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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 408: The Iron Palate Tour (August 30, 2012)

Saturday, August 18: Guy dropped Deborah and me at Toronto airport for our flight to Vancouver.

We checked into the Westin Bayshore Hotel (where my daughter Annabel works as the Convention Services Manager) and had a Starbucks coffee as we waited for our room to be ready. We have been upgraded to a Junior Suite with a magnificent view overlooking the harbour.

At 5:30 pm Annabel drove us back to her condo to have a glass of wine with her husband Ian and to meet her dog, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Sienna – a very sweet, calm dog. Annabel opened a bottle of La Frenz Chardonnay 2010. Ian drove us to Provence Mediterranean Grill on West 10th Avenue, where we had arranged to meet Deborah's school friend Monica and her husband John, an Englishman who went to school near mine. We used to play rugby against them. John ordered a bottle of Kettle Valley Pinot Gris 2011 (golden pink in colour). My starter of crab cakes was followed by tuna. Next a bottle of Quails' Gate Pinot Noir 2009. Taxied back to the hotel.

Sunday, August 19: After breakfast Annabel picked us up to go shopping for a sweater for Deborah, who had packed according to the weather forecast on the Internet – and had packed all hot weather clothes.

We had made an arrangement to have lunch with Anthony von Mandl, who invited us to drop by his house on the way to the restaurant. We ate at Pastis. I had duck confit salad and Anthony ordered a bottle of Mission Hill Viogner 2010. Annabel drove us around Vancouver then dropped us back at the hotel for 3 pm to meet my cousin Martha and her husband Ron.

We all went to The Lift – the bar/restaurant behind the hotel – and chatted over a bottle of wine (Stone Boat "Chorus" 2010, a blend of Pinot Blanc, Muller-Thurgau, Schoenburger, Kerner, Pinot Gris and Viognier). Dinner with my ex-wife Brenda, her husband Jim, and Annabel and Ian. A delicious meal of carrot soup and salmon followed by fresh berries in yoghurt. I brought along Ontario wines for them to try – Vineland Estates Dry Riesling 2010, Hidden Bench Pinot Noir 2009 and Colaneri Dolcezza Doro Vidal Icewine 2009. Taxied back to the hotel.

Monday, August 20: Up at 6:30 to fly to Victoria. A short 22-minute flight. Picked up a rental car at the airport and drove to Sooke Harbour House, stopping on the way in Langford for a thin crust Boston Pizza.

Our room on the third floor of Sooke Harbour House overlooks the Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountains of western Washington. An amazingly tranquil and bucolic setting. Sat in the hot tub on our balcony enjoying the view.

Sooke Harbour House
Sooke Harbour House

Dinner with Sinclair Philip. during which we tried a variety of BC wines:

Chilled lacinato kale and summer squash soup, served with a Cowichan Valley lobster mushroom and pickled pork tongue sauté, beet oil and a mustard cream, with Starling Lane Ortega 2011 (Vancouver Island).

Port Renfrew ling cod, pan seared with lemon verbena oil, served with a heritage pepper salad, a rustic Italian arugula sauce and a begonia vinaigrette, with Venturi Schulze Indigo 2009 (Schoenburger – Vancouver Island).

Organic spice-rubbed lamb loin, served with a herbal tea and poppy seed couscous in a red onion crisp, accompanied by a nasturtium edamame yoghurt and a lamb sirloin split butter stock reduction, with Hillside Vineyard Pinotage 2009 (Naramata) and Starling Lane Marechal Foch 2009.

Grilled albacore tuna with Qualicum Beach scallops roasted in shell with smoked ling cod and pearl barley dumplings, Miso and honey vinaigrette, blistered summer squash, roasted Ragley Farm yellow carrots, toasted sunflower seed and arugula pesto, Terra Vista Vineyards Fandango 2011 (Albarino and Verdejo, Penticton).

Black currant braised elk neck presented with fenugreek spiced crispy chickpeas, shungikuan sungold tomato salad, chamomile and chive oil, Ragley Farm yellow wax beans, red wine mustard, roasted baby turnips and a horseradish and chanterelle mushroom braisage, with Marichel Vineyard Syrah 2008 (Naramata) and Kettle Valley Malbec 2001 (double magnum, Naramata).

Dark chocolate cakes, blueberry square and garden-inspired sorbets (apricot-fennel, Rainier cherry-Maraschino sage and raspberry mint) with Venturi Schulze Brandenburg # 3 and Vista d'Oro.

Tuesday, August 21: After breakfast in our room – delicious fresh-baked scones and muffins and a boiled egg – we drove to Venturi-Schulze winery. Giordano Venturi toured us around the vineyard and Marilyn Schulze gave us a tasting before showing us around the balsamic vinegar room.

