Okanagan Road Trip

This past week was a road trip with my family in the Okanagan. I did get a chance to visit a few wineries I already knew, and to visit some new wineries. With Kelowna as our home base, we drove as far north as Vernon, and as far south as Osoyoos. In Kelowna, I had to show my family the beautiful views from Mission Hill Family Estate winery’s grounds. It is always so nice to look over the lake and Kelowna from the patio restaurant. On the wine tasting side, I was privileged to taste a 2003-2006 vertical of Mission Hill’s top wine, Oculus. Although I didn’t have any notes written, I can tell you that the 2006 was “feminine” in style with a beautiful flowery bouquet. The 2004 and 2003 Oculus was my favorite by a slim margin over the 2006 Oculus. 2003 was a very hot year in the Okanagan, and had the horrible forest fires we all remember. The heat made the fruit very ripe that year, so you get lots of fruit to balance the tannins. The 2003 still has good tannic structure with fruit and I’d give it a few more years to soften. It is a wonderful wine. You might want to see if they are selling any through the Library releases. I think you have to go to the winery though to buy their Library releases.

On another day trip, we went to Nk’Mip desert cultural centre and the Nk’Mip winery right beside it. The cultural centre was very interesting, and has a nest with an Osprey parents and chicks. The nest is on the top of a tall pole, so bring your binoculars. My favorite wine on this tasting of the Nk’Mip winery was their NK’Mip Qwam Qwmt Pinot Noir 2007. Again no hand written notes, but I remember strawberries with smoke aromas and flavours. Buy some if you can.

On another trip, we spent some time tasting wines at Sumac Ridge Estate winery in Summerland. While there I tried my first ever sparkling Gewurztraminer. It was quite refreshing. I bought a bottle so that I can try it back home with some seafood this summer. I also enjoyed their Chardonnay and their Cabernet Franc from the Black Sage vineyards. Quite elegant.

Another day was spent at Volcanic Hills winery, Beaumont Estate Family winery, and Kalala Organic Estate winery. I found out that the owners of Volcanic Hills winery were co-owners of the Mount Boucherie winery. They just opened their tasting room 3 weeks ago. Most of the grapes were purchased from what I could tell. The Volcanic Hills Pinot Gris was quite nice. Round mouthfeel with juicy ripe fruit flavours. This is their first vintage of their reds and whites. I am looking forward to trying their next vintages and see how they define their style.

If you like wines made from organically grown grapes, there is Beaumont Estate Family winery, which is right next door to Volcanic Hills winery, and there is Kalala Organic Estate winery (who BTW let Volcanic Hills use their equipment for vinifying their first vintage). Beaumont is a family run business with the daughter of the family making the wines. They have a wide range of wines from Pinot Gris, to Pinot Noir, to Gamay Noir, and more. They noted that Pinot Noir seems to like their soil the most, so expect to see them concentrate on this wine. I was really looking forward to Kalala Organic Estate winery, since I saw them last June. They have won several medals this year for their red and white wines. I really liked their Riesling 2008 vintage. It had crisp acidity, pineapple and apple aromas with a hint of petrol. It won a Gold at the 2010 New World Int’l Wine Competition in California, a Silver in the 2010 Concours mondial de Bruxelles, and a Bronze at the 2010 Northwest Wine Summit. Buy this wine before it sells out. On the red side, if you have not tried, give their Zweigelt 2008 a try. This red grape provided sour red cherry aroma and flavour, and a bit of maraschino cherry too. Soft tannins also with Zweigelt. This wine won 4 different Bronze medals this year. Check out Kalala’s website http://www.kalalawines.ca/wine/index.php for all their medals.

That is all for now. I wish I had more time to try more wines while I was in the Okanagan, but being with family is also nice!

Zweigelt – A Red to Try

From my last 2 trips to the BC Okanagan, I sampled several red wines made from the Zweigelt grape. Zweigelt isn’t a household name, but I think it should be more well-known. It is a grape conceived in Austria in the 1920’s by crossing Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent. You may say it is now the signature red grape of Austria. It has winter hardiness which is one reason why I think it is becoming more popular in the Okanagan. The name of the grape btw, comes from the Austrian plant-breeder Prof. Fritz Zweigelt.

The wines I tried were all quite full bodied, but did not have the big firm tannins of other varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Some have said that Zweigelt is more similar to Gamay in France.

Some BC producers of Zweigelt are:
– Stonehill Estate Winery
– Kalala Organic Estate Winery
– Hainle Vineyards

– Mistral
– Arrowleaf Cellars

and many more.

My recent review of the Stonehill Estate Winery Zweigelt Reserve 2006 ($19.90). “…had a dark cherry cordial type aroma. Very smooth in the mouth, with more dark cherry cordial and plum flavour. This wine, and grape, has a nice richness to it that makes it go well with a stew over the winter”.

