short detour back into Penticton for some sustenance we took in a the sights and tastes at La Frenz. Getting the chance to finally visit this superb winery was another highlight of the trip. We sampled the wide range of wines, including several excellent new whites, such as the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival Best-of-Varietals Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. The tasty Tawny and deliciously rich Liqueur Muscat were equally exciting, and it took everything in me not to buy some immediately: you see, the reserve and primarily red half of the spring releases weren’t scheduled to be available until “mid-June”, so I wanted need to wait to order a full (mixed) case. The helpful staff advised me to keep our tasting fee receipts for reimbursement when I ordered the planned case later in the month; at that point I would have the opportunity to get my hands on bottles such as the Vintage Port, Reserve Pinot Noir, and Grand Total Reserve.

We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting some past favourites and new discoveries, focusing on wineries none of us had visited in person before. A stop at Elephant Island Orchard Wines was a fruit-filled treat, and I availed myself of the fortified cherry “Stellaport”, made in a Solera-style from what is now ten years of sweet Stella cherries starting from the 2001 harvest. Down the road we paused for some Therapy, where we brainstormed new wine names for this witty winery; their white blend AlterEgo was delicious with creamy corn chowder last fall. For afternoon refreshments we headed to Kettle Valley, which we’d heard served Gewurztraminer Slushies! The rumours were true and we imbibed in this rare delight, while my friends picked up some Reserve Pinot Noir, and I myself went straight after the “Caboose” fortified Malbec/Petit Verdot. I’ve enjoyed this sweet treat in the past when it was called Starboard, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add the newest release to my burgeoning dessert wine collection.

With the afternoon rapidly coming to a close we wasted little time in scooting south through Penticton to Skaha Lake, where we once again enjoyed the beautiful views and charming hospitality of Painted Rock. Although enthusiastic Proprietor John Skinner wasn’t available, his equally enthusiastic young assistant Tyson was happy to guide us through the latest releases, which I was eager to share with my companions. The luxurious 2009 Syrah impressed enough to make for some impulse purchases, with the other reds such the varietal Merlot and the Red Icon blend also showing very nicely. I was particularly interested in the new release 2011 Chardonnay, which John has been talking up every time I’ve seen him all year! His excitement certainly wasn’t misplaced, as we all loved the elegance shown in the focused fruit and very well-integrated oak; it demanded a chilled bottle to enjoy further that very night!

As the discussion amongst us began turning to dinner we made one more stop at Blasted Church in the hills above the southern end of Skaha Lake. Three years ago we’d driven home with a double magnum of Blasted Church Merlot, which is still biding its time in a friend’s cellar, waiting for a suitable uncorking opportunity. Somehow he managed to restrain himself this time, as we sipped the many superb 2011 whites recently released. Of particular delight was the Unorthodox Chardonnay, a delicate and memorable Chardonnay Musqué that quickly found a spot in the overflowing cooler; just as the winery suggests, it was expected to make for an excellent aperitif.

Suitably exhausted and appropriately pickled we headed back to Penticton to obtain the evening’s required dinner ingredients: my wife and I had been assigned the task of using kohlrabi, tomato paste, and soy sausage (for the benefit of us vegetarians). After returning to Crooked Tree we got right to work preparing a hearty roasted vegetable pasta dish with side salad while enjoying sips of chilled Poplar Grove Pinot Gris and Blasted Church Chardonnay. Creative inspiration led us to devise an appetizer pairing Painted Rock’s new Chardonnay with buttered popcorn, sprinkled with parmesan cheese – delicious! Having polished off a couple more wines over dinner we got to wondering how many liquid assets we’d actually acquired – all of us having done our utmost to control ourselves. Setting it all out for admiration it became apparent that we were returning home with just about one table’s worth of wine, as good a metric as any and enough to make any wine fan’s mouth water at the sight of it!