  • Venturi Schulze Millefiori 2010 (60% Siegerrebe, 40% Ortega): pale straw colour; fragrant, orange blossom, peach; light and delicate, dry and perfumed, Muscat-like, good length with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (89)
  • Venturi Schulze Maranello 2009 (100% Pinot Noir): pink with an orange tint; raspberry with a suggestion of oak; lively acidity with a note of violets. (90)
  • Venturi Schulze Primavera 2010 (50% Shoenburger, Kerner, Ortega and "a kiss of Pinot Gris"): pale straw; peachy, Muscat-like; dry, floral, elegant, clean with a fine thread of acidity. (88)
  • Venturi Schulze Pinot Noir 2008: deep ruby colour; floral, earthy plum, pencil lead with a truffle note; dry, savoury, cherry. (89)
  • Venturi Schulze Brandenburg #3 2008 (Madeleine Sylvaner, Seigerrebe): tawny-ruby; spicy-floral, woody, plum and raisins and dates, ginger flavours. (89)
  • Venturi Schulze Verjus: tart, crab apple, searing acidity.

Stopped in at the Drumroaster Bakery in Cowichan for panini and coffee before driving back to Sooke Harbour House. On the way we passed a grisly accident, two cars in what looked like a head-on collision. We were both shaken by the sight and moderated our speed for the rest of the journey.

Dinner at Markus' Wharfside restaurant, a small two-room restaurant with nine tables. I ordered linguine with seafood and a Tuscan seafood soup. Deborah had a goat's cheese salad and halibut. All beautifully cooked. With the meal we had a bottle of Joie Unoaked Chardonnay 2010. Afterwards took a walk along the Quimper Park spit and watched the sunset.

Wednesday, August 22: Up at 6:15 am to drive to Victoria. Dropped off the rental car and made our way to the airport. It appeared that Deborah's ticket had not been booked for this leg of the trip – from Victoria to Kelowna. Some anxious moments as a well-meaning ticketing agent at the Westjet counter tried to book her on my flight but was confused by the computer. But we managed to make the flight on time.

Picked up another rental car to drive to Oliver and have lunch at Tinhorn Creek's restaurant, Miradoro. Our table on the balcony gave us a magnificent view over the valley, towards The Golden Mile and Black Sage Road. I ordered salmon ceviche and linguine alle vongole and shared Deborah's dessert, lemon custard with fresh fruit. The wines: Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris 2011 (peachy, minerally nose; medium-bodied, fresh with a lovely mouth feel – 88), Tinhorn Creek Bench Rosé 2011 (Cabernet Franc: orange-pink in colour with a nose of redcurrant and grapefruit; fresh and fruity, perfumed and refreshing – 89) and Tinhorn Creek Bench White 2011 (52% Chardonnay, 35% Sauvignon Blanc, 11% Viognier, 3% Semillon, 3% Muscat – fragrant, peach and melon flavours – 88).

Just as we finished eating, Sandra Oldfield joined us and took us down to the boardroom below the restaurant for another tasting:

  • Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2011: light straw colour; minerally, lemon acid drop nose with a touch of oak; dry, spicy, firm structured with a herbal note. Good acidic finish. (89)
  • Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer 2011: pale straw colour; minerally, still closed but rich on the palate – rose water, spicy, lychee, very dry. (87)
  • Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Pinot Noir 2008: ruby-plum colour; minerally, iodine note, cherry nose; dry, elegant, firmly structured, cherry with a sour cherry finish. (89)
  • Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc 2010: ruby colour; medicinal, red berry nose; red berry with a vegetal note, nicely oaked with a dry, slightly bitter finish. (88)
  • Tinhorn Creek Merlot Oldfield Series 2008 (11% Cabernet Franc, 2% Syrah): deep ruby colour; minerally, herbal, blueberry nose; full-bodied, ripe blueberry, bitter chocolate, powerful, lively acidic spine. (90)
  • Tinhorn Creek 2 Bench Red 2009 (45% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot): minerally, medicinal nose; creamy mouth feel, floral, licorice and red berry and blueberry flavours with a floral grace note. Tannic lift on the finish. (89)
  • Tinhorn Creek Syrah 2009: deep ruby colour; soapy, white pepper, blackberry nose; blackberry flavor with a lavender note. Full on the palate with well integrated oak. (89)

Following the tasting we drove over to Stoneboat, where the owner Tim Martiniuk and winemaker Alison poured me the following wines:

  • Stoneboat Pinot Gris 2011: very pale in colour; minerally, peach pit nose with a floral note; elegant, light and lacey, crisp green apple and peach flavours. Fresh and lively. (89)
  • Stoneboat Chorus 2011 (Pinot Blanc, Muller-Thurgau, Kerner, Shoenburger, Viognier): very pale, fragrant peach and rosewater on the nose; off-dry, easy drinking, elegant and spicy. (89)
  • Stoneboat Faux Pas Rosé 2011 (Pinotage, Pinot Noir): pale pink with a bluish tint; raspberry with a floral note; rhubarb, watermelon, minerally. Easy drinking. Touch of sweetness in mid palate. (88)
  • Stoneboat Pinot Noir 2010: light ruby colour; minerally, raspberry nose; earthy, spicy, full in the mouth, delicate in flavour- raspberry and sweet rhubarb – but full on the palate. Beautifully balanced oak and fruit. (90)
  • Stoneboat Pinotage 2010: deep ruby colour; blackcurrant, floral nose; firm structure, dry, vanilla and coconut flavours; touch of bitterness on the finish. (89)
  • Stoneboat Solo Pinotage Reserve 2010: deep ruby; creamy oak, blackberry with a floral note; pencil lead, firmly structured, tannic. (90)
  • Stoneboat Verglas 2010 (Oraniensteiner and Pinot Blanc): pale straw; honeyed botrytis nose with a floral note on the nose; spicy, melon and tangerine flavours with a honeyed background. Driving acidity. (91)

Dropped into the sumptuous new tasting room at Black Hills Estate for a look and then checked into the guest chalet at Hester Creek with its commanding view over the valley. Before dinner a tasting:

  • Hester Creek Pinot Gris 2011: medium straw colour; white peach and citrus with a mineral thread and herbal note. Medium-bodied. (88)
  • Hester Creek Pinot Blanc 2011: minerally, spicy, lemon, green melon nose; soft mouth feel with a note of fennel behind the peach-melon flavour well made with a floral note. (89)
  • Hester Creek Character White 2011 (Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Trebbiano): minerally, peach pit nose; apple and pear flavours, dry with good persistence. (88)
  • Hester Creek Selected Barrels Merlot 2010: deep ruby colour; inky, smoky, blueberry nose; creamy on the palate, dry and fruity with a spicy oak note and a fine spine of acidity. Firm tannic finish. (89)
  • Hester Creek Selected Barrels Cabernet Merlot 2011: deep ruby colour; spicy black and redcurrant nose; creamy American oak flavour with plum and currant notes; firm finish. (88)
  • Hester Creek Character Red 2010 (Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot): deep ruby colour; black cherry, white pepper nose with an oaky note; sweet blueberry fruit, firmly structured and nicely supported by oak. (89+)
  • Hester Creek Merlot Reserve Block 2 2009: deep ruby colour; floral, milk chocolate, red berry nose; spicy, almost tarry, smoky flavour; full in the mouth with a firm finish and a medicinal note. (89)
  • Hester Creek Merlot Reserve 2008: deep ruby colour; blackcurrant, chocolate nose; silky mouth feel, richly extracted and beautifully balanced. Well integrated oak and a firm finish. (91)
  • Hester Creek Merlot Reserve 2007: deep ruby colour; papery nose, blueberry and currant. Very Pomerol in style, vanilla oak and dark chocolate on the nose; elegant, perfumed, plum and chocolate flavours. A stylish wine. (91)
  • Hester Creek Late Harvest Pinot Blanc 2011: honeyed pear flavour, medium sweet; lively acidity. Some bitterness on the finish. (88)

After the tasting we went to the winery's restaurant, Terrafina, and dined outside. I ordered king crab and smoked trout pizza and a glass of Hester Creek Pinot Blanc 2011. April, the sommelier, showed me how to remove a fruit fly from my wine: use a drinking straw like a pipette and trap the fly. Once out of the glass, blow (don't suck).

Thursday, August 23: We drove towards Summerland for our first tasting at Wild Goose Vineyards, where we were welcomed by Adolf Kruger and his sons Roland and Hagen (the winemaker). A few weeks ago they had had the official opening of their new winery. In the tasting room they poured:

  • Wild Goose Mystic River Pinot Blanc 2011 (Oliver): very pale colour; fresh, peachy, melon and citrus flavours. (88)
  • Wild Goose Mystic River Pinot Gris 2011 (Oliver): light straw colour; peach pit nose, fresh, lively with a crisp finish. Well balanced. (89)
  • Wild Goose Stoney Slope Riesling 2011: medium straw colour; minerally, floral nose, lime, green apple with a little sprtiz. Light on the palate. (90)
  • Wild Goose Riesling 2011 (with Sussreserve): petrol notes, peach, lime and a touch of honey; touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)
  • Wild Goose Gewürztraminer 2011: medium straw colour; rose petal, orange, ginger nose; lovely lychee and rosewater flavours, elegant, good length. (91)
  • Wild Goose Autumn Gold 2011 (Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc): pale straw colour; minerally, peach and apple nose; off-dry, nicely balanced melon and peach flavour. (89)
  • Wild Goose Blanc de Noirs 2011 (Merlot, Pinot Noir): deep pink colour; raspberry, earthy note on the nose; strawberry and rhubarb flavour with a firm finish. (88)
  • Wild Goose Merlot 2009: deep ruby colour; intense, violets and blueberry; dry, plum and blue berry with a caramel note and warm alcoholic finish. (89)
  • Wild Goose Merlot Reserve 2009: deep ruby colour; refined cedar and blueberry nose; elegant, blueberry, beautifully balanced (Pomerol-style). (90)
  • Wild Goose Pinot Noir 2010: tawny ruby colour; minerally, raspberry nose; dry, cranberry and raspberry flavours, firmly structured. Needs time. (89+)
  • Wild Goose Total Botrytis Affected Riesling 2010: light gold colour; honey, spicy, peach; sweet, raisiny and beautifully balanced. (93)

The next stop was Stag's Hollow, next door to Wild Goose. Linda Pruegger showed me around the new winery facility and told me she and her husband Larry Gerelus have planted Dolcetto (thought to be the first in the valley) and Tempranillo. In the cellar, winemaker Dwight Sick gave me a barrel tasting of the following wines:

  • Stag's Hollow GVM 2011 (Grenache, Marsanne, Viognier): a nose of white flowers, white peach and minerals; dry and stoney with a touch of bitterness. (89? Still in tank)
  • Stag's Hollow Renaissance Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (with some Semillon): very elegant, perfumed, Graves-like in style; clean, peach and green plum flavours. (91?)
  • Stag's Hollow Simply Red 2011 (a blend of Gamay, Pinot Noir and Merlot): peppery nose, fresh and fruity rewith a floral note. (89?)
  • Stag's Hollow Cabernet Franc 2010: deep ruby colour; vegetal, red berry nose; reminiscent of a Chilean Carmenère – rich blackcurrant and chocolate flavours. (90+?)
  • Stag's Hollow Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: dense purple colour; floral, blackcurrant nose with an herbaceous note; dry and elegant. (89?)
  • Stag's Hollow Syrah 2010 (co-fermented with 8% Viognier): deep ruby-purple; a nose of white pepper and blackberries; very elegant. Reminded me of a St. Joseph. (90+?)

Then Dwight drew off two barrel samples of Stag's Hollow Tempranillo 2011 and 2010.

  • 2011: deep ruby colour; smoky nose of cherries and cranberries; firm structure.
  • 2010 (with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot): rich black fruit flavours with vanilla oak. This is going to be a terrific wine. I gave it 91 points. It's still tight but everything is in place.

Then up to the tasting room when Larry Gerelus returned to taste a couple of wines there:

  • Stag's Hollow Tragically Vidal 2011 (some Orange Muscat in the blend): delicate floral nose; perfumed flavour of orange and peach with a touch of bitterness on the finish. A well-made hybrid. (88)
  • Stag's Hollow Cachet No.1 Tempranillo 2008: the first vintage of this variety – deep ruby colour; smoky, perfumed nose of blackcurrants and milk chocolate with a herbal note; firmly structured and flavourful. (90)

Next we drove to Okanagan Falls to See Ya Later Ranch on Hawthorne Mountain, currently the highest vineyard in the Okanagan, famous for its dog cemetery. The story goes that Major Hugh Fraser, an Englishman, bought the property in 1919. He brought his young bride over from England, who could not take the remote location and returned to England, leaving a note that read "See ya later." Fraser lived here for more than forty-five years with only his dogs as companions, all of whom are buried in a small cemetery adjacent to what is now the tasting room.

See Ya Later's Dog Cemetery
See Ya Later's Dog Cemetery

See Ya Later's winemaker Mason Spink conducted the tasting outdoors on the lawn looking down on the valley.

  • See Ya Later Brut (NV) (Chardonnay, Riesling): pale straw; dry, apple with a spicy citrus note. (88)
  • See Ya Later Gewurztraminer 2011: pale straw; light varietal nose; lemon drop, spicy, tangerine, light lychee note. (87)
  • See Ya Later Riesling 2011: pale straw colour; spicy, green plum, lime, crisp with a firm finish. (87)
  • See Ya Later Jimmy My Pal 2011 (Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay): pale straw colour with a pink tint; spicy peach nose, touch of sweetness in mid palate but harnessed with lively acidity. (88)
  • See Ya Later Pinot 3 2011: water white with a faint pink tint; dry, red apple flavour with good citrus acidity. (88)
  • See Ya Later Pinot Gris 2010: pale straw with a flesh pink colour; peach pit nose; noticeable oak, white peach with bright acidity. Needs time. (88)
  • See Ya Later Chardonnay 2011: pale straw colour; apple with a light oak note; dry, nicely balanced, dry, flavourful, apple with citrus acidity. (89)
  • See Ya Later Nelly Rosé 2011 (Gamay, Pinot Noir): deep orange-pink colour; raspberry nose; dry, raspberry and lemon with a firm tannic finish. (87)
  • See Ya Later Pinot Noir 2010: deep ruby colour; cherry, strawberry colour; sweet fruit with a firm, mineral-earthy note and a tannic lift on the finish. (88)
  • See Ya Later Rover 2011 (Shiraz co-fermented with Viognier): deep ruby colour; white pepper, medicinal, blackberry with a floral note; elegant, dry and savoury with a tannic lift on the finish. (90)
  • See Ya Later Ping 2009 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc): deep ruby colour; vanilla, spicy, blackcurrant nose; firmly structured, claret-style, firmly structured. (91)

Drove next to Summerland to tour and taste at the Okanagan Crush Pad Winery, the first custom crush winery in Canada. The modern facility is set in a 10-acre vineyard of Pinot Gris. Michael Bartier (formerly winemaker at Road 13) is the winemaker here who makes wines for the Haywire label, his own Bartier Brothers label and the Bartier Scholefield label – as well as for other clients.

  • Bartier Brothers The Cowboy White 2010 (50% Schonberger, 50% Sauvignon Blanc): light straw colour; oily, minerally, citrus, floral nose; crisp, green apple flavour, firm finish. (88)
  • Switchback Pinot Gris 2011 (estate vineyard – 3rd harvest): medium straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; dry, grapefruit and white peach flavour driven by citrus acidity. (89+)
  • Bartier Scholefield White 2010 (Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc): straw colour; peach and peach blossom; Pinot Gris/Blanc on the nose and Chardonnay on the palate – apple with a grassy note, crisp dry finish. (89)
  • Haywire Gamay Noir Rosé 2010: salmon pink; minerally, red berry nose; cranberry and rhubarb flavour with a smoky note on the finish. Lively acidity, fresh and fun. (88)
  • Bartier Scholefield Rosé 2010: deep salmon pink; strawberry, minerally nose; crisply dry, watermelon and strawberry flavours. (88)
  • Haywire Pinot Noir 2010: ruby colour; cherry, vanilla oak; dry, elegant, silky mouth feel, dry cherry flavour; well balanced with firm tannins. (89)
  • Haywine Canyonview Pinot Noir 2011 (still in concrete tank till January): deep ruby colour: minerally, cherry pit nose; richly extracted, powerful fruit expression of black cherries and plums; full on the palate with a sweetness at the core. (91)
  • Bartier Brothers The Goal 2010 (40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 30% Syrah): deep ruby colour; floral, blackcurrant, tobacco leaf, cedar nose; elegant, beautifully crafted, seamless flavours of fruit, oak and acid. Lovely mouth feel (91)

After the tasting the proprietors of Okanagan Crush Pad, Christine Coletta and her husband Steve Lornie, arrived for a family BBQ on the property. With steaks, potato salad and green salad we tasted a variety of the winery's products, including DiBello Syrah 2010. Tom DiBello, who used to be the winemaker at CedarCreek, is now consulting with Harry McWatters.

Spent the night at the Summerland Waterfront Resort. Iron Man contestants arrived with their bikes.

Friday, August 24: Breakfast with Crista-Lee McWatters and her husband Cam, who own The Local, a restaurant adjacent to the Summerland Waterfront Resort. They told us how hard it is to get and keep trained staff in the hospitality industry in the Okanagan. We drove to Tantalus Vineyards for a tour of the winery by Jane Hatch, the general manager, and a tasting:

  • Tantalus Riesling 2011: very pale colour; floral, lime, resiny-mineral grapefruit flavour with a honeyed note and searing, mouth-freshening acidity. Mosel style. (91)
  • Tantalus Riesling Old Vines 2009: pale straw with a greenish tint; minerally, petrol, honey, lime nose; crisply dry, elegant, crab apple, minerally, crushed stones. (90)
  • Tantalus Chardonnay 2010: straw colour; apple-pear bouquet; racy citrus acidity carrying green nut, citrus and green apple flavours. (89+)
  • Tantalus Pinot Noir 2010: ruby colour; peppery, cherry nose with a light note of violets; earthy, grippy tannins, dry sour cherry flavour. (88)
  • Tantalus Riesling Icewine 2010: old gold colour; toffee, tropical fruit nose; honeyed peach with a pine needle note, driving acidity, great length. (92)

Next stop: lunch at Summerhill Pyramid with proprietor Stephen Cipes and winemaker Eric von Krosigk. We sat on the terrace and chatted about old times over a glass of Cipes Gabriel Sparkling. I ordered a mushroom risotto with a glass of Summerhill Organic Zweigelt 2010 and Summerhill Organic Meritage 2008. Then we toured the pyramid, which is an exact replica of the Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza in Egypt, scaled down to one-eighth the size. Stephen, a very spiritual New Age man, ages his sparkling wines inside the pyramid.

Stephen Cipes at Summerhill
Stephen Cipes at Summerhill

Apex of the Summerhill Pyramid (interior view)
Apex of the Summerhill Pyramid (interior view)

Our next stop: Mt. Boucherie Family Estate opened in 2001. "If we don't grow it we don't put it in the bottle," Nirmal Gidda, the proprietor, told me. The winery sits on a 12-acre site planted to Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. They source their Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc (which go into Mt. Boucherie Summit Blend) and Zinfandel from their Cawston vineyard in Similkameen. With winemaker Jim Faulkner I tasted the following wines:

  • Mt. Boucherie Riesling 2010: pale straw colour; floral, minerally, grapefruit with a honeyed note; rich mouth feel, firm finish with lively acidity. (88)
  • Mt. Boucherie Summit Reserve Chardonnay 2010 (silver medal at Chardonnay du Monde – 100% Similkameen fruit): straw, floral, spicy, vanilla oak; creamy, rich and spicy, peach and melon flavours; nicely balanced with a fine spine of acidity. (91)
  • Mt. Boucherie Pinot Noir Family Reserve 2009 (Cawston Vineyard, Similkameen): ruby colour; black raspberry with a mineral note on the nose; raspberry with a herbal note, warm alcoholic finish. (88)
  • Mt. Boucherie Zinfandel 2008 (Cawston Vineyard): deep ruby colour; floral, plum, vanilla oak nose; dry, blackberry and plum flavour carried on lively acidity. (89)
  • Mt. Boucherie Summit Reserve 2007 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant nose with a violet note; claret-style, firmly structured, dry and savoury with a note of sage. (89)

Then on to Quails' Gate in West Kelowna for a tasting with winemaker Grant Stanley.

  • Quails' Gate Chenin Blanc 2011 (8% Sauvignon): pale straw colour; quince, citrus, mineral-grassy note on the nose; crisply dry, grapefruit with racy acidity. Clean and mouth-watering. (89)
  • Quails' Gate Dry Riesling 2011: pale straw colour; floral, white honey, lime nose; apricot, citrus and honey comb flavour, beautifully balanced, great tension between fresh acidity and honeyed stone fruit. (90)
  • Quails' Gate Rosé 2011 (Gamay): pink with a bluish tint; smoky, cranberry with a mineral note on the nose; rhubarb and stewed strawberry flavour with lively acidity. (89)
  • Quails' Gate Chardonnay 2010: straw colour; spicy, barnyard, vanilla oak, apple nose; rich, spicy, flavourful apple and pear with toasty oak and a note of butter; full-bodied, intense. (90)
  • Quails' Gate Chardonnay Stewart Family Reserve 2010: straw colour; Burgundian nose – spicy, barnyard, apple nose; lovely mouth feel, lively acidity, beautifully balanced, great length, sweet apple and toast with citrus acidity, nutty finish. (91+)
  • Quails' Gate Pinot Noir 2010: deep ruby colour; peppery, raspberry, vanilla oak; earthy, medium-bodied, firmly structured, black cherry with and cinnamons spice note and chalky tannins. (89)
  • Quails' Gate Stewart Family Reserve 2009: deep ruby colour; barnyard, violets, black raspberry and black cherry flavours; full-bodied, firmly structured, sweet fruit with ripe tannins. (91)
  • Quails' Gate Merlot 2009: deep ruby colour; blueberry compote with a note of cedar and vanilla on the nose; sweet fruit, fills the palate, full-bodied with a warm alcoholic glow. Firm tannic finish. (89)

Dinner that evening at Mission Hill Family Estate's Terrace Restaurant. An aperitif glass of Mission Hill Rosé 2011 (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) to start. An amuse bouche of vanilla poached pear gazpacho followed by steak tartare (with Mission Hill SLC Merlot 2009) and then halibut with Mission Hill Martin's Lane Riesling 2011 and Mission Hill Quatrain 2008. Deborah ordered foie gras, which was beautifully presented. That night we slept in a Mission Hill property, the Lake House, down by the water.

Foie Gras at The Terrace Restaurant, Mission Hill
Foie Gras at The Terrace Restaurant, Mission Hill

View from Mission Hill's Lake House
View from Mission Hill's Lake House

Saturday, August 25: At 10 am a tasting at Mission Hill.

  • Mission Hill Martin's Lane Riesling 2011 (Fritz Hasselbach of Gunderloch consulted on this wine): bright straw colour; minerally, peach, citrus and honey nose; spicy, grapefruit and lime flavours with a honeyed note; beautifully balanced, full on the palate and lingering. (90)
  • Mission Hill Perpetua Chardonnay 2009: (Osoyoos – 25% new French oak): deep straw colour; creamy, buttery, apple and citrus nose; richly extracted, tangerine and apple flavours; full-bodied, lovely mouth feel with a strong spine of acidity; a powerful Chardonnay. (91)
  • Mission Hill Martin's Lane Pinot Noir 2010: deep ruby colour; a bouquet of black cherry with a mineral note, a hint of violets and evident oak; dry, well extracted cherry flavour, firmly structured with a warm alcoholic finish. (89)
  • Mission Hill Quatrain 2008 (Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc): deep purple-ruby colour; savoury, meaty nose of black fruits with vanilla oak, white pepper and an engaging floral top note; ripe fruit with a licorice note, dry and savoury, full on the palate with a firm tannic finish. Needs 2–3 years to show its best. (90)
  • Mission Hill Compendium 2009 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot): dense purple-ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant, vanilla oak with a creamy note on the nose; sweet fruit flavours of blackcurrant and dark chocolate. Needs time but will develop beautifully. (91)
  • Mission Hill Oculus 2009 (50% Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot): dense purple-ruby colour; cedar, blueberry, blackcurrant, vanilla oak on the nose; rich mouth feel, spicy, sweet currant fruit and chocolate flavours, firmly structured and seamless. Approachable now but will pay dividends if kept at least 3 years. A triumphant wine (93+).

