Friday, December 29, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part 6, Is thar Gold in them thar Hills????

Gold Hill, a winery I hadn't tasted in many years. Our first visit to the winery. Nice, quaint tasting room, although a bunch of kids came running through the room during our visit which was a bit distracting I must admit. They feature an extensive portfolio, so let's get to it!

Gold Hill 2014 Chardonnay ($22.50)

No oak, no maloactic fermentation. Aromas of pineapple and green apple, followed by a touch of minerality. Peach, pear and citrus flavors. Refreshing if you are a fan of this style of Chardonnay.

Gold Hill 2013 Viognier ($22.00)
Light, almost imperceptible nose with just a hint of passion fruit. Flavors of citrus dominate but if you pay attention you may notice some lavender lurking.

Gold Hill 2012 Pinot Gris ($18.00)
5-year old Pinot Gris is rare to find in a tasting room, and perhaps this is the last vintage as it is nowhere to be found on the website. Nose is very light, as with the above. Pear, apricot and citrus hints on the palate.
Gold Hill 2014 Charisma White ($18.00)

Gewurztraminer/Sauvignon Blanc/Riesling/Viognier/Pinot Gris

Aromas of grapefruit, lychee and white flowers. Slightly off dry palate, dominated by pear and lychee, with a slight touch of spice showing up at the end.

Gold Hills 2016 Rosé ($20.00)

100% Cabernet Franc

Delightful aromas of plum, vanilla and strawberry. Red fruits are all over the palate, and a hint of spice shows up at the end. Tasty.

Gold Hill 2013 Charisma Red ($ Unknown)
Another one that is gone from their website. A blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Merlot and Pinot Noir. Everything but the kitchen sink. Aromas of plum, toffee, cherry, strawberry and vanilla. Blackberry, blueberry and stewed plums on the palate. Finishes off with a hint of cedar.

Gold Hill 2012 Pinot Noir ($24.99)
Light aromas of cherry and strawberry. Flavors of bitter cherry and cedar with a hint of tobacco. Doesn't leap from the glass like a top-notch Pinot can.

Gold Hill 2012 Merlot ($24.99)
Aromas of cherry, strawberry and dark chocolate. Takes a while, but those aromas translate to the palate as well, joined in by a touch of tobacco on the finish.

Gold Hill 2013 Cabernet Franc ($25.13)
Black currant, anise and black pepper on the nose. Enticing flavors include pepper, anise and cherry. Has all the parts to be special, but it stops short. With a longer finish, this could be a star.

Gold Hill 2013 Syrah ($27.00)
Pretty aromas of violets, lavender and vanilla. Once your nose is used to the feminine floral scents, your palate is assaulted by raspberry and cherry flavors, with a good dose of pepper on the finish. In terms of depth and quality of flavors, this rivals the above Cab Franc; but the finish lingers, pushing it up a notch. Nice.

Gold Hill 2015 Cabernet Merlot ($22.00)
Aromas of blueberry jam, vanilla, strawberry and a hint of cherry notes. The flavors follow through to the palate, joined by a touch of earthiness. This is simple and unsophisticated but if you are looking for that, and there's nothing wrong with simple sometimes, this could pair nicely with lighter cuts of meat or aged cheeses.

Gold Hill 2013 Malbec ($41.50)
Blackberry, violets, vanilla and baking spices on the nose. Opens up beautifully in the glass with a generous swirl. Flavors of blueberry jam, licorice, toffee, cinnamon and nutmeg. Finishes long and lovely. A top quality BC Malbec.

Gold Hill 2013 Meritage Reserve ($47.50)
Aromas of vanilla, toffee, blueberry and violets. Cherry, anise, cocoa and vanilla flavors. This is huge and needs time to settle. If you are drinking now, ensure a nice, long decant.

That's it for our first visit to Gold Hills. I'd like to see them consolidate their portfolio a bit and focus on what they do best. Perhaps they are already doing that, with several of the wines above disappearing from their website.

Next up: The Main event of this trip, a 19-year vertical tasting of Black Hills' flagship wine, Nota Bene!!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part 5, our second visit this year to Burrowing Owl!

