Spring is in the Glass – 2011 BC Wine Releases

vineyard view down to the lake from Summerland's Okanagan Crush Pad

Some people recognize spring by budding flowers, baby goats or society’s shift from sweaters to shorts. My cue, however, is the flood of local wine releases. Bright whites and alluring roses are hitting the shelves and overflowing my glass, and near daily portfolio tastings are filling my tasting logbook twice over. It’s an abundant of riches, when the majority of whites and roses from the previous vintage are bottled and released (the reds, generally needing more time in barrel or tank, are held back until the fall or following year). I’ve been very impressed by the BC 2011 vintage so far, and more so with the winemakers and vineyard managers who made the most out of a challenging year.

The cool spring and late start to the summer warmth pushed the start date of harvest back almost 2 weeks. After one of the coolest and wettest summers on record, the 2011 BC grape harvest began last September 15 in the southern Okanagan, after a grace-saving three weeks of warm weather at the end of August/early September. The northern Okanagan and Similkameen didn’t even start harvesting until early October. The waiting game can be nerve-wracking, but it seems to have paid off in the glass, and while there may be less juice, the quality is high. The released whites and roses that I’ve tasted have a pure, focused and linear nature, and the red barrel samples appear the same. According to winemaking veteran, Tinhorn Creek Winery’s Sandra Oldfield, the reds achieved phenolic ripeness in advance of sugar ripeness (Brix). As grape sugars translate into alcohol, lower Brix means that the alcohol is kept moderate, while the grape’s flavours (phenolics) are developed and complete. Fortunately for us, lower alcohol wines are where the market is driving, and BC’s 2011 was perfect for it.

Here are a few tastes from the 2011 vintage around BC:

Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery Gewurztraminer 2011, Creston. $17.99. 12.5%

Delicate floral perfume, rosewater and subtle spice. Touch off-dry, mellow mouthfeel, low, soft acid.


Fort Berens Estate Winery Riesling 2011, Lillooet. $17.99. 13.6%

Intense flinty spice, anise and herbal nose, with lychee, lime flavours and green apple finish.


Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2Bench White 2011, Oliver. $22.99. 12.5%

Well-knit and co-fermented blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Semillon, Muscat. Lovely pear perfume and complete mouthfeel, with sage herbal and peach skin finish.


Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Sunrock Vineyard Shiraz 2011, Osoyoos. $35. 13.5%

Though just a barrel sample, the freshness of this BC staple wine impressed. Bramble spice, sweet cassis, medicinal warmth, black pepper and clove.


Sandhill Hidden Terrace Pinot Gris, 2011, Oliver. $18.99. 13.5%

This is the inaugural release from this brand new vineyard for Sandhill, up on McIntyre Bluff 330 feet above the Okanagan River. Hidden Terrace Vineyard has just 3 year old vines, but expresses melon, apple, pineapple and pear  notes, with a mineral herbal finish and vibrant aced.


Mission Hill Family Estate Winery Five Vineyards Rose 2011, $14.99. 12%

Off dry with sweet strawberry jam, bright candied cherry-berry acidity and a zingy finish.


CedarCreek Estate Winery Riesling 2011, Kelowna. $17.90. 10.8%

Very impressive showing from CedarCreek’s new-ish winemaker Darryl Brooker. Picking on flavour, not numbers, this wine resulted with 10.8% alcohol, 12.2 grams of acid per litre and 18.45 grams of residual sugar. A very cool and long fermentation (61 days!) resulted in a very concentrated Riesling with perfumed gooseberry, grapefruit and racy lime sherbet notes, with a complete and balanced mouthfeel and very long finish.


Over the coming days and weeks I will be sharing more of my favourite BC releases in DRINK. You can taste many of these new releases yourself at some of these upcoming events:

Naramata Bench Spring Wine Release Event: April 24

21 Naramata Bench Wineries are heading to Metro Vancouver for their Annual Spring Wine Release Event on Tuesday, April 24, 6:30 to 9:00 PM, at the River Market in the heart of New Westminster. Guests will experience the year’s first wine releases paired with delicacies from restaurants from Metro Vancouver including the Hamilton Street Grill and Hart House Restaurant, and Naramata’s own Hillside Bistro. The Naramata Bench Wineries are known for presenting their wines in fun and dynamic ways and this year’s Spring Release is no exception. www.naramatabench.com


Uncork Your Palate 2012: Victoria Conservatory of Music: April 26

The Victoria Conservatory of Music and the Naramata Bench Wineries invite you to Uncork your Palate: an evening of wine, food, and music at Victoria’s historic Crystal Garden. Winemakers will be on hand with new spring release wines, paired with treats from some of Victoria’s finest eateries – and accompanied by some of Victoria’s best young musicians. Tickets are $95 per person and can be purchased by calling 1-866-386-5311, and at the Victoria Conservatory of Music. www.naramatabench.com


BC VQA Spring Release at BC Liquor Stores

This May over 20 BC Liquor Signature Stores will feature four new BC VQA wines each month, as limited time offerings. To augment the BC VQA Spring release tastings, Wines of British Columbia have partnered with Edible Canada to bring a truly local tasting experience at the flagship BC Liquor Store located at 39th and Cambie St. From 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM on Friday, May 25, Sommelier Kurtis Kolt will be on hand to take you through the featured wines and parings.

Similar events are taking place throughout BC:

BC Liquor Store – Orchard Park, Kelowna May 12, 2:30 PM – 5:30 PM

BC Liquor Store – Fort Street, Victoria May 19, 2:30 PM – 5:30 PM

BC Liquor Store – Park Royal, West Vancouver May 26, 2:30 PM – 5:30 PM


Spring Okanagan Wine Festival: May 3 to 13

With 6 signature events and more than 100 events held over ten days, the Spring Okanagan Wine Festival kicks off May 3rd with the Best of the Best Spring Wine Awards Reception. From a “Gone With The Wine” murder mystery (See Ya Later Ranch) to the ever-popular “Bacchanalia” celebrating all things food and wine, this year’s Festival promises to add a little Spring to your step. More information – including the event calendar and how to purchase tickets – can be found at the Okanagan Wine Festivals website. www.thewinefestivals.com


Find out more about vintage 2011 on Wines of BC website – www.bcwine.com.

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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