Give a bottle of Zweigelt wine a try and see what you think. Enjoy!

Small wineries in Kelowna

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} catch(err) {}Everyone visits the big wineries in Kelowna, like Mission Hill and Quail’s Gate, but there are other small wineries worth a visit. This past week I had the pleasure of visiting:
Rollingdale Winery
Kalala Organic Estate Winery
Camelot Vineyards Estate Winery

Rollingdale Winery is located in Westbank very near to the other big wineries in the area. Rollingdale is certified organic, which I think is getting to be more common in the Okanagan. There was a wide range of wines to taste, from whites to reds to dessert wines. This winery started in 2004, with most of the vineyard area in Okanagan Falls and a few acres around the winery in Westbank. An interesting white was their 2007 Chardonnay / Semillon. This is a wild ferment. Vanilla on the nose. Very tart with green apple flavours. Would be good chilled with shellfish. Their red selection was quite large, with the winery making a 2007 “La Droite” and a 2006/07 “La Gauche” wine following the blends that are used in the Right and Left banks in Bordeaux. The “La Droite” was primary Merlot, with smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. This wine was deep purple in the glass. Sweet cherry / plum nose. Round mouth feel, cherry flavour and firm but not overpowering tannins. For those with a sweet tooth a nice wine was the 2007 Pinot Noir Icewine. Pear coloured. Apple, pear, and burnt matches aroma and flavours. Good acidity to balance the sweetness.

Another certified organic winery I visited on this trip was Kalala Organic Estate Winery, also located in Westbank. I was impressed with all the wines they let me try. As it is now officially summer, I welcomed the Pinot Noir Rose 2007. This wine is light salmon / orangy in colour. Strawberry and cranberry nose. Strawberry flavour with good acidity. A great choice for a patio sipper. An unusual wine that I tried (and bought a few bottles) was their Kalala Cuvee Noir 2007. What made it unusual? The 3 varietals that they used to make this wine: Zweigelt, Blaufrankisch, and Michurinetz. I’ve tried two of the 3 varietals before, but not all 3, and not all 3 blended together! This wine was a deep, bright purple colour. Red fruit, plummy nose. Sweet candy, red fruit, ripe cherry flavours with low tannins. This wine should hold up to full bodied grilled meats. The prices for Kalala’s wines are also excellent. The Cuvee is $14.95 and the Rose is $17.95. Only their Zweigelt icewine broke the $20 mark with a price of $75. They want to keep the prices reasonable to show people that organic wines need not be expensive and can be quite tasty. The Zweigelt icewine 2006 if you are curious, had honey, orange, butterscotch aromas and flavours.

The last winery I visited was Camelot Vineyards Estate Winery. I do not know if this is an organic winery, but I do know that it just opened to the public 2 weeks ago. They produce both red and white wines, but at the moment, only their white wines are bottled and ready for tasting. The reds I saw were still in barrels (both French and American oak) waiting for bottling next year I believe. The 2 whites I tried were a Pinot Gris and a Gewurztraminer. I enjoyed the Gewurztraimer. It was light bodied, with lychee and spice aromas and flavours. I have tasted many very nice Gewurztraimers from the Okanagan the last few years. If you have not had a chance to try a BC Gewurztraimer, you should give it a try.

Day 1 at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Fest

March 26, 2009 09:22:25
Posted By Wine With Karl

Today I was at the wine festival waiting for the doors to open. My strategy as I am there today and tomorrow, is to taste mainly white wines today, and red wines tomorrow. Also since BC is the theme region, I’d taste the BC wines before exploring the international offerings. The BC wines I tried:

– Black Hills Estate winery who are noted for their Nota Bene Bordeaux style red blend
– Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars
– Burrowing Owl Estate winery
– Cedar Creek Estate Winery
– Church & State Wines
– Dunham & Froese Estate Winery
– Garry Oaks (I also recorded an interview with Marcel Mercier from Garry Oaks)
– Road 13 Vineyards
– Sandhill (check out the picture of me with Howard Soon their wine maker, and Louise Wilson their sales rep and Sommelier)
– Stoneboat Vineyards
– Tantalus Vineyards (I recorded another interview here)
– Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
– Twisted Tree Vineyards & winery
– Wild Goose Vineyards

Keeping things short and sweet on the blog, the Tantalus Riesling and Old Vines Riesling were exceptional. Sandhill has a wonderful Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Road 13 has a nice pinot noir. Garry Oaks pinot noir was quite beguiling. Cedar Creek‘s Ehrenfelser is a neat change to a gewurztraminer. You can’t go wrong with Burrowing Owl‘s Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.

