Last weekend the Naramata Bench Wineries Association was in town for its Annual Spring Release events. Held at the Four Seasons, both the Trade/Media event — and the public ‘Wine for Waves’ fundraising event in support of the Vancouver Aquarium – were very well done and provided a good glimpse into the new 2012 and 2013 wines (as well as an update on some of the 2011s).
I tweeted out most of my tasting notes, so won’t repeat them here. Instead, I will provide my overall thoughts.
The Vintages – 2013 whites and roses were very good, very ripe. That bodes well for the reds to come. The late released ‘12s were also very nice, although the ’11s were more of a mixed bag (but that was a tough vintage).
Best Overall Winery – LA Frenz No change here, and probably no surprise for those who follow BC wines. All 9 wines I tasted (3 reds, 5 whites, 1 sweet) were fabulous. Interestingly, LA Frenz was just awarded ‘Best Small Winery in North America’, and they once again showed why!
Best Surprises – Perseus Winery and Moraine. I knew about the former’s Merlot, but the Syrah and Cabernet Shiraz were also great. And all their wines are < $20. Moraine I had never tried before, but really liked their Malbec and Syrah.
Biggest Disappointments – I won't 'name names', but still too many wineries trying to make the 'big red wine'. End result is still huge wood and tannin, little or no fruit, big prices.
Best Reds Two of them were 2011s – the La Frenz Cabernet Sauvignon and the Laughing Stock Portfolio and Syrah. Amazingly ripe for the vintage, they were a joy to drink now but had 3 – 5 years in them. La Frenz wins on price ($28 vs $42 and $36 respectively at Laughing Stock). The best 2012s I tasted were the La Frenz regular and reserve Pinot Noirs (both super ripe black cherries, earth and spice), Perseus Syrah and Cabernet-Shiraz (the former a Rhone clone, with black pepper and cherries, the latter like an Aussie Shiraz; both $19.99!) and Moraine's Syrah and Malbec (both more fruit than wood, $23.50). Finally, Lang's '13 Marechal Foch was a revelation! Explosively ripe for a Foch, with meaty, berry flavours.
Best Roses Hillside and Monster were the best in the slightly off dry style (which I like the best). And kudos for pricing them at about $16.
Best Whites For new releases, I loved the '13s from La Frenz (Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier) and '12 Reserve Chardonnay. The former are super ripe but dry, bang on varietally, and stayed at $22 (but worth $5 – $10 more). The latter is a Beringer Reserve clone, with ripe, lush butterscotch citrus – at $29 it is less than half the price of its US cousin. Same with Howling Bluff's '13s, the Semillon (a new bottling) and Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc. The latter, in particular, is an amazing wine and together with the Pinot Gris (to be released in a few weeks) may be the best white wine bargains in BC. Finally, Poplar Grove's regular Chardonnay is nice Cali style wine for < $21.
Sweet – I ended the night with La Frenz's latest NV Tawny Port, and it was as gorgeous as ever.
In summary, another great event! Kudos to Tina Baird at the Society and the Four Seasons for hosting.
Tags: Beringer, Cabernet, California, Chardonnay, Food; restaurants; wine, fruit, Hillside Winery, Howling Bluff Winery, hyatt hotels, La Frenz, Laughing Stock Winery, Merlot, monster winery, moraine winery, Naramata, Okanagan, perseus, Pinot Noir, red wines, Syrah, white wines