Quietly becoming one of our favorite spots to visit in the Okanagan. We had a terrific seated tasting here earlier this year, but there were a few new vintages released since then so we wanted to show up and try them out.

Burrowing Owl 2015 Pinot Noir ($30.00)
Beautiful aromas of black cherry, Christmas cake and savory herbs. There is a touch of spice on the palate, mingling in with flavors of red cherry, chocolate, black plum and cocoa. Delicious.

Burrowing Owl 2014 Merlot ($30.00)
Baking spice, holly, vanilla and red fruit on the nose. Juicy red fruit flavors, joined by dark chocolate, vanilla, blackberry. Vibrant acidity and a long finish.
Burrowing Owl 2015 Cabernet Franc ($33.00)
Red cherry, strawberry pie, vanilla and chocolate aromas. Intense and beautiful. Red fruit and a touch of spice on the palate. This one is a beast, and the tannins need time to subside a bit, but this is going to be really special. Give it 2-4 years, and if you just can't wait, aerate and decant for 3-4 hours.

That is all of the new stuff from Burrowing Owl to report on; one more stop before the main event of this trip, our first trip to Gold Hill winery!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part 4, our first visit to Rust Wine Co.!!!!

Holy crap, it's four days until Xmas. It was October, like, yesterday. Sorry for the total lack of blog posts lately, things have been insane. But let's pick up the Okanagan Trip at a new (to us) winery. Started in part by Jesse Harnden, who was instrumental in the startup at The Hatch (aka Crazytown). We met Jesse at The Hatch on our first visit, only three weeks after they opened. He left to pursue other opportunities, which I guess came about when Rustico Farm & Cellars hit the market.

He and his partners renamed the winery "Rust Wine Co". I guess it was just cheaper to use some white out on the "ICO". Perhaps it's a little more involved than that....

From their website, "Why Rust?"


Makes sense. I guess. Anyway, it's a little bit "out there", but what would you expect from someone who was involved in the launching of The Hatch?

To the wine!

Rust Wine Co. 2016 Riesling ($18.00)
Kind of a middle-of-the-road Riesling, with a bit of everything. Some minerality, off-dry but not sweet, soft, supple and round. Flavors of banana and pineapple. Terrific to just sit and sip.

Rust Wine Co. 2016 Pinot Gris ($20.00)
Putting your nose into this glass is akin to opening up a fruit cup and burying your head in the jar. Pear dominates the juicy palate. Very nice.

Rust Wine Co. 2016 Semillon ($22.00)
There is no mention of this on their website, so it's probably sold out. Sourced from an abandoned vineyard in OK Falls. Another fruit cup on the nose, with pear and nectarine really standing out. The palate features racy acidity and lots of lemon. This is not a patio sipper, you'll need to find the right meal to pair with this one.

Rust Wine Co. 2016 Rosé ($22.00)

Made from 100% Zweigelt and if you've ever smelled Zweigelt, that won't be a surprise to you. Tart strawberry and rhubarb aromas and flavors. Quite dry.

Rust Wine Co. 2015 Pinot Noir ($25.00)
Voluptuous aromas of strawberry with some herbaceous notes lingering. Red cherry, strawberry, fresh sage flavors abound. Give this one a couple years to fully flesh out and let the flavors integrate. Lots of potential.

Rust Wine Co. 2014 Golden Mile Zinfandel ($40.00)

You think you know Zin? You don't know THIS Zin. NOTHING like the big jammy Zinfandels you might be used to. Aromas of white pepper, blackberry and pencil shavings. Savory on the palate, with herbs and black pepper dominating, but not overpowering, the fruit. We decided this would be a terrific pairing with a Rosemary-crusted Prime Rib, and a couple of weeks ago I put that to the test. We were right. OH, so right. Absolutely delicious.

Well that's it for this entry, we left here satisfied with a bottle of Riesling and a couple bottles of that incredible Zin. Very friendly service and a nice space. Check this one out next time you are in the area!

Next up: Oh so much to still report on. Still have to report on our "Chile" night which was wonderful, and there are three more entries in this Okanagan Trip to come, including the main event of the trip. I'll try to get them all done before the New Year. And let's face it, I'm going to be drinking some great wine over the Holidays so that will be another report!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Now THAT'S how to have a birthday party.

