Saying Goodbye to “CiC”! 

Have you heard the news?  According to the Canadian Vintners Association, we could soon see some clarification on the issue of Cellared in Canada (CiC).

Not sure what the issue about Cellared in Canada is? We’ll simply put it’s where a producer makes wine using foreign grapes but markets it as Canadian wine. The real issue with this is the price point. These wines normally retail for less than $10 while wines made using 100% Canadian grapes from local estate wineries cost at least double that price.

If you’ve been in a local liquor store lately you’ve most likely seen one of these wines on the shelf. They’re usually in the same aisle as wine made from local estate wineries, the difference is that they cost significantly less. Take Copper Moon, for example, a bottle of its Sauvignon Blanc retails for anywhere from $8 – $10, while a Sauvignon Blanc from a local estate winery most likely retails for $24 or more.

CopperMoon Wine
Looks like a normal bottle of Canadian Wine

The confusion around these wines stems from the fact that the average consumer has no idea that these wines are not being made using Canadian grapes. Producers use the “Cellared in Canada” label to make it seem as though these wine are in fact Canadian wines.

wine lable
The back label seems to indicate it’s wine from Canada.

These same producers argue that this is the only way they can compete with international wines in the under $10 category. They argue that size of scale in the Canadian wine industry makes grapes expensive and as such, they need to be able to continue to purchase inexpensive foreign grapes to compete.

The small estate wineries argue this practice is misleading to consumers and actually harms the reputation of Canadian wine.

Personally, I tend to agree that it’s a misleading practice. I don’t have an issue with producers making this wine, but don’t think it should be labeled as Canadian wine.

And now it looks like we might be getting a solution to this very issue. In the fall of 2016, the Canadian Vintners Association oversaw a series of meetings in Toronto and Penticton with various industry participants to discuss this issue. The direct result of these meetings was the recommendation that a new label “International Blend from Imported and Domestic Wines” be adopted and replace the current “Cellared in Canada” label.

In January the CVA released a statement titled: “Canadian Blended Wine Industry and Labelling Overview“, in which it confirmed that it had submitted this new recommendation to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in December of 2016.

While the Cellared in Canada label will remain in place in the interim, there is some hope on the horizon that it will be a thing of the past.

New Review: Yangarra Estate Vineyard 2012 McLaren Vale Old Vine Grenache

I have a wine problem!

I’ve fallen into a tendency lately to focus on only a few select wine regions when it comes to tasting, buying or drinking wine. When reviewing my tasting notes from the last couple of months I noticed this trend. A quick peek in the cellar confirmed my suspicion.

Perhaps calling it a problem is not accurate, but it is a concern. If you limit yourself to wine from only certain areas, you run the risk of missing out on some potentially great wine being produced elsewhere.

A perfect example of this is the 2012 Old Vine Grenache from Yangarra Estate Vineyard from the McLaren Vale region of South Australia. I don’t tend to drink a lot of wine from Australia not because it’s not good, but just because it’s not a region I tend to think of.

So when I got the chance to sample some of this wine a while  back I jumped at the opportunity. This was possible a chance to add a new wine and a new region to my repertoire. I was impressed enough with I had tasted to pick up a bottle to bring home with me.

Yangarra Estate Vineyard - 2012 McLaren Vale Grenache

 

Yangarra Estate Vineyard.

The winery is in the McLaren Vale region which is located on the southern tip of South Australia near the city of Adelaide. It sits on the eastern side of the Gulf St. Vincent and tends to benefit from a Mediterranean style climate with abundant sunshine and cool evening breezes.

The first vines were planted in the vineyard in 1946 and originally the grapes grown were used by local winemakers to beef up local wines from surrounding wineries.
In 2000 the vineyard was purchased by Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke (Jackson Family Wines proprietors) and they began the process of developing the vineyard into what it is today.

The vineyard encompasses 100 hectares and is divided into 35 individual blocks. Currently, plantings include Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro, and Carignan, and white grapes such as Roussanne and Viognier.

The Old Vine Grenache vines are located along the western side of the vineyard, in sandy soil with a layer of clay underneath. The sandy top soil acts as a reflector for the daytime heat but also releases heat captured during the day in the evening.

The vines are freestanding, with no support system or wires, allowing the fruit to spread out evenly and to allow greater airflow.

In keeping with a desire for quality, the grapes are handpicked and received via a belt elevator. They are then destemmed and sorted, the tubs of whole berries are tipped into open fermenters in an effort to avoid maceration.

The grapes are cold soaked for up to 6 days and allowed to undergo wild fermentation. Finally, the wine is put into old French barrels for 12 months prior to blending.

2012 Old Vine Grenache

Right off the bat, the first thing you notice is the color of this wine, a deep burgundy color with just a slight ruby rim. Upon the first pour, you notice right away aromas of cherry which slowly give way to notes of plum and bay leaf. After the wine had a chance to breathe the cherry notes started to change to almost a black cherry like aromas. Also, the bay leaf faded to the background and was replaced by a slight leathery note.

Red Wine

Taking the first sip, I noticed right away a significant acidity to the wine, it had quite a mouth puckering effect with a somewhat tannic almost harsh finish. I let the wine sit for about 15 mins before I tried it again and that had a significant effect on it. That initial acidity was replaced with a smoother almost velvety feel in the mouth and was able to pick up some flavors of white pepper, blackberry and plum.

The longer the wine sat the better it got, that original harshness faded and the flavors and aroma really started to open up. This is definitely a wine that will benefit from a good long decanting, allow it to breathe and mellow before serving.

All in all, this was a good wine and I quite enjoyed it. It might even get me to take a peek down that Australia aisle once in a while.

Cheers,

LB

Traversing the Okanagan Valley: Tinhorn Creek & Covert Farms

The last 4 weeks feel like they have been a complete whirlwind and I’m only now catching my breath. I should have had this post done weeks ago but I’m only now sitting down to finish it. The last day of our absolutely fantastic trip to the Okanagan Valley.

The last day!

We had come to that bittersweet point of our trip, the last day. Up to this point, we’d had a great time exploring the Black Sage Bench, the Naramata Bench, and Okanagan Falls.

But now it was the last day and we had one more region left to explore the Golden Mile. Interestingly enough even though the areas we had been visiting on this trip are referred to as wine regions, none of them are officially recognized as such.

The Black Sage bench, the Naramata bench, Okanagan Falls, and even Kelowna are considered sub-regions, but officially they are grouped together as part of the Okanagan Valley. There is only one officially recognized sub-region within the valley, and that is the Golden Mile.

In 2015 this sub-region that runs between Oliver south towards Osoyoos, was officially awarded designation as a sub-Geographical Indication. This means that the soil conditions and climate of wineries located in this area are considered to be unique from other grape growing areas in the area.

What this also means is that wineries located within this sub-GI can highlight this on their labeling. While wineries not located on the Golden Mile, have to list their geographical location as the Okanagan Valley.

I say we had plans to explore the Golden Mile but the truth is that we only had plans to visit one winery on the mile, that being Tinhorn Creek. But, before that we had one stop to make and that was Covert Farms.

Covert Farms Family Estate

Covert Farms Family Estate

We came across Covert Farms when we were looking at things to do in and around Oliver. What caught our attention was the farm tour they offered, and the opportunity to be driven around in a 1952 Mercury 1 ton truck. They took you around the farm, gave you a chance to get up close and personal with their livestock, took you out among their 64 acres of vines, gave you the chance to pick some fruit, and the kicker was a personalized wine tasting & charcuterie plate at the end. How could we resist?

red-truck

Our tour host was the farms resident chef, Cambell Kearns, whose passion for and knowledge of the farm was clearly evident. We started our tour by heading over to see the farm’s livestock. Normally, you have the opportunity to feed the cows. However, for our tour the farm had just welcomed a couple of new calves, and unfortunately the female cows were somewhat overprotective of strangers in the paddock.

From there we piled into the 1952 Mercury pickup and headed out to the vineyard. The farm has 64 acres of vines planted, and half of that is farmed out to Jackson Triggs. The other half is used to make their own estate wines. They produce a number of red blends, a rose, a sparkling Zinfandel, a white blend, a Pinot Blanc, a Roussanne & Viognier blend, and a Semillon & Sauvignon Blanc blend.

