Friday, July 31, 2015

Okanagan Trip, Part 12! Open The Hatch and let the wine flow into it!!!

Today's entry comes from a brand new winery.....and I mean BRAND NEW....upon our visit they had been open less than a month!

Instead of spending millions on a new state-of-the-art tasting room, they put the money into the wine, and has it ever paid off so far.

Not that the tasting room isn't's rustic, charming, homey....almost like tasting wine in a log cabin.

We were warmly greeted by a trio of young men (VERY young), the proprietors of this new, fun winery. Fun is the key word; they are going for good wines with fun names at reasonable prices, at least at the outset; they confided that they are going to be producing some higher-end wines on a separate label in the future.

The Hatch 2013 B Yanco ($13.99)

2/3 Pinot Blanc and 1/3 Viognier. Aromatic and floral, with hints of the tropics and just the right amount of acidity. At that price, it's simply a steal. 87.

The Hatch 2014 Hobo Series Semillon ($21.99)

Lemon, lime and pear on the nose and the palate. Unoaked, delicate and very balanced. 86.

The Hatch 2013 Screaming Frenzy Chardonnay ($17.99)

Lightly oaked with hints of lemon, hazelnut and butterscotch. Lemon, tropical fruit and just a touch of buttery goodness on the palate. Shows lots of potential. 87.

Well imagine our surprise, they happened to have an example of their "higher end" label to taste!

Black Swift Vineyard 2013 "The Long Road" Chardonnay ($40.00)

Single vineyard varietal from an East facing vineyard near Summerland. As above, lots of potential here and a solid first effort. Lemon curd, tropical fruit and butterscotch on the nose and palate. More full-bodied and buttery than it's little cousin above. One to watch. 89.

The Hatch 2013 Hobo Series Gamay ($21.99)

Cherry, strawberry and rhubarb on the nose. Red fruits carry through to the palate with just a hint of toasty oak and spice. 85.

The Hatch 2013 Screaming Frenzy Pinot Noir ($21.99)

Stunning for a first effort. Black cherry, plum, chocolate and vanilla on the nose and palate. Some light hints of spice on the long, luscious finish. An absolute "must-try" for your next Okanagan trip. 93.

The Hatch 2012 Bird's Eye View Pinot Noir ($26.99)

Cherries dominate the nose and palate. As above, a touch of spice on the finish. Smokier than the above and finishes just as long. I actually
preferred the cheaper of the two, but this is also fabulous. 89.

The Hatch 2012 Screaming Frenzy Meritage ($22.99)

60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Notes of blackberry, black currant and a touch of mint on the nose. The berries continue through to the palate with a bit of vanilla and chocolate. You will not find a better Meritage in BC at this price. If you do, tell me where!!! 90.

A terrific experience and a new "must do" for all of our Kelowna trips. Given that these are the first wines released by this winery, they stand to be one of the top wineries in the Okanagan in the near future. Fabulous!!

Next up, the last stop in our Kelowna trip, next door to Quails' Gate and our postponed dinner!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Okanagan Trip, Part Eleven.....Those Hills are on fire!!!!!

Of course they are on fire, they were built on a volcano!

This was our second trip to Volcanic Hills. My memories of the first visit were positive; I recall it being a pleasant tasting experience, with a large selection of tasty and well-priced wine. I remember that we bought a Merlot, aged it for about a year and a half, and enjoyed it sometime in the last 6-7 months.

What would our second visit be like?

Well, it was a pleasant tasting experience, with a large selection of tasty and well-priced wine. If it seems like I just copied and pasted that line from the above paragraph, it's because I did! This is another winery, like Mt. Boucherie, that probably doesn't get the respect it deserves for delivering quality wine at reasonable prices (listed below are including taxes).

Volcanic Hills 2012 Magma White ($16.00)

An aromatic blend of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Viognier and Riesling. Layers of pineapple, slate, peaches and other tropical fruits. A touch of spice and minerality on the palate. Lovely as a summer patio sipper or to pair with white fish or poultry. Drinking well now. 87.

