By Rick VanSickle/Publisher Wines In Niagara
This is NOT the definitive list of the top wines released in British Columbia in 2015, no, not by a long stretch. But these are the most exciting wines that I tasted from the province in 2015.
There are many more complete lists of B.C.’s top wines of the year already out there (one of my favourite lists is the Icon Wine Top 20, with others yet to be published, but I felt that this year, for the first time here at Wines In Niagara, I had a well-rounded and thorough look at wide cross-section of B.C. wines either from visits there this past year, from samples that travelled across this vast land to my door step and from tastings in Ontario with B.C. winery owners.
I’ve divided the list into a Top 10 Red and Top 10 White wines from 2015 and sorted them from top-scoring down in alphabetical order.
And as I said at the top, it’s just a list of what I scored as the top wines from B.C. in 2015.
NOTE: The Top 10 White, Top 10 Red and Top 5 Sparkling wines from Niagara list will be published here soon.
Top 10 Red Wines from B.C.
Black Hills Nota Bene 2013 ($60, 93 points) — The blend consists of 50% Cab Sauv, 40% Merlot and 10% Cab Franc. The nose shows perfectly ripe black currants, black cherries, violets, vanilla, cinnamon toast and barrel spices. On the palate the rich fruit package is nicely integrated with the soft, ripe tannins and lovely harmonious spice notes. A stunner of a wine.
Culmina Hypothesis 2012, Okanagan ($40, 93 points) — This is only the second vintage of this top red blend from Donald Triggs’ Okanagan project that combines Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. And what a beauty! Dark and rich in the glass with opulent aromas of black currants, concentrated blackberries, red plums, an array of oak-enriched spices and a touch of eucalypt. It’s big and powerful on the palate and highlights persistent dark fruits, plush tannins, and spices all delivered on a long, lush finish. Such depth of flavour yet finessed and polished.
Clos du Soleil Signature 2012, Similkameen Valley ($45, 92 points) — A blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc and a smidge of Petit Verdot, this winery’s top wine displays a complex array of aromas — from black currants, smoky cherry and blueberry fruit to toasted cedar, vanilla and earthy/meaty notes. On the palate there is structure and ripe tannins to go with fully integrated dark fruits, earth and spice that are balanced and poised through the finish.
Haywire Free Form Red 2014 ($55, 92 points) — The Red Free Form is another natural wine made with no intervention in the cellar. It’s made from clone 667 Pinot Noir grown on the Waters & Banks Vineyard and was fermented using wild yeast in amphora where it aged on the skins for eight months. No sulphur was added. It has a pure and attractive nose of extracted cherry, raspberry and black currants. It is a beautiful wine on the palate with a rich broth of red fruits, crushed currants, raspberry, bramble and lovely silky tannins. Winemaker Matt Dumayne nailed this one. A brilliant and natural wine.
Haywire Canyonview Vineyard “Raised in Concrete” Pinot Noir 2012 ($40, 92 points) — Aged in old oak barriques then moved into egg-shaped concrete tanks for further aging. Lovely colour and a nose of penetrating cherry, raspberry and bramble with clove and spice accents. It’s pure on the palate with gorgeous texture and flavours of cran-cherry, cassis, and savoury-spicy notes. A beautiful Pinot Noir.
JoieFarm “En Famille” Pinot Noir Reserve 2012 ($40, 92 points) — Now, this is something. A nose of black cherry, currants, cranberry, crunchy raspberry and a lovely gaminess with loam, earth and savoury spices. It’s like silk on the palate and laced with cherry and black currants in a vibrant, focused style that’s not afraid to show its funky, spicy side. Buy and hold for five years plus.
Road 13 5th Element 2011 ($49, 92 points) — The elements are: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec with 16 months of aging French oak barrels. The nose shows blackberry, loam, currants, cedar and an array of oak-derived spice notes. It’s big and rich on the palate with cassis, blackberry, dark chocolate, leather, spice with fine tannic structure and length through the finish. Cellar five+ years.
Time Estate Syrah 2012 ($35, 92 points) — Shows a deep, inky purple colour with a nose of grilled meats, pepper, earth, eucalypt and then the array of plums, currants, cassis, anise and barrel spices. This is a big wine in the mouth that starts with black pepper and currants, dark plums, grilled meats, garrigue and a touch of minty herbs. It’s bold and complex through the finish and it built to be aged. A very fine Syrah that worked amazingly well with the duo of braised pork belly, duck confit and butterscotch miso jicama fry.
Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Cabernet Franc 2012 ($31, 92 points) — Thick and rich on the nose with black cherry, black currants, anise, savoury spice and dried herbs. Such a beauty in the mouth! Rich and complex with mélange of red and dark berries, elegant oak spice notes, touch of black licorice and ripe tannins that travel effortlessly on a smooth finish.
Township 7 Cabernet Franc Rock Pocket Vineyard 2012 ($31, 92 points) — A robust, ripe Cabernet Franc from the estate’s North Bench in Oliver on the Black Sage Bench. It’s a robust and ripe CF with a thrilling nose of deep, rich blackberry, blueberry, roasted coffee bean, nutmeg, bramble and baking spices. It’s thick and juicy on the palate with a combination of red and dark fruits, spice, vanilla and silky tannins though a smooth finish. Delicious wine.
Top 10 White Wines from B.C.
Culmina Dilemma 2013 ($33, 93 points) — With this vintage of Culmina Chardonnay, the fruit is sourced from the highest elevation on the property, Margaret’s Bench, at 600 meters. What a beautiful, elegant wine. The nose shows swirling pear, citrus, green apple, minerals and soft vanilla spices. It’s perfectly balanced in the mouth with complex pear-apple fruit, lightly toasted vanilla spice and freshening citrus that kicks in through the long finish.
Summerhill Vineyard Riesling, Okanagan 2013 ($30, 93 points) — This is a brilliant Riesling from fruit grown using biodynamic principles and fermented wild in the vineyard from ambient yeasts. The nose shows an explosion of succulent grapefruit, lemon-lime, quince, alfalfa honey and a slight reductive note. It shows brilliant minerality on the palate with zesty lime, citrus rind, lemon tart and honeycomb.
Clos du Soleil Capella 2013, Similkameen Valley ($28, 92 points) — The Capella is a 91% Sauvignon Blanc, 9% Semillon blend that draws from the rocky soils of the Similkameen Valley. It’s pure elegance on the nose with pear, apple, grapefruit, cream and spice. On the palate it is all about finesse and balance with pear and apple flavours mingling with profound and stoney minerality and fine oak spice.
Haywire Switchback Organic Vineyard Wild Ferment 2014 ($30, 92 points) — The wine is made with 100% certified organic Pinot Gris (though Pinot Gris is not part of the label information), clone 52. The grapes are pressed and put into an 800-litre amphora to ferment on native yeast with no winemaking intervention. The wine is left on the skins for eight months, pressed and then left to rest for an additional two months before being filtered and bottled with no sulphur or other additives. The nose is unbelievable with apricot, peach compote, subtle raspberry, thyme and fragrant cranberry and apple. It has noticeable tannins on the palate and feels like a red wine with cran-cherry, pomegranate, peach, wonderful texture and a subtle earthy feel through the finish. Such a treat of wine.
JoieFarm Pinot Blanc 2013, Okanagan Valley ($23, 92 points) — This is another popular Alsatian variety that Joie excels with. The nose is fuelled by wonderful minerality, melon, pink grapefruit and fresh apple slices. It’s fleshy on the palate but maintains freshness with juicy apple and citrus fruit, a pinch of sweetness and a touch of spice and crushed stone minerality.
Road 13 VRM 2013 ($29, 92 points) — The blend is 72% Viognier, 25% Roussanne and a splash of Marsanne with fermentation and aging in older (neutral) oak barrels. Love the nose of poached pear, apricot, soft vanilla, spice and minerality. It is defined by its texture on the palate with round and fleshy fruit and a broad range of pear, exotic tropical fruits and subtle spice notes. Delicious stuff.
Stag’s Hollow Viognier-Marsanne Kiln House Vineyard 2013, Okanagan ($25, 92 points) — This is made in the “orange” wine style with skin contact, co-fermentation, low sulphur, wild fermentation, unfined and unfiltered. Such a powerful nose of lemon, peach, citrus, spice and marmalade. The look of the wine might throw you for a loop with its burnt orange colour and slight cloudy appearance but it’s a knockout on the palate with peach puree, lemon rind, ginger, papaya and evident tannins. Wow.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery Cipes Blanc de Blanc 2010 ($35, 92 points) — Produced in the traditional Champagne method, from 100% Chardonnay grapes from Osoyoos, there is extended en tirage aging for four years, and disgorged in small batches. It has a lovely nose of apple, pear, lemon chiffon and toasty/brioche notes with subtle lime undertones. It is crisp and bright on the palate with a soft mousse that delivers lemon, apple and minerals to go with toasty accents delivered on a beam of racy acidity through the vigorous finish.
Black Hills Viognier 2013, Okanagan ($25, 91 points) — A fresh-style Vio that sees no oak. Beautiful aromas of peach, apple, mango and fragrant white flowers. It’s round and rich on the palate and shows a range of ripe fruit flavours that build in intensity through the finish.
Culmina Decora 2013 ($23, 91 points) — This was my first taste of the Culmina Riesling and I was impressed. Such a beautiful floral note on the nose with fresh lime, grapefruit and wet-slate mineral. This is a Riesling that’s focused, pristine, laser-sharp and complex, combining a range of citrus on the palate with touches of apple, jasmine and gorgeous mineral notes in a near bone-dry style.