Recently I was invited to attend a seminar and tasting of Black Hills Estate Winery‘s wines at Chambar Restaurant downtown. Glenn Fawcett, Chief Wine Evangelist, for Black Hills started off the seminar telling us about the history of the winery and then introduced us to their newest winemaker, Ross Wise, who spoke to us about the flight of wines we were about to try and to taste with exceptionally tasty food from Chambar Restaurant.
A Brief History of Black Hills Estate Winery
It started in 1995 with two couples from Vancouver wanting to move to the Interior and grow grapes. By 1998 the grapes were ready for harvest and so the two couples started to sell their grapes. In 1999 they had a meeting with Gary Figgins from the iconic Leonetti Cellar in Washington state who convinced them that they should try to make wine with their grapes. Gary assisted them in making their first Nota Bene red blend using 10% of their estate grapes. And the rest is history.
Their vines grow in very sandy soil on Black Sage Road in the Okanagan. With some research, they found that they needed to dig through 280 ft of sand before hitting the water table. So very quick-draining soil which meant the grapevine’s roots needed to go deep to get water and nutrients, and they found that Cabernet Sauvignon did very well on this type of soil. Their iconic Nota Bene is made primarily with Cabernet Sauvignon and lesser amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The exact percentage depends on the weather during that vintage. I did have a chance to taste and write about the 2014 Nota Bene which you can read about as well.
From 2008 to 2018 Graham Pierce was their winemaker. Previously he was the winemaker at Mt. Boucherie Winery and before that he was a chef at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. With his recent departure, a new winemaker started in January 2019, Ross Wise, a native from New Zealand who worked previously at Phantom Creek Estates in the Okanagan, Flat Rock Cellars in Ontario, and Felton Road in New Zealand. Like Graham Pierce, he was also at one time a chef.
Ross has ideas that he is trying and would like to try at Black Hills Estate Winery. One idea that has been acted upon is to make a sparkling wine from Pinot Noir grapes. An upcoming request is to use concrete fermenters in the future for their Viognier and Syrah wines. We shall see over the next few years what he is able to try and also how these wines taste.
My Tasting Notes
Black Hills Estate Winery Rose 2018 ($24.90) – This rose wine is made with Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Malbec grapes. It is an orangy pink colour and has a nice strawberry aroma. It is slightly off-dry, mineral with medium intensity tart acidity, but still round on the palate. Red berries, crisp red apple and strawberry flavours. The wine does have a waxy texture and a little pepperiness to it. An enjoyable patio sipper. I thought it went quite well with some capicola sausage I tried with it.
Black Hills Estate Winery Alibi 2018 ($24.90) – a blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon. It is a medium intensity lemon in colour. It has a very light/closed nose at the moment but did pick up lime, orange and other citrus aromas. The wine is medium-bodied with a thick, smooth rich mouthfeel. Medium acidity. Light citrus flavours along with honey and a touch of pepperiness. Mineral toward the finish. An elegant wine.
Black Hills Estate Winery Viognier 2018 (Wine Club members only) – While I normally drink aromatic white wines in a more vertical tulip-shaped glass, this Viognier was served with a wider bowl, much like a Pinot Noir glass. The wine has a pale yet bright lemon colour. Legs on the glass were evident with swirling. It has a nice zippy citrus and orange nose. It is dry, medium-bodied with higher acidity and is peppery. Zippy citrus, peach, lime and some tropical fruit as well on the palate. The wine has a long peppery finish. Ross recommended trying this wine with spicy Thai cuisine.
Black Hills Estate Winery Syrah 2017 (Wine Club members only) – almost opaque garnet in the glass. This wine has a very fruity nose with aromas of ripe, sweet cassis, hints of cocoa, vanilla and nutmeg. It is full-bodied by medium mouthfeel. Dry with medium acidity. Ripe cassis and plums and blackberry fruit flavours on the palate. It has an almost silky mouthfeel then becomes peppery and the tannins firm up toward the finish. The wine has a longer lingering finish. Oak and vanilla on the finish. –
Black Hills Estate Winery Nota Bene 2017 (Sold Out online. Try a private wine shop.) – This vintage is 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Franc. The wine is almost opaque garnet in colour. It has a light capsicum and cassis nose. It is fuller-bodied, yet is soft and round, and slightly off-dry. Fine tannins that get stronger toward the finish. A medium acidic backbone as well. Ripe black fruit, cassis, and touches of vanilla, dark chocolate, and oak on the palate. It gets peppery on the finish. A very good structured wine with a constant level of fruit from start to finish. Accessible now but can age. –
Exceptional Food We Tasted from Chambar
Below are a few photos of the dishes I tried from Chambar with my glasses of Black Hills wine. Enjoy!
Where Can I Buy These Wines?
All prices above are as listed in the Black Hills Estate Winery website. You can order their wines through the Black Hills Estate Winery website. Their list of wines currently available for order online from their website. Some Black Hills wines are also available through BC Liquor stores. And I see a selection of their wines at Everything Wine. Enjoy.