Monday, July 28, 2008

Report from ... British Columbia Day 2 – July 23, 2008

For my mother's 70th birthday she wanted to travel the Okanagan tasting wine ... I being the curious wine writer that I am decided that sounded like a really good idea ...

Day two in the Valley see us wake up early - as I suspect most days we will – for a 9AM meeting at La Frenz.

La Frenz …
We meet with transplanted Aussie winemaker Jeff Martin, he is confused as to who we are, I’ve ne
ver met him either. Turns out his wife thought we were from some BC inspection agency; when he learns I am a writer he becomes more congenial, and realizes that he’s gonna have to do some pouring at 9 in the morning – I’m a professional, I can handle it if he can. La Frenz winery offers a fabulous view (once portrayed on the Canadian hundred dollar bill), but alas it is raining and the view is more gray and cloudy, but still lovely. We learn all about the winery and taste some of Jeff’s award winning wines. Interesting fact: in the past 6 shows (3 of them international) they have won 9 trophies, 19 gold and 20 silver medals … not only is that impressive they are well deserved. Got a bottle of the 2007 Chardonay.

I liked everything Jeff poured and I can see why he wins so many awards, here are a select few recommendations:
2007 Semillon ($18); 2007 Chardonnay ($20); 2007 Alexandria ($18); Also impre
ssive were the 2006 Merlot ($25); the Non-Vintage Liqueur Muscat ($20 / 375ml – sweet) and Tawny Port ($20 / 375ml – not as sweet) which would at this point be considered a 5-year old Tawny.

Next up we
meet with Alan McGinty once again and head south to Black Hills Winery – most noted for their sell out wine “Nota Bene”.

Black Hills Winery …
We meet with General Manager Graham Pierce who
is a talker with a permanent grin on his face - I would have a grin on my face too if I was at one of the Okanagan’s most successful wineries, and sitting on what could be an Okanagan record: their 2006 vintage of Nota Bene (a Meritage blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc plus Merlot) sold out in 47 minutes just this past May (2008). So with no current wine to pour Graham walked us around the small winery, talked about expansion plans and the heartbreak of letting so many people down who want to try and buy their wine. He let’s us try three that were still in tank and barrel: Nota Bene 2007 (delicious and smooth even at this time – release May 2009); Chardonnay 2007 (big 14.5% alcohol but a killer flavour and wonderful integration – release fall/winter 2008); and the restaurant only 2007 Carmenere (only 175 case production from half an acre … this wine is a beauty in the making). As we leave we notice the sign: Black Hills Winery – SOLD OUT … an enviable position to be in for sure.

With no f
urther appointments we decide to make hey while the sun is shining (or raining as the case may be, it actually was raining off and on all day); and drop by a few wineries in the Oliver area, unannounced; and in all cases we did not tell them who we were (ie: writers). We hit 6 more places, I think the anonymous drop by was new to Alan these days, but he got into the swing of it after the first two wineries.

Also visited: Stoneboat Winery, Hester Creek, Gehringer Brothers, Stag’s Hollow, Wild Goose and Blasted Church.

Wines of Note from the wineries visited ...

Gehringer Brothers 2007 Auxerrois - $14.99

Gehringer Brothers 2007 Dessert Sun - $12.99
Stag’s Hollow 2005 Merlot - $25.00
Wild Goose 2007 God’s Mountain Riesling - $18.95
Blasted Church 2007 Gewurztraminer - $16.99
Blasted Church 2006 Merlot - $25.99

Dinner was back at our B & B (D'Angelo's Vineyard View Bed and Breakfast - run by Sal D'Angelo and his daughter Stephanie ... for those who think that name sounds familiar, it is that Sal from D'Angelo's winery in the Lake Erie North Shore). Dinner consists of Sundried tomato and basil spaghetti and meat sauce with salad – and we had our bottle of La Frenz 2007 Chardonnay, tasted even better then when we had it at 10 that morning. We also learned that Safeway is a real expensive place to buy your groceries, it’s like Dominion on steroids … Save-on-Foods proved to be more to our liking.

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