We’re approaching the end of the year, the time when we round up and revisit the Best of the Year wines from the past 12 months of tasting. This is the sequence: today, domestic white wines; next week, domestic reds; then imported whites followed by imported reds; as we swing into January, mixed cases, both imports and domestics; and finally, brews, spirits, and the occasional oddity.
While some of the products may no longer be available, they were all flagged at one time or another as being exceptional and worthy of consideration. If you acted on the recommendations at the time, you’ve probably spent a fair bit of money, but your taste buds will have been amply rewarded.
Black Hills Viognier 2009 ($29.90)
A new addition to the small and slowly expanding portfolio of this legendary winery, it smells like Viognier even though it doesn’t taste like any other Okanagan Viognier—it’s very sharp and crisp and citric, totally intriguing. The producers have been touting it as the driest Viognier in B.C. See what you think.
Blasted Church Hatfield’s Fuse 2009 ($17.99)
A solid favourite in this corner since the first vintage appeared years ago. Abundant floral and citrus aromas and flavours overlaid with a sheen of green apple. The price is just right, the rewards plentiful, the food-matching possibilities endless.
Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2009 ($25)
A heady and voluptuous Chardonnay with just the right hint of oak to lend it a delicious back-of-the-palate taste and a lengthy finish. The previous vintage won bronze at this year’s B.C. Wine Awards; watch this one go higher next year.
Calliope Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($16.99)
Not since John Weber’s Orofino version has there been such a fabulous new Sauvignon as the one from this brand-new Burrowing Owl sub label. Beautiful and mellow pear aromas with a perfectly applied dab of oak; only 535 cases were released. Treat yourself to one of them if there’s enough left—you’ll enjoy it for the next two summers. The price is a steal. Avocado and crab, potted shrimp are waiting for it.
CedarCreek Ehrenfelser 2009 ($18.90)
Whatever it is CedarCreek is doing with their aromatic wines this vintage (and last), it’s something quite magical. This is state-of-the-art Ehrenfelser from a grape that is often mishandled in B.C.: either too sweet or too strident. As Goldilocks learned, this is just right.
Herder Pinot Gris 2009 ($16.99)
One of the best buys in Pinot Gris available right now (assuming it is still available; the Keremeos winery never produces very much of anything). Rich, creamy, full of fruit and easy acidity, this is a dinner wine so hearty and versatile it’ll do you for oyster stew to crab quiche, asparagus soufflé to apricot-baked chicken, and several hundred more.
JoieFarm A Delicate Balance Riesling 2009 ($22.90)
A big favourite in an October 29 Riesling roundup here, it distinguishes itself with, as the winemakers call it, “mouthwatering acidity”. There’s fine fruit that blossoms with a hint of sweetness, making it the right companion to one of my favourite foods, choucroute garnie. ’Tis the season for that—as well as turkey—any day now. Cue Michel Jacob at Le Crocodile.
Martin’s Lane Riesling 2009 ($25, winery-only)
Riesling we do well and abundantly in British Columbia. This is a very special bottle—world-class Riesling assembled by three guys with a mission (and one with the hill upon which it’s built!): Germany’s Fritz Hasselbach, Mission Hill proprietor Anthony von Mandl, and his multi-award-winning winemaker, John Simes. What’s left of the initial 400 cases is anyone’s guess; Riesling lovers came in droves to pick up their supplies over the fall. Mission Hill grabbed a gold and a Best White Wine at the B.C. Wine Awards for their Reserve Riesling. Wonder how this would have shown if they’d entered it?
Nichol Vineyard Naramata Bench Gewurztraminer 2008 ($16.90)
Gewí¼rztraminer is another variety that often goes to extremes in the flavour profile—too much sachet at one end, too much acid at the other. The revitalized Nichol Vineyard has a solid handle on it. This is another one that straddles both camps with a full, mellow, no-spikes taste.
Road 13 Jackpot Riesling 2009 ($29.99)
From the winery’s premium series comes this solid expression of what Okanagan Riesling is all about. Maybe fans of German or Alsatian Riesling won’t love it but it’s right for my palate, good for lots of simply prepped fish. If you want to know how well solidly built Riesling can age, stick a few bottles away for seven or eight years and see.
St. Hubertus Chasselas 2009 ($15.99)
A recent Drink of the Week hereabouts, this is the quintessential raclette or fondue wine. The winery is your best source for this fresh, fruity food wine (it likes salads as well). Something different to dazzle your dinner guests, and at a remarkable price too.
Stoneboat Chorus 2009 ($17.98)
This beautiful South Okanagan blend gets better with each successive vintage. The mix may change from year to year, but it pretty much always includes Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Viognier, Kerner, Mí¼ller-Thurgau, and a dollop of Schí¶nberger. Luscious, full of fruit, and soft, it handles anything, even grilled sausages. Even breakfast!
Township 7 “7 Blanc” 2009 ($18.99)
Solid silver at the B.C. Wine Awards, it’s the only white by Township to medal in this year’s competition; all the rest were reds. A subtle, off-dry blend of Pinot Gris, Gewí¼rztraminer, and Muscat, it’s the ideal foil for spicy Asian foods. Introduce food from your favourite Thai or Chinese restaurant to it before it’s all gone.
Van Westen Viognier 2008 ($24.90)
VW was doing Viognier right out of the chute and continues to deliver the goods when it comes to this increasingly popular Okanagan grape variety. Wonder when they might start blending a little of it with Shiraz, í la Australia. Chill it just a bit and pour it as a welcome wine before you serve dinner. That’s some luscious fruit they’ve got in their little vineyards.