A couple of sunny days and you can’t help but believe that Spring is actually here! For us wine dweebs, that means new wines are coming…and white wines at that!

So what to look forward to?

Well, in B.C. there are a number of flagship wineries – and wines – that I look forward to every year. And most of the come from the Naramata Bench above Okanagan Lake.

First and foremost are the white wines from La Frenz, B.C.’s premier winery. It makes three white wines that I and my wine club buy year in, year out, because of their quality and value.

The first – and perhaps best – is their Semillon. It is dry, but with ripe fruit, grassy aromas and just a touch of oak. Like a cross between Bordeaux, New Zealand and California (in the best possible way). It drinks very well on release but also has a surprising ability to age. And still around $22 a bottle!

Next up, and not far behind in quality, is their Small Lots Riesling. It is made in the classic German/Alsace style, with green apples, petrol aromas and slightly off dry fruit. Also a candidate for short term aging, although it is so delicious that I have a hard time resisting it – especially at about $20.

Last, but not least, is the Viognier. Definitely Cali style here, with a fruit cocktail assortment of aromas and flavours, surprisingly big body, and a dry finish. It is also around $22, a price that puts other versions to shame.

The other premier white wine maker on the Bench is Howling Bluff. In particular, I love their Pinot Gris, which smells and tastes like white grapefruit! It is dry, but so flavourful and – can you believe it – is around $18!

Their other wine is a Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend that is only a dollar more, but worth it. Like a white Graves but without as much oak, it is crisp, clean and bone dry as well.

And what about Chardonnay? Well, if you put aside the Reserve bottlings (which won’t be released to later in the year), I think Township 7 makes as nice a wine as you will find. It is my style of Chardonnay – vanilla, butter and ripe citrus, lush and full bodied from malolactic fermentation, and ready to drink. And do drink it up – the only downside of this wine is that the oak sneaks up on it within a year or so.

Finally, there is the Nichol Pinot Gris – a truly unique wine. Ross Hackworth makes the only true “Gris” wine in BC (that I know of), leaving the skins on the grapes long enough to impart an incredible colour to the wine. It ranges from a light pink to an almost deep orange! But don’t let the colour fool you – the wine is still bone dry, crisp and refreshing. I have a wine club member who buys it by the case every year!

So Spring – bring it on! The Naramata Bench Spring Releases are less than a month away, and I can’t wait.



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