Friday, May 19, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part 9, and we walk a real Tightrope here....

Yes, I admit, that pun sucked.

SOOOOOO, you may remember a while ago I told you that I had joined the Okanagan Wine Club.

You don't remember? Or you missed the blog post the first time? Well, what the Hell is the matter with you?!?!?

Sigh. OK you can  get a refresher here.

So the first pack I bought (went half/half with a friend) was from Tightrope. Was impressed enough with what I had tasted that we decided to head up there while in the area and see what else they had to taste.

Oh, and the last wine from my wine pack that I had not yet reviewed was this one:

Tightrope 2015 Tip-Toe ($19.05)

Blend of Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Viognier and Chardonnay

Pretty nose of white flowers, lychee and peach with a hint of spice. Lychee, ginger, orchard fruits and just a touch of spice on the palate. Slightly off dry and really tasty. Nice pairing with just about anything or a day on the patio. 89.

At the winery, we were able to taste these as well:

Tightrope 2016 Pinot Gris ($22.00)

Fruit forward and juicy with notes of pear and green apple on the nose, with a dominate palate of pear and just the right amount of minerality. 88.

Tightrope 2016 Rosé ($22.00)

A blend of Pinot Noir and Barbera. Barbera??? Not a grape you see much in BC.

Pleasing aromas of strawberry, rhubarb and orange rind. Strawberry and grapefruit on the palate with just a hint of spice. Very dry but tasty for the patio. 88.

Tightrope 2015 Merlot ($24.26)

Aromas of dark chocolate, vanilla, plum and dark cherry. Red cherry, leather, mocha, oak and some vanilla on the palate. Juicy and a lovely long finish. 89.

Unfortunately that was all they had open for us to taste today, but all good stuff and a pleasant experience in their very nice tasting room.

Next up: our friend goes to pick up her wine club case at Black Widow, and I guess as long as we are there we might as well taste the new vintages! I mean, we are already there, right...????

Okanagan Trip, Part 8, off to Moraine we go!

Our first visit to Moraine, to meet with the owner, Oleg, who took us through a fairly-complete tasting of their portfolio. With past vintages I would say this winery is as good as they get when it comes to over-delivering for the price point. Let's see if this vintage stood up as well!

Moraine 2016 Pinot Gris ($22.00)

Reminiscent of Alsace, with a light, fruity nose of cantaloupe and citrus. Pear, melon and citrus on the palate. 88.

Moraine 2016 Viognier ($25.00)

Pretty white flowers dominate the nose, with just a touch of pineapple and peach hanging around. Orchard fruits and orange blossom on the palate. Real nice. 88.

Moraine 2016 Gewurztraminer ($24.00)

Powerful aromas of white flowers, ginger and lychee on the nose and also following through on the palate. A touch of pear and spice on the finish. 88.

Moraine 2016 Riesling ($24.00)

The '15 was one of my very favorite BC Rieslings, ever. This one is similar in some ways but lacks one big thing that made last year's so appealing: the pineapple. Orchids, peach and nectarine on the nose and the palate. Look, there is nothing wrong with those flavors, and this is lovely, but I sure miss the pineapple. 89.

Moraine 2016 Pink Mountain Rosé ($22.00)

80% Malbec, 20% Merlot. Fragrant nose of plum, raspberry, rose petals and red grapefruit. Strawberry and grapefruit dominate the palate, which is quite dry. 87.

Moraine 2015 Cliffhanger Red ($19.00)

This blend of Malbec and Merlot SCREAMS out for a big BBQ steak. Jammy aromas of cassis and raspberry, with flavors of licorice, mocha and vanilla. Truly a steal at under $20. 88.

Moraine 2015 Pinot Noir ($25.00)

Plum, red cherry, mushroom and violets on the nose. Toasty oak flavors frame the flowers and cherry. 88.

Moraine 2015 Malbec ($35.00)

Black fruit and blackberry jam on the sweet nose. The blackberry jam doesn't go away, and is joined by black cherry flavors. A beautiful, "drink me now" Malbec (and I have, in fact, already drank mine!). 90.

Moraine 2014 Syrah ($26.00)

Chocolate, truffle oil and white pepper on the nose. Pleasing flavors of vanilla, baking spices and toasty oak. Just a touch of pepper. 89.

Moraine 2013 Red Mountain ($26.00)

40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 30% Malbec

Beautiful aromas of black currant, cherry jam and smoke. Rich and powerful palate, with flavors of dark chocolate, smoke and toasty oak. Another big BBQ wine and a real bargain at under $30. 90.