The Mark of Productivity

The next morning we miraculously managed to fit all seven of us, plus baby accessories and some very efficiently-packed wine into the SUV for our trip home. With many beautiful photographs, innumerable smile-inducing memories, and plenty of bottles to open over the years to come we will no doubt be remembering this spectacular trip even beyond the next one, which can hardly come soon enough!


Monday 25 June 2012

Wine Club Wine Tour: The Road to Penticton

Before we knew it our time in Osoyoos had come to an end after two glorious nights at the Watermark Resort. Fortunately as the saying goes, “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here,” and we were indeed not yet returning home, but moving up to Penticton and the Naramata Bench for two more nights! On Sunday morning we packed up a whole lot of wine, plus a whole lot of baby stuff, and headed north to Crooked Tree Bed & Breakfast in the hills high above Penticton. The drive was rife with detours, as we were passing many excellent wineries along the way. We started with LaStella, just outside Osoyoos, where we had an 11am appointment with Tasting Room Manager Jeff Stewart.

LaStella Patio

Jeff greeted us in the winery’s petite but beautiful tasting room before guiding us downstairs for a tour of the functional spaces. He graciously showed off barrels of highly exclusive, carefully screened wine on its way to becoming such luxuries as Maestoso Merlot and La Sophia Cabernet Sauvignon. Outside, Jeff pointed out some of LaStella’s estate vineyards while discussing the remainder of their vineyard sources and the zealous practices used to ensure only the absolute best grapes end up in LaStella’s wines (e.g., some vineyards are cropped as low as one ton per acre). The focus continues at harvest, where hand-sorting and hand-destemming are commonplace!

We soon found ourselves enjoying the patio outside the tasting room while Jeff went inside to fetch bottles of wine and varietally correct stemware for each. We spent the next hour discussing in detail and tasting with gusto the entire portfolio of LaStella wines currently available, up to and including the powerful and elegant Maestoso flagship wine. The newly released 2011 whites were clean and refreshing while complex reds such as the Fortissimo Super Tuscan blend kept the discussion intellectually animated as well. Jeff was even kind enough to walk us through a comparison of the 2010 and 2011 Rosés, to show the major vintage differences that have come about due to premature cessation of fermentation in the 2010 juice. Restarting fermentation by adding sugar and yeast was one option, but LaStella elected to simply let the wine express itself as it was, making for an unusually sweet but extremely honest release that year.

Before we knew it, two hours had passed at LaStella, and we had to force ourselves back onto the road to continue on our way, with many thanks to Jeff and more than a few bottles of new releases. Our purchases included the effervescent Moscato d’Osoyoos, as well as some of the incredible Casa Gusta organic Sicilian olive oil – easily the best I’ve ever tasted.

Church & State Tasting Room

Having spent much of the previous day on the Golden Mile side of the valley, we elected to travel north via the Black Sage Bench. Over dinner the night before we had thoroughly enjoyed a bottle of Church & State 2006 Meritage (with nary a tannin to be found it seemed) so it seemed only natural for our next stop to be at Church & State’s beautiful Coyote Bowl winery and tasting room. My wife and I had enjoyed the stunning views and comfortable surroundings so much last summer we were eager to share this excellent facility with our friends!

The sleek tasting room and courteous staff were just as refreshing as we remembered, and we all tried out some of the new releases and old favourites. Fortunately due to some shrewd purchasing over the past several months I already have all the new reds, including the Coyote Bowl Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, but I was eager to see how the 2009 Syrah was doing since first tasting it last August. Named Canadian Red Wine of the Year at the 2011 Canadian Wine Awards, the Syrah has already matured away from some of the bloodiness we tasted last year, with plenty of dark fruit to keep the palate interesting. I’m amazed it’s not yet sold out given the great press it has received!

Church & State's Golden Mile View

Outside on the patio we admired the view of the neighbours across the valley; Road 13 being fairly obvious with its juxtaposition of castle architecture and the gleaming glass of the new private tasting lounge. Last year we’d enjoyed a little picnic lunch on the Church & State patio while awaiting our turn at the tasting bar (the late August crowds being much thicker than early June), but unfortunately we needed to keep moving this time. After a few recommendations from the staff, including hints of curious hot pepper-infused wine, we decided to stop next at Silver Sage winery up the road.

