As mentioned in my October 2020 cultureofwine blog, overall grape yields in B.C. were lower, but so far the vintage is showing beautiful quality of fruit, good natural acidity, alcohol levels, balance and complexity. Even the shocker mid-October 2020 snowstorm – a 120-year-old record broken for the most snowfall on an October day (previous record was 12.7 cm in 1899 according to Environment Canada) – left little damage to the vines or fruit quality. In addition, the B.C. wine industry continues to grow with more winery start ups, increased wine grape acreage and varietal expansion: 2019 BC Wine Grape Acreage Report
Although the year was more than a challenge for winery tours, tastings and sales because of Covid travel directives and restrictions, wineries did do well in DTC initiatives with innovative wine promos, free or reduced costs for wine deliveries and generally making it easier for consumers to try a variety of wines in their own backyard. While this will never replace a winery visit and tasting/dining experience, it has opened many direct-to-door initiatives.
Of course, the flip side of this is how that only four provinces – British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia — allow out of province wine shipments. The politics are too thick to get into in this blog, but progress has been slow with other liquor boards yet again jockeying for a bigger piece of that tax pie. Hopefully, that will change in my lifetime, but it has been more than a century trying to find a solution for wine lovers in Canada who want to support and buy Canadian wine. Until then, all I can say is Happy Canada Day, eh?
So, in quiet, thoughtful celebration of the day, please do support your local winery and raise a glass of made in Canada wine. Here are some beauties from British Columbia:
Black Market Estate Unsanctioned Series Pinot Blanc 2020: Wow! This is one fragrant Pinot Blanc with white florals, ripe peach, creamy banana, lemon curd, white pepper spice, toasted nut and hints of minerality on the nose. The wine is dry, medium-plus-bodied with medium-plus-acidity, elegant and silky with ripe pear, banana lemon cream, hay, nutty and vibrant on the palate and creamy as it rolls itself out with a long finish. Just lovely! Chill and enjoy with seafood dishes. We poured it with sauteed scallops in maple balsamic.
The 2020 vintage was barrel-fermented and aged in neutral oak. And here, less is definitely more – while 2020 saw lower grape yields (only 50 cases made) fruit quality was amazing. After fermentation, the wine was aged a further 12 months in barrel with some batonnage to build body and texture. Tasted May 2021. 13.5% abv / $26
Black Market Estate Secret Society White 2020: So pale yellow, in a bright light it almost looks water white. But don’t let Secret Society White 2020 fool you, because it is no secret on the nose. Enticing with aromas of baked apple, almond nut, white florals, soft Meyer lemon and hints of warm hay, this is a vibrant and very moreish medium-bodied, crisp and dry white wine blend with ripe yellow apple, orange sherbet, nutty and grassy notes ultra-balanced with pinpoint acidity with a long, lithe finish. Highly addictive!
So, the three varietals that make up the 2020 vintage of Black Market Estate’s Secret Society white is a secret that only the ‘Secret Society’ know. We do know that the grapes were sourced from Naramata, Osoyoos and Kaleden vineyards and that one of the varietals is Bacchus. But why don’t you try it and find out for yourself? Perfect for an afternoon on the patio or an evening of al fresco dining. We poured it with pan-fried, almond-crusted Walleye and perch filets. Tasted May 2021. 12.1% abv / $22
Black Market Secret Society Red 2019: Black Market Secret Society Red 2019 is a deep, dark mystery. Deep ruby in the glass the red wine blend is rich and spicy on the nose with dark cherry, incense, and pepper spice aromas. With a medium-plus-body, on the palate, it is dry but with a whack of fruit showing dark cherry, brambleberry, vanilla, dark spices, pepper spice, sandalwood, cocoa, tobacco leaf and a kind of a savoury olive or herbal note balanced with medium-plus-acidity and wrapping up long. Tannins are pleasantly grippy.
