Thursday, 16 October 2014

Wineries of the Okanagan Valley - Part 3

I always approach a day of wine tasting with excitement and anticipation. On this particular day, I knew I was in for an especially enjoyable day, as my housemate and I had the loan of a car for the afternoon, so no struggling up ridiculous inclines on our bikes or turning up to cellar doors parched and drenched in sweat!

First off the rank was Covert Farms Winery. This family owned estate is nestled in a gorgeous little pocket just north of the town of Oliver. Being both a winery and general produce purveyor, Covert Farms produce all their fruit and vegetables organically, including their grapes. Winemaking is carried out with no sugar additions and minimal use of sulfur.

Our friendly French hostess at the cellar door took us through the full lineup of wines and I was immediately taken by the unique flavours of their 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend. I felt like I had stuck my nose into a bunch of freshly picked flowers from the garden, whilst treading dewy grass underfoot. The palate had some lovely mineral and white pepper notes, with just a dash of herbaceousness.

The reds were a little hit-and-miss but the 2010 Amicitia was delightful. Being a bordeaux blend with some Syrah thrown in as well, it exhibited rich black fruit overlaying an earthy and rustic background, definitely giving a sense of closeness to nature from organic treatment. There were some spices and bitter herbs on the palate which made the wine very savoury, but I feel it would pair wonderfully with some simple Mediterranean style fare.

lovely timber style decor at the Cover Farms cellar door
Just down the road, we stopped at Hidden Chapel Winery, where there actually is a hidden chapel built by the original owners, who were very devout. Visitors can drop by the chapel for a look and some quiet reflection if they so desire. However, I was more interested by their underground cellar, and was even more delighted when the winemaker/owner offered to take us on a private tour (it was late in the afternoon on a Sunday and they were not particularly busy). The cellar has been built into the side of a hill and covered by a specifically topographed 'earth mass' for temperature control. Basically, the layer of earth covering the cellar keeps it at a very consistent temperature throughout the year - great for the environment and the bank balance in the long term!

The Amazing Grace 2013 Riesling was a shock to the senses, in a good way. On the nose I was surprised by very herbal aromas of pepperberries, and campari bitters mixed in with a distinct green apple flavour. Another lovely wine was the Nuns on the Run 2011 (Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon) which was all cherries and savoury spices, with a dash of tomato leaf thrown in - more like an Italian Chianti really. Finally, the Shotgun Wedding 2012 (Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot) stood out with its viscous, earthy mouthfeel, minerality and fine grained tannins, finishing with lingering dark chocolate espresso.

a cellar with a difference
As the name suggests, Quinta Ferreira Estate Winery make "Canadian wine with a Portuguese twist". Having fallen in love with Portugal and its wines on a trip there a few years ago, I had been very interested to visit this establishment and see how similar their wines were to what I had experienced in Europe. The whites were good, but unfortunately they had sold out of those I most wanted to taste. What did impress me was that they have a policy of releasing their wines after a period of bottle ageing, and it is always nice when someone does the hard work for you! I am sure this helped to make their reds that bit more luxurious and approachable at the same time. Both the 2009 Merlot and 2009 Merlot/Cabernet blends had excellent structure: I found black olives, cacao and pepper mixing with black cherry fruits. The age meant that there were some leathery secondary characters creeping in as well.

From Portugal, we moved on to France, at Le Vieux Pin (which means the Old Pine). The owner is a lover of fine French and Italian wines and has managed to create a 'little France' and 'little Italy' through his two Okanagan winery endeavours, the other being La Stella, which I am yet to visit. His winemaker, Severine Pinte, is also French, which helps.

Tasting at Le Vieux Pin
Let me just say, I was blown away by the class the place exuded, and not in a pretentious way either. The range of wines is short and succinct and gives you a sense that this winery know what styles they do well and where they are headed. I loved each and every wine that was available for tasting, so I will just give you a very brief rundown:

2012 Sauvignon Blanc - complexity and richness incorporated by 50% French Oak for 4 months with battonage

2012 Ava 
Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne, blended in 500L french puncheons and 1/3 new barrels with 8 months battonage.
Toasty, smoky lees and a gorgeously silky palate.

2012 Syrah Cuvee Violette
From a vineyard near Tuc el Nuit lake which produces more floral characteristics.
14 months barrel, 20% new wood, co-fermented with Viognier.
Floral nose, rich berries, some toast - bbq, vanilla and spice, white pepper - a very pretty wine.

2011 Syrah
From a different vineyard further down the Black Sage Bench
Very savoury wine with some French flair coming through - meatiness, barnyard. A bolder style.

2011 Equinoxe Syrah
The cream of the crop - a barrel selection from the two Syrah vineyards, with the aim to combine the best of the floral and savoury characteristics.
The result? Rich dark fruits and outstanding complexity of spices.

Oops - we bought a few too many wines today!
This day of tasting around Oliver in the Okanagan Valley was full of suprises, including the dent to my rather small Canadian bank balance that resulted from my overexcitement! I figure, I have 6 weeks left here, so if I average 2 bottles of 'education' per week, I will be right on the money, so to speak...