It’s that special time of year again. Forget Christmas or the non-denominational PC generic term “The Holidays”, I’ve been calling it List Season lately. Lists are everywhere at this time of year and if you aren’t checking them twice, shopping with them, or counting them down, then you just aren’t in the spirit of the times. So of course, we here at Wine Country BC would like to contribute something to the fray, if only to summarize some of the more interesting bottles that have crossed our paths over the past year. These wines may not be “The Best” or “The Most Amazing” wines out there (although we think they are). These wines are the ones that have stood out for us this year and, darn it all, we just think that more people should know about them. So here goes…
Our Top Most Interesting BC Wines of 2013
Stoneboat The Piano
I vividly remember complaining to the unsuspecting wine shop person at the Stoneboat tasting bar one day a few years back that I was very sad to see that the Pinot Blanc had been removed from their portfolio. They used to have a fabulously focused lineup of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Pinotage, along with the Chorus and Duets and life was lovely. Then the Blanc disappeared with nary a trace. Now I know where it went. They dressed it up in a beautiful ball gown, gave her some glittering jewels and a crown, and sent her out to become the belle of the ball. This sparkling wine has truly made the wait for one of my favourite varieties worth it. While it isn’t the first or only BC bubbly to be made in this way (Charmat or tank method) it certainly demonstrates its potential here in BC. ~LW
Bella sparkling Gamay
There aren’t very many sparkling Gamays in the world and there are fewer of them here in the Okanagan. Bella’s Gamay (well let’s be honest, any of their sparkling wines really – that’s all they do) deserves to be on this list because it tastes amazing (most importantly), it looks absolutely classy, and goes with anything that can legally be called food. These are not bottles to overlook if you haven’t tried them yet. ~LW
Blasted Church OMG
Mark Wendenberg should be called “The Bubble Master”. The man who put Sumac’s Stellar’s Jay on the map knows how to make wines at their sparkly best. I tasted an early special bottling of this wine during the party for Blasted Church’s 10th anniversary in 2012, the year before they were due to released it publicly. It was smooth and finessed even then and the only difference I could tell from when I tasted it after release was that there was a little less edge. Wonderful bottle. ~LW
Eau Vivre 2012 Cinq Blanc
If you’ve ever wanted to taste an entire season in one sip, this is the wine for you. I swear that every memory of summer comes back to me when I taste this wine. You know how the air smells different after it rains? Or when it’s about to snow? This wine has every fresh aroma that the summer can produce and thankfully, it’s a Similkameen Valley summer, which is one of the best smelling summers around. I tasted components of it before blending and then again once it was released and I was blown away. It is easily one of the most masterfully blended wines this year. I honestly can’t wait for the next vintage. ~LW
Terravista Fandango ’11 and ’12
I’ve tweeted and blogged about this wine already a whole bunch of times and frequent readers / listeners of Wine Country BC will know that I adore this wine from Naramata. It has a nuanced complexity unlike anything else I’ve ever had from a white from BC. I almost don’t want to tell anyone about it because then everyone will want one and then it will get all popular and will be hard to find and then it will get expensive… ~LW
Lake Breeze Viognier
I think this was the first year they ever produced a viognier and they succeeded with all of the finesse and aplomb we have come to expect from Lake Breeze. As part of their new Wine Maker’s Series, it is Lake Breeze’s attempt to expand their portfolio and try to new things. ~CB
Hester Creek Trebianno
Ok, first a little disclaimer – I currently work at Hester Creek. But I’ve tasted this wine for years before I began working there and the past two vintages of this have really given this wine some momentum. Years ago at a wine store I worked at, we used to call it “The Nail Polish” wine – it had a pink label and the aromas were a little too close to nail polish than we preferred. Since the 2011 vintage however, it has been simply astonishing. They left a little extra residual sugar to balance the high natural acidity and presto – an off-dry white that isn’t loaded with flowery turpines (like Gewurz) to conflict with meaty foods. It’s my favourite wine for pulled-pork sandwiches and spicy southern barbecue, which I’ve always found hard to pair with wine when big, boozy reds make it too hot and the flavour of dry whites are decimated instantly. ~LW
Synchromesh 2012 Storm Haven Vineyard Riesling
Synrchomesh is a small winery located just outside Okanagan Falls with an imaginative tasting bar and excellent wines. Their Storm Haven Riesling shows complexity that could stand next to some of BC’s most powerful rieslings such as Orofino, Tantalus, and Sperling. While this winery is just getting started, it is likely ‘exceptional’ will become synonymous with Synchromesh. ~CB
(Notice how many white wines are on this list? Just saying…)
Summerhill Alive Red
This winery continues to put its ethics where its mouth is and back it up with some very interesting wines. The labels loudly proclaim the biodynamic-ethos of production for this wine far more than any of their past labels in a way that isn’t mysterious, condescending (Demeter who?) or too kitschy to be taken seriously. But what it comes down to in the end is that this wine tastes amazing – complex and interesting the end, capable of added time in the bottle and a great way to demonstrate that you can make amazing wines without a scorched-earth program of synthetic sprays. ~LW
John Weber and I were discussing t-shirt slogans on one of my visits (we both like to creating slogans for them) and for this year mine will read “You had me at Orofino”. I have not tasted a wine from this small Cawston winery that hasn’t transfixed me in some way. I can’t recall the first time I experienced a wine from most of the wineries in BC but I remember exactly when I first tried an Orofino wine. Change the word above from “Syrah” to “Passion Pit Cabernet”, “Riesling”, “Moscato” or “Sauvignon Blanc” and they would still make this list. ~LW
Accessible red blends
Calli and I were both intrigued by the new abundance and high quality of red blends from various wineries this year. The Red One by 8th Generation and Moraine’s Cliffhanger Red 2012 caught Calli’s attention this year for their approachability, flavour and price. It’s not just smaller wineries that are creating value blends. Nk’Mip entered that market earlier this year with their Talon. While it isn’t surprising to see both red and white blends like these cropping up (so to speak – a little grape growing humour there), the diversity, creativity, and quality levels are refreshing considering the constant onslaught of over-priced, one-dimensional Merlots and Pinot Gris’s that we’ve seen in the past 5 years. Kudos to the estate blends and the brave wineries that craft them!
What’s in store for 2014? Who knows? Will Chardonnay keep on making its comeback? Will Cab Franc take over as the coolest red in the Okanagan? Will C.C. Jentsch, Montakarn, and Cottonwood Estates become household names to BC wine lovers everywhere?
But if the wine world ever became predictable, then nobody would really be that interested. But you, dear wine blog reader, are clearly interested, if only because you’ve read this far down and for that, we are very thankful.
Here’s to vintage 2014! Hope to see you all here soon. Cheers from Wine Country!
~ Calli and Luke