Mt Boucherie or Hester Creek

Tonight is pesto coated boneless chicken thighs roasted with the skin on over white cannelli beans.  The beautiful juices from the chicken drip down from the chicken and flavour the pre cooked beans.  This is being served with tahini crusted sweet potato and garlic coated brussel sprouts that have been roasted as well.

The question!!

2007 Mt Boucherie Merlot or 2006 Hester Creek Reserve Merlot?  What would your choice be?


Because my dinner is still cooking, I found this photo from a food blog and they have a good recipe for a similar dinner that looks just as good.



Can wines from BC age?

Recently we got into a smattering of older BC wines thanks to David Lancelot at Marquis Wine Cellars.  He dug into his cellar and brought out a collection of wines that shared some interesting tales.  Anyone that reads my blog knows I appreciate aged characteristics in wine more than most people.  I believe wines have a story to tell and aging a wine helps lend to its credibility. After all the polish wears off, your left with core fruit, and a great wine can only come from great fruit.

Dusty old bottles

Collecting BC wine has not become mainstream yet, but with time I foresee wines from BC being known for their age-ability. Our natural acidity is essential to the foundation a wine needs for longevity.  Combine that with a quality sense of place and some masterful wine making and we have the beginnings of a world class wine region.

Tasting Notes:

Red Rooster – 1999 Riesling –  Classic Riesling nose with notes of big citrus, mineral, and diesel.  The nose had a good intensity and didn’t give the impression that it had lost any strength in its aromatics.  The palate was focused and detailed with layers of slate, preserved lemon, apple skin and soft long diesel finish.  Still showed crisp acidity in the core of your palate and obvious softening at the edges. Absolutely impressive and would have aged a few more years easily before taking on negative notes.  I had not had the 1999 before and if anyone still has any tucked in their cellar, you are in a for a real treat.

Black Hills – 2004 Alibi – If you have not had the Alibi, a Sauvignon Blanc\Semillion blend, it has always been in the shadow behind Note Bene.  Senka Tennant, the original winemaker, who now has Terravista Vineyards in Naramata, likes her acidity.  She made this Bordeaux white style with a real emphasize on its natural acidity, which has paid off in spades.  The acidity has now softened but attributes to its age ability.  I have had this wine before and its nice to see the bright lemon, grapefruit, and grassy notes evolve into preserved lemon, hazelnut, flint, and straw.  I noticed a few consumers not like the diminished vibrancy and fruit from this wine, but I think it has aged brilliantly and I would be happy to have a few bottles to drink up over the next year.  I don’t think it has much life left as most of the acidity is gone and the secondary flavours are definitely dominant, but impressive none the less.

Dirty Laundry – 2004 Gewürztraminer “Threadbare” – A shy nose that has lost most of its aromatics.  It has taken on very few tertiary flavours and stayed softly focused on its original lychee, chai spice, and apple tones.  I did expect the palate to be softer if not flabby and was pleasantly surprised to see it had softened a bit but not in a negative way yet.  Overall I found the wine struggling to hold on and therefore coming across rather boring.  I do respect where its at, but I would definitely drink this wine if i had any left.  Keep in mind that Threadbare was the driest of the three labels of Gewurztraminer they do.  They also have “Woo Woo” and “Madam” that tend to hold more sugar and I think having more residual sugar would help with the mouth feel and longevity.

Nichol Vineyards – 2005 Syrah Reserve – Big earthy, gamey funk with dark red and blue fruits.  This wine had matured into beautiful complexity backed by layers of smoke and leather.  The tannins had become silky and the acidity has softened, almost too much.  This is a drink now, maybe with a slight chill on it to help it tighten up.  Overall, drinking wonderfully right now.  Question is, how long should this wine have aged for and how does it compare to other regions from around the world producing this grape?  All of this comes back to, what was the wine built for?  Very few winemakers have stood up to say their wine should not be consumed until ____?  Bill Eggert of Fariview Cellars was the first to put a best after date on some of his wine, great idea.  We are still seeing too many of the “one wine fits all” consumer marketing campaign, “Enjoy now and over the next 15 years while enjoying every food item I can legally fit on to this back label.”  The reason for this tangent is I wanted this wine to have a longer life, I wanted to see a wine coming from the oldest Syrah vines in BC to have a longer lineage.  Maybe the heat from 2005 softened too much of the acidity during its growing season and its future was determined before it went into the bottle?  Or maybe the bottle was stored to warm for too long and it prematurely aged over the last seven years.  Regardless, I savored every drop I had as this is its moment.  If you have any at home, its worth trying and if your notes present the wine as younger, then it was just this bottle.  The last time I had this wine it held much more tannic structure against the fruit and bottle age.

