Wednesday 30 September 2015

Collectibles: September 2015

A weekend trip to Penticton for the annual BC Wine Appreciation Society Bus Tour not only provided for invaluable winery visits, but the opportunity to collect various wine club orders in person. While most wineries are aggressively courting customers with low or no cost shipping, I couldn’t pass up the chance to visit my favourites while saving a few dollars at the same time! I collected three club orders over the course of my trip, and another arrived shortly after my return home – via the newest wine country darling, ATS Healthcare courier service (with climate-controlled trucks).

September 2015 BC wine collectibles

Black Cloud 2013 Cumulus Nimbus Pinot Noir: Winemaker Bradley Cooper (formerly of Township 7, now Serendipity) has slowly developed his own Pinot Noir brand over the past few years. Alongside his wife Audralee the pair have grown Black Cloud into a focused set of four wines at present (including Rosé), with the newly released Cumulus Nimbus at the proud pinnacle. After six vintages one special barrel was finally felt to be deserving of the top moniker, with each of 275 bottles hand numbered and signed. I first tasted the wine in late February, and then again this month during a visit to Serendipity with the BCWAS. The selected clusters spent fourteen months in French oak to yield a sumptuous and smooth wine that should evolve superbly throughout the decade of cellar time that Brad predicts. Winery Direct $45

Black Hills 2013 Syrah: I’ve managed to acquire this ripe Black Sage Bench Syrah each year since the first vintage from 2009. While Black Hills will always be known for their Nota Bene red blend the Syrah is a worthy challenger. The wine takes full advantage of the southern Okanagan terroir in the winery’s newer “Double Black” Vineyard – which has 4 acres of Syrah – fully acquired in 2011. This brand new release is already achieving impressive accolades, including a very complimentary 93-point review from experienced wine judge Daenna Van Mulligen. Daenna echoes Winemaker Graham Pierce in praising the Northern Rhone-inspired floral dark cherry and mocha character. Swirl VQA Store $40

Poplar Grove 2012 Syrah: The new Syrah was included in my very first Poplar Grove Wine Club selection, which the winery gracefully held for me to pick up since July. In concert with the summer release the wine took home a Gold medal at the National Wine Awards, one of a dozen for BC Syrah! Poplar Grove reports hand-sorting clusters from their two Osoyoos vineyards, destemming, and then berry-sorting to ensure perfection! Crushed and co-fermented with 4% Viognier the wine spent 18 months in (30% new) French oak, and then further developed for just as long as per Poplar Grove’s admirable bottle aging program. John Schreiner’s 91-point review praises the generous fruit flavours and rich texture, and is sure to mention the winery’s construal of Syrah’s “sultry expression” in the Okanagan. Winery Direct $35

Laughing Stock 2013 Syrah: Yet another one of BC’s medal-worthy Syrah, Laughing Stock was honoured with a prestigious Platinum medal at the 2014 Nationals, but had to settle for ‘mere’ Gold this year. The new vintage, from Osoyoos vineyards right beside Poplar Grove’s, continues a tradition of excellence started in 2008: the six vintages thus far have amassed striking accolades that include a Lieutenant Governor’s Award and a Decanter Regional Trophy. A healthy 820 cases were released this summer, and I was lucky enough to receive two bottles in my Autumn Preferred Share Wine Club shipment. The WineAlign judges describe the “classy and elegant” profile of violets, spice, and black & blue fruit, with firm but ripe tannins seeking a cellar in which to blossom. Winery Direct $38

Tinhorn Creek 2012 Oldfield Series Cabernet Franc: Only the second reserve tier Cabernet Franc from Sandra Oldfield (the first being 2010), this one is taking its time maturing in bottle before public release in November. Lucky Tinhorn Crush Club members got their allocation in the summer, and I just picked up my July package, held at the winery for me as I was away from home that month. The Black Sage Bench fruit from the winery’s Diamondback Vineyard spent 18 months in oak before bottling in June 2014. There’s no rush to release it given the predicted 10-12 year cellaring potential; it will only get better in bottle! Fortunately at 770 cases there’s more than twice as much as there was in 2010, so those outside the Crush Club should eventually get a crack at it. Winery Direct $35

