I’ve been tasting Upper Bench Estate Winery‘s wines for the past few years and see the quality in the bottle. The winery, located just outside of Penticton, is owned by wine maker, Gavin Miller, who has been around for several years in the Okanagan making wines for Poplar Grove and Painted Rock, and his wife Shana Miller a cheese maker, and produces the perfect pairing for a glass of wine. They recently sent me their latest wine releases for my review. Overall they are producing solid quality wines in my opinion. You should find a wine below that will suit your taste, whether you are a red or white wine drinker; like oak; prefer soft reds, and more.
My Wine Reviews
Upper Bench Estate Winery Chardonnay 2014 – One thing that I like to note is when a wine maker rolls the dice and undertakes a wild ferment with indigenous yeast. You never are sure what you are going to get, but if it works, you tend to get a wine that has more complex aromas and flavours. This one worked. It has medium intensity aromas of tropical fruit, in particular pineapple, together with a lesser amount of apples, butterscotch and toasty oak flavours. It is dry, medium plus body and flavour intensity. It is silky soft, with round, buttery mouth feel. Tropical fruit, apple, oak and a hint of bitter citrus rind. Medium plus length, with mouth watering acidity, some pepperiness followed by nutmeg spice. With decanting the wine gets a bit softer and you pick up a hint of minerality. A recommended Chard.
Rating: A quality Chardonnay, that you can enjoy on it’s own, with cheeses and charcuterie, or a baked salmon or other fish you enjoy.
Upper Bench Riesling 2014 – Bright medium lemon coloured. Medium intensity nose, with aromas of baby powder, flowers and pears. I really liked the soft, dare I say feminine, aromas from this wine. With decanting you start to get a hint of petrol. The wine has a higher level of acidity together with being fuller bodied and intense in flavour. It is tart, followed by fruit, with flavours of pears, roasted pears, apples, buttered toast, and whiffs of baby powder and honey. Round and almost viscous feeling. Some minerality noticeable with decanting. Medium plus length, with mouth watering acidity, some leafiness, then followed by pear flavours on the finish. A very good wine with lots to offer, but needs food or 3-4 years of aging to be properly enjoyed.
Rating: This wine has lots to offer on the nose and palate, but needs food to balance out the higher acidity, or keep it 3-4 years to mellow out.
Upper Bench Pinot Blanc 2014 – Bright medium lemon in colour. Youthful nose, that shows lees, and a light mix of citrus, citrus rind and stone fruit, in particular peach, aromas. With decanting the wine becomes more fruity with pineapple and stone fruit flavours. Medium bodied, with some roundness. Higher acidity. Medium mouth feel. Flavours of sour green and red apples, pears, and a hint of peach. It has some pepperiness that shows up mid palate and continues to the finish. With decanting the stone fruit flavours become stronger and apple decreases. Medium length with bitter leaf, citrus and pepper on the finish.
Rating: A straight forward wine to enjoy. Maybe give this wine 1-2 years of bottle aging to round out the acidity.
Upper Bench Estate Winery Yard Wine 2013 – A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Deeply coloured, with a mix of ruby and garnet reds. Youthful nose, but has a whiff of cheese curd at the start which burns off quickly, then again is noticeable after a re-taste the next day. Not off-putting, but very interesting as Upper Bench also makes cheese. The nose overall is fresh and fruity with aromas of cassis, red cherries, plums, vanilla, and milk chocolate. Dry, medium body, acidity, tannins and mouth feel. It is nice and round in the mouth and has a light mineral streak. Ripe purple fruits, ripe cassis, vanilla, dark chocolate, and a hint of raspberry. With decanting there was some plum flavour as well. Medium tannins, and mouth watering acidity on the finish. There is also some blackcurrant leaf on the finish and a bit of hotness. I wish the flavour would stay a bit stronger toward the finish, but overall a quality wine to enjoy with blue cheese, burger or any grilled meat.
Rating: This is a good quality wine with nice fruit and some complexity coming through with the mix of grapes.
Upper Bench Estate Winery Merlot 2013 – Opaque garnet in the glass. Quite pronounced nose upon first opening this wine, but it becomes very light with decanting. From first pour from the bottle you get black fruit, ripe cassis, vanilla and hints of raspberry and nutmeg. Full bodied, dry, with a lighter mouth feel. The wine becomes rounder with decanting. It has flavours of dark fruit, ripe plums, cassis, and a touch of dark chocolate and oak. Medium length with fine tannins and mouth watering acidity on the finish. The tannins seem strong with decanting, plus you some bitterness as well.
Rating: This is a red wine that I recommend to enjoy as soon as you open the bottle. No need to decant. Enjoy the black fruit and cassis on the nose and palate.
Upper Bench Estate Winery Pinot Noir 2013 – Darker garnet in colour, but shows a bit of bricking toward the rim. It has medium intensity nose with aromas of tea leaves, allspice, red cherries and a hint of oak. Dry, medium bodied, round; almost silky mouth feel. Light fruit flavours of red cherry and raspberry dance on your tongue, together with sweet spices, and minerality on the tip of your tongue. With decanting you also get some floweriness. The wine has medium length, with firmer tannins on the finish, bitter leaf and light touches of nutmeg and oak. A very elegant wine I really enjoyed.
Rating: An elegant wine with tea leaves and red cherries on the nose, complemented by red cherries and raspberries on the palate, together with a silky roundness.
Where Can I 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.
Bonus – Past Riesling Review
I always think it is interesting to do a comparison of a wine across vintages. I was fortunate to try Upper Bench’s Riesling 2013 last year. Compare it to the 2014 release above. Maybe it will give you an idea of the terroir for the vineyard growing these grapes? I find it a fascinating comparison. Note, I did not look at these notes when I tasted the 2014 vintage.
Upper Bench Estate Winery Riesling 2013 – Medium lemon colour. Medium intensity nose. Aromas of blossom, lees, sweet lemon, lanolin and a hint of green citrus. With decanting I also detected petrol. Dry with very high acidity. Waxy roundness on the palate. Bright citrus flavour followed by ripe pears and stone fruit. Honey and a hint of petrol in the background. The honey flavour becomes more pronounced with decanting. Medium length. Quite tart through to the finish. Citrus, petrol and honey on the finish. I think this wine needs to age 3-4 years, if enjoyed on it’s own, or could be paired with rich food, to cut the acidic edge. Rating:
If that sparked your interest, you can also read about my review of the Merlot and Pinot Noir 2012 and compare it with the 2013 review.