MISSION ACCOMPLISHED AT MISSION HILL FAMILY ESTATE?

Winery Visits: Daily 9:30-7

Location: 1730 Mission Hill Rd, West Kelowna

Website: www.missionhillwinery.com

Phone: 250-768-7611

Located in West Kelowna, with a commanding view over Okanagan Lake, this iconic winery is a place of pilgrimage for wine lovers touring the Okanagan, its soaring Tuscan profile and bell tower visible from miles away.

If you'll be visiting the area, Mission Hill is a benchmark setter, and you'll want to have lunch on the Terrace just for the view, or catch a concert in the grass-stepped amphitheatre; the extensive cellars make it a memorable place to take a tour, where you can spot the antique drinking cups, admire the barrel-vaulted ceilings and dramatic lighting, and peek into the winemaking area to see a wide variety of fermentation vessels: the Italian amphorae, concrete eggs, and big German oak tanks, bubbling away with the many wines produced here.

 Behold: the Mission Hill bat cave!

Behold: the Mission Hill bat cave!

 Mission Hill's Chief Winemaker Darryl Brooker

Mission Hill's Chief Winemaker Darryl Brooker

Owner Anthony von Mandl made a fortune with Mike's Hard Lemonade, and used the considerable funds to build Mission Hill. In 2014, Kelowna's CedarCreek Estate Winery was purchased, becoming part of the von Mandl Family Estates, joining Mark Anthony Wine Merchants, along with CheckMate Artisanal Winery (focused on ultra premium small lot wines) later in 2015. 

Darryl Brooker, who was Chief Winemaker at CedarCreek, took over winemaking from John Simes as of the 2015 Mission Hill vintage, after assisting with the 2013 and 2014 blending. Darryl has worked all over the world, including Villa Maria Estate in New Zealand, recognized as a leader in sustainable wine production.  John is now in charge of viticulture for all the von Mandl properties.

According to Darryl, he's excited by the wines produced in "what may prove to be the best harvests ever in British Columbia from 2013 to 2015". You heard it here, it's time to stock the cellars!

 The impressive entry to Mission Hill winery

The impressive entry to Mission Hill winery

Being one of the largest producers in the province, it might be assumed that this is a bulk wine operation, but that's far from the case. I'm very impressed by Darryl and Mission Hill's commitment to improving farming techniques and sustainability, along with making small lot and site specific wines. They're one of the first BC wineries to use drones to map vigour (very cool), by flying over vineyards to measure how the vines are growing.

They're now releasing their first organic Merlot, which comes from a special spot in Oliver. The 2013 Terroir Collection Whispering Hill Organic Merlot, is not just grown in a certified organic vineyard, but also meets Canada's tricky organic wine production rules.

If such a large company is willing to make a commitment in moving to biodynamic and organic production, I say kudos to them.

 A view over Okanagan Lake as twilight turns the sky violet 

A view over Okanagan Lake as twilight turns the sky violet 

Mission Hill makes wine in several ranges, tasted below are wines in the following categories:

Terroir: Very premium, made with the top 3% of their estate grown fruit in small lots $$$$.

Reserve: Well made wines from select vineyards and special sites, in limited quantities. Offering a good balance of quality and cost. $$

Five Vineyards: Larger production wines and keenly priced, from the five Okanagan Mission Hill vineyards, offering full flavour and surprisingly good value for money! Look out for the appealing new redesign on the labels in shades of blue and rose. $

2013 Mission Hill Family Estate Whispering Hill Organic Merlot

Picking up the bottle, I'm struck by the substantial weight, and the sense of craft in the embossed golden crest, and sepia vineyard photo. Being part of the Terroir series, it's noted up front that only 19 barrels were produced, and there's a nice level of detail on the back label about the making of the wine including site, clone, and winemaker (John Simes).

A romantic deep garnet red shade, with notes of mocha cocoa out of the glass, along with spiced plums. On the palate, soft and full with dense yet fine tannins. Cocoa with dried mint, and black cherry in the background. The glass is pleading with me for a food pairing: cherry sauced duck, Dijon mustard sauteed mushrooms, or slivers of crumbly Manchego cheese. PS: this wine opened up quite a bit after two hours of decanting, and gained an added dimension of cherry and plum fruit.