Moraine 2014 Meritage ($34.00)

45% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Franc, 22% Malbec

Although a different vintage, than the above, the percentages are very close to identical. Aromas of leather, black cherry, smoke and spice. Sweet, toasty oak on the palate, mingling with some tobacco, plum and licorice. 89.

Moraine 2015 Late Harvest Merlot ($18.00)

Dried cherries, raspberries, cranberries and juicy raisins on the nose and the palate. Baking spices on the palate as well. Typical late-harvest; perfect pairing for an evening-finishing cheese plate or not-overly-sweet dessert. 88.

It's nice to find a winery where you can go anywhere and if someone serves you a glass/bottle of it, you KNOW you are going to enjoy whatever varietal it is, and you KNOW that he/she/you are getting a good value. Consistency is a big key!

Next up: another new winery to us, not too far away, as we go taste the wares at Tightrope!

Lucky 7, and lucky for us, a great experience at La Frenz!

After the near-orgasmic joy of finding a great new winery that we knew nothing about and had never tasted anything from, we head up the street to an appointment at a not-so-new winery that we knew little about and had tasted little from.

We had tasted a few of La Frenz's entry-level wines at the VIWF two years ago (and tried unsuccessfully to take some home). I didn't even know they had a 'reserve' tier, but they do and we booked a tasting of their higher-level wines. We were taken outside to the patio where we were able to enjoy a spectacular view (hardly unique in the Okanagan) and a bunch of their reserve wines, all the while being entertained and informed by a terrific wine enthusiast (who's name I have forgotten and did not write down - so I apologize to him, as he deserved at least a shout out in this blog).

The price of this tasting was $10/person, but it was refunded with purchase.

La Frenz 2014 Ensemble ($25.00)

A nice white Bordeaux (70% Sauvignon Blanc/30% Semillon) with notes of white flowers, passion fruit and orange rind on the nose. Orange rind and a touch of mint on the palate, with a creamy mouthfeel and long finish. Nice way to start the tasting. 90.

La Frenz 2014 Reserve Chardonnay ($29.00)

No maloactic fermentation at all, but there are still slight notes of butterscotch mingling in with citrus and baking spices. Another one that finishes long, with a tinge of butterscotch and stone fruit flavors. Regular readers know that I prefer my Chardonnay so buttery that I am tempted to pour it on toast, but this was a nice example of a well-made Chard without the butter. 89.

La Frenz 2014 Vivant ($25.00)

Here's a blend you don't see everyday. 52% Viognier, 38% Chardonnay Musque, 10% Roussanne. Aromas of tropical fruit and peach leap from the glass. Creamy palate features some citrus zest and caramel flavors. Real nice. 90.

La Frenz 2014 Reserve Pinot Noir ($35.00)

Intoxicating aromas of black plum. wild strawberry, red cherry and forest floor. Juicy and delicious, with flavors of blackberry, cigar box, tobacco and earth. So young and already so approachable, but I bet it gets even better with a bit more time to nap. 92-94.

La Frenz 2013 Grand Total Reserve ($45.00)

58% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc

Black cherry, vanilla, and mint on the nose. Dense & brooding flavors of espresso, blackberry, strawberry and hazelnut. 91

La Frenz N/V Liqueur Muscat ($22.00)

Beautiful, fragrant aromas of rose petals, tea and dried fruit. Butterscotch, hazelnut and honeysuckle on the palate. Beautiful and unique as an  apertif or nightcap. 92

Impossible to find any fault with the quality and value of all the wines we tried here today. We will definitely be back!

Up next, another first visit, but this time although we had never visited the winery, we were quite familiar with most of their wines. It's Moraine time!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part 6, a new "Big Boy" has joined the Okanagan Wine party.....and they are serious about wine

I think I can
I think I can
I think I can

From the well-known children's book "The Little Engine that Could".

This winery should probably called "The Little Engine that Did".

But they are sticking with "Little Engine".

As I mentioned in my last post, we had time to fit in one more winery before we had an appointment for a tasting at La Frenz...and what happened to be just down the street? Little Engine, a winery none of us had ever heard of, let alone visited.

Out front of the tasting room was a sign that indicated their tasting fees. They put it mildly. IIRC, $8 for the lower end tasting opportunity, and $18 for the 'good stuff'. Each fee could be waived upon purchase...the $8 tasting with $30 worth of wine, and the $18 with (I believe) $75 worth of wine. Those are significant commitments to many BC wine drinkers, so we will see how that stands up as time goes on...but for now, we pressed on as I was quite intrigued as who had the balls to charge those kind of tasting fees as a new (relatively unknown) winery.

Upon being greeted in the tasting room and seeing the portfolio, I told the lady behind the counter that one of two things was true: Their wine was really overpriced, or REALLLLLY good. We were eager to see which one was true.

They have three levels: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The entry level Silver line would probably be considered "Reserve" by many BC wineries. Let's get to the tasting.

Little Engine 2015 Silver Chardonnay ($30.00)

Pleasant aromas of citrus, with a touch of hazelnut and butterscotch. Pineapple and herbaceous notes abound and it features a chalky mouthfeel. 89.

Little Engine 2015 Silver Pinot Noir ($35.00)

Beautiful nose of clove, black cherry and baking spices. A touch of tea, strawberry, rhubarb and red cherry on the palate. Really special already. 92.

Little Engine 2014 Silver Merlot ($35.00)

Dark fruit, raspberry and strawberry on the nose. Juicy and round palate of red cherry and some savory herbs. 89.

Little Engine 2014 Gold Chardonnay ($55.00)

Intense notes of butterscotch, hazelnut, almond and orchard fruit. Complex palate features stone fruit, lemon, lime and hazelnut. Long and luscious finish. So delicious already. 93.

Little Engine 2015 Gold Pinot Noir ($55.00)

Blackberry, black cherry, truffle, earth and herbs on the nose. Beautiful, juicy palate, with black fruit flavors and hints of earth, spice, tobacco and earth. So good but I suspect this one really needs to age a bit to catch up to itself. If you can't wait, decant for an hour or two. 92-94.

Little Engine 2015 Gold Merlot ($55.00)

Vanilla, tobacco, oak and cassis on the nose. Big and bold and intense with flavors of vanilla and cedar. Finishes long and beautiful. 91.

Little Engine 2015 Platinum Cabernet Franc ($75.00)

Beautiful, intense aromas of violet, cigar box and black fruit. The fruits turn red on the palate, with additional notes of blackberry. Beautifully balanced and a long finish. So tasty. 94.

Little Engine 2015 Platinum Cabernet Sauvignon ($75.00)

Complex aromas of blackberry and baking spices. Rich and round palate with flavors of cassis, fig and black fruit. Long, beautiful finish. So much potential. 91-93.

I think I can

I think I can

I think I did....spend way too much money here.

And we'll be back for more.

Next up, our first visit to nearby La Frenz!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Okanagan wine trip continues with our first visit to Township 7

Up for our second day of wine tasting, off to Naramata where we had plans to visit a couple different wineries. This was not one of the ones we were intending to hit, but we had a bit of time before our first appointment and saw the in we went.

Intimate tasting room with a window into the bottling area, $5 fee for tasting 5 wines, refundable with purchase.

Township 7 Sauvignon Blanc ($17.97)

Light in colour, aroma and flavor. Passion fruit and slate on the nose, with flavors of peach and nectarine. 87.

Township 7 2015 Chardonnay ($19.97)

Aromas of wet stone with a slight tinge of oak and nuttiness. Vanilla and stone fruit flavors come through. 87.

Township 7 2016 7 Blanc ($17.97)

Don't worry, there are not 7 varietals in here (and I'm glad they didn't try to get gimmicky just because there is a 7 in their name). Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris make up this lovely aromatic. White flowers, ginger and lychee dominate the nose. Well balanced acidity and a hint of minerality frame the flavors which include apple and stone fruit. 89.

Township 7 2014 Merlot ($22.97)

Aromas of black plum and cherry. The palate brings some vanilla and mocha into the party as well, and I sense just a hint of tea. Starting to hit it's stride, as the tannins are still showing strength. 88.

Township 7 2014 Reserve 7 ($32.97)

Big Bordeaux-style blend with a nose of black cherry, eucalyptus and some earth and tobacco. Cocoa and bing cherries dominate the nose. This is a beast, and needs a lot more time to rest before it will be what it should be, but there is potential here. 87-89.

That's all they had open to taste, which is unfortunate as they have quite a large portfolio of wine. Maybe next time.