Burrowing Owl – 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon – The nose started with some medicinal notes and distinctive bell pepper flavour.  It was backed by jammy plum and chocolate notes and touch of VA (volatile acidity).  The palate was quite thin and a disappointing finish.  There were glimpses of complexity but they always quickly vanished.  I have had this wine several times over the past five years and don’t remember that much greenness in the form of medicinal or bell pepper.  By medicinal I mean a synthetic eucalyptus flavour and a sense of cleaner, almost like an antiseptic.  I know how romantic this sounds, but in very small doses combined with other dominant flavours, it can take a average wine and make it very complex.  In this case the green flavours felt disjunct and wrong, like they shouldn’t be there.  This bottle is obviously a little past its prime, but like I have said, I have had other bottles that show nothing but youthful vigor and amazing ripeness.  I chalk this one up to being an anomaly.

Burrowing Owl – 2002 Merlot – Now this is what I remember.  Powerful, aggressive, dark fruits, leather, and amazing bottle complexity.  This is a great wine with still years left in the bottle.  The presence on the mid palate is still forceful and young with more unraveling to go.  The finish is reminiscent of a good right bank Bordeaux, all that fleshy fruit has transformed into something more because of the oak.  You don’t taste the oak in this wine, you taste the result of the oak and juice working together to be a flavour unique to its own,  true tertiary flavours.  I’m not calling this a Bordeaux style, there is still identifiable new world fruit flavours and beautiful acidity acting as that beacon of light keeping the fruit alive.  A wonderful wine with a wonderful long finish.  If you have any of this at home, you have three or four more years before the lights go out.

Lake Breeze – 2004 Merlot “Seven Poplars” – Of all the red wines in the line up, this Merlot has been taking its vitamins, showing the least amount of age.  Eight years young and barely started to unwind and show off its complexity.  This isn’t the first time I have had an older Lake Breeze red that absolutely impressed me.  A couple years back I cracked a 2002 Cab\Merlot I paid $14 for and it was stunning how complex and youthful it was.  This wine was no exception.  Tightly packed with dark fruits and hints of cocoa powder it still threw a little heat on the finish telling you “I’m not ready yet”.  The finish had a nice jam and almost cooked berry length to it, but overall needed to be decanted for an hour or so to loosen it up.  Very impressive.

Hester Creek – 2002 Merlot Reserve – Nice complexity out of the gate, bottle aged flavours of leather, coffee grinds, earth, tobacco, and dark fruits were all framed in some noticeable oak flavours.  Like an old Toyota, this wine just keeps trucking.  You can feel the transmission is starting to go, but chances are you’re going to get another 100,000km out of it before it dies.  Still showed a bit of tannin on the palate and a decent finish.  I like the way this wine is holding up  and were it is going.  I wish for a bit more polish to the palate, but knowing where this wine came from and how aggressive and tannic it once was, you will see this one on the road for a while yet.

Inniskillin – 2004 Zinfandel “Discovery Series” – The first winery in BC to play with this grape and 2004 would have been the third vintage.  2002 and 2003 were simply labeled as “Bear Cub Vineyard”, and 2004 was the first year they started the “Discovery Series”.  Same wine, just different marketing plan.  I remember doing a vertical with the winemaker (Sandor Mayer) and we looked at 2002 thru to 2007, very educational as you could really taste the weather.  Sandor had kept the wine making relatively similar and you could taste the range of fruit expressions based on the seasons.  More interesting (to me at least) was the way the different years held the oak.  Some vintages integrated the wood with ease while others kept it at bay and separate.  2004 was one of those years that kept the oak at a distance from the fruit.  The nose had an almost plywood tone to it, I was not looking forward to the taste.  My surprise to find this super juicy palate just bursting with bright red berry flavours.  The tannins were not consistent, but rather spotty on your palate and the finish showed the oak flavours I found on the nose but overall, I was impressed with the fruit.  The wine still comes across disjointed as if all the pieces do not want to play together, but impressive with its youthful fruit none the less.

