Sunday, July 23, 2017

Okanagan trip concludes with the MAIN EVENT....Nota Bene release party!!

OK that's partially true. Yes, we did attend the Nota Bene release party, where the entertainment was terrific, the food was fabulous, and the wine was flowing. And flowing. And flowing.

This was some sort of a dance crew. Apparently some of them needed a nap.

Headliner Barney Bentall gave us all Something to Live For

But as for the wine that I'm going to review during this blog, it had little to do with the actual party; we stopped at Black Hills for a portfolio tasting a couple of days before the event.

We did get to taste some wine directly from the barrel at the party (the newest vintages of Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon, which will eventually end up in Nota Bene), but I'm only reviewing the wine that has already been bottled.

Black Hills 2016 Alias ($24.90)

Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Schoenburger, Muscat & Ehrenfelser

Aromas of passion fruit, lemon curd and pineapple. Those fruits hang around onto the palate, joined by some honeysuckle. It's very nice, although last year's vintage produced more pronounced pineapple flavors, and I love me some pineapple. 88.

Black Hills 2016 Rosé ($24.90)

Their first ever Rosé, made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. Aromas of strawberry, blood orange, cranberry and also features some vegetation. Raspberry and strawberry dominate the delicious, juicy palate. A terrific first effort. 90.

Black Hills 2015 Viognier ($24.90)

Beautiful aromas of white flowers, citrus, orange and papaya. Full bodied and creamy, with wonderful tropical fruit flavors. So nice. 90.

Black Hills 2015 Chardonnay ($29.90)

Pear, apple and butterscotch on the nose. Beautiful and complex flavors of toffee, butter, hazelnut and caramel. Just the right amount of butter on the finish, which adds to but does not overwhelm the fruit. 90.

Black Hills 2015 Carmenere ($35.90)

Their most limited-production wine, available only to wine club members, and it rarely disappoints. Black olive, raspberry, smoke and white pepper on the nose which starts out fruity and becomes almost dusty. Dark berries and white pepper flavors on the palate, which finishes with touches of charred meats. So delicious. 93.

Black Hills 2015 Syrah ($34.90)

Your nose is almost overwhelmed with blueberry, black cherry and plums. Blueberry and blackberry flavors, with a touch of pepper, come to the palate party. Finishes with an almost dusty quality, like a beautiful Sangiovese. It's a touch hot, with strong tannins, so if you have the patience to age it a bit, you will be richly rewarded. 92-94.

Black Hills 2015 Nota Bene ($59.90)

56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc

Oh my. Intoxicating aromas of violets, dark chocolate, baking spice, cassis, black plum and tobacco. Flavors include black olive, forest floor, cedar, black fruit and mocha. So incredibly approachable. I'm not going to say this is the best Nota Bene ever, it's too early for that, but it might be the best "young" one. It is truly spectacular already. 95.

So that's it for another absolutely terrific vacation in the Okanagan. Next trip comes up in late August. But lots of good stuff coming up in this blog, we have TONS of great stuff to catch you up on, including a fabulous night of German food and wine, and we are only a week or so away from a trip to Vegas where I suspect some good wine will be consumed. Stay tuned!!!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The penultimate entry in the Okanagan trip report takes us to Church & State

Always a favorite of ours, let's get right to the reviews!

Church & State 2015 Lost Inhibitions White ($20.00)

Yes, the one with the crazy labels; but the wine is pretty good too. Aromas of fruit salad and lychee. Flavors of lychee and stone fruit, and creamy mouthfeel. 88.

Church & State 2016 Sauvignon Blanc ($20.00)

Light grassy notes mingling with citrus on the nose, and on the palate. Well balanced acidity. 88.

Church & State 2015 Trebella ($25.00)

 Roussanne (62%), Marsanne (28%), Viognier (10%)

Frequent award winner features a nose of tea, elderflower, nectarine and vanilla. Unctious with flavors of orchard fruit and a touch of spice on the finish. 89.

