Friday, July 13, 2018

Okanagan Trip, Part VIII, a surprise visit to Culmina Family Estate Winery!

When I say "surprise", it was truly a surprise, as we didn't think they were open for another week or so (remember, I am wayyyyyy behind in this trip report, this trip was in April!!). We come here often, but generally have an appointment booked, so we were pleased to see they were open and we took a little detour after leaving Checkmate. Our friends had never been here.

Just three wines to report on that we had not previously tasted, and a couple bonus bottles that we have since purchased and enjoyed.

Culmina Family Estate Winery 2015 Dilemma ($34.00)

Fruit comes entirely from new Chardonnay vines planted on Margaret's Bench in 2011. Aromas of minerals, coconut, baked apple and pear. Beautiful palate of brioche and buttered toast, finishing long with a touch of caramel. If you can't wait, you are going to enjoy this already; but give it 2-3 more years and you are going to have something really special.

Culmina Family Estate Winery 2014 Merlot ($35.00)

The nose is on the lighter side, subtle notes of black fruit and violets, with just a touch of baking spice lingering. Very dry, with flavors of black cherry, dark chocolate, toasted oak and blackberry. This is a beast, and you would do well to pair is with a big, fat piece of red meat. My mouth is watering at the thought of it.
Culmina Family Estate Winery 2013 Hypothesis ($46.00)

38% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Franc, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon

Aged for 16 months in French Oak, 60% new and 40% 1-year old. Aromas of blackberry, violets, cassis, cedar and a hint of mint. Cassis and black plum flavors come right up front, joined on the mid-palate by other black fruit, cedar and a touch of vanilla. This has the structure to age for years - no, decades - and improvement is a certainty.

That was everything we tasted at the winery, but since then we have also enjoyed these two beauties:

Culmina Family Estate Winery 2017 Saignée ($24.00)

Bleeding off a bit of juice from each of the best Bordeaux varietal lots (Saignée translates literally to "to bleed"), this method traditionally produces a bigger, fuller, and darker wine. Not necessarily here, as the colour tends to look more like a traditional Provence than something from, say, Chinon, a region known for their Saignée wines. Subtle notes of red raspberry, strawberry, sage and minerality on the nose and palate. Beautifully done.
Culmina Family Estate Winery 2017 Unicus ($27.00)

The Okanagan's first, and IMO best, Gruner Veltliner. Aromas of citrus, pear, minerals, herbs and stone fruit. The palate is juicy and fabulous, flavors of white grapefruit, white peach, nectarine and white pepper abounding. There is nothing quite like it coming out of the Okanagan. Intense yet flirty, elegant yet demanding, this is special every year and the 2017, while perhaps not quite achieving the brilliance of the 2015, is something to behold.

Next up: Another perennial favorite, as we head for a seated tasting at Black Hills!!

Check and Mate, as Part VII of our Okanagan Tour kicks it up a notch or three.

Anthony Von Mandl.

A lot of you will know him as the proprietor of the Mark Anthony Group (fun fact: he made up that name; nobody named Mark Anthony actually ever worked in the industry), which features Mission Hill Winery, arguably the biggest player in the BC wine business. If you've been paying attention, he has been throwing money around the way many of us might throw laundry into the washing machine.

Martin's Lane
Adelsheim (Oregon)
Antinori (Italy)

And oh, so many more.

One of their latest ventures is Checkmate Artisanal Winery, an unapologetically expensive, high-end purveyor of Chardonnay and Merlot. As their main tasting facility is being constructed, they have opened up a beautiful little "pop-up" tasting room with a spectacular view of the valley.

Mr. Boozy and the Author with a beautiful view in the background
So, after breakfast, Boozy and her Crew (Oh! Another nickname is born!!!!), hopped into the car and headed up to Checkmate for a tasting of all of their new offerings. All of the wines are names after Chess moves or situations, and every single one of these is going to improve with proper aging. I have a few of them in the cellar and am excited to report on their progress in the years to come.
Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2014 Capture Chardonnay ($90.00)
Aged 16 months in French Oak (49% new). 100% Wild fermentation. Pleasing aromas of citrus, baking spice and white flowers. Creamy stone fruit, lemon, lime and hints of oak on the palate.

Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2014 Queen Taken Chardonnay ($125.00)
Aged 16 months in French Oak (49% new). 88% Wild fermentation. Nose is slightly closed at first, but after about 10 minutes in the glass it explodes into aromas of lemon peel, white peach and toasty oak. Your mid-palate is assaulted with creamy flavors of stone fruit, wet stone and white flowers. Finishes long and luscious. This is just delicious already.

Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2014 Little Pawn Chardonnay ($110.00)
Aged 16 months in 100% French Oak (53% new). 50% Wild ferment. Perfume, rosewater and nutmeg leap from the glass. Flavors of creamy peach, oak, citrus and brioche. Finish is long and spectacular. This is already a top-notch Chardonnay; give it 3-4 more years and it may be legendary.
Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2014 Knight's Challenge Chardonnay ($85.00)
Aged 17 months in 100% French Oak (45% new). 100% Wild ferment. Intense herbaceous notes, fresh fruit salad, brioche and creme bruleé on the nose. Stone fruit dominates the palate, but what is that at the end? Is it possible that is just a flutter of a nutty Edam cheese? I think it might be......
Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2014 Fool's Mate Chardonnay ($80.00)

Aged 16 months in 85% French Oak (42% new) and 15% Concrete Egg. 67% Wild ferment. Sweet lime sorbet, butterscotch, almonds, graphite and honeydew melon on the nose. Stone fruits meet the palate up front, which finishes with  beautiful salted caramel.
Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2014 Attack Chardonnay ($115.00)

Aged 16 months in Foudre (50% new, 50% used once). Aromas of white flowers, flint, Chinese 5 spice powder and hints of tropical fruit. In some ways similar to the above, with stone fruit flavors and a salted caramel finish, but the finish lingers a bit longer and you might notice a tinge of ginger and lychee showing up. Tasty.
Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2013 End Game Merlot ($85.00)

Aged 21 months in new French Oak. Aromas of vanilla, tobacco, black fruit and toasty oak. Black fruit, vanilla and herbaceous flavors compliment grippy tannins and a long, luscious finish.

Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2013 Silent Bishop Merlot ($85.00)

Aged 21 months in new French Oak. Violets, oak, cherry and a touch of spice on the nose. Red fruit, vanilla, chocolate and a hint of spice on the palate. Very long finish. My least favorite of the Merlots and it is still really special.

Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2013 Opening Gambit Merlot ($85.00)

Aged 21 months in new French Oak. Black cherry, blackberry and black currant on the nose. The palate has a creaminess, almost an unctuous quality. Black fruit with just a touch of black pepper showing up at the end. This is already a tour de force, and there is no telling just what heights it will reach after some proper aging. Magnificent.
Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2013 Black Rook Merlot ($85.00)

Roses dominate the aromas, but give it a minute and some raspberry, blackberry and loganberry all show up. Black fruits dominate the palate. Tannins are savoury and very firm; there is almost a chalky quality as it coats the mouth. This one may have the most potential to age in the very long term- it needs a decade from vintage date to settle down and come together - but you will be rewarded handsomely if you have the cellar and the patience. I am putting mine away for a few years.

Checkmate recently started up a wine club, which we joined (because we really needed more wine clubs), and got our first shipment the other day. I cannot tell you how much pride they take in their packaging. It is just one more example of the first class image they are striving to maintain.

All the wine is shipped temperature controlled by ATS Healthcare, so it is well taken care of during it's trip to your door. Fantastic!

That's it for today, next up is an unscheduled visit to their next door neighbor, Culmina Family Winery!!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Okanagan Trip Part VI, and it's time to meet Boozy The Clown!!!

As we leave Cassini after our terrific tasting and blending trials, we head up to Tinhorn Creek to meet the lovely Shelann, their Wine Club coordinator who always takes excellent care of us. Today would be no exception, as our private tasting would take place in the barrel room! If you've never been to a barrel room, try to arrange it; it is quite a treat. The aromas.......oh man......incredible.

To the wine!

