Posts Tagged ‘Howling Bluff’

SOME TIPS ON VISITING WINERIES DURING HARVEST SEASON

September 28, 2016

It’s Fall, and many people will be visiting wine country for festivals and to taste wines! So here are a few tips before you go…and some recommendations on where to go if you are visiting wineries in BC.

1. Remember it is harvest season – seems simple, but it is important…as much as wineries welcome you at this time of year, they are also getting ready – or even starting – to harvest this year’s vintage! That makes it very busy and stressful at all wineries. Keep that in mind if you get the sense your hosts have other things on their minds!

2. Fewer is better – whether it is the number of wineries or wines (or both), go for quality, not quality. No matter how good a taster you are, “palate fatigue” can set in pretty quickly. So pick the wineries you want to see in advance, and even the specific wines you want to taste. That will lead to a better experience.

3. Spit if you can – I know some people think it is gross, but spitting will really help you taste better – and more – wines. All wineries will have spittoons, and those leading tastings will actually be thankful if you spit.

4. Only buy if you really want to – unless you have unlimited resources, it’s okay to be choosey what you buy (if anything). Wineries won’t be insulted, particularly these days as most of them charge a tasting fee anyway. If you like it and can afford it, then buy it. Otherwise, don’t worry about it!

5. Taste and move on – finally, whether you are visiting wineries or going to a big tasting, don’t linger in the tasting line! Taste, maybe ask a question, but then move…you can always come back to taste more wines. One of the things that drives me and many “winos” crazy is people who just stand there for 10 or more minutes talking to the host or each other. That just backs up the line and gets people mad. So move it!

And as for tasting here in BC? Here is a short list of wineries to visit (or whose wines to taste) from our main regions:

1. Penticton/Naramata – La Frenz, Howling Bluff, Nichol, Marichel, Kettle Valley, Moraine
2. Similkameen – Eau Vivre, Orofino
3. Okanagan Falls – Blue Mountain
4. Southern Okanagan – Burrowing Owl, Nk Mip, Quinta Ferreira, Church & State, Moon Curser
5. Vancouver Island – Averill Creek, Rocky Creek, Vignetti Zanatta
6. Fraser Valley – Mt. Lehman, Vista d’Oro, Domaine de Chaberton

Enjoy the Fall!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

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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!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

THE 2014 SB WINE AWARDS – PART 1

July 16, 2014

I recently saw the winners of the 2014 Lieutenant Governor Awards for BC Wines and was once again…well, there are a bunch of descriptors for what I felt, some of which weren’t printable!

Rather than simply venting, like I usually do each year, I have decided to take a more positive approach – and do my own wine awards based on all the BC wines I tasted this year!

And mine won’t have some of the restrictions of the LG Awards either i.e. the wines don’t have to be designated VQA, and they won’t all be compared against each other (white/red/rose; sweet/dry; Cabernet/Merlot/Chardonnay, etc.).

Instead, I will do my awards by category. The only real criteria is that they have to be made in BC from BC grapes and have been released this year. And that I had tasted them, of course!

There ended up being quite a number of wines that made the cut, so I am going to break it down into two batches – whites first, and then reds next week.

So here it goes with the whites! I am simply listing the wine, producer, price, and where you can buy it. For tasting notes, you can either check out the tweets from my recent trip to the Okanagan (follow me @sbwinepage), or my new BC Wine Guide, which has tasting notes for past vintages of many of these wines as well (www.sbwinesite.com).

Chardonnay
• 2012 La Frenz Reserve ($29, available from the winery and select
private wine stores)
• 2011 Nk Mip Qwam Qmpt ($24.95, available from the winery, BC
Government Signature stores, and VQA stores)
• 2011 Quinta Ferreira ($19.90, available from the winery and at VQA
stores)
• 2012 Township 7 ($20.99, available from the winery and BC
Government Signature stores)
Gewurztraminer
• 2013 Desert Hills ($22.99, available from the winery and at VQA
stores)
Pinot Gris
• 2013 Moraine ($19.90, available from the winery and at VQA
stores)
Riesling
• 2013 La Frenz, ($29, available from the winery and select private
wine stores)
• 2013 Moraine ($19.90, available from the winery and at VQA
stores)
Sauvignon Blanc
• 2013 La Frenz ($22, available from the winery and select private
wine stores)
Semillon
• 2013 La Frenz ($22, available from the winery and select private
wine stores)
• 2013 Howling Bluff ($19, available from the winery and at VQA stores
Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon
• 2013 Howling Bluff ($19.90, available from the winery and at VQA
stores)
• 2012 La Frenz Ensemble ($29, available from the winery and select
private wine stores)
Viognier
• 2013 La Frenz ($22, available from the winery and select private
wine stores)
• 2013 Marichel ($19.90, available from the winery and at VQA stores)

There you go! Quite a shopping list…and it won’t break the bank either. Red wines, and maybe a couple of Roses, next week.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

BC WINES I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS YEAR

March 13, 2013

It’s almost spring – at least that’s what the calendar says – and that means new wine releases are just around the corner (or have already started!).