Church & State 2014 Coyote Bowl Chardonnay ($27.00)

This has long been one of our favorite Chardonnays but this one seemed to be the least buttery example. Slight notes of hazelnut and butterscotch, with pear, apple and vanilla. More fruit than butter on the palate, which finishes long. 88.

Church & State 2014 Meritage ($25.00)

Aromas of blackberry, blueberry and a hint of chocolate and vanilla. Black fruit, a hint of earth and spice on the palate. 88.

Church & State 2014 Syrah ($35.00)

Black fruit and black pepper dominate the nose. Flavors of black cherry, blackberry, plum and black pepper. Nice. 89.

Church & State 2014 Cabernet Franc ($35.00)

Blackberry, cranberry, baking spices and just a touch of cherry on the nose. Dark fruit dominates the palate, with some notes of tobacco, cassis and cedar poking through. Finishes long. 89.

Church & State 2013 Quintessential ($55.00)

Their signature Bordeaux blend always brings quality and this vintage is no exception. Aromas of red cherry, mint, black plum, blackberry and chocolate. Complex flavors of juicy black fruit, hints of cherry and spice. Finishes long. 92.

Truth be told, although there isn't a bad wine in the bunch, we were underwhelmed by some of today's wine. However, it would be very premature to suggest that this winery's quality has slipped, because just a few months ago I reviewed their new Merlot (review here) which was so good it actually made my "best of the best" list. We will certainly be back to taste the new vintage.

Next up: The Okanagan trip concludes with the main event of the trip: The Nota Bene Release Party at Black Hills!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Okanagan Trip Report turns 10 at Le Vieux Pin, Ooo La La!!!!

Alex, our normal guide at this fine establishment, was not available this trip, so he left us in the capable hands of...Alex. I guess that will make remembering names easier!

Le Vieux Pin 2016 Vaila ($23.99)

Aromas of pink grapefruit, orange rind, strawberry and rhubarb. Strawberry and pink grapefruit on the palate, which is very dry and finishes with a touch of spice. 89.

Le Vieux Pin 2016 Ava ($29.99)

Their traditional Viognier/Roussanne/Marsanne blend (50%/32%/18%) is delicious as always but this one is made to age. If you can't wait, decant it for an hour (decant a white?? Darn right!). White flowers, stone fruit and black tea on the nose. Flavors include stone fruit, red apple and a touch of honey. Rich, full mouthfeel. This is going to be a beauty. 90-92.

Le Vieux Pin 2015 Syrah Cuvée Violette ($28.99)

Beautiful feminine, perfumed nose of violets and red fruit. If you pay attention, there are some smoked meats lingering in the background. Red cherry, strawberry and slight spice on the palate. Already drinking beautifully but if you have the patience to wait 3-5 years, will really be a standout. 91.

Le Vieux Pin 2013 Equinoxe Syrah ($79.99)

Black cherry, blackberry, black pepper....everything BLACK....on the nose. Some herbaceous and floral notes come late to the party. Black fruit dominates the palate, but the black pepper is there too, as well as generous helpings of game and herbs. This is a beast that needs time to fully develop, but it is going to be something special. 92-94.

That was the new stuff that LVP had for us this trip. As always, nothing but terrific stuff. They also have a beautiful picnic area, like their sister La Stella, so next trip we might just bring our lunch and enjoy some wine outdoors.

Next up: Just one more entry in this wine trip before the main event, and it comes at a winery we've visited often, Church & State!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Okanagan trip become a "Neuftet" at a brand new player, Vin Amité!

If you don't know what a neuftet is, you should go and watch A Mighty Wind right now. Go ahead, I'll wait.

You're back! Funny, right? OK then, let's get to the wine.

Early in our trip during our visit to Black Hills (that report is still to come), our host, Wayne, highly recommended we go seek out this place I had barely heard of, Vin Amité Cellars. Wayne knows his stuff, so his recommendation carries some weight, but we already had a pretty full docket of wineries lined up, so we put them on the back burner and they were a "if we have time" choice.

The next day, at Cassini, our lovely hostess recommended the same thing. YOU HAVE TO GO TO VIN AMITE!!