Osoyoos Larose – 2001 “Grand Vin” – The inaugural release of this Merlot dominant blend.  Started with an oak presence again but this time it was more reminiscent of wet wood rather than dry plywood.  You were getting some tertiary flavours like leather, tobacco, and jam and the fruit had an interesting hard candy influence on the wine.  The palate was balanced but I found myself writing down descriptions like boring.  All the pieces were there and nothing was technically wrong or faulted with the wine, it was just getting tired.  I liked the wine, and really enjoyed the finish, just wanted more from it and the oak to be more integrated. My fear is that the frame of oak is going to out last the fruit and acidity.

Hillside Estate– 2004 Muscat Reserve “Late Harvest” – Very muted on the nose, not just for a muscat but for any late harvest wine.  You could pick up a faint honey note and a touch of cooked apple but that was stretching it.   The palate didn’t deliver much more as it had thinned out and become quite nondescript and watery as well.  Overall, past its prime and disappointing.

Stomping Ground – 2005 Riesling Icewine – This wine is from a development project that never really got off the ground as it was stalled by a faltering economy.  They released a few wines like Merlot, Pinot Noir, and a blended white.  The wines were made by consulting winemakers and this Riesling icewine hits you with gobs of sugar on the nose, it almost scares you into thinking the palate is going to be pure syrup, but its not.  Still vibrant with some cooked apple and a touch of lemon on the mid palate, its the burnt sugar finish that impresses me the most.  I believe you can still find this wine on shelves at a few retailers and for the $20 range for a 200 ml ice wine, its pretty good value.

Lang Vineyards– 2003 Riesling “Late Harvest” –  Some nice cooked apple and Christmas spice on the nose but the palate was all over the place.  Thin, tart and sweet at the same time, and a watery finish.  This wine was trying to slide into home base yet all the players have left the field.  Past its prime and not doing well.

See Ya Later Ranch – 2006 Ehrenfelser Icewine – Huge floral, orange, and fruit salad with just a touch of VA.  The palate burst with flavour and brightness and was very balanced and a complete pleasure to taste.  The long finish kept going for minutes and was completely beautiful.  Of all the desert wines tasted this day, this was best of the line up.  Still vibrant and youthful and able to age for another five years quite easily. Wow.

Willow Hill – 2004 Merlot Icewine “Oaked” – Interesting in a good way.  Big strawberry plum jam with nuances of pie crust.  Very expressive and a nose you can keep coming back to.  The palate lacked a bit of acidity but was balanced with a very long finish.  There was an almost port like character to this ice wine and I would say it’s peaking now.  Overall I enjoyed this ice wine and have one left in my cellar.  I will be digging this one out and enjoying with a good cigar.

Lake Breeze – 2003 Pinot Noir “Late Harvest” – Mute nose, not showing much more than some oak and hard candy notes.  On the palate the late harvest took on a liquorish Christmas candy flavour my parents used to set out for the season. The palate was balanced but tired as much of the acidity had dropped.  This wine is unique, odd, and past its prime.

There are so many factors that influence that exact window you experience a wine, that there’s a chance the bottle went through a rough journey and showed different than other bottles stored differently. If you have any of the bottles listed above and they taste the same as my negative notes, then you can be confident the wine is past its prime.  If it tastes different, especially better, then you can be sure it was a bottle issue and not the wine.

What does this all mean?

Basically – Don’t be in such a hurry to consume those BC wines.  Yes, some of them haven’t held up well, but those experiences educate us.  They educate us and teach us to appreciate the good and most importantly the great wines.