I'll just let pictures tell the story.

Showing off a couple beauties from the cellar!
And, no, we weren't serving these wines tonight.

Several different themed tasting tonight. First up, a vertical tasting of Quails' Gate Chardonnay. We served their Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay, 2009-20015, and their Rosemary's Block Chardonnay, 2013-2015.

I've reviewed most of these wines previously so I won't go into full details on these ones, but the general consensus among the guests was that the 2009 was declining, the 2010-2012 were drinking beautifully, and the 2013-2015 were good but needed a bit more time. I would agree with all of that.

Next up, we featured some "BC vs. the World" rare grape varietals (rare to BC, anyway). Let's see what everyone thought of some BC Barbera, Gruner Veltliner and Chenin Blanc, against their more traditional cousins.

Sandhill 2014 Small Lots Barbera ($35.00 from winery direct)

Previously reviewed here, during  a recent Okanagan trip.

Fontanafredda 2015 Briccotondo Barbera ($18.49 from BC Liquor Stores)

Also previously reviewed, here, on Italy night.

I gave them both the same score, and I'd stand by that. My guests, however, preferred the Italian variation, by a fairly wide margin.

BC: 0, The World 1

Quails' Gate 2014 Chenin Blanc ($17.99 from winery direct)
92% Chenin Blanc, 8% Sauvignon Blanc

Even after 5 years of aging, fruit dominates the nose and the palate. Citrus right up front, with some papaya and mango joining the party on the mid-palate. Racy acidity, this wine should always be front of mind if trying to pair with seafood, particularly oysters.

Loic Mahé 2012 Les Fougeries Saviennes ($27.99 USD from
Aromas of lanolin, tropical fruit, dried herbs, and a touch of honey. Medium-full bodied and slightly off-dry, with notes of herbs, citrus, and honey. This is a well regarded wine (94 points from Wine Enthusiast) but it didn't knock us over.

There was no question on this one, BC wins this challenge by a wide margin.

BC: 1, The World 1

Last but certainly not least, Gruner Veltliner.

The BC entry (Culmina 2015 Unicus ($27.00 from winery) is one which I had raved about in the past, and the one from Austria we had tasted before (a different vintage) and thought it was pretty good but not even in the same league. You can see the reviews of both here.

The vintage that we tasted on this night was better, for sure.

Domäne Wachau - 2016 Federspiel Gruner Veltliner ($19.99)

Exotic fruit aromas, a hint of white pepper, golden delicious apple and herbaceousness. Crisp acidity frames flavors of tropical fruit and a touch of white pepper on the finish. Very typical Austrian Gruner. Medium bodied and tasty. 

My guests agreed with my assessment that the BC example was the winner here, although it was much closer than it should have been, IMO.

BC 2, The World 1

So that should pretty much end the debate of whether or not BC can make quality wines out of grapes that aren't widely grown here. No question.

Now, to the main event of the evening, a blind tasting of 5 Australian Shiraz, all from 2012, with very, VERY different price points. I was the only person who knew which wine was which. After everyone had tasted them all, they ranked them from favorite to least favorite and I tallied the results. I assigned 5 points for every first place vote, down to 1 point for every last place vote. 

The wine that finished in first place was a real beauty.

Two Hands 2012 Ares Shiraz ($169.99 USD from

Very dark purple in colour, the 2012 Ares is winemaking at it's finest. Intoxicating aromas of blackberry, black currant, black plum, blueberry, dark chocolate, mint and cedar. Black fruits dominate the palate, which is full bodied, juicy and chewy. The finish goes on and on for at least a minute. The tannins are settling but this will probably improve with even more cellar time. It doesn't need to improve.

Voted into second place, which would have been third on my list, is one you'll all recognize and it's available just about anywhere wine is sold.

Wolf Blass 2012 Grey Label Shiraz ($34.99)
Aromas of blue and black fruits, just a hint of black pepper, toasty oak and dark chocolate. Black fruits dominate the palate, joined on the mid-palate by licorice, chocolate and vanilla. Really nice at this price. 

