Naramata on the River April 24, 2012 – Get Your Tickets

Naramata on the River April 2012

The Naramata Bench is one of the cherished wine regions in BC.  Each year the Naramata wine producers bring their wines out to Vancouver so that we can try the latest releases, and hopefully buy these wines.  On April 24, 2012, from 6:30pm – 9:00pm the Naramata wineries will be pouring their wines for you, and you can also try these wines with some fantastic food by local Vancouver area restaurants.  The event is called “Naramata on the River” and is being held at the River Market at (New) Westminster Quay.  It is easy to get to by Transit.  The Skytrain stops across the street from the Quay, so no need to drink and drive.  Instead you can drink and enjoy! This event is in support of the BC Cultural Crawl (more info below).

Which Wineries Will Be There?

  • Black Widow Winery
  • D’Angelo Estate Winery
  • Elephant Island Orchard Wines (they make a nice Stellaport)
  • Hillside Winery  & Bistro
  • Kettle Valley Winery
  • La Frenz Winery (top quality Chardonnay)
  • Lake Breeze Vineyards
  • Laughing Stock Vineyards
  • Misconduct Wine Co.
  • Monster Vineyards
  • Moraine Estate Winery
  • Nichol Vineyard & Estate Winery (try their Pinot Noir)
  • Poplar Grove Winery (try their Legacy, Bordeaux Blend)
  • Red Rooster Winery
  • Serendipity Winery
  • Therapy Vineyards (we all need some Therapy don’t we?)
  • Township 7 Vineyards & Winery
  • Upper Bench Estate Winery
  • Van Westen Vineyards (one of my favorites each Spring release)

Which Restaurants Will Be There?

  • Crepe des Amis
  • Pamola Bakery & Deli
  • The Crab Shop
  • Tre Galli Gelato Caffe
  • Wild Rice Restaurant
  • Re-Up BBQ (a wonderful food cart/truck downtown by the Art Gallery)
  • Donald’s Market – Aria Foods
  • Orlando’s Catering
  • Hamilton Street Grill
  • Daniel’s Restaurant
  • Hillside Bistro
  • Seasonal 56
  • Chef Ann Kirsebom
  • Hart House Restaurant
  • Hagensborg Chocolates (try with the Stellaport)
  • Gone Crackers
  • Rocky Mountain Flatbread
  • Restaurant 62

I’ve written about many of these wineries from past wine events.  Here are a few links:

This event is to help celebrate the 11th Annual British Columbia Cultural Crawl.  The BC Cultural Crawl is a self-guided tour of community-initiated events: music, theatre and dance performances, visual arts, festivals, museum and heritage exhibitions, culinary arts, community art walks and more.  Here is their website for more info.

I hope to see you there to enjoy great wine and food!  Enjoy.

Naramata Bench 2011 Spring Wine Release Reviews

I hope you are having a wonderful Easter weekend.  My Easter weekend started with the Naramata Bench Wineries 2011 Spring Wine Release.  Eighteen wineries from the Naramata Bench were represented.  But also attending were 13 Vancouver area restaurants, pairing an appetizer or two with some of the wines.  A very nice touch.  Most people have food and wine together, so why not at a tasting?  Another nice touch is that most of the wineries brought a barrel of one of their yet-to-be released wines, and anyone who asked could get a barrel sample taste.

Where and what is the Naramata Bench?  This is a raised long, relatively narrow strip of level or gently inclined land that is bounded by distinctly steeper slopes above and below it.  For the Naramata Bench, the area below it is Okanagan Lake.  As the lake is so close the water helps to moderate the temperature for the grapes.  The Bench is located on the eastern side of the lake so that it gets the afternoon and evening sun, and is located just north of Penticton, so it is an easy wine destination to visit when you are in Penticton.

What were my interesting wine and appetizer picks from this evening’s event?

White and Sparkling Wines

  • D’Angelo Estate Winery Viognier 2009. This is the first release I am told of their Viognier. Flowery, peach and sweet spice on the nose.  Light body with peach and honey flavour, and a streak of minerality through it.  Medium length.  A nice first try at Viognier.
  • Elephant Island Orchard Wines Pink Elephant Methode Classique Sparkling Wine 2009.  This sparkler is made from Granny Smith apples with a cassis dosage.  This is a fun wine to drink with friends.  Bright cherry and cranberry nose and flavour.
  • Hillside Estate Winery Unoaked Pinot Gris.  I think this one is 2009 vintage.  Light stone fruit nose.  Medium acidity with red apple and peach flavour.  Nice round mouthfeel.  Something for this summer.
  • Lake Breeze Vineyards Seven Poplars Sauvignon Blanc 2010. Here is a very good example of a New World style Sauvignon Blanc. Pale lemon in colour.  Herbal and asparagus aromas in the glass. High level of acidity up front with herbal flavours.
  • Nichol Vineyard & Estate Winery Gewurztraminer 2009. Pale lemon in colour.  Apple, lychee and cherry blossom nose.  Light body with apple and cherry flavour with a bit of spice on the finish.  A nice dry Gewurztraminer.
  • La Frenz Winery Reserve Chardonnay 2009. Pale lemon in the glass. Lots of vanilla with a hint of eucalyptus / menthol. Nice acidity.  Round mouthfeel with pineapple and spice.
  • Black Widow Winery Pinot Gris 2009. Pale lemon with very light peach nose.  Medium body with light peach flavour and spice on the finish.

Red Wines

  • Nichol Vineyard & Estate Winery Pinot Noir 2008. Light garnet with a nice flowery nose.  Sour cherries and ripe raspberry flavours with spice on the finish.  Medium body and low tannins.
  • Perseus Winery Tempus Syrah 2009. I finally was able to taste some of Perseus’ wines.  I wrote about them in a blog article a few months ago. This syrah is deep purple in colour.  Vanilla, earthy, and dark fruit aromas. It is full bodied with dark fruit and lots of minerality.  Very silky tannins and a long length.
  • Poplar Grove Winery Legacy 2006. Legacy is a Bordeaux blend consisting of 70% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 24% Cabernet Franc. Opaque garnet in colour.  Leather and cherry aromas. Full body with ripe black cherries and vanilla.  Medium tannins with a long length. A very nice wine.
  • Serendipity Winery Pinot Noir 2007. If you haven’t heard of this winery, neither have I.  I found out that this is indeed a new winery to the Naramata Bench, located next door to Therapy Vineyards. This Pinot Noir had a bouquet of roses, vanilla and tea leaves.  Light body with vanilla, strawberries and red cherry flavours.  Low tannins.
  • Van Westen Vineyards Voluptuous Merlot / Cabernet Franc 2007. Opaque puple in the glass. Ripe cherries and vanilla with a hint of cedar on the nose. Full bodied with firm yet smooth tannins.  Ripe black cherry flavour.
  • Van Westen Vineyard Malbec 2009 barrel sample.  This barrel sample is the only opportunity you would have had to try this wine, as it will never be bottled as a single varietal wine.  You will find it in a couple of years coming out in a new Bordeaux blend by Van Westen.  This Malbec was opaque purple. Chocolate, and vanilla on the nose.  Legs on the glass so quite high in alcohol, but the wine was not hot. Very smooth with cherry and chocolate flavour, and I think a hint of cedar.  Nice and round in the mouth.
  • Elephant Island Orchard Wines NV Stellaport Solera Aged Port Style wine. This wine is made from Stella cherries.  It is opaque purple in the glass with cherry and vanilla aromas.  Full bodied and heavy in the mouth.  You know you are sipping something substantial here. Cherry, vanilla and oak flavour.  Very nice. (barrel sample)
  • Howling Bluff Estate Winery Summa Quies Estate Pinot Noir 2009. Pale garnet in colour. Beautiful violets and strawberry aromas. Soft, light bodied, with vanilla, strawberries and ripe cherries on the palate.  Highly recommended.
  • Kettle Valley Winery Merlot 2008. This is one of the barrel sample wines. Opaque purple in colour.  Vanilla and cherry aromas.  Dry but with soft tannins.  Red apples, black cherries and vanilla flavours.  Very nice.

Appetizers

  • O’Douls Restaurant & Bar, oven-dried tomato bruschetta with basil aioli. Lots of tomato, basil and garlic flavour.  Creamy texture with crunchy bruschetta. This was paired with the Black Window Winery Pinot Gris 2009.  The Pinot Gris needed a bit more body and flavour to match with the bruschetta, but a good attempt.
  • Hamilton Street Grill, smoked halibut on crostini with blood orange & olive oil. This was paired with the La Frenz Winery Reserve Chardonnay 2009, and was excellent together.  The smokiness and firm texture of the halibut paired well with the vanilla and pineapple flavour of the wine plus the acidity of the wine kept things nice and fresh.
  • Edible at the Market, citrus marinated side stripe shrimp salad with Fraser Valley watercress, ginger honey & wasabi leaf puree golden char caviar.  A very classy salad.  Went well with the Lake Breeze Vineyards Seven Poplars Sauvignon Blanc 2010. The acidity cut through the richness of this shrimp salad.
  • Westin Bayshore Hotel, spiced lamb kofta with crisp parsnip and blackberry gel. I just enjoyed this dish on it’s own.  The kofta was mildly spiced.
  • Vij’s, garam masala beef curry with coconut green beans. This one was also tried on it’s own at the end of the evening.  I really like the sweet spices from garam masala.  The green beans added a firm texture to the beef, which was quite tender.  The dish was quite spicy.  The suggested pairing was the Poplar Grove Winery Chardonnay 2009.  The La Frenz Winery Reserve Chardonnay 2009 or the Red Rooster Winery Riesling 2010 may have also been good pairings with the curry.
  • The District, house smoked steelhead mousse with Italian crostini. This dish was creamy and smoky.  Delicious on it’s own.  A bit too strong for the Van Westen Pinot Gris.  Again, I may suggest trying this with the La Frenz Winery Reserve Chardonnay 2009.

I did not get a chance to try all the wines and appetizers, but if you were there and found an exceptional pairing, please post a comment.  I enjoy hearing what other people have to say as well.  Enjoy!

Simply Red – Naramata Bench wine tasting review

This past week the Naramata Bench wineries had their “Simply Red” tasting. And you guessed it, red wines only! The red wines from this stretch of land, just north of Penticton on the east side of the lake produce some very nice red and white wines. If you ever go for a wine tour in the Okanagan, the wineries along this stretch of the Naramata Bench are quite close together, so it is easy to do several wineries in one day. Plus if you would rather not drive your car, it is an easy bicycle ride.

The red wines for this tasting were primarily the 2008 vintage, although there were a few 2007 also. Some of the wines were bottled a few weeks before this event. I did not notice any bottle shock though. All the wines I tasted were all technically made well.

I usually like to try Pinot Noirs first as they are the lightest bodied wines, then taste Merlots, Syrahs, and Cabernets. There were three pinot noirs that I particularly liked: La Frenz Reserve Pinot Noir 2008, Lake Breeze Seven Poplars Pinot Noir 2008, and Nicol Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008.

The La Frenz Reserve Pinot Noir 2008 (and their other wines) was top notch. This wine won a Silver in the Northwest Wine Summit this year, and two Gold medals at the Northwest Wine Summit in 2009. It had a nice smoky, strawberry nose with a hint of oak. Light body with strawberry and cherry flavours. Silky with low tannins. Long length with a cherry finish. Buy it before it is all sold out.

Lake Breeze is also a premium producer of wines in the Okanagan. They are most well known for their Pinot Blanc, but they also make very good red wines. The Lake Breeze Seven Poplars Pinot Noir 2008, was light cherry in colour. Vanilla and strawberry aromas. A very nice nose. On the palate it was medium bodied, with strawberries, raspberries and cherry flavours. Quite spicy. Well done.

The Nicol Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008 had gone through a partial malolactic fermentation (MLF) to change the harsher malic acids in the wine to softer lactic acids. Many red wines go through this secondary fermentation to soften them up. This wine was very pale cherry colour in the glass. A really nice red cherry and vanilla nose. Light body, with bright cherry flavours in your mouth. Slightly spicy with some vanilla notes too. Dry with low tannins. A classic style New World Pinot Noir.

You can’t go wrong with any of those Pinot Noir. As for the fuller bodied reds, I have four recommendations:
Lake Breeze Seven Poplars Merlot 2008
– Nicol Vineyards Syrah 2008
– La Frenz Rockyfeller Vineyard Shiraz 2008
– D’Angelo Sette Coppa 2005

As I mentioned earlier, Lake Breeze makes wonderful wines. Case in point is their Merlot. The Lake Breeze Seven Poplars Merlot 2008 is medium garnet in colour. Vanilla, plum, with a slight bit of capsicum and mocha on the nose. Full bodied mouthfeel, with black and red cherries, vanilla, and a bit of minerality. Soft tannins with a medium length.

The Nicol Vineyards Syrah 2008 is opaque purple in the glass. Vanilla and sweet dark fruit nose. Raspberries, red cherries, blueberries and a bit of minerality on the palate. Soft tannins. I do enjoy a syrah when the blueberry characteristic of the grape is detectable.

The La Frenz Rockyfeller Vineyard Shiraz 2008 won a Gold medal at the All Canadian Wine Championships 2010. This is a very elegant wine. Deep garnet in colour. Blueberry, raspberry and vanilla aromas. Medium body and mouthfeel. Cherry and vanilla flavours.

The D’Angelo Sette Coppa 2005 I think is the oldest vintage wine during this tasting. The Sette Coppa 2005 won a Silver medal at the 2008 Canadian Wine Awards. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Malbec. It is primarily Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with lesser amounts of the other grape varieties. Light garnet in the glass. Tarry, cassis and black cherry aromas. Cassis, cherry, chocolate and vanilla on the palate with some spiciness. Medium length with firm tannins kicking in on the finish. Enjoy with some grilled meat.

I hope you have a chance to enjoy a few of these picks from the Simply Red Naramata Bench tasting. Enjoy!