2015 Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Limited Edition Viognier

An unctuous and mouthcoating wine, delightfully textured, with honeysuckle, baking spices and ripest peach (reminding me of sneaking a slice of peach from the pie dish). Has a hint of sweetness, but balanced.

2015 Mission Hill Family Estate Five Vineyards Pinot Grigio

You had me at hello, lemon citrusy nose. A very zesty Mandarin orange flavour is joined by honeyed pear at first sip. Fuller bodied, this might be heading in to richer Pinot Gris territory. A little heat on the finish at 14% ABV. Delivers lots of flavour and very good value for money. 

2015 Mission Hill Family Estate Five Vineyards Rosé

A vivid watermelon pink hue, and strawberry nose. It might be the power of suggestion, but the flavour is decidedly watermelon, zingy, with red cherry and a snippet of red rose. Dry, but generous. Could stand up to roast chicken, but best shared with friends at a Friday sunset.

 

All images courtesy of Mission Hill Family Estate. Wines samples were provided by Mission Hill. Please see my Sample Policy for more information. Cheers!

YEALANDS WINERY: THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE BABYDOLL SHEEP

 Why is this sheep so happy...?

Why is this sheep so happy...?

 Because this is his view each day!

Because this is his view each day!

Perhaps you've heard the tale that there are more sheep than people in New Zealand?

There are definitely more sheep than people in Yealands' Marlborough vineyards, over 1,500 of them, and they're called Babydolls.

Nestled in the Awatere Valley, in the northeast corner of New Zealand's South Island, the vineyards are surrounded by a ring of hills, and buffeted by ocean winds, keeping it chilly at night.

Chief Winemaker Tamra Washington visited the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference to pour Yealands wines, and share more about the winery's initiatives, some more successful than others, but all unique: seaweed mixed with crushed green-lipped mussel shells laid down as compost for the vines, a team of guinea pig lawn mowers (sadly, not a winner), solar lights in the wetlands areas to attract bugs for the fish, solar panels powering classical music played to keep vines happy, vineyard clippings to help power the winery, and of course, there are those roaming Babydolls among the vines.

 NZ's Awatere Valley, south of the Wairau Valley, within the Marlborough zone. In the Maori language,  Awatere  means "fast flowing stream", and the deep stony soils here are remnants of river paths.

NZ's Awatere Valley, south of the Wairau Valley, within the Marlborough zone. In the Maori language, Awatere means "fast flowing stream", and the deep stony soils here are remnants of river paths.

In the winery, there are cool advances too: like switching from an egg white fining product to one produced from potatoes, making the wine certified vegan.

 Sunny days and cool nights, plus strong coastal winds produce small, intensely flavoured grapes. Fruit from the northern Wairau Valley is known for tropical fruit flavours, and from the southern Awatere, a notable saline herbaceousness (with inland vineyards giving blackcurrant, citrus, and floral notes).

Sunny days and cool nights, plus strong coastal winds produce small, intensely flavoured grapes. Fruit from the northern Wairau Valley is known for tropical fruit flavours, and from the southern Awatere, a notable saline herbaceousness (with inland vineyards giving blackcurrant, citrus, and floral notes).

Thinking differently is what we do at Yealands. Crafting award-winning wines in harmony with nature has seen us lead the world in sustainable winegrowing. But most importantly, it means great tasting wines that don’t cost the earth.” –Peter Yealands
 Yealands' Chief Winemaker Tamra Kelly-Washington

Yealands' Chief Winemaker Tamra Kelly-Washington

 Yealands' Owner Peter Yealands

Yealands' Owner Peter Yealands

Babydoll Sheep.jpg

Don't the sheep eat the grapes?

No, they're too short to reach them! This diminutive breed get to roam the almost 1,000 hectares of vines while munching on the green grass, with chickens and tiny Kune Kune pigs for company. The sheep are built in weed eaters, with the benefit for Yealands of less tractor use, saving the ground from compaction and reducing machine use.

All this sustainability would be for nought, if the wines weren't delicious; thankfully they are. Start here:

 2014 Yealands Estate Single Block S1 Sauvignon Blanc: gunpowder meets elderflower in this powerhouse SBL. Think dried herbs, blackcurrant, perfumed with a long finish.  Pair: fruit salad, grilled asparagus, pesto pasta, ripe goat's cheese.

2014 Yealands Estate Single Block S1 Sauvignon Blanc: gunpowder meets elderflower in this powerhouse SBL. Think dried herbs, blackcurrant, perfumed with a long finish.

Pair: fruit salad, grilled asparagus, pesto pasta, ripe goat's cheese.

 2015 Peter Yealands Pinot Gris: peachy, honey and tangerine zest, with great intensity and a satin texture.  Pair: sablefish, spicy moules frites, honey glazed chicken.

2015 Peter Yealands Pinot Gris: peachy, honey and tangerine zest, with great intensity and a satin texture.

Pair: sablefish, spicy moules frites, honey glazed chicken.

 2015 Peter Yealands Pinot Noir: mocha cherry action in this juicy Pinot, with a little peat smoke on the nose, raspberry and cinnamon on the palate. Notably smooth tannins.  Pair: roast salmon, duck with black cherry sauce.

2015 Peter Yealands Pinot Noir: mocha cherry action in this juicy Pinot, with a little peat smoke on the nose, raspberry and cinnamon on the palate. Notably smooth tannins.

Pair: roast salmon, duck with black cherry sauce.

The people demand more sheep! If you want to learn more about how the Babydolls help out in the vineyards, check out Yealands' video.

All images and video courtesy of Yealands Family Wines.

AUSTRALIA: FROM CLASSICS TO REVOLUTIONARIES

Where to start with Australia? It's a giant country, a continent, and has a continent of wine. It's almost overwhelming once you start to think about all the sub-regions that are producing an unending array of wines.

In a Wine Australia seminar engagingly hosted by Rhys Pender MW yesterday in Vancouver, we were invited to broaden our horizons past the 'sunshine in a bottle' cliché of brash Aussie Shiraz, to reconsider some of the classics that have been quietly keeping on doing what they do well, the evolution to a more modern, light, and fresh style, often in 'new to our ears' regions, and some of those young guns, the new guard revolutionaries that are delighting in breaking the rules. Beeswax-sealed amphora wine? Hmmm.

All this in a tasting of 12 wines... could it be done? Well, if we apply Betteridge's law, then I'm sure you can guess the answer is 'yes'. A fascinating peek into the world of Aussie wine, and some excellent producers to keep an eye out for below.

A Little History

Hunter Valley Semillon

Some of the oldest ungrafted vines in the world live in Australia. Gnarly, knobby survivors from a different age, these stalwart Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre, Riesling, Semillon, and Marsanne plants have rooted deep, deep into the soil to weather the centuries.

When you think of a classic Aussie wine, perhaps Hunter Valley Semillon comes to mind. We learned that back in the day it used to be made as three brands, when it was de rigueur to co-opt European names: Chablis, Riesling, and White Burgundy. How it worked: pick part of your Sem early, so the acid's vibrant and the wine a natural pairing for oysters, call it "Chablis". Harvest the next block a week later, it's got a bit more sugar but still lively, call it "Riesling". Another week after that, you take the last of your grapes in from the field, richer and fuller, give it a decent oaking, and you have your "White Burgundy". How functional!

Today, the Sem is harvested "Chablis" style, early in January (the equivalent of July for us Northerners), and fermented in stainless steel. Drunk young it's full of lime, and about as acidic as you can take. But something rather magical happens as it ages, even under screw cap. Taste a 10 year old HV Sem and you'd swear it'd been fermented in French oak. It's got a rich, toasty, citrus and honey flavour, with another note, the closest I can think of is fresh plastic (it doesn't sound very appealing, but in the glass it is).

We tasted the 2007 McGuigan Bin 9000, and if I was blind tasting, I would have told you it was barrel fermented cool climate Chardonnay... 

The cool thing about HV Sem is that they are released so cheaply new, that they're one of the perfect wines to start your cellar collection with. Even some of the best are under $15 a bottle as a new release. All you need is 5 or so years of patience before your collection is paying dividends.

Barossa Valley Grenache & Shiraz

Grenache might not be the first grape you think of when you picture Barossa. But we had a chance to taste the 2011 Yalumba Tri-Centenary Grenache, made from a block of 820 vines that have called Barossa home since being planted in 1889. It's not every day I get to taste a wine from such a venerable old block, and this had all the concentration of flavour you'd hope for. On the nose, preserved maraschino cherry and sweet dried sage; on the palate, tannins like melted butter, with Kalamata olive and cocoa on the finish. 

Australia is quite rich in these blocks of old vines, so even though there will never be a glut of each wine, there are great examples like this to seek out to get a taste of the dense, layered flavours a 100+ year old plant can produce.

The 2013 St. Hallett Old Block Shiraz is everything you'd wish for and more. A deep purple colour, with dark, slow tears, as I swirled the glass and raised it to my nose I got the most unique perfume. Like exotic black tea, musky violet, or rose incense. Incredibly enticing. On the palate, cassis, black pepper, and very fine tannins. It was lifted by a little oomph of acidity to keep things fresh. This wine comes from 60 to 100 year old vines.

Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon

Next up was the 2012 Hollick Ravenswood Cab Sauv. The Terra Rossa soils of Coonawarra are so famous, you'd be forgiven for thinking there was red soil as far as the eye could see, but these iron rich clays are found in only a small strip of land about 2 km wide by 15 km long. The area used to be covered by ocean, and as it retreated, it left a compact layer of marine life that's now the limestone subsoil. A cool wind blows in from the Bonney Coast to the South, bringing Antarctic shivers with it, so the region is surprisingly on par with Burgundy or Champagne for being cool climate.

That means that in addition to the classic 'Coonawarra mint' you should expect freshness and good acidity in your glass along with flavours of black fruit (I got blackcurrant in the Hollick). The tannins are chalky, mouth coating, and dusty, a key tell if you happen to find yourself blind tasting a Coonawarra Cab.

Evolution

There's been a shift to seeking out new terroir, be it to higher elevations, nearer to ocean breezes, or experimenting with unexpected grapes, all in pursuit of drinkable, refreshing wines. Especially in the pursuit of areas that will ripen fruit but not cook it.

Margaret River Chardonnay

This is a lesser-known region with some famous names firmly established: Vasse Felix, Leeuwin, Cape Mentelle. It's a big area, 100 km North to South and about 40 km wide, along the far West coast below Perth, notable for it's low diurnal shift (night and day temperatures don't swing widely). They never have to worry about frost in Margaret River, and apparently you'd have to go back to cold 2006 to find a challenging vintage.

We heard about a renewed focus on clones in the area, with Voyager planting a range including Dijon 95 for its lemon pith notes, and Mendoza, which produces hen and chick bunches, for balanced flavours.

The 2013 Voyager Estate Margaret River Chardonnay was a highlight of the whole flight. On the nose creamy and soft, but all crisp mineral, lemon curd, and silk on the palate. A delightfully pure and pleasing wine with long finish.

Yarra Valley Pinot Noir

NE of Melbourne, and below the Great Divide mountain range, you'll find the maritime influenced Yarra Valley. There are two main soil types here, in the South a rich deep volcanic soil, free-draining and fertile. In the North, a grey, silty lime that's nutrient poor, and perfect for Pinot.

The Soumah Single Vineyard 2015 Pinot from Yarra epitomizes the shift from full and fruity, to a more restrained, thoughtful Aussie PN. They're picking a bit earlier, and focusing on retaining acidity. I found cranberry and rhubarb notes in my glass, and was very taken with the floral nose of fresh iris blooms. 

