Summer 2010 at Township 7 – Whites remain strong but is the style of the reds changing?

Township 7 is always the first stop on any trip to Naramata — it is the first major winery you see coming up the hill from Penticton — and that was no different during my recent trip.  What I did find, however, was that things may be changing at this winery from a style perspective.

I was disappointed first to see that the 2009 Rose was not yet available; it has been our favourite Rose for a number of summers (until it was recently dethroned by the one from La Frenz). A bit surprising, since, in my view, Rose is best drunk in the summer, ice cold!

I tried whites next and they generally remain strong. The 2008 Viognier is holding up well, with classic floral and peach aromas, peach/citrus flavours and medium body.  It was  little lighter in fruit than in past vintages, but still good value at $19.99

The 2008 Chardonnay continues to be their best wine.  Medium gold in colour, it literally explodes from the glass with a mix of vanilla, butterscotch and fresh citrus fruit flavours. Very ripe, with a luscious mouth feel from the oak, it is a classic California style Chardonnay for drinking over the next year or so.  At $20, it remains an amazing value; only the recently discovered Chardonnay from Quinta Ferreira is as good in that price range!

Unfortunately, the 2007 Reserve Chardonnay wasn’t as nearly as good for about $5 more. In the past, this has been a wine that my wife thought tasted like the Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay; high praise indeed! But this vintage was light on all fronts — colour, aroma, and fruit. I still have the 2006 and it is a much nicer wine.

I didn’t taste the Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Gewurztraminer or 7 Blanc, but have certainly enjoyed them in the past. The Semillon, in particular, is a copycat for French white Graves and the 7 Blanc an intriguing and slightly sweet treat. All are recommended.

Then on to the reds, and that was where things seem to be changing up a bit. I have previously held Township 7 up as one of the bastions of fruit-forward wines; indeed, their Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah have been on my perennial “best in B.C.” lists. But from my tasting, they seem to be going more in the direction of a Bordeaux style of wine, with more herbs, wood and chocolate flavours.

The 2007 Cabernet/Merlot was the first example of this trend. Usually this is a bit of a cassis/black currant fruit bomb — not complex, but not meant to be, and at under $20 a good deal. But this latest version is light on the fruit and heavier on the wood.

Even more disappointing was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  I have picked this wine as the best Cabernet in B.C. for a number of years, challenged only by La Frenz. Well, no more. It is dry, herbal and fairly tannic; hard to find the usual ripe black currant here. At $25.99, I would expect more flavour. 

The 2006 Dunfield Collection is a bigger version of the previous wine.  It is their Meritage, and very Bordeaux-like and quite tannic. It may come around, but I am not sure.  It is certainly not my style.

Neither the 2007 Merlot or 2007 Syrah were ready and/or available to taste (although both are now listed on the website).  Those may well prove to be the litmus test of whether a change in style is at hand with the reds. I hope not — the Syrah, in particular, has been right up there with Nichol’s (and now Marichel’s) as the best in B.C.  I tasted the 2006 while I was there and it is still in gorgeous shape, a real French style Syrah with black cherries, pepper and a touch of gaminess to it.

So my recommendations are keep buying the whites, but be careful with the reds if you like a more fruit-forward style of wine. I will report back on the remaining 2007’s when they are released.



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