 

Covert Farms prides itself on its organic farming and that carries over to its grapes. Walking out among the vines, we got the chance to see and understand how the farm deals with insects and weeds.

Once we finished up out among the vines, we headed over to the orchard. As part of the tour we got the chance to pick either blueberry’s, strawberry’s or peaches. I jumped at the chance to pick fresh peaches right from the tree. It didn’t take long to fill our small buckets, and we may or may not have eaten a couple of peaches while doing so.

Peaches

We wrapped up our tour by sitting down to a carefully handcrafted charcuterie board and a tasting of the farm’s wines. I was quite impressed with all of the wines we got to try, but the two standouts were the 2014 Rose & the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc & Semillion blend.

Chef's Charcuterie

The 2014 Rose was incredibly fruit forward with strong notes of strawberry and raspberry and a wonderfully refreshing acidity. This would be a wine easily enjoyed on its own but versatile enough to easily pair with food. The other standout was the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc & Semillion blend. Also showing a refreshing acidity, but with freshly cut grass, lemon, & papaya aromas and green apple and sage flavors. Surprisingly, I found this to have a more complex structured body then the rose. They both had good acidity, but the Sauvignon Blanc & Semillion blend was slightly more dense than the rose and was best suited paired with food.

From there we had one last place to visit before we called this trip complete. We left Covert Farms and headed down the road towards Tinhorn Creek.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards

Tinhorn Creek

Tinhorn Creek holds a special place in the hearts of me and my wife. When I met my wife, she wasn’t much of a wine drinker, and it was a bottle of Tinhorn Creek’s Pinot Gris that got her interested in wine.

For that reason, Tinhorn Creek was one winery that was a definite visit on our list. Our plan of action was to do a tasting first, then stroll around the winery and check out the amphitheater, and then head over to the restaurant for dinner.

In what we considered an excellent omen, we were offered a sample of their recent 2015 Oldfield 2 Bench white. An excellent creamy and refreshing blend offering notes of vanilla, peach, and pear.

We made our way into the tasting room and settled in at the bar. We started out with the 2015 Pinot Gris, moved on to the 2015 Gewurztraminer, and finished up the whites with the 2014 Chardonnay. I was equally impressed with all three wines, each one tasted very well, with excellent balance, acidity, and fruit flavors.

The first red we tasted was the 2014 Merlot, which had a really striking fruity complexity to it, but I couldn’t help feel as thought it was tasting young. I wondered if it could use some time in the bottle to provide some aging. The 2914 Cab Franc, on the other hand, was perfect.

Showing an inky purple in the glass, with intense aromas of dark chocolate, lavender, thyme, and tobacco. On the tongue initial flavors of blackberry and raspberry, with a slight hint of black cherry. As we chatted with the server, I noticed that after that initial hit of fruit flavors, I started to pick up a more earthy flavor as well, that of green and black pepper. I was absolutely enthralled with this wine and I can’t wait to see what it’s like after a couple of years in the cellar.

Next up was a stroll outside along the back side of the winery to check out the amphitheater where the winery plays host to concerts throughout the summer. Sitting on the stone steps overlooking the valley, it was easy to see why this would be a popular place to come check out live music.

 

We still had a couple of minutes before our dinner reservation so we poked our heads into what the cellar room. What a sight, rack after rack of wine barrels stacked 8 height high. The first thought that came to my mind was the whoever the forklift driver was, had better have a steady hand. The other thing I noticed in the cellar room was that classic music was being played, almost as it to serenade the barrels of wine.

Wine barrels

This was a fitting end to our day, a table on the balcony overlooking the valley with the winery in the background. Looking over the wine list I felt like a kid in a candy store. One of the features of the wine list is the ability to order library wines and boy were there some impressive listings. Given that I had already gone slightly over my wine buying budget, I decided that library wines would have to wait for another day.

I really have to compliment the restaurant’s designer, with very sleek lines and the way the floor is set there really is not a bad seat in the entire place.