Winemaker Steven Worley explained the MV6 clone they have gives a full, round flavour, while the 777 Burgundy clone has dark fruit and great tannins, and the Pommard is a bit gamey and feral. A great winery to seek out for elegant, but not austere, refreshing wines.

McLaren Vale Aglianico?

The cool kid at the party was Alpha Box & Dice, who presented their 2011 McLaren Vale Xola Aglianico. Apparently Aglianico is a natural fit for the Vale (over a dozen wineries are doing an Aglianico now), where Italian varieties are being experimented with, and Alpha Box sees itself as an R&D lab for newer varietals in the region.

This wine was made in a biodynamic fashion (not certified), then aged for three and a half years in oak. I got some red cherry cola flavours, a hint of VA, and a little tar, along with very high acidity and grippy tannins. The branding on their wines is noteworthy for being so darn cool, with graffiti touches, bright colours and primitive-chic illustrations.

McLaren Vale wines always strike me with an intensity of smooth, rich fruit that is quite distinctive, but we were reminded in the seminar that this area has some of the most diverse soils in the winemaking world. Which means there's plenty of room for different expressions. 

Strathbogie Ranges Shiraz

The 2012 Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz was a deep limpid purple, so I expected a fruit bomb, but was I ever wrong. A cool 13.2% alcohol, this was more of a Syrah, plumped full of meaty and smokey notes, blueberry fruit, and a field worth of violets. 

If this cooler region is capable of making a Syrah with all the violet and smoked meat you'd find in a Northern Rhone, but with more approachable tannins and at an attractive price point, I say game on!

Revolutionaries

You'll note this next section is, generally speaking, more about the maker than about terroir. Included in this vanguard of producers are some risk takers who are embracing the old-fashioned-is-new again (hence the amphora and beeswax reference above). Another commonality, besides the natural wine ethos, is that the names sound more like album or painting titles than wines. I'm feeling old for my age just writing that sentence.

The wines in this flight found favour with about half the crowd. Fans of the 'natural' wine philosophy were in their element, and while I enjoyed two of the wines, the others left me considering who would take a chance on a $50 bottle full of challenging-to-enjoy flavours? This is where things get interesting!

Evolution I am down with, revolution, caveat emptor.

BK Wines

We tasting their Skin n' Bones White 2015 from Adelaide Hills, made from the Savignin grape. Apparently, it was planted as Albarino, the vines being shipped over from Rias Baixas directly (does that mean lots of Savignin in RB?). In 2008, they realized what variety the vines were.

This wine had 30 days of skin contact before fermentation. On the nose, I got white floral, then a weightly apricot palate, a dense texture. It was tannic, with grapefruit, and saline. Lighter alcohol at 11.8%. My notes say 'jasmine finish'!

Jauma

The 2015 Like Raindrops Grencache from McLaren Vale was next. This is sealed with a crown cap, and it came out cloudy and pale, with a yogurty nose. On the palate it had all the tannins and less of the fruit than desirable in a Grenache.

That being said, a goodly number of people raised their hand to express they were fans of this wine.  

Ochoa Barrels

Their 2015 I Am The Owl Syrah from Adelaide Hills was up next. It had a deep purple colour, with pronounced nose of black fruit and pepper. Very appealing stemminess and violets. The tannins were lighter and more delicate than expected, and while the wine had a good weight, it had lovely flexibility on the palate. This is a style of Syrah I could get into.

Brash Higgins

Last, we reached for the 2015 Amphora Project Nero d'Avola from McLaren Vale, made using a wild ferment during six months fermenting in an amphora. In the glass a medium ruby, this had a somewhat muted nose, on the palate it had notes of green peppercorn, thin red fruit, light bodied with choppy tannins. Interesting rather than enjoyable to drink. Again, half the hands went up for this wine. 

What do you think?

Do you have a style of Aussie wine that you gravitate towards, or a region? How do you feel about revolutionaries? I await your opinions!

