Saturday, September 30, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part 12, a review I don't want to write about an unforgettable tasting

Blind Tiger opened in 2015. Their tasting room is tiny (quaint even?), and the staff we encountered were friendly and helpful. Their labels are inventive and quite cool, to be honest.

They have a lovely little food truck sitting adjacent to the tasting room, and a lovely little seating area for customers to enjoy a pizza and a glass of wine if they so desire. At first glance, this looks like a nice place, and I expected to enjoy my experience.

As we approach, we notice a sign near the seating area that reads "Please don't feed our dogs, something is making them sick, we are trying to figure out what it is".

Poor dogs. I hope that gets settled.

So, why do I not want to write this blog post? Because it is never my intention to crap all over someone's hard work. Normally if I visit a winery and don't like anything at all (which virtually never happens), I'll just ignore it and never bother to write about it.

But these wines were so incredibly universally undrinkable....that I feel it necessary to share this experience with my readers. I'd love to hear from anyone who has been here and enjoyed the wine.

My distaste for these wines was shared among my other 3 companions, and not a single one of the wines we tasted was consumed; after the first couple sips, they were all poured into the bucket. That is the first time I have ever done that.

So here we go.

Blind Tiger 2015 Pinot Gris ($19.95)

This smelled like sesame seeds and tasted like grain alcohol. You can't make that up. 67.

Blind Tiger 2015 Gewurztraminer ($21.95)

Aromas of lychee and rose water. Mango and lychee on the palate, which was particularly oily. 78.

Blind Tiger 2014 Riesling ($19.95)

Aromas of pineapple, green apple and a touch of diesel. The palate was light, even weak, and the petrol flavors overwhelmed any fruit. 79.

Blind Tiger 2015 Chardonnay ($25.95)

Butterscotch and hazelnut on the nose, with hints of tropical fruit and toasted cereal on the palate. The best of the whites by a country mile. 84.

Blind Tiger 2015 Pinot Noir ($25.95)

Aromas of sour cherry and raspberry. Very light on the nose, and the palate, with some red cherry and strawberry flavors. 82.

Blind Tiger 2012 Speakeasy Red ($36.95)

30% Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Merlot each, 10% Syrah

Blackberry, cherry and black olive on the nose. Black fruit and a touch of black pepper. Finishes long. By FAR the best wine of the day, but it seems to be a $20 wine in a $37 bottle. 85.

Given the quality of the wines and the sign regarding dogs getting mysteriously sick, I have to question the terroir. I have nothing but anecdotal evidence to make that claim, but this was a tasting experience that none of us will ever forget, although I'm sure we would all really, really like to.

Next up: On our way back to the hotel, our driver takes us to one last stop for the day, Sandhill.

Turn the Okanagan Trip all the way up to Eleven, as we cross the street and taste at Intrigue Wines

Literally across the street from The Chase, the difference between the two wineries shows you just how winery management and philosophy can make or break a winery. We'll see which of the two is thriving in a few years. I have an idea, but let's keep our eyes on them and see.

Friendly staff, but a tiny bit more training is required to work in a tasting room. You'll understand that comment in a minute.

Prices below do include tax

Intrigue Wines 2016 Gewurztraminer ($16.90)

Light nose of red roses and lychee. Lychee and a tiny bit of white pepper on the palate, which is better than the nose. Not a bad wine for the price. 88.

Intrigue Wines 2016 Social White ($14.90)

68% Riesling, 27% Gewurztraminer, 2% Muscat Canelli, 2% Kerner, and 1% Ehrenfelser

The definition of an aromatic blend; light nose of green apple and peach. Flavors of peach, pear, green apple and citrus. For the price, very respectable. 87.

Intrigue Wines 2016 Social Rosé ($16.90)

87% Riesling, 7% Rotberger, 5% Merlot, and 1% Malbec

I could be wrong, but I'm sure this is the only Rosé I have encountered that is Riesling-based. Aromas of strawberry and rhubarb. The palate might notice some strawberry and red apple flavors. Again, a decent wine for the price. 87.

It's at this point in our story where my comment from above will make sense. As I was tasting this, I inquired as to the vintage, and I was told it was NV (no vintage). When I questioned that, the young lady helping us out told me that "ALL red wine is actually NV because the grapes always come from different years".

YIKES. That's one I haven't heard before.

Intrigue Wines 2016 Social Red ($18.90)

92% Cabernet Franc/8 Malbec

Aromas of red cherry, cassis and spice. Flavors include cassis and raspberry. Very, very short finish. 85.

Intrigue Wines 2016 I DO Bubbly ($19.90)

Same percentage of grapes as in the rosé.

Intense aromas of green and red apple. Apple, strawberry and raspberry on the palate. 85.

Clearly this winery is catering to a specific, budget-conscious clientele, as there isn't a single wine in their portfolio that retails for over $25, including tax. That is an important segment of the market of course.

Next up: oh boy....I don't even know what to say about this next winery. It's called Blind Tiger, it's our first visit here, and it is a visit that none of us will EVER forget. Tune in, true believers! You won't want to miss this one.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part Ten, as we continue The Chase for great wines!

The newest winery we visited on this trip, The Chase opened it's doors in May. Like a lot of wineries these days, they opened up a beautiful tasting room and a lovely little bistro. They are so new, their website is just a splash page with a link to the bistro menu; they'll have to get that going soon.

My beautiful wife, in front of a wall of The Chase wine

They had only 4 wines open for us to taste, so let's get right to it.

The Chase 2016 Riesling ($20.00)

 Aromas of lemon, lime, green apple and ample minerality. The palate is all about citrus, citrus, citrus. 88.

The Chase 2016 Pinot Gris ($20.00)

Intriguing nose of red apple, orchard fruit and pear. The apple and pear continue through to the palate, where a touch of spice joins them on the finish. This is lovely; in fact, we enjoyed one just last night. 90.

The Chase 2016 Gewurztraminer ($20.00)

White flowers, red roses and lychee on the nose. Tropical fruit, particularly guava, dominate the palate, but there are some hints of lychee and spice as well. 88.

The Chase 2016 Rosé ($20.00)

100% Pinot Noir, made in the traditional Saignée style. Ripe red strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb on the nose. The palate is juicy and fruit forward with hints of strawberry and raspberry jam. A hint of spice on the finish. Very dry, and very good. 90.

They also count a Chardonnay and a Gruner Veltliner among their portfolio, but they were not available for tasting. A pretty darn solid effort for a brand new winery, and the smells coming out of their pizza oven were intoxicating. We'll have to stop by for lunch on our next trip up here.

Next up: Across the street, quite literally, to another winery we had never visited, Intrigue!!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Okanagan Wine Report, Part Nine, 50th Parallel Estate and the guy who started us on this whole damn journey......

I really haven't been enjoying wine for all that long, and the bottle that finally got me into wine was a Gewurztraminer from Quails' Gate, circa 2006 or thereabouts. At that time, the winemaker at Quails' Gate was Grant Stanley, who left there years ago to head up to Lake Country and help the owners start up the winery. That's where we are today, 50th Parallel Estate.

So, you all have Grant to thanks for this blog you are reading. Wow, did our lives ever change once we discovered how amazing wine was.

You are unlikely to see Grant up at the winery these days, as he spends most of his time playing tennis and enjoying semi-retirement. He has left the winery in excellent hands, however, as the staff here is universally terrific, and let me tell you about one guy in particular.

His name is Travis. I hate Travis quite a bit.

He is, if memory serves, 23 years old, and has already passed the WSET Level 3 exam. With honors. Travis didn't tell us the 'honors' part, that had to come from one of his co-workers. He plans to have his Master of Wine certificate before the age of 30.

I hate Travis quite a bit.

