By Anthony Gismondi
Continuing our look back at some 2014 Okanagan Valley highlights hopefully inspires you to visit a winery or two in 2015, check out some restaurants, or simply enjoy some of our wine recommendations.
Regular readers will know Ia��m crazy about the two white wines made at Terravista Winery on the Naramata Bench made by winemaker Senka Tenant. Figaro and Fandango are ridiculously vibrant and tasty. Nearby Laughing Stock Vineyards is coming off a decade of production and as owners David and Cynthia Enns settle into their site, we note that exploring amphorae, using less oak and becoming winegrowers is beginning to polish the entire Laughing Stock portfolio again, giving the wines a sense of place. Dona��t miss the Laughing Stock Vineyards Syrah +9/10 2012 ($36).
Other bench stops could include Nichol Vineyard, Bench 1775, Howling Bluff, Serendipity, and Moraine but dona��t leave the bench until youa��ve had lunch or dinner at Hillside, where winemaker Kathy Malone is hitting it out of the park with her gamay, syrah, pinot noir and cabernet franc. Hillside is pursuing an aggressive Naramata Bench-only wines policy, preparing for what surely will be the Okanagana��s next sub-designated viticultural area as governed by B.C.a��s wines of marked quality regulations.
The biggest news in 2014 had to be the official recognition given the series of alluvial fans along the Golden Mile Bench just south of Oliver, the first sub-designated viticultural area (or sub-geographical indication) of the Okanagan Valley DVA. While many of the wineries have vineyards all over the valley, you can expect to see more of the sub DVA Golden Mile Bench on labels in the coming months. Over-achievers along the Golden Mile include Road 13, Gehringer Bros., Culmina, Hester Creek, Fairview Cellars, and Maverick.
Other wines that turned my head in 2014 include the organic Summerhill Pyramid Riesling ($20). The East Kelowna property is must-visit for anyone who would like to learn more about a working bio-dynamic vineyard and the future of grape farming. You can add Tantalus Vineyards to the list and purchase some Tantalus Riesling 2013 while you are there. The LEEDS certified winery and meticulous vineyard are also well worth visiting. In the same neighbourhood, and highly under-rated, is the delicious pinot noir, riesling and pinot gris grown at Spierhead Winery. Winemaking is kept to a minimum by Bill Pierson and the result is some juicy, clean East Kelowna pinot noir that does British Columbia proud.
Summerland is coming back to life, thanks to a relentless, edge-pushing mentality at Summerlanda��s Okanagan Crush Pad, with its organic and bio-dynamic bent, concrete eggs, not a lot of new oak and a promising new 85-acre vineyard site in nearby Garnet Valley coming on stream that will focus on pinot noir.
Nearby, the arrival of winemaker Mason Spink at the quirky Dirty Laundry Winery should help the wines be current with the marketing at the quirky Summerland site. Similarly, I expect big things in 2015 from the von Mandl properties, Checkmate (merlot, chardonnay) and Martina��s Lane pinot noir and riesling along with Mission Hill and the revamped CedarCreek lineup.
Finally, keep in mind buying British Columbia wine can be frustrating if you are a regular BC Liquor Store shopper. The selection varies from month to month and for the most part the best B.C. wines seldom if ever make it to government stores. Local producers can avoid the hefty taxes applied to foreign wines by selling direct, or online, or in any of the 20 BCVQA wine stores. Ita��s always good to start at the winery website.
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