Saturday 9 November 2013

Black Hills Gets the Riedel Treatment

The BC Wine Appreciation Society welcomed a couple of special guests recently, as a sold out crowd was present to experience the wines of Black Hills presented in exclusive varietal-specific Riedel glasses. Riedel Canada Regional President Stewart Risto had flown out from Toronto to lead the tasting, with Black Hills President Glenn Fawcett present as well, in large part just to enjoy the experience! The BCWAS Executive had arranged with Riedel for a special deal on the high-end Vinum XL stemware, so that each attendee got to take home the Red Wine Tasting Set they were using, for a substantial discount off of normal retail prices.

Riedel even provides specially made tasting placemats!

As Glenn and Stewart introduced themselves we sipped on Black Hills Alibi 2012, their Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend, and gained some interesting perspective on the wine’s history. Glenn explained that the Alibi’s playful, stylistic label is a form of tribute to French winemaker Didier Dagueneau, whom Black Hills founder Senka Tennant met and worked with for one harvest in France. Dagueneau was an outsider when he started his Loire Valley winery, but he went on to produce some of the world’s most celebrated Sauvignon Blanc before his untimely accidental death in 2008. The Alibi label (and the ripe, creamy wine inside) is an homage to his eccentric manner, and his well-deserved success.

While the Alibi went down easy, Glenn shared some of the history of Black Hills, and their Black Sage Bench vineyard. I was amused to hear of the early nickname for the region, “Black Sage Beach", which came about when the land was cleared for vines and revealed to be almost pure sand. As pointed out by Tinhorn Creek, when discussing their Black Sage Bench Diamondback Vineyard, challenges abound in such terrain, including holes that fill with sand immediately upon being dug, plus low nutrients and very high drainage – requiring more intensive irrigation.

Stewart Risto and Glenn Fawcett present the tasting format

Soon Glenn sat back to witness Stewart work the room, in a confident and very experienced manner to say the least. As Stewart was happy to point out, he has travelled the world extensively on behalf of Riedel, and has no doubt spoken to hundreds of enthusiastic audiences just like those gathered before him. Those travels – and the food and wine involved – have led him to pack on a few pounds, which he proudly declared to be “Michelin fat”, having come from many of the world’s finest Michelin-starred restaurants.

While Stewart seemed to have a bevy of fascinating stories about his work – and the eccentric Riedel family – he himself recognized it was time to start focusing on the glasses and wines in front of us. We were to taste the new 2011 vintages of Black Hills’ Carménère, Syrah, and Nota Bene out of three unique Riedel Vinum XL glasses. Having been first released for sale only four short years ago, the XL series are much larger than Riedel’s other stemware (the Cabernet glass can easily hold any entire bottle of wine). Stewart explained that wines have changed over the years since the Vinum line was introduced (1986), with higher alcohol content demanding a larger bowl to better introduce the aromas of “big, bold, concentrated wines.” The seemingly enormous glasses are machine-blown in Germany, from lead crystal, and cooled slowly to line up the molecules and ensure strength. Stewart demonstrated the advantages of the Riedel manufacturing technique by literally flexing the stem and compressing the bowl, to anxious gasps from the audience!

The tasting arrangement

The tasting process for the evening was set up to show each wine at its best, in the most appropriate glass, and to clearly illustrate the differences between the three different glasses. As a result we were asked to sample each wine from all three glasses, paying close attention to how the nose and palate were altered as a result, beginning with the rare Carménère. Only about 165 cases of Carménère are produced each year at Black Hills, and the wine isn’t even sold to the public at the winery’s own tasting room, so we were very lucky to enjoy it as part of our tasting! What became immediately apparent was that the huge Cabernet Sauvignon glass did little to maximize the Carménère, it being simply too large to hold the delicate aromas, and in fact served only to emphasize the acid and tannin on the palate. The Pinot Noir glass was by far the most appropriate for the task, carefully shepherding the aromas, and ensuring the wine landed on the tip of the tongue, keeping it in balance.

The 2011 Syrah represents only the third vintage of this varietal from Black Hills, but it is an ideal wine for the terroir. Glenn was quick to point out that eight of the eleven wines named “Red Wine of the Year” in the annual Canadian Wine Awards (2002-2012) comprised Syrah from the Black Sage Bench. Black Hills’ success with Syrah became evident as we enjoyed rich aromas of leather and spice, and an intensely fruit-forward palate from the appropriate glass. In the Pinot Noir glass the Syrah was overcome by toast and a somewhat bitter palate, while from the larger Cabernet glass the tannins dominated the palate. Back in the Syrah glass, a few bites of chocolate ensured the pepper notes in the wine really shone through as well, gaining additional compliments, and fans!

The young 2011 Nota Bene was our final wine, destined for the cavernous Cabernet glass – ideal considering Black Hills’ icon red is typically about one half Cabernet Sauvignon. Before tasting the wine, we heard the exciting origin story that started it all: shockingly the winery’s original owners had little aspiration to make wine, but were instead seeking to sell their grapes to others! The McCarrell and Tennant families who planted the vineyard in 1996 eventually decided to produce a small amount of wine themselves, and the first vintage of Nota Bene came from the 1999 harvest. Shortly after the doors to their small Quonset hut tasting room opened in June of 2001, the wine received accolades in Vancouver media from Jurgen Gothe, and visitors began knocking on the door in droves. The winery has had little trouble selling their wine since then, and they certainly use all their grapes now!

In the Pinot Noir glass, the Nota Bene was restrained on the nose, with only notes of toasted oak showing through, and little in the way of finish on the red fruit palate. From the Syrah glass, cherry fruit emerged, along with a hit of alcohol, but significant tannins overwhelmed the palate. In the Cabernet glass, the wine showed ripe, sweet fruit on the nose, and additional spicy dark fruit on the palate, which paired perfectly with the dark chocolate squares from which we all nibbled. Once again, dramatic differences in aroma, flavour, and body were evident amongst the three glasses – even Glenn was amazed at the differences! With the tasting complete it didn’t take much time for the few additional sets of glasses to be snapped up by eager attendees, who all seemed ecstatic to be taking home such transformational stemware. Many thanks to Riedel Canada and Stewart Risto, and to Glenn Fawcett and Black Hills Winery for providing for such an informative, entertaining, and delicious evening!

Saturday 12 October 2013

BCWAS Perseus Tasting

After another wildly successful and entertaining Bus Tour in September, the BC Wine Appreciation Society restarted the regular series of winery tastings this month, with a visit from Penticton winery Perseus. This young winery has experienced quite a tumultuous few years, having been founded in 2009, sold in 2011, and expanded in 2013. At the same time, three talented winemakers have had their hands involved in creating a broad portfolio of whites and reds, with the reins having recently transferred to Okanagan Crush Pad’s Matt Dumayne. In addition to setting his own style for the 2013 vintage, Matt is also tasked with finishing the work of consulting winemaker Tom Di Bello, who left earlier this year (and can now be found at Burrowing Owl). Tom originally took over from consultant Lawrence Herder, who produced the 2009 wines and much of the 2010 vintage.

