Thursday, August 30, 2018

Okanagan Trip, Part XVI, and we are up the Hester Creek without a Trebbiano!!!

.....kidding, of course, because what would Hester Creek be without Trebbiano???

For a refresher on the Trebbiano, go check out my Tasting Notes from February's VIWF. It is delicious. My three compadres got to taste it for the first time and all enjoyed it. We bought mucho bottles of this.

And, of course, they do have some other wine as well.....let's check that out.

Hester Creek 2017 Pinot Gris ($18.95)
Aromas of pear, flint and honeydew melon. Pear is all over the palate, joined late by some stone fruit and zippy acidity. We have noticed an increase in quality in BC Pinot Gris recently, and this one is no exception.

Hester Creek 2017 Pinot Blanc ($17.95)
Inviting nose of green apple, citrus and impressive minerality. Citrus and stone fruits dominate the palate. Medium finish.

Hester Creek 2016 Chardonnay ($24.95)
Fruit bomb on the nose, with lemon zest and a hint of caramel. Citrus flavors, with a touch of toasty oak and butterscotch.

Hester Creek 2017 Cabernet Franc Rosé ($19.95)
Aromas of strawberry, tomato leaf and cranberry. Vanilla bean, black cherry, strawberry, rhubarb and cranberry on the palate. Just a hint of a peppery finish. Tasty, especially for any of you who love cranberry!

Hester Creek 2016 Selected Barrels Merlot ($19.95) 
Aromas of plum, black cherry and caramel with herbaceous notes. Black cherry, vanilla, mocha and baking spices on the palate. Rich and round and a nice bargain.

Hester Creek 2016 Selected Barrels Cabernet Merlot ($19.95)
58% Cabernet (Franc and Sauvignon) 42% Merlot

Violets, blackberry, black cherry and fresh dill on the nose. Blackberry dominates the palate, but look closely and you'll catch some cassis, plum and mint as well. This one is almost begging to be opened up on the patio during a late-summer BBQ.

Hester Creek 2016 Late Harvest Pinot Blanc ($18.95)
Aromas of honeysuckle, pear, red apple and stone fruit. Flavors include peach, banana, pear and citrus. Yeah, it's tasty but not sweet enough for my personal tastes.

There is a consistancy of quality here which is refreshing (look at the scores!). You know what you are going to get here, year in and year out. And if you check out the link I left above with my review of the Trebbiano, you will notice another higher score for their big Bordeaux blend, The Judge (which was not open for tasting during this visit).

Next up: A very short visit to Moon Curser! Just a few more reports before this particular Okanagan trip is finally put to bed.

AND.......some big changes coming to this blog in the near future, hopefully. No details yet... that's what we in the biz call "a teaser". :)

Okanagan Trip, Part XV, across the road to Gehringer Bros!!

If you can't conceive of spending more than $20 on a bottle of wine, this is the place for you. The most expensive table wine we tasted here was $16.59 (pre-tax).

Look, as I've said before, you get what you pay for. But if you are smart, and seek out the good bargains, you can enjoy wines that meet almost any price point. When you walk into a BC Liquor Store, for example, what do you see piled up at the front door? It's not Opus One.

Apothic. Yellow Tail. Barefoot.

That's not wine, folks. That's turpentine.

For the same money, or less, seek out these wines. They aren't complicated, they aren't sophisticated, but they are well-made, honest representations of BC wine. They have a huge portfolio, meaning there is something for almost every taste. And they are a helluva lot better than that crap I listed above.

One complaint: Not a huge fan of the use of the term "Private Reserve" on wines of this price and quality. It's confusing for consumers when they see these terms on wines like this. It cheapens the word "reserve".

Let's get to it!

Geheringer Bros. 2016 Private Reserve Dry Riesling ($13.29)
Light aromas of pineapple and green apple. Strong flavors of citrus, with green apple in the background. Rich, full mouthfeel.

Gehringer Bros. 2016 Private Reserve Pinot Gris ($13.99)

Aromas of citrus and a hint of white flowers. Sharp and fruity flavors of citrus. Straight forward lemon and lime.

Gehringer Bros. 2016 Optimum Pinot Gris ($16.59)
Aromas of pear and red apple, with a hint of minerality. Pear, lychee and Asian pear flavors. Richer and fruitier than the above.

Gehringer Bros. 2016 Dry Rock Chardonnay Unoaked ($13.29)
Very light nutty aromas, with just a hint citrus fruit. The palate is framed with flavors of red apple and almond. Finishes very short, keeping this from achieving greater heights.

