B.C. WineTop Stories

Nota Bene and The Judge are two B.C. wines you need in your wine cellar

By Rick VanSickle

The 20th vintage of Black Hills’ flagship wine, Nota Bene, is also the first crafted by ex-Niagara winemaker Ross Wise. You can now take a bow, Master of Wine, what a beauty.

Also in this report: Another blockbuster red, The Judge from Hester Creek plus other reviews for Black Hills and Hester Creek.

Wise, below, has crafted an elegant showpiece red blend from estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot in a cooler vintage in the Okanagan Valley. It follows a style long established by former Black Hills winemakers but clearly benefits from a cooler climate winemaker (think Niagara and New Zealand) such as Wise.

B.C. wine

The leaner notes in this stunning Nota Bene are clearly adding complexity, depth and interest to the total package while clearly maintaining the variety correct components.

A hot spring and warm, dry 2018 summer had the vineyards well advanced and in great condition leading in to the fall. Following this, a very cool August and September slowed ripening to a crawl. Thankfully, dry conditions and a lack of frost events allowed the grapes to achieve ripe and pure fruit flavours, while still retaining fresh acidity and pure fruit aromas.

Black Hills has notably thrown an annual party at the winery to launch their Nota Bene wine.

This year instead, the Black Hills team is celebrating the Nota Bene new vintage release with an epic virtual party, featuring Canadian celebrities. The exclusive online party kicks off with a guided tasting of the wines from Wise, and includes a live musical performance by recording artist and co-founder of the Barenaked Ladies, Steven Page. They will be joined in conversation by other Canadian celebrities, including:

• Jason Priestley, actor, Beverly Hills 90210
• Erin Cebula, TV host, ET Canada and Global TV
• Prevail, four-time Juno Award winning hip-hop artist
• Kelsey Serwa, above, 2018 Winter Olympic gold medal winner

Instead of buying an event ticket, all wine lovers needed to do was purchase 12 bottles or more of the 2018 Nota Bene vintage to receive an access code to the celebrity-filled 20th Anniversary Virtual Nota Bene Release Party, held online on Friday. Customers will also receive a gift certificate to book a VIP Cabana tasting at Black Hills Wine Experience Centre. Purchase 24 or more bottles, and receive an entry to win a vacation package for a three-night stay at the Black Hills Wine Lodge.

With the 750 mL bottles of Nota Bene already sold out, there is still time to purchase magnums and double magnums to get your full ticket to the party. Magnums cost $199 and double magnums are $379.

You can get them here (but do it by Friday).

Here’s our review of the Nota Bene and another wine from Black Hills, the Cellar Hand Punch Down.

Black Hills Nota Bene 2018 ($199 for magnum or $379 for double magnum, 94 points) — The 20th vintage of the Nota Bene is comprised of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and new this year, 1% of Petit Verdot. This is the first vintage crafted by ex-Niagara winemaker, Wise. It has an elegantly appointed nose of blackberries, plums, cassis, black cherries, mocha, lovely oak spices and a subtle herbaceous note. It’s super tight at the moment with grippy tannins, but swirl and it becomes a layered and complex red with cassis, currants, eucalypt, cocoa, herbs, savoury spice notes with tingly acidity and beautifully finessed through a long finish. This will only get better in the cellar, say 8+ years.

Black Hills Cellar Hand Punch Down Red 2018 ($29, 90 points) — This blend of 67% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Carménère and 6% Syrah from the Sharp Rock Vineyard and Double Black Vineyard in Oliver shows juicy red berries, meaty/savoury notes, pepper, anise, black currants, plums and integrate spice note on the nose. It’s fruit-laden on the palate with smoky black currants, cherries, anise/licorice, sage, spice, soft tannins and plenty of mouth-watering acidity to keep it lively through the finish.

Hester Creek Reviews

Hester Creek The Judge 2017 ($44 or $96 in magnums, 93 points) — This top tier red is a blend of 36% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 29% Merlot from estate vines planted in 1968. It’s aged in 75% French and 25% American oak for 24 months. What a nose! It teems with black currants, jammy cassis, anise, blueberries and a range of elegant oak spice notes. It’s smooth and caressing on the palate with a rich broth of blackberries, currants, cassis, kirsch and anise with overt spice notes, cocoa and a long, long finish. This is a beautiful Okanagan red that can be cellared for 10+ years for further development.

Hester Creek Character White 2019 ($17, 88 points) — This blend is just about equal parts Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer from Oliver fruit. It’s packed with aromatic fruits on the nose — peach, sweet apple, pear, apricot and lychee. It’s a touch of off-dry on the palate with ripe orchard fruits, honeycomb, lychee and a touch of ginger on the finish.

Hester Creek Terra Unica Sémillon 2019 ($20, 89 points) — From estate Golden Mile Bench fruit planted 20 years ago and aged on fine lees in stainless steel for four months. It has a minerally nose of citrus zest, pure lime, fresh herbs and subtle pear. It has lovely texture and crisp apple, citrus, wild honey, herbs and a zesty finish.

Hester Creek Terra Unica Viognier 2019 ($20, 90 points) — The fruit was sourced from two vineyards in Osoyoos and Oliver and was whole berry pressed and aged on the fine lees. It has a lovely floral entry that leads to apricot, pear, apple skin and ginger notes. There is depth to the range of apricot, apple and honey notes on the palate with a rounded, textured feel to the exotic fruit profile through the finish.