Winemaker Matt Dumayne strikes a pose

For the tasting we were joined by both Matt Dumayne and Perseus’ President and CEO Rob Ingram. Although Matt has had little to no influence on the wines we tasted (having only recently joined the team from his home base at OCP – Perseus’ production facility), he generously provided commentary and thoughts on future directions. We had available to taste four whites from the 2011 and 2012 vintages, as well as a range of reds going back to the first wines from 2009.

The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc prompted some enthusiastic comments from New Zealander Matt, who mentioned that he dislikes the style of Sauvignon produced in his home country. In his words, Perseus’ rich, tropical version is “everything Marlborough wants to be but can’t get there.” The wine was showing very enjoyable freshness, particularly for a nearly two-year-old bottle. As Perseus purchases most of their grapes from selected premium vineyards, Rob was able to share the sources for many of the wines: the Sauvignon Blanc was obtained from a Skaha Lake vineyard beside Blasted Church. Ironically, despite its popularity during our tasting, there will be no more Sauvignon Blanc from Perseus, as the winery has shifted their focus to other varietals.

Future efforts at the winery will continue to include Pinot Gris however, and we got to sample the luscious, Alsatian-styled 2011 vintage. Matt was impressed that this wine isn’t “thin, like many Okanagan Pinot Gris,” and revealed his plans underway to produce a Reserve bottling in 2013, given the exceptional quality of grapes from certain vineyard rows. This degree of production control can be obtained due to Perseus’ full ownership of their estate vineyard on Lower Bench Road in Penticton – planted exclusively to Pinot Gris.

Additional whites included a 2011 Chardonnay, from Naramata and Osoyoos vineyards: fermented and then aged 11 months in barrel, the creamy texture and mango and apple flavours yielded a long finish. The single 2012 wine came in the form of a Similkameen valley Viognier, bottled just four months ago. Aromas of vanilla and pineapple, with creamy orange flavours benefitted from leaving the wine on its lees until a month before bottling.

Cabernet Sauvignon & Invictus

Several varied red wines awaited us as the whites were finished up, beginning with a very rare small lot 2011 Malbec. Only 50 cases of this youthful and rich wine were produced, and the vibrant purple colour, violet aromas, and mint chocolate flavours kept me coming back for more! The similarly small production of 2011 Cabernet Franc was next up, with firm tannins but soft acidity. Coming primarily from the Similkameen’s renowned Blind Creek vineyard, it showed hints of developing dark fruit and candidacy for further aging.

Two mini-verticals of reds to conclude the tasting began with the 2010 and 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Perseus’ most expensive wines at $50 a bottle. Like the Malbec and Cabernet Franc, the Cabernet Sauvignon is part of Perseus’ “Select Lots” series of wines, with only a handful of barrels produced each year. The grapes are sourced from the Osoyoos Indian Band’s Inkameep Vineyard in the southern Okanagan, home of much legendary Cabernet Sauvignon. The huge “legs” (thanks to more than 15% alcohol) in the 2010 led up to a long finish featuring dark fruit and noticeable licorice flavour. The newer 2011 vintage was only bottled four months ago, and showed a fresher, fruitier profile, with slightly softer acids, plus some entertaining hints of leather and even manure on the nose. Only 88 cases of the 2010 Cabernet were produced, and 111 cases of the 2011, so the winery barely even advertises these wines (nor their other Select Lot brethren), as they quickly sell out via the tasting room.

Finally it came time for the three year vertical of every available vintage of Perseus’ “Invictus” red blend, from 2009 to 2011. The 2009 and 2010 bottles were primarily the work of Lawrence Herder, while the as-yet-unreleased 2011 came from Tom Di Bello’s consultancy. Having done his homework, and with sufficient reference material available to him, Matt was able to expand upon the contents of each bottle and provide informative observations. The very ripe, 15.5% alcohol 2009 was comprised of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Malbec. Having started to get a little rusty in colour, the 2009 is clearly maturing briskly, showing generous stewed fruit aromas and flavours with a smooth, easy-drinking texture.

Very little of the 2009 Invictus remains on store shelves, as the current release 2010 has taken over at the winery. The 2010 was the most savoury of the three wines, showing more tannin than its predecessor, plus a nose stepped in leather. Winemaker Lawrence Herder saw fit to substantially change up the blend in the second year, favouring a majority of 56% Merlot, followed by 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Malbec. The 2010 will take longer to mature than the 2009, so depending on sales figures there is no hurry on the part of the winery to push out the 2011 too early.

Our preview tasting of the third vintage of Invictus was very revealing, illustrating the continued change in the wine as Tom Di Bello took over winemaking duties. While Merlot remains a favoured component of the blend, at 40%, Malbec has jumped to 21%, followed by 18% Petit Verdot, and only then do Cabernet Sauvignon (11%) and Cabernet Franc (10%) come into play. The 2011 Invictus was my personal favourite, given the strong Malbec influence and accompanying milk chocolate aromas, plus additional black fruit flavours.

Perseus Raffle Wines

The evening concluded with an exciting wine raffle, thanks to CEO Rob Ingram having brought along a full case of wine, representing nearly every varietal and blend produced by Perseus. Rob’s generosity in donating twelve bottles ensured that a great many guests went home even happier! As winners were drawn, and selected their preferred bottle, each was invited to draw the next lucky recipient. I felt particularly fortunate to win the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, having only recently picked up the 2010 at the winery on the way to the September BCWAS bus tour; neither bottle will go lonely in my cellar now.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

BCWAS Bus Tour 2013 Acquisitions

The annual BC Wine Appreciation Society Bus Tour has become one of my top wine country shopping opportunities. Not only does the tour itself visit numerous top-tier and up-and-coming wineries, but the trip out to the Okanagan can provide for plenty of detours to obtain winery exclusive bottles. With this year’s tour operating out of Summerland Waterfront Resort I elected on a route that took me there via the Coquihalla, and home via Osoyoos and the Similkameen Valley – to cover as much territory as possible.

Westbank, Naramata & Summerland Acquisitions

My Friday began with an early morning departure and an uneventful, easy drive to West Kelowna, where I looked forward to lunch at Quails’ Gate’s Old Vines Restaurant, my first time dining at this well-regarded venue. Beforehand I popped into the Wine Shop seeking a bottle of the winery’s elusive “Dijon Clone Selection” Pinot Noir. Although the wine was originally released two years ago (to glowing reviews), I had recently read that a few remaining bottles were newly available at the winery. Considering I had missed out during the initial release my fingers were crossed for this last chance opportunity. My persistence was rewarded with one of the last bottles from below the counter, #1873 – each bottle (of 2640) is individually numbered!

