High-end wines prove B.C. can do big reds

    1 of 4 2 of 4

      We’re going out with a bang, here at the tail end of 2017, with five heartily recommended, high-end, big B.C. reds.


      Black Hills Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

      Okanagan Valley, B.C.; www.blackhillswinery.com/

      From the winery behind the iconic Nota Bene Bordeaux-style red comes their first-ever single-varietal Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve just had a sneak preview of it (it’s not being released until next year), and it’s very good.

      It’s a limited-edition wine, such a rarity that the only way you’ll be able to get a bottle is by becoming a member of their wine club. The aromatics are full of toasty gingerbread and black fruit with fresh leather notes, a little balsamic reduction, and a hint of sage.

      On the palate, that black fruit gets rather showy with blackberries, currants, and plums. Very good concentration, and the tannins are already folding in well. Check out their website to see wine-club options, and you can be at the front of the line for various exclusives like this, plus other fun opportunities.


      Clos du Soleil Estate Reserve 2013

      Similkameen Valley, B.C.; $59.90, www.closdusoleil.ca/

      This gem of a winery in the windswept Similkameen Valley constantly raises the bar, vintage after vintage. Winemaker Michael Clark is methodical and precise in his stewardship of their biodynamically farmed vineyards, and he doesn’t miss a beat when making well-built whites and reds in the winery.

      We have all five of the main Bordeaux red varieties here: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Fresh-cracked black peppercorns and violets dominate the nose, and then the silky, juicy palate is loaded with blueberries, blackberries, and dark chocolate, with fresh minerality and well-woven tannins.

      Although the 17 months spent in French oak may give some people pause, the wine is by no means overoaked: it’s a perfect balance of toasty baking spices holding everything together.



      Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2011

      Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $94.99 for 1.5 litres, B.C. Liquor Stores

      The Osoyoos Larose brand has been going strong since 2001, the first vintage of what was then a partnership between Groupe Taillan of Bordeaux and Constellation Brands of Canada. It’s now under full ownership of Groupe Taillan, maintaining a goal of making one of the best Bordeaux-influenced wines in Canada. The current release is the 2014 vintage, but I find these wines are much better after they have a few more years of development on them.

      Fortunately, you can still find some of the well-balanced 2011 edition at B.C. Liquor Stores in town, and as an added fun factor, it comes in a 1.5-litre (or magnum) format. For those who want to go all out, there’s also a handful of three-litre bottles coming in at $191.99. The best supply by far is at the 39th Avenue and Cambie Street location, and what a festive addition to New Year’s Eve parties these would make. All five Bordeaux red varieties are in here, too, with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon taking the lead, then a smattering each of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec rounding things out.

      Cradled in new and one-year-old French oak, there’s plenty of earthy dark berry fruit and forest-floor notes on the nose, with some tasty smoked-meat elements on the palate, along with sun-dried tomato, cloves, and a hint of basil. Well-integrated and drinking wonderfully.


      Painted Rock Red Icon 2015

      Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $47.79, www.paintedrock.ca/

      The Red Icon is the star of the show at this Skaha Bench winery, a Bordeaux-inspired blend that swaps up the balance of varieties each vintage. This vintage is Merlot- and Cabernet Franc–dominant, with 18 months spent in 30-percent- new French oak.

      This vineyard, which used to be the largest apricot orchard in the British Commonwealth, is on the east side of Skaha Lake, allowing optimal exposure for late-day sun and ideal ripeness in the fruit. The wine has been turning the heads of international critics for years, and it’s easy to see why.

      Plush black fruit and red currants are met by Provençal herbs, dark chocolate, and fresh-carved roast beef, along with just a hint of spicy peppermint on the finish. Tannins are nice and ripe, too; you can drink it now or lay it down a few years.


      Quails’ Gate “The Connemara” 2015

      Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $59.99, www.quailsgate.com/

      Quails’ Gate’s Stewart family and tiptop winemaker Nikki Callaway made only 10 barrels of this fancy-pants nod to Bordeaux, so you best be on it; they’re likely to sell out fast. Forty percent Cabernet Franc, 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and 30 percent Merlot come together in polished, fine form. Purple fruit like mulberries and Italian plums is nice and lively, carried by a current of mocha and sage, with enough light but grippy tannins to make it ideal with anything grilled and meaty.

      Impressive outings by all. It’s hard to believe it was fewer than 20 years ago that there seemed to be a consensus among locals that “B.C. can’t do big reds.” It’s nice to see how far we’ve come and that both locals and those from faraway shores are taking note.