With summer – at least according to the calendar — quickly coming, many wine lovers in BC and elsewhere will be making holiday plans for our wine country. So today I am starting a series of profiles of top BC wineries, and the wines you can look forward to taste in the months ahead.
There is no better place to start than at the top, and that means La Frenz, situated in Naramata. Owner/winemaker Jeff Martin and his wife Niva have been making wine in the Okanagan since they arrived from Australia almost twenty years ago, first at Quail’s Gate and then after starting La Frenz. And that experience — and expertise, which includes work in their native country — definitely shows in the wine they produce.
Put quite simply, there is no winery in BC — or Canada – that can touch them from an overall quality basis. With a dedication to making fruit-forward wines that reflect the nature of the grape and their surroundings, La Frenz can be relied upon year in, year out, to make wonderful wines. And, somehow, they provide amazing value as well. The vast quantity of their wines are under $40, which is my personal price ceiling for BC wines, with most of them in the $20 range.
So what should you try if you go there? Well, start with the whites for sure. My favourites are the Riesling, Semillon and Viognier — all of which are $20 – $22. In a blind taste test, I bet they would blow away not just Canadian competition, but that of wineries from the U.S. as well. Crisp, clean, full of fruit — the best in BC, for sure.
If you go in the summer, definitely taste the Rose as well. It is our favourite for patio sipping — a deep pink colour, with the perfect balance between super ripe fruit and a crisp, dry finish.
As for the reds, you will be amazed they can get such ripe fruit in the Okanagan. The Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are, once again, the best made in BC. No tannic, wood monsters here — instead, look for ripe, smooth fruit, lovingly covered with vanilla/oak, but in complete balance. Both are under $30…and they will age. I have had both at five years old and they were fabulous. For a longer — but more expensive — experience, try the Reserve, their Bordeaux blend. While it tops the $40 mark, it is gorgeous, like Bordeaux should taste like. I had the 2004 in a restaurant recently and at 7 years old it showed no signs of fading.
Finally, for a treat, you can taste their sweet wines. La Frenz makes a Muscat, Tawny Port and Vintage Port, all available for half bottles. Crafted in the Aussie style, they are a wonderful way to finish off a meal or dinner party.
So if you are planning a trip to BC wine country this summer, definitely put La Frenz on your list of destinations. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed!