Last week after the BC Wine Institute Vintage Preview, we asked Peller master winemaker Howard Soon for a few comments about his Sandhill Sauvignon Blanc, and the 2012 vintage



Here’s our story from the North Shore News:

… What was interesting this time was that the viticulturalists were invited along to offer their points of view. After all, what’s a vintage report without input from the people who are “on the ground?”

What struck me above all was the overall sense of camaraderie and good humour that played between the panelists. And once again occurred it to me that we are truly blessed in BC to have attracted such expertise from across the wine world. (With that in mind, with such a wealth of expertise to share, you have to wonder if the proliferation of ever smaller, regional winery associations—geared more to travel and tourism—isn’t in some way counter-productive. )

The good news about this panel was its representation from north (Tantalus) to south (Tinhorn, Sandhill), with plenty in between: Okanagan Crush Pad, Summerland;  Van Westen, Naramata Bench).

Judging by the whites at this tasting, we have plenty to look forward to. In fact you should mark your calendar now for Chef Meets Grape (Vancouver Convention Centre, June 5), when BCWI teams with The Arts Club for the first major roll-out of the 2012 whites—and 2011 reds (which may not be greeted with quite the same fanfare). In all there’ll be 90 wineries and some 350 wines poured, paired with bites from the likes of Forage, Cibo, Edible Canada and Le Gavroche. Early bird tix ($75) are available at

Even if 09, 10 and 11 were all “quite challenging” in their different ways says Tinhorn Creek winemaker and CEO Sandra Oldfield, she wasn’t prepared for the couple of weeks of rain that set 2012 apart. Although the whites had all been picked, it hit when the reds were still hanging. Hopefully it will always remain the exception rather than the rule, she says.

Having arrived from Australia in 2009, Tinhorn viticulturalist Andrew Moon thought 2012 was “unique”, as “‘10 and ‘11 were very cold growing seasons.” Okanagan Crush Pad winemaker Michael Bartier breathes a sigh of relief, saying that 2012 was certainly “less terrifying than 2011…”

There was a lot of good natured back and forth, with no shortage of light hearted jibes about “wine being made in the vineyard.” But when it came right down to it—if you knew how to handle the rains that washed through in the last two weeks of the growing season, judging by what we tasted, you did OK.

One of many things that struck me about this tasting was that it served as a reminder that while many BC consumers may have become oblivious to the idea of vintage variation, the people on the front line certainly are not!

Here’s a few drops to watch for:

Tinhorn Creek Gewurz 2012. Classic Okanagan Gew: floral aromas, nicely balanced fruit with a touch of spice and firm acidity. Available May 1. 89 pts. $18.99

Sandhill Sauvignon Blanc 2012. A uniquely Okanagan style Sauvignon Blanc, from high elevation Hidden Terrace Vineyard: more rubenesque than sleek, with gooseberry, citrus and grapefruit notes wrapped in juicy acidity through a lengthy end. Howard Soon says “spot prawns”, and we agree! 89 pts. $18.99

Tantalus Riesling 2012. If you’re a Tantalus fan (and who isn’t?) this could be the best “regular” release yet. Mouth filling apple, tropical and zesty lemon-lime notes—powerful fruit beautifully balanced with minerality and serious acidity that makes it generously powerful and sleek at the same time. 90 pts. $22.90

Also worth waiting for: Tinhorn 2 Bench White 2012; Haywire Switchback Pinot Gris 2012; Van Westen Viognier 2012; Tantalus Old Vines Riesling 2010.