Voted into third place was another real beauty, and it was second on my list. This is one that's available in BC Liquor stores. 

John Duval 2012 Entity Shiraz ($62.99)

Blackberry, plum, crushed leaves, clove, vanilla, raspberry and cedar on the nose. A hint of well-integrated oak on the palate, joined by blackberry and black plum, with some herbaceous notes, smoke and vanilla. So nice. 

In fourth place was the wine which actually had the second highest price point, but I (and most guests) were somewhat disappointed in it. It's a very highly rated wine (95-97 points from Robert Parker!) but we didn't think that much of it for the price. Not that it was bad, just overpriced. 

Elderton 2012 Command Shiraz ($99.99 USD from
Dark and brooding, dominated by dark fruit on the nose and palate, with a touch of pepper lurking in the shadows. It's a good wine, and maybe it just needs time, but it finishes too quickly to compete with the wines rated above it.

Last and certainly least, IMO, was this monstrosity. This actually received a first place vote and a couple of seconds, but mine went down the sink. It wasn't completely awful, but life is too short to drink this stuff when there is so much better stuff sitting in a decanter 3 feet away.....

Wyndham Estate - 2012 George Wyndham Founders Reserve Shiraz ($17.49)

 Aromas of ripe plum, mint and blackberry. Full-bodied and almost jammy, with black plum and blackberry flavors. Oak is everywhere. Unimpressive.

That's it for today's report! Still lots of stuff to report on, gotta pick up on the last Okanagan report AND a few weeks ago we met for our latest theme night, some great wine and food from Chile! Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

What am I thankful for??? BIRTHDAY WINE LIKE THIS!!!

Interrupting the latest Okanagan trip blog to bring you two very special bottles.

I tend to take US Thanksgiving off, if possible, so I can sit at home and watch football. It's been quite a while since that corresponded with my birthday, so this year I had a good excuse to sit at home and watch football and drink some great wine. Oh my, did we find a couple of fantastic bottles this year!

Marchesi de Frescobaldi 2010 Luce Della Vita ($89.99)

Sweet Sassy Molassy.

55% Merlot, 45% Sangiovese

Dark flowers, nutmeg, blueberry, black currant, mint, cola, blackberry and a hint of delicious funk on the nose. Blueberry, cherry cola, blackberry and chocolate on the palate. A touch of mint shows up on the long, beautiful finish. Undoubtedly the best Luce I have ever experienced.

I paired the above with my lunch, which was a bunch of cheese, nuts and crackers. Hey, it's my birthday, I can eat whatever the hell I want for lunch!

Paired with one of my favorite chicken dishes, the evening wine didn't disappoint either.

Hartford Family Winery 2014 Stone Côte Vineyard Chardonnay ($65.00 USD from winery)
Caramel jumps from the glass and assaults your nose, but if you pay attention, you'll notice some nutmeg, cardamon and cinnamon as well, followed by hints of wet stone and orange blossom. The palate is sublime, with notes of sweet vanilla, caramel, pear, hazelnut and underripe tropical fruit. Just amazing, featuring vibrant acidity. Crisp and refreshing. I need to get some more of these!

In the grand scheme of the wine world, I am sure there are people out there who had two better bottles tonight, but I bet there aren't many of them. To those of you who DID have two better bottles than I did tonight, I tip my cap.

Next up: hopefully tomorrow I'll find some time to continue the Okanagan trip blog!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Okanagan Trip Part 3, a full tasting of the new stuff from Tinhorn Creek!

A lovely tasting in the barrel room with the incomparable Shelann, their wine club concierge. She always puts on a first class tasting and today was no exception!

Tinhorn Creek 2016 Oldfield Reserve 2 Bench White ($19.99)

47% Sauvignon Blanc, 17% Semillon, 16% Viognier, 14% Chardonnay and 6% Muscat

 Aromas of white flowers, red apple and a tiny dollop of fresh cut grass. Unctious, with flavors of elderflower, citrus, peach and a slight herbaceous quality. Lovely. 