WINETRIPPING: A GUIDEBOOK TO BC'S BEST OKANAGAN & SIMILKAMEEN VALLEY WINERIES

 Looking down towards Osoyoos from the Golden Mile near Oliver

Looking down towards Osoyoos from the Golden Mile near Oliver

I've been a busy bee lately, just back from trips to England and Italy, which were respectively to be an associate judge at the IWSC on Canadian and American wines and study at the Vinitaly Italian Wine Ambassador program.

Now that I'm back in Vancouver, regular trips up to the Okanagan and Similkameen have recommenced. I've been continuing my grand tour of wineries, both new and old favourites, as I finish the research for my book Winetripping. Which is no hardship! The weather's beautiful {pool weather in April? yes, please}, and the desert flowers are in bloom in Osoyoos, a rare sight.

Winetripping is something I've been working on for over a year, and am so excited to see released this June. My goal in writing this winery guide comes down to my passion for the region, which I think is some of the most beautiful wine country in the world. I want you to come and visit! 

Certainly, the Okanagan is one of the friendliest wine regions you can explore, with sweeping valley views, glistening lakes, oh, and let's not forget the hundreds of unique wineries with tasting rooms and restaurants ready for your arrival!

Ultimately, there are more wineries than you can visit, so I've curated a list of places I love recommending to friends and family. I want you to have an awesome time on your trip up to Osoyoos, Oliver, Naramata, Kelowna, Vernon or Keremeos!

There's nothing like hitting up the tasting rooms on a sunny day, choosing your very favourite wines to bring home with you, then opening those bottles up months later to reminisce about your trip.

I've heard from wine lovers that there're so many wineries that it can be overwhelming choosing where to go, and planning which you'll include and which you'll skip. So, my guide is all about making it easy for you to find the exact kind of tasting room you love, whether that's somewhere with a log cabin and dogs wandering through the vines, or a modernist producer with fancy glassware and a view over the lake.

In addition to the 89 wineries listed, other handy sections will cover arranging a tour, getting to know the local grapes, wine tasting etiquette, and suggested itineraries based on your interests (love bold reds, want the hidden gems, or maybe you're into Riesling? I've got you covered).

I feel strongly about supporting our local wineries, who work day in and out to produce this incredible beverage we all adore. By visiting the wineries, dining at their restaurants, and buying wines on site, we consumers are not only having a great experience, we're ensuring that they're able to keep doing what they love while making a good living. Cheers to that!

Find out more here.

CHECKMATE ARTISANAL WINERY

 Photo courtesy of CheckMate Artisanal Winery

Photo courtesy of CheckMate Artisanal Winery

Winery Visits: By Appointment Only

Location: Golden Mile, Oliver, BC

Website: www.checkmatewinery.com

A no-expenses-spared undertaking funded by the Mission Hill umbrella, this top secret project is finally available to taste. The winery has released just five wines: all are 100% Chardonnay from the 2013 vintage.

CheckMate’s winery is tucked away off the road south of Oliver in the Golden Mile area - near CC Jentsch and Culmina - available to visit only through privately arranged appointment (and it sounds like those are very exclusive indeed). Actually, until recently almost everything about this project has been cloaked in a shroud of prestige and mystery, including the wines themselves.

Before we talk wine, though, a little history: in 1994, Mission Hill Winery's reserve Chardonnay won Avery's Trophy at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London. This was to put it mildly, a game changer for the Okanagan. The grapes used in that wine are from some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in Canada, from a plot on the Golden Mile that’s newly under the ownership of CheckMate. The plot’s still planted with this not yet identifiable clone that's being called Heritage.

These are wines several years in the making, and no corners have been cut. From three different sites, Aussie winemaker Philip Mcgahan (a transplant by way of the Hunter and Russian River Valleys) had his pick of the best rows from the best sites. Grapes are hand picked, hand sorted, and in the winery they’re experimenting with wild ferments. Kudos for their championing of no fining or filtration, instead letting the work of gravity and time take place. The bottles themselves are a tactile person’s delight, heavy and stubbily 19th century in shape.

