Friday 31 October 2014

Collectibles: October 2014

While fruitfully working through a bit of a cellar backlog this fall (making room for new vintages) I still found the time to purchase a few bottles I couldn’t resist. Several new and recently released wines caught my attention, either on store shelves or in the news. I lucked out on a few, and others took a fair amount of hunting to track down across Vancouver.

October 2014 BC wine collectibles

Sage Hills 2013 Pinot Noir: I scooped up one of the last bottles on the shelf of this new release; only 191 cases were produced from Rick Thrussell’s organic Summerland vineyard. John Schreiner recently reported the wine was almost certainly released prematurely (with many years of development ahead), but Rick bowed to pressure “after his debut 2012 Pinot Noir was something of a sensation.” Swirl VQA Store – $45

Orofino 2012 Home Vineyard Pinot Noir: Keeping Sage Hills company is Orofino’s 2012 Home Vineyard Pinot Noir, a bright wine bursting with strawberry aromas and flavours. John & Virginia Weber grow five different Pinot Noir clones in their Cawston vineyard, and aged this blend of all five for 16 months in French oak. I may end up receiving a bottle in my next Orofino Collector’s Club shipment but that shouldn’t be much of a problem at all! Swirl VQA Store – $32

See Ya Later Ranch 2012 Rover: The latest release from a popular and widely available entry level Syrah. Anthony Gismondi has provided some impressive praise for past vintages, such as the 2008, noting it’s a wine that seems to get better and better every year. When the 2012 was recently awarded the new “Premier’s Award” for best wine of the entire BC Wine Awards, it seemed only reasonable to cellar a bottle for the future. At present it’s a bit disjointed, with alternating earthy and fruity notes that haven’t yet melded, but I’m looking forward to seeing what a couple of years aging can yield. Swirl VQA Store – $22

Thornhaven 2012 Syrah: After the National Wine Awards results were announced in late summer I paid close attention to the handful of Platinum medal-winners. Several BC wines made the list, including three 2012 Syrah, only one of which I hadn’t yet acquired. The bottle from Thornhaven in Summerland was more elusive, with the 2011 vintage still on VQA Store shelves. I have to admit, a Summerland appellation Syrah is a curious wine indeed, and this one has reportedly seen a brief 10 months in oak – it should prove quite interesting. Coal Harbour Liquor Store – $33

Burrowing Owl 2012 Malbec: Burrowing Owl only just introduced Malbec to their portfolio last year, with the inaugural 2011 release joining a mere handful of BC wineries producing a varietal version. The new release was bottled in August, fresh from 21 months in a mix of 80% French, and 10% each American and Hungarian oak. The dense fruit style of Burrowing Owl, combined with the excellent vintage and hand-harvesting from the winery’s Osoyoos vineyard should equate to an excellent collectible. Liberty Wines Granville Island – $37

Baillie-Grohman 2012 Cabernet Franc: The new Platinum category introduced at this fall’s BC Wine Awards is intended to award those wines judged unanimously worthy of Gold medals by all nine judges. Only five Platinum medals were handed out in September, including one to young Creston winery Baillie-Grohman. Although the winery has established estate vineyards, they still source reds from the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys: ten barrels of Cabernet Franc were obtained from an exclusive single vineyard in Osoyoos. Swirl VQA Store – $27

Fairview Cellars 2012 Cabernet Franc: On my way to the BC Wine Appreciation Society Bus Tour in September I stopped in to Bill Eggert’s winery outside Oliver. I received the sad news that his 2012 Cabernet Franc was long since sold out. I had heard some impressive praise for the wine, no surprise given the vintage and Bill’s talent with Cabernets. I was pleasantly surprised to spot the wine afterwards on store shelves. Perusing the back label I’m pleased to see Bill has continued his practice of noting the “Best After” date; in this case it’s December 2016, which fits perfectly with my five-years-from-harvest cellaring strategy. Marquis Wine Cellars – $35

Clos du Soleil 2012 Signature: From Keremeos, Clos du Soleil’s top tier red blend was actually doubled in production for this vintage, up to 475 cases, in anticipation of implementing bottle aging from 2013 onward. While bottles may seem prevalent now, shortly after release, once it’s gone there will be a long wait for the next vintage, so stock up while you have a chance! Should I follow through with my rotating vertical strategy, I can now open the 2008. However, the Signature has proved very long-lived, so further delay will likely provide even greater enjoyment. Swirl VQA Store – $40