Orofino 2012 Scout Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon: Sadly, this one is already sold out at the winery, so I feel particularly lucky to have received it in my Fall Collector’s Club case. The 2012 is only the second vintage of varietal Cabernet from the nearby riverside Scout Vineyard, owned by trusted growers Murray & Maggie Fonteyne and long used as a source for Orofino’s delicious Syrah and Riesling. The vineyard is less than five acres in size, so it’s no surprise only 200 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon were produced; twice as many as the inaugural 2011 vintage but quick to sell out from the Cawston tasting room, particularly at the bargain price. In concert with the Silver medal at this year’s National Wine Awards, judge John Szabo complimented the bold and satisfying, plush ripeness. Winery Direct $29

Tinhorn Creek 2012 Oldfield Series 2Bench Red: Like many wineries Tinhorn marks the harvest season with release of several red wines. In addition to the celebrated Oldfield Series Merlot I also received the winery’s Bordeaux-style red blend in my fall Crush Club package. Grapes from both sides of the valley mix Golden Mile and Black Sage Bench fruit into a blend of 41% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot, oak aged on the lees for 18 months. A generous 1,683 cases were produced, so it should be widely available upon release. Admirably, the wine is offered for the same price as the Merlot, despite being a more complex and labour-intensive blend. Having recently opened a bottle of surprisingly youthful 2007 (the first vintage) I’m confident in the 10-12 year suggested cellaring potential, especially from the near-perfect 2012 vintage. Winery Direct $30

Laughing Stock 2013 Portfolio: The latest Portfolio marks a new era for Laughing Stock, with owners David & Cynthia Enns having roundly celebrated the tenth vintage release last year. Their success marches on as the 2013 was sent out to eager Preferred Share Club members this month, and then public release October first. Production from the warm growing season in 2013 has moderately increased over that of recent years: 2,500 cases of Portfolio is approaching the 2007 high mark of 2,750. The blend is on target with 41% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot, all aged 19 months in French oak barrels and puncheons. Having already enthusiastically enjoyed the luscious and mouth-watering “second label” 2013 Blind Trust Red I’m particularly excited about the Portfolio. Winery Direct $45

Wednesday 23 September 2015

BCWAS Bus Tour 2015 Acquisitions

Visiting wine country during the annual BC Wine Appreciation Society Fall Bus Tour provides an invaluable opportunity to snag newly released wines and tasting room exclusives at the cellar door. Not only do the wineries that host this group provide special access to rarities but the voyage there and back often takes me through the full range of our key wine-producing regions. With home base centered in Penticton this year, the trip yielded several acquisition opportunities before I even reached the Naramata Bench start to the Tour. A strict shopping list kept me within budget, while adding some exciting new wines to my cellar.

Collectibles from the Similkameen, Southern Okanagan, and Okanagan Falls

Travelling to the Okanagan via Highway 3 is always my preferred choice, because it takes me through the lovely Similkameen Valley. There are a great many superb wineries around the twin towns of Keremeos and Cawston, and an increasing number of Okanagan wineries are (sometimes quietly) sourcing grapes from the Similkameen’s high quality vineyards. Just outside Keremeos I visited Clos du Soleil to admire their brand new winery and bright, inviting tasting room. While there I picked up a bottle of the new “Grower’s Series” 2013 Cabernet-Merlot, from the Makepeace family’s vineyards south of Cawston (now home to the impressive Hugging Tree Winery).