So, like the Black Market Secret Society white, the blend for the Secret Society red is also a secret. But I would venture to say Syrah, certainly a Cab… since it has gritty dark cherry, incense, and earthy notes… Try it for yourself? Drink or hold – the 2019 can easily cellar for three years. Poured with venison burgers. Tasted May 2021. 13.5% abv / $29
Blue Grouse Quill Rosé 2020: Blue Grouse Winery’s 2020 Gamay Noir rosé is brimming with red berry, strawberry, fine herb and soft citrus flavours creamy and forever on the palate. From a cooler vintage, the rosé is showing bright and beautifully balanced acidity to the 3.0 g/l residual sugar that was left on the wine to give it a touch of sweetness and was also aged three months on its fine lees giving this Gamay rosé added finesse, balance and structure. A perfect pairing to a hot summer’s day, chill and sip or pour with salmon burgers from the grill, creamy cheeses and fresh-cut veggies. Tasted April 2021. 12% abv / $20
CedarCreek Estate Winery Pinot Noir 2019: CedarCreek Estate Winery’s 2019 Pinot Noir is fragrant and enticing on the nose with fresh violets, pink rose petals and baked cherry pie. Deep ruby in the glass, dry, medium-plus-bodied with ripe black cherry, blackberry, fresh mushroom, savoury herb and medium-plus-acidity to balance all that juicy fruit. Finishes long, savoury and satisfying. A solid Pinot Noir that delivers! Poured with a grilled sirloin steak.
The PN grapes for the 2019 vintage were sourced from the Home Block Vineyard and wild fermented in small stainless steel and concrete tanks. The wine aged 12 months in French oak barrels. Tasted May 2021. 13.5% abv / $27
Fort Berens Estate Winery Ltd. Riesling 2020: Fort Berens Estate Winery Riesling just seems to get better and better. Light gold in the glass with just a hint of green, the nose on the 2020 vintage is fragrant with ripe pear, yellow apple, passionfruit, lime zest and just a hint of petrol. On the palate, this youthful Riesling is medium-bodied with medium-plus-acidity and on this side of off-dry. It starts off with a zing of lime zest, lemon sherbet, pepper spice, creamy, mouth-coating and beautifully balanced all the way around! So pretty now, but the wine will continue to evolve over the next couple of years. Lightly chilled, it went down too easy with sweet chili prawns. Tasted May 2021. 12% abv / $20
Fort Berens Estate Winery Ltd. Pinot Gris 2020: Love the purity and quality of fruit on this Fort Berens Estate Winery Pinot Gris. First off, it’s fresh and fragrant with fresh-cut pear, tropical fruit, mango and guava notes. On the palate, the wine is dry, medium-bodied, balanced with refreshing acidity and bursting with lemon blossom, fresh pears, pink grapefruit, lime zest leading into a lengthy finish. Very moreish! Chill and enjoy this PG on its own or pour with a creamy pasta dish. Tasted May 2021. 13.4% abv / $20
Fort Berens Winery Camel Red NV: Fort Berens Winery Camel Red NV is a well-rounded, easy-to-love fruity red wine blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir. Dry, medium-bodied with medium-acidity, this is the wine you choose when you are trying to decide if you want a glass of wine or not. No contest here, just a question of whether you have a glass or the whole bottle. Very smooth, easy-going and well-balanced with dark berry, soft plum, savoury herbs, softly spiced with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg flavours lingering on the finish. Tannins are rounded. Don’t overthink it, chill slightly and enjoy. Pour with a charcuterie board, crackers and olive tapenade. Tasted June 2021. 13.6% abv / $22
Gray Monk Winery Rosé 2020: Gray Monk Winery’s 2020 rosé is a beautifully put together, off-dry, medium-plus-bodied and vibrant rosé blend of 36% Cabernet Franc, 29% Merlot, 13% Rotberger, 9% Gamay Noir, 8% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier. On the nose, it’s summer in a glass with pink florals, strawberries and cream, fresh cherry and dried finer herb aromas. Nicely balanced on the palate as well, with ripe strawberry, cherry cotton candy, ripe peach, soft orange citrus, dried chives and a refreshing citrus bite on the finish.