Wines from BC can age, we just need to be patient.

Congrat’s to Vista D’oro – the only BC winery to take a medal at the Shanghai International Wine Competition

Almost a thousand different brands from around the world entered the Shanghai International Wine Competition (SIWC) and Vista D’oro’s 2007 fortified Port Style Wine was the only BC wine to take home a medal.

The ONE that started it all! The flagship of Vista D’oro, this fortified walnut wine is a blend of North Okanagan Marechal Foch, Central Okanagan Merlot & Cabernet Franc, Fraser Valley Green Walnuts and Okanagan Brandy. 13 months in French and American oak. This artisanal fortified port-style wine is made from BC’s finest vinifera and hand made in small batches. A truly unique offering.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of trying this wine, stop in at the winery or find it at a local shop near you.  Click here for info.

Van Westen Voluptuous 2007


Classic, classic, classic.  If more meritage blends from BC were built this way, we would get a decent reputation for quality.

Here the problem!!    I recommend this wine, you go out and pick up a bottle or few and you take it home and drink it.  How many of you are going to hold onto this wine for the 5 plus years it needs to show even better?  The statistics say – very few of you.

The wine maker grew incredible fruit, oak aged the wine to give it structure and balance, and deep down knows it will show its best in the future.  Then you have this fundamental reality of business called cash flow.  Having already invested 2-3 years of inventory and production, the wine needs to start earning its keep.  As with the majority of the wineries in the world, very few have the financial capabilities to age their wines till perfection before releasing to the public.  Not to mention the winery would have to charge more for the wine to age it for you.

Here’s the incentive – my crystal ball tells me if you held this wine for at least 3 more years and opened it on a wonderful fall day in 2015 the wine would likely be rated 93+ points.  Would that convince you?

I preach understand your palate.  In other words discover what you like to drink, the more you ask “why” you like it, the more answers will help you define the wine styles you like best.

BC Cabernet Franc – Updated

Cabernet Sauvignon grape cluster, shown by DNA...

Cabernet Sauvignon grape cluster, shown by DNA studies to be a cross of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon blanc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

*I first wrote this blog post a couple years ago and thought it was worth updating. Interesting to see some of the changes and who’s releasing Cab Franc now and for what price!

Is the Cabernet Franc grape the next red wine trend waiting to happen?    Cab Franc has been nominated by many to be the iconic red grape for BC because of its ability to produce wines more complex and intriguing than its big brother Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab Sauv).  As optimistic as that is, Cab Franc only accounts for 8.46%* of all red grape varieties and a mere 4.31%* of all grapes planted in BC.  Compared to Merlot at 34.31%* and Pinot Noir 17.49%* respectively, Cab Franc rank fifth below Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cab Sauv, and Syrah with plantings totaling a mere 391 acres*.

* the 2008 BC Wine Grape Crop Survey

As of the 2011 BC Wine Grape Acreage Report, Cab Franc now accounts for 10.07% of all red grape varieties and 5.24% of total grape production in the province with a total of 517.45 acres.  Still listed in fifth place but catching up to Syrah which only grew by 40 acres in three years.  Cab Franc grew by 126 acres in three years, or averaging over 40 acres a year in planting. At 3 tonnes to the acre that would mean we are growing by 6500 cases a year!!

On the world stage Cab Franc is quietly gaining in acreage and almost ready to jump on the sommelier bandwagon to be the next fad grape.  France is still king when it comes to growing Cab Franc with over 35,000 acres in Bordeaux alone that don’t include acreage in the Loire, Bergerac, or Madiran where there are significant plantings.  I am guessing Italy will start making some noise with Cab Franc as they unexpectedly have over 17,000 acres planted mostly in Fruili, yet there are plantings in Veneto, Tuscany and even as far south as Puglia.  California has about 3400 acres and Washington with almost 1200 acres.  The reaches of Cab Franc even extend into Catalonia Spain, Hungary, and Slovenia.

I’m a huge fan of the grape and believe our micro climates produce an amazing caliber style of wine.  The frustration comes from a lack of consistency in style and not having a long track record to examine from.  I currently count 17 28 30 wineries in BC producing it as a dominant varietal and an unrecorded volume of juice going into blends.