Next up: With a little bit of time before our first appointment of the day, we decided to stop into the next winery we saw that we had not yet visited.....and OMG did we hit the jackpot. Want to know what it is? Tune in next time, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel, and find out!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part 4, we head to The Hatch for some wine and general insanity

These guys are nuts.

I've said it before. Their approach to wine, their approach to the number of varietals they carry, their approach to....well, basically their approach to EVERYTHING, is crazy. Most of it flies directly in the face of what we have come to expect in the Okanagan (or, for that matter, wineries in general).

That might be their biggest strength.

We took our dear friends up for a visit, where their Manager, Grayson greeted us warmly and took us into a private room to share with us some of their new stuff. And also a sneak preview of something that wouldn't be in bottle for at least two more years.
My lovely wife and Grayson, in there somewhere
The author, with Grayson, who REALLY is there. It took so long to get this picture that I had almost a full glass.

The Pinot that they poured us was delicious, if a bit cloudy (as you might expect at this point), but I'll reserve my right to properly review it once it is actually released!

For now, let's just talk about the myriad of wines they poured for us.

The Hatch 2016 B Yanco ($15.99)

They refer to this as their "house white" but it's so much better than that. 85% Pinot Blanc and 15% Gewurztraminer and 100% tasty. Lovely aromas of white flowers, tropical fruit and lychee. Light fruity notes with just the right acidity. Such great value. 89.

The Hatch 2016 Screaming Frenzy Pinot Gris ($19.99)

Intense aromas of just about every fruit you can imagine, punctuated with wafts of red apple. Ever so-slightly off-dry, full mouthfeel and flavors of tropical fruit with just a touch of spice. Delicious. 90.

The Hatch 2016 Screaming Frenzy Chardonnay ($18.99)

Intense and powerful aromas of butterscotch, toasty oak, apple and hazelnut. Flavors of vanilla, buttered toast and a touch of spice. You are going to hear this phrase a lot today: Incredible value. 90.

Crown + Thieves 2015 Roussanne/Viognier ($29.99)

Honeysuckle, white flowers and pears dominate the nose. Creamy and full mouthfeel with intense flavors of citrus and a touch of honeysuckle. Delicious and built to improve with age. 92.

The Hatch 2015 Screaming Frenzy Pinot Noir ($24.99)

Another year, another beautiful Piggy Pinot. Aromas of cherry, plum, vanilla and earth. So good and so young, smooth flavors of black cherry, just a touch of earthiness. 93.

The Hatch 2015 Ross O. ($16.99)

Previous iterations featured a blend of Pinor Noir and Gamay, this one has ditched the Gamay in favor of Syrah. A positive change, IMO. Want to learn more about Ross? Just check out this link, it will tell you all you need to know about Ross, and will probably validate my hypothesis that the guys running this joint are a little bit nuts :) 90.

Crown + Thieves 2013 Broken Barrel Syrah ($69.68)

Oh my.

Intense floral notes mingle with aromas of cherry, cold cuts and black pepper. There is so much going on here. There is some white pepper, there is some tobacco, there is cherry, some vanilla, some blueberry... so complex and special. Only 50 cases were made. It's called "Broken Barrel" because the barrel carrying this wine actually broke in a forklift accident; the wine that was saved has become this treasure. Lucky for us. 94.

The Hatch 2013 'Hatchchild' Cabernet Sauvignon ($33.33)

Black fruit, eucalyptus and violets on the nose. The violets follow through to the palate, joined by tasty blackberry, some earthiness and the faintest hint of cigar box. The tannins are strong in this one, but it's already delicious and will only improve. 92.

The Hatch 2016 Screaming Frenzy Sauvignon Blanc ($18.99)

Aromas of guava, gooseberry and some jalapeno. Fruity flavors of melon, stone fruit and citrus. Minerality and acidity hit all the right notes. 91,

Black Swift Vineyards 2015 Kurkjian Vineyard Riesling ($24.99)

Just all kinds of stone fruit and citrus here on the nose and the palate. Aromas of diesel are just starting to develop, suggesting this will age beautifully. I will let you know, I have a couple in my cellar. But if you can't wait, that's fine, it's already delicious. 93.

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

This was a real treat to get to taste now, but I'm going to wait until next time to give it a full review. It's already delicious but it is a big, huge, hairy beast and it is going to get soooooo much better. Sold out, but they were generous enough to let me take home 3 bottles of this bad boy (told you they were nuts) and they are in the cellar, waiting for the big, grippy tannins to subside a bit. This is going to be SUCH a treat.