As we were seated at our table for dinner we realized that this was somewhat of a bittersweet moment for us. We were about to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary at a winery that holds a special place for us. That was the exciting part, the sad part was the realization that this was the end of our trip. Next morning we would be packing up and heading home.

Final Thoughts

It was quite on the road that night as we head back to where we were staying, which was nice because it gave me chance to reflect on this trip.

We had managed to visit quite a few wineries over the last several days and got to taste a lot of great wine. This trip has also given me a better perspective on just how big the Okanagan Valley wine region is. While we did get to visit a lot of wineries, the truth is we barely scratched the surface. This area just keeps on getting better and better which is great news for the Canadian wine scene. Even better is that it’s not the only one either, there are a number of up and coming areas which only can mean bigger and better things for Canadian Wine.

All in all, I have to say that this was a trip will remember for a long time coming.

Cheers,

LB

 

 

Traversing the Okanagan Valley: Naramata Bench

So far in our trip, we had spent a day exploring the town of Penticton and touring wineries along the Black Sage Bench (see: Traversing the Okanagan Valley: Black Sage Bench).

The next region we were off to explore was the Naramata Bench. It’s a 14 km stretch of land set in amongst rolling hills and overlooking the Okanagan Lake and sits on top of sandy cliffs that run along the lake shore.

Like the Black Sage Bench, the Naramata Bench also enjoys long daylight hours and warm weather during the summer with daytime temperatures reaching 40° C at times. This area also benefits from long frost free autumns as a result of its close proximity to the Okanagan Lake and it’s sloping hills. Common varietals in this area are Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Viognier, and Pinot Blanc.

It’s located just east of Penticton and it’s quite a visitor friendly region to visit. A short 5 min drive out of town puts you on the Naramata Bench road and literally puts you into the region. As you drive along the road simply keep an eye out for the wine route signs pointing out where each winery can be located.

On this day we had decided that our first stop was going to be Hillside Winery & Bistro.

Hillside Winery & Bistro

Hillside Winery & Bistro

 

I first came across Hillside wines almost by accident. While shopping at a small local wine shop one day I came across their wines which happened to be on sale. The shop didn’t have the wine I was looking for so I decided to take a chance on this “new” wine.

Turned out that I’m glad I took that chance as Hillside quickly became one of our regular BC wines. So we were quite excited to have the opportunity to visit the winery.

One of the interesting points I found out about the winery is that its unique design allows it to ferment and age their wine in smaller batches. This allows them to maintain the characteristics and quality of the grapes from each vineyard throughout production.

For our tasting, we had the opportunity to run through the full gauntlet of wines they offer. We started off with the Pinot Gris, then Viognier, Gewürztraminer, and finished off with their Muscat Ottonel. All the whites showed very well but the Gewürztraminer especially stood out. Well structured with great acidity and notes of green apple, lemon peel, and pineapple.

Moving into the reds we tried their Syrah, Cab Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir and the Mosaic (a Bordeaux-style blend). As was the case with the whites, all the reds showed well but I was really taken with the Cab Franc and the Gamay Noir. The Gamay Noir, in particular, showed very well. Hints of pepper, tobacco, blackberry, and raspberry, coupled with a nice tannic mouthfeel and surprising acidity.

After a quick lunch at the Bistro, we were off to our next stop Kettle Valley Winery.

Kettle Valley Winery

Kettle Valley Winery

It will come as no surprise that the winery is in fact named after the Kettle Valley Railway which operated in Naramata in the first half of the 1900’s. The railway was well known for a dedication to excellence and the winery strives to follow that tradition hence the name.

Looking at the history of the winery it was interesting to note that it one of the first three wineries to open in the region. In that time Kettle Valley has stayed true to its roots, staying a small produce with more focus on quality instead of quantity.

A couple of years back I was able to pick up a couple bottles of their 2006 Pinot Noir, which were amazing, so I was quite interested to see what their current release was like. I tried the 2014 Pinot Noir, which had some very nice fruit flavours to it, notes of raspberry and cherry, but not a lot of structure. The body felt a little loose, definitely showing it’s young age. I think in about 5 years it will be a very good bottle of wine, once it’s had some time to tighten up and develop.

