Posts Tagged ‘Naramata Bench wineries’

Fall in Love with these Okanagan wines & cheese

Posted by Susan

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017
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I can’t get enough! I’m in the south Okanagan again, remembering why I fell in love with its unique landscape, the changing hues of the fruit trees and the vineyards, the outstanding wines created by established growers and newcomers. On this trip, I discovered new places that I wanted to share with you…

Upper Bench Winery & Creamery

Four years ago, I headed up to the Naramata Bench to check out a couple of new wineries, including Upper Bench. At the time, they had just opened, many of their wines were sold out, and there was a limited selection of their delectable cheeses. But what I tasted was very good and I decided to stop in this year on my way from Kelowna to Osoyoos.

As luck would have it, Shana, the ‘Big Cheese’ – half of the duo responsible for this small family-owned winery (husband Gavin Miller is the winemaker) – was in the tasting room. So, we were treated to her expertise and enthusiasm as we tasted three of their unique cheeses, along with several wines.

I make no claim to any cheese expertise like our cheese Sommelier Vanessa, mark my words, the Brie seemed wonderfully creamy to me, with a lovely soft yet textured rind. The Gold offered a firmer texture, a golden washed rind and a slightly nutty flavor. The Grey Baby, named for her cat, had a lovely bloomy grey rind, almost no typical blue cheese veining but an absolutely melt-in-my -mouth texture and delicate flavours. Yes, I found cheese heaven!

The U&Brie was paired with their 2015 dry Riesling – they’re already into the 2015 wines due the fast pace of sales. Light-mid weight, the nose is floral and fruity with underlying mineral notes, the palate crisp and bright offering flavours of orchard fruit and lemon zest, the finish tart and tangy yet fruity.

The 2015 Chardonnay continues to be made with an emphasis on purity of fruit, half the wine aged only 3 months in French oak, the balance in stainless, so that the delicate notes of spice and warm pastry garnish the aromas and flavours of tropical fruit, melon and juicy pear, while a hint of pithy grapefruit adds tang to the creamy finish. It provided a great pairing with the Oka-like Gold cheese.

The Grey Baby cheese was a perfect complement for the 2014 Pinot Noir red wine – an elegant, silky wine with lifted floral notes, bright red fruit and hints of earth and spice. Medium bodied, it’s intensely flavourful, subtly structured, the flavours of ripe red fruit interwoven with delicate notes of spice and mineral.

The Yard Wine is a signature wine, a Bordeaux-style red wine blend of co-fermented Merlot and Cabernets (mainly Franc) that’s medium-full bodied, full of aromas and flavours of sweet black and red fruits, hints of chocolate-coated caramel and spice as well as complementary undertones of tomato leaf and earth. Underpinned with ripe tannins and fresh acidity, it’s a very approachable, gulpable wine!

While the small production of Upper Bench wines means that they won’t be found in the LCBO, you can always join their wine and cheese clubs.

 

Painted Rock Winery

Another sunny day found us winding our way along the east side of Skaha Lake from OK Falls toward Penticton. We made our way up the bench to Painted Rock, where we once again struck gold, as proprietor John Skinner was at the tasting bar.

John worked in the financial industry in Vancouver for many years, all the while developing his fascination with fine wines and the wine industry. In 2004, he and his wife Trish purchased a former fruit orchard on the bench that had lain fallow for almost 2 decades. About 25 acres were planted to a variety of vitis vinifera clones in 2005 and 2006. As a result of his interaction with the nursery from which he sourced his clones, John was contacted by wine consultant Alain Sutre (who also consults with Don Triggs’ Culmina estate winery), who continues to work with Painted Rock to this day. As an example of the valuable input he provides, during the extremely hot 2015 vintage, Alain counselled John and his team to allow the vine canopy to grow to ensure shading of the grapes from the sun and to prevent scorching. This allowed for a longer hang time, good maturation of the fruit and retention of acidity.

John’s commitment to premium winemaking and his delight in his property and the local trails was evident as he interspersed our tasting with anecdotes of the recent vintages and photos of local pictographs he has found on the granite outcroppings.

The 2015 Rosé wine is a Saignée, an assemblage of his red grapes, including Merlot, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Francs, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Syrah. A lovely salmon hue, it shows some residual sugar and warmth from the hot vintage, aromas and flavours of strawberry/rhubarb compote, dried cherry and dried herbs, and a lovely silky, fruity finish.

The 2013 Merlot, aged 18 months in a combination of new and second fill French oak, is dry, full bodied red wine with tangy, showing rich lifted aromas and flavours of black cherry, plum and raspberry, warm sweet spice and hints of menthol and herbs, underpinned by ripe tannins and a fresh texture.

The 2014 Cabernet Franc was a particular favorite, seducing with its lifted floral notes of red rose and violet, the sweet hints of baking spice, cocoa and plummy fruit, and a subtle whiff of graphite. Dry and firmly structured, it’s loaded with flavours of black currant garnished with notes of herbs and cracked pepper. Finishing long and dry, this red wine shows great cellaring potential.

Once again, none of these wines are on the LCBO website, but John also offers a wine club.

Nk’Mip Winery

Nestled on a bench just above Lake Osoyoos, the Nk’Mip Cellars is as much a part of the land as its owner/operators, the Osoyoos Indian Band. In a partnership with the then-Canadian wine conglomerate, Vincor, the band established the first indigenous-owned winery, and winemaker Randy Picton was engaged in 2002, just in time for the first harvest.

Located on a small campus that includes the Desert Cultural Centre, the Sonora Dunes Golf Course and Spirit Ridge Resort (where I stayed), it was inevitable that I would wander over to Nk’Mip to see how the 2016 harvest was progressing (slowly due to a very cool fall and an early killing frost) and to taste a few wines from recent vintages. It felt like a celebration to be there, as Nk’Mip has recently been named 2016 Winery of the Year, having been in the top 10 in the last four years, and the recent purchase of Constellation Brands Canadian wine properties (including its investment in Nk’Mip) by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund means that the winery is now fully in Canadian hands once again.

The view from the winery is idyllic, rows of golden-leaved vines marching down the sloping vineyard to Lake Osoyoos, the small resort town of Osoyoos rising from the lake to a backdrop of rugged Sonoran desert mountainscapes.

Randy has honed his craft so that no matter the level of wines tasted, you can expect deftly crafted high quality wines made to his exacting standards. To quote Randy, “My approach is to focus on every detail in the vineyard in order to bring the best possible grapes to the winery. The vineyard is expressed in the bottle.” He’s assisted in the winery by Justin Hall, an Osoyoos Indian Band member who has studied viticulture and oenology in Canada, as well as New Zealand, and worked in the industry in Australia as well as at Nk’Mip.
You see his experience in cool climate winemaking in the vibrant, fresh 2015 Pinot Blanc, a great value white wine that offers subtle aromatics of citrus and orchard fruit, with a clean, crisp flavours of lemon, pithy grapefruit mineral through a zesty finish.

The 2013 Merlot is an easy-going crowd pleaser, a dry mid-weight red wine aged 12 months in a combination of French and American oak, offering flavours of cherry and plum, herbs, spice and cocoa through a nice lively finish.

The 2014 Syrah from the signature QwAm QwMt tier is produced from estate fruit, the wine aged 18 months in French oak. It’s a complex, full bodied deep purple wine with layers of flavours–dark berry fruits, exotic spice, Okanagan sage, cracked pepper with notes of dark chocolate and coffee bean wrapped in a firm structure. It’s a great value and worthy of cellaring.

The Nk’Mip Qw’Am Qw’Mt Chardonnay 2013 is listed on the LCBO website (#391813), and for other wines you can always contact the winery about their wine club.

 

There you go…3 more reasons to pack your bags and head to British Columbia wine region!

 

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Wine Tripping in British Columbia through the Okanagan & Similkameen

Posted by Susan

Friday, November 26th, 2010
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Each trip to the Okanagan is an opportunity to further explore the valley, as well as the Similkameen Valley, and to taste some new wines, or revisit previously savoured ones.