Poplar Grove 2009 “The Legacy”: The arrival of this 2009 red blend is in fact the third vintage released this year, starting with the 2007, the ethereal 2008, and now the nearly sold-out 2009 – the winery appears to be a victim of their own success! Production in 2008 and 2009 was cut in half (500 cases), and the 2010 will likely see similar numbers, keeping me anxious to avoid a hole in my vertical going forward. At least I get to drink the 2005 now in order to make room for the new bottle! Swirl VQA Store – $50

Tuesday 28 October 2014

BC Wine Dinner: Autumn Flavours

After a very busy summer the four couples in our wine club finally got the chance to gather in one place for dinner recently. It was a chance to catch up and share some culinary creations over a few bottles of BC wine. The autumn weather must have inspired all of us in a similar fashion, as light red wines and warm comfort foods provided pleasantly pervasive. Some old favourites and a few new releases offered us plenty to discuss alongside delicious food pairings from our respective kitchens.

Walnut "Neat Balls" with Arrowleaf Zweigelt and Cellar Hand Punch Down Red

Some irresistible cheeses and cocktails couldn’t be turned down, while hors d’oeuvres were finalized and accessorized. What we soon discovered with glee were Walnut-Mushroom “Neat Balls” and a trio of mouth-watering dipping sauces in savoury flavours of barbecue, mustard, and marinara. These tasty little nuggets partnered with a couple of youthful red wines to get us started. The Arrowleaf 2012 Zweigelt displayed a striking amethyst colour in the glass that immediately caught my eye. The gorgeously smooth, soft fruit texture offered generous elements of leather and clove, pairing particularly well with the marinara sauce.

We next cracked open a bottle of Cellar Hand’s budget-friendly 2012 Punch Down Red for some comparative analysis. The Red, plus “Free Run White”, come from Black Hills’ second label line-up, reportedly crafted by the winery’s cellar hands themselves from a few barrels and full experimental latitude. The Punch Down Red provided some immediate contrast to the Zweigelt – jammier on the nose and palate, with a fuller body and sweeter flavours. It was quite easy-drinking and enjoyable overall, coming from the generous 2012 vintage that yielded bountiful and ripe fruit in the southern Okanagan, where Black Hills farms the Merlot, Cabernets, and Syrah found in the blend.

Pumpkin Dumplings with Tantalus Old Vines Riesling and Orofino Gamay

Having dealt with the initial hunger pangs, we settled down and prepared for the appetizer course, taken in hand by myself and my wife for this meal. Our inspiration came from the quintessential fall fruit – pumpkin! Reviewing old issues of the BC Liquor Stores TASTE Magazine I came across Baked Pumpkin and Onion Dumplings with Herb Dip, which we then accessorized with a creamy Apple and Blue Cheese Salad. Contrary to the recipe photo, our Dumplings wouldn’t stay closed, but at least the flavours stuck around to pair with Tantalus 2008 Old Vines Riesling and Orofino 2013 Gamay. Although I had the feeling either wine would pair nicely with the dish, I couldn’t resist sharing both bottles, and suspected few complaints would be voiced.

The Old Vines Riesling was released back in 2011 – fairly delayed for a 2008 white, but Tantalus likes to ensure sufficient bottle aging for this legendary wine. Even with another three years in bottle it still presented youthful vibrancy: generous citrus aromas carried through to the focused and racy palate, where petrol character emerged. Even on its own, let alone dancing with the sweet and savoury pumpkin and rich blue cheese, the wine was enough to elicit accolades around the table. Fortunately the Platinum Medal Gamay proved no slouch, providing an additional round of intensity to entertain our palates: bright, fresh cranberry and cherry fruit flavours plus a sprinkling of cinnamon spice made for another adept pumpkin partner. Orofino suggests chilled summer enjoyment – which I can vouch for with enthusiasm – but the wine’s pure enjoyment factor provides the versatility for all-year enjoyment.

Triple-cheese Macaroni, served with Brussels Sprouts and Rustic Salad

As we sipped a little bit more from the four bottles already available our entree course emerged from the oven in all it’s crispy, gooey glory. Three-cheese macaroni presented by our hosts was said to contain Romano, Cheddar, Cottage cheese, and some sour cream for good measure. To calm our beating hearts some roasted Brussels Sprouts and a crisp green salad provided balance and a few vitamins on the side. Apparently the two-bottle concept was broadly in mind, as we received with glee Painted Rock 2013 Chardonnay and Moon Curser 2011 Syrah, two of my personal favourites.