Further down the road I made sure to stop by Orofino Vineyards, where my latest case of wine from the “Collector’s Club” was awaiting me. Fresh new 2014 Blind Creek Chardonnay was joined by 2014 Old Vines Home Vineyard Riesling and reds that included the “powerhouse” 2012 Beleza flagship blend and the last of the “ripe, plush” 2012 Scout Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – both silver medallists at the 2015 National Wine Awards. A short jaunt away at Seven Stones I fulfilled my mission to obtain George Hansen’s 2012 Cabernet Franc and 2013 Syrah. Only 183 cases of the fast-selling Syrah were produced – a complex fusion of smoked meat, licorice, and floral red fruit – and even fewer (174) of the sophisticated and ripe Cabernet Franc.

Entering the southern Okanagan the carefully crafted route provided my first visit to young Maverick Winery on the Golden Mile. I was fortunate enough to arrive on “Sparkling Friday” – the one day each week that visitors get to taste Bertus Albertyn’s traditional method sparkling wine “Ella”. The delicious bubbly was as good as I hoped, and filled up on the two bottle maximum, plus one of my few impulse purchases in the form of juicy new 2013 Syrah, from a small 200 case production. Having crossed the valley to the Black Sage Bench I tasted the rich range at Desert Hills while being fortunate enough to buy a bottle of 2012 Petit Verdot, one of several of their wines recently praised by John Schreiner, and described as “spectacular and age-worthy.” Nearby Burrowing Owl then yielded 2013 Syrah and newly released “fruitcake and chocolate” 2012 Merlot, recently named to the top of the pack at the National Wine Awards.

The day was already growing long so I zipped up to Okanagan Falls for a couple more visits before closing time. At Noble Ridge I was able to find 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, another strong recommendation from John Schreiner: his 95-point review this summer made quite an impression. A mere 200 cases won’t last long given the winery’s growing reputation, buoyed by a Lieutenant Governor’s Award this year for their sparkling wine “The One”. (Although no longer available at the winery, I later found it in Penticton’s well-stocked Fairview Liquor Store.) As gates were shuttered across the region I visited with the team at Stag’s Hollow, learning more about the exciting upcoming reserve-tier 2014 Renaissance Grenache as well as Winemaker Dwight Sick’s darling 2013 “Cachet No. 04” – a “cutting edge blend” of Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon that was awarded Gold at the Nationals.

Naramata Bench acquisitions

The actual Bus Tour itself provided great entertainment and education, while yielding a few more shopping opportunities. However, most of the wineries we visited are already represented in my cellar through prudent purchases at other points in time. That being said, meeting up with Winemaker Bradley Cooper at Serendipity allowed me to purchase from his personal Black Cloud label: single-barrel 2013 “Cumulus Nimbus” Pinot Noir, as well as the 2014 “Red Sky” Rosé for Thanksgiving festivities. A timely visit to Hillside helped me bring home the nicely balanced “Soirée” Port-style red blend, of which the final bottles from 53 cases sold out soon afterwards. Then on day two the sabering demonstration at Blasted Church sparked me to snag some crisp 2011 “OMG” sparkling to keep me in bubbles through the end of the year.

My long voyage home after the busy weekend was just as carefully timed and planned, with additional wine club pick-ups particularly necessary. I first dashed up the Naramata Bench on a Pinot Noir mission to Kettle Valley: small lots of new 2012 vintages of Reserve and single-vineyard “Hayman” wine were my target. John Schreiner got a chance to taste both of these reliable winners in advance this spring, with solid 92-point reviews for each. Also on hand and joining the Pinots with me was the 2013 Zinfandel from sister Similkameen winery Great Northern Vineyards. As I moved south I added La Frenz’s newly released 2012 flagship red “Grand Total” and the newest 2013 vintage of their well-priced Cabernet Sauvignon. Leaving the Bench at Poplar Grove I made sure to pick up my summer Wine Club six-pack containing mature 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from the library, fresh 2014 Blanc de Noirs, rare 2014 Munson Mountain Pinot Gris, and Gold-medal 2012 Syrah.