One of these days I'm going to have to tackle the WSET courses. I will skip Level 1, I think I'm past that, and I think I will be able to handle Level 2. As for Level 3? No way I could pass that at this point, but maybe one day. Something to aspire to.

50th Parallel focuses on cooler climate grapes that will thrive in Lake Country. Let's see how they fared!

50th Parallel Estate 2015 Gewurztraminer ($19.90)

Aromas of lychee and elderflower give way to citrus and melon, with just a touch of spice on the finish. 88.

50th Parallel Estate 2016 Gewurztraminer ($19.90)

Less floral than the above, with lychee and grapefruit notes on the nose. Slightly sweeter than the above, with lychee and citrus flavors. Spice on the finish here as well. 89.

50th Parallel Estate 2016 Pinot Gris ($19.90)

White grapefruit, meyer lemon and orchard fruit on the nose. The palate is slightly creamy, dominated by citrus, peach and pear flavors. 88.

50th Parallel Estate 2016 Riesling ($19.90)

Aromas of tropical fruit, green apple, lemon and lime. Lots of granny smith apple and minerality. Very tart and finishes long. 88.

50th Parallel Estate 2015 Chardonnay ($35.00)

S'mores in a glass, minus the chocolate. Incredibly complex nose of marshmallow, almonds, hazelnut, graham and smoke. The lush, decadent palate features hazelnut, caramel, macadamia nut and butterscotch. Delicious. 90.

50th Parallel Estate 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé ($19.90)

Done in the Provence-style, aromas of strawberry, raspberry and rhubarb. All manners of red fruit on the palate. 88.

50th Parallel Estate 2014 Pinot Noir ($29.00)

Arresting nose of red cherry, smoke and toffee. Black cherry, spice, truffle and chocolate on the palate. Lovely finish. Excellent already. 90.

50th Parallel Estate 2014 Unparalleled Pinot Noir ($50.00)

Hints of roses, red cherry, earth and toasted walnuts on the nose. Black cherry, red fruit, blueberry and black current on the palate. Tannins are strong, this is one that will improve much with careful cellaring. So much potential. 91-94.

So that's it for this tasting, we left with a few bottles of Chardonnay and a new level of respect (and jealousy) for Travis, who took excellent care of us during the tasting.

Travis, I hate you.

Up next, our tour of Lake Country continues at a brand new winery called The Chase!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Okanagan Trip, The Ocho, up the road to Ex Nihilo!

While in the parking lot at Gray Monk, one of my companions, who might be the world leader for making friends with strangers, struck up a conversation with a fellow wine enthusiast who happened to work at Ex Nihilo. Voila, 3 minutes later, we were booked into a special seated food-and-wine-pairing-tasting! I guess being friendly actually pays off. Maybe I'll try that one day.

Anyhow, the only negative was that it was about 140 degrees on that day and we started by sitting out in the sun.
Four very warm people

Thankfully, a table in the shade would open up shortly after our tasting began.

Four slightly less warm people

Before I mention anything about the wine, I must give them kudos for using VARIETAL SPECIFIC glasses; the first (and only) winery on this particular trip to do so. It makes such an incredible difference.

We started with a little palate cleanser from their entry-level line.

Chaos 2016 Bianco ($16.00)

Riesling/Gewurztraminer/Pinot Gris

Aromas of lychee, green apple and white peach. Melon, peach and lychee on the palate. Refreshing and a real treat for the price. 87.

At this point, we had small plates to pair with the wines, each dish being paired with two wines.

Ex Nihilo 2015 Riesling ($20.00)

Already showing some notes of diesel to go along with juicy pineapple and a touch of white pepper. Crisp and clean with honey and orange zest flavors. Really nice. 90.

Ex Nihilo 2016 Pinot Noir ($36.00)

Intense aromas of strawberry, plum and earth. The palate is complex, juicy and arresting. Flavors include earth, dark cherry and black plum, but expect to get hints of baking spices and herbs as it finishes. Just lovely. 92.