After the tasting we drove down the lake through Penticton to the Naramata Bench to have lunch at Hillside Cellars on the terrace overlooking the lake (the same table we had the last time we were here two years ago). I ordered grilled calamari and confit of duck and camembert sandwich with Israeli coucscous, matched with Hillside Cellars Cabernet Franc 2009, as recommended by the owner, Duncan McCowan. Then down to the tasting room for the following wines:

  • Hillside Unoaked Pinot Gris 2010: pale straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry, clean white peach flavour with a thread of minerality. (89)
  • Hillside Reserve Pinot Gris 2010: medium straw colour; oaky, peach nose; spicy, peach and citrus flavours. (88)
  • Hillside Viognier 2010: pale straw colour; peach, white flowers on the nose; fresh peach and lemon flavours with a whisper of oak; full on the palate with a lingering finish. (89)
  • Hillside Pinot Noir 2010: ruby colour; fragrant, violets and raspberry nose; dry, elegant, raspberry with an earthy note and a firm tannic finish. (89)
  • Hillside Hidden Valley Vineyard Merlot 2009: deep ruby colour; vanilla oak, plum and blueberry with a note of crushed stones; sweet fruit, chunky mouth feel with a tannic lift on the finish. (88)
  • Hillside Taylor Vineyard Vineyard Merlot 2009: deep ruby colour; fragrant nose of smoke and blueberries; rich plum and blueberry flavours with dusty tannins. Good grip with mellowing oak influences. (90)
  • Hillside Hidden Valley Vineyard Syrah 2008: deep ruby colour; savoury, herbal, blackberry nose with white pepper notes; fresh black raspberry flavour which surprises after the savoury nose; dry and elegant. (89)
  • Hillside Hidden Mosaic 2007 (all five Bordeaux varieties with Merlot dominant, 18 months in oak): leafy, blackcurrant, cedar nose; dry, elegant, claret-style with a spicy Naramata twist; silky mouth feel. Great.

Dropped in at Painted Rock above Lake Skaha, which will be our vantage point tomorrow to watch Annabel run the marathon leg of Iron Man. Painted Rock has what must be the world's smallest tasting room. John Skinner tells me he is about to build a spanking new one. An artist's rendering hangs in the current shack-like building.

Painted Rock - World's Smallest Tasting Room?
Painted Rock – World's Smallest Tasting Room?

Drove to the Deer Path Lookout in Kaleden, just off Highway 97, set in the woods. It's an adobe-style B&B, beautifully appointed with a spring-fed swimming pool in the shape of a whale. John and Doug, the proprietors, showed us around.

Deer Path Lookout
Deer Path Lookout

View from Deer Path Lookout's dining room
View from Deer Path Lookout's dining room

We dropped our suitcases and drove back to Naramata to have dinner with Ian Sutherland, the winemaker/owner of Poplar Grove, and his wife Valeria at the winery's newly opened restaurant, Vanilla Pod. Paul Jones, who owns the restaurant, suggested we have the chef's tasting menu as we tasted Ian's wines. The menu: a plate of garlic goat's cheese, prosciutto, olives and red pepper tapenade; grilled scallops with tomato and pesto; wild sockeye salmon and crispy prosciutto butter with green beans and rainbow chard salad; lamb cutlets with squash; New Orleans bread pudding with bourbon cream sauce and vanilla ice cream. The wines:

  • Poplar Grove Pinot Gris 2011: very pale colour; fresh peach with a grassy note on the nose; elegant, fresh and lively on the palate with racy citrus acidity. (89)
  • Poplar Grove Chardonnay 2010 (instead of battonage, Ian Sutherland rolled the barrels for a gentler movement): pale straw colour; peach, buttery, hazelnut and vanilla notes on the nose; medium-bodied, lovely mouth feel with sweet stone fruit flavours in mid palate and a whisper of oak. Delicate yet powerful. (91)
  • Poplar Grove Rosé Blanc de Noirs 2011 (Malbec and Syrah): deep pink in colour; strawberry, herbal, celery notes on the nose with a sweet rhubarb flavour. (88)
  • Poplar Grove Merlot 2008: deep purple-ruby colour; cedar, vanilla, red berry and chocolate nose; spicy plum and currant flavours with lively acidity. (89+)
  • Poplar Grove Cabernet Fanc 2009: dense purple-ruby colour; on the nose, tobacco leaf, caramel, vanilla oak; spicy plum jam flavour, rich and full on the palate with a dark chocolate finish. (90) Ian says, "Pinot Gris and Cabernet Franc should be the wines we grow here (on the Naramata Bench)."
  • Polar Grove The Legacy 2006 (70% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense purple-ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant and pencil lead nose with creamy oak notes; spicy, sweet and savoury flavours of currants, roasted hers and pencil lead. Very Pomerol in style with a firm finish. (92)

Sunday, August 26: Awoke at 5:15 am. After a quick breakfast of granola, fresh peaches, yogurt and sourdough toast and jam, we drove to the Sandman Hotel in Penticton to meet our son-in-law, Ian, to watch the start of the Iron Man. There are 3,000 competitors, among them my daughter Annabel (#2636). Apparently, there are at least three volunteers for every competitor. One of their duties is to strip the rubber suits off the participants after the 4k swim so they can get quickly off on their bike ride (180k).

Swim start at the Iron Man
Swim start at the Iron Man

We took up our vantage point at the lake by 6:30 am to watch the pros start fifteen minutes before the amateurs. It's a magnificent sight – close to 3,000 swimmers entering the water at the same time, like an enormous flock of Canada geese thrashing about to take off. We walked over to the start of the bike section to see Annabel off but there were so many competitors in black outfits that we missed her. Luckily, Ian got a photo of her back. Breakfast at Denny's and then Ian, a chiropractor who had worked on fifty of the athletes before the race, gave me a work-out on my knee. Feels much better.

Advice for Iron Men
Advice for Iron Men

Back to the B&B for an hour's sleep before setting off to Painted Rock winery to watch Annabel on the marathon leg. Ian had biked out to where we were and had to treat two runners for exhaustion on the way. Drove back to Penticton and we had dinner with Ian at China Gardens on Main Street – a buffet which was very good – before making our way to the finish line to watch Annabel complete the course. We witnessed two proposals of marriage as runners came through. One young woman held up a sign reading, "Jordanna, will you marry me." Her boyfriend grabbed the sign from a friend as he ran to the finish line. Annabel came in at just over 14 hours feeling sore but triumphant. We are so proud of her accomplishment. Drove back to our B&B for a well-earned sleep.

Annabel's marathon
Annabel's marathon

Monday, August 27: Drove down to Osoyoos and had a quick lunch at Subway before driving up Road 13 to Don and Elaine Triggs' winery-under-construction – Culmina Family Estate Winery. Don and Elaine drove us around their three vineyards set high above the valley floor – Arise Vineyard (39.9 acres – 380–450 metres, planted to Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Malbec), Margaret's Bench (7.9 acres at 555–595 metres – Riesling, Chardonnay and Grüner Veltliner) and Stan's Bench (7.9 acres at 400–460 metres – Chardonnay, Riesling, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Viognier and a corner for 1000 bush vines to be determined later).

Elaine & Don Triggs at the top of their world (see the winery under Don's left hand
Elaine & Don Triggs at the top of their world
(see the winery under Don's left hand)

The south Okanagan, Canada's only desert
The south Okanagan, Canada's only desert

At the top of the property is a rock from which you get a spectacular view of the whole southern Okanagan. We spent the night at Don and Elaine's house in Osoyoos. A riotous dinner with our hosts and their youngest daughter Sara, who is the sales and marketing manager for Culmina; and the entertaining antics of the family dog, Barry, a Pembroke Welsh corgi. Don opened up a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée, which he served with smoked salmon (from a fish he had caught). We started with tomato soup with Quails' Gate Chenin Blanc 2011, followed by Filet mignon with sauce béarnaise, new potatoes and salad with Jackson-Triggs Shiraz 2004 and Almaviva 2008. Dessert – peach, plum and blueberry pie with crème fraiche.

Tuesday, August 28: Sara prepared breakfast for us and then we drove from Osoyoos to Kelowna airport, a journey of two and a half hours, to catch the plane to Vancouver. On the way we stopped to buy some organic garlic. Az, the young daughter of the family, gave us a very professional rundown on the different types of garlic they grow – Red Russian, Music, Alvan and Inchelium Red. Couldn't resist her salesmanship (www.grownwithlovegarlic.ca).

Az modelling garlic
Az modelling garlic

Our Air Canada flight was delayed and so was our connecting flight to Toronto. Arrived home at midnight to a rapturous welcome from Pinot the Wonderdog, who had just returned from ten days at Innisfil with Valerie, our dog walker/sitter.

 

 

 

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