Howling Bluff is another up and coming winery on the Naramata Bench– or should I say it’s already arrived, with two years of standout wines under its belt!
They only make three wines here, but do at least two of them very, very well. The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc was almost as good as last year’s wine, which was outstanding. It contains a small amount of Semillon as well for complexity, which adds fresh, grassy notes to the herbal, citrus aromas and flavours. Light yellow, it has surprisingly big body for white wine, no obvious oak and a juicy finish. It is good value at $19 for drinking over the next year or so.
The standout wine of the tasting — and one of the surprise wines of the entire visit — was the 2008 Pinot Noir. My notes show just how surprised I was when tasting this wine; it was a classic Burgundy style, with a beautiful mix of ripe cherries and earth, medium body and soft, tannins providing some surprising structure. After tasting many Pinots that were either too jammy or too light to support the tannins, this wine was a real treat. The last couple of vintages of this wine won a whole bunch of awards, and this one may too. At $29.90 it isn’t cheap, but it is approaching Kettle Valley/Blue Mountain territory in terms of quality. I am going to keep it for a few years and if it evolves like the wines from those other wineries, we may have another Pinot Noir contender!
Howling Bluff’s final wine is the 2008 Sine Cera, a Meritage made with the classic Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petite Verdot. It is also made in Bordeaux style, with more emphasis on herbs, wood and tannin (at least now, although the rep said there is lots of fruit underneath). While much better balanced than other “big reds” from the Okanagan, this one is still pretty tannic and will take both patience and trust that it will evolve and mellow out over time. At $29.90, I am not going to take the chance right now.
But as the song says, ‘2 out of 3 ain’t bad’, especially when the two in question offer this kind of quality. Well done, Howling Bluff!