Well, OK then. Two random recommendations is enough to push them to "make time for them" status, and that's what we did.

They are located up near the North end of Oliver, and we had driven by a few times but didn't know anything about them. They have a quaint little tasting room, pleasant but unremarkable. But we were not going to have to wait long to find "remarkable".

This winery was opened in 2015 under the name VinPerdu, but changed last year to VinAmité, perhaps due to a conflict with a Calfornia Red Blend called Vin Perdu.

Family owned and operated, we spent most of our tasting in the company of Catherine Coulombe, one of the daughters. She could not have been more pleasant, more knowledgeable, or more passionate. It shows in the wine.
VinAmité Cellars 2015 Pinot Gris ($19.90)

Muted aromas of lemon and pineapple. The flavors aren't muted, with some green apple jumping into the mix. Different than your average PG, almost unctious, with just a touch of oak on the finish. 88.

VinAmité Cellars 2016 Chanson d'Amour ($21.90)

A unique blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewuztraminer and Orange Muscat. Putting your nose into the glass is reminiscent of opening up one of those fruit cups that Mom used to put into your school lunch. Some aromas of hay and baking spice make an appearance as well. Flavors of stone fruit, particularly peach, and lychee, with a touch of minerality. Patio sipper extraordinare. 89.

VinAmité Cellars 2015 Chardonnay ($29.90)

Lightly oaked but no maloactic fermentation. Light notes of buttered toast and hazelnut on the nose and palate. Tropical fruit and vanilla flavors as well. Very well balanced and lovely. 89.

Now, as for the actual reason we are here....we got to talking about Gamay Noir while at Black Hills for some reason (odd since they don't make a Gamay), and that was what prompted Wayne to push us to come here. Gamay is SO not our thing, it may be the only varietal that we have never really enjoyed, anywhere. That was about to change.

VinAmité Cellars 2015 Gamay Noir ($27.90)

Intense nose of red cherry and red berries. Juicy red berry pie dominates the palate. Seems to avoid all the clichés of this varietal. Tasty. 88.

VinAmité Cellars 2016 Gamay Noir ($27.90)

This one seemed to actually exhibit some more aged characteristics than it's older brother. Lots of red fruit prevalent, for sure, but some leather and earthy notes as well. Seemed to be a touch more complex, but also delicious and approachable. 89.

Had the tasting ended right there, I suspect we may have left with our first ever bottles of Gamay! But it was about to go up a notch or seven.

VinAmité Cellars 2015 Petit Claret ($28.90)

60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc

Enticing aromas of plum, red cherry, vanilla and cedar greet the nose. The cedar really comes through at the end if you give it a good swirl and let it develop. Blueberry, cherry, strawberry and a hint of earthy goodness on the palate. 90.

VinAmité Cellars 2015 Compass ($32.90)

33% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 10% Malbec 

Beautiful aromas of blueberry jam, spice, mint, charred meats, vanilla and cassis. The palate is juicy and meaty at the same time, with notes of black fruit and white pepper. Long, lovely finish. 91.

VinAmité Cellars 2015 Hidden Corner ($38.90)

60% Merlot, 27% Malbec and 13% Cabernet Franc.

What a stunning difference changing the percentages (and leaving out the CS) makes here. Red berries, especially strawberry, dominate the nose, but if you wait for it, red roses show up as well. The red fruit continues through to the palate, where it is joined by notes of milk chocolate and vanilla. Absolutely delicious. 93.

VinAmité Cellars 2015 Petit Verdot ($54.90)

Intoxicating aromas of black licorice, wet stone, crushed violets and black plums. A hint of spice, tobacco and earth join in with rich, luscious blackberry flavors. The best single-varietal Petit Verdot I have ever tasted, and it's not really even that close. Limited to 73 cases, and if money were no object, I might've damn well bought them all! 93.

So there you have it, our first trip to Vin Amité will certainly not be our last. Next time I think we'll plan on staying longer and enjoying some cheese and charcuterie along with the wines. I cannot recommend them enough, I know they are a bit North of the beaten path, but it's worth it to keep heading up Hwy-97 a couple miles to find them.

