So you’re a big fan of British Columbian wine but Gewürztraminer is making you gloomy, or you’re feeling “meh” about Merlot? There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the norm around these parts, as many wineries have been increasingly creative and occasionally audacious with wine styles and varieties that often stray from the pack.
Shall we start with a little bubble?
Stoneboat’s Bubble Boat Brut ($15.99) out of Oliver eschews the typical Chardonnay or Pinot Noir composition of many sparkling wines, instead employing a frisky, aromatic blend of Schönburger, Kerner, Pinot Blanc, and Müller-Thurgau. What happens when you grow these cool-climate varieties in South Okanagan heat, have the initial ferment age on lees for a couple of months, and then have it go through a bubble-inducing second ferment in tank? Well, you get swept away with tropical notes of pineapple, papaya, and plantain, all bright and fizzy with elegance and cheer.
About 20 minutes south, in Osoyoos, we find a sense of adventure and whimsy at Moon Curser, and it has existed since the winery’s inception as Twisted Tree more than a decade ago. At that time, it cheekily added Carménère (the long-lost Bordeaux variety experiencing a Chilean renaissance) to its Six Vines blend, which was quite the departure from other British Columbian Cabernet- and Merlot-centric odes to the red blends of Bordeaux.
It kicked things into high gear after its rebrand to Moon Curser Vineyards in 2011, adding a host of varieties rather uncommon in our region. I appreciate the sense of playfulness here, but that playfulness has never been at the expense of crafting wines of integrity. Moon Curser’s Arneis 2016 ($22.52) puts the variety on a proper pedestal, even though it’s more at home in northern Italy, known for flinty, floral, and citrusy character. Take all those elements here and add some extra fresh-squeezed lime, a hint of salinity, and juicy acidity and you are primed for that next sip.
On the red side of things, Moon Curser Dolcetto 2016 ($23.39) is another northern Italian variety, here with plum pudding and balsamic aromatics, loads of crunchy red and purple mineral-driven fruit on the palate, and a sweet lift of spearmint toward the end. That minerality is echoed in Moon Curser Carménère 2015 ($37.30), but with a little more oomph; it’s drenched with black berry fruit, fresh anise, bay leaf, and a touch of spice on the finish. A charmer begging for grilled meats or charcuterie.
Heading back north to Okanagan Falls, Stag’s Hollow has also been gaining a reputation in recent years for expanding both wine styles and varieties beyond the status quo. For a couple of tasty examples, look no further than Stag’s Hollow Grenache 2016 ($25.99)—an opulent, purple wonder with heaps of Coronation grapes, mulberries, and fresh sage—and Stag’s Hollow Hart 2013 ($27), a fortified Merlot aged two years in oak, resulting in an Okanagan spin on a traditional port. Either of these will suit the season well.
Over at Quails’ Gate, winemaker Nikki Callaway has just released Quails’ Gate Cailleteau Gamay Nouveau 2017 ($19.99). This delicious and juicy berry-driven wine (with a tiny pinch of white pepper) is a nod to the Beaujolais Nouveau wines of France, which see the grapes harvested, processed, and bottled in a short time period, offering a first look at the most recent vintage. Do serve with a bit of a chill, and ensure you have a backup bottle at the ready.
Finally, some alternative approaches may be subtle but can lead to more sweeping efforts across the province. Often, our takes on Bordeaux reds involve Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Sometimes they’ll be rounded out by a smattering of Malbec and/or Petit Verdot, blend components we also see in that hallowed region of France. In recent years, we’ve seen some local wineries toss a little Syrah into the mix, which often adds a smidgen of pepper and meatiness to a blend, something I’m often a fan of. I’ve noted this percentage has climbed from single digits to a significant fraction of these sorts of wines during the past few years, which made me do a double take at another riff on Bordeaux I recently came across.
Pentâge Winery’s Hiatus 2013 ($23) starts out with the quintet of traditional Bordeaux red grapes, but then they’re rounded out by a small splash of Tempranillo, the famed variety from Spain’s Rioja region. Brambly forest-floor character is abundant on both nose and palate, with currants, dried leaves, and a few fresh French herbs bringing plenty of character.
There’s also a wee bit of a plummy tobacco character fleshing things out. That could be the typicality of Tempranillo or it could be the power of suggestion. For such a complex, enjoyable wine at this price? I’m happy regardless.
Prices listed are winery-direct; expect them to be a few bucks more at private wine stores around town.More