Full of delicious food and relaxed from the gorgeous garden and vineyard views at Quails’ Gate I next stopped by Mission Hill for a bottle of newly released 2010 Oculus to maintain my vertical of this iconic wine, plus the first release of (2012) Viognier from the winery’s Martin’s Lane collection (joining Riesling and Pinot Noir). Quickly zipping south – ironically past the resort – I made it through Penticton and up to Laughing Stock before closing. There I was able to collect my fall allotment from the Preferred Share Wine Club – and even taste the three wines in my six-bottle box: the 2012 Chardonnay and Viognier are both delightfully fresh and fruity, from a near-perfect vintage. The delayed fall release of these whites has given them ample time to overcome bottle-shock and knit together extremely well. I was even impressed by the sample of very young 2011 Portfolio: despite near-mandatory cellar time and a cool, disappointing vintage David Enns has put together another superb wine I’m quite pleased to have brought home with me.

My final visit of the day before travelling back through Penticton and north to Summerland was a stop at Perseus, open late and within the city limits. I was finally able to acquire a bottle of the winery’s well-regarded 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, from a miniscule lot of only 89 cases. I tacked on a bottle of 2011 Malbec (from only two barrels) given how rarely it appears as a single-varietal in the Okanagan, and another of a surprisingly peppery 2011 Syrah Malbec that was open for tasting. With a full case in the trunk already I was feeling quite optimistic about the upcoming weekend of touring, and made it back to Summerland just in time for the opening dinner and Bottleneck Drive tasting at Local Lounge. My day ended with one last purchase of VIP Fortified Pinot Noir from Saxon Winery – I was quite happy to order a couple bottles (gracefully delivered to the hotel the next day) after tasting it during the evening’s events.

Naramata & Summerland Acquisitions

With my own driving duties for the weekend put aside, I was free to relax and taste plenty of fine wines over the next two days as our bus weaved through the wineries of the Naramata Bench and Summerland. On Saturday we enjoyed the morning hospitality of Upper Bench Winery & Creamery, where I gladly purchased structured 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from Gavin Miller – who helped launch the lauded reds of Painted Rock. Lunch at Poplar Grove saw me add a bottle of extremely delicious 2012 Viognier to my stash, and then another one of the same from Red Rooster later in the afternoon, along with a 2011 Malbec as well. That night’s Winemaker Dinner at Local Lounge featured Tom Di Bello, which made for the perfect opportunity to obtain some Di Bello Wines 2010 Syrah, 2011 Chardonnay, and 2011 Merlot straight from the source. Spending the meal talking with Tom and Tari Di Bello (and Robert Van Westen) was easily the icing on the cake!

On Sunday, as we toured Summerland wineries my purchasing habits were slightly more tempered – knowing the virtual smorgasbord of southern Okanagan wineries awaiting me on the way home the next day. Ironically the wide availability of Sumac Ridge’s wines – in particular the reliable sparkling Steller’s Jay – negated any need to purchase during our morning visit. However, our lunch at Okanagan Crush Pad provided an invaluable opportunity to pick up a couple bottles of sparkling “Bub” Rosé from house brand Haywire. Later in the afternoon as we wound things down at Sonoran Winery I picked up my final Bus Tour wine in the form of a delicious tropical caramel 2007 Ehrenfelser Icewine. Ehrenfelser as icewine is rare enough, and finding a bottle that’s already been aged into something particularly interesting is rarer still.

Okanagan Falls, Oliver-Osoyoos, & Similkameen Acquisitions

Although I gleefully picked up some exciting rarities and surprise treats during the Bus Tour, it was on the way home the next day that I really got going: many of my favourite wineries lie south of McIntyre Bluff, where heat-loving red grapes thrive. I got an early start, in the hopes of making it home to Vancouver before dark, with my first visit to the BC Wine Information Centre in Penticton. I made sure to take home the Lt. Governor’s Award-winning Wild Goose 2012 Mystic River Pinot Blanc I found on the shelf at the Centre’s VQA Store – not knowing what might be available at the winery in Okanagan Falls, or whether I’d have time to stop there. Along Skaha Lake south of Penticton I swung up to Blasted Church after taking in the sights at Painted Rock, and added a couple bottles of the brand new OMG Sparkling, plus an advance release of 2011 “Holy Moly” Petit Verdot. Admittedly 2011 wasn’t the ideal vintage for varietal Petit Verdot, but at the very least it should be interesting to taste a grape that is nearly always blended into other wines in miniscule proportions.

With the clock already ticking I had to burn through Okanagan Falls, stopping only at Stag’s Hollow, where I was very lucky to get some of the winery’s brand new 2012 Grenache, a very exciting Canadian first for this varietal. Winemaker Dwight Sick planted the vines back in 2006 and has been patiently waiting several years to see this wine come to fruition. Only 170 cases were produced, and it likely won’t make it into stores, hence my personal visit. Of course, adding the newly-released 2011 Tempranillo and a bottle of the winery’s 2011 “Hart” Port-style fortified Merlot were additional excellent reasons to wind my way off the highway.

I spent the next couple of hours working my way south, adding to my growing bounty, and picking up some pre-orders to avoid dreaded shipping costs. From Fairview Cellars in Oliver I picked up Bill Eggert’s Fall releases without question: 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, “Bucket O’ Blood” Syrah/Cabernet, “Two Hoots” Cabernet/Merlot, and a couple bottles of “The Bear” Meritage. At Tinhorn Creek a few minutes away I made sure to collect my Fall “Crush Club” half-case of reds, as well as add a winery-exclusive bottle of 2010 Oldfield Series Syrah, which was produced in quantities too small to include in the Club orders this year (only 210 cases). Then I made my first visit to the Triggs family’s new winery Culmina, where I was excited to collect my pre-ordered bottles of 2011 Dilemma Chardonnay and Hypothesis red blend. I bumped into some fellow BCWAS members getting a personal tour from Don Triggs, and begrudgingly had to leave with only some photos and plenty of jealousy! Finally, across the valley I stopped at Black Hills for the 2011 Syrah, the veteran winery’s third vintage with this varietal, which I’ve been collecting since first release.

