The Andrew Peller beverage company over the past few years brought in five BC wineries into their portfolio. Andrew Peller also owns wineries in the Niagara region in southern Ontario. For Cornucopia 2021, I and a COVID safely separated group of other people had a sit-down tasting of wines from the five BC wineries, plus a talk about each winery and the wines by the winemaker. It was an excellent event and very informative. I always learn new things when I hear a winemaker speak. This is the first weekend of Cornucopia. There are three more weekends with events you can attend.
- South Okanagan: Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
- North Okanagan: Gray Monk Estate Winery
- Naramata: Red Rooster Winery
- South Okanagan: Black Hills Estate Winery
- Okanagan Valley: Sandhill Estate
- Tinhorn Creek Vineyards with Winemaker Leandro Nosal
- Tinhorn Creek 2019 Cabernet Franc
- Tinhorn Creek 2019 Chardonnay
- Gray Monk Estate Winery with Winemaker Jen Oishi
- Gray Monk 2020 Pinot Gris
- Gray Monk 2020 Monk’s Blend
- Red Rooster Winery with Winemaker Elaine Vickers
- Red Rooster 2020 Sauvignon Blanc
- Red Rooster 2020 Carbonic Malbec Merlot
- Black Hills Estate Winery with Winemaker Ross Wise
- Black Hills 2020 Alibi
- Black Hills 2019 Syrah
- Sandhill Estate with Winemaker Sandy Leier
- Sandhill 2020 Sovereign Opal
- Sandhill 2019 Syrah
My Wine Tasting Notes
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards with Winemaker Leandro Nosal – Leandro is the new winemaker for Tinhorn Creek. He is originally from Mendoza, Argentina, but has worked around the world before coming to BC.
- Tinhorn Creek 2019 Cabernet Franc – A deep dull garnet colour. Light aromas; capsicum, black and red fruits. Dry, smooth with a medium-minus body and light mouthfeel. Light acidity and medium-minus fine-grained tannins. Red fruits to start then add capsicum and vanilla with air. A touch of cedar toward the finish. Medium-minus length.
- Tinhorn Creek 2019 Chardonnay – The grapes were fermented in both barrel and stainless steel, with lees stirring for two months to add mouthfeel. The fermented wines were blended then barrel-aged before filtering and bottling. This wine has a deeper bright lemon. A light toasty apple nose, along with citrus and honey, then pineapple as the wine warmed in the glass. Very thick and round, along with medium acidity. Pineapple and toasty oak, plus buttery flavours. Stronger oak but not overpowering. Smooth mouthfeel.
Gray Monk Estate Winery with Winemaker Jen Oishi – Jen has been winemaker for Grey Monk for 11 years which includes 4 years since Andrew Peller purchased the winery. Jen mentioned that George and Trudy Heiss, the original owners, were the first to introduce and grow Pinot Gris grapes in Canada. Such a feat! The vines are now 40 years old.
- Gray Monk 2020 Pinot Gris – The grapes spent a 2hr soak on the skins to extract extra texture and flavour from the grape skins. This wine has a medium pear skin colour. Ripe stone fruit aromas, plus pears and honey. Fuller body, round, soft and dry. Stone fruits and pear skin flavours, plus some tannic texture from the grape skins. Medium acidity and length. A very nice wine. –
- Gray Monk 2020 Monk’s Blend – this red blend is made with 73% and 27% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in the Similkameen Valley. This is the second vintage for this wine After stainless steel fermentation it underwent and secondary malolactic fermentation followed by 8-9 month oak barrel ageing. This wine has a deeper garnet ruby mixed colour. Meaty, cassis, smoke and black fruit aromas. Medium-plus body, dry and round, with a lighter mid-palate. Floral, cassis, dark chocolate, black pepper, black fruit and black cherry flavour. I also picked up some butteriness, salty minerality and sweet spices on the palate. Medium-plus length, with sweet spices, butteriness, peppery and black fruit flavours.
Red Rooster Winery with Winemaker Elaine Vickers – Elaine was the last winemaker to speak with us and she had a lot of fun answering our questions. She started with the winery in 2019 and is part of the process of updating the brand. She mentioned that many Vancouverites only know their entry-level wines, and she wants to make their premium levels more familiar. Plus experiment with new wines like their Carbonic Malbec Merlot.
- Red Rooster 2020 Sauvignon Blanc – The grapes for this wine come from two different vineyards with one harvested later so that you get riper, sweet fruit and a different flavour profile. The former is more on the citrus side and the latter on the tropical side. The wines are fermented separately in stainless steel tanks before blending. This wine has a medium bright lemon colour. Bright aromas, medium-plus intensity green fruit and tropical fruit. Dry, roundish, with higher acidity that leaves a prickle on your tongue. Citrus, green fruit primarily with a lesser amount of tropical fruit. I also picked up some minerality and lime. Some bitterness on the finish.
- Red Rooster 2020 Carbonic Malbec Merlot – soon to be released, this is the first vintage of this wine. 40% Malbec and 60% Merlot, with the Malbec undergoing the carbonic maceration (same process as is used for Beaujolais Nouveaux). This wine has a deeper clear ruby colour. Lighter, sweet aromas of candied red fruit and sweet spices. Dry, medium body with a lean mouthfeel. Red fruits and light pepperiness. Light tannins and medium acidity. Tart fruit finish. –
Black Hills Estate Winery with Winemaker Ross Wise – I met Ross before COVID during a tasting of their wines, including Nota Bene, and was glad to see him again. Ross started working with Black Hills in 2019. He noted that the winery started to transition to organic vineyards this year and that their wines are vegan friendly.
- Black Hills 2020 Alibi – is the second wine that the winery made after their flagship Nota Bebe red Bordeaux blend wine. Ross uses a long, 10 hr pressing of the grapes while most wineries press the grapes over a couple of hours which he notes gives a better flavour profile. The wines are made with wild and cultured yeasts fermented in neutral French oak and stainless steel. This wine has a very bright lemon colour. Lemon and toast aromas plus butter and bramble leaf. Fuller body, dry with medium-plus acidity. Butter toast, lemon, apple, buttery popcorn and bramble leaf. Some acidic prickle and pepperiness on the finish. Classy. –
- Black Hills 2019 Syrah – Just released in September this wine was fermented with 100% wild yeast, then spent 16 months in French oak with 22% new barrels. This wins has a clear medium ruby colour. Medium minus intensity nose with smoke, bacon and ripe raspberry aromas. A lean mouthfeel. Cedar, red fruits, juicy berries and toast on the palate. Medium acidity and fine tannins. Tart red fruits, a touch of vanilla and young tannic oak and bitter dark chocolate on the finish. –
Sandhill Estate with Winemaker Sandy Leier – has been making wine for 15 years. Sandhill has 7 vineyards that range over the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. All but their Pinot Gris wine is vegan friendly
- Sandhill 2020 Sovereign Opal – Sovereign Opal is a grape that originated in the Okanagan by crossing Marechal Foch with Golden Muscat grapes. Only one vineyard is growing this grape, the Casorso Vineyard, where it became viable for a significant amount of winemaking in 1981. Sandhill is the only winery to make a single varietal Sovereign Opal wine. Sandy mentioned that you need to pay attention to the grape as it ripens and to pick it before it gets a garlic flavour. This wine has a light bright lemon-green colour. Lighter orange and lychee aromas. Dry, medium-minus body, round with an acidic edge. Lychee and pineapple flavour along with a touch of sweet spice and pepper. A nice level of acidity. Lighter mouthfeel.
- Sandhill 2019 Syrah – The grapes come from three separate vineyards. One in Oliver, another in North Oliver, and the third in the Similkameen Valley. Each vineyard offers different subtleties in aroma and flavour. Each is fermented and barrel-aged separately before blending. The wine spends a total of 14 months in oak barrels. This wine has a deep dull garnet colour. Smoky, bacon, black fruit, and black pepper aromas. Medium-plus body, round but with a tannic backbone. More lean than round. Medium acidity. Black pepper and black fruit flavours along with some butteriness and toast. Not sweet fruit flavours. Medium length. –
You can sign up for more Cornucopia events at this link.
Did you notice that three of the five winemakers are women? I thought that really shows how BC is more open to winemakers of either gender. When will we see our first non-binary winemaker?
Many of these wines are available through the BC government liquor stores, private stores, and from the wineries. If any of these wines sound tasty to you, please buy a bottle or two.
Thank you to Tourism Whistler for providing me a complimentary ticket to this event.