Forgive my continuing North American theme (I promise I will attend to the growing mountain of new arrivals from Australia very soon!), but I just can’t help wanting to write up wines that I really enjoyed. Here we venture quite a bit north from the Napa Valley to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. I’ve previously reviewed the 2011 of this wine (see here) rating it highly, and the 2012 tasted here is good too. This is a very balanced wine and principally an exercise in cloves and blackcurrants. It very much reminds of a cru bourgeois in another example of the Okanagan region’s capabilities.
There are worse places in the world than British Columbia in Canada. Must so many places that are so far away be quite so compelling? Although my reason for being in BC was not wine related, I could not help but to explore the local wine offerings and the locals seemed excited about them too, which to be honest didn’t hurt. I wonder if we are more blasé or Eurocentric in our paradigms? The wines from the Okanagan Valley were impressive, particularly I thought the Bordeaux blends. Typing an entry into “wine-searcher” yields however a nil return here in Australia, so this will I expect remain something of an impractical interest. Fortunately, it will not be alone.
You don’t see too many blends of merlot and cabernet franc in Australia. This one’s also from the new world, but from a place you might not have heard of – the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia in Canada. I expect it can’t be found in Australia, but since I am not actually selling anything here(!) I thought why not post it. It’s a blend of 75% merlot and 25% cabernet franc and proves both surprisingly Bordeaux like (for a Bordeaux fan) and very drinkable. It has very typical cedar, tobacco and blackcurrant aromas and a lovely balance on the palate.
A search for “Okanagan” in wine-searcher for wines sold in Australia promptly yields a nil return. This I suspect may serve as an indicative proxy of our local knowledge, and certainly prior to the last couple of years, my own state of knowledge of this warm region in Canada. Having just returned from British Columbia where I had the fortune of being trapped in scenery such as below and so did not venture several mountain ranges beyond to the Okanagan, I was nonetheless able to undertake a random walk of sorts through some local wines sometimes capturing, but always hinting at, the essence of holidays.
But first some vinous background. The Okanagan Valley is an inland wine region situated in Canada between 49 and 50 degrees of latitude, to the east of British Columbia, and north of the Washington State border alongside Lake Okanagan and neighbouring lakes. The Cascade and Coast mountains create a rain shadow, and leave this region with rainfall of only between 250mm to 400mm per year – practically desert like conditions. The climate in winter is bitterly cold, with temperatures that can risk damage to vines. In summer though the region enjoys 1,423 sunshine hours during the growing season, compared with 1,315 sunshine hours in Burgundy.
The results in the glass of my tiny survey were almost universally good, providing assurance that Canada can indeed produce excellent red wine. There seems no particularly rational reason these wines should not have a wider market.
NK’Mip Cellars Talon Cabernet Syrah 2012 A traditional, or dare I say Australian, blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah sees a very good wine in the glass here. Its (Canadian) aboriginal ownership and operation explain the name. The wine has aromatics of rich plums and blackcurrant and capsicum in the background. These characters continue to the palate, as well as an attractive grapey texture and towards long length.
Rating: Very Good, Abv: 14%, Price: C$23, Vendors: http://www.wine-searcher.com/, Website: http://www.nkmipcellars.com, Tasted: 2015 Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2010 Osoyoos Larose is the collaboration of the Group Taillan of Bordeaux (owner of Chateau Gruaud Larose) and Constellation Brands in Canada (formerly Vincor Canada – Canada’s largest producer), the former reportedly now having bought out the latter. This is a serious Bordeaux blend of 67% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 6% petit verdot, 4% cabernet franc and 3% malbec, retailing for a serious price of C$60. This wine revealed itself reluctantly in the glass, initially with some animal and herbal notes, the latter suggesting not fully ripe fruit. However, the palate is very balanced and restrained, and elegant in style with lovely fine grained tannins. It continued to improve in the glass, and the last glass was certainly the best. How to rate it? It is undeniably a good wine, so I will give it the benefit of the doubt.
Kettle Valley Winery Old Main Red 2010 This wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot and malbec. So another Bordeaux blend. I loved the rustic characters of this wine, reminding almost of a Wendouree in style. It has aromatics of leather, licorice, soy, plum and iodine. The palate has long length and a textural mouthfeel, with plum fruits and blackcurrant providing the power. This is an excellent wine.
OKV Okanagan Vineyards Vineyard Select Red 2012 This wine resembles a simple Vin de Pays d’Oc. There’s a spike of cherry liqueur on the nose, while the palate is balanced enough with hints of oak. Overall, well made, if a bit rough. An extra C$10 is money well spent.
I really quite enjoyed Mission Hill’s 5 Vineyards cabernet merlot written up here, so I had some expectations with this wine. They weren’t quite met. Aromatics of shoe polish, capsicum, bay leaf and black olive, were met on the palate with medium length and fine grained tannins. Mostly bay leaf and red plum flavours featured. A good wine, but it’s a leafier expression of cabernet sauvignon that doesn’t suit me entirely.
This is the second last of my Okanagan Valley wine reviews I suspect for a while. This riesling from Gehringer Brothers is perfectly pleasant without hitting any particular heights. It has aromatics of lemon and lime, which carry through to the balanced and dry to off-dry palate (it is frankly dry in impression) and is rounded by some medium length.
The May 2014 issue of Decanter picked up on an issue that I mused about a little while ago, namely whether there are too many wine subregions in the world. This pinot gris from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia in Canada had me thinking about this again for a slightly different reason, namely whether a wine region needs a unique calling card. It’s a perfectly pleasant wine, it’s just that it could have been from Australia or New Zealand and would be largely impossible to pick blind. Perhaps the answer to this is it doesn’t matter – if it’s good, it’s good. Indirectly it probably also shows that the Okanagan Valley is a very capable region.
This 2012 vintage pinot gris from Arrowleaf has aromatics of lemon, lime and pear. The palate sees crisp acidity and some length and is enjoyable.
This wine firmly puts to rest any doubts one might have had that cabernet sauvignon could ripen in Canada. Osoyoos Larose is a joint venture in the Okanagan Valley between Vincor International, Chateau Gruaud-Larose and certain other Bordeaux properties. The wine here is the second wine of this estate, and it is sufficiently impressive to warrant looking out for the grand vin. It has aromatics of cedar, blackcurrant and smoke. The palate sees medium acidity, medium to long length, fine grained tannins and flavours of blackcurrant and soft cloves. This is a very balanced cabernet that will reward your interest.
Is Canada is warm enough to produce good cabernet merlot blends? If this wine is indicative, yes. It has classic cabernet sauvignon aromatics of bay leaf and dark fruits. The palate has flavours reminding of dark fruits and cloves, while there is medium length and textural extract on the finish. Ready to drink now, this is a balanced and good value cabernet blend displaying varietal typicity. Good
Few I suspect would think of Canada as being a reasonably serious producer of anything other than ice wine, which is of course incorrect. The Okanagan Valley in the far east of British Columbia has a dry climate suited to the production of table wine styles, and there’s even a book written on the region. This cabernet franc caught my eye, not least because of the paucity of cabernet franc as a single varietal offering in Australia. It has aromatics of black cherry, stems, anise, mint, chocolate, dried herbs, clove and cedar. The palate has flavours reminding of dark cherry and cedar, has medium length and acid and quite firm stemmy tannins that are tightly wound. A pretty good wine that needs some time to relax. Good
An independent Australian and international wine review since 2009.