The extensive and well manicured gardens at Silver Sage greeted us after we rolled down the winding driveway. The owners recently opened three luxury guest suites in their large facility, and I can imagine the relaxing garden views and secluded location away from the road would be extremely enjoyable! Plus, guests get to enjoy a complimentary bottle from the winery’s extensive portfolio, where creativity abounds! In addition to solid table wines Silver Sage also produce a wide range of dessert wines, including the aforementioned “Flame”, a hot pepper-infused late harvest Gewurztraminer that doesn’t pull any punches in the spice department! The infusion method also extends to a sage-infused Gewurztraminer table wine that would obviously compliment holiday meals like traditional turkey dinner (sage being a major component of poultry seasoning).

Silver Sage Winery

Almost a little shell-shocked from the flavour bonanza at Silver Sage, we took some time off in Oliver to experience lunch at Cantaloupe Annie’s after the carnivores grabbed pulled pork sandwich starter courses from Hammer’s House of Hog alongside the road. I myself was pretty hungry by that point, so I’m glad I didn’t have enough cash to be tempted by the intoxicating barbecue aromas issuing forth from that little shack!

After our rather late lunch, we got things moving quickly and skipped ahead to Okanagan Falls. Just south of town are a handful of excellent wineries, including Meyer Family Vineyards, Wild Goose, Stag’s Hollow, and Noble Ridge, but it was Blue Mountain on which I was focused. With limited time available we had to skip those other excellent wineries, but knowing how challenging it can be to find Blue Mountain’s wines in stores I wasn’t going to pass up a chance for some reserve selection “Stripe Label” Pinot Noir. After tasting through the other charming wines, including several whites and their very popular Brut Sparkling, my enthusiastic companions purchased well-priced ($80) magnums of the 2008 Stripe Label Pinot Noir. I myself acquired a single bottle – sadly, all I had room for – of the new 2009 release. Based on my experience last year, this vintage will almost certainly be sold out before the end of summer!

With the afternoon rapidly winding down, we needed to bypass any further winery visits for the day in favour of stopping for groceries and finding our Bed & Breakfast. The evening’s cooking couple had been assigned their three ingredients earlier in the day: strawberries, sunflower seeds, and pork belly (substituting tofu for the vegetarians) were to be on the menu that evening, while my wife and I had been assigned clean up duty. After the scenic tour of Penticton we settled on a grocery store, where the cooks picked up their ingredients and planned the upcoming meal.

Okanagan Lake View From Crooked Tree

Fully supplied, we followed the directions far up into  the hills northeast of Penticton – fortunately well past the municipal landfill – to reach the stunning location and amenities of Crooked Tree. Host Alix was keen to show us around our suites and we all marvelled at the thoughtful little touches in place – like a fully stocked kitchen including popcorn maker and popcorn! With a view of the lake and myriad vineyards below the overcast skies did little to diminish our pleasure, and we enjoyed a delicious dinner of barbecued pork belly/tofu with strawberry sauce, smashed potatoes, and mixed green salad. I’d brought my last bottle of LaStella 2006 Allegretto Merlot with us, and despite not finding appropriate glasses until too late, we delved into the wine’s complexities as we recollected our morning visit to the winery. Sufficiently sated we spent the rest of the evening planning our final full day of wine touring, beginning with the Naramata Bench the next morning.

Dinner Creativity & LaStella Merlot

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Wine Club Wine Tour: Southern Okanagan

Our first full day of wine touring was set to be a busy one, with a couple of scheduled tastings plus a list of additional wineries at which we desired to visit and shop. The night before, we had returned from dinner at Miradoro to enjoy the view of Lake Osoyoos from our balcony at the Watermark Resort. Over beers and bourbon we hashed out our dining plans for the remainder of the trip: with three dinners remaining and three couples present, we decided to split duties evenly amongst us. Each day one couple would choose three required ingredients for dinner, another would do the cooking in our suite’s full kitchen, and the third would clean up; responsibilities would rotate so everyone got to enjoy all the roles. For the first evening’s dinner, my wife and I selected raisins, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese to be creatively incorporated into a filling meal after a busy day - it would prove to be the beginning of an entertaining culinary adventure!

Burrowing Owl Bell Tower

With two appointments in the afternoon our morning was flexible enough to allow for a leisurely start. Our appointment at Tinhorn Creek had been moved to the afternoon to better accommodate other scheduled guests, which we were happy to agree to, so we headed up the Black Sage Bench to start the day visiting the Burrowing Owl compound. Visible for miles, Burrowing Owl’s large winery/restaurant/guest house complex is set amongst seemingly endless vineyards, the view of which we enjoyed from their bell tower. In the tasting room we enjoyed a slew of wines, and picked up a bottle of 2011 Pinot Gris for near-term enjoyment. I myself finally got my hands on the 2009 Syrah, a juicy follow-up to the gold-medal-winning 2008 vintage. We all picked up bottles of the newly released “Coruja” fortified Syrah, made from three vintages so far (2008-2010), in the solera style. We didn’t know then how lucky we were to acquire this beautifully packaged wine, as it sold out only days later!

Burrowing Owl Vineyards

Admiring the beautiful Burrowing Owl property soon led us into lunch-time, and as tempting as the on-site Sonora Room restaurant was, we needed to be on the other side of the valley for our afternoon appointments. My suggestion of Hester Creek’s Terrafina restaurant was easily agreed upon, and we headed over to the Golden Mile Bench under similarly golden sunshine. The lunch crowd was just starting to arrive, and we luckily slipped in and shrewdly ordered just before another large party – as the pizza oven has limited space. A bottle of 8th Generation Integrity Frizzante plus various artfully-prepared sandwiches, salads, and pizzas left us all very satisfied; it was easily one of the best meals of our entire trip. We only had time for a quick trip up to the large tasting room and wine shop, but enjoyed trying the new 2011 Trebbiano, a unique treat bottled in an equally unique bottle this year.

Road 13 Winery Playtime

Our first official appointment of the day was at perennial favourite Road 13 Vineyards, where I looked forward to showing off the private Tasting Lounge my wife and I enjoyed so much on our wedding anniversary last year. Upon arrival it turned out we had “lucked” out as Luckhurst son Joe was on hand to provide us with a short tour of the sophisticated barrel room and a tasting of the broad Road 13 portfolio. With the Tasting Lounge to ourselves we chatted and sampled new releases and small lot wines such as Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Syrah. Seeing my dismay at hearing the 2009 Jackpot Chardonnay was sold out, Joe was happy to get the chance to sell me one of the last remaining bottles on site - which I discovered on display in front of the cash register. Additional purchases from our group included a half-case of brand new 2011 Old Vines Chenin Blanc, plus a couple bottles of related Late Harvest Chenin Blanc - 2% of the entire production run of only 100 bottles! Also going into the box were some Stemwinder, amazing Jackpot Pinot Noir, and a couple bottles of juicy 2009 Merlot Syrah, described as “golfer wine” - a big red that hits the spot after a day of golfing under the sun. By the time we were done we noted with bemusement that the day was still young and yet the cooler in the trunk was already overflowing.

It was soon time to head to our next appointment at Tinhorn Creek, although the group was happy to stop along the way at Cassini Cellars, directly alongside the highway headed north along the Golden Mile. I was hoping to get a bottle of the new varietal Cabernet Franc, but it was not yet released for sale, although I was pleased to see another new venture in the form of fortified Moscato. This 2011 dessert wine was awarded Double-Gold at the 2012 All Canadian Wine Championships, and was an easy purchase decision considering I’m always interested in unique dessert wines. I’d already acquired Cassini’s 2009 Syrah, Malbec, and Maximus red blend via Vancouver VQA stores, so I’m crossing my fingers the Cabernet Franc will make its way into stores as well, given the accolades and positive press it has received already.