Next up: Getting into the home stretch of the trip, tasting the new stuff at Le Vieux Pin!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Okanagan Trip report and it's VIVA ITALIA time at La Stella!!!

Beautiful winery, beautiful wines, and always great staff. Our host, Richard, greets us warmly and shows us out to their terrace where we sit down in anticipation of a lovely tasting, and for the first time ever, we brought our own food!

For readers who want to enjoy Okanagan wine tasting on a budget, this is really a terrific way to save a few bucks and still have a lovely experience. I think most people who know us would agree that "budget-conscious" is not exactly a phrase that anyone would use to describe us, but hey, we probably saved $30 by bringing a picnic lunch as opposed to having lunch at one of the fine restaurants in the area, and that money gets used to buy another bottle of wine! It's a win-win.

I'm always amazing that their talented winemaker, Severine Pinte, can make such terrific wine in a true Italian style, and then head up the road to their sister winery, Le Vieux Pin, and do the same in a very French style. I know she lived and trained in both countries, but still, that takes some serious talent.

To the wines! Prices do not include tax or deposit.

La Stella 2016 Leggiero ($22.99)

Italian Chardonnays are generally done without oak, and this one is very much like those. Lots of fruit on the nose, citrus and apple, with strong notes of minerality. Flavors of quince, lemon/lime and green apple lead to a finish of that trademark minerality. 88.

La Stella 2016 Vivace ($22.99)

Classic expression of Pinot Grigio (what we would generally call Pinot Gris in these parts). Aromas of citrus, stone fruit and herbs. Lemon, lime and peach on the palate, with tart green apple showing up at the very end. 89.

La Stella 2016 Lastellina ($21.99)

We first tasted this wine, sitting in a hot tub, about 2 months ago shortly after release. In fact, we had a mini-vertical, sipping this one beside it's 2015 version; and we were SO disappointed with this. Two reasons: 1, the 2015 might have been our all-time favorite Rosé, and 2, this one just wasn't very good.
But we were cognizant that it might be suffering from bottle shock, and that seems to be the case, because it has improved immensely. Aromas of strawberry, rhubarb and bing cherry, flavors of cherry, cranberry and rhubarb. It doesn't measure up to the 2015, but it's still very tasty. 89.

La Stella 2015 Fortissimo ($29.99)

63% Merlot,17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Sangiovese and 9% Cabernet Franc

Beautiful aromas of red cherry, spice, smoke, tobacco and herbaceous undertones. Red cherry all over the palate, with a hint of tobacco and black pepper on the finish. Surprisingly approachable now given it's youth, but this might be the best $30 red wine in the Okanagan, year after year. If you have the patience to wait a few years, it will be even better. 92.

La Stella 2013 Allegretto ($69.99)

From their website: The Allegretto or a ‘medium-brisk and playful tempo’ is a very special single vineyard wine we call a true Merlot. The vines are planted on their own rootstock (pie franco) in white silica sand (what glass is made out of).

That explains the "Pie Franco" better that I could. Beautiful aromas of black licorice, black cherry and vanilla explode from the glass. Juicy red cherry and licorice greet the palate, soon joined by hints of cocoa, sage and earth. Finishes long. 92.

La Stella 2014 Maestoso ($89.99)

Maestoso, or "solo", is 100% Merlot from two different vineyards. Intoxicating aromas of vanilla, blackberry, smoked meat and red cherry. The palate is a delightful potpourri of cherry, oak, blackberry and vanilla, with a rich and luscious mouthfeel and a finish that lingers long after the wine is gone. A special wine and a special vintage. Give it 3-5 years to truly get where it is heading. If you just can't wait, give it a nice long decant. 94.

La Stella 2016 Moscato d'Osoyoos ($19.99 375 ml)

Light bubbly fruit salad in a glass. Flavors of orchard fruit, orange blossom and rose petals. Delicious and at less than 10% alcohol, it would pair with breakfast, lunch, dinner, or another bottle. Or three. 92.

