Entering The Hatch, Spring 2017

23 05 2017

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

IMG_6146Ever since I first saw The Hatch’s avian-Thomas-Crown-Affair primary logo shortly after it opened a couple years ago, I have been sort of transfixed from a distance, finding both the winery and its artistic ethos strangely compelling despite knowing basically nothing about them.  Based out of a rustic-modern “shack from the future” in the heights of West Kelowna and sourcing grapes from across the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys, The Hatch initially comes across (quite intentionally) more like an artists’ collective than a commercial winery, listing Salman Rushdie on its personnel page and expounding in esoteric wine-code about “Ross O” and B. Yanco” (I’ll give you a second to sort that one out).  They confidently found their visual style from the outset thanks to the remarkable imagery provided by local western Canadian artist Paul Morstad (who is also found on The Hatch’s personnel page, playing a banjo); once people have been drawn in by the graphics, it’s up to winemaker Jason Parkes to keep their attention.  The whole artistic cacophony and the simultaneously grand yet whimsical presentation lends The Hatch a jolt of personality that the generally strait-laced BC wine scene can happily use…but does the buzz extend to what’s in the bottle?  Happily, I got to find out.

FullSizeRender-601The Hatch releases its wines in stylistic series, of which I had the opportunity to experience two:  the mid-tier Hobo Series wines, featuring a panoply of hand-drawn labels of hobos (seriously) that risk making you cry thanks to their sheer beauty (also seriously), and the ambitious Black Swift Vineyards series wines, which collectively form an expansive single-vineyard project focused on the various facets of BC’s glorious dirt.  The wine, like the winery, was never boring. Read the rest of this entry »





Burrowing Owl Spring Releases

16 05 2017

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

Some people chart the seasons using a calendar; others look to the melting snow and the first robins to mark the start of spring.  For me and this blog, the new season only arrives when the box of new releases from Burrowing Owl is delivered and tasted.  I can now happily announce:  spring is here.

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OK, yes, I had a glass of the Chardonnay before the tasting started.  I regret nothing.

Burrowing Owl is one of the few Canadian wineries that has been consistently able to juggle both quantity and quality, producing 35,000 cases annually from 16 different varietals grown across 170 acres and three different estate vineyard sites encircling the scorching southern Okanagan hubs of Oliver and Osoyoos.  It is likely best known for its Bordeaux varietals, but also makes room in its vineyard sites for less expected offerings like Tempranillo and Viognier, not to mention a killer Syrah that is proof of concept of the region’s suitability for the grape.  Burrowing Owl’s two largest vineyards are scant minutes away from the US border, on western-facing slopes angling down towards the temperature-modulating Lake Osoyoos, which both restrains the Okanagan desert heat during the day and extends it at night.  The third is due west of Oliver, in the neighbouring Similkameen Valley, using its proximity to Keremeos Mountain to help grow Bordeaux whites Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, where 2017’s spring releases conveniently start. Read the rest of this entry »





Desert Hills Estate Six Pack

25 04 2016

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

One of the things I love seeing most in Canadian wine nowadays is a renewed sense of focus on locating, separating and promoting quality subregions within an overall wine area, those special geological or climatic zones that yield wines with a distinct character and personality.  Anyone reading this in Europe right now may be incredulous at any such modern quest for discrete sub-terroir, as this process took place in many Old World growing regions up to a millennium ago.  We have a bit of catching up to do, and now we’re doing it.

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This is critical for regions like British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, which currently sees almost all wines coming out of it released under that general appellation name.  If you’ve ever stood in the breeze by the lake in Kelowna in August, and then stood in raging parched inferno of the Osoyoos desert two hours later, you’ll understand why “Okanagan Valley” doesn’t exactly capture any of the nuance of those two highly individual experiences.  Last year saw big news on the BC subregion front, as the Golden Mile Bench, a stretch of slope just west of the highway running from Oliver south to Osoyoos, became the province’s first ever recognized sub-geographical indication, meaning you’ll start seeing that name on bottles released this year in place of (or in addition to) the broader Okanagan designation.

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If you walk east from the Golden Mile Bench and cross the highway, on the other side of the road you’ll find another slope, angled west, with extremely hot days and surprisingly cool nights, where vines grow on highly sandy soils that run hundreds of feet deep and require irrigation to retain hydration.  This is the Black Sage Bench, another obvious BC candidate for subregional distinction and home to some of Canada’s top wineries.  On the southern end of the Bench, nestled between Okanagan luminaries Black Hills and Burrowing Owl, is Desert Hills Estate Winery, a family-run producer founded by the three Toor brothers and focused largely on wines made from their aptly named estate vineyard, the Three Boys Vineyard, purchased in 1989.  The first released production from the vineyard was in 1996, and now, 20 years later, Desert Hills is solidly entrenched in the Okanagan wine world and making a renewed push into the Alberta market. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2010 Prospect Winery Major Allan Merlot

3 10 2012

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

Prospect Winery, colour me impressed…again.