The wine juice was cool fermented in stainless-steel tanks for 21 days. A great patio sipper that is also food versatile, we poured it with salmon burgers from the grill. Tasted May 2021. 122.6% abv / $18
Hester Creek Estate Winery Pinot Gris 2020: Wow! Love the aromatic fresh pear, bright citrus, orange blossom and sun-kissed hay nose on this refreshing Pinot Gris. On the palate, Hester Creek Estate Winery’s 2020 Pinot Gris is dry, medium-bodied with medium plus acidity, zesty with layers of fresh pear, melon, citrus, quince jam, honeyed apple and a long, citrusy tangy lemon meringue pie finish. So good! Chill and enjoy on its own or pour with summer salads. Tasted April 2021. 12.9% abv/ $18
Liquidity Wines Rosé 2020: Love this medium-bodied, off-dry rosé from Liquidity Wines with strawberry and cream aromas. On the palate, there is bright cherry, melon, pink florals, orange citrus and a kiss of spice so well-crafted and balanced. Produced from Pinot Noir clones 114 and 777 mainly from the winery’s two younger vineyard blocks with the balance of PN coming from the Oliver wine region. After a cold soak of about three hours, grapes were pressed, and the wine juice fermented in 100% stainless steel tanks. Chill and pour with seared sweet chili tuna steaks. Tasted May 2021. 12.3% abv / $24
Liquidity Wines Viognier 2020: Liquidity Wines excel at Viognier. Their 2020 vintage was produced from 100% estate grown Viognier (Clone 642) sourced from the winery’s Allendale Vineyard and from another “scorching hot vineyard” in Osoyoos. On the palate, the wine is dry, full-bodied, crisp and lush with medium-plus-acidity and well-defined flavours of orange blossom, honeyed melon, beeswax, mango, guava, pepper spice and finishing long on a mineral note. Elegant and well-balanced, the Viognier could easily cellar for a couple of years, but why wait because it is drinking beautifully now. Grapes were almost entirely whole cluster pressed and cool-fermented in stainless-steel tanks. The remaining five per cent of the fruit was crushed and partially fermented on its skins. Tasted April 2021. 14.5% abv / $29
Lunessence Winery and Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019: Love this dusty, fragrant unfiltered and unfined 100% Pinot Noir from Lunessence Winery. The 2019 is full on fresh violets, cherry pie, sweet, dried tobacco leaf, ginger and nutmeg spice on the nose. Dry, fresh and medium-bodied with earthy florals, sweet spicy tobacco, cherry pie and baking spice flavours wrapped up in medium-plus acidity. Tannins are velvety and there is a lingering spicy and fresh finish. The sustainably farmed Pinot Noir grapes for this vintage were sourced from the Palo Solara Vineyard in East Kelowna and the wine was matured in French oak barrels (20% new) for eight months. Tasted May 2021. 13.5% abv / $28
Lunessence Winery and Vineyard Chardonnay 2019: Lunessence Winery Chardonnay 2019 is crisp, clean, fresh and juicy with a silky mouthfeel. The winery’s motto is “Harmony from Vine to Wine” and they certainly have achieved this with their Chardonnay. Fresh with golden apple and lemon zest aromas, the wine is dry, medium-bodied, vibrant with ripe golden apple, toasty nut, lemon meringue flavours zesty with a lengthy, spicy and pleasant citrus bite. Grapes were whole cluster pressed to retain maximum fresh fruit flavours and 20% of the wine was barrel fermented in French oak barrels with eight months on fine lees and stainless-steel tanks. Tasted May 2021. 12.8% abv / $25
Lunessence Winery and Vineyard ESV 2020: This is the inaugural release of Lunessence Winery’s 2020 ESV (Estate Single Vineyard) produced from a certified organic estate vineyard. The wine is juicy, fresh and barely dry with 55% Gewurztraminer, 27% Pinot Blanc and 18% from grapes that were whole cluster pressed, fermented with organic yeasts with five months of fine lees aging. About half of the wine was matured in second-fill French oak barrels. On the nose, the wine is floral, with elderflower, ginger spice and leesy aromas. Medium-bodied with medium-plus-acidity on the palate showing white florals, white-fleshed stone fruit, white pepper spice and a bright lime-lemon zest finish. Pour with sushi, grilled sweet chilli shrimp or enjoy chilled on its own. Tasted May 2021. 12.9% abv/ $25
I remember chatting with Gina Fernades Harfman about five years ago about Oliver Twist Winery – which has now rebranded to Nostalgia Wines. She was a one-woman winery show then… she may not be nostalgic for those days, but has since expanded her crew to three and continues to create memories in a bottle with her family’s four generations of farming experience with vine-growing and winemaking knowledge.
