Keeping up with the rapid evolution of the British Columbian wine industry can be quite the challenge, with new wineries and ventures popping up seemingly every other week. Of course, it’s exciting to keep up with all these new and shiny entities. In these pages alone during the past couple of years, I’ve shared my enthusiasm for the stunning sparkling wines at Summerland’s Lightning Rock Winery, Michael Shindler bringing the noise with his A Sunday in August bottlings, and the rigour and whimsy of the Gamays, Pinot Blancs, and various other treats under Jody Wright and Costa Gavaris’s, well, Rigour & Whimsy label.
As the saying goes, though, the classics never go out of style, and when considering the short history of modern B.C. wine, it’s impressive to me that many pioneers, the icons, are still going strong. Decades-old outfits like Mission Hill Family Estate, Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, and Summerhill Pyramid Winery are at once innovators and mainstays, all of them still offering quality wine while forging new stylistic or philosophical paths as many vintages pass.
I would be remiss to omit Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars from these considerations. The Mavety family have been growing grapes in Okanagan Falls since the 1970s and began releasing well-lauded wines with the 1991 vintage. Their entries from the Pinot family (Blanc, Gris, Noir) and Chardonnays, along with an array of sparkling wines, have been coveted and enjoyed by many for decades now. When it comes to value, they’re some of the best offerings in B.C.
Can their 2017 Chardonnay really be priced at a mere $20.90? True story.
Sister and brother Christie and Matt Mavety, the second generation now at the helm of things, have kept the family vision of elegant and complex quality wines made from estate fruit, and they certainly aren’t resting on any laurels. As the industry at large is learning about the unique attributes of newly established official subregions in the Okanagan—like the Golden Mile Bench and the Naramata Bench—the Mavetys have looked at their Okanagan Falls subregion (which only became official just last year) and have drilled down even further.
We know that the area—with its complex soil structure and annual heat accumulation—like that of Burgundy, is well-suited to Pinot Noir, a variety many consider to be at the pinnacle of Blue Mountain’s production. Those rolling hills of vineyard plantings that make for a postcardworthy view also make for unique expressions of Pinot Noir, dependent on slope, aspect, and soil. Although the various microlots make for incredible blends, Matt Mavety has vinified and released wine from three individual blocks, which makes for a fascinating comparison study. All three were made the same way, a 16- to 20-day maceration, fermented with indigenous yeast, and aged in French oak. These are limited-edition wines that would make for a fantastic dinner party and are quite conversationworthy.
Blue Mountain River Flow Block 23 Pinot Noir 2017
From 25-year-old vines planted on an east-facing slope tilting toward a northern exposure, the sandy loam soils here bring us a delicate style of Pinot Noir, with aromatics of white truffle and matsutake mushroom leading to vibrant, fresh red berry fruit on the palate, with light echoes of cardamom and clove on the finish.
Blue Mountain Wild Terrain Block 09 Pinot Noir 2017
The technical sheet on Blue Mountain’s website refers to this block of 20-year-old vines as “the most extreme and varied topography of the Pinot Noir blocks, from steep slopes exposed to the wind to sun-drenched, flatter plains over loamy sand”. South-southwest exposure means plenty of sun, which comes through as a more generous, riper take on the variety. Raspberries and blackberries mingle with red and black currants, and there’s a good smattering of fresh French herbs on the lengthy finish.
Blue Mountain Gravel Force Block 14 Pinot Noir 2017
This is clearly the best-named wine of the trio, and it is indeed more of a rugged style. Thirty-year-old vines facing southwest are steeped in rocky gravel, sandy loam, and clay. Quite-ripe black and purple fruit is bolstered by a good crack of mineral character, with well-integrated tannins and well-balanced acidity carrying it from the first sip through the very long finish. In my mind, it’s the showiest of the three Pinots and, I think, the most dynamic of the trio when it comes to food-pairing options. By all means, grill up everything from salmon to steak.
For those looking to enjoy any of these during a night out on the town, I’ve just learned that wine director William Mulholland lists all three at Blue Water Café in Yaletown, where there’s no shortage of culinary pairing opportunities coming out of chef Frank Pabst’s kitchen.
Otherwise, each of them are $54.90 and can be purchased at bluemountainwinery.com/.