This visit took me to Tantalus Winery, as well as Sandhill, in Kelowna, then on to Poplar Grove Winery on the Naramata Bench and to Kraze Legz, a new winery in the hamlet of Kaleden.  I traveled to the Similkameen to visit old friends, stopping in at Forbidden Fruit Winery as well as Clos du Soleil.

Tantalus Winery, originally known as Pioneer Vineyards and first planted to grapes in 1927, sits high on a hillside overlooking Kelowna. Fortunately for the new owners, the prior owner planted Riesling in the late 1970s as well as some French and German clones of Pinot Noir in 1985. He can still be seen riding around the vineyard helping to tend the vines. The site has been transformed, with the tasting room and winery housed in a dramatic modern LEED-certified structure overlooking the hillside vineyards. 

Tantalus is reputed for its Riesling, and has a new program devoted to Pinot Noir. The 2008 vintage offered two Pinots, one from the younger vines, which was light-medium bodied, fresh and earthy, with bright red fruit flavours and racy acidity. The second, produced from the French and German clones planted in the 1980s, was medium-bodied, maintaining the earthy character but with deep spicy red fruit flavours, fine acidity, a silky texture and great persistence on the finish. The 2009 Riesling, from a very hot vintage and produced from a blend of older and newer vines, had very fragrant aromatics of stone fruit and sweet citrus with a whiff of tropical fruit. The flavours recurred on the palate, nicely balanced with tangy acidity and an extended lemon-lime finish. The 2008 Old Vines Riesling, being held for release in 2011, displays petrol notes, orchard fruit, bright citrus and minerality, with mouthwatering nervy acidity and a lengthy crisp finish. This is definitely a wine for aging. I also had the opportunity to taste one of the few remaining bottles of their inaugural sparkling wine, the vintage Blanc de Noir 2004, crafted from an equal blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Produced by méthode traditionelle, this lovely sparkling wine had high-toned aromas of orchard fruit and lees with a fine mousse and a medley of orchard and citrus fruit on the palate. Alas, it was only produced in 2004, but their sparkling Riesling is available.

Sandhill is a virtual winery housed in the Calona Vineyards tasting and winemaking facility located in Kelowna. Howard Soon works with carefully selected fruit, often from unusual varietals, from select Okanagan vineyards that have unique characteristics to create Sandhill wines. The Small Lots program showcases wines crafted from unique varietals or distinctive barrels designated by the winemaker for special attention. The Small Lots Barbera is aged in French and American oak for 18 months and has alluring aromas of spicy cherry fruit, vanilla and toast. It’s dry, medium bodied, smooth and supple, with delicate acidity, fine-grained tannins and lovely flavours of red berry, black cherry, cinnamon toast and pepper. That smooth velvety texture lingers on the palate. Sandhill’s Small Lots One came through LCBO Vintages earlier this year. Small Lots Two is a blend of Bordeaux varietals (the Cabernets and Merlot) with seductive aromas of cassis, cedar, vanilla and roasted herbs. It’s full bodied, robust and complex, with firm tannins underpinning dark fruit, dark chocolate and toasty notes. There’s warmth on the finish, with a punch of espresso roast. Small Lots Three is an IGT-type blend of Barbera, Sangiovese and Merlot. It’s fragrant and floral, with aromas of spicy fruit, cedar and smoke. Medium-full bodied, the flavours are rich, the texture is supple and there’s fine acidity balancing the ripe spicy, peppery fruit. Watch for Two and Three in an upcoming 2011 LCBO Vintages release.