Volcanic Hills 2012 Reserve Chardonnay ($25.00)

Notes of citrus, light oak, and vanilla on the nose. The palate might notice that the citrus shines through here, with a touch of pineapple. Another Chardonnay that is trending away from the big, bold, buttery Chards that we love; but it's still very tasty. 88.

Volcanic Hills 2013 Gewurztraminer ($18.00)

Slightly floral nose, also featuring the traditional citrus, spice and lychee. Citrus and peaches on the palate, slightly off-dry. 88.

Volcanic Hills 2013 Single Vineyard Gewurztraminer ($21.00)

Pale straw in colour with a less prominent nose than it's above cousin. Peaches, apples and a hint of ginger on the palate. Ever-so-slightly sweeter than the above. 88.

Volcanic Hills 2013 Gamay Noir ($15.00)

Red fruits, cinnamon and notes of earthiness on the nose. Cherry and raspberry on the palate. Very light-bodied. Finishes with a touch of pepper. 87.

Volcanic Hills 2012 Magma Red ($17.00)

Here's a unique blend; and before anyone jumps on me for using the word "unique" as a substitute for "rare", I mean unique. I can't prove it, but I challenge anyone to find another wine with 32% Zweigelt, 31% Pinot Noir, 22% Gamay, 10% Foch and 5% Merlot.
Lots of fruit on the nose with a touch of spice. Cherries and black plums on the palate. If you like strange blends, this might be for you. 86.

Volcanic Hills 2012 Pinot Noir ($20.00)

Cherry, raspberry and plum on the nose and palate. A touch of vanilla joins the party. Finishes quite long. A real bargain Pinot at this price point. 88.

Volcanic Hills 2012 Merlot ($25.00)

Cherries and blueberries on the nose. The palate is rich and luscious, with some vanilla and chocolate mingling with the fruit. Finishes long. Tannins are still a bit firm, so we did the same thing we did during our last visit here; purchased one of these for aging, and I suspect it will reach greater heights than it has already achieved with a bit of nappy time in the bottle. 88-91.

Volcanic Hills 2011 Chardonnay Icewine ($30.00)

Honey, apricot and caramel on the nose and palate. Finishes with just a touch of tartness, like a hint of lemon meringue pie. 90.

Volcanic Hills 2013 Late Harvest Zweigelt ($20.00)

Strawberries, peaches and slight notes of raisins on the nose and the palate. Some nectarines on the palate as well. Perfect for those of you who enjoy a dessert wine but don't want the sweetness of your average icewine. 88.

Volcanic Hills 2012 Zweigelt Icewine ($46.10)

Peaches and raisins on the nose, Figs and strawberries join in on the palate which is dominated by the flavors of raisins. If you love raisins, you will love this. 87.

Volcanic Hills 2013 Riesling Icewine ($37.00)

I can't find anything about this wine on the website, so maybe I dreamed this tasting. No, I remember one thing about it: lemon. Strong notes of lemon and a touch of orange peel on the palate as well. Usually Riesling is my favorite of any multi-dessert wine tasting, but this time it was not. 86.

Volcanic Hills 2009 Pinot Noir Icewine ($45.00)

Some raisins, apricots, caramel and butterscotch on the nose. Flavors of caramel, brown sugar and dried strawberries. Rich and luscious and terrific. 90.

A very enjoyable experience, with friendly and efficient customer service. Volcanic Hills features a HUGE tasting room, with tons of interesting books and trinkets to look at. I definitely recommend you don't miss this one on your next trip to Kelowna.

We left with just the Merlot, but honestly probably would have bought more if we weren't already experiencing a significant crunch for bottle space in the car!

Next up: A brand new winery, open for about three weeks when we visited, called The Hatch! You don't want to miss this one!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Okanagan Trip, Part Ten! Up the hill we go to Tantalus! And a Gretzky!

After our wonderful and long tasting at Summerhill, it was perfect to head up to Tantalus to taste what they have to offer....they have good stuff, and not that much of it, so we knew this tasting would be quite a bit shorter than the last one.