Gehringer Bros. 2017 Dry Rock Sauvignon Blanc ($14.99)

Aromas of jalapeno, fresh cut grass and green pepper. Palate is dominated by tart citrus fruit. Another one that would improve if it didn't finish short.

Gehringer Bros. 2016 Old Vines Auxerrois ($14.29)
This grape is sometimes referred to as "Pinot Auxerrois", but it bears no relation to the similar Pinot Blanc; in fact, it's a sibling of Chardonnay. This one shows elderflower, pear and nectarine on the nose. The palate is dominated by stone fruit and is ever-so-slightly off-dry.

Gehringer Bros. 2016 Desert Sun ($12.29)
A blend of Riesling, Auxerrois and Chardonnay. White flowers, green apple and lychee on the nose. The flavors are similar, finishing well and slightly off-dry. I mean, for Twelve bucks, how much better are you going to do?

Gehringer Bros. 2017 Rosé ($14.99)
Made from a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, this has arresting aromas of strawberry, bell pepper and rhubarb. The flavors are similar, with some pink grapefruit coming along for the ride.

Gehringer Bros. 2016 Summer Night ($13.29)
A blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Aromas of black cherry and red raspberry, with flavors of cherry, raspberry, vanilla and a hint of spice on the finish. This is one where the palate saves the nose; it smells a bit cheap, but tastes just fine. Again, the theme here is value for your dollar.

Gehringer Bros. 2016 Dry Rock Cabernet-Merlot ($14.99)
Black cherry, cassis and black plum on the nose. Tons of black fruit mingling on the palate. Vanilla and dark chocolate chime in as well. Medium finish, which is the only thing keeping this from being outstanding. Another excellent value.

Gehringer Bros. 2016 Dry Rock Merlot ($13.99)
Aromas of red cherry, mocha, strawberry and blueberry. Black cherry, cassis and a hint of spice on the palate. Again, the finish is the only real issue here, but, once again, nice bang for the buck.

Gehringer Bros. 2015 Late Harvest Cabernet Franc ($16.99)
Aromas of peach, nectarine and red currant. Rich and round palate of red cherry, red currant, raspberry and blackberry. Tasty. We bought one of these and enjoyed it just last night, as a matter of a fact.

Gehringer Bros. 2017 Late Harvest Riesling ($18.99)
Pineapple, apricot and red apple on the nose. Tons of stone fruit dominating the palate, with pineapple notes as well.

Gehringer Bros. 2015 Cabernet Franc Icewine ($41.99)
Aromas of red and black fruits with honeysuckle lurking in the background. Stewed plums, honey, blackberry, blueberry and dried figs on the palate. Another excellent value, you might pay double this amount elsewhere.

Gehringer Bros. 2015 Riesling Icewine ($41.99)
Yeah yeah I'm sure you are tired of hearing this, but I love Icewine, and I particularly love Riesling Icewine. No exception here. Pineapple, raisin and vanilla on the nose. Luscious mouthfeel. Flavors of red apple, pineapple and dried figs. Delicious.

Gehringer Bros. 2017 Minus 9 Ehrenfelser Icewine ($41.99)
I don't know of another Ehrenfelser Icewine out there. White flowers, apple, stone fruit, honey and pineapple on the nose. This is incredibly sweet, as you would expect. Flavors of stone fruit and honey, with well balanced acidity. We bought one of these, drank half of the bottle, and used the rest to make a delicious Icewine cream to serve over berries. Fabulous.

Trying to get this Okanagan trip finished off by the end of this weekend as there is SO much other stuff to report on (Disneyland wine, months of miscellaneous tastings, and TWO more Okanagan trips!!). Gotta get to it!

Next up: Hester Creek!!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Okanagan Trip, Part XIV, Bordertown.

Disclaimer: We had a terrible experience here.

My wife and I had visited once before and were treated perfectly well; this time however, the owner (same lady as last time) seemed totally disinterested by us being there, and in fact spent most of our visit talking in Punjabi to another lady who was sitting on a stool about 10 feet behind the tasting bar. At one point, the owner explained she was "training" the other lady.

If that's how you train someone....having them sit 10 feet away, not speak a word of English during the entire visit, and do not engage with your customers for one second....well, that's pretty terrible training. I don't actually believe there was any training going on, we felt like they had no interest in our visit.