Terrific experience here, as always, and we left with some great wine and our bellies full. Highly recommend the picnic lunch.

Next up: Although we were headed up to Le Vieux Pin, we had one stop to make next....another winery we had never visited before, Vin Amité Cellars!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Interrupting our Okanagan trip report, the theme nights continue with FRANCE!!

....and since you couldn't possible get a real sense of the wine of France in one night, we actually narrowed it down to BORDEAUX!!

Let's get right to it while everything is still fresh in my mind! By the end of the evening, my notes were slightly less legible than at the beginning!

First, a bonus of the dishes was made the night before (as recommended by the recipe) and half of this bottle went into the dish, and the other half went into my belly.

Louis Jadot 2013 Couvent des Jacobins ($29.99)

Beautiful nose, a true Burgundian Pinot Noir. Aromas of red cherry, herbs de Provence, spice and cranberry. Flavors of red cherry, a touch of pepper with smooth and supple tannins. A lovely entry-level Jadot. 89.

Premier Cours

A French tradition; Charcuterie! Meat, artisan cheeses, crackers, and the like.

The wine:

Chateau Rahoul 2013 Graves Blanc ($29.99)

Buttery and citrus aromas jump from the glass. Flavors of lemon-lime with plenty of herbaceous notes. Creamy mouthfeel and long finish. Lovely. 92.

Chateau de Fieuzal 2010 Pessac-Léognan ($86.99)

Muted nose of white flowers, wood, and a touch of butter. Those aromas continue through to the palate, and are joined by a touch of hazelnut, melon and citrus. Just seems to be reaching it's drinking window. 92.

Deuxième Cours

The food:

Do a Google search for Julia Child's Roast Chicken and a heck of a lot of different recipes come up. This is the one I used, and it was really terrific. 

The wine:

This was actually supposed to pair with the 2010 Fieuzal, but since we went through the 2 bottles of white Bordeaux so fast....well....I was out of White Bordeaux, and no time to drive an hour to my offsite cellar to get more. SO.....I just picked something that would go well with the chicken, and I think I made a good choice. I paired it with Culmina's 2016 Unicus, a delicious Gruner Velitliner that I have previously reviewed here. 

Troisième Cours

The food:

This is the dish that was mostly made the night before, and it was absolutely delicious. My wife's favorite dish of the night. As good as it was, what a stupid dish to serve at BORDEAUX night. I mean, we are going to have a BURGUNDY night too, of course, and that might have been a more appropriate time to serve a dish that is literally named after Burgundy!! 

The wine: 

Chateau Beau-Site 2005 St. Estephe ($49.99)

70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot

Superb aromas of red cherry, smoke, leather, herbs and tobacco. Concentrated flavors of cherry and blackberry, with tobacco, earth and spice as well. Drinking beautifully now and seems like it will have legs for a few more years. 91.

Quatrième Cours

The food:

Oh my. A couple of the guests thought there was too much pepper on the steaks, but I disagreed, and thought this was just spectacular.

The wine:

Domaine de Chevalier 2013 Pessac-Leognan ($75.00)

65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot

2013 was a pretty poor year for Red Bordeaux, but this one is tasty and approachable. Lots of cherry and blackberry on the nose and the palate. Some smokiness develops and a hint of graphite pops up as well. Long finish and good concentration of fruit. Pretty successful effort for a poor vintage. 92.


The food:

My first attempt at this traditional French dessert was, IMO, a rousing success. To be honest, almost everyone was so full by this point that I was the only one who ate an entire portion, but that just means there is more left for us today :)

The wine:

Chateau Rieussec 2013 Sauternes ($80.00)

Feel like having your mind blown? Pick up one of these. Or 10. Closing in on perfection, complex aromas of dried apricot, peach, lemon meringue pie, honey and a touch of mushroom. Full bodied and the perfect amount of sweet to go with the dessert. Finishes forever. FOREVER. A tour-de-force and it might even get better with further time. 98.