Ex Nihilo 2015 Pinot Gris ($20.00)

Apricot, passion fruit, pear and white flowers on the nose. Orchard fruits dominate the palate, with just a touch of grapefruit as well. 89.

Ex Nihilo 2015 Night ($46.00)

47% Cabernet Sauvignon/36% Merlot/17% Cabernet Franc

Incredible aromas of dried figs, smoke, dark fruit, stewed plums and baking spice. The palate is dark as Night (ha! get it?), dark berries, dark chocolate, plum, vanilla and a touch of white pepper. This is already delicious, but lay it down for 2-3 years if you can. 93.

We left here very satisfied (the food pairings were terrific) with four bottles in tow: a Riesling, a Pinot Noir, a Night, and one that we didn't get to taste, a Small Lot Barrel Reserve Pinot Noir. I'm just going to assume it's great based on how good the regular Pinot was (which is, of course, not necessarily true).

Next up on this tour: We meet a very special young man at 50th Parallel Estate!!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Monks might be Gray but the food and wine are Gold

Four about-to-be-very-happy diners
This was our fourth, maybe fifth, trip to The Grapevine Restaurant at Gray Monk, and it has shown to be universally excellent. This was actually, by far, my least favorite meal there, but that is not a reflection of the quality of the food, it was due to the idiot who ordered himself the wrong thing, mistakenly ordering Tuna which I don't much like. Can't blame the restaurant because one of the diners is a moron.

Anyway, before lunch we enjoyed a tasting of their portfolio of wines. It was busy and we were being helped by a friendly young gentleman who, by his own admission, didn't know anything about wine. He was filling in, and didn't usually work the tasting room! Aye, carumba. Anyway, he did his best.

We have been huge fans of a few Gray Monk wines, particularly their sweet whites: Kerner, and a Muscat called "Reflection", as well as their tasty Pinot Auxerrois.  I don't remember if they were tasting these but we didn't taste them as we are already very familiar. On to the wines!

Prices exclude taxes, and this visit was made before last week's huge announcement about the purchase of this winery by Andrew Peller.

Gray Monk Odyssey White Meritage ($16.49)

At the winery we were told this was a blend of Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay, which I knew couldn't possibly be right. A White Meritage (which rhymes with "heritage", BTW), by definition, is the same as a White Bordeaux: Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon (sometimes, not in this case, also Muscadelle). Notes of white flowers, tropical fruit, gooseberry and grass. Gooseberry, lemongrass and a hint of grapefruit on the palate. 86.

Gray Monk 2015 Pinot Gris ($16.99)

The nose is dominated by citrus with some herbaceous notes hanging around. Peach, pear and apple with a hint of spice on the finish. 88.

Gray Monk 2015 Riesling ($14.99)

Intense aromas of green apple, pineapple and a slight hint of petrol. Flavors include green apple, pineapple and key lime pie. A good bargain at this price. 89.

Gray Monk L50 Rosé ($12.99)

Aromas and flavors of raspberry and strawberry. A touch of cranberry comes through on the palate as well. This isn't going to make anyone's "top 10" list, but hey, it's $13, and it's perfectly drinkable for the price. 87.

Gray Monk 2016 Ehrenfelser ($17.39)

Elderflower and citrus on the nose. Palate is almost oily, with pronounced flavors of banana, apricot and tropical fruit. Off dry and really tasty. 89.

Gray Monk 2016 Siegerrebe ($16.59)

Beautiful aromas of white flowers, orchard fruit and lychee. The palate doesn't quite compare. Gooseberry, tangarine and a touch of grapefruit. Slightly off-dry. 87.

Gray Monk 2014 Odyssey Pinot Noir ($23.49)

Aromas of earth, smoke, leather and red cherry. The palate seems slightly underripe and flabby, with very light flavors of plum, raspberry and red cherry. 85.

Gray Monk 2013 Odyssey Meritage ($30.49)

48% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot

Aromas of black cherry, vanilla and mocha. Flavors are juicy and intense, red cherry, mocha, vanilla and a touch of spice. 88.

