Posts Tagged ‘Hayman’

Handicapping the 2015 BC Pinot Noir Celebration

August 19, 2015

Okay, back from holidays, and I can’t resist being a bit cheeky with my first blog!

It relates the the 2015 BC Pinot Noir Celebration scheduled for this weekend in Kaleden (in BC’s beautiful Similkameen Valley). For those not familiar with the event, it was started last year by a number of BC wineries to celebrate the so-called ‘heartbreak grape’. Billed purposely as a ‘celebration’ and not a ‘competition’, it never-the-less has entry requirements and features tastings that can’t help but lend themselves to comparisons! And with international wine celebrity Steven Spurrier the host this year (he of Bottle Shock fame), there may be more competition references than ever!

So given that – and my interest in being cheeky – I am going to handicap the event similar to the way film critics do with potential Academy Award winners!

My categories will be three:
* best overall Pinot Noir Winery
* best Reserve Pinot Noir (5 + years old)
* best regular Pinot Noir.

In doing this, I will also reference wineries/wines that aren’t there if that is relevant.

So here we go!

Best Pinot Noir Winery

My Nominees: Kettle Valley, Blue Mountain, Quail’s Gate, Meyer

a) Should win – Kettle Valley (not there)

BC Pinot Noir dweebs like me know that the Kettle Valley Hayman Vineyard is the only true Burgundian Pinot in BC, as well as one of the best. The more Cali-style Reserve is not far behind, and even the regular Pinot Noir is beautiful. This award would be an easy choice for me!

b) Would win – Quail’s Gate or Meyer Family

Quail’s Gate has been making reserve and regular Pinot Noirs since the beginning of the BC wine industry and while the former are a bit pricey, they are definitely good. Plus they are VQA. Meyer is a relative newcomer, but gets good press for its pricey wines. And according to the media, are the only BC Pinots that Spurrier has followed in England. Neither make better Pinot Noirs than Kettle Valley, but…Take your pick!

Best Reserve/High End Pinot Noir (5+ years old)

My Nominees: Kettle Valley Hayman, Kettle Valley Reserve, Blue Mountain Reserve, La Frenz Reserve, Averill Creek Reserve, Howling Bluff, Meyer (Mclean Creek or Reimer), Foxtrot, Quail’s Gate Family Reserve, Cedarcreek Platinum

a) Should win – Kettle Valley Hayman (not there) and Blue Mountain Reserve

Boy, this would be a great tasting…and one I would pay just to attend! I have cellared half of these wines for a decade or more, and tasted the rest a number of times.

Based on my experience, after 5 years in a better than average vintage, you would actually have to pick two wines because of different styles. The Hayman starts tasting/smelling like Burgundy at that age, and there is nothing else in BC like it. Meanwhile, the Blue Mountain Reserve has evolved as well, into a Burgundy/Cali clone. Different, but just as delicious.

By the way, a couple of wines would be sleepers, if only because I haven’t seen them age yet. Both Howling Bluff and La Frenz have stepped up big time in this category…it will be interesting to watch their wines as they age!

b) Would win – Quails Gate Family Reserve or Cedarcreek Platinum or Meyer (either)

Both Quail’s Gate and Cedarcreek are long time darlings of the industry. They do make good (if often expensive) wine, but not as good as either the Blue Mountain Reserve of Kettle Valley Hayman (or the Kettle Valley Reserve, La Frenz Reserve, Howling Bluff and Averill Creek Reserve). Same for Meyer.

Best Regular Pinot Noir

My Nominees: Averill Creek, La Frenz, Eau Vivre, Moraine, Blue Mountain, Quail’s Gate, Cedarcreek, Meyer, Okanagan Crush Pad, Tantalus

a) Should win – Eau Vivre (not there) or Averill Creek

Eau Vivre is a back to back Lieutenant Governor Award winner and still about $20…’nuff said! A great wine, year in, year out. And Averill Creek’s regular Pinot Noir is a stunning achievement, not just for Vancouver Island, but for anywhere.

Others to watch? La Frenz’s new regular Pinot Noir, and Moraine (a new kind on the block).

b) Would win – Okanogan Crush Pad, Tantalus

The former is the latest media darling – a spot for winemakers to come make their wines. A good idea, but I haven’t tasted great Pinot yet. And Tantalus? They are one of the founders of this event…
Now, let’s wait for the media to report out this weekend!


Can You Have a Wine Competition…Without the Best Wines?

July 8, 2015

Those who follow my blog know that I have a problem with wine competitions in general. But today I saw something that almost put me over the edge! So I had to blog about it.