I finally made it to Osoyoos for a quick lunch before heading home via Highway 3 and the Similkameen Valley. Still eager to arrive in Vancouver during daylight hours I only had time for two quick but vital winery visits. At Seven Stones I was eager for a bottle of the newly released 2011 Cabernet Franc, continuing my efforts to collect all of George Hanson’s excellent red wines given the opportunity (not that his Chardonnay and Rosé don’t also deserve plenty of compliment). Finally, in Cawston I pulled up to Orofino with a reserved spot in the trunk for my second case from the winery’s “Collector’s Club”. Upon receipt I was very pleased to see multiples of 2012 Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as 2011 Syrah and Merlot, and even two bottles of the 2010 Hendsbee Vineyard Petit Verdot, of which only 75 cases were produced. Proprietors John and Virginia Weber had even included a special bottle of 2007 Canadian Oak Chardonnay for wine geeks to fawn over. To cap off the trip I bumped into the same group of BCWAS friends I’d earlier seen at Culmina as I was leaving – it’s nice to have friends with such excellent taste in BC wine!

Thursday 26 September 2013

Destination Painted Rock

Renowned Skaha Lake winery Painted Rock recently opened the doors of their brand new Tasting Lounge facility, and I had the honour of attending the Grand Opening party last weekend.

An Unmistakeable Entrance

Proprietor John Skinner has been gleefully showing off renderings and constructions photographs for many months. With the big day finally upon us he was rightfully proud to reveal the result of years of patience: a formal tasting room having taken a back seat to vineyard and winery development for the past several years, since the property was acquired in 2004.

John speaks with Tony & Kasey (AM650)

Although a comprehensive production building was eventually constructed to facilitate the creation of Painted Rock’s rapidly respected portfolio of wines, visitors to the property were treated to a comically small “temporary tasting room” for years. Originally a break room for vineyard staff, this little shack (clean and newly built, but the size of a bedroom), became a placeholder for things to come. After all, it was the spectacular wines inside that made Painted Rock the highly respected representative of the “New Okanagan” it is today.

Newly Bottled 2011 Reds

It soon became a point of pride to have visited the Painted Rock shack, and I suspect that many visitors will always have a soft spot for that little room. Fans will be glad to know the shack survives, and has been returned to its original purpose elsewhere in the vineyard. This despite my tongue-in-cheek suggestion to John that the new tasting room be built around the shack, to preserve it like a museum exhibit.

Gleaming in the Sun

With the Painted Rock brand well-established and the vineyards producing just as planned, a proper tasting room was finally commissioned from Penticton architect Robert Mackenzie. The desire for outdoor event spaces overlooking the vineyards and the Lake necessitated heaps of fill in order to raise the site elevation and maximize sightlines. Construction began this spring, and proceeded successfully throughout the summer (with plenty of online updates provided by John), until full completion and landscaping in late August.

Vineyards and Event Plazas

The Tasting Lounge had already hosted a soft open in the recent past, as the venue for John’s brother’s wedding, during which the value of a sturdy tent had been noted given the fast-changing weather in the region. Fortunately the wedding avoided calamity when rain-showers approached just as the ceremony wrapped up, but John was taking no chances this time: a slick, very on-theme tent shelter was on hand for the Grand Opening, complete with glittering chandeliers!

A Well-Adorned Tent

The tent briefly enjoyed its intended use during a rainstorm that rolled over the region just as the party began, causing organizers some brief consternation. Afterwards however, it was only needed to provide respite from the blazing sun that blessed the winery for the remainder of the afternoon. The shelter did little to detract from the beauty of the new Lounge, but seeing the sleek facility just as the architect intended is even more impressive. I myself had visited the winery only days before, and so captured a bevy of photographs of the new facility unaccompanied by its skeletal companion.

Mint Condition

My previous visit was in the early morning, before the Lounge opened; this event was my first chance to explore inside the completed building. The clean ambient lighting and gleaming white surfaces provoke a heavenly atmosphere, accessorized smartly by well-organized wine bottles and John’s four Lieutenant Governor’s Awards. Massive glass doors slide smoothly into the walls, opening up the entire room to the outdoors, where the pure white concrete floors continue up to lush green grass. Hints of wood ground the building in the natural world, complemented by landscaped rock gardens and native plants.

Sparkling Clean Inner Workings

Outside, the multi-level grass plaza seems designed with weddings in mind, and I’m sure many couples will soon be seeking to celebrate their nuptials amongst such idyllic surroundings. Having a look behind the building one can see extensive accommodations for vehicle parking as well, alluding to an expected prosperous future as the premier South Penticton destination. One can’t help but imagine a restaurant or boutique hotel might not be far behind. If so I’ll gladly join the waiting list for accommodations!

The Sun Shines on Painted Rock!

Thursday 19 September 2013

BCWAS Bus Tour 2013: Summerland

Our Saturday night dinner at Local Lounge with Tom & Tari Di Bello and Robert Van Westen concluded with BC Wine Appreciation Society members locking in their wine orders and bidding adieu to our talented guests. Many guests turned in for the evening after dinner, grateful for Sunday’s later 9am muster call. Our first appointment that day was just minutes away at Sumac Ridge Winery. Winery Experience Manager Kristina was on hand to welcome us to one of BC’s oldest estate wineries, where we enjoyed our morning bubbly outside under the clearing skies.

Netted vines ready for harvest at Sumac Ridge

For those who hadn’t already enjoyed sparkling wine with breakfast there was the quintessential 2008 Steller’s Jay, the non-vintage “Tribute” Blanc de Blancs, and the 2005 “Pinnacle” Reserve Sparkling, the most complex and elegant of the three. While we moved on to the Black Sage Vineyard 2010 Merlot, Kristina suggested we keep our eyes peeled for an upcoming sparkling Shiraz, and even a varietal Zinfandel. With the Sumac Ridge tasting room just around the corner many members took the opportunity to stock up on sparkling, and we even captured a group photo back outside, with newly refreshed glasses of Pinnacle in hand.

Steller's Jay magnums and other treats at Sumac Ridge

Magnums of Steller’s Jay and other treats safely ensconced in the bus we headed back through Summerland to 8th Generation Vineyards, on the south side of town. Winery Proprietors Bernd & Stefanie Schales were awaiting us in their beautifully decorated picnic area, with a slew of wines and mouth-watering baked goods from True Grain Bread. Each wine was paired with one of the many breads, pastries, and cookies from this highly successful, local organic bakery.

Beautiful decorations welcome us to 8th Generation

We enjoyed wines such as the 2012 Classic Riesling with ancient grain Emmer bread, the 2012 Integrity Frizzante with a classic French croissant, and 2011 Pinot Noir with gingerbread cookies. The chance to try the powerful 2011 Riesling “Selection” saw almost the entire remaining stock at the winery sold out during our visit! The enthusiastic crowd also descended upon the remaining Cheddar Twists, French Baguettes, Sourdough, and Chocolate Croissants brought along from True Grain, with a great many compliments to the baking team.

