Saturday, July 28, 2018

Okanagan Trip, Part X, a terrific lunch and tasting at Burrowing Owl!

In the last few years, this winery has transformed for us from a "we'll go there if we have time" to a "must do" every trip to this area. I'd recommend everyone go and have a tasting there; if not for the great wine, do it for their conservation efforts: All of the money raised on tasting fees goes directly to the Burrowing Owls Conservation Society of BC.

How could you say "no" to this face??

Here is a link to their website which goes into further detail on their relationship with these fantastic creatures.

As if that wasn't enough to get you up to this winery, their restaurant, The Sonora Room, is always a great place to eat. Great food, great wine (and very reasonable prices on back vintages), and a great view. You can't go wrong there, and we had a fantastic lunch during this trip.

We tasted a total of six wines on this day, but three of them had been tasted and reviewed before, so I'll bring you the remaining three here:

Burrowing Owl 2015 Chardonnay ($30.00)
Aromas include hazelnut, melon, peach and lemon. Light notes of oak and minerals. The palate is nutty and herbaceous, with hints of oak lingering among the bright flavors of lemon zest and stone fruit. Pair this with halibut or basically any dish where butter is key. Delicious.

Burrowing Owl 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($50.00)
Man, the 2014 season produced some stellar Cabernet Sauvignon from the Okanagan and this one is no exception. Blueberry, blackberry, cassis, sage and cigar box on the nose. The palate gets almost overwhelmed by baking spice, vanilla, oak, espresso, baked plum, cherry and caramel flavors. Looking forward to seeing what this becomes in a few years when the flavors totally marry. It is already a winner.

Burrowing Owl 2014 Meritage ($50.00)
31% Merlot, 21.4% Cabernet Franc, 21.4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10.7% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot

Complex aromas of cold cuts, tobacco, earth, vanilla and mocha. The palate is rich, round and juicy and features orange zest, blueberry, tobacco, violets and crushed black pepper. Tremendous structure, showing potential for long-term aging.

Next up: Just down the road is a winery known as much for their artisanal bread as they are for the wine, Platinum Bench!!

Okanagan Trip, Part IX, our first visit (not our last!!) to Black Hills in 2018....

The downside to visiting the Okanagan in April (can't believe I just used the phrase "downside to visiting the Okanagan", as if there is any bad time to go wine tasting!), I suppose, is that much of the new stuff isn't release yet.

The good part about that, of course, is that these blog posts take quite a bit less time to write! :)

Just three wines to taste today which I have not previously reviewed, so let's get right to them.

Black Hills 2016 Carmenere ($50ish - wine club only)

Exclusive to wine club members and it sells out quickly, this beauty opens up with green pepper and jalapeno aromas, hints of fresh lettuce, smoke, red licorice and white pepper. Blackberry, cranberry, smoke and a touch of cigar box on the juicy palate. A winner, as usual.
Black Hills 2015 Syrah ($39.90)

When your nose gets close to the glass you will think it's time for breakfast. Bacon bacon bacon maple bacon oh my what a fantastic start. Keep looking and there are also some truffle, black pepper and earthy aromas hiding behind the bacon. Flavors include black plum, black cherry, vanilla and blueberry. Lively acidity and a very long finish. This is a treasure, and might be their best ever.
Black Hills 2016 Tempranillo ($45.99)

Another one that is hard to find (not even listed on their website currently), this has an intriguing aroma of a freshly opened paint can mixed with grape jelly. Black fruit dominates the palate, with notes of earth and mushroom. Very nice but if you can wait a year or two, it will certainly improve with proper cellaring.

We were back to Black Hills in June for the annual Nota Bene Release Party, which was a fantastic time as always.

The author and his much, much, much better half

I didn't make any notes at the party, but I have all of those wines at home and will report on them as we open them.

Next up: Just down the road to another spot that we always enjoy, lunch and a tasting at Burrowing Owl!!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Okanagan Trip, Part VIII, a surprise visit to Culmina Family Estate Winery!

When I say "surprise", it was truly a surprise, as we didn't think they were open for another week or so (remember, I am wayyyyyy behind in this trip report, this trip was in April!!). We come here often, but generally have an appointment booked, so we were pleased to see they were open and we took a little detour after leaving Checkmate. Our friends had never been here.

Just three wines to report on that we had not previously tasted, and a couple bonus bottles that we have since purchased and enjoyed.

Culmina Family Estate Winery 2015 Dilemma ($34.00)

Fruit comes entirely from new Chardonnay vines planted on Margaret's Bench in 2011. Aromas of minerals, coconut, baked apple and pear. Beautiful palate of brioche and buttered toast, finishing long with a touch of caramel. If you can't wait, you are going to enjoy this already; but give it 2-3 more years and you are going to have something really special.