John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide

The third edition of John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour guide is now available. I received my copy about a week ago, and I’ve been slowly reading through it. My bedside book. Eventhough I travel quite regularly to the Okanagan, it is still a pleasure to read through John Schreiner’s book as I learn something about a winery I did not know, or he covers a new winery that I have not yet visited. Some new wineries in the book include Beaumont Family Estate winery, Volcanic Hills Vineyard & Cellars, and Ancient Hill Vineyards & Winery.

This book is good for those of you who are new to the Okanagan winery scene and need to get up-to-speed quickly. John provides 1 – 1.5 pages of text about each winery, and his recommendations for which wine(s) to try from each winery. What I also like is that it has the address, telephone number, website, and visiting hours for each winery.

This third edition, provided updated and revised information of the already established wineries plus info on 40 new wineries since the last edition. What I also like, is that the book has a map showing the locations of all the wineries he covers, plus he talks a bit about different “regions” within the Okanagan, such as “The Golden Mile” and “Naramata Bench“. You may want to know what makes the Naramata Bench unique? Is it the soil? The direction the slope of the land faces; is it the proximity to Lake Okanagan? Useful info in this section.

If you want/need more details and history about these wineries, you may want to purchase John Schriener’s “The Wineries of British Columbia“, which covers both Okanagan wineries, plus the wineries in the Fraser Valley, the Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island.

Enjoy the summer and enjoy some wine touring in BC!

Naramata Bench Spring Wine Release 2010

Just a week before the huge Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival opens, I attended a much more low-key, but very enjoyable, event: the Naramata Bench Spring Wine Release 2010.

This is the second time I’ve attended this event. Last year I came upon a new winery to me called, Van Westen Vineyards, where their wines beguiled me. So this year, the first winery I went to see was Van Westen, as I was not disappointed. Their 2008 Vino Grigio and their 2008 Vivacious whites and their 2006 Voluptuous are highly recommended. The Vino Grigio 2008, is of course Pinot Gris. It had a light peach and melon nose. Good acidity with more peach and melon on the palate. The Vivacious 2008 is Pinot Blanc with a hint of Pinot Gris, again has peachy fruit as well as some apricot aromas. Good acidity. Peach and apricot flavours with a touch of greenness. Their Voluptuous 2006 is a barrel aged blend of 67% Merlot and 33% Cabernet Franc. Deep garnet in colour. Very ripe plums and black fruit aromas. Medium body, black ripe fruit, plums, black cherry flavours with drying tannins.

Other notable wines are the La Frenz Merlot 2007, La Frenz Andrew Vineyard Riesling 2009, La Frenz Sonoran Vineyard Chardonnay 2009, Lake Breeze Seven Poplars Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Lake Breeze Gewurztraminer 2009, Therapy Merlot 2008, and Howling Bluff Estate Pinot Noir 2008. I’m sure there are more wines, but I only had 1.5 hours at the tasting room.

The La Frenz Merlot 2007 was deep garnet in the glass. A very nice nose, with sweet black cherry aroma. Sweet, black cherry flavour with a hint of vanilla. Very smooth on the palate. Outstanding.

The La Frenz Andrew Vineyard Riesling 2009, is light lemon in colour. Flowery and apple aromas. Good acidity with a bit of residual sugar. Red apple and citrus flavours. Elegant.

Hmm, 3 La Frenz in a row. I must also like La Frenz’s wines alot too! The La Frenz Sonoran Vineyard Chardonnay 2009 was light lemon colour in the glass. Vanilla and nutmeg aromas. Lots of flavour on the palate of apple, oak and pineapple. Very creamy with medium acidity.

Lake Breeze is also a consistent producer in the Okanagan. The Lake Breeze Seven Poplars Sauvignon Blanc 2009 has citrus and slight herbal aromas. High acidity, with citrus and gooseberry flavours. Eat with fresh seafood.

The Lake Breeze Gewurztraminer 2009 is very pale coloure. But has a wonderful lychee and rose petals aromas. Off dry, with medium acidity. Lychee and red delicous apple flavours.

The Therapy Merlot 2008has a lot of leather, coffee, cherry and plum aromas. On the palate there is more of the coffee and cherry flavour, accompanied by some chocolate. Medium tannins. Quite different from the La Frenz Merlot. Maybe buy one of each and do a side-by-side comparison?

Last, one of my favourite Pinot Noirs in the Okanagan is the Howling Bluff Estate Pinot Noir 2008. New world style, with ripe strawberry and cherry aromas with a bit of sweet spice and vanilla. Silky on the palate with vanilla, cherry, and raspberry flavours.

I hope you have a chance to try some of these wines, either here, or even better over in the Naramata Bench at the wineries’ cellar doors. Enjoy!