Kettle Valley Winery – Burgundy in the Okanagan Valley?

Next up in my series on the best BC wineries is Kettle Valley, another establishment on the Naramata Bench near Penticton. And while they make a range of good to very good wines, I think they stand out for two of them — the Hayman Vineyard and Reserve Pinot Noirs. Together with Blue Mountain Winery in Okanagan Falls (who I will profile in another blog for their Striped Label Pinot Noir), they make what I think is the best Pinot Noir in BC.

Kettle Valley has been making wine on their site for twenty years — they are celebrating that anniversary this year –and are named after the famous railway that used to run through Naramata from 1915 – 1961. With some of the oldest wines on the Bench, and great positioning right over the lake, Bob Fergusen and Tim Watts have been making great wine in very modest surroundings for years.

And nowhere is that better seen than in their Pinot Noirs. The Reserve Pinot Noir is a dead ringer for a great California Pinot, with wonderful colour, incredible ripeness in the earthy, cherry fruit, and great depth of flavour. But it is never “candied” like some Pinots down there; the ripeness and alcohol are perfectly integrated with the oak to produce a perfectly balanced wine. Enjoyable on release, it can also age for 5 – 7 years in a good year. At $35 (and going up) it isn’t cheap, but it is worth it for sure. Only a couple of hundred cases are made each year, but you can usually find it either at the winery or at private wine stores across BC.

But as good as it is, the most amazing wine is the Hayman Vineyard. Now I love good Burgundy when it is ripe — not the tannic, woody, earthy ones that you have to search for the fruit in — but the ones with this almost ethereal balance between cherries, earth and wood. And that is what the Hayman is. I swear you even get that whiff of “barnyard” only found in Burgundy, as well as lovely overtones of mushrooms on the finish. Even more incredible is how it ages — I kept the 1998 for ten years and it was unbelievable, with room still to grow. Also $35 and going up, the only downside is the quantity — less than one hundred cases a year, so it is one of the most sought after wines in BC. But boy, if you can get a hold of a couple of bottles…and then keep your hands off of them for few years!

I strongly recommend you go visit Kettle Vally on any trip to the Okanagan, or look for their wines in fine restaurants. You will find it hard to believe just how good these Pinot Noirs are!



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