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First B.C. wine reviews of 2018: Hester Creek, Township 7 and 40 Knots from the Comox Valley

B.C. wine

By Rick VanSickle

We’re kicking off our first B.C. wine report of 2018 with reviews from three wineries spread across the province: Township 7, 40 Knots and Hester Creek.

Here’s what I like from tasting several wines from these three wineries recently.

Township 7 Vineyards and Winery

Okanagan wine

Township 7 was founded in 2000 and is comprised of two wineries — one situated in the scenic Fraser Valley and the other on the picturesque Naramata Bench in the Okanagan Valley.

Best B.C. wine

Township 7 Reserve Chardonnay 2016 ($27, 89 points) — Fruit is from the Sundial Vineyard on the Black Sage Bench. This Chard has an elegant beginning with apple, pear and spice all working in harmony on the nose. It shows toasted spice notes on the palate with creamy, rich flavours of pear, baked apple and citrus accents on the finish.

Township 7 Fool’s Gold Vineyard Riesling 2016 ($25, 89 points) — A lovely dry style of Riesling from North Oliver with a nose of fresh lime, grapefruit, lemon, ginger and minerals. It’s fresh and crisp with a range of citrus, touch of tart apple and plenty of zippy acidity through the finish.

Best Okanagan wine

Township 7 Pinot Noir 2016 ($31, 91 points) — Winemaker Mary McDermott sources her Pinot for this lovely wine from Sperling in Kelowna and further south at Remuda in OK Falls. It has a bold nose of savoury red fruits, licorice, spice and cassis with anise and earth accents. It’s certainly a bolder style Pinot with concentrated red fruits, and earthy-spicy notes, but the muscular style is not out of proportion at all. I would age this two or three years to bring it all together. The rewards will be worth it.

Township 7 Rock Pocket Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2015 ($30, 91 points) — Lovely, elegant nose of integrated red fruits, spice and touches of plums, cassis and herbs. It turns bolder and spicier on the palate with red and dark fruits, black licorice, roasted herbs, good tannic structure, savoury notes and ripe tannins on smooth finish. Can cellar 4+ years.

Township 7 Merlot 2015 ($23, 89 points) — A very nice, smartly-priced Merlot with an attractive nose of ripe cherries, cassis, currants, vanilla bean and toasted barrel spices. It’s nicely integrated on the palate, quite smooth through the finish, with bright red fruits and integrated spice notes.

40 Knots Vineyard and Estate Winery

The 40 Knots winery is located in the heart of the Comox Valley, on a slope facing the Salish Sea. The property and winery were purchased in 2014 and, with the assistance of winemaker Michael Bartier, wines crafted there are a reflection of the windswept, sun-soaked climate of the region.

40 Knots L’Orange 2016 Bottle #732 ($37, 90 points) — 40 Knots took Schonberger and Pinot Gris grapes and fermented and aged them on the skins in Italian terracotta amphora. Absolutely zero intervention or additives were used to make this natural wine, just patience. When the timing was right, the grapes were pailed from amphora and screened to stainless without pressing. Each bottle is numbered from one to 1,510, which is a clever thing to do since every bottle of this wine will be slightly different because of the naturalness of the way it is made. My review bottle, No. 732, had a gorgeous nose of marmalade, citrus rind, mulled apple, bin peach and tangerine. On the palate this unusual wine displays a tasty broth of fresh orchard fruits, subtle herbs and hops(!) with soft tannic structure that would pair nicely with a range of cheeses and charcuterie.

40 Knots White Seas 2016 ($20, 88 points) — A fresh nose of apple, peach, ginger and melon that carries perfectly and seamlessly to the palate with exactly the same profile. A fun, fresh and fine example of Comox Valley wine.

40 Knots Ziggy Siegerrebe 2016 ($23, 87 points) — A highly aromatic wine with notes of apricot, quince, Mandarin orange, fuzzy peach and lychee. It’s bright and vibrant on the palate and crafted in a bone-dry style with a range of exotic fruit, lychee and ginger notes.

40 Knots Pinot Noir 2016 ($30, 89 points) — A lovely nose of wild raspberry, pure cherry, strawberry, cranberry and light spice. It’s silky smooth on the palate with savoury red fruits, cedar and subtle toasted spice notes.

40 Knots Spindrift Extra-Brut 2014 ($37, 88 points) — This highly stylistic sparkler, which spends two years on its lees, is lean and precise on the nose with a saline nose of sea breeze, toasted vanilla, brioche and fresh cut citrus. It’s bracingly dry on the palate, layered and textured, with energy and verve that serve the sharp citrus and green apple notes well. Can only imagine how this would pair with fresh island crab.

40 Knots Rosé 2016 ($23, 88 points) — Grown on the edge of the Salish Sea using no synthetic chemicals, fertilizers or sprays, this rosé shows a nose of cherry, bramble, herbs and strawberry notes. It’s juicy and ripe in the mouth with a range of red fruits and subtle herbs in a dry, refreshing style.

40 Knots Stall Speed Merlot 2016 ($30, 90 points) — The “Stall Speed” collection from 40 Knots is where the winemakers push the boundaries “to create bold, free-spirited wine from B.C. grapes.” The fruit for this Merlot comes from the naturally farmed Cerqueira Vineyard owned and farmed by winemaker Michael Bartier. The vineyard is located on the lower side of Black Sage Road between Oliver and Osoyoos. It has a beautiful nose of ripe red fruits, plums, black currants, cocoa and herbs. It is thick and rich with a bold attack of red and dark fruits, full tannic structure and weight with licorice and herb accents on the finish. A delicious and pure wine.

Hester Creek Estate Winery

Hester Creek has deep roots in B.C. The oldest vines were planted on the Golden Mile Bench in the Okanagan Valley in 1968. Today, the estate vineyard produces wines that are a expression of the terroir of the Golden Mile spread across a wide selection of varietals and blends that do best in the Okanagan Valley.

Hester Creek Terra Unica 2014 ($33, 92 points) — This blend of Petit Verdot and Malbec was co-fermented and barrel aged for 12 to 16 months in a combination of French and American oak. It shows a deep burgundy colour in the glass with a massive nose of blackberries, cassis, anise, leather, toasted spices notes and vanilla bean. It is rich and lavish on the palate with notes of sweet cedar, leather and spice to go with a rich broth of dark berries, boysenberry, plums and mocha through a long, long finish. Give this time to all come together, say 3+ years, or enjoy with a juicy, medium rare grilled steak right now.

Hester Creek Character Red 2016 ($21, 88 points) — This estate blend from the Golden Mile Bench of Syrah, Malbec and Petit Verdot shows an interesting nose of roasted meats, peppers, currants, cocoa, campfire smoke and spice. Quite approachable on the palate with a range of red and dark fruits, peppercorns, sweet tobacco, bacon fat and rousing spice notes all delivered on a bed of smooth tannins.

Hester Creek Block 2 Reserve Merlot 2015 ($29, 90 points) — This Merlot is farmed from some of the oldest vines at the estate, planted in the early 1970s. It has a meaty, thick and aromatic nose currants, cherries, graphite, vanilla and lavish spice notes. It’s a big Merlot with supporting tannins, cassis, currants and red fruit with leather, vanilla and spice accents that all play a role in this highly structure and interesting old-vine red wine.
Hester Creek Late Harvest Pinot Blanc 2016 ($19 for 200 mL, 90 points) — Crafted from vines that are 49 years old, this rich and lush wine shows concentrated peach, melon, apricot jam and grilled pineapple on the nose. Surprising freshness on the palate for such a sweet wine with honey-laced apricot, mango and peach tart all perked up by racy acidity.