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B.C. Wine Report: Reaching for the Summit at Mt. Boucherie, plus Castoro de Oro and Township 7 reviews

By Rick VanSickle

Mt. Boucherie director of winemaking Jeff Hundertmark left Niagara in 2017, built his team and asserted himself quickly at the West Kelowna estate.

Note, also in this report: Castoro de Oro releases three wines in cans and a Viognier coming to Ontario, plus summer reviews from Township 7.

As an award-winning winemaker and sommelier, Huntertmark, below, relocated to B.C. after an successful career in Niagara including the winemaking job at both Marynissen Estate Winery and Stoney Ridge Estate Winery where he was able to produce estate wines as well as the popular celebrity brand for the Tragically Hip and as his own label 100Marks. It was a big loss for Niagara to lose Hundertmark and his wife, Kimberly, who was formerly the executive director of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival and is currently the events manager at the B.C. Wine Institute.

B.C. wine

Mt. Boucherie farms 200 acres in both the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys and the goal is to reflect the diversity of B.C. wine through low yields, honest winemaking, and patient aging.

The winemaking philosophy behind each bottle is something Huntertmark takes very seriously. He believes there is a place for wines to be cherished for years; as big age-worthy collectibles, but also as important, there is a place for fresh wines ready for early consumption.

The portfolio is made in three distinct tiers. The white label wines are made in a crisp, refreshing style meant for early consumption. The reserves are aged for 12 to 22 months in barrel and are meant to age gracefully in your cellar.

Summit and Contessa are at the pinnacle of the estate’s efforts showcasing the best blocks and barrels from our 200 acres of vines.

“The 2018 vintage was my first full vintage here so it is near and dear to my heart, Hundertmark told Wines In Niagara. “2019 was a great vintage for us, lower sugars, lower alcohol but still with amazing phenolic ripeness. This is one to keep a close eye on across the region, I think.”

Huntertmark was particularly impressed with the 2017 Summit, a proprietary blend that sits atop the pecking order of the estate’s wine program.

“Even though the harvest happened a month or so prior to my arrival at Mt. Boucherie, I painstakingly tasted through a lot of barrels (tough work!) to come up with the perfect blend, in my estimation.”

The Summit truly is a stunning wine, a full-bodied and structured red that captures the best of what can be done when talented winemakers are given the right grapes from the best vineyards available to them.

We reviewed the Summit as well as some other select new releases from Mt. Boucherie.

Here’s what we can recommend:

The Wines

Mt. Boucherie Summit 2017 ($60, 94 points) — Summit, as the name suggests, is the best of the best from Mt. Boucherie. It’s a blend of the top blocks from estate vineyard in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. The blocks are cropped to 3 tonnes per acre or less, the grapes are hand-picked, hand-sorted and aged in 100% French oak (35% of which is new oak) for 24 months. The 2017 blend is 51% Merlot, 21 Cabernet Franc, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Malbec and Syrah. What a beautiful wine this is. It’s dark and dense in the glass and after letting it open up, the aromas unfold one after another — black cherries, kirsch, black currants, cassis, cigar leaf, sweet oak spices and anise. It’s plush and perfectly ripe on the palate with an array of black currants, dark cherries, anise, toasted vanilla and oak spices that combines power, complexity with still enough juicy acidity to carry it elegantly through a long, long finish. I see a very long future of developing further in the bottle, say 10+ years.

Mt. Boucherie Reserve Syrah 2018 ($45, 92 points) — The Syrah is a from a combination of the Lazy River Vineyard in the Similkameen Valley and the Summer Breeze Vineyard in Osoyoos and is aged in 90% French oak (10% new) and 10% American oak (30% new). Another beauty with a nose of charcuterie, figs, pepper, blackberries, cassis, cherries, boysenberries, earth and integrated spice notes. The ripe cherries shine on the palate followed by rich, jammy cassis, plums, cured meats, wet earth, lavish spice notes and a bright, long finish.

Mt. Boucherie Pinot Noir 2018 ($25, 90 points) — Sourced from the estate’s Lazy River Vineyard in South Cawston and aged in French oak (20% new oak). This is a medium-bodied Pinot with a nose of black cherries, brambly raspberries, subtle cassis, earth, minerals and spice. It becomes more concentrated on the palate with some weight and intensity of ripe cherries, earthy black fruits, spice and all leading to fairly finessed finish.

Mt. Boucherie Rosé 2019, Okanagan Valley ($22, previously reviewed, 90 points) — An Okanagan field blend of Zweigelt, Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer with a nose of summer strawberries, watermelon, raspberries, citrus zest and a pinch of spice. It’s bone dry on the palate with refreshing red berries, lemon zest and mouth-watering acidity through the finish. Glug, glug, glug!

Mt. Boucherie Pinot Gris 2019 ($20, 90 points) — This is 100% from the estate’s Lazy River Vineyard in the Similkameen Valley and is partially fermented on the skins giving it a pale salmon colour in the glass. It’s highly aromatic with notes of peach, melon, grapefruit with just a hint of strawberries and spice. It has lovely texture and is loaded with ripe peach, pink grapefruit, apricot, nectarine and spice with a juicy, vibrant finish.

Mt. Boucherie Riesling 2019 ($18, 88 points) — The fruit comes from the Lost Horn Vineyard in Okanagan Falls and the Lazy River Vineyard in the Similkameen Valley. The nose shows zesty lime, lemon blossoms, grapefruit, fresh peach and apple with subtle minerality. The zesty/lively palate has a playful tug between sweet/tart fruits of apple, peach and citrus with ginger, mineral and honey accents through a bright finish.

