Sunday, July 31, 2016

Okanagan Trip report FINALLY wraps up and I'm opening up my Hatch for some great wine

Their tasting room is reminiscent of a log cabin.

They're loud and brash. They're irreverent and eccentric. They're The Hatch, and they are the best new thing going in West Kelowna, no, in the entire Okanagan.

Their regular line of wines are intended to be fun and reasaonably priced, but for those of you who enjoy a terrific bottle of wine and aren't afraid to pay a bit more for it, well, let's talk about their Black Swift Vineyards line.

But let's start at the beginning.

The Hatch 2015 Screaming Frenzy Sauvignon Blanc ($17.99)

Fruity and delicious, aromas of stone fruit, lime and melons with just a soupçon of grassy notes lingering in the background. Some minerality comes through on the finish. Absolutely superb. 90.

The Hatch 2014 Hobo Series Semillon ($21.99)

Interesting aromas of pear, banana and citrus. Rich and full texture with pear and grapefruit flavors showing through. 87.

The Hatch 2013 Screaming Frenzy Chardonnay ($17.99)

Previously reviewed on our visit last year and my notes on this one didn't change much, but the extra time in the bottle did bump up the score by one point. It's a terrific everyday drinking Chardonnay that doesn't require food to be enjoyable. 88.

The Hatch 2015 Screaming Frenzy Rosé ($19.99)

Made exclusively from Pinot Noir grapes. Aromas of strawberry and floral notes. Flavors of cranberry, strawberry and hard candy. Well balanced. A perfect summer patio sipper. 88.

The Hatch 2015 Gobsmacked Gruner Veltliner ($24.99)

Suddenly this previously-invisible grape is becoming the new "thing" in the Okanagan. Light and crisp with hints of white flowers and white pepper. Fresh and crisp, showing promise of great things to come. 88.

The Hatch 2014 Screaming Frenzy Pinot Noir ($24.99)

The 2013 version of this wine was probably my all-time favorite BC Pinot around this price point (reviewed here). So you can understand why my excitement for tasting this one was tempered a bit when I learned that the vineyard where those grapes were grown went bankrupt! So this one is really the same wine in name only.

But it's still delicious!

Intense herbal and spicy notes mix in with some black cherry. Strawberries and black cherry flavors with just a touch of earthiness. While I'll say it can't quite reach the same heights of last year's vintage, it's damn good in it's own right, and still a steal at this price. 92.

Black Swift Vineyards 2014 The Long Road Pinot Noir ($44.99)

OK now we are talking. Intoxicating aromas and flavors of cherry, mushroom and earth. The finish goes on forever. This is a powerful and intense Pinot build for mid to long-term aging and I'm excited to think about just how good it's going to be. It's already spectacular. 93.

Black Swift Vineyards 2013 Desert Valley Vineyard Cabernet Franc ($54.99)

Oh my. Oh my. Mushroom, forest floor, black fruit, raspberry, eucalyptus. Rich and luscious mouthfeel with an incredible finish that features a touch of pepper. This is a huge wine that will improve with time in your cellar...a decade, maybe more. It's already drinking well but decant for an hour or more if you are opening now. This is going to be one special wine once it peaks. 93-?????

Now I want to talk a little bit about a wine that we tasted and enjoyed last year, right after it was released.

Black Swift Vineyards 2013 Chardonnay ($34.99)

Review here.

Oh what a difference a year makes. Not only did it improve quite a bit, it changed completely. The aromas are transcendent; coconut covered s'mores with just a touch of butterscotch. Beautiful flavors of citrus, toasted coconut and clove. It was really good during our first visit, it's spectacular now. 92.

At the end of this terrific visit we joined the Dynasty Tier of their new wine club. As we were the very FIRST members of this tier of their Club, we were promised they would name a parking spot in our honor. It's possible they were kidding on that point.