Nostalgia Kerner Home Vineyard Kerner 2020: Love the fragrant nose on this pretty Kerner from Nostalgia wines! The 2020 Kerner is pale lemon-green in the glass and so fragrant with white florals, ripe yellow apple, Bartlett pear, lemon pudding and notes of vanilla. On the palate, it is lush, off-dry, medium-bodied and comfy with a luxurious mouthfeel from beginning to end. Balanced with medium-plus-acidity with ripe apple, pear, guava, mango, a kiss of white pepper spice and a lemon pith bite finishing smooth, silky and long. On the rebranded label, the winery indicates this wine is like “sunshine in a glass.” In fact, it is also like summertime in a glass! Chill and enjoy on its own, or as the winery suggests pour it with Moroccan chicken and curries. Tasted June 2021. 13.1% abv / $22
Nostalgia Merlot 2018: This is a smooth and easy-going Merlot from Nostalgia Winery. The 2018 Merlot is dry, fruity and unfiltered produced from 95% Merlot sourced from Nostalgia’s Home Vineyard with 3% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Harfman Vineyard and 2% Malbec from Gablemann Vineyard. A classic and savoury Merlot with dark cherry, plum and cocoa aromas on the nose. Dry, medium-plus-bodied and juicy on the palate with dark berry, cherry, raspberry, plum, mocha, dried herbs and dark spices nicely balanced with acidity in check. Tannins are fine and velvety. Very approachable now. Aged 15 months in French and American oak barrels. Decant one hour and enjoy on its own or pour with roast duck dinner. Tasted June 2021. 13.7% abv / $33
Road 13 Chip Off the Old Block Chenin Blanc 2019: Road 13’s Chip Off the Old Block Chenin Blanc continues to be a solid crowd pleaser. Fragrant with orange blossom, beeswax, ripe quince and spicy aromas on the nose, the wine is on this side of dry, medium-plus-bodied, clean, bright and crisp on the palate with exotic white florals, ripe yellow apple, ginger spice, mouth coating with medium-plus-acidity and a medium-plus-lengthy finish. Grapes for this vintage were sourced from the Golden Mile Bench from vines over 50 years of age. This is a tasty, well-balanced and food versatile Chenin with just enough residual sugar to pour with spicy dishes or ribs and chicken from the grill. We paired it with lemon and rosemary chicken from the grill. Tasted April 2021. 13% abv / $18
Road 13 Honest John Rosé 2020: Deep Coral pink in the glass, this rosé is even delicious on the nose with light strawberry, rose petals, green herbs, earthy and mineral aromas. More savoury than fruity on the palate, the Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir and Syrah rosé blend is off-dry, medium-bodied with delicate, bright cherry, soft orange citrus, fine herbs, earthy and mineral flavours, medium-plus-acidity and a pleasant citrus bite on its lengthy finish. Excellent fruit quality, grapes were almost entirely sourced from the Golden Mile Bench. Very moreish. Chill and enjoy on its own or pour with seared tuna steaks from the grill. Tasted April 2021. 12.3% abv / $17
Road 13 Viognier 2018: Their low yield, terroir-driven Viognier speaks to its terroir. With long, hot sunny days and cool nights grapes ripen well and evenly making for some very flavourful wines. The Viognier shows up spicy and fragrant with white florals and white peach aromas. On the palate, it is dry, earthy, spicy, vibrant, and robust with ripe, white-fleshed stone fruit, apricot, ginger and white pepper spice flavours balanced with brilliant acidity and a lingering lemon zest bite. Tasted May 2021. 13% abv / $26
In May of this year, Dylan and Pénélope Roche of Roche Wines celebrated their 10th Anniversary on the Naramata Bench with their Burgundy and Bordeaux style wines. Dylan spent five years in Burgundy prior to going to work in Bordeaux, while Pénélope was born and raised in Bordeaux in the long winemaking family of Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion. Here are just a few of the wines from the family-run winery.
