Tag Archives: okanagan

Bartier Scholefield Red 2011


BC, $20

“Respect for tradition.” It’s a line on the back of this bottle of wine and it’s by all means an admirable sentiment in the wine world—I just don’t have any idea how it found itself on the back of a wine that blends Merlot with Syrah (a little odd), Gamay (supremely odd) and Pinot Noir (Zelda Fitzgerald crazy). Thankfully, when you know the rules, then you can break them and there are few teams more aware of how unorthodox this blend is than winemaker Michael Bartier and partner David Scholefield. And what they’ve created is a wine that by defying convention has become one of the more memorable BC wines out there. If the Loire made Merlot it would taste like this—light and supremely fresh—but I find that there’s a not-subtle undercurrent of pepper and spice that keeps the wine from being more than “summer sipper”. It’s a wine that I can see Jon Rimmerman, the globetrotting wine merchant behind garagiste, raving about. It’s unique, it’s handcrafted and speaks to a place. Oh, and it’s $20. Not bad for a vanguard.

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Township 7 Pinot Gris 2012


BC, $22

These days the average diner I run into seems slightly embarrassed ordering Chardonnay in a restaurant, but the reality is that if there’s one varietal that most wine geeks eschew it’s Pinot Gris, and Pinot Gris from the Okanagan is maybe the worst offender. It’s not that it’s bad—it’s not at all—it’s that it often has a uniform taste profile that, while reliable, is often less than exciting. But there’s excitement out there and when it comes—as it did with this bottle—it’s a pleasant surprise.

Even before I opened it there were a few hints of something different. The first is that Township 7 has gone and created themselves a snappy new logo that’s still classic yet not sedate. Secondly they’ve chosen to bottle the Pinot Gris in the long bottle that the Alsatians favour. “What difference does a bottle make?” you no doubt scoff, and you’re right. But the choice of bottle often gives a hint of where the winemaker wants to go with a wine, the same way electing to call your Syrah Shiraz gives me an idea of what style the winemaker prefers. It’s a great hint because Alsatian Pinot Gris is the gold standard and this wine goes for some of the great Alsace trademarks—deeper colour, fuller body and some nice subtle floral notes (courtesy of some gewürztraminer). And unlike Alsatian wine, all this can be had for under $20, making it a worthy bottle to source.


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TNT Chardonnay 2012


BC, $22.90

The last few years have seen a welcome backlash against the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay), which is good. Excluding an entire grape because you don’t like some of its expression is just plain crazy, but…I confess my heart falls a bit when I open the door to dinner guests and see a bottle ofChardonnay in their hands. It’s not that I don’t like the grape, it’s just that I often have trouble getting excited about it. As with any rules there are dozens of exceptions, but for me the greatest of all of them is my love of Chablis. I sometimes think that I love Chablis more than I love White Burgundy from the Cote de Beaune, which is sort of like saying you like Porsche Boxters more than Porsche 911s. But for me the steely, gravely expression of Chardonnay that Chablis has mastered is a revelation every time. And while lots of new world producers shoot for this style with their unoaked Chardonnays precious few get near. That’s why this bottle grabs me. It’s crafted by Sommelier Terry Threlfall (late of Hawksworth) in partnership with Okanagan Crush Pad and it’s the closest wine to a true Chablis that the Okanagan has produced in a while. It’s zippy and alive but has that underlying body and subtle creaminess that tells you you’re not drinking Sauvignon Blanc. And know it’s not named after either the AC/DC song (which would be sort of awesome) or the Swedish explosive compound—”TNT” are Terry’s initials. Only 150 cases were made—they may have it at you local wine store or you can buy it from OKC okanagancrushpad.com


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Terravista Fandango 2011

Terravista Fandango 2011

BC, $25
If I’m being painfully honest here, this week’s wine is exactly the type of wine that I’d normally breeze by—it’s a $25 Okanagan white with a “playful”label and a “fun” name. But there are a few reasons
I didn’t.

