La Frenz Continues Domination in Fall Naramata Bench Simply Red Tasting

 Over a dozen producers from Naramata brought out their latest red wines for a tasting at the Vancouver Art Gallery and my favourite wineries/wines showed once again why they are, well, my favourites!

Here are my highlights:

1. La Frenz’08 Grand Total Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Reserve Pinot Noir all were outstanding. It was the first time I had tasted the Meritage, and it is really ripe for a Bordeaux style red. I noticed the Cab is now sold out! The ’08 Montage is a fruit bomb for $22 and the ’08 Tempranillo a lighter style but good for the same price.  The only red I wasn’t impressed with was the ’08 Shiraz, which seemed a bit thin too me (although it just won gold at the Canadian Wine Championships).

2. Nichol — Ross is back with a new Syrah and a new label. The ’08 Syrah is same French style, though, with earthy, peppery, black fruit and fairly strong tannins. Another 5 + year wine and good value at <$30. As an aside, Ross said there was so little ’07 that it got blended. He made a few cases of Reserve, but it went fast.

3. Township 7 — finally got to taste the ’07 Syrah, and it seems to be same style as in the past ie French. However it isn’t as ripe or fruity as in the past…I wonder…same with the ’07 Merlot which is more like Bordeaux now and a bit too tannic for me.  ’07 Cabernet Sauvignon is just plain tannic. Style change?

4. Howling Bluff – the ’08 Pinot Noir is not the same style or quality as the ’07, which was stunning. Barrel sample of ’09 is riper and has potential. Both ’07 and ’08 vintages of the Sine Cera Meritage are too tannic for me.

5. Laughing Stock’08 Blind Trust (mostly Merlot) is really ripe and fruity, a fair buy at $28.95. The ’07 Portfolio, the flagship wine, is quite closed down and a little tannic, but there is fruit there; will be interesting to try in a couple of years. ’08 Portfolio is riper, like the Blind Trust, and may be a better wine. And the new ’07 Syrah has some Viognier in it; interesting but at $34 I am not sure.

6. Kettle Valley — their best wines (the Hayman and Reserve Pinots) are long sold out, but the regular ’07 Pinot is nice and complex for $24. The ’07 Cab and Malbec are also very ripe, but $35. And the Starboard port wine is bang on stylistically and $20 a half bottle.

7. Red Rooster – the ’07 Pinot Noir was a lovely surprise at $19.99, but only a 100 cases made. The ’07 Reserve Merlot is nice, but too dear at $29.99. And the ’07 Cab/Merlot and Meritage are too Bordeaux in style for my tastes.

The rest of the wineries/wines I wasn’t as impressed with. Van Westen, Black Widow and Lake Breeze seemed committed to the “big red wine” trend (too much tannin/not enough fruit for me). D’Angelo (which has a beautiful B&B, by the way) had a Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Cab/Merlot and Meritage that were too pricey and not my style. And Poplar Grove’s ’06 Merlot was pretty thin; the ’07 Syrah was better, but too expensive.

So there you go; a good event and always nice to taste through so many new wines.  But choose carefully based on the style you like the best!



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