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!
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!
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!