My wife tried to engage her on a couple of occasions, and tried to pay one of her wines a compliment at one point, and the owner interrupted her and continued speaking Punjabi to the other lady. Ignored her completely.

It is so incredibly rude to ignore your customers to carry on a conversation with someone else in a foreign language. We were disgusted, and we will absolutely not be back here. Ever.

On to the wines, some of which are of good quality.

Bordertown 2015 Living Desert White ($18.00)

Pinot Gris/Riesling/Muscat

Aromas of elderflower, pear and citrus. Viscous, rich mouth feel, with flavors that mirror the nose. A pleasant patio sipper at this price.

Bordertown 2015 Gewurztraminer ($20.00)

Arresting aromas of white flowers, lychee and tropical fruit. Lychee, banana and stone fruit on the palate. Just a touch of spice on the finish. Very nice, our favorite of the tasting.

Bordertown 2016 Gruner Veltliner ($25.00)

Pineapple, guava, pear and a touch of spice on the nose. The flavors are light- mostly stone fruit - but they don't measure up to the aromas.

Bordertown 2015 Pinot Gris ($19.00)

Very light, almost non-existant, aromas of pear and some tropical fruit. The palate is markedly better, with flavors of pear, guava and banana.

Bordertown 2016 Muscat ($22.00)

Very aromatic nose of white flowers and tropical fruit. Bone dry with just 11.5% alcohol and flavors of peach, papaya and guava.

Bordertown 2014 Chardonnay ($27.00)

Butterscotch, hazelnut and white flowers on the nose. Flavors are mostly tropical: banana, pineapple and coconut. A hint of butterscotch pops up at the end. Pleasant.

Bordertown 2017 Rosé ($23.00)
100% Cabernet Franc

Light pink in colour, almost peachy. Aromas are very light red and black berries. The palate is different, with hints of rhubarb, jalapeno and red berries.

Bordertown 2015 Cabernet Franc ($30.00)

Pleasing aromas of red cherry, white pepper and a touch of strawberry. Black fruit and black pepper dominate the palate, with a medium finish.
Bordertown 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30.00)

Aromas of mushroom, forest floor, black cherry and earth. Medium bodied, featuring juicy red fruit, a hint of mint and black pepper. Tannins are intense; this needs 4-6 years to improve.

Bordertown 2014 Living Desert Red ($25.00)

Cabernet Franc/Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon

Eucalyptus, red fruit, blackberry, vanilla and chocolate on the nose. Vanilla and dark chocolate mingle with blackberry and raspberry on the palate. Finishes well with a touch of black pepper. Nice and a good value.

Bordertown 2014 Merlot ($23.00)

Licorice, cassis, blackberry and coffee on the nose. Blackberry, mocha and dark chocolate on the palate. The finish is unimpressive, keeping this from being excellent. May improve with more bottle time.

Next up: We head to a winery which will be popular with the "budget conscious" amongst you, Gehringer Brothers!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Okanagan Trip, Part XIII, up the hill to Road XIII, and no, I totally did not plan that......

Right off the bat, a hearty "Congratulations" to the team at Road 13 for recently being named as Canada's #1 winery at the Wine Align National Wine Awards. Quite an accomplishment.

Now, on to our experience: We had been here only once before, if memory serves, and I can barely remember it, which generally means everything was fine. Nothing too outstanding, nothing too awful, middle of the "Road", pun intended.

What a different a couple of years can make.

As we saddled up to the tasting bar, we are greeted warmly by Joe Luckhurst, General Manager and son of the proprietors. Joe was warm and engaging, and eager to show us the entire portfolio. I know that sometimes taking notes on my iPad can give away the fact that we are serious about wine, and it does tend to lead to us being able to taste some special stuff that not everyone else gets to taste. I don't remember whether or not I told Joe that I write this blog; I don't always mention it unless I'm asked about it. In this case, I can't even remember how many of the wines below Joe had to run to his office to retrieve -  at least three - and we were thrilled to be given the opportunity to taste so much wine. Let's get to it!

Road 13 2017 Chip Off the Old Block Chenin Blanc ($17.39)
Might as well start off the tasting with a winner. Beautiful aromas of citrus and tropical fruit lead to mouth watering flavors of pineapple, white peach, honey and lychee. We bought a few of these and made a special trip back here when we were in the area in June to get a few more. Chenin Blanc is one of those grapes that we tend to drink too early in BC, and I have put 3 bottles of this away for future aging. I suspect it will get even better.