Painted Rock 2013 Chardonnay and Moon Curser 2011 Syrah

John Skinner and his team at Painted Rock have been fine-tuning the Chardonnay for a few years via painstaking work in the vineyard and at harvest. Multiple passes to pick clusters at ideal ripeness and acidity are labour intensive, but the results show in the fruit forward expression that easily absorbed the 5-month French oak treatment. We relished the nicely integrated, complex palate, showing fresh citrus and stone fruit with food-friendly toasty accents. The creamy and crispy macaroni made just as nice with the Gold-medal Syrah as well, from which Winemaker Chris Tolley has coaxed generous floral cherry aromas, supported by pepper and a hint of bacon. Cherries and plum on the smooth palate led into milk chocolate raspberries at the finish, giving us plenty to observe and admire.

Skor Meringue & Chocolate Scotch Ice Cream with Kettle Valley Caboose

Chock-full of pasta we had to find room for the always anticipated dessert, an assembly of homemade meringue, ice cream, and a crunchy pretzel stick. The Skor Meringue was topped with Scotch Ice Cream, and paired to Kettle Valley’s Caboose fortified red wine, a blend of ripe Malbec and Petit Verdot from the Naramata Bench. I’m always excited to try this rich prize, produced via the Solera method, yielding a blend of many vintages that promises to  increase in complexity each year. We readily absorbed the alcoholic tingle on the wine’s yeasty nose, with a jammy character soon wafting about. Interacting with the intense ice cream produced a Kirsch character that finished with bright blueberries and plenty of satisfied smiles.

A collection of thoroughly enjoyed empties

As the Caboose is presented in half-size bottles the dessert team had wisely brought two, consumed with rapidity as we wound down and remarked on the delicious meal. The creative contributions of everyone involved left us feeling very lucky once again to enjoy such great food, wine, and company!

Friday 24 October 2014

Meyer Wine Club: October 2014

As a member of Meyer Family Vineyards’ Wine Club I receive a mixed case of wine each year, divided into three annual shipments to align with the winery’s release dates. My most recent shipment in the “Some of Everything” club category, the last for 2014, focused on Chardonnay. I’ve been waiting patiently for the 2012 vintages of Meyer’s exquisite single vineyard Chardonnays all year, reading reviews and hearing positive press, so it’s a relief to finally get my hands on them! In addition to both 2012 single vineyard wines, a new entry-level Chardonnay from the 2013 vintage was provided, plus a preview of yet to be released 2013 Pinot Noir.

Meyer Wine Club October 2014 shipment

The winery’s two age-worthy flagship Chardonnay (in addition to the icon “Micro Cuvee”) include one from the home vineyard on McLean Creek Road in Okanagan Falls. The ideal conditions in 2012 resulted in clean, superbly balanced grapes by the time harvest began in early October. The wine was primarily fermented in stainless steel before transfer to 100% French oak (20% new) and ten months on the lees, with a reported natural malo-lactic fermentation. I recently greatly enjoyed a bottle of the 2010 McLean Creek Road Chardonnay from my own cellar, and expect the 2012 to follow suit with similarly elegant fruit, subtle buttery character, and near-perfect balance. The winery has been proudly trumpeting their 92-point score for this wine from Beppi Crosariol in the Globe & Mail. Local Vancouver Sun critic Anthony Gismondi saw fit to award 90 points and pointedly remark the wine is “venturing down the complexity road like few of its competitors.”

In addition to the vineyard surrounding the winery in Okanagan Falls, the Meyer family own a parcel on the Naramata Bench, from which the annual “Tribute Series” Chardonnay is produced. The fifteen-year-old Old Main Road Vineyard was harvested two weeks later than the more southerly Okanagan Falls terroir in 2012, but the grapes were processed almost identically, with the only difference being 33% new oak was used. The wine was dedicated to broadcaster Kelly Hrudey, for whom the annual tribute will take the form of $5,000 from Meyer to a charity of Mr. Hrudey’s choice. Glowing reviews for this Chardonnay have also taken shape over the course of 2014, with Gismondi complimenting the fresh, light wine’s finesse. WineAlign head judge David Lawrason remarked on the “riveting” character and fruit-forward, expansive palate in his 92-point review supporting the wine’s Silver Medal at the 2014 National Wine Awards he co-led with Gismondi.