On the international side I tried:
– La Joya Viognier Reserva 2007 (Chile)
– Bouchard Pere & Fils Beaune du Chateau Blanc Premier Cru 2006 (Burgundy, France)
– Catena Chardonnay 2007 (Mendoza, Argentina)
Champagne Deutz Cuvee William 1998 (Champagne, France) LOVED It But >$150 a bottle.
– Erath Pinot Gris 2007 and Pinot Blanc 2006 (Willamette Valley, Oregon)
– Vina Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc Single Vineyard 2008 (Aconcagua, Chile) A wild ferment!
– Miguel Torres Milmanda Single Estate Chardonnay 2006 (Penedes, Spain)
– Bodegas Muga Blanco 2007, Rosado 2005 (Rioja, Spain) I enjoyed the Rosado so much I bought a few bottles.
– Murphy-Goode Sonoma County Chardonnay 2006 and “The Fume” 2007 (Sonoma, CA)
– Olivier Lefaive Wines Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Gain 2006 (Burgundy, France) an excellent wine but over $100
– Santa Margherita / Ca’ Del Bosco / Kettmier Pinot Grigio 2007, Pinot Bianco Alto Adige 2007, Cuvee Prestige Franciacorta N/V. (Italy)
– Vina Santa Rita Floresta Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (Leyda Valley, Chile) good gooseberry flavour
– Sokol Blosser Winery Evolution N/V and Dundee Hills Pinot Gris 2007 (Willamette Valley, Oregon)
– Thompson Estate Chardonnay 2005 and Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2005 (Margaret River, Australia) The sparkling just evaporated when it hit your tongue and was quite creamy. A buy!
– Miguel Torres Cordillera de las Andes Chardonnay/Viognier blend (Curico, Chile) Also a nice blend to try.

Did I try enough? I was at it for 2.5 hrs, then did a 2 hour sit down Pinot tasting. I’ll blog about that another day. I will do indepth reviews of wines after the festival is over. Enjoy!

A Good Time for Ice Wine

With snow falling here in Vancouver, I thought I’d talk a bit about Ice Wine. Ice wine’s origin is in Germany where it is called Eiswein. Eiswein production began in the late 1700s and more fully in the 1800s in Germany. The first Canadian ice wine was made in BC by Walter Hainle in 1973 at the Hainle Vineyards.

How is ice wine made? The short answer is the wine is made from frozen grapes, but of course there is more to it than that. The grapes are typically a white varietal, such as Riesling or Vidal, but you can now find some red ice wines, from Pinot Noir and other grapes. Riesling is the traditional grape for ice wine due to its high level of acidity. This high level of acidity is important to balance the high sugar content from the concentrated grape juice. The high acidity made the ice wine refreshing instead of cloyingly sweet (imagine drinking maple syrup).

There are rules for when a grape can be picked for ice wine. As I mentioned the grapes have to be frozen before being picked, but the temperature at the time of picking has to be at least -8 degrees Celsius. Any warmer and you legally cannot call the wine, ice wine. Grapes harvested at say -6 degrees Celsius can be called Late Harvest. Late Harvest wine tastes very much like ice wine, but is less aromatic and sweet. Some people prefer Late Harvest, plus the price of Late Harvest is usually half the price of the same size of Ice Wine.

Ice Wine and Late Harvest are more expensive than a traditional bottle of still wine, but it takes many more grapes to produce these wines. Whereas it could take one bunch of grapes for a bottle of wine, it may take 8-10 bunches of grapes for one bottle of ice wine or late harvest wine. Imagine how hard these grapes are when they are being pressed. As the water in the grape is frozen, just a small amount of concentrated grape syrup is left. I think of it like someone trying to squeeze water from marbles. Very hard!

Some wineries in the BC Okanagan that produce ice wine:
Mission Hill (their 2006 Reserve Riesling Ice Wine won the International Wine Challenge in London in Sept 08 as the Worlds Top Ice Wine)
Quail’s Gate (their 2006 Reisling Ice Wine won a Bronze Medal – Canadian Wine Awards 2007)
Gray Monk Estate Winery (Kerner ice wine – a white grape)
Summerhill Estate Winery (Pinot noir, zweigelt, chardonnay, and riesling ice wines)

And last but not least, every January, there is an Ice Wine Festival at Sun Peaks Resort in the Okanagan! The next festival will be January 13 – 18, 2009. You can try a wide range of ice wines, together with learning about ice wines, join in some wine dinners, and if you have any energy left, go skiing. You can contact Sun Peaks Resort at 1-800-807-3257 about the Ice Wine Festival, or go to the Ice Wine Festival website http://www.owfs.com/festivals/winter_festival.html

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!