Road 13 2015 Stemwinder ($15.65)
48% Chardonnay 39% Viognier 9% Marsanne 4% Roussanne

Here's a blend you don't see every day, but if you are looking for a nice well-priced white to pair with a creamy dish, this is your man. Aromas of buttered toast, stone fruit and a hint of banana. Intense flavors of apple, pear and stone fruit.

Road 13 2016 VRM ($25.22)

 36.6% Roussanne, 35.7% Marsannne, 27.7% Viognier

 These guys don't do anything the "normal" way; who in BC makes a VRM blend where the Viognier isn't the star? Aromas of white flowers, pear and red apple give way to flavors of mandarin orange, marzipan, banana and green apple. Rich, full mouthfeel. Very tasty.

Road 13 2017 Honest John's Rosé ($15.65)
70.5% Merlot, 19% Gamay Noir, 4.9% Viognier, 4.1% Syrah, 1% Pinot Noir, 0.5% Cabernet Franc

The nose is dominated by cranberry, with strawberry and raspberry lingering in the background. The red berries continue onto the palate, joined by some black plum. Slightly off-dry and decadent. Nice value.

Road 13 2016 Honest John's Red ($17.39)

43% Merlot, 26% Gamay, 18% Pinot Noir, 10% Syrah, 2% Viognier, 1% Cab Franc

Entry level red-blend delivers more excellent value. Mushroom, blackberry and black cherry on the nose. Palate features raspberry jam, black fruit, clove and vanilla. Finishes well and could be a "go-to" wine with friends on the patio and BBQ red meat.

Road 13 2016 Seventy-Four K ($21.74)
64% Merlot , 16% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec, 3% Viognier, 2% Gamay Noir

Aromas of black fruit, blueberry and dark chocolate. Dark and brooding, with flavors of raspberry, black cherry, vanilla and mocha. Will improve with a couple years of careful cellaring.

It is about this time in our little story where Joe started excusing himself and slipping to his office to bring back stuff that wasn't out for regular tasting, and man did he ever come back with some beauties.

Road 13 2013 Fifth Element ($42.61)
45% Merlot 18% Syrah 19% Cab Sauv 13% Cab Franc 5% Petit Verdot

 I gave this "91+" because it is going to improve a TON in 4-5 years, but I'm honestly just not sure exactly how great it will be. Aromas of black licorice, pomegranate, blackberry and blueberry. Black fruit dominates the palate, with baking spices, vanilla and black pepper coming through as it opens. This is a huge wine, with strong tannins and vibrant acidity. If you absolutely have to drink this now, decant it for at least 2 hours and pair it with a big fat juicy steak.

Road 13 2014 Jackpot Petit Verdot ($65.22)
Who knew Petit Verdot could be this good? Intoxicating aromas of violets, black fruit, spice, lavender and graphite. Rich, decadent flavors of black fruit, tobacco, cedar and spice. This needs another 5 years to come together completely, but if you can't wait, decant it and enjoy it now. It is a scene-stealer.

We loved this so much that Joe headed back to his office one more time to retrieve one of the last few bottles of this so we could taste the difference in two vintages:

Road 13 2011 Jackpot Petit Verdot ($65.22)

Perfectly fine but compared to the above, it almost seems like an abomination. 2011 was a challenging year in this region and it shows here, with aromas of dried raisins, fig and black licorice. The palate is earthy, with mushrooms, cigar box and licorice coming through. There doesn't seem to be a ton of fruit left at this point.

One more special treat to taste:

Road 13 2012 Jackpot Chardonnay ($60.00)

Citrus aromas greet your nose right off the bat, particularly lime, but they are shortly replaced by intoxicating buttered popcorn and almond notes. Absolutely hitting it's peak right now, we left with a few of these and tried to get more during our June trip, to no avail. Perfectly balanced with flavors of pear, Meyer lemon and butterscotch. What a treat.
Road 13 2016 Roussanne ($25.22)

We didn't get to taste this Club Member exclusive but Joe let us buy a few of them anyway and I'm glad we did. Aromas of orange marmalade, pineapple, honey and pear. Tropical fruit flavors abound, and as it opens up it also reveals orange zest, apricot and some red apple. We took this to a restaurant for lunch the other day and it paired beautifully with my shrimp pizza with a white sauce. Delicious.

The four of us left here with about 3 cases of wine in total....not too shabby given that we weren't expecting to be knocked over. One of the great pleasures of this business is re-visiting a winery after 2-3 years and being completely blown away by the increase in quality and tasting experience. This has shot up to the top of our list of "must visit" wineries every time we pass through the Osoyoos/Oliver area!