Early on it was nearly impossible to find any of their wines anywhere except at the winery, but this is changing. Yesterday at Legacy Liquor Store in Vancouver we noticed they were carrying two of their entry level wines, B Yanco and Ross O, and they are also now producing a couple of wines that conform to VQA standards and are available in VQA stores near you. I would guess it won't be long until their entire portfolio is available in every wine store in the Province. They should be.

Don't miss these guys during your next trip to West Kelowna!

Well, that's finally the end of the Okanagan trip report. Have a ton of catching up to do on some wine that we've enjoyed since the trip ended. Coming up!

Okanagan Trip gets nearer the end at one of the great little guys, Silkscarf!

OK I am definitely going to finish the Okanagan trip report this weekend, just one more entry needed after this one.

This part of the trip was actually about 2 weeks after the trip I have been reporting on, as we were up in Penticton for a family wedding. No time for a ton of wine tasting but we did stop at a favorite in Summerland on the way up, and another favorite in Kelowna on the way home.

Silkscarf.....a small boutique winery in Summerland with an impressive portfolio that we have enjoyed a few times. Let's see how the new vintage stacks up:

Silkscarf 2014 Pinot Noir ($32.90)

Aromas of strawberry, blueberry and clove. Some cherry and a hint of violets on the palate. Very, very light bodied. 86.

Silkscarf 2014 Merlot ($32.90)

Pleasing aromas of plum, blackberry, blueberry and vanilla. Black fruits dominate the palate with just a touch of caramel on the finish. Young but showing much promise. 88.

Silkscarf 2013 Shiraz Viognier ($32.90)

Cote du Rhone inspired blend features cherry, raspberry and dark chocolate on the nose. The mid-palate picks up some floral notes. Light and fruity. 87.

Silkscarf 2013 Ensemble ($32.90)

Aromas of blackberry, black cherry, violet and a hint of mint. The black fruits continue through onto the palate which finishes beautifully. Another young wine that shows great promise to develop. 88.

Silkscarf 2015 Viognier ($21.21)

Beautiful aromas of apricot, white flowers and citrus. Orchard fruits, citrus, tropical fruit and a touch of ginger combine effortless. One of the top-5 Viogniers in the Okanagan, in my opinion. Lovely. 90.

Silkscarf 2015 Riesling Muscat ($22.01)

An intriguing blend that brings together the honey from the Muscat and slate from the Riesling. Mango and melon flavors intermingle with balanced acidity. 89.

Silkscarf 2014 Ensemble Blanc ($21.21)

An Alsatian style blend of Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling. Aromas of lychee, pears, floral and perfume. Citrus comes through on the palate, joining with the lychee and pear flavors. Very nice. 89.

Silkscarf 2015 Saigneé ($21.21)

A blend of Malbec and Merlot. Aromas and flavors of strawberry and cherry, with just a touch of spice coming through on the finish. 88.

Silkscarf 2015 Chardonnay ($22.08)

A light and fruity example of what an unoaked Chardonnay can be. Fresh and crisp flavors of citrus, green apple, lychee and tropical fruit. Regular readers of my blog know that my favorite kind of Chardonnay is the big, buttery style, which this isn't, but it's very good nonetheless. 89.

We left with a couple of bottles of white, satisfied as always after another terrific tasting experience. Don't miss these guys when you are up in the Summerland area!

Next up: Our favorite new winery, The Hatch!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Okanagan Wine Trip continues at the master class of Italian Wine, La Stella

I'm always amazed that the same winemaker can craft these exceptional Italian-style wines and then go up the street to Le Vieux Pin and make more special wines in the French-style. That's talent.

La Stella 2015 Leggiero ($21.99)

This un-oaked Chardonnay features light and fruity aromas of key lime, lemon and apple. Flavors of apple and a flinty finish with well-balanced acidity. A nice price if you are a fan of light and un-oaked Chardonnay. 87.

