Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A truly delightful Okanagan wine tasting experience!

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, we were in a hurry to get to our scheduled tasting at a winery I had virtually never heard of: Culmina (pronounced CUL-min-a, not Cul-MEE-na) Family Estate Winery. This wasn't on our radar when originally planning our trip, but after I had sent out a tweet to a few wineries that we planned on visiting, Black Hills responded that we HAD to also check out Culmina; so I pulled their website up and made an appointment.

Owned by Don Triggs (yes, THAT Triggs) and family, Culmina came to be a few years ago when Don "tried to retire" but wasn't all that successful at retirement. On a side note, I can GUARANTEE I will be successful when I try to retire....I'm just sayin'.

We pulled up to the gate, which was closed; we needed to buzz them to let us in (which we knew in advance). We arrived at their beautiful tasting room to find their wines already poured, just waiting for us. We were warmly greeted by our hostess Trish, who immediately made us feel like family. It was a private tasting, scheduled for 45 minutes, which I thought was going to be too much time given that we were actually only tasting four wines; boy was I wrong.

Trish, who I have decided is my new winery crush (if there is anything sexier than a beautiful young woman who seriously knows her s**t when it comes to wine, I don't know what it is), started by explaining their vision for the winery, and how they plan to go about achieving perfection in their wines. Now, if you know anything about wine you've heard the word "terroir" and probably understand a little bit about what it means; but Trish went into far more detail than simply explaining the terroir of the area. From the shadows created by the mountains to the type of grass planted between the vines, and everything in between, absolutely no detail, no matter how minute, was overlooked. I'm not a winemaker and I don't know much about horticulture, but it's tough to imagine they missed anything.

They currently have five wines in their portfolio, but their Chardonnay was so close to being sold out that we were not going to be able to taste it. The fee for this private tasting was a whopping $10. I actually told Trish they should charge more for this (but to wait until we left to raise the price of course).

So up to this point, we were very impressed, but it was time to taste the wine; ultimately, if the wine isn't any good, the rest of it wouldn't be much but smoke and mirrors. Sorry I didn't include the prices below, I forgot to make note of them; there was nothing out of the ordinary, though.

2013 Unicus

This is a first; the Okanagan's only (to this point) wine made from Gruner Veltliner, Austria's most famous grape. I had never tasted this varietal until a few weeks ago in Vegas, so it was interesting to compare.

This one begins with strong flinty notes, with a floral touch on the nose. Beautiful mid-palate gives way to light minerality with stone fruits and a light citrus finish. Absolutely lovely. 90.

2013 Decora

Not unlike the Unicus, minerality abounds on the nose as this varietal often does. The palate gives way to some peach and a hint of citrus. There is some minerality on the finish, but not as overpowering as this varietal often shows. This is about as good as a BC Riesling gets. 90.

2013 Saignée

This rosé features aromas of orange peel and strawberries. A blend of Merlot (51%), Cabernet Franc (33%), Cabernet Sauvignon (16%). Intense berry flavors, but bone dry, and I mean BONE dry. If you are a fan of dry rosés this may really knock your socks off. 85.

The suggested food pairing for the one above features one that caught my eye: "Portuguese-style suckling pig grilled and charred fava bean salad". Damn, I had that three times last week......

2011 Hypothesis

40% Cab Franc, 36% Merlot, 24% Cab Sauv, 100% delicious. The nose knows, and it knows that the beautiful floral, mint and dark fruit aromas are a sign of what's to come. Tannins are velvety, with notes of toasted oak, dark chocolate, and black currant. Finish is long and luscious. I would imagine this would only improve with 3-5 more years of careful cellaring. 92.

After we finished the tasting, I looked down at my watch to see we had been there well over an hour. We asked a lot of questions and got a lot of interesting information. A very special tasting, and perhaps a preview of the kind of experience we are going to get at some of the better wineries we will be visiting on our Napa Valley trip in September.

We picked up a bottle of all of the whites, including the Chardonnay that we didn't get to taste; the other whites were so good, we just assumed this one would be good too. We opened it up last night, and we were correct.

2011 Dilemma

Full bodied, elegant; some minerality mixing in with the fruit and spice on the nose. Oaked for 12 months in mostly new French barrels, the palate will not be overwhelmed with oak but the buttery, caramel flavors are there if you let them develop on your palate. Beautiful, long finish. 88.

This was our very favorite tasting of the trip, with the exception of Black Hills (which featured a tasting, a brunch, and a party). Trish did everything she could to make us feel at home, and make us feel valued. She succeeded, and Culmina is lucky to have her represent their brand. And it's a pretty damn good brand to represent.

This should be a "must do" for any of you who are planning to visit Oliver/Osoyoos.

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