Prices are pre-tax.

Tantalus 2014 Rose ($19.04)

A blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this pink-hued blush brings notes of strawberries, and raspberries  on the nose. The berries follow through on the palate, with some hints of pink grapefruit. Very dry. 87.

Tantalus 2014 Riesling ($19.91)

Some wild floral notes on the nose, along with the sharp citrus and orange traditional with a Riesling from Tantalus. Red and green apples on the palate, with some pineapple thrown in the mix. Ages beautifully, we picked up one of these to put away for around a decade. 90.

Tantalus 2014 Riesling Lab ($16.43)

Lemon, pineapple and apples open up on the nose. Pears, melons and grapefruit on the palate with bright acidity and minerality. A real bargain at this price. 88.

Tantalus 2012 Chardonnay ($26.00)

Light and fruity, very light notes of oak. Lemon and nutmeg on the nose and palate. Medium bodied with hints of nectarine on the palate as well. Another Chardonnay that rejects the big, bold, buttery Chardonnay that used to dominate. 86.

Tantalus 2013 Juveniles Pinot Noir ($21.65)

Made from a single vineyard of newer plantings (hence the "Juveniles"). Violet notes with a tad of chocolate and cinnamon on the nose. Red fruits mingle on the palate alone with a touch of mocha. 87.

Tantalus 2012 Pinot Noir ($26.00)

Raspberries and violets dominate the nose. Just a hint of earthiness. Plum, vanilla and chocolate notes on the palate. 87.

Tantalus 2014 Riesling Icewine ($65.13)

Oh boy. OH. BOY.

Some of the juiciest notes of pineapple on the nose and palate. Apples and caramel on the nose as well, and hints of honey, peach and lime join the pineapple on the palate. Very long and bright finish. Simply extraordinary. 99.

This was my favorite Icewine ever from a winery that makes fabulous icewine; in fact I think I have a 2012 in my cellar. We bought one of the 2014 and the only negative thing I can say about it is that we already drank it! It certainly earned the "Gretzky".

Tantalus 2014 Syrah Icewine ($65.13)

What do you do when you can't get your Syrah plantings to ripen enough to make a quality table wine? Well, you make icewine, of course!

Berries, apples and even some roses on the nose. Raspberry, blackberry jam and ripe cherries on the palate. Also a very lovely icewine. 94.

Well if you read my last blog, you know I mentioned that Tantalus had the highest-rated wine from our trip, so now you know that this trip is going to end with no perfect 100-point wines... but keep reading, because there is still some great stuff to come!

Next up, we head back towards home base in Kelowna and a stop at Volcanic Hills!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Okanagan Trip, Part Nine! A terrific and lengthy tasting at Summerhill Pyramid Winery!!

We arrived at Summerhill Pyramid Winery not long after our great lunch at Cedarcreek, expecting what we had enjoyed here before: a nice tasting of 4-8 wines in a very, very busy tasting room. Busy it was, but did we ever get a better experience than we had expected.

Summerhill offers up to 4 wines to taste for a small fee. As usual, Tracey and I started to order 4 different wines each in order to double the amount of wine we got to taste. Not particularly inventive of us.

Very early into our tasting, however, our host Harry (our new winery BFF) somehow decided that we knew our wine, and that we would benefit from a more involved tasting, and from that point forward, all bets were off.

I can't say what it was that made him open up almost their entire portfolio to us; perhaps my book and note-taking gave me an air of wine competence that I don't really possess.....but either way, we weren't going to complain.

We tasted NINETEEN wines. That is not a typo. NINETEEN. This included the Tiferet, which was got to be the only Kosher wine in the Okanagan. Kosher wine! What does that mean? Hell if I know, I don't have any Jewish friends. On a side note, is it odd that I'm in my mid-forties and don't know a single Jewish person? I mean, it seems odd to me....of course, I'm not in show business.