A final Chardonnay in the shipment consisted of something new – a block-specific Chardonnay from the Old Main Road Vineyard. The 2013 “Steven’s Block” Chardonnay is said to come from the steepest and coolest rows in the Naramata site, with such distinctive terroir as to justify 113 cases of small lot wine. The $24 price tag comes in below the $30 asked for the two red label bottles (and is uniquely labelled with bronze colouring), suggesting a potential mid-point between the higher end wines and the $20 blended Okanagan Valley Chardonnay. Author John Schreiner tasted the new wine in late summer and enjoyed the generous palate and crisp finish. I look forward to delving into my own bottle relatively soon, and seeing where this new product line develops in the years to come.

New Meyer "Stevens Block" Chardonnay

During a visit to Meyer as part of the BC Wine Appreciation Society’s 2012 Fall Bus Tour, tour guests were served the 2010 vintage of the winery’s entry-level Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir. I distinctly remember the broad appreciation for the value proposition of this $25 wine, blended from multiple vineyards and growers throughout the valley. The final wine in my Club shipment was a bottle of 2013 Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir, not yet formally released at the winery, as the remainder of 1,600 cases of 2012 are still for sale. I found enough reason to open the bottle and enjoy it early: the nose presents berry fruit and cloves (with little earthiness), while a fuller-bodied palate than expected yielded sweet stewed strawberries and smooth tannins. The wine is quite easy-drinking, but admittedly lacks the complexity and elegance of Meyer’s single-vineyard Pinot Noirs in the $40 price range. This isn’t necessarily a problem, if anything it suggests the wines are legitimately differentiated and appropriately priced. The 2013 Reimer and McLean Creek Vineyard Pinot Noirs will contribute more insight into the 2013 vintage upon release next year – I’m looking forward to my next shipment!

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Orofino Collector’s Club: Fall 2014

My semi-annual mystery case from Orofino Vineyards’ Collector’s Club arrived recently, bursting with tasty treats and new releases from the Similkameen Valley. Unlike many wine clubs the contents of this one are not broadcast to members in advance, making it a true unknown what one is to receive, but I trust owners John & Virginia Weber enough not to worry, knowing they save the most exclusive wines for Club members. Should a particular wine be missed in a given year, there is also a guarantee that members will always have access to purchase at the winery. The latest case focused primarily on four wines, plus the usual Club-only bonus.

Orofino Collector's Club Fall 2014 shipment

Orofino’s increasingly popular Moscato Frizzante was absent from the earlier summer shipment, due to a later than usual release this year. The delay was made up for through the inclusion of three bottles in this recent case. The 2013 Frizzante is now the third year for this charming sparkler, presented in an elegantly-shaped, silk-screened bottle with convenient crown cap. Old-vines estate Muscat is blended with the neighbours’ (Hendsbee Vineyard) Muscat Bianco, and typically a touch of Riesling and Pinot Gris for acidity and “BC flare” respectively. The carbonation provides a light effervescence that makes the wine a great aperitif, with tropical fruit aromas and slightly off-dry palate that finishes bright and crisp. The latest three bottles have ensured I can continue keeping one in the fridge at all times!

The triplet theme continued into a set of 2013 Home Vineyard Riesling, one of the three vineyard-specific Riesling Orofino now produce (the other two, from Hendsbee Vineyard and Scout Vineyard, arrived in the summer shipment). On the Weber’s estate vineyard in Cawston there sits less than one acre of 25-year-old Riesling, which John uses to produce just 100 cases of this intense, relatively dry wine: at 8.8 grams of sugar, the Home Vineyard wine falls between the very dry 4.4g/L Hendsbee and the 12.5g/L Scout. However, native yeast barrel fermentation and lees stirring help the complex Home Vineyard Riesling stand out amongst its peers. Having three bottles provided the opportunity to open one in the present, before setting aside the remaining pair for more aging. The nose presents immediate lemon curd aromas with just a hint of the traditional petrol notes (less than expected in fact). On the palate it is reminiscent of fresh-baked lemon squares, made with freshly squeezed lemons of course. Altogether quite pretty, and very refreshing, providing substantial curiosity as to how it will mature over time.