Some of many from the Golden Mile

Hoping to reach home before sunset I made a beeline for the Golden Mile – stopping there for a chance to visit Bill Eggert and his friendly brother Chuck in the tasting room at Fairview Cellars. I was excited to find new 2013 reds were on hand: Cabernet Franc, “Bucket O’ Blood” Cabernet-Syrah, and the “Hailing a Cab” Cabernet Sauvignon, ‘enhanced’ by a hailstorm that helped concentrate the flavours. At nearby Tinhorn Creek I brought home a full case of wines on hold, representing two allotments from the winery’s Crush Club. The many bottles included ever reliable 2014 Oldfield Series 2Bench White and 2014 Oldfield Series Rosé, plus a slew of highly anticipated 2012 reds including the full range of (reserve-tier) Oldfield Series Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Gold-medal Syrah, and 2Bench Red blend.

There was a small amount of room left in the trunk for my final two stops before hitting the road for home. After being generously served by hands-on General Manager Joe Luckhurst at Road 13 I couldn’t resist the delicious new 2012 Castle Vineyard Pinot Noir. The winery’s Pinot program is winding down however, as their focus shifts to Rhone varieties centered on Viognier and Syrah. A couple bottles of fan favourite Sparkling Chenin Blanc joined the Pinot, along with the brand new 2012 Jackpot Petit Verdot, from Cawston’s Blind Creek Vineyard. With literally one empty spot left in the carefully organized cases being conveyed, I visited C.C. Jentsch for the first time, where a pre-ordered bottle of 2013 Small Lots Malbec awaited. As Winemaker Amber Pratt kindly signed my bottle I learned the (45 case) wine had reached sold out status that same day. It was an apt conclusion to my trip, and I returned home with a new challenge in mind – where to put my newfound treasures!

Sunday 20 September 2015

BCWAS Bus Tour 2015: Okanagan Falls

After a sweltering Saturday touring the Naramata Bench on the annual BC Wine Appreciation Society Bus Tour we moved south on day two. Our first stop on a more temperate Sunday came after winding our way up and down the steepest entryway yet. Once we arrived at the secluded Skaha Bench setting of Pentâge Winery tour guests admired the early-morning calm in the vineyards and lake below. Proprietors Paul Gardner and Julie Rennie each took half the group and showed off the winery and tasting room respectively.

Julie Rennie & Paul Gardner of Pentage Winery

Paul’s rock-cave winery and dynamic vineyards encouraged conversation, as the press hummed away and new lots of picked grapes were delivered at his feet. Before a backdrop of vigorous old vine Syrah, Paul explained he was only the fourth to plant the variety in the Okanagan following advice from legendary local viticulturist Dick Cleave. Despite accepted wisdom at the time, the Syrah did not die as expected, and continues to thrive on Paul’s Geneva Double Curtain trellises, in which he avoids most traditional canopy management. The expansive winery cave was filling up with active fermentations in bin and tank, with Paul eager to explain the history of this incredible space. It took more than a decade to plan and fully excavate the 500 square meter cave, at which point it was completed with custom-made tanks from Europe.

The impressive rock cave winery at Pentage

In the tasting room Julie introduced the broad range of varieties in use at  Pentâge with mellow and elegant Roussanne Marsanne Viognier 2011. The hugely aromatic 2008 Chardonnay made a good case for aged whites, while the 2013 Pinot Gris showed off perfumed pink tones from a rare touch of skin contact. The 2013 Gamay presented raspberry bush aromas and an intense palate in search of food; their use of the variety was inspired by Hillside’s early plantings. The 2011 vintage of their signature red wine – called simply “Pentâge” – was still young, with cellaring potential ahead for the six-grape mix that favours 80% Cabernets Franc & Sauvignon. We finished up with a uncommon late harvest white blend, yielding a pleasant honeyed finish from a creative combination of Semillon, Muscat, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier.