Gray Monk 2013 Cabernet Merlot ($17.39)

Light, almost imperceptible nose of mint and mocha. The palate shows up where the nose does not, black cherry, dark chocolate and oak. Nice finish, a decent bargain. 88.

Gray Monk 2012 Odyssey Merlot ($20.89)

Aromas of red cherry and a touch of earth. Cherry and earth notes on the palate, finishes well with a touch of spice. Tannins are firm, suggesting this needs a bit more time to open up. 88-89.

So that's it for today. This tasting confirmed for me what I already expected; this is a good winery, with a wide selection of varietals, but nothing that really knocks me over. Kind of a "jack of all trades, master of none" situation.

Up next on the tour, an enjoyable seated tasting just up the road, at Ex Nihilo!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Okanagan Trip, Part 6, The Little Engine that Could, and Did, and Continues to Do......

Regular readers of my blog might remember that we discovered a fantastic new winery, quite by accident, on our trip up here in April. If you don't remember, the notes are here.

We returned here to taste some new stuff that we didn't get to sample the first time. This time, seated outside on a brand new, beautiful patio.

Little Engine 2016 Silver Sauvignon Blanc ($30.00)

Intriguing aromas of fresh cut grass, coconut and pineapple. Citrus fruit dominates the almost-chalky palate, which features bright acidity and a long finish. Very nice already and some more time in the bottle will even improve. 89.

Little Engine 2015 Platinum Chardonnay ($75.00)

Citrus notes dominate the nose but some butterscotch lurks in the background, you need to give it time to get there. Flavors of lemon, pear, baking spice and creme brulee. Acidity is high and this one, although drinking nicely now, is going to get so much better in a few years. 91-94.

Little Engine 2016 Caboose Rosé ($22.00)

Cranberry, strawberry and rhubarb on the nose and they follow through to the palate. Just a tinge of spice shows up on the finish. 88.

Little Engine 2015 Platinum Merlot ($75.00)

Intoxicating nose of raspberry jam, vanilla, toasted oak, mocha and licorice. Red berries, dark chocolate and a touch of tobacco on the palate. Although this will certainly improve with age, it's already so delicious now. 93.

Little Engine French Family Cabernet ($45.00 - not yet released, wine club only)

Blackberry, eucalyptus, mocha and blueberry on the nose. Black fruit and mocha dominate the superb palate, which finishes long and impressively. A real treat. 93.

That was it for today, I believe we've tasted just about their entire portfolio over the course of our two visits, and there wasn't a bad wine in the bunch - and most of them were simply outstanding. What a terrific new winery, one to definitely watch.

Next up: We start our day in Lake Country at with a tasting and lunch at Gray Monk!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Okanagan Trip part 5, with our second trip to La Frenz this year!

I wouldn't normally taste wines at the same place twice in the same year, but I noticed that since our first visit in April (reviews here), all of the wines had a new why not?

And last time we tasted only the reserve level wines, this time I requested a tasting of their entire portfolio and they were happy to oblige. It was a terrific tasting that lasted a total of TWO AND A HALF HOURS!!!

Lots to report on, so let's get right to it. Prices below DO include taxes.

La Frenz 2016 Sauvignon Blanc ($22.00)

Aromas of gooseberry, Meyer lemon, apricot, grass and passion fruit. Citrus fruit on the palate, well balanced acidity, and a hint of grassy and herbaceous notes. 88.

La Frenz 2016 Semillon ($22.00)

Fresh pear and lemon aromas. Pear, fig, lemon, honeysuckle and orange blossom flavors. Beautiful and ageable, with a lush mid-palate and creamy mouthfeel. A top notch Semillon. 90.

La Frenz 2016 Riesling ($22.00)

Made in the tradition of Alsace, with notes of lime, pineapple, honeysuckle, green apple a hint of diesel. Slightly off-dry with tart green apple and key lime pie flavors. 87.