I picked up a bottle of the Pinot Noir, so I’ll let you know about in about 5 years time I’ll let you know if I’m right. As we finished up at Kettle Valley, we were on to our next destination..Joie Farm.

Joie Farm Winery

Joie Farm Winery

Joie Farm wasn’t on our radar at first, I reluctantly admit I didn’t know much about the winery. My wife, however, is a French immersion teacher and has a keen interest in anything French. So as soon as we saw the sign for the winery my wife immediately wanted to stop. It also helped that at that exact time someone was attaching a red bicycle to the sign which also caught our attention.

It’s funny how sometimes in life, spur of the moment decisions just work out. Joie Farm turned out to be one of our favourite stops of our entire trip. The winery has a very welcoming family feeling to it. Walking up to the tasting room you’ll notice scores of people sitting on blankets on the grass enjoying a glass of wine and a picnic lunch. We grabbed a couple of warm pretzels and made our way to the bar.

A large stone pizza over caught our attention, and we very impressed to see you could buy thin crust pizzas or warm pretzels. We grabbed a couple of warm pretzels and made our way to the bar.

Food & Wine

Our tasting was somewhat of a quick one, the winery was sold out of several of their releases. We did manage to secure a tasting of the 2014 PTG, 2015 Pinot Blanc, 2013 Riesling, and the 2014 Gamay Noir.

The 2015 Pinot Blanc was absolutely amazing, with a superb acidity that made it quite refreshing & bold notes of grapefruit and green apple. This was delicate enough to be a wine enjoyed on the patio but at the same time strong enough to stand up to food. I also found the 2014 PTG to be quite exceptional, with a nice medium body and tannin structure. Interestingly enough I found it to have notes of Raspberry both on the nose and in its flavour. Both wines were outstanding.

Once our tasting was complete and we had eaten our warm pretzel, it was time to head over to Lake Breeze.

Lake Breeze Vineyards 

Lake Breeze Vineyards

 

Lake Breeze was a winery that was recommended to me when I was researching where in the valley to visit.

Like so many wineries in the region, the first thing you notice when pulling up to the winery is the view. The winery overlooks Okanagan lake and standing on the terrace all you can see is the lake below as far as the eye can see.

Once you tear yourself away from the amazing view, it’s time to head into the absolutely gorgeous tasting room and try some wine. We tasted a fairly standard lineup, a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Gris, a Pinot Blanc, a Merlot, a Pinot Noir, and a Rose. In addition, we also tasted a 2015 Ehrenfelser, which was I’m not familiar with. It was  very distinct, with strong notes of summer fruit like peach, nectarine, and apricot. A nice acidity to it, quite refreshing, but I think it could probably do with a couple of years of aging.

Also noteworthy was the 2013 Meritage, with big strong notes of ripe red fruit and a very nice tannic structure. It had a very nice mouthfeel to it, silky and smooth but bold enough that it would pair well with a rich savoury meal.

We were starting to run out steam by this point but we only had one more stop, Bench 1775 winery.

Bench 1775 Winery

Bench 1775

Earlier in the year my wife and I took in the annual Winefest event in town. One of the  wines we tried that day was their 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. We were so impressed we made a note that it should be one of the wineries we visited during our trip.

When we first walked into the tasting room I was a little nervous, there were two large parties in the tasting room at the time and I wasn’t entirely sure we would be able to find room. Thankfully, one of the parties was just leaving and we found some space at the bar.

Their white wine really stood out for me . The 2015 Semillon, in particular, was quite nice, with excellent citrus notes and a slight earthy tone to it. I imagined this being a wine that would pair extremely well with spicy food, the citrus cutting through the heat in the dish. I also quite liked the 2015 Viognier, which had a real nice fruit intensity to it along with nicely balanced acidity. This wine I could picture with Asian food, especially sushi.
By this point, we were just ready to call it a day and started to head home. However, we wound up making one more unexpected stop.

Red Rooster Winery

Red Rooster Winery

Funny story about Red Rooster is that we had it confused with Township 7 Vineyards, which we had visited in the spring of 2013. Since we “thought” we had already visited the winery we had no plans to stop. Driving by the wineries we soon realized our mistake, one quick U-turn later we were making one more stop.