Enjoying the sun and shade at 8th Generation

Having just filled up on breads we headed off to our lunch visit post-haste, where nearby Okanagan Crush Pad was hosting BCWAS favourite Joy Road Catering, and a festival style wine and food visit. OCP’s house brands Haywire and Bartier-Scholefield were being poured in earnest along with many gems from clients Perseus, Sage Hills, Bartier Brothers, and Harper’s Trail. After an introduction by Owner Christine Coletta, Chief Winemaker Michael Bartier brought us into the Switchback vineyard to describe his grape-growing and winemaking philosophies, while Joy Road’s servers circulated with trays of canapés.

Winemaker Michael Bartier speaks to OCP guests

Upon returning to the winery we found ourselves practically swimming in exquisite food and wine choices, including Heirloom Tomato Galette, Merguez Sausage & Homemade Pita, Grilled Striploin & Caponata, Wild Salmon Sliders, and Melon Carpaccio with Prosciutto. With dozens of wines on hand there was an ideal pairing for everything, which many members gladly explored!

Impressive wines from OCP's in-house brands

To conclude our winery tours we spent the remainder of the afternoon after departing OCP enjoying the lively atmosphere and great company at Sonoran Winery. Proprietors Adrian and Sarah Smits provided for a seated tasting of their extensive portfolio, which focuses strongly on aromatic whites, including Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Oraniensteiner, and Ehrenfelser. That being said, sampling 2007 Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec was also quite a treat, while several platters of baked brie with Cabernet-caramelized onions were passed around. The fun was amplified by the live music and bouts of karaoke that emerged, led with gusto by Sarah and our very own bus driver, plus courageous BCWAS members!

A bevy of awards for Sonoran Estate

Our unexpected party at Sonoran led to a delay in returning to the Resort for dinner, but Local Lounge graciously accommodated our revised schedule. We certainly didn’t want anything getting in the way of our dinner with Harry McWatters! Harry had brought wines from his McWatters Collection and TIME Estate Winery portfolios, to pair with a four-course family style dinner led masterfully yet again by Chef Lee.

Local Lounge: Seared Scallops with Foie Gras Mousse, Truffled Apple Emulsion, Poached Apple, and Smoked Hazelnut Crumble

With the new TIME 2011 Chardonnay guests enjoyed Fraser Valley Rabbit Terrine while Harry discussed the great advances in BC wine culture over the years. Seared Scallops followed, with TIME’s smooth, tropical 2012 White Meritage. The entrée course included heaping trays of Roasted Ling Cod, as well as Grilled Beef Tenderloin, served with McWatters Collection 2011 Chardonnay and TIME 2011 Red Meritage.

Local Lounge: Roasted Ling Cod with Sauteed Kale, Honey-Glazed Charred Octopus, and Fester's Red Pepper Bisque

An inventive and delicious dessert course included the McWatters Collection 2009 Red Meritage both in our glasses and in the chocolate cake served with poached blackberries and caramel espresso ice cream. Over and above the fantastic food and wine, listening to Harry’s decades of insights on the BC wine trade was a treat; his passion and integrity have helped build an entire industry, and he has no plans of slowing down!

Local Lounge: Warm Meritage Chocolate Cake with Poached Blackberries, and Caramel Espresso Ice Cream

Concluding our bus tour at the same superb venue in which it began seemed particularly apt; enjoying local food and wine is what the tour is all about. Celebrating BC’s best with a great group of passionate people left me energized and excited to do it all again next year!

Tuesday 17 September 2013

BCWAS Bus Tour 2013: Naramata Bench

After a comprehensive tour through the Oliver-Osoyoos region last year, the BC Wine Appreciation Society bus tour swung north in 2013 to visit Summerland and the Naramata Bench. The Executive team had arranged luxurious accommodations at Summerland Waterfront Resort, where most of us met up Friday before the tour started in earnest the next morning. The well-appointed resort directly on the water is also the site of Local Lounge & Grill, where we were set to dine throughout the weekend. The highly-respected restaurant is operated by Christa-Lee McWatters and her husband Cameron Bond, in partnership with Christa-Lee’s father, Harry McWatters. The convenience of dining directly at the resort allowed guests more flexibility, and saved money on transportation as well!

Okanagan Lake view from Summerland Waterfront Resort

For BCWAS members arriving Friday evening, Local was set up to welcome us with a festival style wine tasting, alongside a tapas dinner from talented new Executive Chef Lee Humphries. Several members wineries from the “Bottleneck Drive” association in Summerland were present pouring for the excited guests, with everything from crisp sparkling wines to rich fortifieds and icewines. Naturally, everything was available to order as well, with the wineries generously offering to deliver orders to the hotel’s front desk the next day. Given the many excellent wines being poured I certainly hope they received plenty of new customers.

As good as the great many wines were, the seemingly endless array of food easily grabbed our attention as well: platters of cheese and charcuterie were accompanied by a bevy of bite sized hors d’oeuvres on skewers, planted in a bed of living greenery. The quail eggs, prawns, seared tuna, and tomato & bocconcini morsels kept guests salivating while Chef Lee cooked up mini meatballs and squash tortellini at a hot food station. A table of desserts didn’t go missed either, with pies, brownies, éclairs, and chocolate mousses offering a feast for the senses late into the evening.

Upper Bench's newly renovated patio is very accommodating

Despite a hearty party to get us started, everyone dutifully reported outside the resort on Saturday morning at 8:15 for our departure to visit the Naramata Bench wineries, helped along by plenty of coffee, and/or sparkling wine in a number of cases! A short ways down the road in Penticton Upper Bench Winery & Creamery was ready to receive more than three dozen bright-eyed wine (and cheese) fans. Proprietors Gavin Miller (the winemaker) and Shana Miller (the cheesemaker) welcomed us to their newly renovated patio, where we all enjoyed a seated wine and cheese tasting.

A selection of elegant wines from Upper Bench

Elegant Chardonnay and crisp Riesling were paired with Shana’s “Gold” and “French Gold” cheeses to start, while industry veteran Gavin discussed his all-natural viticultural approach. A hearty new 2011 Pinot Noir was accompanied by the garlicky “Italian Gold” cheese, and the fruit forward Merlot and old world inspired Cabernet Sauvignon brought out the “Moody Cow” and “King Cole” blue cheeses. The impressive selection of wines and cheeses set Society members upon the tasting room in droves, stocking up on their favourites in both domains. It didn’t take long for the previously-burgeoning cheese fridge in the shop to look quite forlorn and lonely once we practically emptied it in our enthusiasm for Shana’s wares!

The cheese counter at Upper Bench, before BCWAS shoppers

With the Naramata Bench wineries so close together it wasn’t long before we reached our next destination, mere minutes away at Poplar Grove’s production facility, down the road from their iconic Tasting Room. There, Founder Ian Sutherland was on hand to greet us and provide a guided tour of the new winery, about to enter its second year of production. The extremely spacious building is home to dozens of massive steel tanks and a huge barrel room that should serve Poplar Grove and second-label Monster Vineyards well for many years.

