Looking to to buy for the BC wine lover in your life? Here’s a clutch of more interesting but not that hard to find wines, which individually and collectively show just how much the bar has been raised in the last few years. These bottles, beyond the run of the mill, will appeal to anyone who has a passion for for the Okanagan (or Similkameen) and are highly affordable for the value and quality they deliver. (Prices shown are from the wineries and will vary by store.)
• Spierhead Pinot Noir 2013. This small east Kelowna producer has truly hit its stride, with a focus on small batch wines, all hand harvested. Bright, up front red berries are followed by a well balanced, juicy palate with raspberry and cherry notes wrapped in balanced tannins, judicious oak and a lengthy finish. A very stylish and well integrated, value priced Pinot . $24.00 91 pts.
• Black Cloud Pinot Noir Altostratus 2011. Bradley Cooper (also winemaker at Serendipity) and Audralee Daum’s virtual winery’s sole focus is Pinot Noir. Altostratus ‘11 sports dark berry notes and spicy hints up front with a very smooth, fruit forward entry, supple palate of dark cherry, mulberry and earthy hints, underpinned by firm acidity, with an elegant, lingering close. Distinctive Okanagan Pinot—but it also reminds me a little of Martinborough. Black Cloud is having some challenges these days, as (for whatever reason) BC Liquor Control and Licensing seems to be cracking down on this model. “We pulled our site (www.blackcloud.ca) awaiting direction and guidance from authorities,” says Cooper. Never mind, you can find the wine in private stores around town. And if you really want to spoil that BC wine lover sign them up for the Cloudy Day Club, which delivers three times a year. Or, buy them a magnum. Call 778-476-1655. $35, 92 pts.
• Maverick Estate Rubicon 2012. A relative newcomer to the South Okanagan landscape, however, there’s no shortage of expertise—and mature plantings—behind this family owned winery, that in the hands of winemaker-owner Bertus Albertyn consistently over delivers. Deep garnet in the glass before a palate of peppery red and black fruit, with velvet plushness from Cab Franc and structure from Cab Sauv, before a lengthy end. Truly a well balanced blend that offers great value at $25, 92 pts.
• Stag’s Hollow Syrah 2011. Distinctive, varietal earthy gamy and blackberry aromas, with a soft, elegant entry before a palate of black fruit mingled with some smoky hints and assertive tannins. Hand picked and co-fermented with 8 percent Viognier; aged ‘sur lie’ for 17 months. Inspired by Saint-Joseph but very much Okanagan in style, says winemaker Dwight Sick. Again, superb value—at $25, 92 pts. Consider a case…
• Seven Stones Row 128 Merlot 2011. Driving along Highway 3A, Blink and you might well miss George Hanson’s beautiful winery, just east of Cawston, which has become a Similkameen standard-bearer. If you’re in the area, drop by to be amazed by his newly built cellar. This intense Merlot (Hanson dropped 60 percent of the fruit) sports aromas of black cherry and leather followed by a plush and plummy palate, with mocha hints—and that distinctive Similkameen mineral streak, before a lengthy, polished finish. $25, 92 pts.
Oh, and I am going to sneak in a white, here, just to be polite—but again a distinctive wine as befits the company.
• Terravista Figaro 2013. Bob and Seneka Tennant were part of team that founded Black Hills but nowadays they own Terravista Vineyards—and make only two wines, using a handful of white varieties. They describe Figaro, a Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne blend (just released) as their “winter white”. This, surely, is one of the Okanagan’s most unique, interesting and worthy—also value priced—whites. Aromas of white flower and peach, mouth-filling and generous but not clumsy, it coats the palate with elegant viscosity, showing orchard and stone-fruit notes with a gentle nutty hint, before a vibrant, fruity but clean finish. They say try it with Thai style chowder, roasted ling cod with caper sauce, or simply seasoned roast chicken—and we couldn’t agree more! $23.90 91 pts.