Sunday, April 18, 2010

Naramata Bench Spring Release - Part 2

Part 2 of our coverage of the 2010 Naramata Bench Spring release trade tasting:

Lake Breeze Vineyards
Lake Breeze has a full flight of wines including reds, blends and a premium "Seven Poplars" line but it's their whites that have made them a 'must' to visit on the Naramata Bench. Of course, their sun-drenched patio bistro helps too.

2009 Gewurztraminer - $17.99
The Lake Breeze Gewurztraminer is all about the balance of acidity to fruit concentration to residual sugar and they handle this beautifully. Classic lychee fruit, floral notes and spice. 90pts

2009 Pinot Blanc - $16.99
A light, tasty treat of a wine. Light citrus and orchard fruit on the light nose with solid fruits on the palate. Touch of residual sugar with a long finish. 89pts
Full Review

2009 Pinot Gris - $17.99
Nice touch of toasty oak balanced with crisp acidity. Smooth, full mouth feel with a long finish. 88pts

2007 Seven Poplars Pinot Noir - $24.99
Aromas of caramel cream, red berries and earthy notes on the nose. Palate is warm and smooth with both fruit and earthy flavours. Good tannins and acidity but with a bit of an aftertaste. 86pts.

Laughing Stock Vineyards
David and Cynthis Enns have created a winery known as much for its clever branding as for the wines they produce. That is not to say solid craftsmanship isn't at work. It is. Beyond the branding are some very good wines.

2008 Chardonnay - $26
A major oak butter-bomb that may be tough for the ABC crowd but for Chardonnay lovers who like toasty aromas and cream on the palate along with their fruit and minerality. Good complexity. 89pts

Poplar Grove Winery
The Naramata firm has one of the best views of Okanagan Lake (and the bench). They have lovely wines and cheeses to match the view. Second label, Monster Vineyards, makes quality wines closer to the $20 price point where as the Poplar Grove red wines can get pricey.

2008 Chardonnay - $22
Only 17% oaked but that 17% goes a long way to add toasty notes and creamy texture to this tasty Chardonnay. Good complexity of flavours with orchard fruits, minerality and citrus acidity. 88pts

2006 Cabernet Franc - $35-40
A great example of one of BC's increasingly popular red varietals. Cabernet Franc ripens well in BC and avoids green aromas and flavours. This dark garnet coloured wine has a big nose and palate to match. It has been well aged at the winery and tastes sublime. 91-92pts

2006 Legacy - $50
Merlot-heavy Meritage blend (think Bordeaux's Right Bank) with a good amount of Cabernet Franc which shows nicely on the nose and a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon. An absolutely lovely wine that has been built to age. 92-93pts

Therapy Vineyards
The 2009 vintage white wines are the first to be released that were solely under the direction of Therapy's new winemaker Steve Latchford. We'll be watching the firm's progress with its new talent eagerly. In the past the clever marketing has, on occasion, been more charming than the wines. Their impressive Merlot shows promise.

2009 Freudian Sip - $18.99
A pleasing white blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Viognier and Muscat delivers bright fruit flavours on the palate and nose with a touch of honey notes. Off-dry with a medium finish. Could use a bit more acid to truly round out the balance. 86pts

2008 Chardonnay - $23.99
A full-bodied oaked Chardonnay with good crispness. Citrus notes and ripe orchard fruit flavours with toasted oak and butter notes. Wet stone minerality adds complexity. 87pts

2008 Merlot - $25.99
Great tannins and texture are a happy surprise with this Merlot that tastes of chocolate and dark berries. Wine lovers who find Merlot boring should definitely give this one a try. 88pts

2007 Freud's Ego - $15.99
Recently discounted down from $20, this is a bargain Bordeaux blend that needs food to bring out the flavours. On its own it falls a bit flat. 85pts

Van Westen Vineyards
Winemaker Robert Van Westen makes all-natural, no additive, no nonsense wines. He doesn't filter or manipulate in anyway. This produces wines that can be very exciting and even a bit intimidating with strong tannins on the palate (that is the case for his red blend called Voluptuous - but we love it all the same). This Spring he has three new whites on offer and each one is impressive and worth a taste.

2008 Vino Grigio - $18.90
This is Pinot Gris done as an Italian Pinot Grigio which is to say un-oaked and full of fruit intensity. A perfect wine for a hot deck on a sunny day - very refreshing. 88pts

2008 Vivacious - $18.90
Two words describe this wine accurately: "Yum" and "Eee". Actually, you can't improve on the name. Pinot Blanc never tasted so complete and fulfilling - it does have a touch of Pinot Gris added to help round out the flavour and texture. Excellent fruit concentration. 89pts

2008 Viognier - $24.90
Definitely one of the best Viognier in the Provence currently on offer. This varietal is growing in popularity and anyone jumping on the bandwagon should try Robert's. Good crispness of citrus acidity with a healthy nose and full-ish palate of tropical fruits. 90pts

In a very general conclusion, the Naramata Bench Wineries Association's Spring release event was highlighted by some incredible 2009 vintage whites. Not to say there aren't some fantastic reds coming out, but the '09 whites stole the show. The long , hot Okanagan summer of 2009 seems to have produced intense aromas and flavours and allowed for full ripeness on the early ripening white varietals. A sudden and strong Fall frost may have caused some problems for 2009 vintage reds, time will tell.
- By Liam Carrier

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