Inside the spacious Poplar Grove winery building

After a quick hop up the road to the beautiful tasting room and event facility Ian was happy to share and discuss several wine samples, including a smooth and balanced Chardonnay, plus a rare and luscious Viognier found only at the winery. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 CSM red blend soon brought on plenty of grins with their ripe dark fruit, and the nicely maturing 2006 Legacy provided for a delectable treat.

Vanilla Pod: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Fresh Burrata

With Poplar Grove having been joined by the Vanilla Pod Restaurant from Summerland just last year, we were able to smoothly transition directly into lunch, served outside amongst the stunning views overlooking Penticton and the lake. Executive Chef Bruno Terroso had prepared a spectacular three-course meal, beginning with an extremely flavourful heirloom tomato salad with fresh Burrata.

Vanilla Pod: Wild Soho Salmon with Roasted Potatoes and Local Vegetables

Summerland potatoes and squash were next, served with either Hanger Steak or Wild Soho Salmon, similarly mouth-wateringly fresh and honestly prepared. Finally, the flourless chocolate torte for dessert was so rich and delicious that members were pooling their leftovers in take-away containers, so as not to leave even a single bite behind!

Vanilla Pod: Flourless Chocolate Torte with Berry Coulis

With memories of such a fantastic lunch still in our minds (and bellies) it was almost hard to concentrate during our afternoon visit to Township 7. Winemaker Bradley Cooper met us outside the winery where a series of tables had been set up for a custom blending session. After pouring the 2010 Reserve 7 Meritage, Brad challenged us to form small groups and create our own unique blend out of six single vineyard samples from the 2012 vintage.

Township 7 Winemaker Bradley Cooper presents the blending challenge

With a full suite of flasks and beakers on hand, we masterfully crafted three Merlots, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Malbec/Petit Verdot field blend into several brand new wines, under the watchful eye, nose, and palate of Brad. Many gleeful amateur winemakers soon received Brad’s approving acknowledgement of their blends, which he recorded for future research and consideration during his own blending sessions for the 2012 Reserve 7.

BCWAS members try their hands making the ideal red blend

Our final winery visit of the day took us up the road to Red Rooster, where the winery was hosting a fundraising picnic afternoon for the Penticton Fire Department. Outdoor games, a petting zoo, and actual firefighters demonstrating their life-saving equipment were all on display. With the winery grounds crowded with families and wine fans, we journeyed upstairs to a private room for a guided wine tasting with hospitality associate Dale.

Malbec vineyard rows at Red Rooster

Several wines from Red Rooster’s portfolio gave us a crash course in the techniques and skill of Winemaker Karen Gillis. We were lucky to sample from small lot, Reserve wines such as the Lieutenant Governor’s Award-winning 2012 Viognier, the rare 2011 Pinot Noir, and the newly released 2011 Malbec. The winery’s generosity continued as Dale provided samples of the light, refreshing 2012 Riesling Icewine, and the restrained, age-worthy 2010 “Golden Egg”, Karen’s venue for experimenting with Mourvedre and Grenache.

THE Red Rooster himself!

Back at the Resort, we enjoyed some time off to collect ourselves and squirrel away our purchases of wine and cheese from the day. The evening’s dinner at Local saw us honoured with the company of two well-known local winemakers: Tom Di Bello and his wife Tari joined Robert Van Westen in introducing several wines from their individual and joint ventures. Tom’s small “Di Bello Wines” project has yielded exceptional Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, and Syrah thus far, but is temporarily on hold as he ramps up work as the new head winemaker at Burrowing Owl. The busy harvest season didn’t stop Tom and Tari from bringing their 2010 & 2011 Chardonnay and Merlot wines, plus the 2010 Syrah, all ready to be paired with Chef Lee’s delicious food.

Local Lounge: Arugula, Saffron Poached Pear Salad with Happy Days Goat Cheese

The first course of Poached Pear Salad with Goat’s Cheese paired nicely with both Chardonnays, each of which possess bright, food-friendly acidity. The second course of Bison Tartar was enjoyed with the 2011 “VD” Pinot Noir, a very successful collaboration between Tom and Rob, and of which fewer than 100 cases were produced. Rob revealed his initial anxiety at producing a Pinot Noir, given the passion with which fans of the variety can both celebrate excellence and condemn perceived failure. Fortunately Tom convinced him to take the chance, and they have continued to collaborate on subsequent vintages. A third course of Duck Confit Ravioli served to celebrate both vintages of Di Bello Merlot, and juicy Syrah synched up with Roasted Black Pepper Venison next.

Local Lounge: Qualicum Brie Pannacotta with Rosewater Honey Gel and Candied Ginger Sable Crumble

A highlight of the entire meal for many was the dessert course of Qualicum Brie Pannacotta with the exquisite 2012 Van Westen “Vicicle” Viognier icewine. The honeyed peach and apricot flavours of the wine meshed superbly with the added rosewater honey gel and candied ginger sable crumble atop the Pannacotta. It was altogether the perfect conclusion to a fantastic day!

Monday 15 July 2013

July Wine Club: Bubbles & Bread & Butter

On one of the many beautiful July evenings in Vancouver we joined a few friends for our monthly BC wine dinner. After many weeks of waiting we’d finally finished rotating through the three courses we share and my wife and I were back on appetizer duty – full of excitement to share our long-awaited idea! With everyone’s courses and wine pairings chilling or heating up as necessary we enjoyed some time on our hosts’ balcony with visually stunning summer cocktails of Campari and Limoncello. All the refreshing sunshine of late had put everyone in a festive and relaxed mood, which a few bottles of wine and plenty of inventive food were soon to amplify.

Summer Cocktails

It was quite nice to sit down and relax in fact, because we had spent the better part of the day baking from scratch three loaves of bread, and churning a bevy of homemade butter. After discovering the ease with which one can produce fresh butter at home we had been inspired several weeks ago do the same, but resolved to wait for just the right time to share the riches. I’m not sure why it never occurred to us beforehand: just churn whipping cream in the food processor (with whisk attachment) until it almost magically becomes butter several minutes later. Even better, you’re left with a substantial portion of fresh buttermilk to boot! We’d done precisely that in three batches, variably adding additional ingredients to easily yield compound butter.

Our smoked salt butter, herb butter, and sundried tomato & basil butter were destined for the fresh bread we’d laboured over for hours. Even using our bread machine for most of the kneading and rising cycles, it was still a day-long affair to allow for the full rising and independent oven baking of all three loaves. At the end though, we had a solid whole wheat loaf, a light three-cheese bread with Asiago, cheddar, and ricotta, and a rich chewy country French loaf with Kalamata olives and (home-grown) rosemary.