The five wines, in what some may consider hubris, others brilliant marketing, range from $80 to $125 per bottle, and are available only through direct purchase on their website or from a restaurant wine list. Online, they are offered in elegantly packaged sets of three or five wines.

As I tasted the wines, I had a mixture of thoughts: not wanting to be accused of provincialism, but proud that these marquee wines may further help put the Okanagan on wine lover’s minds and maps. I’ve talked with some people ready to dismiss them as outrageously priced, and others ready to drink the kool-aid before they’ve even drunk the wines.

After tasting, I’m converted. They’re impeccably made, beautiful wines with soul.

Capture $90 - 94 points

The grapes for this wine are from the Border Vista vineyard, a warm site on the east bench of Osoyoos overlooking Osoyoos Lake. The wine spent 18 months in French oak, and only seven barrel’s worth was made. 

This was my favourite of the five, peaches and cream in the mouth, mineral, then with a clementine-citrus ring of acidity that kept going and going. Just amazing.

Queen Taken $125 - 92 points

Made from those mysterious Heritage grapes, on the cooler slopes of the Golden Mile, aged in French oak for 17 months.

Pear, apple, white peach, less linear than Capture but there’s lime here, and a touch of feminine floral perfume.

Little Pawn $110 - 93 points

Grapes are from the Barn vineyard, on the sunny eastern side of the valley’s Black Sage Bench.

Playful, with mineral on the nose, then pepper and ginger spiced apples on the palate. Sophisticated, hinting at ripeness yet taut.

Fool’s Mate $80 - 91 points

A blend of all three vineyard sites, aged 17 months in French oak.

Delightful yeast and biscuit nose. Generous but balanced oak, vanilla cream, mandarine, citrus, and peach.

Attack $115 - 93 points

A blend of grapes from the Black Sage Bench and Golden Mile sites. Aged 18 months in a substantial and new French oak foudre (large oval barrel).

Restrained toast and vanilla nose, silky textured palate, with gunmetal and gravel, then a hint of lemon, almond blossom, white pepper and ginger root.

ROAD 13 VINEYARDS

 Photo courtesy Road 13 Vineyards

Photo courtesy Road 13 Vineyards

Winery Visits: Daily 10 am-5:30 pm Easter to Oct 31st / Mon-Sat 11 am-4 pm Nov 1st to Easter

Location: 799 Ponderosa Road, Oliver, BC

Website: www.road13vineyards.com

Phone: 250-498-8330

I recently had the chance to taste through some of Road 13 Vineyard’s best reserve bottles. The winery, located in the Okanagan’s Golden Mile, has some of the oldest Chenin vines in Canada, planted in 1968. They’re having fun making a wide variety of wines, and experimenting with Rhone varietals like viognier, mourvedre, and syrah. GM Joe Luckhurst was on hand to walk us through the tasting, and he explained the Jackpot series is named for the old gold mine once open near the property.

The 2011 Jackpot Chardonnay ($40) stood out among the whites, and is the perfect gift for the Chardonnay hound in your life. Full bodied, vanilla finish, barrel fermented in French oak, this is a big, ripe, smooth wine that tasted like “liquid luck”.

Among the reds, their 2011 Jackpot Syrah ($40) was notable for its incredible nose, with tobacco smoke, and an earthy, savoury leather character. It tasted of ripe cherries and blackcurrant, with a pleasant meaty note and silky tannins. This would be a real hit with your next Sunday lamb roast.

Also of note was the 2011 Petit Verdot, at $75, a contender for the next big cult BC wine. Opaque ruby in the glass, this had candied violets and mocha on the nose, with big high acid black fruit and a long peppery finish. Lay it down for a couple of years, and you would have a spectacular special occasion wine.

All the wines we tasted were well made, with attention to detail and obvious pride. While the whites shared a full bodied style, with a distinct mouth coating waxiness, moderate acidity, and interesting character, the crowd pleasers were the ripe, luscious reds. Road 13 is making some great wines which are worth seeking out.

Road 13 Vineyards

799 Ponderosa Road, Road 13
Oliver, BC V0H 1T1
Phone: 250.498.8330