So that's it for this tasting which spanned about 90 minutes and started in the private tasting room and finished up in the public room, where we enjoyed the last few wines, chatted with a bunch of lunatics behind the counter, and even came across a couple of young ladies who described themselves as "groupies" for the wine.

I wonder if Mission Hill has groupies? I'm guessing not.

Our friends loved this experience so much they joined their wine club; just their second club. Just 9 more to go to catch up!!!

There is so much more wine to talk about, they have so many SKU's that it would be impossible to taste them all in one day. Or week.

We left the winery with a case of miscellany; including a Chardonnay from the Crown + Thieves line that we've yet to taste, but was described as a "fat slutty monster".

My wine club shipment arrived the following week, which featured another 4-5 wines we have yet to sample, including a Muller-Thurgau. What is that, you ask? Well, you can read about it here.  Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but this has to be the only one of this varietal in BC. I was told it was SO good that it would "give (me) an erection". Yes, that is an actual quote. While that remains to be seen, I can report that my wife was particularly excited by the proposition. Probably too excited.

Anyway, that's it for now from this place that I can only describe as an irreverent insane asylum. Please, folks, if you visit the Okanagan and you have never been here, make sure you check them out. In fact, let me plan your itinerary for you: A double feature of The Hatch and Quails' Gate. They are next door neighbors and they are absolutely two of the best wineries you will ever visit. You will get to taste excellent wines at both. You will get excellent service at both. You will be able to buy some excellent value-wines at both.

And EVERYTHING else will be completely different.

Next up: On our way to Naramata, where we make our first ever visit to Township 7!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part 3, great tour and tasting at Cedarcreek

We have been to Cedarcreek many times, but this was our first tour. Guided by Tasting Room manager Eliana (who really knows her sh*t), we got a real behind-the-scenes look at the storage and care of the wonderful juice that will turn into terrific wine. Also got our first view of the clay amphora that they use to make their Amphora Project wine. Very interesting.

Up to the tasting room for a wonderful private tasting. Let's get to it.

Cedarcreek 2015 Riesling ($15.99)

Aromas of stone fruit, pineapple, lemon, lime and just a tiny hint of diesel. Lots of citrus flavors, framed by some pineapple, red apple and lots of minerality. Such a steal at that price. 90.

Cedarcreek 2015 Platinum Reserve Block 3 Riesling ($24.99)

Beautiful aromas of citrus, diesel and orchard fruit. Flavors of elderflower, red and green apple, and impressive minerality. Will age gracefully but so good now it almost seems like it's one you could pop open anytime. 92.

Cedarcreek 2016 Ehrenfelser ($16.99)

Aromas of white flowers, apricot and a touch of bell pepper. Peach and apricot dominate the palate, with hints of cantaloupe. IMO, the best of this varietal they have ever produced. 89.

Cedarcreek 2015 Chardonnay ($18.99)

Beautiful aromas of toasty oak, butterscotch and pineapple. Rich and full mouthfeel with flavors that match the aromas. A great example of a bargain-priced Chardonnay. 90.

Cedarcreek 2015 Platinum Reserve Block 5 Chardonnay ($29.99)

Tropical fruit, butterscotch and citrus on the nose. Big and bold with a lot of acidity. Really needs some time to breath and develop. 90-92.

Cedarcreek 2014 Merlot ($17.49)

Cherry, toasty oak and dark chocolate on the nose. Black cherry, vanilla and a touch of spice on the palate. Another really excellent bargain. 90.

Cedarcreek 2014 Syrah ($22.29)

Dark plum, blueberry jam and white pepper on the nose. Cherry and dark fruit envelop the palate, with a touch of spice on the finish. Another steal. 90.

Cedarcreek 2014 Meritage ($23.99)

39% Cab. Franc
26% Merlot
24% Malbec
8% Cab. Sauv.
3% Petit Verdot

Aromas of dark fruit, mint, tobacco leaf and herbs. Beautiful, smooth tannins and flavors of blackberry, chocolate, spice and vanilla. 90.

We also tasted a few wines I had previously reviewed but all of these above were new to us. I'll say it again, it's nice to find a winery that continuously churns out wine of high quality and reasonable prices like these guys do. And it's impossible to find one that takes better care of it's Platinum Club members (shipping is always free for us - not many wineries do that).

Next up: Another winery that takes excellent care of it's club members, but it's a TOTALLY DIFFERENT kind of care. That's right, we are headed right to The Hatch!!