Doing the can-can
at Castoro de Oro

Oliver, B.C., winery Castoro de Oro farms vineyards planted in 1980-1981 in the Golden Mile sup-appellation. The Okanagan Valley estate has recently launched a series of three wines in cans, which the LCBO in Ontario had asked the winery to submit this spring for consideration. Then COVID-19 hit and the submission was cancelled in Ontario and the release was delayed in B.C. and Alberta. The canned wines are now being made available in both those provinces, but not Ontario quite yet.

Castoro de Oro is the very first South Okanagan winery to produce wine-in-a-can, using 100% BC grapes.

“We love to be innovative,” co-owner and assistant winemaker Stella Schmidt told My Van City in an interview. “Our philosophy is to make handcrafted 100% BC wines at the best value possible, and our wine-in-a-can takes that dream one step further. We are so excited to offer elegant, convenient cans of our award-winning wines and look forward to seeing all the places they will travel to.”

Packaging wine in cans, in this case 250 mL single servings, is just a smart idea for those wanting to pack a cooler full of ice and wine and head to the beach, cottage or pool deck for summer chilling. Technology has advanced to the point where you can’t even tell the difference between a wine bottled in glass or can.

Wines In Niagara tasted the three canned wines, also available via direct messaging on Castoro’s Instagram feed or Facebook, plus a lovely Viognier expected to arrive at Vintages stores in Ontario soon.

Castoro de Oro Heart of Gold 2017 (($9 for a 250 mL can, 88 points) — Go ahead, crank up the Neil Young, grab a cooler of cold cans and crack open this lovely unoaked white blend of Pinot Blanc, Vidal, Viognier and the rare Siegfried. It has a clean nose of peach, grapefruit and apricots. It’s round and fruity on the palate with peach, honey, apricot, ripe apple and just enough citrus on the finish to keep it fresh.

Castoro de Oro Merlot 2017 (($9 for a 250 mL can, 92 points) — A serious, well-made Merlot that one would never know came from a can if you served it to them blind. It shows a bold nose of savoury red berries, plums, cocoa and elegant oak spices. It has wonderful mouth-feel and is dense and dark in the glass and loaded with plums, kirsch, cassis, anise, dark chocolate, spice, nutmeg, tannic structure and depth all leading to a long finish.

Castoro de Oro Pinot Duetto Rosé 2017, Okanagan Valley ($9 for a 250 mL can, previously reviewed, 90 points) — This delightful canned rosé is a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc with an enticing nose of black cherries, fresh raspberries and wild Okanagan herbs. It’s a touch off-dry on the palate and big on flavours of red berries with savoury herb accents and plenty of juicy acidity on the finish.

Castoro de Oro Viognier 2018 ($22, Vintages in Ontario soon, 90 points) — Highly aromatic with pears, apricots, honeydew melon and poached pear. It has lovely viscosity on the palate followed by rich tropical fruits, apricot, peach, wild honey and juicy acidity to keep it fresh on the finish.

Township 7 summer releases

Township 7 Sauvignon Banc 2019 ($20, 89 points) — Sourced from estate’s Blue Terrace Vineyard in Oliver, this Savvy has a highly aromatic nose of grapefruit, gooseberries, herbs and lime. It’s more rounded on the palate with subtle spice, gooseberries, passion fruit, lime, citrus and integrated summer herbs.

Township 7 Gewurztraminer 2018 ($27, 90 points) — From fruit on the Naramata Bench and Oliver, this lovely Gew has a nose of pear, lychee, rose petals, grapefruit, spice from partial barrel fermentation and ginger notes. It has some weight and viscosity on the palate with ripe grapefruit and pear fruit, lychee nut, ginger, spice and a juicy finish. Dry impression on the finish. Lovely drop.

Township 7 Pinot Gris 2019 ($20, 88 points) — Fruit forward and fresh aromas on this Okanagan based Pinot Gris. It’s loaded with peach, pear, nectarine and citrus on the nose. It has a clean, fresh delivery on the palate with juicy pear, nectarine and just a squirt of lemon on the finish.

Township 7 Muscat 2018 ($27, 90 points) — The Muscat comes from the Sunshine Acres Vineyard in Oliver and has an interesting nose of orange peel, ginger/nutmeg, a floral note and Asian pear. The palate reveals peachy/pear, apple, orange zest, ginger and lime and it’s all perfectly dry on a vibrant finish.

Township 7 Rosé 2019 ($25, previously reviewed, 91 points) — A blend of Okanagan Cabernet Franc and Merlot with a pale salmon colour in the glass, the nose shows fresh strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb and citrus accents. It’s all nicely integrated on the palate with the full range of crushed red berries, subtle tannins and refreshingly dry through the finish.

Township 7 Pinot Noir 2018 ($36, 92 points) — This Pinot Noir is a combination of two clones — 115 and 667 from long-time growers Dwight and Arnie Gash in Okanagan Falls. It spends 12 months in French oak barrels. It has an enticing nose of black cherries, field raspberries, bramble and savoury spice notes. It has wonderful silkiness on the palate with earthy red berries, anise, fine-grained tannins and plenty of juicy acidity to keep it vibrant on the finish. Can cellar 5+ years.