Oh what a way to end a really fantastic evening. Nice to find a bunch of great recipes that not only made Bordeaux night special, they were so good that we will make them again.

Next up: For the blog, back to the Okanagan report where we will pick up at La Stella. For our theme nights, just two weeks from now we are back to our friends' place as they tackle a toughie: Germany!!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Okanagan Trip continues at one that gets better every visit, Burrowing Owl!

If you walk into the tasting room, they charge a $3 fee which is non-refundable with purchase. That is odd for the Okanagan - you can usually get reimbursed if you buy a bottle or two - but here, they take all that money and it pays for the conservation of these cute SOB's:

I can hear them saying "Hey, don't be cheap, get in here and put down your three bucks!!!"

Anyway, we paid quite a bit more than $3 this time, as we booked a private sit-down tasting for the first time, known as the "Connoisseur Tasting". We were warmly greeted by Sophie, our host, who was very friendly and knowledgeable and treated us to a terrific experience. I highly recommend this level of tasting for your next visit here. IIRC, the cost was $30.

Of course, as I've said everywhere, the experience presented to you in any wine tasting only goes so far. It really all comes down to the wines.

Burrowing Owl 2016 Pinot Gris ($20.00)

Aromas of pear and apple with a hint of minerality. Citrus flavors mingle with apple and white grapefruit. 88.

Burrowing Owl 2016 Sauvignon Blanc ($25.00)

Somewhat reminiscent of a big New Zealand Sauv Blanc, with aromas of melon and fresh cut grass. All kinds of things going on here, with a complex flavor profile featuring some melon, stone fruit, mandarin orange, honeysuckle, passionfruit, guava and herbaceous notes on the finish. Lovely. 90.

Burrowing Owl 2013 Merlot ($30.00)

Beautiful aromas of red fruit, red pepper, plum, black cherry, chocolate and violets. Red and black berries on the palate, with chocolate notes and an earthy, almost dusty finish. Delicious. 92.

Burrowing Owl 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($33.00)

Thus continues the "Trip of Cabernet Sauvignon", and this isn't even from the seemingly-perfect 2014 vintage. Stewed plums, mint, dark chocolate, violets, black cherry and black licorice on the nose. Black cherry, black raspberry, plum, blackberry and a hint of spice on the finish. This one is so good, I can't wait to taste the '14. 92.

Burrowing Owl 2013 Meritage ($45.00)

39% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit, Verdot, 3% Malbec

 Intense red cherry, red currant, blackberry, violet, chocolate and vanilla aromas. Red cherries dominate the palate, but there are also flavors of blueberry, plum and marzipan. Firm structure, this is a beast and needs a good decade in the cellar to really show itself, but it's going to be quite a show. 91-94.

Burrowing Owl 2014 Cabernet Franc ($33.00)

Aromas of vanilla, violets, plum, black cherry and toasty oak. The oak really shines through on the palate as well, with flavors of raspberry, plum, blackberry and a hint of spice. 89.

Burrowing Owl 2014 Athene ($38.00)

58% Syrah and 42% Cabernet Sauvignon cofermented

 Plum, baking spice, violets, hazelnut, espresso, dark chocolate and earthy notes are all present to tantalize your olfactory senses. Black and blue fruit dominate the palate, with some orange rind and spice showing up through the mid-palate. This is delicious already. 93.

Burrowing Owl N/V (2015 Bottling) Coruja ($30.00)

Coruja is Portugese for "owl", and this is their fortified Port-style wine. Black fruit and raspberry jam on the nose, with blackberry, blueberry, leather, violets and a touch of pepper on the palate. Lovely. 90.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is no bad wine here, and many of them are taking the leap from "good" to "spectacular".

We had originally planned on having dinner at their terrific restaurant, but with my wife's health issues we wanted to minimize how many late nights out we had, so we decided to stick to dinner at our resort. We are very much looking forward to our next visit though, as the restaurant is one not to miss.

Next up: Up in the morning and time to start another day, and we start it in one of our favorite spots, at La Stella!