Blasted Church's private pool and tasting bar

Perhaps the only style of wine not produced at Pentâge is sparkling (although to be fair there is a Frizzante Icewine). Luckily nearby Blasted Church had just enough bubbly for us – their first vintage of “OMG” from 2011. Our group was hosted around the winery’s private pool by newly promoted Winemaker Elaine Vickers, who works closely alongside Sumac Ridge veteran Mark Wendenberg – both joined the team in 2010-2011. At the pool Elaine sabered a few bottles of OMG for our amusement and education, using Blasted Church’s custom saber of course. The wine is a crown-capped traditional method blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc, showing crisp and clean fruit flavours and mouth-watering brioche character.

OMG sparkling wine and the custom Blasted Church saber

With feet dipped in the pool, members also enjoyed 2014 Unorthodox Chardonnay, an aromatic Musque clone with 5% Viognier, and the 2014 “Mixed Blessings” blend of Viognier (90%), Ehrenfelser (7%), and Pinot Gris (3%). We were particularly lucky to sample from and even purchase the sold out Lieutenant Governor’s Award-winning 2012 “Holy Moly” Petit Verdot, rich and toasty with a long finish of dark purple fruit. The specially reserved bottles sold with rapidity, along with plenty of others it would seem given the long line at the register.

Skaha Lake beckons beyond the Painted Rock vineyard

Up the road at Painted Rock Proprietor John Skinner was waiting to lead us through a barrel tasting of his youthful 2014 reds. With glasses of new 2014 Rosé in hand (a saignée of the estate Bordeaux red varieties) we dragged ourselves away from the view and down to the winery. After only several months in French oak barrels Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot were on hand to show how each contributes to John’s “Red Icon” blend. While only Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah are bottled individually, the other varieties are providing sufficient temptation for John to warrant occasional small lot releases: 165 cases of a very special 2013 Cabernet Franc were recently sent out to wine club members.

Painted Rock Proprietor John Skinner risks it all in white while barrel tasting

At the gleaming tasting room and event centre, a series of immaculate white tables had been set for an open-air lunch prepared by Joy Road Catering. With Painted Rock’s newly released 2014 Chardonnay we relished a composed salad that included roasted squash, butter bottom pears, Prosciutto, hazelnuts, and Pecorino. The entrée course provided red wine risotto with roasted grapes (and delightfully crunchy seeds), braised beet greens, and Cotechino Sausage for most, with Zucchini & Heirloom Tomato Gratin for others. The balance of savoury and fruity flavours in rich 2012 Syrah made for an inspired pairing. Vanilla bean & honey caramels closed out the meal, served as we hastily boarded the buses and made for our next destination.

Joy Road Catering provided lunch at Painted Rock

One final wine region beckoned, and a pair of new wineries in Okanagan Falls seemed like a lovely place to conclude the 2015 tour. At Synchromesh Winery Owner and Winemaker Alan Dickinson led a brief tour of the winery before a seated outdoor tasting where Alan’s parents helped pour his range of Riesling. Four vineyard-specific Riesling made in a very Germanic style distinguish Synchromesh, plus some small production reds – sourced from Kelowna to Oliver. Enjoying each Riesling alongside the others was enthralling given how distinctive they presented in context. A triplet of 2012 reds included the juicy Cabernet Franc-Merlot blend “Tertre Rouge”, complex (three clone) Pinot Noir, and the intense single barrel Reserve Cabernet Franc.

Alan Dickinson of Synchromesh is the Riesling wrangler

The next stop at Liquidity Winery concluded the tour: particularly suitable upon taking in the intoxicating view of McIntyre Bluff and the rolling hills and vineyards arrayed to the south. The sculpture-lined driveway and parking lot provided an introduction to the artistic focus at Liquidity, where Proprietor Ian MacDonald has installed selected pieces from his own private collection. The stunning view from the tasting room and well respected Bistro is the largest piece of art present, and a lovely backdrop to our meeting with Tasting Room Manager Erin Korpisto.