La Frenz 2016 Chardonnay ($22.00)

Aromas of stone fruit, vanilla and oak. Juicy red apple, peach and vanilla flavors. Creamy mouthfeel. 87.

La Frenz 2016 Viognier ($24.00)

Peach, papaya, coconut and herbs tantalize your olfactory senses. Banana, stone fruit, sage, honey and limestone on the palate. Juicy and delicious. 90.

La Frenz 2015 Ensemble Reserve ($25.00)

78% Sauvignon Blanc/22% Semillon

Who needs Bordeaux when you have this beauty? Passion fruit, lemongrass and peach on the nose. Complex and delicious flavors include orange blossom, gooseberry, straw and a touch of honey. 91.

La Frenz 2015 Reserve Chardonnay ($29.00)

Arresting white peach, guava and wet stone on the nose. Barreled in 100% French Oak, 30% new, it picks up just a touch of toasty oak flavors to go with melon and baking spice and minerality. 88.

La Frenz 2015 Reserve Vivant ($25.00)

56% Viognier, 22% Roussanne, 22% Chardonnay

Aromas of baked pears and papaya with just a hint of hazelnut. Papaya and pear flavors in the first wave, followed up by a hint of caramel and touch of spice on the finish. 89.

La Frenz 2015 Desperation Hill Pinot Noir ($25.00)

Red berries dominate the nose, giving way to darker berries, licorice and a touch of spice on the palate. 88.

La Frenz 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir ($35.00)

Intense and pretty aromas of forest floor, leather, black fruit and baking spice. Red cherry, nutmeg, and is that a hint of chocolate cake on the palate? Just delicious. 91.

La Frenz 2015 Syrah ($30.00)

Sweet violets, blueberry and blackberry aromas. Ripe and juicy flavors include licorice, blueberry, cold cuts, white pepper and a very long finish. 90.

La Frenz 2015 Malbec ($28.00)

Raspberry jam, black fruit and earth on the nose. Rich mouthfeel, with flavors of dark chocolate, roasted herbs, black cherry and charred meat. Long finish. 89.

La Frenz 2015 Merlot ($28.00)

Blackberry, vanilla, plum and mocha on the nose. Flavors of black cherry, Christmas cake and black cherry. Really terrific with a very juicy mid-palate. 91.

La Frenz 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30.00)

Intense aromas of eucalyptus, vanilla, plum, thyme and black licorice. Beautiful, lingering flavors include eucalyptus, espresso, blackberry and earth. 91.

La Frenz 2014 Grand Total Reserve ($45.00)

42% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc

Black plum, cassis and mocha on the nose. Flavors of earth, leather, vanilla and dark chocolate. This is a big, closed, hairy beast, which is going to get much better with age. If you have to drink it now, decant it for at least 2 hours; but better to lay it down and let it get to where it is going. 91-93.

La Frenz NV Tawny (Bottled 2017) $22.00

Aromas include dark fruit cake and butterscotch. The cake doesn't go away on the palate, joined by all kinds of candied fruit, dates, walnuts and butterscotch. Pull up a chair to a warm cozy fire, wrap yourself in a blanket, and enjoy a glass of this on a cold winter day. 90.

La Frenz NV Liqueur Muscat (Bottled 2017) $22.00

Vanilla, Earl Gray tea, brown sugar and raisins on the nose. Beautiful, rich, throat-coating flavors of butterscotch, raisins, cinnamon and orange marmalade. There should be a law against something so odd being so good. 91.

La Frenz 2016 Vintage Port Style ($26.00)

Aromas of blueberry and white pepper. Flavors of dark plum, blueberry and licorice. By all that is good and holy, don't open this now, let it sit for a year, or five,  or twenty, and it will be very special. 90-92.

Whew. My hands are sore from all that typing! What a terrific experience and we left with QUITE A BIT of wine, as you can imagine.

Next up: Just down the street for our second experience at Little Engine!