My understanding is that to be classified as Kosher, the winemaker couldn't see the grapes or the wine....all he could do was to advise the Rabbis on what to do. Let me tell you, those Rabbis know what they are doing, I'm just sayin'.....but more on that later.

Summerhill prides themselves on providing organic wines, for those of you who are interested in that. Honestly, it means little to me.

Here we go:

Summerhill Cipes Brut NV ($26.95)

Apple, pair and grapefruit on the nose. Creamy notes of apples and toast on the palate. This wins awards every year, but it is just so crazy dry that it just isn't in my wheelhouse. 84.

Summerhill 2008 Blanc de Noirs ($34.90)

100% Pinot grapes in a white sparkling wine.

Hints of cranberries and strawberries on the nose and palate. Still very, very dry. Very long finish. 86.

Summerhill 1998 Cipes Ariel ($88.00)

So yeah, now we are talking. It can't be that I like this way more because the price more than doubled. Damn my caviar palate.

Notes of apple, pears, flint and just a touch of butter. It's still dry, but the mouth-feel is so different; softer, creamier, and delicious. I tasted this for the first time at the Vancouver International Wine Festival in 2014, and I believe it has improved even since that time. 93.

Summerhill 2013 Chardonnay ($29.90)

Light and fruity, more citrus than butter but just a slight note of oak. Probably a favorite of those of you who prefer fruit over oak in your Chardonnay. 86.

Summerhill 2014 Alive Organic White ($19.95)

Roses, peaches and lemons on the nose and palate. Lovely and versitile; try it with anything that goes with white wine. Slightly off-dry. 87.

Summerhill 2013 Ehrenfelser ($19.95)

This is the Ehrenfelser that got me into this varietal and is still my all-time favorite. Apple, orange blossom, honeysuckle on the nose. Pineapple, peach and other tropical fruits on the palate. Simply lovely. 89.

Summerhill 2013 Organic Riesling ($22.95)

Granny smith apple dominates the nose and palate. Hints of minerality. Dry and well-balanced. 87.

Summerhill 2013 Organic Gewurztraminer ($19.95)

Lychee, stone fruit and grapefruit on the nose. This wine features orange blossoms on the oily palate. Lots of complexity. 88.

Summerhill Jazz Blush NV ($24.95)

Yes, it comes in a trumpet. If you have a music lover on your wine buying list, tough to argue with this. Notes of strawberry, cherry and cranberry. Very dry. 85.

As much as we have enjoyed out tasting to this point, we were about to kick it up a notch or two. Or twelve.

Summerhill 2011 Pinot Noir ($26.95)

Forest floor, cherry and plum on the nose. Joined on the palate by some strawberry and cinnamon. 87.

Summerhill 2010 Syrah ($28.95)

Hints of blueberries, white pepper and leather on the nose. Pepper and red currants on the palate. Finishes well. Nice now but will increase with more bottle time. 86-88.

Summerhill 2011 Spadefoot Toad Syrah ($49.90)

Single-vineyard Syrah from Oliver. Hints of white pepper and cherry on the nose. The palate features flavors of black pepper, dark fruit and earth. Terrific now and the sky's the limit with some careful aging. 91-93.

A quick note on our last visit here. A lady excitedly rushes up to the tasting bar during our tasting, almost paint-brushing me out of the way, to order a case of their Baco Noir. I had never heard of this varietal, but I had to try it, right?

I have described it as the WORST WINE EVER. It was like licking an ashtray without the protein. Awful. It has been a few years, and our tasted have would this one work out?

Summerhill 2012 Baco Noir ($24.95)

Bold and smooth with notes of tobacco, and dark fruit on the nose. Chocolate and a bit of vanilla on the palate. Not something I need to pack the car with, but far from the "worst wine ever". 86.

That's not enough for you? OK let's kick it up another ten notches, into some really special stuff.

Summerhill 2010 Grasslands Organic Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah Robert Bateman Artist's Series ($88.00)

70% Cab Sauv and 30% Syrah.