Poplar Grove Winery, on the Naramata Bench just north of Penticton, was established by Ian Sutherland with the goal of producing premium wines from estate-grown fruit. In 2007, Sutherland entered a partnership with Tony Holler and Barrie Sali which provided access the 100-acre Holler estate vineyards in the south Okanagan. The 2008 Gewurztraminer is highly aromatic, fragrant with rose petal, lychee, tropical and stone fruit. Dry and spicy, medium bodied and lively, the wine is very flavourful and displays a long fresh spicy finish. The 2009 Pinot Gris, just released in October, has a subtle nose of orchard and tropical fruit and a fresh fruity mouthful of citrus and orchard fruit. It’s light-medium bodied with bright notes of lemon, lime and grapefruit that linger on the zesty finish. The winery is known in the valley for holding its red wines in bottle for as much as 2 years prior to release. The 2006 Poplar Grove Merlot was aged in French oak for 18 months, then rested in bottle for 14 months. It’s perfumed with floral, plum and black fruit aromas, as well as a slightly sweet herbal note. Medium-full bodied, its complex and elegant, with a silky texture, well-integrated tannins and lovely black fruit, espresso and herbal flavours. The lengthy aftertaste is of dark chocolate winter fruit bark. The 2005 Legacy is a blend of Merlot, the Cabernets and Malbec, and spent 24 months in French oak followed by 18 months in bottle. Mahogany in color, it has subtle aromas of dried fruit, earth, mushrooms and leather. This is a structured wine with velvety tannins, fresh acidity and depth of flavour – spiced black and red berries, toast and pepper. The finish is long and lingering.

Kraze Legz is Kalenden’s first winery, although grapes are grown for other Okanagan wineries in this small hamlet just south of Penticton. We first discovered Kaleden when we headed down its steep main road in search of access to a hiking trail. While we never found the trail, we discovered Linden Gardens and the Frog City Café. This fantastic garden is the property of long-time fruit growers who grew tired of the straight rows of trees and decided to convert their property to a public garden. We visited in the spring, and the meandering paths, gently whispering lindens, water features and fragrant blooms and plants were a delight. Then there are the homemade treats to be enjoyed in the airy café. . . Don’t miss it! Then, wander across the way to Kraze Legz, owned by Gerry and Sue Thygesen. Of their 14 acres, 9 were planted to vines 4 years ago. While living in the U.S., they had tried to sell this steep property, fortunately without success! They’re now delighted to have the opportunity to establish their own winery, although Sue confesses that it has been and continues to challenging, as the two of them are doing most of the work themselves. They have a delightful newly constructed tasting room, decked out in a Prohibition-era theme. Available for tasting were 2 whites and a rosé, with plans for a couple of reds once the vines are of age. Their 2009 ‘Bees Knees’ Pinot Blanc won a silver at the Wine Access awards. It’s silky yet racy, with birght citrus, pear and apple aromas and flavours with a pithy bite on the finish. The 2009 ‘Charleston’ Chardonnay, while unoaked, comes in with a hefty 14.6% alcohol and is all about rich creamy texture, stone and tropical fruits with lively acidity that keeps it nicely balanced. The ‘Speakeasy’ Rosé was a favorite. This blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer is a delightful salmon color and offers sweet silky red fruity on entry, followed by bright acidity and a spicy note that carries through on the fresh fruity finish.

On a day trip to the Similkameen, I stopped in to visit Steve and Kim at their organic property, Forbidden Fruit Winery. Memories of his exotic award-winning ‘Caught’ Apricot Mistelle drew me back. This wine has incredible true-to-the-fruit flavours and a fabulous texture and balance. Due to popular demand, Steve has also begun making wines from vinifera grapes. His ‘Earth Series’ includes a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Sauvignon Blanc.

My last stop was at Clos du Soleil, where I had the opportunity to discuss the plans for a new winery building and to purchase the 2008 Clos Signature Merlot-dominant red blend, a rich powerful nicely balanced wine. This is the first vintage of the wine produced by renowned winemaker Ann Sperling, who is also producing wines from her historic family property, Sperling Vineyards. Wines from both the Clos du Soleil and Sperling Vineyards were featured in Savvy Company’s BC wine tasting, held in August, and are available to be ordered in Ontario through Savvy Company.

Enjoy visiting some of these wineries on your next trip to the Okanagan. 