Vineyards and McIntyre Bluff to the south of Liquidity

A delicious cheese & charcuterie platter from the Bistro accompanied samples of several wines, starting with the fresh 2014 whites – bright Riesling, quaffable “White Blend” (Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc), and clean Viognier. The very well integrated 2013 Chardonnay (from 20% new French oak) was followed by baking spice and vanilla 2013 Pinot Noir. Ripe tannins in 2013 Merlot promised a long life given vibrant acidity, and the newly released, rich and dark 2012 “Dividend” Meritage was drinking particularly well. Group photos outside finished the day: it was a beautiful location to wrap up another successful bus tour!

Saturday 19 September 2015

BCWAS Bus Tour 2015: Naramata Bench

This year’s record-breaking weather meant the recent BC Wine Appreciation Society Bus Tour ended up smack dab in the middle of harvest! Despite finding themselves in the midst of an accelerating schedule all the winery proprietors and winemakers who committed to meeting our tour group were able to follow through. We also had the rare opportunity to view the winemaking process up close and personal as we stepped over hoses and made way for forklifts. While the settings we visited were a bit more hectic than anticipated, sampling fresh, sweet grape must from tanks more than made up for the disruptions!

Serendipity Proprietor Judy Kingston pours in the tasting room

Our first stop on Saturday morning placed us at Serendipity Winery on the northern Naramata Bench. In her rustic tasting room, Proprietor Judy Kingston poured samples of nearly every wine she produces: “patio pounder” aromatic White Lie 2011 led into the traditional grassy 2014 Sauvignon Blanc and the serious 2012 Viognier, a match made for coconut shrimp. (Judy’s culinary background ensures food pairing opportunities are the foremost focus at Serendipity.) A 2013 Pinot Grigio was suggested as companion for spicy foods, while the cranberry and pomegranate flavours in 2014 Rosé demand turkey and vegetables. Reds on hand included the full-bodied 2012 Pinot Noir, 2010 Devil’s Advocate (70% Merlot and 30% Syrah), the youthful and bright 2010 Serenata Bordeaux blend, and even newly released, delicious 2011 Cabernet Franc and 2011 Syrah.

Perfectly aligned vineyard rows bask under the morning sun at Serendipity

In the ten-acre vineyard, hand-planted by Judy herself in 2005, her daughter Katie puts a biology degree to good use with creative pest management choices. Distracting voracious cut-worms with vineyard trimmings is one way to reduce unnecessary pesticide exposure, and Katie’s most recent compost project is actually yielding tax credits – contingent on a well-written formal report to government. The winery facilities are being reorganized and well managed by Winemaker Bradley Cooper since he joined the team last year. It’s where he also produces his own line of Pinot Noir under the Black Cloud label, with Judy’s blessing. Behind the enormous wooden door, Brad poured tank samples of 2015 Sauvignon Blanc and revealed Katie’s pet project – the upcoming 2014 Sparkling Chardonnay, still resting en tirage.

Serendipity Winemaker Bradley Cooper fetches tank samples

With everyone stocked up on Serendipity’s finely crafted wines we trundled on down the road to Hillside Winery & Bistro, where an early lunch awaited us. As we seated ourselves in a private dining area, Bistro Manager Lisa Henderson introduced Winemaker Kathy Malone. The perfect welcome to Hillside came in the form of 2014 Muscat Ottonel, their most popular wine, sourced from estate vines planted in 1984 when Hillside was first established. The complex profile from 30-year-old vines facilitated immediate refreshment from the 32-degree sunshine outside; Kathy was sure to mention the fresh floral aromas best labelled as Baby’s Breath.