Two things you’ll notice right away about the winery is the artwork scattered around the premise, and the large wooden doors leading into the tasting room. As we found out later the doors are made from wood reclaimed from the original Naramata train dock.

For this tasting I was all about the red wine, starting with the 2014 Pinot Noir, and then moving on to the 2014 Reserve Pinot Noir. Both were excellent, though I thought the Reserve had a slightly better-structured body, a bit more depth to it.

Turns out today was my lucky day, our server was impressed with my description of the reserve Pinot Noir and let me try their 2013 Golden Egg. A blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah, & Grenache, this was something else. Rich notes of green pepper, black pepper, tobacco, dark chocolate, and black currant. Not a wine to drink on its own, but something that would pair very well with food.

Golden Egg Wine @ Red Rooster

End of the Day!

With Red Rooster under our belt, we were officially done for the day and it was time to head home and put our feet up.

All in all we really enjoyed spending the day touring along the Bench. All the wineries are easy to get to and the people are super friendly and approachable. One thing I found is that it’s an area that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Each winery we visited we really felt that the message that was portrayed was to sit back, relax, enjoy a glass of wine, and enjoy.

The wines of the region also reflect this outlook, easy drinking and unpretentious. They are wines that would hold up to being cellared but can also be enjoyed right away. I look forward to enjoying what we brought home with us.

Cheers,

LB

Traversing the Okanagan Valley: The Beginning

In 2011 my wife and I decided to take a trip out to Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, specifically the city of Kelowna. As part of that trip, we went on a wine tour. It was the first time I had ever been to a winery and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Right away I was hooked, I was immediately interested in the whole process. From growing the grapes to harvesting them to turning them into wine.

We came back out to Kelowna again in 2012 and 2013, both time with the intent on visiting as many wineries as we could. We took a break from the area in 2014 & 2015 but decided to return to the Okanagan again this July.

Instead of visiting Kelowna this time, we decided to head a little further south to Penticton and Oliver. We had a great trip, visited a number of amazing wineries, drank some fantastic wine, and conversed with a lot of passionate and knowledgeable individuals.

wineroute
Which way to the wine?

The Okanagan Valley

The valley itself is one of 5 provincially recognized wine producing regions in British Columbia, with the others being: The Similkameen Valley, Vancouver Island, The Gulf Islands, and Fraser Valley. There are several other emerging regions that are starting to develop a name for themselves, but these are the five predominant regions at this time.

It begins around Kelowna and stretches for over 250 km south towards Osoyoos and the US border. The valley accounts for almost 80% of the total wine production within BC and includes over 170 wineries with over 8,000 total acres of vines.

The valley is divided into a number of local regions and as you travel south through the valley you’ll run into these regions along the way. It’s these small regions within the Okanagan Valley that make it such an interesting wine and winery destination.

The sub-regions are:

  • Lake Country/Kelowna
  • Peachland/Summerland
  • Penticton/Naramata
  • Okanagan Falls
  • Golden Mile Bench
  • Osoyoos

Each region is blessed with its own unique micro-climates and soil conditions. Some areas benefit from cool breezes that blow in from nearby lakes, which help to offset the summer heat. Others receive the benefit of excellent irritation, the result of vineyards planted on hillsides.

soil
Soil type examples at Le Vieux Pin winery.

The different benefits that come from the different climates and growing conditions have reflected the diversity of the different wines being produced within these regions. I’ll use Pinot Noir for an example, you’ll find examples of Pinot Noir being produced from each of these regions. But, what you’ll also find is that the Pinot Noir is different from each region. Not different in a bad way, but simply different based on the growing conditions.

You may find a Pinot Noir produced in the Summerland region to be light bodied with quite fruit forward. While in Oliver you may find the Pinot Noir to have a heavier body with spicier notes and less fruit forward. Then if you were to try a Pinot Noir from Naramata you might find it is somewhere in the middle.