Next up, I'm going to go out of order a bit to show the difference that a tasting experience can make: From a fantastic experience here, to a much less-than-stellar experience at our next winery: Bordertown!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Okanagan Trip, Part XII, our second visit in the last few months to vinAmité Cellars!!!

As always, warmly greeted by Catherine who takes us through everything they have available for us, most of which is the same stuff we tasted during our visit at the end of last year.

Two newbies to report on though, one of which wasn't even ready for release at the time. A "special tasting", you might say.

vinAmité Cellars 2016 Pinot Gris ($19.90)
Pear, green apple, stone fruit and a hint of pineapple on the nose. The palate features similar flavors, with pear in dominance, and you will notice a rich, unctuous mouthfeel that coats your tongue. A top-notch example of BC Pinot Gris.

vinAmité Cellars 2018 Bottling Ouest ($44.90)
Always a special treat to get to taste something that is not available for the general public to taste (I am sure it IS available for everyone now, however). Their first attempt at a Port-style wine. They have release just one barrell, 45 cases, of this now, and are reserving the rest for future bottlings. This has potential to be amazing but still needs time. Aromas of Christmas Cake, maraschino cherries and black pepper. Smooth and supple on the palate, flavors of strawberry, raspberry, mint and chocolate. This is going to be one to watch.

These guys make nothing but quality wine, and the intimate tasting room is always warm and inviting. They can whip you up a charcuterie plate if you want to have a glass on the patio and stay a while. If you have never been here, GO.

I mean it, go NOW. Stop reading this damn blog and get in the car!

Next up: a winery that we had only visited once before a few years ago, and boy were we pleasantly surprised during an incredible tasting at Road 13!

....and still some Disneyland wine to report on....

Okanagan Trip, Part XI, I LOVE BREAD MORE THAN OPRAH!!!!!!

Imagine our excitement to be greeted by this guy, Wally ("The Greeter")

But our excitement quickly turned to disappointment when we get in the door and smell....nothing. No bread. Turns out we were visiting too early in the season for their incredible artisan bread.

Well as long as we are here, might as well taste the wine!

Platinum Bench 2016 Pinot Gris ($19.90)
Very Alsatian-style, with aromas of pear and honeysuckle on the fresh, vibrant nose. Flavors of citrus and white grapefruit with a tinge of pear lurking.

Platinum Bench 2015 Mur-Fi's White ($24.90)
75% Chardonnay/25% Viognier

Light aromatics. Unctous, almost oily palate features citrus dominating, particularly lime zest, with notes of pineapple and peach. Named for the owners, Murray and Fiona.

Platinum Bench 2016 Rosé ($23.90)
A blend of Syrah and Gamay Noir

Herbaceous notes dominate the nose, fried green tomatoes and a little strawberry as well. The palate is ripe and juicy, with flavors of strawberry and pink grapefruit, with just a hint of spice on the finish.

Platinum Bench 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ($29.00)
Arresting aromas of blackberry, black cherry and cassis. Blackberry, black cherry, dark chocolate and black pepper on the palate. Tannins are sharp and intense and the flavors have not totally come together yet - they probably have released this too early - but it shows potential. I'll be interested to report on how this opens up after a few years in the cellar, as we bought one.
Platinum Bench 2015 Merlot ($29.00)

Little to no fruit to be found here. Funky mushroom, earth and tobacco on the nose, with just a hint of black fruit on the palate. Finishes really short. This was a disappointment. Passable, at best.

Platinum Bench 2015 Meritage ($39.90)
The lady helping us out couldn't tell us the exact blend here, something along the lines of 45% Cabernet, 45% Merlot, with some Petit Verdot and Malbec.

Notes of vanilla, tobacco and earth, with fruity aromas of black plum and blackberry hiding in the background. Blackberry, cigar box, caramel and chocolate on the palate. Decent finish but this is another one that seems like it might have more to give down the road.

That is it for our visit here, a winery who's motto should be "COME FOR THE BREAD! STAY FOR THE WINE, AS LONG AS YOU ARE ALREADY HERE!!!".

Seriously, if you haven't been here and sampled their artisan bread, it is really amazing.

Next up: A real short report on Vin Amité...short not because of a lack of quality, but because it was our second visit here this year and we've already reported on most of the wines.

AND.....we will interrupt this Okanagan blog post to report on everything we drank (and there was some SERIOUS wine) last weekend in Disneyland!!