Hillside Winemaker Kathy Malone introduces her Old Vines wines

Lunch began with a creative Baby Kale Caesar Salad: those who held on to their Muscat would have found an ideal pairing, but the follow-up 2014 Gewürztraminer provided a relatively dry, balanced approach to fruit and floral character. Between courses the intense and earthy 2011 Old Vines Gamay Noir showed off more of Hillside’s original vineyard achievements. Keeping our palates entertained was rich and supple Reserve Pinot Gris 2014 with Seafood Cioppino or bright and spicy 2012 Syrah with Wild Mushroom Pappardelle Pasta. A special treat as we finished came in the form of freshly pressed Muscat juice, hand-harvested from right outside by Kathy herself while we dined – talk about 0-mile eating!

Hillside Bistro lunch: Kale Caesar & Mushroom Pappardelle

A visit to Hillside’s tasting room after lunch saw me discover the rare Port-style “Soirée”, a nicely balanced solera-style multi-grape blend that became one of my few unplanned impulse purchases. We soon made a quick jaunt up the road to Howling Bluff Estate Winery to experience Luke Smith’s ode to Pinot Noir. With no room inside the tasting room (formerly his eldest child’s bedroom), Luke held court on the terrace and passed around his most recent white wines: 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and the excellent Sauvignon-Semillon blend. Despite coming directly from lunch we hung on every word of Luke’s inspired food pairings, from Dungeness Crab in Black Bean Sauce to Jalapeño-Serrano Chili Ceviche.

Howling Bluff Proprietor Luke Smith tells the honest truth

Having sufficiently loosened us up Luke presented an extremely generous and awe-inspiring seven-year vertical of his award-winning Pinot Noir. Not only has Howling Bluff’s “Summa Quies” Pinot Noir brought home a bevy of medals and two Lieutenant Governor’s Awards, but it was the only variety other than Syrah to ever be named Red Wine of the Year from the Canadian Wine Awards. Starting with the first vintage, we inhaled the gorgeous aromas of 2006, Luke’s “sheer, dumb luck” success from two-year-old vines. All the way through to the current 2012 vintage we sniffed and sipped from some relatively youthful bottles, while Luke provided honest criticism of his work, when it could be found. The newest release just brought home a Silver medal from the Decanter Awards, for a wine Luke feels is “getting back to basics” and comparing favourably to 2006.

There's no mistaking where you are at Bench 1775

Joyously burdened with more prudent purchases, we made for Bench 1775 Winery to conclude the first day of touring. General Manager, Viticulturist, and Winemaker Valeria Tait joined us on the well-appointed deck to provide samples of several of her wines, alongside lavish platters of local cheese and charcuterie. We tried several of the table wines from Bench 1775’s extensive portfolio; quenching our thirst under the mid-afternoon sun with 2014 vintages of gooseberry and grapefruit Sauvignon Blanc, crisp “Glow” Malbec Rosé, and the lip-smacking “Chill” white blend. The “Groove” 2013 red blend was also well suited to the warm weather, an easy-drinking combination of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah served cool; followed by fine 2013 Pinot Noir and hearty 2013 Merlot.

Delicious local cheese & charcuterie from Bench 1775

After a late afternoon rest period at the hotel, dinner at Summerland’s Local Lounge was hosted by Stag’s Hollow Winery. The five-course meal allowed winery Proprietors Larry Gerelus & Linda Pruegger and Winemaker Dwight Sick to feature some of their most exciting and rare wines. Lobster Bisque & Seared Mini Crab Cake paired nicely with crisp 2014 Riesling – providing fresh, tart flavours to balance the rich and creamy seafood. “Orange Wine” 2013 Viognier Marsanne was served with Seared Scallop, truffled cauliflower puree, and red onion bacon jam. The upcoming 2014 Renaissance Grenache was perfect with House-cured Duck Breast, blueberry salt, and Poplar Grove blue cheese. The ambitious “Tongue and Cheek” beef braised in red wine demi-glace paired very well with 2012 Hawk’s Hollow, a wine club exclusive blend of 45% Syrah, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot. Finally, the winery’s 2012 “Hart” fortified Merlot finished off the meal with a selection of artisan cheeses.