Can you remember back 1 year ago to our Spring and Summer? We had beautiful sunny weather across BC. Very little rain. Perfect conditions for our BC grapes to have early bud break and flowering. From the end of May to mid-September statistics show that 2015 was warmer than any other year on record. Because of the sun and heat, veraison (when the grapes turn their acids into sugars) also came early. The grapes were able to reach their full sugar and phenolic ripeness. 2014 was also a hot year, but its heat spikes caused the vines to shut down at times, which delayed when the grapes were ready for harvest. 2015, although hot, did not suffer heat spikes which could keep the vines from shutting down, and allowed the grapes to ripen early.
Overall the harvest dates in BC were early, with most wineries starting 2-3 weeks ahead of normal. The first grapes for table wine were picked by Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate on August 20, which was their earliest harvest on record. The Okanagan wasn’t the only wine region in BC with an early harvest. In the Fraser Valley grape harvest started on August 28 by Vista D’oro Farms & Winery. In the Similkameen Valley, Orofino Winery picked their first grapes on August 24. In Kamloops, at Monte Creek Ranch Winery, their harvest started August 19. FYI, I recently received several bottles from Monte Creek Ranch to review from their latest vintages, so stay tuned for my latest reviews on their wines.
Having an early harvest though is great, but what you do with the grapes also matters. A group of wine makers from BC met with myself and other wine media to discuss the 2015 vintage, and taste some of the white wines produced and soon to be released to the public. We tasted and discussed:
- Harper’s Trail Pioneer Block Dry Riesling 2015, Kamloops
- Harper’s Trail Silver Mane Riesling 2015, Kamloops
- 50th Parallel Estate Pinot Gris 2015, Lake Country
- 50th Parallel Estate Riesling 2015, Lake Country
- Daydreamer Wines Pinot Gris 2015, Penticton
- Daydreamer Wines Riesling 2015, Penticton
- Culmina Family Estate Winery Saignee 2015, Oliver (This one is a Rose)
- Culmina Family Estate Winery Unicus 2015, Oliver (100% Gruner Veltliner)
- Clos du Soleil Rose 2015, Keremeos
- Clos du Soleil Pinot Blanc 2015, Keremeos
What can be said about all these wines? They all showed ripe fruit flavours and had medium to medium plus acidity. The heat from 2015 did not make these wines flabby; the acidity kept the wines fresh, and there was enough sun and heat to give us nice ripe fruit flavours.
Some Wine Notes
If you have not tried wines from Kamloops, or knew there are wineries in Kamloops, Harper’s Trail is the first winery from the region and has been producing nice wines that I have been regularly recommending. Of the two wines I tasted from their 2015, I have to give a slight edge to the Harper’s Trail Silver Mane Riesling. It is a drier wine, compared to the Pioneer Block Dry Riesling. This wine has herbal/mint, and tropical fruit on the nose, with a hint of lychee. Higher acidity; quite tart,with tropical fruit and apples flavours and a hint of chalky minerality. Rating: –
50th Parallel Estate is in an area known as “Lake Country”, which again may not be familiar to many readers. It is the area to the north of Kelowna. Beside 50th Parallel Estate, you would also find Gray Monk and Thursday Ex Nihilo Vineyards there also. Both the Pinot Gris and Riesling I rated very high with 4.5 stars. The wine maker for 50th Parallel Estate is Grant Stanley, who used to be the wine maker at Quails’ Gate for 10 years. The 50th Parallel Estate Pinot Gris had honey, ripe pear and a hint of oak or herb to the nose. It was medium bodied with high acidity. Ripe pears, dried apricots and pepperiness on the palate. A good balance between sugar, acidity and fruit. Rating: Their Riesling had an intense nose with aromas of overripe pears, apples, and light whiffs of pine needles and mandarin orange. It is fuller bodied, semi round, with flavours of stone fruit, in particular apricots, and honey. High acidity. Long length. Rating:
Daydreamer Wines is a small organic, family-run winery located on the Naramata Bench. I have been really impressed with their wines since I first became aware of them about a year ago. Their Pinot Gris has aromas of ripe pears and apples with a hint of oak. Medium bodied, slightly off-dry, semi-round mouth feel; almost silky. Higher acidity, with flavours of ripe pears and apples, and some lemon too hiding in the background. Rating: . This is the first release of their Riesling. It has aromas of green fruits, pine needles, orange, lime and dried apricots. Medium bodied, dry with a round mouth feel. Medium plus acidity. Flavours of peach, pine needles, guavas, limes and oranges, and finishes with honey. An excellent wine that you should buy several bottles and enjoy as this wine ages. Rating:
Next to last we had Culmina Family Estate Winery located on the Golden Mile Bench in the South Okanagan. They offered to us a Rose and a Gruner Veltliner. Their wine maker is Pascal Madevon, originally from Bordeaux in France, and had worked for many years at Osoyoos Larose. The Saignee (Rose) is a blend of 42% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, and 9% Malbec. It had a light nose of strawberries and tart raspberries. Light body and silky mouth feel. Light red fruit flavours with strawberry flavours becoming more evident toward the finish. Higher acidity, which should make this wine pair nicely with our seafood and a nice salad this summer. Rating: . The Unicus (their Gruner Veltliner) was medium golden in colour with very ripe pineapple, yellow plum, apricot, honey, brioche and toast aromas in the glass. It is dry, medium plus body and very round mouth feel. Dried apricots, almost, toast, grape fruit skin and honey flavours. Also quite peppery! A big wine with lots of flesh, but still very elegant. Rating:
Finally to round out our tasting we had a Rose and Pinot Blanc from Clos du Soleil; A winery that follows both organic and biodynamic grape growing principles. The winery is located in the Similkameen Valley. The Similkameen Valley is well-known for its afternoon breeze which keeps temperatures down, compared to the nearby Okanagan Valley. Their Rose, made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes had nice, light intensity aromas of wild strawberries and some rhubarb. Very tart, with raspberries and rhubarb, and a hint of greenness / capsicum. A light bodied, dry wine. Apricot on the finish. Rating: – . Their Pinot Blanc had a very nice nose, with aromas of peaches, apples and spice. High acidity, dry, with a mineral streak and flavours of apples, peaches and ripe pears. Rating:
What about the 2015 red wines? Yes there are going to be some great 2015 BC red wines released, and I will cover those another day. Enjoy these white wines, and try other white wines from BC from 2015. Stock up as they all should be exceptionally good.
Finally what can said for the upcoming 2016 vintage? The temperatures this year are also warm and I was told that bud break is ahead of last year’s date. Keep our fingers crossed that we continue to have nice weather, with sufficient rain at the right time. We shall know for sure about 2016 only after the grapes are harvested and fermenting this Fall. Open and enjoy the 2015 whites this summer and Carpe Diem.