The third – I think it is the third – BC Pinot Noir Celebration is occurring in August. Not only that, they have coaxed international wine celebrity Steven Spurrier (he of “Bottle Shock” fame) to come. The purpose is to bring together great Pinot Noirs from BC and other parts of the world to “compare” – not compete – and discuss.

The problem? The list of BC Pinot Noirs that the judges have decided to have don’t include the best producers in BC!

Anybody who knows anything about BC Pinot Noir knows that two producers have historically made the best wine – Blue Mountain (with their Reserve Pinot Noir) and Kettle Valley (with their Hayman and Reserve bottlings). I have personal tasting notes from these wines going back over 10 years…they are not only stunning young, but can age for 8+ years.

And then there are the newcomers. La Frenz from Naramata? Averill Creek from Vancouver Island? Both make outstanding wines, capable of at least near term aging…but they aren’t there either.

That got me to thinking…why?

The simplest answer might be that these wineries declined to participate. And if that is the case, you can stop reading right now.

But if they did want to…submitted wines to the “judging panel”…and weren’t accepted, what does that say about the panel and those who are promoting BC wines?

And even if they didn’t submit wines, what will the general public think? The event has the opportunity to get huge publicity…but if the best wines aren’t there?

Perhaps the wineries in question don’t need to care. Blue Mountain and Kettle Valley don’t make a lot of their wine, so it won’t affect sales. La Frenz and Averill Creek? Probably the same.

But as a wine dweeb…it pisses me off! The wines that are missing can be outstanding …world class! And they miss out?

Makes me want to send some to Robert Parker…hey, now that is an idea!


Why a “Signature Grape” for BC Doesn’t Make Sense

February 15, 2013

There has been some media coverage in Vancouver recently regarding a debate that is apparently going on between local “wine geeks” about whether British Columbia has – or should have – a “signature wine grape.” But lost amidst the “Pinot Noir vs Syrah vs etc.” has been the fact that, in my opinion, this is a silly question to begin with!

Are there grapes that grow better in BC than elsewhere? Of course there are! But there is also significant climate variation here, not only between our main wine regions (the Okanagan, Similkameen, Vancouver Island and Fraser Valley) but also within those same regions. Anyone who has driven from Kelowna down to Osoyoos can see – and feel – that. As a result, grapes that grow well in one area may not in another.

But even that is the main reason I think this is a silly question. Because, the fact is, even if you have perfectly ripe grapes, a winemaker still has to make the wine. And that’s where both expertise – and style – come into play.

Interestingly, from my perspective, style is actually a bigger factor. There are lots of well-educated, experienced winemakers working in BC right now. Give them ripe fruit, and they have shown the ability to make technically sound wine just about everywhere.

But style? That’s where it gets interesting – and why a “signature grape” doesn’t make sense.

One example is Pinot Noir.

It is grown in just about all regions, but the style and quality can vary significantly. In the hands of some winemakers, it can be leafy, herbal and woody. From others, you get a classic California style wine with rich, ripe, red cherries and strawberries, a touch of spice and just the right amount of oak. Leading examples include Blue Mountain (in Okanagan Falls), Eau Vivre (in the Similkameen) and Kettle Valley (their Reserve and regular Pinot Noir from Naramata). Finally, a few – very few – make a “Burgundian” style Pinot Noir – with darker cherry fruit, still ripe, but with fascinating secondary flavours and aromas of earth and mushrooms. The best example is Kettle Valley’s Hayman Vineyard – a truly extraordinary wine!

And what bout Syrah? At Nichol in Naramata, they make a wine in the true Rhone style, with peppery, earthy black cherries that are ripe but not jammy and which can age for 8 – 10 years. Yet only a few miles down the road, Marichel makes another gorgeous wine that is closer in style to a Shiraz than a Syrah. And La Frenz actually makes a Shiraz!

Finally, there is Cabernet Sauvignon. Hard to get ripe anywhere in BC, it is often made into a tannic, woody, herbal – and expensive – monster. And yet, La Frenz manages to make a ripe, fruit-forward, California style wine for under $30, as well as a more Bordeaux-style that still has more fruit than wood for a few bucks more.

With this kind of variety in style – and I have only talked about the red wines, even though it applies to whites as well – I don’t know how you could pick a “signature” grape for BC. Because, by doing so, it would imply that grape turns out wines of similar style and quality all across the province. And that is obviously not the case.

So why don’t we forget about this debate and instead focus on what is important – finding the style of wine you like and the winemakers who make it best?