Tinhorn Creek Hospitality Room

We arrived back at Tinhorn Creek’s property less than twenty-four hours after dining at Miradoro the day before, this time looking forward to tasting many more of the great value wines produced by Sandra Oldfield and her team. As a member of the winery’s Crush Club I was very grateful to have the opportunity to schedule a private tasting for us to ponder the wines in greater detail. Upon arrival we were pleased to meet the new Crush Club coordinator Terry Meyer Stone, who administers the new Crush Club Twitter account: @crushclubtcv. Terry showed us into the hospitality room where a member of Tinhorn’s talented Tasting Room staff was on hand to provide a guided tasting of the Varietal Series and the Oldfield Series wines. We enjoyed samples of the peachy Pinot Gris, the creamy popcorn-pairing Chardonnay, and the earthy (2008) Pinot Noir (the 2009 vintage is just now being released). The 2011 Oldfield Series 2Bench White and Rosé were both very enjoyably fresh and fruity, while the 2008 Oldfield Series Syrah showed off a very pleasant approachability. In particular, the milk chocolate nose and chocolate cherry flavours of the 2008 Oldfield Series Merlot left us swooning with delight. We followed up our delicious experience by browsing the well-stocked Tasting Room and embarking on the self-guided tour through the winery and wonderfully aromatic barrel room. With so many things to so and do (including a demonstration vineyard, and meals at Miradoro), Tinhorn Creek has become a destination in its own right!

Returning to Osoyoos that evening we took additional stock of our fast-growing mobile cellar, and sat back to see how the chefs would wow us with their culinary prowess. Before we knew it the bar had been set high indeed by our first team of at-home cooks, who prepared a beautiful cabbage coleslaw with the required raisins and cheddar, and then a massive mushroom risotto to make the rest of the challenge look easy! It wasn’t long before we had come up with another three ingredients for the following day, which would take place in a new venue as we moved north to Penticton and the Naramata Bench.

Coleslaw Challenge

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Wine Club Wine Tour: Similkameen Valley

During the first weekend of June the three couples who make up our monthly wine club spent a few days touring some of BC’s greatest wine regions together. With six people plus a seven-month-old baby we found ourselves renting the largest SUV available to haul ourselves and all our gear (much of it baby-related) to the Interior and back. Naturally we also needed to ensure room for at least a few bottles... or cases of wine. With everyone and everything strapped in we set out early on a Friday morning with the beautiful Similkameen Valley in our sights via the southern route to the Okanagan. Before detailing the exciting Similkameen wineries we visited on our way to Osoyoos I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a picture summarizing our pit stop in Hope.

Soldier of Fortune

After a couple more pit stops to keep everyone’s favourite youthful soldier-of-fortune - and the rest of us – refreshed, we finally entered the lush green hills of the Similkameen Valley and began seeing our first vineyards. Our first visit was at the winery and vineyards of Lawrence and Sharon Herder on the upper bench of Keremeos. The Herders demonstrated their generous hospitality by sampling most of their wines, including one of the consistently best value Meritage reds in BC. What captured our hearts the most was the rich and complex small lot Estate Pinot Noir (only 68 cases produced), which quickly made for the first purchase of the trip for all of us.

Herder Tasting Room

Lawrence graciously took us on a quick tour of the winery and vineyards, and shared a couple of tank samples, including a very promising Cabernet Sauvignon destined for an upcoming vintage of the Josephine blend. We then headed outside for a few swings on the entertaining chipping green while admiring the view across the valley. Having enjoyed the company and the supremely relaxing venue so much it pained us to leave, but fortunately we had some delicious liquid mementos with which to begin filling the car.

Herder View

With contentment rapidly kicking in we drove down the road to Orofino Winery, a favourite spot that we have visited more times than any other in fact! The night before we left for the trip, I had the chance to speak with owner and winemaker John Weber at Bel Café during the release party for his wine collaboration with Hawksworth Restaurant. John and his wife Virginia were headed to Vancouver Island for the weekend, but I was pleased to be introduced to Assistant Winemaker Aaron Godard, who assured me he’d be back at the winery and ready to open the tasting room by lunchtime the next day.

Orofino Tasting Room

As some of us enjoyed the company of the Weber's dog Cooper we simultaneously took in the new releases such as the 2010 Red Bridge Merlot and Scout Vineyard Syrah, plus the new 2011 whites - Riesling and Pinot Gris. I was very happy to pick up both Syrah and Merlot, adding a fourth vintage to my vertical of Red Bridge. Last year Orofino’s first vintage of Syrah won the top prize at the Canadian Culinary Championships, so adding the delicious follow-up to my collection was an easy decision. I was also extremely lucky to pick up one of the very last bottles of 2010 Pinot Noir - now sold out - which comes from a mix of multiple clones out of the estate vineyard. Last but not least, the six of us added a half-case of the new Moscato Frizzante to our order, having enjoyed it immensely at our recent wine club dinner. Without delay, another chilled bottle of Frizzante was opened for immediate consumption with our picnic lunch. We dined in the sunshine behind the wine shop while trying - and failing - to exhaust Cooper with a spirited game of fetch. It was another delightful first day experience that left us wishing we could stay and admire the scenery for hours.

With the afternoon already maturing we regretfully only had time for one more stop in the wonderful Similkameen Valley before crossing the last line of hills on the way to Osoyoos. It didn’t take much convincing on my part to guide us to Seven Stones Winery south of Cawston. Unfortunately owner George Hanson was out of town but we still enjoyed samples of his new releases, and the ladies all picked out beautiful jewellery for purchase from the tasting room. I was particularly pleased to have arrived with the proper timing to acquire a bottle of the recently released 2010 Syrah (only 53 cases made) and the 2009 Speaking Rock Cabernet Sauvignon, an exceptional, very cellar-worthy wine according to John Schreiner. Some day my timing will be fortunate enough to get a bottle of George’s reserve Meritage, “The Legend”, or his Late Harvest Merlot, both of which were sold out by the time of our visit.

Moon Curser Tasting Room

Upon arriving in Osoyoos we took a short detour before checking in to our suite at Watermark Beach Resort, with a hop across to the other side of the lake for a visit to Moon Curser. Proprietor Chris Tolley joined us in the tasting room with news that his wife Beata - with whom I’d been corresponding on Twitter - had just been hit in the eye with a ball during family game-play, and so had to give her regrets! Chris walked us through the extensive list of newly released wines, most of which I already had my eyes set on for the cellar. New to Moon Curser this year are single varietal Petit Verdot and Malbec, both produced in small quantities of 200 cases or less, just like the delicious Tempranillo. John Schreiner reviewed all the new releases in detail shortly after our return, with particular praise for the Viognier, Afraid of the Dark white blend, and Petit Verdot, although in his opinion all nine are gold-medal calibre wines. I didn’t hesitate to pick up a mixed six-pack of 2010 reds for my collection, including Border Vines, Dead of Night (Syrah/Tannat), Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Tempranillo.

Moon Curser Vineyards

We managed a short photo session in the Moon Curser vineyards (forgive me for yet another baby picture; and she’s not even mine!) before wishing Beata well and leaving to check in to Watermark. Our spectacular three bedroom penthouse suite gave us plenty of room to unpack and admire our rapidly growing collection of wines as everyone freshened up for dinner at Tinhorn Creek’s Miradoro Restaurant. The gorgeous view across to the Black Sage Bench from Miradoro’s dining room, along with a bottle of Oldfield Series 2Bench Rosé to start the meal put us all in great spirits. A tasty dinner paired with plenty more Tinhorn Creek favourites - including a finale of delicious Kerner Icewine - left us all looking forward to the next day of wine touring after a good night’s sleep, staring with a return to Tinhorn Creek!