Very Fresh Bread

Deciding on a wine pairing for such a simple yet simultaneously opulent dish led rather quickly to traditional method sparkling: creamy textures and yeasty notes would mesh nicely, whilst cleansing bubbles and acid would keep the rich butter in check. A couple of bottles from the cellar were natural selections, and having two different wines would provide for an interesting comparison as well. We began with Salt Spring Vineyards’ “Karma” Sparkling, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir produced from the superb 2009 vintage, and winner of a gold medal at the 2013 All Canadian Wine Championships. The winery also reports having placed as a finalist at the recent Lt. Governor’s Awards as well. The Karma’s light melon and caramel aromas opened into a soft mousse texture with bright citrus flavours and a dry, green apple finish. Overall very cleansing and tart, definitely one to awaken the palate!

Knowing we weren’t the type of people to stop at just one bottle, I had brought along a recently acquired sparkling from Okanagan Crush Pad’s Haywire Winery: “The Bub” is a bottle-fermented blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes just like the Karma, this one from the more recent 2011 vintage. We found The Bub to exhibit a very fresh and clean nose, slightly finer bubbles than the Karma, and a medium-bodied, smooth texture with reminders of crème brûlée. Being big fans and consumers of Road 13’s Sparkling Chenin, some of us couldn’t help but draw parallels to that superb wine. Overall The Bub was deemed to be a favourite amongst the two sparkling wines on hand, but there was little stopping the enthusiastic consumption of both bottles!

Sparkling Wines and Bread & Butter

Although very tempted to fill up on bread, we managed to leave room for the entree course, prepared in both vegetarian and omnivorous fashion to appeal to everyone. Diners had their choice of savoury marinated and grilled tofu, or flank steak from local butcher shop Pete’s Meat. Alongside our proteins was the “Bowl of Green Goodness”, a cashew and avocado dressed melange of red quinoa, fresh zucchini, peas, and a triplet of beans – green, purple, and yellow. The creamy avocado basil dressing made for a richly-flavoured mouthful, with roasted cherry tomatoes and raw cashews accessorizing the dish.

The ideal wine to enjoy with such a combination turned out to be a lightly chilled 2010 Gamay Noir from West Kelowna’s Mt. Boucherie. Opening with a nose of strawberry jam the Gamay expanded into additional aromas of raspberry and currant, with a noticeable earthiness present as well. Lots of strawberry flavours followed through on the palate, which revealed hints of cranberry and even a little bloodiness. The complex profile held up well to the varied flavours and textures on our plates, and the chill kept things light and summery without seeming to restrain the wine from expressing itself.

Gamay with Grilled Proteins and Green Goodness

A few second helpings, and a second bottle of Gamay later and we were ready to enjoy dessert, a very promising-looking fruit pie. A happy medley of apricot, blackberry, blueberry, plum, and peach came neatly packaged in a shortbread crust served alongside organic vanilla ice cream. A couple of recently-acquired late harvest wines gave us plenty of thought-provoking flavour combinations. Gehringer Brothers’ 2012 Riesling showed off a very pretty nose reminiscent of much more expensive icewine, with fresh and clean aromas of orange blossom. The honeyed palate was definitely sweet but quite well balanced, with flavours of elderflower and lychee leading into a lemon finish. Neighbouring winery Hester Creek’s well-known Late Harvest Pinot Blanc was sweeter and more viscous, with an even more focused citrus profile: additional orange blossoms and a mandarin orange palate kept the fruit flavours swirling readily.

Fruit Pie and Late Harvest Refreshments

Cool ice cream and chilled dessert wines made for a superb conclusion on a warm evening. We tried not to think about how much butter we had just enthusiastically consumed, and instead focused on the many tasty wines and creative food pairings, all shared with great friends; cheers!

Saturday 6 July 2013

June Acquisitions: WBC13 Bounty

While last month’s Wine Blogger’s Conference in Penticton was an incredible opportunity and a very fun experience, it also yielded a huge cellar dividend as well. Spending a weekend in wine country allowed for a large number of winery visits and the chance to stock up on a great many rare wines not readily available in Vancouver stores. From the drive up to Kelowna on the way there to the drive home from Osoyoos via the Similkameen Valley, we made quite a few stops, and ultimately amassed eight cases of wine by the time we got home! Needless to say I’ll be slowing down my cellar acquisitions until the fall, having checked off virtually everything on my to-buy list in one fell swoop. Most of the wine is now safely ensconced in crates, fridges, and shelves, and I can actually take stock of what I managed to pick up over that whirlwind weekend.

Westbank & Summerland Wines

On the way to Penticton my wife and I stopped for lunch at Mission Hill, with the secondary goal of picking up some of the winery’s small lot “Martin’s Lane” wines. These wines – initially Pinot Noir and Riesling, now joined by Viognier – were created as an homage to Proprietor Anthony von Mandl’s late father. I made sure to pick up the 2012 Riesling, described as “intense and refined” in Anthony Gismondi’s 90-point review, and the brand new 2011 Pinot Noir. The Pinot Noir, of which only 485 cases were produced, was recently awarded one of the three Canadian Regional Trophies at the Decanter World Wine Awards, a huge coup for Mission Hill, especially for a wine in only its second vintage!

Down the road in Summerland we visited Silkscarf for the first time and came away supremely impressed, along with several bottles of wine as well. I felt it pertinent to pick up the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (400 cases produced) to sample, it having been named Best of Varietal at the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival. Most of the remaining portfolio joined us as well, as we took home the 2012 Viognier and 2012 “Saignee” Shiraz-Merlot Rosé, plus the 2008 Ensemble red blend, 2009 Malbec Cabernet, and 2009 Shiraz Viognier, all wonderfully fruit forward and elegant. For good measure I snagged a bottle of versatile 2010 Cherry Wine as well.

A few minutes away, and at our last stop before Penticton, 8th Generation had plenty of delicious Frizzante and Pinot Meunier Rosé: it was an easy decision to take home 6 bottles each of “Confidence” and “Integrity” Frizzante, plus the consistently excellent Rosé. I also made sure to get a bottle of 2010 Pinot Noir, which was named Best of Category at the 2013 All Canadian Wine Championships. I have very little experience with 8th Generation’s red wines (they produce Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals as well), so the Pinot Noir seemed like a great place to start. Lastly, I took the opportunity to purchase the unique 2011 “Riesling Selection”, a new style of Riesling for the winery, one that included indigenous yeast fermentation and low residual sugar to yield zesty intensity.

