Monday 10 December 2012

Bottleneck Drive visits BCWAS

Last week the BC Wine Appreciation Society held a tasting to sample the Summerland-area wines of “Bottleneck Drive”. The dozen wineries of this region on the western shores of Okanagan Lake recently banded together to help promote their unique area in the greater BC winery industry. The Society was very grateful to have received samples of several lesser-known wines from which to sample, so we could all get to know these hard-working wineries a little bit better.

On arrival everyone was treated to two different sparkling wines to warm up our palates. Sips of Sumac Ridge’s “Tribute” revealed generous aromas apples and fresh bread, and flavours of orchard fruit amongst plenty of mousse. The wine is a traditional method sparkling Chardonnay released in 2011 to commemorate the winery’s thirtieth anniversary.

Sumac Ridge & Bella

A significantly different sparkler came in the form of Bella 2011 Sparkling Gamay Noir, via Okanagan Crush Pad. OCP’s winemaker Michael Bartier has assisted Jay Drysdale and his wife in producing their two “Bella” sparkling wines (named in honour of a very special bulldog); the other wine being Chardonnay. Once again a pleasant mousse finish kept us refreshed following clean strawberry rhubarb flavours.

From Sleeping Giant we had the opportunity to taste their Black Currant Dessert Wine, a very bright and fruity honest representation that pulled no punches in puckering up lips with its tartness. Before the sparklers disappeared a number of guests discovered the joy of Black Currant cocktails when mixing with Tribute or Bella.

Some charming aromatic white wines were present as well, including Silkscarf’s 2011 Viognier, a mild and delicate take on the grape. While perhaps not as “intensely aromatic” as expected, it showed excellent balance and was a very easy sipper. The Viognier led into an additional white from Sonoran Estate, who provided their aromatic 2010 Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc blend. The blend showed lower acidity than the other whites thus far, but a very enjoyable fruit salad bouquet.

Sleeping Giant & Silkscarf

Two impressive Gewurztraminers from Thornhaven and Heaven’s Gate were next up, and were thoroughly enjoyed by fans of the variety. Both 2011 wines showed very characteristic profiles, with the Thornhaven in excellent balance in particular. Heaven’s Gate’s iteration was the sole gold medal winner in the category at the recent 2012 Canadian Wine Awards, and showed off a rich lychee nose and a slightly sweeter palate with hints of yeast, vanilla, and sage.

Before moving on to the red wines guests were sure to try out the 2010 Bartier-Scholefield Rosé produced at Okanagan Crush Pad. This Gamay Noir from Oliver showed a candy-apple nose that led into a dry palate with hints of earth and wet pavement – easily and readily enjoyable.

Sonoran & Bartier-Scholefield

Two Pinot Noirs were on offer, from Thornhaven and Haywire Winery, another Okanagan Crush Pad operation. Both showed the potential of Pinot Noir from the Okanagan Lake region, with plenty of juicy cranberry characteristics that got many guests thinking of traditional holiday meals no doubt!

Bonitas Winery sent along a bottle each of their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Merlot, although I myself didn’t get a chance to try them. The reviews from other guests were mixed, favouring the reds, but this young winery still has plenty of time to find its feet in the years to come.

For those seeking somewhat obscure flavours we got the chance to try the uncommon hybrid Léon Millot grape from new player Saxon Estate Winery. Saxon’s 2011 Millot was fresh and fruity due to minimal oak influence, with hints of cocoa on the finish. This brand new winery was formerly Hollywood & Vine under previous owners before being sold and rebranded quite recently, as detailed by John Schreiner several weeks ago.

Considering the terroir it makes sense that we’d expect fewer richer red wines. However, Dirty Laundry Vineyards sent their Syrah, a very youthful bottle from the 2011 vintage. Dirty Laundry is perhaps better known for their well-crafted Gewurztraminer and other white wines. Although there’s no reason any of the Bottleneck Drive wineries could not own or lease vineyards in the southern Okanagan from which to produce big reds, estate fruit from the region seems to yield more successful lighter reds and whites.

Everyone certainly enjoyed learning more about the wineries and wines of this unique region, and I’m sure all are looking forward to visiting Summerland in person in the future!

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