Tinhorn Creek 2017 Oldfield Reserve Rosé ($21.99)
100% Cabernet Franc

One of the most pleasing rosés out there; with arresting aromas of apricot, strawberry, raspberry and cranberry. As is common with Cabernet Franc rosés, watermelon flavors are present, but here they are just as an accent rather than overwhelming. Strawberry and red cherry flavors are prevalent with just a hint of orange and spice. Delicious.

Tinhorn Creek Innovation Series 2016 White Pinot Noir ($35.00)

White Pinot Noir? When did this become a "thing"? Well, it seems as if lots of wineries are doing this now, so I was excited to try one for the first time. White flowers, peach and nectarine on the nose. The stone fruit continue through to the palate, joined by just a touch of apple and vanilla. Interesting.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve 2016 Golden Mile Chardonnay ($34.99)
Seductive aromasand flavors of hazelnut, caramel, baked apple and pear. The palate is creamy and luscious but it is not quite there yet; if you have this and can give it 3-5 more years of careful cellaring, you will be royally rewarded. If not, it's already good, but try decanting it for a couple hours.

Tinhorn Creek 2015 Oldfield Series Cabernet Franc ($31.99)
Rich black cherry, cola, vanilla and red berries on the nose. A touch of mint. Blackberry, plum, red currant, dark chocolate and a touch of pepper on the palate. Another one that might improve mightily if you can give it some time, but it's already very nice.

Up next, Shelann treated us to a barrel sample of their flagship wine, 2016 The Creek. This won't be released for a while, and it needs a lot of time to get there, but the potential is already showing. This is going to be delicious.

That was it for our tasting, and now it was time for a lovely dinner at Miradoro. Well, at least that was the plan. Unfortunately the day of wine tasting got to our dear friend, who was not in any shape to make it through dinner (spending more time in the bathroom than at the table). Her husband dubbed her "Boozy the Clown", a nickname that I think is going to live in infamy!

So, no dinner for us on this night, and it was time to head home and get some sleep to start another big day tomorrow. Our day was scheduled to start with a big one, our first visit to Checkmate Artisanal Winery!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Okanagan Trip Part V, Cassini Cellars, and the first steps towards introducing a new character to our little story......

I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is something I can't explain about Cassini's tasting room. Walking through the door feels a bit like walking into a church of wine.

The staff here is always universally excellent, and this time we walked in to find Owner/Winemaker Adrian Cassini behind the counter. He recognized me as we had talked and tasted wine together at the Vancouver International Wine Festival in February, and did we ever take good care of us and give us an excellent experience. More on that later. Now, to the wines!

Cassini Cellars 2014 Chardonnay Reserve ($40)

Beautiful aromas of hazelnut, stone fruit, red apple and white flowers. Big and bold and moderately buttery, with nutty flavors that are just right. A hint of vanilla and baking spice show up at the end. Very nice.

Cassini Cellars 2014 Quattro White Blend ($20)
Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Riesling

Stone fruit, tropical fruit and nutty aromas in this aromatic blend. Red apple, Meyer lemon zest, pear and a touch of spice on the palate. Fresh, lovely finish. A steal at this price; my only complaint is that I only bought one and drank it already.

Cassini Cellars 2015 Mamma Mia ($20)
100% Pinot Gris

Intense floral aromas, joining tropical fruit and lemon notes on the nose. Pear, pineapple and stone fruit dominate the palate. Slightly off-dry with a beautiful lingering finish. Another tremendous value for the money.

Cassini Cellars 2014 Quattro ($29)

Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot

Red raspberry, black pepper, vanilla and lavender on the nose. Full-bodied with silky smooth tannins, flavors include blackberry, raspberry, dark chocolate and vanilla. Lovely finish. 

Cassini Cellars 2014 Cabernet Franc ($40)
Lovely single vineyard wine features 5% Merlot.

Black cherry, black currant, blackberry, vanilla and cedar notes on the nose. Blackberry, cocoa and blueberry flavors frame the smooth, silky tannins. Delicious and with some careful cellaring, should improve to even greater heights. Pair this with a big, juicy steak or even pasta with bolognese sauce.