The Webers must have been thirsty as they prepared this case, for another group of three bottles was also included, in the form of 2012 Red Bridge Merlot. The Merlot has been a stalwart in the Orofino portfolio since nearly the beginning, and represents the winery’s only non-Similkameen input. The Oak Knoll Vineyard in nearby Kaleden consists solely of five acres of Merlot, devoted exclusively to this finely tuned wine. I remember tasting the 2011 vintage last fall at the winery and being very excited about the freshness exhibited. Opening a bottle of the 2012 revealed a rather intense, ripe and rich wine, to be expected from the warmer conditions in 2012, especially after a generous 20 months in oak. Youthful tannins are present but not discomforting, and the long, juicy finish provides flavours of blackberry, plum, and black currant, with a surprisingly manageable 14.6% alcohol.

A pair of bottles from a brand new Orofino wine followed the Merlot: the 2011 Scout Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is the first release from one of Orofino’s favoured vineyard partners. While a Passion Pit Vineyard Cabernet has existed for a couple of years (since 2009 vintage), the Scout Cabernet now adds to the winery’s big red division. The Scout Vineyard, overlooking the Similkameen River, grows slightly more than four acres of Syrah, Riesling, and Pinot Gris at present. Given the yield of this new wine (only 100 cases) I would expect less than one acre of Cabernet Sauvignon exists as well. Having two bottles gives me a chance to try the wine at some point (say 2016/2017) before determining how long to cellar the final bottle, which the winery suggests could be for as long as several years from now.

Orofino 2012 Watermark Red Blend

The final bottle in the box was particularly unexpected, providing a pleasant surprise in the form of one of Orofino’s custom-label wines. The winery recently partnered with Osoyoos’ Watermark Resort to produce a pair of house wines; the 2012 Watermark Red I received comes from the second year of this project. I cracked open the bottle to seek further insight into this blend of Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon: on entry the mouth-filling texture offers sweet fruit, with bright blueberry and cherry character emerging. Coming from such a recent vintage I was surprised at the low levels of tannin, but I’m guessing the intent was to produce an easy-drinking wine ready for more immediate enjoyment. This wine would succeed quaffed alongside summer barbecue or winter comfort foods – after all the Resort remains open all year round! After similarly teaming up with acclaimed Hawksworth Restaurant in 2012, the Orofino team can celebrate another creative and fruitful partnership.

Friday 10 October 2014

BCWAS Harvest Party 2014

The BC Wine Appreciation Society visited The Blackbird recently for a Harvest Party festival-style tasting of cellar favourites and tasty treats. Since last December’s Holiday Bash this downtown restaurant’s third floor private suite is becoming a favourite haunt of the BCWAS due to the comfortable room – with couches, pool table, and even a movie screening area – plus generous food and attentive service. Although sit-down winery and varietal tastings will always have an important place, it’s great to change venues and move around once in a while, taking more opportunities to socialize with fellow members.

Blue Mountain Brut

The BCWAS cellar has been thoughtfully assembled by hard-working Cellarmasters over the years, and it’s always a joy to enjoy aged examples of our region’s finest wines. Several mature red blends from the Society’s extensive vertical collections were pulled for the Harvest Party, joined by some younger wines amassed by the Executive during the recent Fall Bus Tour in the Okanagan. A menu of hors d’oeuvres and thin crust pizza from The Blackbird provided plenty of sustenance and flavourful pairings for these juicy gems.

Upon arriving upstairs guests were provided with a glass of Blue Mountain Brut, the esteemed local sparkler that makes every occasion more enjoyable. Crisp apples, apricots, honeycomb, fresh cut flowers, and a mouth-watering finish focused our palates and put a smile on faces. White wines from Bus Tour visits this year included Intrigue 2013 “Focus” Riesling and SpierHead 2013 Pinot Gris, plus some 2012 Viognier from new corporate member C.C. Jentsch. The Viognier surprised with a luscious profile and fairly viscous texture; ripe stone fruits and crème brûlée character provided plenty to chew on. The Mini Dungeness Crab Cakes on the menu were the food of choice for such a rich wine.

The Bus Tour visit to Intrigue Winery north of Kelowna found us exploring a pair of Rieslings from Winemaker Roger Wong. The “Focus” version is the more serious of the two – much drier and possessing more lean acidity – and the one brought home to share with members at our Harvest Party. On day two of the Bus Tour we made it to SpierHead, where the winery’s attractive Pinot Gris impressed many, enough that a few bottles came home for the Party as well. In the meantime this excellent wine went on to win one of the five inaugural Platinum Medals at the BC Wine Awards! Sipping a glass at the Party revealed a very pretty nose of fruit blossoms, followed by a superbly balanced palate of ripe pink peaches.

Our finger food choices included Vegetarian Spring Rolls, with sweet and sour spicy Thai dipping sauce, an ideal food to pair with Stoneboat’s 2013 Chorus white blend. This complex combination of Pinot Blanc and several of the winery’s old vines Germanics - Müller Thurgau, Schönburger, Kerner, Pinot Gris, and even some Viognier – came across spicy at first, with a juicy fruit basket blend of clean, fresh flavours.

Orofino Gamay, Seven Stones Meritage, Church & State Pinot Noir

A bevy of reds soon beckoned, so wise guests dug into a few slices of the many pizzas from The Blackbird’s kitchen: there was more than enough Margherita, Salami & Ham, and Funghi (Mushroom) to go around. Before trying some of the big blends we dug out of the cellar, knowledgeable tasters headed straight to the Orofino Vineyards 2013 Gamay, great with pizza in fact! This delightfully fresh, slippery wine showed earthy hints, bright berries, vanilla, and baking spices, clearly explaining this summer’s National Wine Awards Platinum Medal. Only one hundred cases were produced, and anyone with a bottle or two remaining should count their lucky stars.

The food kept coming even as we could barely keep up with all the pizzas, but we had the perfect wine to go with Crustrade with Duck Confit, as well as Forest Mushrooms on Grilled Polenta. From long in the past of a celebrated winery, the 2007 Church & State Hollenbach Vineyard Pinot Noir originally won a Gold Medal at the 2009 Canadian Wine Awards (precursor to the aforementioned Nationals). That very same year the winery produced their final Pinot Noir, upon embarking on a stronger Estate-vineyard focus, which precluded Pinot Noir from their southern Okanagan terroir. Like many esteemed BC Pinot Noirs, the 2007 Church & State showed outstanding aging: highly aromatic, the very rich palate yielded sublimely silky notes of cloves and stewed berries, with a slightly sweet finish as a final memento.

The BCWAS cellar is admittedly awash in red Meritage blends; with so many tempting and exciting signature wines it can be hard to maintain an limited collection. These long-lived wines provide an exciting glimpse into the past, and an opportunity to explore BC wines’ living history. A few of the nearly decade-old (decade-young in some cases) bottles emerged to be shared at the Harvest Party. From long-time BCWAS favourite Fairview Cellars, 2005 “The Bear” immediately impressed with an admittedly youthful nose. Refreshing, juicy fruit and smooth, pure berry character showed Proprietor/Winemaker Bill Eggert’s prowess at crafting ageless red wines from his Oliver vineyard.

Jackson-Triggs Meritage, Fairview Cellars The Bear, Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin

Another window into 2005 came to us from Osoyoos Larose: “Le Grand Vin” provided more hints that viable years in the cellar remain, given the still-noticeable tannins. The savoury, meaty nose called out for one of the Mini Yorkshire Puddings being circulated, stuffed with roasted rare prime rib and horseradish cream. A dark fruit under-current, given two thirds Merlot, kept matters warm and left a thought-provoking finish. Had one found oneself with a second Yorkshire Pudding, a glass of Jackson-Triggs 2006 Grand Reserve Meritage would also have served quite well. Even if the Puddings ran out, there were Warm Truffled Beef Shortrib Tartlets for further enjoyment with a blend of 50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc. The savoury nose and umami hints in the Meritage made it generously food friendly, but a very smooth, cherry palate permitted easy solo satisfaction as well.

We reached the 2007 mark in the red blend section thanks to Similkameen stalwart Seven Stones, from which Proprietor George Hanson has only recently released the 2009 vintage of his Meritage in fact. One or more of The Blackbird’s addictive Mini Pulled Pork Sliders would have been an enjoyable companion to George’s 2007 blend of 60% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc. Aromas of leather and smoked sausage hinted at one direction but the fruitier, creamy-textured palate surprised with some molasses and a bit of menthol on the finish.

Before concluding the evening one of our guests had a special gift to share with the group. Naramata Bench Winemaker Robert Van Westen had joined us for the evening and had brought a couple previews of his yet-to-be-released 2012 reds. The graciously donated wines included a new addition to the Van Westen Vineyards wine portfolio: the “Violeta” is a varietal Malbec which is certain to become popular, and also proves that Robert has yet to run out of “V” nomenclature for his wines! A well-attended raffle saw both bottles end up in good hands, with two very happy members in possession of some exclusive cellar selections.