There is a fear when producing Cab Franc that you will end up with too much green character, it is a fine balance between typicity and too much herb flavour in the wine.  It has taken many years to understand the herbaceous notes in Cab Franc as a good thing versus being frowned upon in Cab Sauv, an argument that still exists whether its terrior or under-ripeness.

BC Wineries producing Cabernet Franc

Antelope Ridge – Golden Mile fruit that is built to age. Big Tannins, ageworthy acidity, and a nice earthy complexity.  These wines need 4-10 years to develop into what they were built for. $22  *Should probably be classified under “Wineries that used to produce Cab Franc”, the website has only been “coming soon” for 4 years now?

Blackwood Lane – Has release two vintages with grapes coming from North Oliver and Osoyoos. Good complexity that emphasizes darker fruits, chocolate, and pencil lead. $44 * They actually produced three vintages 2005-2007.  They are still selling the 2007 and it is a brilliant wine.  Note: the original winemaker has since left and if they do release a Cab Franc again, it could have a different style.

Burrowing Owl – Has been making Cab Franc since 1998 with one of the best track records for quality and has been the driving force behind establishing this grape as a contender.  There is a beautiful balance of red fruits and herbs that play against the oak program.  These wines are built for the decade and your patience will be well rewarded with earthy and leathery bottle age and the character of forest floor develops from the herb flavours. $33  *I have had most of thier Cab Franc Vintages and recently reviewed the 2004 here.  The 2009 is now for sale and wonderfully young and austere.

Eau Vivre – This new winery in Cawston released their first Cab Franc.  The fruit came from the Osoyoos Lake East Bench region and shows red fruits with a unique peppercorn and herbaceousness.  Look forward to seeing how they develop. $22 *Good Value

Fairview Cellars – Estate fruit with a good track record dating back to 1999.  Each year the varietal character becomes purer and purer as the fruit ranges from red and blue flavours to leather and coffee and parsley to mint.  The good oak program and pure fruit means these wines are getting more age-worthy each vintage.  Good luck cellaring them as they are also fun to drink young. $26  *Only 280 cases of the 2010 available for $27.  Bill is noting a cooler expression of Cab Franc, lighter in body and lower in alcohol.

Gehringer Brothers – Doesn’t really count in this category but is one of the first in BC to produce a Cab Franc Ice wine and Late Harvest dessert wine.  Strawberry jam on toast sums up the flavour profile on these amazing wines.  Try the late harvest with a spicy charcuterie platter, you’ll love the experience.  *Did not have a website when I first wrote this so I am pleased to provide a link now.  If you haven’t had the Cab Franc late harvest for $16, its a damn good steal and is built to impress.

Hester Creek – Has been making a muscular Cab Franc since the late 90’s.  Recently these age-worthy Reserve wines frame in the dark fruits with leather and coffee tones in a big oaky frame.  Even the older 2002 Reserve Cab Franc is still drinking young and requires another three or four years.  Estate grown fruit from the Golden Mile. $26  *The reserve Cab Franc is now $27 a bottle with a new label.

Herder – two vintages of Cab Franc with a nice red fruit profile.  Subtle complexities don’t show well young but give the wine time and you will be well rewarded.  Hints of coffee and vanilla play well with the sage and cassis flavours.  I look forward to each vintage. $26. *They now have vintages 2006-2008 released as a vertical pack for $300 ($50 each).  A nice addition to any Cab Franc lover.

Hillside – As with many wineries, different winemakers bring different winemaking styles and Cab Franc has been made at Hillside since 2001 and ranged in styles from muscular and age-worthy to herbaceous and easy to drink.  The grapes are from Naramata and I look forward to trying the 2008. $25 *The 2008 is out and has traditional Cab Franc notes but overall the wine felt fabricated, too much juicy fruit and sweet oak.  For the price it will be appeal to some consumers and is quite user friendly, just not for this cowboy.