Cassini Cellars 2014 Nobilus ($40)
100% Merlot

Aromas of blackberry, black cherry, vanilla, cedar and tobacco. Intense and pretty at the same time. Bright, juicy acidity and silky smooth tannins. Blackberry, raspberry, dark chocolate, baking spice on the palate. Finishes beautifully. This is only going to get better if you have the cellar, and the patience. 

At about this point in our tasting, we get talking to Adrian about blending, and how the winemaker's decide on the percentages, etc etc. So....he shows us.

Pours a big glass of Merlot. Pours a big glass of Cabernet Franc. Pours them both into another glass, about 50/50. Then he pours us huge glasses of the result....then does it all over again at slightly different percentages. And again, and again. Fascinating.

By this point, however, the amount of wine we were consuming was starting to get to everyone (not me, so much, as I was spitting as much as I could to try to maintain the integrity of my reviews!), and it was at this point that we realized we may be adding a new character to our little drama. More on that more wine to taste!

Cassini Cellars 2014 Maximus ($40)
56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec

Black licorice, blackberry, blueberry jam, tobacco, cocoa and vanilla on the nose. Complex and elegant, flavors of blackberry, blueberry, cigar box, vanilla and dark chocolate. Finishes very long. Begging for a beautiful Filet Mignon to accompany it.

That was it for our lovely tasting at Cassini. Always a must-do every time we are in the area. Next up: a private tasting at Tinhorn Creek, and the first appearance of our new character: Boozy the Clown!!!!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Okanagan Trip, Part IV, our second visit to CC Jentsch!

Once again I must apologize for the ridiculously infrequent blog posts; anyone who has done home renos will understand. It seems to take up every "free" second of my time, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have guys coming on Monday to change our flooring and once that is done, we can pretty much put "Phase A" of the renos to rest. "Phase B" can wait a little while, we need some time to relax and enjoy the renos before doing anything else. And I need time to catch up on about a million blog posts that are taking up space in my head!

Anyway, back to the Okanagan trip from April (and we are just one week away from our next trip up to this area for the annual Nota Bene Release Party), our second visit to CC Jentsch Cellars. Here we go!

CC Jentsch Cellars 2016 The Quest ($17.90)
74% Chardonnay, 20% Viognier, and 6% Gewurztraminer.

The Gewurztraminer really shines on the nose, bringing white flowers and lychee, with a small amount of pear and peach lurking behind. Bright, vibrant acidity accompanied by flavors of grapefruit, pear, stone fruit and lime zest.

CC Jentsch Cellars 2015 Viognier ($22.90)
Brilliant nose of elderflower, melon, honeysuckle and kiwi. The palate shines with almost creamy citrus flavors, joined by stone fruit. Lovely finish. This borders on brilliance.

CC Jentsch Cellars 2016 Cabernet Merlot ($15.90)

Arresting aromas of ripe red strawberries, raspberries, bell pepper and vanilla. Smooth but young and will improve, and for the price this should be your everyday patio sipping red. Lots of red fruit on the palate with hints of vanilla, blackberry and spice. Nice.

CC Jentsch Cellars 2014 The Chase ($19.90)
Cabernet Franc 34%, Merlot 34%, Cabernet Sauvignon 28%, Malbec 2%, Petit Verdot 2%

Another one that really over-delivers for the money. Red raspberry, blackberry, cherry, chocolate and black currant on the nose. Flavors of plum and raspberry dominate, with just a hint of vanilla and spice on the finish. Lovely.

CC Jentsch Cellars 2015 Syrah ($31.90)
Intense notes of toffee, black pepper, clove and dark, dark chocolate on the nose. The black pepper finds your palate in perfect balance. Red cherry and blackberry flavors join the palate party. Velvety tannins and a very long finish. Absolutely delicious.

CC Jentsch Cellars 2015 Small Lots Merlot ($35.90)

Aromas of mocha, red cherry, vanilla and milk chocolate. Smooth tannins and well balanced, flavors include red raspberry, vanilla and coffee. Another winner.

Another lovely experience here, well trained and enthusiastic staff and the wines are universally well made. A must do for any trip through the area.