After being quite pleasantly shocked by the first bottle of red wine that the Prospect Winery sent my way (the 2009 Red Willow Shiraz, written up here), I opened the second and final red they had provided last night thinking that it was fighting against a strong precedent.  I wasn’t heading into this bottle with the lowered expectations with which I had traditionally approached inexpensive Canadian wine; instead, after Prospect’s dynamic Shiraz, I was looking for big things, at least as far as sub-$20 BC Merlot goes.  And while I’m still trying to figure out whether I was satisfied or disappointed with the outcome, I continue to be refreshed and enthused by the fact that I’m starting to approach my own country’s wines with something resembling optimism…because of that alone, Prospect Winery has already succeeded in its mission to showcase the various varietals of the Okanagan in an affordable way.

Since I covered the winery’s corporate ancestral lineage in detail in my previous PW post, I won’t rehash it here other than to say that the Prospect lineup is part of the Mission Hill family once removed, with its own winemaker and plans to create a stand-alone winery.  Of the various brands falling under the umbrella of MH affiliate Artisan Wine Co., it may be the one with the brightest prospects (pun only half intended), putting out dependable, varietally-correct wines at very reasonable prices.  Each of Prospect’s bottlings is named for a different ecological or historical feature of the Okanagan Valley; the Major Allan Merlot is an homage to Allan Brooks, a prolific wildlife artist whose wildlife paintings are known across North America (and on this bottle’s label, which showcases one of them).  I was particularly interested to try this wine, because, as far as I could tell, unlike many of Prospect’s other offerings, the Major Allan is not currently available in Alberta.  In other words, unless my research is wrong, my home province may just have to take my word for this. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2010 Mission Hill Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir

22 08 2012

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

As aptly pointed out by my 19 month old son: P!!!

It was with great sadness that I uncorked (OK, unscrewed) the last of the sample bottles that the Okanagan’s Mission Hill winery had sent my way.  When MH sent me their small-batch limited edition Martin’s Lane Riesling a few weeks ago, they included with it the Riesling’s vineyard twin, the inaugural release of the Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir.  This bottle of Pinot was many years in the making (the vineyard was planted in 1995), but MH held back on releasing it as a single-vineyard offering until the vines and the grapes were fully ready to show their stuff.  I laid out the story behind Martin’s Lane in my Riesling review, but to quickly recap, it’s a high-quality, steeply-sloped vineyard located right by Mission Hill’s winery property just outside of Kelowna, and it’s named as a tribute to MH proprietor Anthony von Mandl’s late father Martin.  Only 485 cases of this Pinot were produced, and this is the first bottle I’ve seen in this province, so unless you live near the winery, this bottle is probably hard to come by.  All the more reason to enjoy it if you have it! Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2011 Mission Hill Reserve Riesling

25 06 2012

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

Canada, meet your new favourite grape.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll be aware of my completely transparent devotion for Riesling, the top wine grape of all in my books and the star of the show in my favourite white-producing country, Germany.  It’s also a varietal that is starting to be developed more seriously in the major wine regions of my home nation of Canada, both in the Okanagan Valley in the west side of the country and the Niagara Peninsula in the east.  This comes as a huge relief to me:  we’re definitely still a country trying to find its identity wine-wise, and thanks to our climate and latitude it will always be a steep challenge for us to produce big reds in all but the most privileged sites, so one way to get recognition as a serious wine nation in an increasingly competitive market is to focus our energy and resources into developing the absolute best quality wine grapes that thrive in cooler, more marginal conditions.  That’s where Riesling comes in.  It creates some of the best, longest-lived wines in the world, but it also embraces sites at extreme wine-growing latitudes with colder average temperatures and shorter growing seasons…in fact, it reaches its apex in these types of locations.  I think Canada and Riesling are a vinous match made in heaven, so it was with great anticipation that I cracked this bottle, sent to me by one of BC’s largest producers, Mission Hill. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2010 Painted Rock Chardonnay

3 02 2012

Although a newer vintage than the 2009, it's still like going back in time.

The coolest thing about this blog having been around awhile, other than the fact that I’ve miraculously managed to regularly publish an Internet wine blog for the better part of a year, is that I’m starting to come across second vintages in the bottles I open:  current vintage wines whose predecessors I have previously featured on PnP.  Case in point:  the 2010 Painted Rock Chardonnay from the Okanagan Valley, which is probably already facing an uphill battle in this review due to monstrously high expectations because I totally loved the 2009 PR Chard back in September.  I think Painted Rock is a producer on the forefront of the Canadian wine scene, one that is starting to show that we don’t have to settle for local wines that only measure up as against their neighbours, but that can also stand tall on the international market.  While PR focuses primarily on red wine, their lone white is a testament to the wonders of cool-climate Chardonnay, and I thought enough about the ’09 vintage that I absolutely loaded up on the 2010 as soon as it became available.

Read the rest of this entry »