La Stella 2015 Vivace ($21.99)

100% Pinot Grigio. Light, crisp notes of citrus, pear and sage on the nose. The palate bursts with orchard fruits and citrus with a touch of green apple wandering around on the finish. 88.

La Stella 2015 LaStellina ($19.99)

A beautiful blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sangiovese. Intense aromas of herbs, bell pepper and strawberry. Finishes lovely with some bing cherry and red fruits. Slightly off-dry and delicious. A perfect wine to sip on the patio or pair with some slightly spicy dishes. 90.

La Stella 2014 Fortissimo ($29.99)

57% Merlot, 21% Sangiovese 11% Cabernet Franc and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon

The winery's flagship blend and it never under-delivers. Complex and yet simple at the same time; you can pick out the aromas that each varietal brings. Mocha and vanilla from the Merlot, cherry, herbs and a touch of tobacco from the Sangiovese, and black fruit and mint from the Cabernets. Red and black cherry flavors, underbrush and tobacco mingling in there as well. Drinking well now but I'd recommend laying it down for another year or three to let it achieve the levels that it can. 93.

La Stella 2013 La Sophia ($79.99)

Oh where to begin. This is the wine that proves that Cabernet Sauvignon can thrive in the Okanagan. Aromas of forest floor, black currant, cigar box, cedar and bell pepper. Flavors of black fruit, spice, dark chocolate intertwine with herbaceous notes, lush tannins and a finish that goes on forever. Firm structure suggests this one is built for long-term aging, but if you must drink it now, decant it for several hours to allow it to open. Really special. 94.

La Stella 2012 Maestoso ($89.99)

100% Merlot and 100% Spectacular. Beautiful note of black cherry, vanilla, mocha and deli meats. Berries, cherries, smoke and black licorice combine to coat the mouth generously and impressively. The finish goes on forever.
There is so much going on here and so much promise for the future. To really appreciate this one, it's going to demand a very long decant or, even better, a good 5-8 years of cellar time. It will be well worth it. 94-???

La Stella 2015 Moscato D'Osoyoos ($17.99 500ml bottle)

Inhaling the aromas here is a little bit like shoving fruit salad up your nose. In a good way. Slightly off dry and fizzy, in the tradition of Moscato d'Asti in the famed Piedmont region. Pleasing flavors of orange, melon and orchard fruits. 90.

This was the last winery we visited on this trip, but fear not, true believers....we were back up in the Okanagan for a wedding just a couple weeks later, so still two more wineries visited on that trip to report on. Up next: One of our favorite "little guys", Silkscarf!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Okanagan Trip report continues with wine flowing over the Desert Hills

These guys have a HUGE portfolio with a lot of really good wine. Let's get started!

Desert Hills 2015 Unoaked Chardonnay ($17.90)

Enticing aromas and flavors of apple, pear and guava. Long and lovely finish. 88.

Desert Hills 2014 Cactus White ($16.90)

Clever aromas of orange blossom, rose petals and citrus. The palate starts with citrus and lychee and finishes with a touch of spice. 88.

Desert Hills 2015 Pinot Gris ($19.90)

Intense aromas and flavors of honeydew melon and pear. Bright and balanced acidity. 87.

Desert Hills 2015 Viognier ($24.90)

Hints of orange blossom, pear and peach on the nose. Peach flavors shine through with added notes of melon and pleasant minerality. 88.

Desert Hills 2014 Helena Rose ($19.90)

Enjoy an afternoon on the patio with this bright and fresh rose with aromas and flavors of strawberry and raspberry. Slightly off-dry. 86.

Desert Hills 2014 Gamay Noir ($19.90)

Nose of blackberry, dark chocolate, forest floor and a touch of spice. Earthiness and flavors of blackberry and oak. As this particular varietal goes, it's pretty good. 84,

Desert Hills 2011 Merlot ($24.90)

Aromas of black cherry, vanilla, clove and cinnamon. Notes of black fruit, chocolate and vanilla on the palate. 88.