Next up: Another visit to one of our favorites, Cassini Cellars!!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Okanagan Trip, Part 3, a repeat visit to Maverick Estate Winery!

We get to Osoyoos and we had a little time before our first appointment of the day, time enough to hit 1 or 2 wineries, and the first one we came across that was open was Maverick. We have been here 3-4 times now, but our friends were pretty unfamiliar with them so this was a great opportunity to present them with an "up-and-comer". Maverick has been open 3-4 years now I would guess, and the wines are always of quality.

Maverick Estate Winery 2016 Pinot Gris ($16.00)
Red apple and pear aromas dominate the nose. Fruit salad in the glass on the palate; guava, tropical fruit and pear flavors. A nice bargain.

Maverick Estate Winery 2016 Chardonnay ($26.50)
This is what I dislike about today's Chardonnay; little oak (6 months new oak), no maloactic fermentation, so little to no rich, buttery characteristics. But you know what? It's delicious. Just goes to show how good this style of Chardonnay can be when it is done right. Aromas of stone fruit, orange blossom, citrus and toasted almonds. Citrus, almond, macadamia nut and just the slightest tinge of hazelnut on the finish. Very nice.

Maverick Estate Winery 2014 Pinot Noir ($29.00)
Aromas of raspberry, black plum and white pepper. Light flavors of blackberry, raspberry and red cherry. Needs time to round itself out but there is potential here.

Maverick Estate Winery 2015 Rubeus ($25.00)
50% Syrah, 35% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc

That only adds to 99, maybe the other 1% is a mystery :). Cranberry, dried fruit, anise and tobacco on the nose. The palate is light and elegant, and the tannins are strong. Herbaceous notes, with black pepper on the finish. Another one that is not yet ready for greatness.

Maverick Estate Winery 2014 Fia ($30.00)

Dried fruit, licorice, dark chocolate and white pepper aromas surround your senses. The palate is rich and decadent and almost hedonistic. Flavors are all about red berries and dark chocolate. As always, this one steals the show.

As expected, not a bad wine in the bunch and that Port-style wine is a real star.

Next up: Our second visit to CC Jentsch!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

You had me at "Vanessa"..........

Eagle-eyed readers may remember that we visited here last year, but we were impressed enough that we wanted to make sure our friends got to taste their wines. Not to mention we expected that they'd have some new stuff, and we were right.

A reminder on last year's trip is posted here.

On to the new stuff! They had five wines for us to taste this trip two of which (2014 Merlot and 2014 Right Bank) were reported on last year. My opinion and rating of those wines did not change.

Vanessa Vineyards 2017 Rosé ($24.99)
Red berries all day on the nose. Strawberry, raspberry, a hint of cranberry; beautiful. The palate is ripe, juicy strawberries, even a touch jammy, with a touch of mint and spice on the finish. This blend of Merlot and Syrah is a winner.

Vanessa Vineyards 2014 Syrah ($34.99)
It's not unusual to have a dollop of Viognier in Syrah; but this is a whopping 10% Viognier, which is high. Aromas of blackberry, black pepper, dark flowers, earth and mocha. Flavors of blackberry envelop the palate immediately, and are quickly joined by black plum, cocoa, exotic spices, vanilla and a touch of pepper. The finish is very long and there is still a lot of grip here, suggesting this one will likely even get better with some careful cellaring. If you can't wait, give it a good, long decant. Or just open it and drink it for goodness sake, it's already terrific.

Vanessa Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc ($39.99)
I believe this is their first foray into Cab Franc, and it's a winning first effort. Sweet red cherries leap from the glass, shortly thereafter joined by pleasing aromas of blackberry, sage, plum and coffee. The palate is rich, round and juicy, with wild blueberries, stewed prunes, blackberry and vanilla all taking their turn to tantalize your taste buds. Long and lovely finish. Another one that might just get better with some more nap time.

Our second experience at this tasting room was just as good as our first, and my wife loved everything so much she insisted we join their wine club. And we reallllllllly needed another wine club. Oh well, we'll just have to drink more wine!

Next up: We head to Osoyoos and Oliver and make our first stop at Maverick Estate Winery!