Peller Estate Private Reserve – The best valued Cab Franc on the market ringing in under $15 and tasting as good as many wines twice its price.  Dark fruits with a range of easy drinking complexities. I believe the grapes are coming from the South Okanagan. $14  *This wine has fallen off the radar.  Not sure how corporate Peller has reorganized, but the Cab Franc that was available in both their family series ($13) and Private Reserve Line (Now $16-20) is no longer to be found.  There is a tier in BC not found in Ontario called the Heritage Series ($14-17).  All in all confusing for consumer.

Pentage – Been producing Cab Franc since 2004 in a very soft yet complex manner.  Noted for its long finish and subtle oak integration, Grapes coming from Skaha Lake District and the South Okanagan. I’m not sure these wines have too much age-ability, but they are sure great to drink young. $28  *Into their 2008 vintage at $26 a bottle.

Poplar Grove – The 2004 Cab Franc is still one of my favourites.  Layers upon layers of complexity wrapped up tightly in silky tannins with a finish that lasted for minutes.  The 2005 was still too young that last time I tasted but I do look forward to trying it again in a couple years. This wine spends 30 months in production before release. I believe its Naramata fruit. $40 *Poplar Grove has Cab Franc going back to 1997 and produces a consistent expression of this grape.  The 2008 is the current release at $35.

Quinta Ferreira – This winery is fun to watch.  Made 105 cases of Cab Franc for 2007 and it was gorgeous, fun, and I look forward to more.  The ripeness of the fruits almost give the impression of sweetness but the soft tones of cedar and vanilla welcome the soft tannins. $26 *They are now onto their 2009 at a whopping 175 cases for $30.  Always a fast seller so get yours quickly.

Sandhill – For some reason this wine flies under the radar, but when you find it, this wine will make a believer out of anyone.  The value, the complexity, the age-worthiness, its got it all.  The grapes are coming from the south part of the Black Sage Bench. $20 *Now this is a vertical I would like to experience, from 1998 – 2009, still ringing in at $20 this continues to consistently be a great value.

Seven Stones – First release was in 2007 and packed full of red fruits and oak with a solid core of herb.  Nice mouthfeel with solid acidity.  All fruit is estate grown in Cawston. $25 *Now onto the 2009 vintage at $28

Sumac Ridge – Another consistent value that has flown under the radar for some time.  Good ripe fruit framed in by lots of oak.  Vintages date back to 1998 and these grapes are coming from Black Sage Bench. $20 *Another vertical I would love to experience as this has always been a single vineyard expression.  The 2009 vintage is out and selling for $21.

Tinhorn Creek – Found some of the oldest vintages dating back to 1997.  The 2007 is showing a softer style than seen in the past as more fruit complexity is coming to surface and the oak  taking a softer back up roll.  Most people consume this wine too young thinking if it inexpensive it won’t last that long.  If anyone has any 2003 out there, you will be well rewarded right now. These grapes are coming from both the Golden Mile and Black Sage Benches. $18  * The 2009 was very impressive this year, offering more of a medium body style with great complexity for $20.

Noteworthy  Wineries that previously made Cab Franc

Golden Mile – released a Cab Franc in 2004 that was beautiful.  Layers of complexity that held a core of herb flavours.  Silky mouth-feel and a lighter color. Used to retail around $18

Hainle – The winery is now Deep Creek, but they were making Cab Franc up until 2003. This wine is still for sale and will be for some time as the price tripled overnight from $27 to $70??? *They still have some 2003 for sale on the website, only $100 now!!

Hawthorne Mountain – Made a great valued Cab Franc for three years from 2002-2004.  Used to retail around $15.  Finished my last 2004 about a year ago and was sad to say goodbye.

Zero Balance – Came out of the gate with a Cab Franc last year that was decent juice for $20.  Good fruit, balanced herb and a slight candy style.  All fruit coming from Naramata. $20 *Has since ceased production.

Since my last writing.

Cassini Cellars – Released thier first Cabernet Franc for the 2009 vintage.  Entering the Cabernet Franc arena with a somewhat heavy hitter at $45 and only 85 cases.  He didn’t mention on the website where the grapes came from but did point out that it spent 18 months in oak with 80% French and 20% American.  He didn’t say how much was new oak and I have not tried this one yet.

