Back from a seven-day jaunt through the imposing and majestic Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, I’ve had time to reflect on the progress the two distinct wine and culinary regions have achieved in their relatively brief existence.
It has been a startling transformation from a sleepy fruit-growing curiosity that all but shut down once the glow of summer had subsided and the fruit trees had hunkered down for the long fall, winter and spring ahead. There was no secret about the beauty of the Okanagan and its enticing lakes, beaches and warm, sunny days. But beyond that there just wasn’t a whole lot to keep visitors for longer than a a week or two in the prime summer months.
With the onslaught of wineries, world-class wines, fabulous restaurants staffed by top-notch chefs from around the world and a blossoming secondary stream of craft brewers and craft distillers, and local markets, the Okanagan, and to some extent, neighbouring Similkameen, has become an all-encompassing paradise that can keep tourists busy through more than just the summer.
It has been interesting to watch the region grow up and reap the benefits of so much hard work. I am working on a couple of commissioned pieces on the growth of the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys for upcoming magazine issues, but wanted to share some of the wine reviews from the trip and, as well, wines that have been sent to me for consideration.
Township 7 Vineyards & Winery
Township 7 Chardonnay 2014 ($18, 89 points) — The nose shows bright green apple, pear, tropical fruits and subtle barrel spices. Lovely mouthfeel with rich baked apple, citrus and pear with vanilla and spice.
Township 7 Unoaked Chardonnay 2014 ($17, 88 points) — A nose that’s steeped in exotic tropical fruits, mango, guava, pineapple and citrus. There is a creamy feel in the mouth with ripe tropical fruits and feisty acid lift through the finish.
Township 7 Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($17, 88 points) — Highly aromatic SB with lime, grapefruit, passion fruit and tropical fruits. The palate shows citrus, light spice, lime, grapefruit and gooseberry with a refreshing acid lift through the finish.
Haywire Waters & Banks Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($25, 88 points) — Haywire sources this fruit from a unique Summerland grower. It’s aged in concrete, like most, if not all, Haywire wines. It has a herbaceous nose with grapefruit, citrus, lime and passion fruit notes. It’s round, softish, on the palate and a creamy feel to go with all the citrus fruit and herbs.
Samantha Canyonview Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 ($23, 89 points) — Made through the Okanagan Crush Pad’s Okanagan Wine Campus program, B.C.’s sommelier of the year, Samantha Rahn, crafted this wild fermented, aged in concrete, unoaked Chardonnay as her second wine in the series. It has a classy nose of pure citrus, green apple and ripe pear with a vein of minerality lurking in the background. The palate shows pure and fresh fruit with enticing citrus and pear notes that is clean and pure through the finish.
Black Hills Winery
Black Hills Nota Bena 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. (Note: my photo the Nota Bena was photo-bombed by fellow wine writer Erin Henderson.)
Black Hills Viognier 2013 ($25, 91 points) — A fresh-style Vio that sees no oak. Beautiful aromas of peach, apple, mango and fragrant while flowers. It’s round and rich on the palate and shows a range of ripe fruit flavours that build in intensity through the finish.
Black Hills Alibi 2013 ($25, 90 points) — A classic blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and the rest barrel fermented Semillon. It has an elegant nose of grapefruit, grilled pineapple, citrus and baked apple with lightly toasted spices. It has wonderful mouth feel with rich flavours on the palate that are bolstered by oak-derived spice notes.
Clos du Soleil
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.
Clos du Soleil Saturn, 2013, Similkameen Valley ($29 for 375 ml, 90 points) — The Saturn is a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc with 10% of the fruit botrytised. Such a classy nose of sweet Meyer lemon, lime peel, grapefruit and crème brûlée. It’s rich and creamy on the palate, with sweet fruit notes, roasted hazelnuts and complexity all balanced by fresh acidity.
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.
Forbidden Fruit Pearsuasion 2013, Similkameen Valley ($19, 90 points) — This is a dry white fruit wine made from 90% certified organic Asian pears and 10% certified organic Euro pears aged briefly in French oak. So enticing on the nose with aromas of poached pear, soft vanilla and a nice smoky ginger note. It’s rich and full-bodied on the palate with ripe and spicy pear flavours and a fairly dry profile.
Forbidden Fruit Caught Apricot Mistelle, Similkameen Valley ($27 for 375 ml, 92 points) — This sweet dessert wine is made from three varieties of organic apricots and is fortified with grain spirit and finished at 17% alc. It has a gorgeous, honey-sweet nose of intense apricot, dried fruits, and mango. It’s all about compoted marmalade and luxurious apricot on the palate that’s viscous and velvety smooth with decent acidity for balance.
Other B.C. wine reviews
Pentage Winery Viognier Roussanne Marsanne 2011 ($27, 90 points) — A lovely Rhone-inspired white blend with a nose of spicy Asian pear, apricot, melon and peach. Shows some elegance on the palate with fully integrated and exotic apricot, peach and pear fruit with intriguing spice notes.
Rustic Roots Fameuse 2013, Similkameen Valley ($26, 89 points) — This is somewhere between a white and red, perhaps a sparkling rose style of wine, made from a single, 100-year-old estate Fameuse apple tree and blended with 30% Santa Rosa plums and fermented with wild yeast. What a treat! It has a gorgeous mulled apple-plum nose with subtle caramel and red fruit notes. Lovely bubbles come into play on the palate with all that apple and plum fruit benefiting for a touch of sweetness.
Inniskillin Discovery Series Chenin Blanc 2014 ($17, 90 points) — Lovely melon, pear and apple aromas on the nose. It’s round, delicious and juicy on the palate with rich pear, apricot and mango flavours.
See Ya Later Ranch Gewurztraminer 2014 ($15, 89 points) — Highly aromatic Gew with aromas of honey-dipped grapefruit, lychee, tropical fruit and exotic spices. It’s nicely balanced on the palate with grapefruit, spice and balancing acidity.