From their website:

The art for this label is Long-Billed Curlew (2013) by Robert Bateman. This endangered species is in decline across North America. Largest of all sandpipers and with a bill that is 19 cm long, the Curlew is migratory and nests in the open dry grasslands typical of the ecosystems in which our vineyards are located.

Undoubtedly the label is gorgeous, but would the wine stand up? Hints of cherry and spice greet your nose. Silky smooth and full-bodied, with just a slight note of spice on the long finish. Absolutely fabulous now (but decant it first!!), but if you have the patience to carefully cellar it for a few years, you will be in for quite a treat, methinks. 91-94.

Summerhill 2010 Grasslands Organic Cabernet Franc Robert Bateman Artist's Series ($68.00)

Only 200 cases of this lovely Cabernet Franc produced. Black cherry, vanilla and a touch of spice on the nose and palate. Another big red that can only improve with aging. 88-91.

Drumroll please.........and while you wait for the drumroll to finish, enjoy this hilariously appropriate clip from YouTube:

"Now it's nearly 10:30
Time for bed
'Daily Show' reruns dancing in their heads
Maybe next year they'll learn how to hold their booze,
It's Christmas time for the Jews"

HAHAHAHAHAH. Oh c'mon, that's comedy gold. If any of you think that's offensive, keep in mind that was a clip from Saturday Night Live written by a bunch of Jews, so it's clearly not meant to offend anyone. It's just damn funny.

Summerhill 2012 Tiferet ($100)

$100 for a wine made by Rabbi Shmuly Hecht and Rabbi Levy Teitlebaum. I'm not making that up. Sounds great if you need a wine for Passover, but what about those of us who don't need it?

It's fabulous. The website advertises a nose of "baby's breath" and a palate of "mother's milk". Well I'm going to assume that neither of those are actually in here, the notes of vanilla, black cherry and mint come together to create something pretty damn special, no matter what your religion ( or lack thereof). It's a mitzvah. 92.

Yeah I know that "mitzvah" doesn't really fit there, but if you've seen "A Mighty Wind", you probably laughed. If not, and you are Jewish, I apologize.

What a fabulous exper.....what's that? We aren't done? THEY HAVE ICEWINE TOO????? Oy vey.

Summerhill 2013 Pinot Gris Icewine ($88.00)

Pears, butterscotch and honey mingle amongst your nose and palate. The honey crawls across your tongue like the girl you met last night trying to crawl out of your bedroom before doing the walk of shame. 93.

Summerhill 2011 Merlot Icewine ($188.00)

Strawberries, cherries and raisins entice your nose and tongue. A touch of plum and spice finish up. Very lovely and if you are into icewine, you need to taste this one. Having said that, at this price, I'd prefer it be incredible rather than just really good. 90.

What a fabulous tasting. If the worst thing I can say about 19 wines is that their 90-point icewine is a bit overpriced, I'd say you have a pretty damn good winery. The wine is so good, it's meshugah. We walked out having spent over $230, and with only three bottles of wine. Oy vey. OK  I said that already. Enough with the Jewish jokes, I get it.

Next up, another excellent winery, who focuses on a couple cooler-climate grapes (Riesling and Pinot Noir), Tantalus. Spoiler alert: The highest grade I gave to any wine this trip was from Tantalus. Stay tuned and see what it is!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Okanagan Tour, Part Eight! Day Two, off to Cedarcreek!

So after our planned dinner at Quails' Gate got postponed due to the power outage I mentioned in my last post, we headed off to the B&B we had booked for a couple of nights. This was the first time I had ever stayed at a B&B....always thought it would be odd to stay in a stranger's house, and have them cooking our breakfast. When we arrived we were asked to take off our shoes and put on flip flops to walk around the house (not that impressed by that) and we noticed that the owners of the house were an older Asian couple who didn't speak much English. Not a great first impression, honestly. Having said that, though, it turned out just fine. They couldn't have been nicer (they must have apologized 100 times for the fact that the power was out the first night, as if they could do anything about it), they spoke enough English that communication wasn't a problem, and the breakfast they prepared for us was plentiful and tasty. It was a perfectly pleasant experience, although I'm still not sure we'd do it again. I guess we'll see.