Tinhorn Creek 2013 Oldfield Series Pinot Noir ($31.99)
Aromas of red cherry, dried herbs and forest floor. Sour cherry and red berries dominate the palate. Will improve with a bit more time in the bottle but already tasty.

Tinhorn Creek 2014 Oldfield Reserve Merlot ($26.99)
85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc

Dark chocolate, vanilla, black currant and blackberry on the nose. Vanilla and chocolate on the palate, framing blackberry, black cherry and cedar notes. Delicious, and ready to drink right now with some beautiful BBQ.

Tinhorn Creek 2014 Oldfield Reserve Syrah ($31.99)

Dark purple, inky colour. Aromas of charred meat, violets, blackberry and blueberry. Juicy and round palate, blackberry, vanilla, blueberry and dark chocolate. French, Hungarian and American Oak, 1/3 of which is new, and the oak is still front and centre, but this is already so delicious. Can't imagine it's going to improve a bunch but we will see.

Tinhorn Creek 2014 The Creek ($55.00)

53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 9% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot

Aged 24 months in 40% new Hungarian and French oak. Arresting aromas of red berries and black cherry. Complex palate of red raspberry, blueberry, black cherry and black plum. Tannins are firm as can be right now, this is a big one to put away for 3-5 more years. If you just can't wait, ensure you aerate and decant for a couple of hours. So much potential.
Tinhorn Creek 2015 The Creek (Barrel Sample - $55.00)
Much more approachable than the 2014 due to the hot growing season, this beauty could be called hedonistic. Blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, mint and cherry on the nose. Juicy blackberry, raspberry, toasty oak and dark chocolate. Finishes long and beautifully. This one will age well but it's so good now, and not even in bottle yet. What a treat.

Terrific tasting, we are always taken excellent care of on any visit to Tinhorn Creek.

Next up: Another first time visit, just up the road to Rust Wine Co where we discover at least one wine that is quite remarkable.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part II, our second stop in the Similkameen is at Seven Stones

There is nothing more annoying than walking into a retail outlet and getting pounced on, and that's what happened here.

Of course, it wasn't the winery staff, it was their dog! LOL. He was so friendly and adorable. Winery dogs are awesome.

Very nice tasting room, a gorgeous patio with quite a view, and they also feature caves that you can tour if you have the time and inclination. We didn't have time but will plan to check them out on our next visit.

Seven Stones 2016 Rosé ($20.00)

100% Pinot Noir. Reminiscent of Provence with aromas of strawberry, with flavors of citrus, forest floor, mushroom and citrus.

Seven Stones 2012 Chardonnay ($25.00)

Light aromas of butter, nectarine, lemon zest and pineapple. Citrus and tropical fruit on the palate, with enticing minerality. Shows potential for aging. 

Seven Stones 2012 Vivianne's Pinot Noir ($30.00)

Aromas of raspberry, strawberry, black tea and cranberry. Red currant, red raspberry and baking spice on the palate. Delicate enough to pair beautifully with a grilled salmon dish.

Seven Stones 2012 Merlot ($30.00)

Aged for 18 months in French and American oak. Red cherry, black olive and mint on the nose. Just a hint of leather lurking in the background. Blueberry, black plum, vanilla and chocolate on the palate with a touch of spice on the finish. Very tasty.
Seven Stones 2013 Cabernet Franc ($30.00)

Black plum and black cherry aromas with a just-noticeable touch of black pepper. Flavors of raspberry, chocolate, red cherry. Light and fruity. 

Seven Stones 2011 Meritage ($35.00)

51% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot

Aromas of raspberry, coffee and tobacco. Black olive, raspberry, plum and a touch of chocolate on the palate. 

That was all we got to taste but they were selling some library vintages of Chardonnay so we took this one home and opened it up a week later.

Seven Stones 2010 Chardonnay ($35.00)

Attractive aromas of butterscotch, hazelnut and pineapple. Tropical fruit and citrus dominate the palate, with high acidity and just a touch of butter on the finish.

Unfortunately that was all the time we had to visit the Similkameen on this trip, but we will be back next year. For now, we were off to Oliver and Osoyoos to tour a few more wineries and attend an incredible event. Next up: New vintages at Tinhorn Creek!