Penticton & Naramata Bench Wines

During the course of the Conference I popped in and out of the local Penticton and Naramata wineries to obtain some key selections. At Poplar Grove I was very pleased to find the new 2009 CSM (Cabernet Syrah Merlot), and what I believe is the winery’s first varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, from the superb 2009 vintage. Up the road at La Frenz I really dove in, as the winery releases their entire annual allocation in June: 2012 Viognier and 2011 Reserve Chardonnay joined 2011 reds including Reserve Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and Malbec. The Reserve Pinot Noir topped the Best of Varietal Awards at the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival, and the winery’s other great value reds never disappoint. I was also sure to get a few bottles of non-vintage Tawny and Liqueur Muscat, plus the 2012 Vintage Port to put away for future enjoyment.

Further up the Naramata Bench I visited a few more wineries over the weekend, including stopping at Laughing Stock to pick up my Preferred Share Wine Club allotment of 2011 Blind Trust Red and 2011 Syrah. Having noted that (traditionally) fruit winery Elephant Island’s dominance in the Viognier category at the Spring Wine Festival I picked up a bottle of 2012 “I Told You So…” from the winery’s “Unconventional Wisdom” line of vinifera wines. A bottle of scrumptious Stellaport (solera-style fortified cherry wine) and 2012 Framboise fortified raspberry dessert wine were also enthusiastic choices, but so too would be many of the remaining table and dessert fruit wines if I had the space!

At Van Westen Vineyards I picked up a bottle of nicely maturing 2007 Voluptuous, only just beginning to peak. Winemaker Rob Van Westen trained under Fairview Cellars’ Bill Eggert, and his reds are proving to be just as long-lived as Bill’s epic wines. Finally, a visit to Kettle Valley provided the chance for a bottle of highly-acclaimed 2009 Barber Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, of which only 72 cases were produced, and now fully sold out! I also gladly tacked on a little bottle of “Caboose”, the winery’s highly enjoyable fortified Malbec-Petit Verdot.

Black Sage Bench Wines

After the Conference concluded we headed south for a little casual wine touring and an extra night’s rest at Hester Creek’s Villas. A few stops on the way to and through the Oliver area provided for some very valuable additional acquisitions. Ironically I didn’t need to make any purchases at the wine shops of Covert Farms, Jackson-Triggs, or Le Vieux Pin, despite passing all three on the way. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have enjoyed more wines from all three, but I had what I needed the most courtesy of the Penticton Wine Information Centre VQA Store: Covert Farms “Odie” Sparkling Pinot Blanc, Jackson-Triggs 2010 Sunrock Shiraz and 2010 Grand Reserve Cabernet-Shiraz-Viognier, and Le Vieux Pin’s superb 2010 Syrah.

As big and as well stocked as the Wine Information Centre is, there were still plenty more bottles out there in the wild, including award-winning reds at Quinta Ferreira. The Oliver winery’s 2009 Cabernet Franc and 2009 Malbec received top ranking in their respective categories at the Spring Wine Festival, and fortunately some remained at the winery when I stopped in; however the 75 cases of Malbec are now all gone and I’m sure the 175 cases of Cabernet Franc will follow quite rapidly. I also took home a bottle of 2008 “Obra-Prima” red blend, named Best of Class at the 2013 All Canadian Wine Championships, and described by Anthony Gismondi last year as inviting, supple, and impressive.

With a luxurious villa suite and dinner reservations at Terrafina Restaurant awaiting us we moved through the Black Sage Bench efficiently. First stop was at Church & State’s Coyote Bowl property to further my vertical collection of their icon “Quintessential” red blend, with the 2009 bringing me up to five vintages since the 2005 debut. A bottle of impressive 2010 Coyote Bowl Merlot came along as well, to join the 2010 Coyote Bowl Syrah I already had at home. Burrowing Owl provided for additional vertical additions, with purchases of 2010 Meritage and 2010 Syrah, plus the brand new 2011 Sauvignon Blanc out of curiosity – a new wine from Burrowing Owl doesn’t come often. Finally, a more leisurely sit down tasting at Black Hills finished off the afternoon, where I was extremely grateful to obtain a hard-to-come-by bottle of 2011 Carménère, strongly recommended to me at the Conference by local blogger Kristof Gillese.

Golden Mile & Osoyoos Wines

After a relaxing evening and a luxurious in-suite breakfast at Hester Creek it was finally time to head back home, and tick off the final wines from my to-buy list. A couple bottles of Hester Creek’s exciting new Cabernet Franc Rosé were sure to come with us upon departure, and a quick stop at Cassini was made to obtain 2010 Maximus red blend and 2010 Syrah. After visiting Road 13 we emerged several bottles later with newly released 2012 Old Vines Chenin Blanc and 2012 Jackpot Viognier Roussanne Marsanne – a very worthy sequel to last year’s Lt. Governor’s Award-winner. I was also sure to add the new 2010 vintage of “Fifth Element” red blend to my vertical collection, and picked up the small lots 2011 Merlot (175 cases) and 2011 Syrah (630 cases). Further down the road towards Osoyoos we swung by LaStella for a couple bottles of the delightful 2012 Moscato d’Osoyoos, plus the tasty Super Tuscan blend of 2010 Fortissimo, as well as the very rare 2010 Allegretto Merlot (only 110 cases produced).

Only one more stop in the Okanagan remained before we crossed into the Similkameen Valley and our final leg of wine touring. At Moon Curser I stocked up on the newly released 2011 reds, including their reliable Syrah, deep dark varietal Petit Verdot, and exciting Tempranillo. New this year from this Osoyoos winery is a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, plus an extremely small lot and never-seen-before varietal Touriga Nacional (only 60 cases!). The Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot both took home silver medals at the 2013 All Canadian Wine Championships, and the Touriga was awarded Best of Category (Other Single Red Vitus Vinifera)!

Similkameen Wines

With just a little bit of space left we made sure to visit some of our favourite Similkameen wineries as well. After a picnic lunch along the Similkameen River at Forbidden Fruit, we left with a bottle of “Flirt”, an exciting sparkling peach wine produced in the traditional “méthode champenoise”. I was also sure to stop up the road and pick up the newly released Seven Stones 2011 Syrah (only 104 cases produced), and then a bottle of Orofino’s 2012 Moscato Frizzante for good measure (even though I was expecting more in my upcoming Collector’s Club case). Our final visit before hitting the road in earnest was to Herder Winery, on the outskirts of Keremeos, a beautiful location with some great memories of past visits. Unfortunately the Herders have had to put the property up for sale, so we knew it could be our last opportunity to say hello and obtain some of their fantastic wines. I was extremely lucky, and grateful, to get a bottle of the not-yet-released 2009 Josephine red blend, as well as the 2011 Blind Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, of which only 20 meagre cases were produced (basically one barrel!).

Unloading and storing all that wine after arriving home was hard work, but it will provide for many memories and bottles shared with friends in the future. Most of the reds will be cellared until 2015 and beyond, so I look forward to recollecting our exciting trip years from now when it comes time to open them up and enjoy the adventures within.