Anyway, by this time we already had halfway filled the coolers that we brought to keep the wine in. Given the incredibly hot temperatures, we couldn't leave wine in the car even for a few hours. It didn't take a genius to figure out we were going to have some problems fitting all the wine we were going to buy this trip into the coolers, so we were probably going to have to adjust our wine buying habits a bit. Yeah, right, not so easy.

So we get up, have breakfast and head over to the other side of the lake to Cedarcreek, for a private tasting and lunch. We were greeted by the lovely Eliana, the Manager of the wine shop, who would guide us through the tasting.

Being members of their Platinum Club meant we had already tasted quite a few of these wines previously. In the interest of brevity, I won't repeat the reviews, but here are the links:

Cedarcreek 2013 Gewurztraminer; Tasting Notes
Cedarcreek 2013 Platinum Block 3 Riesling: Tasting Notes
Cedarcreek 2014 Rose; Tasting Notes
Cedarcreek 2012 Platinum Desert Ridge Meritage Tasting Notes

Now on to the stuff I have not previously reviewed:

Cedarcreek 2013 Ehrenfelser ($16.49)

Hints of tropical fruits including pineapple and guava on the nose and palate. Dry with balanced acidity. 86.

Cedarcreek 2013 Platinum Block 5 Chardonnay ($26.09)

Lightly oaked. Fruity and delicious, with notes of baked apple, almonds and a touch of butter. 89.

Cedarcreek 2012 Pinot Noir ($21.69)

Lovely floral aromas with some strawberry and plum as well. Strawberry continues through to the palate, joined by some blueberry and vanilla on the finish. Excellent value at this price. 89.

Cedarcreek 2012 Merlot Cabernet ($17.39)

61% Merlot
25% Cab. Sauv.
8% Cab. Franc
6% Malbec

Ridiculously good value. Ridiculous. Blackberry, black cherry, violets and cassis on the nose, and palate. Joined by a little bit of toasty oak. For around $20 with tax, this should be everyone's "everyday Red". 90.

Cedarcreek 2012 Platinum Desert Ridge Merlot ($34.79)

Aromas of cloves, blackberries, vanilla and a bit of licorice. Black cherry really comes through on the palate. Absolutely lovely now and will only improve with some patience and careful cellaring. 91-93.

To end of the tasting, a special treat: a taste of the special fortified Platinum M.

Cedarcreek 2009 Platinum "M" ($46.79)

This vintage of their "Madeira-style" wine (the only one made in the Okanagan) is 100% Pinot Blanc. Intense aromas and flavors of Brazil nuts, honey and apricots. Thick and viscous. Not sweet like an icewine but great to pair with dessert or a cheese plate. Oh, and I can testify that it's perfect to use in a beurre blanc sauce. 88.

Off to lunch where my wine club concierge said she had booked us at the "best table in the house". She was not just whistling-dixie, lemme tell you.

What a view. Lunch was fabulous, and since I was told they had recently put library wines on the menu (it's a special wine menu, you have to ask for it), why not try one?

They brought it over and it was.....awful. My wife and I both thought it was bad, but since it was not cheap we thought we better call Eliana over and get her opinion to make sure that our palates had not deserted us; but she quickly confirmed it was oxidized. We decided to try another bottle, and that one was just a little bit better ;-)

Cedarcreek 2002 Platinum Reserve Pinot Noir ($80.00 at restaurant)

Incredibly complex and layered. Cherries, mushrooms and cola mingling on the nose. The palate is dominated by flavors cherry, plum and some more of that lovely cola. Finishes long and smooth. An absolute treat. 95.

So good that we took another one of them home, and opened it up last night as we hosted a dinner party with a couple very good friends. It was the main event of an evening dominated by a bunch of spectacular wine (full reviews on all that stuff to come!).

What a great way to start our second day of the tour. What's next? Perhaps the most pleasantly surprising tasting of the trip: Summerhill Pyramid Winery!