 

Our Trip

The Okanagan valley has a tremendous amount to offer. There’re several lakes for boating, swimming, and water sports. Beaches for family outings or to sit and relax on. Fruit farms and orchards dot the highway throughout. It offers great hiking and biking trails, as well as numerous campgrounds. The valley also boasts a number of music festivals throughout the summer.

For me however, it was all about the wine. This was my chance to visit some of the wineries I had been hearing about for some time now.

Yet, I’ve only just broken the surface of what the valley has to offer in terms of wine and wineries. Of the over 170 wineries in operation, I’ve only visited roughly 20% of them. I’ve still got some work to do.

Since we spent a lot of time in the past in and around Kelowna, we only focused on the Penticton/Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls, and the Black Sage Bench/Osoyoos areas.

In total, we spend about 3 & 1/2 days exploring these three areas and it wasn’t even close to being enough. It was extremely difficult deciding on which wineries to visit and where to go. I relied heavily on recommendations from folks on Twitter and from articles I found on online.

Over the next couple of posts, I’ll go into more detail about the regions we visited and what they have to offer.

Cheers,

LB

 

 

 

 

Review: Summerhill Pyramid Winery 2008 Zweigelt

Sitting around the kitchen table one night after dinner, my wife and I got to talking about entertaining and we realized it had been quite awhile since we’d had a get together at our place. We only half seriously started to think about what kind of event we could have.

At the same time my wife was looking at the calendar when she mentioned that Canada day was going to fall on a Friday this year. We thought that was perfect, what better way to celebrate Canada day and kick of the weekend then with a BBQ. Plans were quickly made and a little while later the invite went out.

The morning of the BBQ, I was getting things ready and I started to think about what to drink. We had gotten some beer, but what really was on my mind was wine. I had an idea, I wanted to do an all Canadian lineup in honor of Canada day. I pulled 2 whites, a Gewürztraminer from Red Rooster winery and a Pinot Gris from Dirty Laundry winery. For our red selection I choose a Cabernet Franc from Vineland Estates, a Solstice Pinot Noir from Arrowleaf Winery, and lastly a Zweigelt from Summerhill Pyramid winery.

Summer Lineup

Soon the BBQ was in full swing and it became very clear that I had made some very good selections in the wines I had chosen. The Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir were opened first as part of the appetizer portion of the evening and they were both very well received. The Solstice Pinot Noir from Arrowleaf showed incredibly well. Next up to go along with the main course was the Gewürztraminer and the Cab Franc. Again both very well received, with the Cab Franc from Vineland getting a number of compliments from Guests.

As the BBQ started to wind down we opened the Zweigelt from Summerhill Pyramid winery and that became sort of our late evening sit back, relax, and enjoy the evening wine. I’ll be honest I was a little nervous this was a 2008 vintage, and I had purchased it on a trip to the winery in 2012, so this was a wine that I had been cellaring for several years. As soon as we opened it though any fears I had quickly evaporated, the wine was in great shape and showing very well.

A little bit about Summerhill Pyramid Winery

The story of the winery is quite impressive in its own right. Stephen Cipes, the proprietor of the winery first came to the Okanagan Valley in 1986. His first reaction was that it would be a perfect spot to produce  sparkling wine. Since that day the Cipes family had built Summerhill Pyramid winery into a fully biodynamic winery, even receiving Demeter Biodynamic certification in 2012.

We visited Summerhill Pyramid winery in 2012 as part of road trip vacation, my wife and I had embarked on that year. There was two reasons why we choose to stop at Summerhill, one was their reputation for quality wine and organic farming, and two was their use of a pyramid for cellaring their wines. I had read several articles about their pyramid and wanted to check it out for myself. Unfortunately, we missed the pyramid tour on the day we went but were still very impressed with the winery and their wines.

On the day we visited there was several of their wines that stood out. Their Cipes Rose certainly spoke to their dedication to sparkling wines, and the Zweigelt was unlike anything I had tasted up to that point.

So I thought our Canada day BBQ was the perfect time to open up that 2008 Zweigelt that I had been hanging on to.

Summerhill Pyramid 2008 Zweigelt

Bottle

As I mentioned earlier the wine still showed very well, the body was well structured with a slightly cream texture. Very easy drinking style with medium low tannins, low alcohol level, and a refreshing acidity level.

