Upper Bench Winery & Creamery is located just outside of downtown Penticton, leading the way into the Naramata Bench. The winery is still fairly new, I believe 2012 was their 3rd vintage, their wine maker, Gavin Miller, has been around for several years in the Okanagan making wines for Poplar Grove and Painted Rock, before striking out on his own. To pair with their wines, his wife Shana Miller learned the art of cheese making, and together they sell what I think is a perfect pairing. I recently received 2 bottles of their recent releases of 2012 Pinot Noir, and 2012 Merlot to taste. Albiet no cheese.
Upper Bench Pinot Noir 2012 ($28)
The grapes for this wine came from two vineyards; one of their own, with 18 year old vines, and the other the Four Shadows Vineyard, adjacent to their property. All the grapes were hand-picked. After fermentation, the wines spent 14 months in oak barrels; 30% in new French oak.
In my glass, the wine was translucent garnet with a hint of purple, going all the way from the core to the rim. On the nose, it was quite fruit forward with lots of ripe raspberries, red cherries, along with vanilla, nutmeg, and a hint of milk chocolate and smokiness. Leading to the palate, it was quite balanced in it’s tannins, alcohol, acidity and fruit. Very tasty with more raspberries, red & black cherries, red currants, and lesser amounts of vanilla, chocolate, and cloves. It finished peppery and a bit astringent, but I think the astringency should mellow out with a couple of years of age. This wine has a lighter mouth feel, and has quite fine tannins, which do not dry out your mouth.
I did re-taste this wine later the same day and also 24 hrs later. The only change on the nose, was the addition of some red currants. On the palate, in my second tasting of the day, there was some minty/herbal flavour that appeared, but it was gone when I tasted it again the next day.
Rating: An elegant wine with raspberry and cherry fruit forward nose and flavours on the palate.
Upper Bench Merlot 2012 ($30)
The grapes for this wine came from their neighbour’s Four Shadows Vineyard and also from the Drunken Dog Vineyard (where do these grape grower’s get names for their vineyards? 🙂 ) As with the Pinot Noir, the wine spent 18 months in oak barrels, but this time 40% of the wine was in new French oak.
This wine was deeply coloured, a mix between ruby and garnet, which extended from the core to the rim almost. Upon first opening the aromas in the class were a little closed, but with some air, opened up. Ripe plums, purple fruit, and a hint of very dark chocolate aromas. It was dry on the palate, but very silky. Medium plus body / mouth feel, and quite mouth filling. This wine, straight from bottle to glass, is very dark and brooding, with very concentrated fruit flavours intermingled, but with some air, the wine does open a smidge, and I could pick out black fruit, ripe raspberries, and black cherries, together with hints of liquorice, dark chocolate, and vanilla. It has a medium plus length with firm, dry tannins on the finish. A well made wine. Tasting this wine the next day, the density of the fruit flavours opened up a bit, and I picked up on violets and plums on the palate. I think this wine is best purchased and given at least 1-2 years of aging before opening and enjoying it with a roast beef dinner one cold, wintry night.
Rating: A well made wine, with very dense fruit flavours, wrapped in a silky mouth feel.
Where to Buy These Wines
If you would like to purchase these wines, you can get them at the winery (170 Upper Bench Road South, Penticton, BC), or online at www.upperbench.ca.