Three woofs for these wines

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      So the story goes that the Major (Ret.), one Hugh Fraser, came west and saw a gorgeous hillside in the South Okanagan not far from Okanagan Falls (all the hillsides thereabouts are gorgeous!) and bought the farm, literally. Planted things, including grapes, and then the dogs came.

      The Major was a bit of an eccentric—he loved dogs more than people (you’ve seen that bumper sticker, right?). He also admired celebrities, from a distance, and liked writing letters to them, letters he’d sign off with “See ya later.”

      In time, the property became known as See Ya Later Ranch, and in more time, after the Major had moved into town and the doggies had all flown to canine heaven, the property changed hands a few times. Eventually the old stone house became a tasting room and the wines of See Ya Later Ranch flew onto the market.

      To considerable acclaim too, the regular varietals and especially the blends. Those are named after the Major’s favourite dogs; we know their names from the tombstones in the doggy graveyard adjacent to the original dwelling.

      Jimmy My Pal 2008 ($16.01)
      A likable little white (the winemakers call it a “friendly sipping wine”, composed of nearly equal parts Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Sémillon. It’s SYL’s “salute to the SPCA”, with 50 cents from every bottle going to the BC SPCA. Easy drinking, soft and simple; well worth the price.

      Pinot 3 2008 ($15.99)
      This may be my favourite sipping one of the past summer. It’s a true mixed breed—the Major had plenty of them—with Pinot Gris (40 percent), Pinot Blanc (35 percent), and Pinot Noir (25 percent). One of the most versatile food wines around, it goes with anything from salmon in a creamy dill sauce, to roast chicken with lemon and rosemary, to pork souvlaki, to dozens of different cheeses. Plenty of really fresh-tasting fruit just bursts in the mouth. It sips just fine all on its own too.

      Nelly 2008 ($16.99)
      Announcing itself with an intense, electric raspberry colour, this follows through with great berry flavours and—why not?—“a hint of watermelon”. This was the summer’s picnic/party sensation around my deck, a luscious blend of Cabernet Franc, Gamay, and Gewí¼rztraminer. Just the thing when you’re doing deli: pâté, prosciutto, salami, baguette, and cheese. Try it with a ripe tomato tart.

      Rover 2007 ($24.99)
      This is a Shiraz-Viognier, that blend much beloved by Australian (and some French) wineries, but barely—there’s only five percent of the white to pick up on some of the aromatic blueberry elements. It was in oak barrels for 18 months, which you can sure taste. There’s also huge spice and a mellow finish that’s going to get mellower over the next two years or so.

      Ping 2007 ($28.01)
      Ping has to count as the flagship red in the SYL portfolio: a Merlot-fronted (54 percent) Meritage in all but name, with 44 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and a smidge of Cabernet Franc. This is a robust, ultra-fruity, bigger-than-life red. It’s perfect for cheese (especially tangy blues) or slow-roasted prime rib and cheesy garlic mash, and is a happy surprise with pasta puttanesca or Roquefort bread pudding. The winemakers insist it will keep happily for up to 70 dog years (that means 10 of ours).

      Chardonnay 2008 ($19.99)
      One hundred percent Chardonnay, fully barrel-fermented, rich and unctuous, and a treat with lobster steamed in a little of the selfsame Chard with fresh tarragon. As Judith Lane, my colleague in these pages, likes to quip, “The perfect popcorn wine!” Try it with olive-oil-poached chicken with green peppercorns, garlic, and marjoram too.

      Chardonnay 2006 ($17.99)
      This was a special “discovery” in the winery cellars and makes a fascinating comparison with the current vintage—satisfying for solo sipping, rich and hearty because of the age, more oak-edged, full and deep, and only at the winery. A phone call last week, just before writing this column, confirmed there was still some in stock, so plan your early autumn Okanagan jaunt.

      Semillon 2007 ($22.99)
      It starts with an oh-so-slight-but-beautiful touch of bitterness. Then there’s a surface layer of elegant yeastiness before big pear components kick in, and a delightful softness opening up into a won’t-quit finish. This is Sémillon in the classic French style, and it would welcome some ripe Boscs baked with black pepper and drizzled with honey. I’m thinking Best of the Year ranking here.

      Pinot Noir 2007 ($22.99)
      The requisite bright cherry fruit makes for a fresh and lively, round and hinting-at-sweet Pinot, totally Burgundian and soft but spicy in the mouth. Although it spent a year and a half in French oak, the effect is very mild and nicely restrained. I don’t usually do cheese with Pinot Noir, but there it was—Crí¨me de Saint Agur and smoked Balderson with Wasa crispbread.

      Pinot Noir 2004 ($24.99)
      Found this in the cellar and dragged it up for comparison. (It’s now only available at the winery.) It’s still rich and lively, and maybe even fruitier than the youngsters. Served it with a new-to-me cheese from Wisconsin called Sartori Reserve Raspberry BellaVitano.

      Ehrenfelser Icewine 2006 ($50.01 for 375 millilitres)
      Wrapped things up with this one, and what is there to say? You either love the stuff or not; I love it when it’s good and fruity (not all icewines are, and let’s not even talk about that stuff in certain airport duty-free shops). Excellent acidity, fine fruit; not so much a dessert wine as a dessert, period. Yeah, have it with ice cream if you’re a hedonist.