The wine’s color was still quite vibrant, a rich burgundy, but the rim appeared to be quite a bit lighter. Which led me to wonder if the color was starting to lighten up given the age of the wine.

Glass

On the nose strong floral notes, such as lavender and violet. Also showing on the nose was a slight hint of cedar and tobacco. A real intense ripe red fruit comes through in the flavor of the wine. Some hints of raspberry and red plum.

Summerhill produces wine on their own terms based on their own philosophy. They believe in an organic and biodynamic philosophy. They put the same care into the production of their wine that they do into the land itself. That care shows in the quality of their wine and the 2008 Zweigelt is an example of that. It’s one I will definitely keep an eye out for in the future.

Cheers,

LB.

 

Review: Fox Run 2012 Lemberger

One of the blogs that I routinely look forward to reading is pop & pour, written by local wine aficionado Peter Vetsch.  I first came across Peter on Twitter and was quick to check out his blog,  becoming an instant follower.

When it comes to the world of wine I still consider myself quite an amateur, so it’s great when I can look to others as valuable sources of information. In Peters’ case I appreciate the fact I get exposure to wines I might not otherwise get.

Case in point Peter recently wrote a number of posts regarding wines and vineyards in the Finger Lakes area of New York. I had heard of the Finger Lakes area earlier this year on a podcast, but really had no idea what the region had to offer.

So one night last week I just happened to be killing some time before an appointment and wandered in to the Kensington Wine Market to have a look around. As I’m walking down one the aisles, a label catches my eye. A black label, with the works “Fox Run” printed on them. Something about the name stuck in my head and then it came to me. That was one of the vineyards and wines that Peter had just written about. It was decided, I had to try the wine.

Fox Run Vineyards 2012 Lemberger

Fox Run 2012 Lemberger

I really had no idea what to expect with this wine. As I mentioned earlier I was not familiar with the area or this grape variety so I decided to do some research. The grape variety is very common through central Europe, in countries such as Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Slovakia. The common name for this grape is Blaufränkisch, but is known by other names depending on the country. In the US, the grape is referred to as Lemberger, and is primarily grown in Idaho, Washington, and the Finger Lakes.

Fox Run Vineyards, got its start as a dairy farm, but began planting grapes in 1984.  In 1990 the farm was converted into a winemaking facility with further renovations being done in 1996. The winery is a family run vineyard and prides itself on its philosophy of low impact agriculture.

In addition to Lemberger, it also produces Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir.

I was nervous opening the bottle, I just wasn’t sure what to expect. Interestingly enough as soon as I opened it the first thing that struck me was a strong note sweet almost overripe fruit. I was actually a little concerned that perhaps there was something wrong with the wine. However, I decanted it and let it sit for a couple of hours.

When I went back to the wine that aroma of overripe fruit had really dissipated and in its place was the spicy note of black pepper. Once poured into a glass, I was able to also note the aroma of blackberry and what I thought was blackcurrant.

In the glass the wine showed a striking ruby colour with a slightly less vivid rim. On the tongue I was struck by the contrast the wine presented. The body was densely complex  yet very soft and mellow all at the same time, with a wonderful full body.

FoxRun_Lemberger_02

The black pepper aroma carried over into the flavour of the wine, giving it a delicious hint of spice. I noted just a slight hint of fruit on the tongue, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. There was also a real herbal note to the wine, almost like basil or tarragon that really provided a wonderful savoury finish.

At the end of the day I was very impressed with this wine, deep and complex but easy to drink. It paired amazingly well with a rib eye but continued to drink well even after dinner was finished. Based on this experience I can’t wait to try some of the vineyards’ other varieties. Well worth the money spent.

Cheers,

LB

Notes: 

  • Winery: Fox Run Vineyards
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Grape: Lemberger
  • Region: Finger Lakes, NY
  • Country: United States
  • Nose: Black pepper, blackberry, black currant
  • Taste: Black pepper, herbal (basil, tarragon), berries
  • Purchased: Kensington Wine Market
  • Price: $29.99