Culmina Family Estate Winery 2014 Merlot ($35.00)

The nose is on the lighter side, subtle notes of black fruit and violets, with just a touch of baking spice lingering. Very dry, with flavors of black cherry, dark chocolate, toasted oak and blackberry. This is a beast, and you would do well to pair is with a big, fat piece of red meat. My mouth is watering at the thought of it.
Culmina Family Estate Winery 2013 Hypothesis ($46.00)

38% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Franc, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon

Aged for 16 months in French Oak, 60% new and 40% 1-year old. Aromas of blackberry, violets, cassis, cedar and a hint of mint. Cassis and black plum flavors come right up front, joined on the mid-palate by other black fruit, cedar and a touch of vanilla. This has the structure to age for years - no, decades - and improvement is a certainty.

That was everything we tasted at the winery, but since then we have also enjoyed these two beauties:

Culmina Family Estate Winery 2017 Saignée ($24.00)

Bleeding off a bit of juice from each of the best Bordeaux varietal lots (Saignée translates literally to "to bleed"), this method traditionally produces a bigger, fuller, and darker wine. Not necessarily here, as the colour tends to look more like a traditional Provence than something from, say, Chinon, a region known for their Saignée wines. Subtle notes of red raspberry, strawberry, sage and minerality on the nose and palate. Beautifully done.
Culmina Family Estate Winery 2017 Unicus ($27.00)

The Okanagan's first, and IMO best, Gruner Veltliner. Aromas of citrus, pear, minerals, herbs and stone fruit. The palate is juicy and fabulous, flavors of white grapefruit, white peach, nectarine and white pepper abounding. There is nothing quite like it coming out of the Okanagan. Intense yet flirty, elegant yet demanding, this is special every year and the 2017, while perhaps not quite achieving the brilliance of the 2015, is something to behold.

Next up: Another perennial favorite, as we head for a seated tasting at Black Hills!!

Check and Mate, as Part VII of our Okanagan Tour kicks it up a notch or three.

Anthony Von Mandl.

A lot of you will know him as the proprietor of the Mark Anthony Group (fun fact: he made up that name; nobody named Mark Anthony actually ever worked in the industry), which features Mission Hill Winery, arguably the biggest player in the BC wine business. If you've been paying attention, he has been throwing money around the way many of us might throw laundry into the washing machine.

Martin's Lane
Adelsheim (Oregon)
Antinori (Italy)

And oh, so many more.

One of their latest ventures is Checkmate Artisanal Winery, an unapologetically expensive, high-end purveyor of Chardonnay and Merlot. As their main tasting facility is being constructed, they have opened up a beautiful little "pop-up" tasting room with a spectacular view of the valley.

Mr. Boozy and the Author with a beautiful view in the background
So, after breakfast, Boozy and her Crew (Oh! Another nickname is born!!!!), hopped into the car and headed up to Checkmate for a tasting of all of their new offerings. All of the wines are names after Chess moves or situations, and every single one of these is going to improve with proper aging. I have a few of them in the cellar and am excited to report on their progress in the years to come.
Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2014 Capture Chardonnay ($90.00)
Aged 16 months in French Oak (49% new). 100% Wild fermentation. Pleasing aromas of citrus, baking spice and white flowers. Creamy stone fruit, lemon, lime and hints of oak on the palate.

Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2014 Queen Taken Chardonnay ($125.00)
Aged 16 months in French Oak (49% new). 88% Wild fermentation. Nose is slightly closed at first, but after about 10 minutes in the glass it explodes into aromas of lemon peel, white peach and toasty oak. Your mid-palate is assaulted with creamy flavors of stone fruit, wet stone and white flowers. Finishes long and luscious. This is just delicious already.

Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2014 Little Pawn Chardonnay ($110.00)
Aged 16 months in 100% French Oak (53% new). 50% Wild ferment. Perfume, rosewater and nutmeg leap from the glass. Flavors of creamy peach, oak, citrus and brioche. Finish is long and spectacular. This is already a top-notch Chardonnay; give it 3-4 more years and it may be legendary.
Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2014 Knight's Challenge Chardonnay ($85.00)
Aged 17 months in 100% French Oak (45% new). 100% Wild ferment. Intense herbaceous notes, fresh fruit salad, brioche and creme bruleé on the nose. Stone fruit dominates the palate, but what is that at the end? Is it possible that is just a flutter of a nutty Edam cheese? I think it might be......
Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2014 Fool's Mate Chardonnay ($80.00)

Aged 16 months in 85% French Oak (42% new) and 15% Concrete Egg. 67% Wild ferment. Sweet lime sorbet, butterscotch, almonds, graphite and honeydew melon on the nose. Stone fruits meet the palate up front, which finishes with  beautiful salted caramel.
Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2014 Attack Chardonnay ($115.00)

Aged 16 months in Foudre (50% new, 50% used once). Aromas of white flowers, flint, Chinese 5 spice powder and hints of tropical fruit. In some ways similar to the above, with stone fruit flavors and a salted caramel finish, but the finish lingers a bit longer and you might notice a tinge of ginger and lychee showing up. Tasty.
Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2013 End Game Merlot ($85.00)

Aged 21 months in new French Oak. Aromas of vanilla, tobacco, black fruit and toasty oak. Black fruit, vanilla and herbaceous flavors compliment grippy tannins and a long, luscious finish.

Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2013 Silent Bishop Merlot ($85.00)

Aged 21 months in new French Oak. Violets, oak, cherry and a touch of spice on the nose. Red fruit, vanilla, chocolate and a hint of spice on the palate. Very long finish. My least favorite of the Merlots and it is still really special.

Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2013 Opening Gambit Merlot ($85.00)

Aged 21 months in new French Oak. Black cherry, blackberry and black currant on the nose. The palate has a creaminess, almost an unctuous quality. Black fruit with just a touch of black pepper showing up at the end. This is already a tour de force, and there is no telling just what heights it will reach after some proper aging. Magnificent.
Checkmate Artisanal Winery 2013 Black Rook Merlot ($85.00)

Roses dominate the aromas, but give it a minute and some raspberry, blackberry and loganberry all show up. Black fruits dominate the palate. Tannins are savoury and very firm; there is almost a chalky quality as it coats the mouth. This one may have the most potential to age in the very long term- it needs a decade from vintage date to settle down and come together - but you will be rewarded handsomely if you have the cellar and the patience. I am putting mine away for a few years.

Checkmate recently started up a wine club, which we joined (because we really needed more wine clubs), and got our first shipment the other day. I cannot tell you how much pride they take in their packaging. It is just one more example of the first class image they are striving to maintain.

All the wine is shipped temperature controlled by ATS Healthcare, so it is well taken care of during it's trip to your door. Fantastic!

That's it for today, next up is an unscheduled visit to their next door neighbor, Culmina Family Winery!!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Okanagan Trip Part VI, and it's time to meet Boozy The Clown!!!

As we leave Cassini after our terrific tasting and blending trials, we head up to Tinhorn Creek to meet the lovely Shelann, their Wine Club coordinator who always takes excellent care of us. Today would be no exception, as our private tasting would take place in the barrel room! If you've never been to a barrel room, try to arrange it; it is quite a treat. The aromas.......oh man......incredible.

To the wine!

Tinhorn Creek 2017 Oldfield Reserve Rosé ($21.99)
100% Cabernet Franc

One of the most pleasing rosés out there; with arresting aromas of apricot, strawberry, raspberry and cranberry. As is common with Cabernet Franc rosés, watermelon flavors are present, but here they are just as an accent rather than overwhelming. Strawberry and red cherry flavors are prevalent with just a hint of orange and spice. Delicious.

Tinhorn Creek Innovation Series 2016 White Pinot Noir ($35.00)

White Pinot Noir? When did this become a "thing"? Well, it seems as if lots of wineries are doing this now, so I was excited to try one for the first time. White flowers, peach and nectarine on the nose. The stone fruit continue through to the palate, joined by just a touch of apple and vanilla. Interesting.

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve 2016 Golden Mile Chardonnay ($34.99)
Seductive aromasand flavors of hazelnut, caramel, baked apple and pear. The palate is creamy and luscious but it is not quite there yet; if you have this and can give it 3-5 more years of careful cellaring, you will be royally rewarded. If not, it's already good, but try decanting it for a couple hours.

Tinhorn Creek 2015 Oldfield Series Cabernet Franc ($31.99)
Rich black cherry, cola, vanilla and red berries on the nose. A touch of mint. Blackberry, plum, red currant, dark chocolate and a touch of pepper on the palate. Another one that might improve mightily if you can give it some time, but it's already very nice.

Up next, Shelann treated us to a barrel sample of their flagship wine, 2016 The Creek. This won't be released for a while, and it needs a lot of time to get there, but the potential is already showing. This is going to be delicious.

That was it for our tasting, and now it was time for a lovely dinner at Miradoro. Well, at least that was the plan. Unfortunately the day of wine tasting got to our dear friend, who was not in any shape to make it through dinner (spending more time in the bathroom than at the table). Her husband dubbed her "Boozy the Clown", a nickname that I think is going to live in infamy!

So, no dinner for us on this night, and it was time to head home and get some sleep to start another big day tomorrow. Our day was scheduled to start with a big one, our first visit to Checkmate Artisanal Winery!