Here is a quick list of the ones I am looking forward to this year in BC.

1. Kettle Valley – well, they have already been released (and I bought them for my wine club), but the 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir and Hayman Pinot Noir are a great way to start the year off! Always two of the best – if not the best – Pinots from the province, this year is the added bonus of the Hayman being designated as “John’s Block” after the recently departed BC wine legend John Levine.

2. Eau Vivre – this Similkameen winery has also already released its 2010 Pinot Noir, which hopefully follows on the footsteps of its incredible 2008 and 2009 (the latter was a Lieutenant Governor Award winner).

3. Nichol – the 2010 Syrah was just released late in 2012, so it will be a bit of a wait for the 2011, but that will no doubt be worth it for what is the best Rhone-style Syrah made in the province.

4. Blue Mountain – ah, the Striped Label/Reserve Pinot Noir! This was the first great BC wine I ever tasted (the 1996, I believe) and it continues to challenge the Kettle Valley wines each year for Pinot supremacy. Look for the 2010 sometime in April or May.

5. La Frenz – there is no argument among wine dweebs like me: La Frenz is the best overall winery in BC (and Canada, for that matter). May will bring the release of most of their 2012 white wines (the Small Lots Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Semillon are all the best made here, and at about $20 ridiculous values). Also released at that time will be the 2011 Merlot (also the best in BC) and – hopefully – the 2012 Rose, which is perhaps the greatest adult guilty pleasure there is out there! And then the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon in July, again the best fruit-forward Cab in the province.

6. Cassini Cellars – a relative newbie on my “best list”, look for the 2012 Merlot (maybe the best red wine bargain in BC at $18), the 2010 Syrah, 2011 Pinot Noir Reserve and 2010 Chardonnay Reserve, all to be released in May.

7. Howling Bluff – another relatively new addition, their Pinot Noir and Sauvignon/Semillon blend have been amazing (and garnered many awards). Look for the 2011 vintages this spring.

8. Marichel – another Syrah specialist, I can’t wait to taste Richard’s 2010 in the bottle (it was amazing in barrel last summer).

9. Moon Curser – the former Twisted Tree Vineyards, I have really liked the quality of their Syrah and Border Vines (a Bordeaux blend), as well as the unique Rhone white blend Afraid of the Dark. Look for the 2011 vintages of the former and the 2012 of the latter in late spring.

10. Mt. Lehman – last, but not least, my friends from the Fraser Valley who make amazing wine at great prices. Look for the 2010 versions of the Reserve Pinot Noir and Syrah, as well as the 2011 Viognier, all sooner rather than later!

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Bigger Isn’t Necessarily Better

February 21, 2013

Interesting piece in Business in Vancouver this week….a list of the biggest BC wineries! But as I scanned down the list — and saw who was on, and who wasn’t — it struck me once again that “bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better”!

Now don’t get me wrong — I understand how these lists work. In this case, the wineries were ranked by sales volumes, so the bigger you are/the more you sell/the higher up on the list you end up. Vice versa, if you are smaller/don’t have as much wine to sell, then you aren’t going to make it. Same thing if you don’t want to supply this info to BIV.

And I also acknowledge the positive role that the larger wineries play in helping promote BC wine in general. Without their advertising and marketing budgets, the profile of the industry in the province wouldn’t be what it is today!

However, all of this doesn’t mean these wineries make the best wine.

A look at the list quickly shows that. Yes, there was NkMip (which makes nice Pinot Noirs), Laughing Stock (with its good but increasingly expensive Portfolio), Black Hills (ditto re the Nota Bene) and even Tantalus (which makes great Riesling).

But nowhere to be found were what many believe to be the wineries producing the best BC wines – La Frenz (best overall winery by a mile for reds and whites), Nichol (best Syrah), Kettle Valley and Blue Mountain, who make the best Pinot Noirs (Hayman, Reserve and Striped Label, respectively). Smaller wineries like Marichel, Howling Bluff, Cassini Cellars, Moon Curser, Eau Vivre, Averill Creek (from Vancouver Island) and even Mt Lehman (from the Fraser Valley) are also not there.

The problem with all of these exclusions is that for folks who don’t know wine, they may assume that the “biggest are the best”. And that would be a shame, especially if it meant people didn’t search out and find some of these other wineries.

Before concluding, I want to emphasize that size and quantity doesn’t always mean lower quality. Washington winery Columbia Crest makes hundreds of thousands of cases a year, and yet some of their lowest price wines are great bargains. Beringer, from California, makes even more wine, and I just had a bottle of their entry level Cabernet that was incredible (and amazingly cheap)!

But in BC, anyway, things are different. If you want ‘big’, go to the list. If you want the best, however, check out some of the wineries I noted above!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com