Roche Chateau 2017: Wow! This is one spicy Bordeaux blend showing great potential but would also benefit from a couple of years in cellar to become the elegant Bordeaux-style blend it is promising to be. Chateau 2017 is Roche Winery’s Premier Cru Bordeaux blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Pale ruby in the glass, this unfined and unfiltered dry, medium-plus-bodied red is a Grand Vin aged 18 months in 40% new French oak barrels. Fragrant and spicy on the nose with cedar spice, violets, cinnamon, anise, and toasty oak spice. On the palate Chateau is youthful with a mouthful of black currant, blackberry, dark cherry, pepper, cedar spice flavours with fine, grippy tannins and a long finish. Acidity is in balance, but the toasty oak spice and tannins need some time to integrate. Only 258 cases produced.
Just a mention here that I had the opened wine had a glass, corked it and placed it back in the fridge for five days. When I brought it out and back to serving temperature (16/17 Celsius or 60/62 Fahrenheit), it had calmed down considerably — smoother and showing blackberry, black cherry and smoky vanilla flavours on the palate. Although I might have missed the nuances the wine would show from ageing in cellar, this is a beautifully sculpted wine and at $50, pick up a few and cellar … you won’t be disappointed. Tasted June 2021. 12.8% abv / $50
Roche Nuances 2018: Deep Ruby in the glass. Nuances 2018 is perfumed with pink rose petals, dried fine herbs, fresh dark cherry, blueberry, and baking spice aromas. The wine is a dry, medium-plus-bodied Bordeaux-style blend of 58% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc and 18% Cabernet Sauvignon savoury and smooth with pink florals, dark cherry, dark fruit, plum, Christmas cake spices, violets, lavender smooth and tidy balanced with medium-acidity. Tannins are rich and structured. Good now, better as it continues to evolve into 2022. Tasted June 2021.
Merlot grapes were sourced from Kozier Organic Vineyard, high up on the Naramata Bench and the Cabernets were sourced from the very warm south Okanagan, north of Tuc-el-nuit Lake. Aged 12 months in 10% new French oak barrels. 1022 cases produced. Produced by Penelope and Dylan Roche. Tasted June 2021. 14.3% abv / $33
Roche Pinot Gris Texture 2020: I am in love with Roche Winery’s Texture Pinot Gris! Pale gold in the glass with an explosion of fresh sweet Anjou pear, tropical fruit, lemon pudding, warm vanilla and mineral notes on the nose. The wine I medium-bodied with medium acidity and bone dry — not what I was expecting after all that fruit on the nose. Texture is warming at 14% abv with fresh pear, mango, vanilla, clean mineral flavours and pinpoint balanced with crisp, food-friendly acidity. An absolutely beautiful and elegant Pinot Gris giving everything on the nose with a slow striptease of flavours on the palate. Very food versatile, we poured it with scallop ceviche, pan-fried Coho filets and Caesar salad — an amazing pairing. the flavour of the wine sang throughout the meal. Tasted May 2021. 13.9% abv / $22
Roche Pinot Gris 2018: If I had to choose between Roche Winery’s Texture 2020 Pinot Gris and their 2018 Pinot Gris, I couldn’t. As much as the former is opulent on the nose and teasing on the palate, the latter is the other way around. Pale Gold in the glass with fresh pear, citrus zest and white pepper spice on the nose, dry, medium-bodied with medium-plus acidity, luxurious and mouth-coating on the palate with ripe pear, lemongrass, fennel, lemon sorbet, baked pastry, pepper spice and stony mineral flavours finishing long and bright on the palate. We chilled and poured it with grilled chicken breasts and sauteed Peruvian scallops (mild flavoured scallops), but it would also be a perfect pairing to a grilled fennel and citrus salad. An easy to enjoy Pinot Gris with amazing acidity.
The 2018 PG was produced by Penelope and Dylan Roche from organically farmed grapes from the Kozier Organic Vineyard fermented in neutral French oak barrels and developed for one year on its fine lees with occasional lees stirring. Tasted May 2021. 14.1% abv / $29
Sperling Vineyards Dry Riesling Organic, Vision Series 2018: From Sperling Vineyards, Vision Series Organic 2018 Dry Riesling is the winery’s first vintage of Dry Riesling from their 1978 plantings. Bright old gold in the glass, fragrant with orange creamsicle, citrus blossoms, anise, lemongrass, flinty, petrol and light mineral notes. This is a dry Riesling (.61g/l) elegant and mouth-watering with lemon juice, white florals, fine herb, grassy, petrol, mineral flavours finishing long and mouth watering with winking acidity. A definitely made-for-food wine, try it with oyster pot pie or crispy fried pork schnitzel, but the wine can also easily cellar for the next five years. Produced by winemakers Ann Sperling & Rickard Branby. Tasted June 2021. 12% abv / $35
Summerhill Organic Merlot 2019: Rich and fresh with blackberry, spiced plum, mint and sage aromas on the nose; dry, full-bodied and intense on the palate with dark berries galore, dark cherry, plum, cedar brush spice, mint, savoury shitake mushrooms, finishing long and spicy with a mineral edge. A beautifully balanced Merlot showing quality ripe fruit with acidity in check. Tannins are rich, fine, and pleasantly grippy. The 2019 Merlot can easily cellar to 2023 – it will continue to evolve and only get better, but if pouring tonight, decant it for one hour prior to pairing this vegan-friendly Merlot with mushroom or gourmet burgers from the grill.
Produced from organically and biodynamically grown grapes from Esther Vineyard (Kaleden, BC) and Sehkon Family Vineyard (Osoyoos, BC) with each portion fermented separately and naturally in 10,000 litre oak foudres. The wine was aged for over one year in neutral oak barrels and finished in the winery’s precision Pyramid Cellar. Tasted May 2021. 13.3% abv / $30
Tightrope Pinot Gris 2020: A refined, elegant and beautifully balanced Pinot Gris! Dry, medium-bodied with a lovely mouth filling weight showing purity of fruit and well-defined fresh-cut pear pineapple, guava, citrus peel and replays of red apple, ginger and nutmeg spice. I think 2020 was an excellent year for PG on the Naramata Bench since all the wines I have tasted to date from there show exceptional quality and balance. Chill and enjoy on its own or pour with a salad of fresh greens.
Grapes for the 2020 Pinot Gris were sourced entirely from the Naramata Bench, from the winery’s Fleet Road Vineyard, as well as vineyards owned by the Madsen, Riccio, Rubis and Flaherty Families. Tasted May 2021. 12.9% abv / $22
Township 7 Cabernet Sauvignon Provenance Series 2018: Township 7 Provenance Series 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon is so smooth and so approachable now. Inviting and subtle on the nose with aromas of ripe blackberry jam, cedar spice and smoky vanilla, on the palate the wine is dry, medium-plus-bodied with ripe dark fruit, savoury spice, earthy mushroom, fine herbs balanced with food friendly acidity (medium). Tannins are plushy with a lingering harmonious finish. In fact, the wine is so velvety, we poured it on its own and paired it with a sunset.
The Cab Sauvignon grapes for this vintage were sourced from the Raju Vineyard in the hot Osoyoos wine region with a dollop of Merlot (11%) sourced from the winery’s Blue Terrace Vineyard in Oliver to round the Cab out. The blended wine was aged for 18 months in French and American oak barriques. Tasted May 2021. 13.9% abv / $30
Upper Bench Pinot Blanc 2020: Upper Bench’s 2020 Pinot Blanc is brilliantly mouth-watering and creamy all at the same time. You don’t know which way your palate is going. On the nose, the wine is fragrant with honeysuckle, lemon curd, grassy and mild spicy aromas. On the palate, the wine is dry, medium-bodied with medium-plus-acidity, mouth-filling with creamy pineapple, peach, lemon zest, pepper spice and a lingering earthy finish. There is a small amount of Muscat (4%) added to the wine that was grown in the winemaker’s Naramata vineyard. A really juicy, food-friendly Pinot Blanc which we chilled and poured with pasta Primavera. Tasted April 2021. 13.5% abv / $22