*Cerelia Vineyards – A relative newcomer and I should have had them in the first time I wrote this but they have released a 2009 Cabernet Franc that is 100% from the Similkameen.  Good fruit and ripeness and as they tweak their barrel program this could be a Cab Franc to watch. $25

Church and State Wines – Has released a 2009 Cab Franc under their Coyote Bowl Label.  The fruit is coming 100% from Cawston and was matured for 19 months in French Oak with 20% new.  Retailing for $35.

Desert Hills Winery – Is doing more single varietals than they have in the past and the 2008 Cab Franc is a recent addition to the retail line up at $27.

Fort Berens – will be updated shortly

Gold Hill Winery – Come out of the gates strong with their Cab Franc as it has taken a few awards in a short period.  They made 170 cases with grapes near their winery in Osoyoos on the west bench.  Priced at $25 and only 42 cases left at date of this post.

Hiden Chapel Winery – A relative new comer to the Oliver region, they have released a 2009 Cab Franc that is completely unoaked for $22.

Jackson Triggs – I know they have made a Cab Franc Rose in the past but the website indicates I have been sniffing too many wines as there is no record of such a thing.

Le Vieux Pin – A good Tuesday wine for Bill Gates.  I did not include this one in my last writing as they only make 25 cases at $125 a bottle.  Allocated for their wine club program, this wine plays into the opulence of expression as the ripe fruit and soft structure make this wine quite decadent.

Nichol Vineyards – Embarrassed to say I forgot to list one of the oldest producers of Cab Franc in the Valley.  I believe the vintages go back to the mid 90’s??  Just had the 2009 and it was another great example of the varietal that captures a medium body but tightly wound for future enjoyment. 356 cases made for $30.

Red Rooster – I think it was the 2004 vintage they did a Cabernet Frank in an uber small amount as a tribute to their controversial statue they have by their front entrance.  If my memory serves me correctly it was about $50 and for their wine club only.

Silk Scarf – A winery that has been making a bit more noise with the number of awards they are taking.  They have just released a 2008 Cabernet Franc for $33.  I am assuming the fruit comes from the Summerland area.

Spierhead Winery – A relative newcomer to the east Kelowna area, this winery produced only 71 cases of Cab Franc for the 2009 vintage that is currently sold out at $28.  They pride themselves of 100% french oak and aging for 18 months.

Stags Hollow has also jumped into the Cab Franc game with a very solid expression that is also showing well at the competitions.  The grapes are coming from three different vineyards in the South Okanagan and its aged 18 months with no finning or filtering.  Priced at $28 and selling fast.

Summerhill Winery – Produces the only Cab Franc labeled as Organic.  The grapes are coming from Kaleden and the wine spent three years in barrel and one year in bottle before release.  Only 264 cases made at $27. They have been making a straight Cab Franc since about 2002.

Unconventional Wisdom – The alter ego of Elephant Island Winery, they have designed a new label that will focus around Cabernet Franc and Viognier.  They have released 200 cases of a Cab Franc dominant wine called the Naysayers for $25.  Beautiful fruit with some healthy oak, this will age nicely for a few years.

Van Westen – has released a Cab Franc called Vrankenstein, they bottled 145 magnums at $110 each with $10 going to the Children’s Hospital.  Typical to Van Westen Style this red is huge, well structured and built to last.  As wine ages slower in larger bottles this will be a keepsake for years to come.

What does the future look like for Cab Franc? Its positive from a learning perspective.  As growers we are gaining valuable knowledge as to how this grape fits into our soil and climate.  As winemakers we are learning how to approach this grape to create a finished product that offers up world class quality.

Will this grape be the Icon for BC reds?  I don’t think so, or more importantly I don’t think we should have an iconic red, but rather an iconic region.  That is another blog topic.

