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!

Bordeaux Blends for the Long Weekend

Our last long weekend, Labour Day, is upon us. Soon the rains will start here in BC. So fire up the BBQ for maybe one last great hurrah, and open a bottle of a BC Bordeaux blend.

When I speak of Bordeaux blend, in this blog I’m talking about red wine. There is a white Bordeaux blend, but I’ll cover that in a different blog.

In a red Bordeaux blend, you can have a blend of up to the following different grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere. Malbec and Carmenere are rarely used in Bordeaux now as they were hard to harvest to ripeness and most of the vines are gone. In Bordeaux due to the variations in the climate each year; sometimes a cooler year, and sometimes warmer, you needed to blend earlier ripening and later ripening grapes in order to get a good wine. In the Okanagan, we are blessed with fairly good weather every summer so we can do single varietals, but still blending adds additional complexity to the wine.

With that said, I checked into everythingwine.ca and identified the following BC Bordeaux blends in the $15-$25 range:

Black Widow Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 375 mL Red blend $24.99
Blasted Church Winery Big Bang Red Blend 750 mL Red blend $23.99
Domaine de Chaberton Canoe Red Blend 750 mL Red blend $15.99
Fork In The Road Winery Oliver Block 249 Red Blend 750 mL Red blend $19.99
Hester Creek 2004 Cabernet – Merlot – Cab Franc 750 mL Red blend $19.99
Kalala Organic Estate Winery Cuvee Noir 2008 750 mL Red blend $19.99
Kettle Valley Starboard Fortified Malbec / Petit Verdot 375ml Red blend $24.99
Kettle Valley Old Main Red 375ml Red blend $23.99
Lake Breeze Vineyards Meritage Red Blend 750 mL Red blend $24.99
Road 13 Vineyards Rockpile Red Blend 750 mL Red blend $24.99
Sonora Ranch Proprietor’s Select Red 1.5 L Red blend $15.99
Therapy Vineyards Freud’s Ego 750ml Red blend $19.99
Toscano Rosso Red 2.0L Red blend $16.99

A few of the above blends may have some non-Bordeaux variety grapes in them, such as the Kalala Cuvee Noir, but most I think are all true Bordeaux blends.  In the past I’ve tasted the following BC Bordeaux blends:

Van Westen Vineyards Voluptuous Merlot / Cabernet Franc    2006    Deep reddish purple. Light aromas of cherry, cedar and slight herbaceousness. Round mouthfeel.  Dark fruit liquor, cherry and plum flavours with a vanilla finish.

Poplar Grove    Legacy Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec    2004    Black fruit aromas with a slight wisp of capsicum.  Round mouthfeel with dark fruit and firm tannins.  Dry with a black cherry finish.

Howling Bluff    Sin Cera Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Malbec    2007    Deep purple with a red edge. Smoky, dark fruit aromas.  Dark fruit, cherry and spicy flavours.  Spicy / cherry finish.  Firm tannins.

Black Widow Winery    Hourglass Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon    2007    Nice nose with casis, cherry, plum and vanilla.  Fruit forward.  Black cherry, plum and some vanilla on palate.  Medium length.

Therapy Vineyards    Freud’s Ego Cabernet Sauvignon / Cabernet Franc / Merlot    2007    Medium garnet with slight purple colouration.  Oak, cherry, currant and cedar aromas.  Cherry, red and dark berries, and vanilla flavour.  Round mouth feel, soft tannins.  Cherry finish.

I have many more in the list, but to keep it brief, I’ve listed just a few.  I hope you enjoy your Labour Day long weekend with a red  BC Bordeaux blend.

Cheers.