Cheers!
Susan

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Wine Tripping in British Columbia through the Okanagan & Similkameen

Posted by Susan

Friday, November 26th, 2010
Share

Each trip to the Okanagan is an opportunity to further explore the valley, as well as the Similkameen Valley, and to taste some new wines, or revisit previously savoured ones.

This visit took me to Tantalus Winery, as well as Sandhill, in Kelowna, then on to Poplar Grove Winery on the Naramata Bench and to Kraze Legz, a new winery in the hamlet of Kaleden.  I traveled to the Similkameen to visit old friends, stopping in at Forbidden Fruit Winery as well as Clos du Soleil.

Tantalus Winery, originally known as Pioneer Vineyards and first planted to grapes in 1927, sits high on a hillside overlooking Kelowna. Fortunately for the new owners, the prior owner planted Riesling in the late 1970s as well as some French and German clones of Pinot Noir in 1985. He can still be seen riding around the vineyard helping to tend the vines. The site has been transformed, with the tasting room and winery housed in a dramatic modern LEED-certified structure overlooking the hillside vineyards. 

Tantalus is reputed for its Riesling, and has a new program devoted to Pinot Noir. The 2008 vintage offered two Pinots, one from the younger vines, which was light-medium bodied, fresh and earthy, with bright red fruit flavours and racy acidity. The second, produced from the French and German clones planted in the 1980s, was medium-bodied, maintaining the earthy character but with deep spicy red fruit flavours, fine acidity, a silky texture and great persistence on the finish. The 2009 Riesling, from a very hot vintage and produced from a blend of older and newer vines, had very fragrant aromatics of stone fruit and sweet citrus with a whiff of tropical fruit. The flavours recurred on the palate, nicely balanced with tangy acidity and an extended lemon-lime finish. The 2008 Old Vines Riesling, being held for release in 2011, displays petrol notes, orchard fruit, bright citrus and minerality, with mouthwatering nervy acidity and a lengthy crisp finish. This is definitely a wine for aging. I also had the opportunity to taste one of the few remaining bottles of their inaugural sparkling wine, the vintage Blanc de Noir 2004, crafted from an equal blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Produced by méthode traditionelle, this lovely sparkling wine had high-toned aromas of orchard fruit and lees with a fine mousse and a medley of orchard and citrus fruit on the palate. Alas, it was only produced in 2004, but their sparkling Riesling is available.

Sandhill is a virtual winery housed in the Calona Vineyards tasting and winemaking facility located in Kelowna. Howard Soon works with carefully selected fruit, often from unusual varietals, from select Okanagan vineyards that have unique characteristics to create Sandhill wines. The Small Lots program showcases wines crafted from unique varietals or distinctive barrels designated by the winemaker for special attention. The Small Lots Barbera is aged in French and American oak for 18 months and has alluring aromas of spicy cherry fruit, vanilla and toast. It’s dry, medium bodied, smooth and supple, with delicate acidity, fine-grained tannins and lovely flavours of red berry, black cherry, cinnamon toast and pepper. That smooth velvety texture lingers on the palate. Sandhill’s Small Lots One came through LCBO Vintages earlier this year. Small Lots Two is a blend of Bordeaux varietals (the Cabernets and Merlot) with seductive aromas of cassis, cedar, vanilla and roasted herbs. It’s full bodied, robust and complex, with firm tannins underpinning dark fruit, dark chocolate and toasty notes. There’s warmth on the finish, with a punch of espresso roast. Small Lots Three is an IGT-type blend of Barbera, Sangiovese and Merlot. It’s fragrant and floral, with aromas of spicy fruit, cedar and smoke. Medium-full bodied, the flavours are rich, the texture is supple and there’s fine acidity balancing the ripe spicy, peppery fruit. Watch for Two and Three in an upcoming 2011 LCBO Vintages release.