Geeky Stuff

The Grape and Winemaking

Defined by Oz Clarke Encyclopedia of Grapes pg 44-45 Harcourt Books 2001

Cabernet Franc shares many of the same phenolic and aroma compounds as Cabernet Sauvignon but with some noticeable differences. Cabernet Franc tends to be more lightly pigmented and produces wines with the same level of intensity and richness. Cabernet Franc tends to have a more pronounced perfume with notes of raspberries, black currants, violets and graphite. It is often characterized by a green, vegetal strike that can range from leaves to green bell peppers. It has slightly less tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon and tends to produce a wine with a smoother mouth-feel.

By looking at local research and from other cool climate growing regions:

We know the following:

  • Flowers and ripens earlier than Cab Sauv
  • Winter hardy but still susceptible to winter kill
  • Small berries with looser clusters than Cab Sauv
  • Generally lower pigment and higher acid than Cab Sauv

We are learning:

  • Extended cool temperature pre and post maceration times assists in drawing out further phenolics when the grapes are ripe.  (From 5-60 days)
  • If the grapes are not ripe extended maceration will only enhance the levels of methoxypyrazine and a warmer ferment is needed to extract more fruit dominant flavours.
  • May produce fuller body and higher pigmentation in sandy chalky soils
  • The grape integrates more oak complexity with secondary barrels and a longer slower maturation.
  • How different soil types affect overall flavours
  • Leaf thinning may increase grape skin ripening from direct sun contact

Some dull but interesting reading:


If your a wine lover and have BC Cab Franc experiences you would like to share, please do.

If your a grower or winemaker and have learning experiences, good and bad, you would like to share, please do.

Morning Bay Riesling 2003

Not sure what to expect from a 9 year old riesling made from Morning Bay Winery located on Pender Island, with grapes coming from Orofino Vineyards in the Similkameen. While visiting the winery last summer, they had a few 2003 and 2004 Rieslings in their library section that couldn’t have been any worse than what we tasted in the tasting room so I grabbed one of each.  The 2004 also showed well, but the grapes came from Nk’Mip Vineyards that year.

I poured this wine blind to a bunch of wine geek friends and it was unanimous that this was an older germanic riesling.  Great petrol and mineral with still a glimmer of life left in the citrus core.  What impressed everyone was the long complex finish.  Layers of fruit with touches of oxidization and diesel all working wonderfully together, overall this is yet another great example that we drink our wines way too young!!

Township 7 Syrah 2009

 The Township 7 Syrah 2009 is showing some impressive complexity.  This wine is all about the fruit and tertiary flavours from spending 22 months in French and American oak and now starting to settle into the bottle.  A great expression of BC Sryah, lots of red and plum fruits layered with spice and earthy flavours.  Well made and young and at the price of $25, tuck a few of these away and you will be see even more complexity in the years to come.

Try pairing this wine with a slow roasted leg of lamb and all the trimmings or this summer I will also be having this wine with some homemade porchetta and chimichurri sauce.

Nk’Mip Pinot Blanc 2010

In the last year, Pinot Blanc has consistently been impressing me with its clean lines and focused attention.  You might be thinking WTF are “clean lines”?  When the flavours in a wine are clearly identifiable and there are no parts that smell or taste muddled, then I describe them as having good clarity, or clean lines!  The same thing can happen with food, if you consider a consommé that just bursts with a single flavour or two, great wines should have that focus and ability to layer those flavours so each sniff or taste presents something slightly different and identifiable.

Lack of oak is another reason I think Pinot Blanc is consistently garnering more accolades.  Most winemakers are keeping its process simple and cold.  By processing and fermenting this grape cold and slow you are able to retain many of its pure fruit flavours.  If you must play with oak, the wines I appreciate are the ones that use it sparingly and with caution.  They are using barrels that have had white wine in them for a 2-3 years and only using the barrel for a few months, perhaps with lees, to coax out some texture and weight to the mid palate to balance the natural bright acidity.

Nk’Mip’s Pinot Blanc has been solid for years but the 2010 has an incredible balance of flavours, weight, acidity, and length.  The perfect summer sipper that plays well with lighter seafood dishes, salads, and milder cheeses.  This wine can easily get beat up with big flavours, spices and sugars.  There were only about 100 cases left at the winery but have a look around, you should still find it on retail shelves till early summer.