Firstly, my pal Kurtis Kolt said it was good. Secondly the varietals used—Albarino and Verdejo—are two of my faves from Spain and not only are they rarely grown in BC as far as I know, they’re rarely blended together—not just here, but anywhere in the world. Google “Albarino Verdejo blend“ and this wine is the only one that comes up. Thirdly, the wine comes from Senka and Bob Tenant, the duo who founded Black Hills winery back in the day and made Note Bene into what was once upon a time the West’s first cult wine. And I am much the richer for having tried it.

The wine addresses the number one complaint many have about albarino—it’s bracing acidity—by pairing it with the softer more fruit driven verdejo and the result is a wine that still retains a balance that skews towards food but can also stand alone as aperitif. A welcome break from the Okanagan’s endless march of Pinot Gris.

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Stag’s Hollow Syrah 2010

Stag's Hollow Syrah 2010

 British Columbia, $28

I just finished a piece on the Okanagan for our friends at Seattle Magazine and I loved the opportunity to wax about a region that most Washington State folk would be blown away by (their wine regions, while great for grapes, won’t win any beauty contests anytime soon). As part of the exercise, I had to choose five bottles worth bringing back, and for Syrah I chose one from the excellent Nichol Vineyard. But this week, the winemakers from Okanagan Falls were in town and I had occasion to re-try Stag’s Hollow’s version, and damned if I’m not second-guessing myself.

It’s classic Rhone-style with some (8.5%) Viognier thrown in, and it’s just exquisite. One the attributes of Syrah that most people find a head-scratcher is when tasters says it evokes cooked sausages—what they hell does that mean? Well, one sip of this wine will demonstrate like no amount of words can this meaty, juicy attribute. At a later date, I’ll talk about some of the great things owner Larry Gerelus and winemaker Dwight Sick are doing with Tempranillo, but for now, track down this Syrah.

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Joie Farm

Joie Farm

It was a big week for Naramata’s Joie Farm. They blew out the door at the Northwest Wine competition (for all the results see here), scooping a Double Gold (whatever the heck that means), 3 Golds, 5 Silver and 4 Bronzes. Seriously, that’s bit much—if proprietors Michael Dinn and Heidi Noble weren’t such good eggs, other vintners might get a little jealous. Their 2012 release is now widely available and they ship at no charge to all the major centres in Canada. And not to get too gushy, but it’s tough to choose just one the whites—the entire line-up is dynamite. But if pressed, I’m going for the Pinot Blanc, for a few reasons. Firstly, almost everyone else in the Okanagan (save for Blue Mountain) treats the grape like some sort of red-headed step-child choosing to lavish the love on the often-mediocre Pinot Gris. Secondly, they go full Alsace on this wine—they keep the alcohol low (12.5%), but still get a blast of fresh peach, pear and the bite of quince and a lush mouth feel that one doesn’t normally get with this grape. Thirdly, they price it on par with the Un-Oaked Chardonnay and Riesling—at Joie they actually do love all their babies equally.

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Mt. Boucherie Blaufrankisch Summit Reserve 2009

summit reserve blaufrankisch 2009

BC, $25

Stroll into the BC section of your local wine store, and you’d be forgiven if you thought that Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Gris were the founding grapes of our wine region. The truth is that we started out with a lot of odd hybrid and oddball grapes—Marechal Foch stills pops up now and then, as does Ehrenfelser on the white sid but you also had Dunkelfelder and Rotberger. Which brings us to Blaufrankisch: If I’ve had one Blaufrankisch, I’ve had…one Bluafrankisch. Well, more if you include all the Washington State Lemberger (which is the same grape, but not exactly a best-seller either) but the truth is, we’re entering into serious niche territory here and that’s awesome.

It’s a deep dark colour (the grape is used in a quasi-legendary Hungarian wine called Bull’s Blood) and has some spice on the nose, but it’s on the palate—more loaded with blueberry than any wine in recent memory—that you see how it got its name (the “blau” being “blue” for our German pals). It has a light feel in the mouth (its thinness offset by what I assume is some pretty solid oak aging) and some serious tannin. Above all, though, it’s unique, unlike the oceans of bland Cab or Merlot, which means you’ll have a definite opinion on this wine. I really liked it, tickled by its history and bold taste, but my wife remained solidly on the fence. I can assure you you’ll remember it long after other wines have come and gone—and if that’s not worth $25, I don’t know what is.

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