Poplar Grove Winery, on the Naramata Bench just north of Penticton, was established by Ian Sutherland with the goal of producing premium wines from estate-grown fruit. In 2007, Sutherland entered a partnership with Tony Holler and Barrie Sali which provided access the 100-acre Holler estate vineyards in the south Okanagan. The 2008 Gewurztraminer is highly aromatic, fragrant with rose petal, lychee, tropical and stone fruit. Dry and spicy, medium bodied and lively, the wine is very flavourful and displays a long fresh spicy finish. The 2009 Pinot Gris, just released in October, has a subtle nose of orchard and tropical fruit and a fresh fruity mouthful of citrus and orchard fruit. It’s light-medium bodied with bright notes of lemon, lime and grapefruit that linger on the zesty finish. The winery is known in the valley for holding its red wines in bottle for as much as 2 years prior to release. The 2006 Poplar Grove Merlot was aged in French oak for 18 months, then rested in bottle for 14 months. It’s perfumed with floral, plum and black fruit aromas, as well as a slightly sweet herbal note. Medium-full bodied, its complex and elegant, with a silky texture, well-integrated tannins and lovely black fruit, espresso and herbal flavours. The lengthy aftertaste is of dark chocolate winter fruit bark. The 2005 Legacy is a blend of Merlot, the Cabernets and Malbec, and spent 24 months in French oak followed by 18 months in bottle. Mahogany in color, it has subtle aromas of dried fruit, earth, mushrooms and leather. This is a structured wine with velvety tannins, fresh acidity and depth of flavour – spiced black and red berries, toast and pepper. The finish is long and lingering.

Kraze Legz is Kalenden’s first winery, although grapes are grown for other Okanagan wineries in this small hamlet just south of Penticton. We first discovered Kaleden when we headed down its steep main road in search of access to a hiking trail. While we never found the trail, we discovered Linden Gardens and the Frog City Café. This fantastic garden is the property of long-time fruit growers who grew tired of the straight rows of trees and decided to convert their property to a public garden. We visited in the spring, and the meandering paths, gently whispering lindens, water features and fragrant blooms and plants were a delight. Then there are the homemade treats to be enjoyed in the airy café. . . Don’t miss it! Then, wander across the way to Kraze Legz, owned by Gerry and Sue Thygesen. Of their 14 acres, 9 were planted to vines 4 years ago. While living in the U.S., they had tried to sell this steep property, fortunately without success! They’re now delighted to have the opportunity to establish their own winery, although Sue confesses that it has been and continues to challenging, as the two of them are doing most of the work themselves. They have a delightful newly constructed tasting room, decked out in a Prohibition-era theme. Available for tasting were 2 whites and a rosé, with plans for a couple of reds once the vines are of age. Their 2009 ‘Bees Knees’ Pinot Blanc won a silver at the Wine Access awards. It’s silky yet racy, with birght citrus, pear and apple aromas and flavours with a pithy bite on the finish. The 2009 ‘Charleston’ Chardonnay, while unoaked, comes in with a hefty 14.6% alcohol and is all about rich creamy texture, stone and tropical fruits with lively acidity that keeps it nicely balanced. The ‘Speakeasy’ Rosé was a favorite. This blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer is a delightful salmon color and offers sweet silky red fruity on entry, followed by bright acidity and a spicy note that carries through on the fresh fruity finish.

On a day trip to the Similkameen, I stopped in to visit Steve and Kim at their organic property, Forbidden Fruit Winery. Memories of his exotic award-winning ‘Caught’ Apricot Mistelle drew me back. This wine has incredible true-to-the-fruit flavours and a fabulous texture and balance. Due to popular demand, Steve has also begun making wines from vinifera grapes. His ‘Earth Series’ includes a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Sauvignon Blanc.

My last stop was at Clos du Soleil, where I had the opportunity to discuss the plans for a new winery building and to purchase the 2008 Clos Signature Merlot-dominant red blend, a rich powerful nicely balanced wine. This is the first vintage of the wine produced by renowned winemaker Ann Sperling, who is also producing wines from her historic family property, Sperling Vineyards. Wines from both the Clos du Soleil and Sperling Vineyards were featured in Savvy Company’s BC wine tasting, held in August, and are available to be ordered in Ontario through Savvy Company.

Enjoy visiting some of these wineries on your next trip to the Okanagan. 

Cheers!
Susan

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