Desert Hills 2009 Syrah ($36.90)

Intense aromas of blackberry jam, vanilla and a touch of spice. Finishes with lovely cocoa and vanilla. Nice example of what a well aged example of BC Syrah can be. 89.

Desert Hills 2011 Cabernet France ($26.90)

Plum, cherry, raspberry and oak aromas and flavors. Intense finish of black pepper and well structured tannins. A real nice wine at this price. 89.

Desert Hills 2012 Malbec ($34.90)

Intense, brooding notes of dark berries and chocolate. Big, bold and jammy with a very long finish. As Malbec goes, this is a top-of-BC example. 87.

Desert Hills 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($29.90)

Notes of earth, forest floor, bell pepper and cassis. Enticing flavors of blackberries, earth and toasty oak. Rich and full mouthfeel. One to put away in the cellar for a while to let it reach it's untapped potential. 89-91.

Desert Hills 2011 Mirage ($36.90)

Rich and intense aromas of black currant, black cherry, bell pepper, cocoa and mint. Flavors of dark chocolate, black fruit and spice. Finishes forever. Another one that needs more time to reach it's peak. 89-91.

And as a special treat, we were able to sample one from their high-end sister winery, Ursa Major.

Ursa Major 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($45.00)

Aromas of mint, blackberry, black cherry and black pepper. Long and luscious mouthfeel with flavors of dark chocolate and toasty oak. Put this in your cellar if you have the patience. Very promising. 90-93.

Not a bad one in the bunch, and if they can make me say somewhat nice things about Gamay and Malbec, you know they are making superb wines! Always a pleasure to taste through their portfolio.

Next up: A perennial favorite at La Stella!!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Vegas wine reviews, including one really special bottle, and a huge new update

First, I've added another page to my blog (which you can access from the tab at the top). All the wine I have reviewed that I gave 95 points or better...the "Best of the Best", all in one spot, for easy access to the really really good stuff.

We will resume our Okanagan trip report next time, but tonight I'm going to post reviews of the wine we enjoyed during our Vegas trip last week.

Hartford Court 2010 Velvet Sisters Pinot Noir ($160 at restaurant)

What a treat it was to see this on the menu at La Cave. Regular readers will know we recently enjoyed the 2013 vintage of this wine, reviewed here.

Another real beauty here. Brooding aromas of blood orange, mushroom, forest floor, earth and tobacco. The palate features a hint of cherry cola, black cherry, earth and just a touch of cigar box on the long, lovely finish. It doesn't quite compare to the beauty of the 2013 vintage, but it's still very, very good. 94.

A slightly cheaper bottle....

Chateau St. Michelle 2014 Riesling ($9.00)

This was given a "Best Buy" rating by Wine Enthusiast magazine and they are on the money. Possibly the best under-$10 wine I've ever had.

Green apple dominates the nose and palate with notes of minerality as well. Slightly off-dry. 86,

La Crema 2014 Monterey Chardonnay ($20.00)

Apple and citrus notes intermingling with a touch of butterscotch. Rich and full mouthfeel, flavors of tropical fruit and red apple. Slight buttery notes. 88,

Belpoggio 2010 Brunello di Montalcino ($105 at restaurant)

Intoxicating aromas of dark berries, leather, dark chocolate, mushrooms, smoke and nutmeg. The wine opens up with herbal notes, black pepper, licorice, nutmeg and dark berries. Drinking well now but aerate and decant if you can't leave it in the cellar for a little while longer. 92.

Pine Ridge 2014 Chenin Blanc/Viognier ($17.00)

Aromas of lemon, melon and citrus. Flavors of tangerine, lychee, grapefruit, key lime and apple mingle effortlessly. Another really good vintage of a go-to white. 88.

Other than the beautiful 2003 Silver Oak that we had at our first dinner (previously reviewed here), that's actually all the wine we had for the entire week.

Next up: Back to the Okanagan tour!