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 »





Calgary Wine Life: Culmina Tasting with Don Triggs

5 06 2015
Don Triggs, visionary owner of Culmina.

Don Triggs, visionary owner of Culmina.

Okanagan wines are coming of age, and Don Triggs is helping to get them there.  More and more, producers from British Columbia’s top wine region are ceasing to be satisfied with being locally successful and a tourist charm; they are after quality, seeking distinction, looking to carve out an international identity.  Triggs’ current wine venture, Culmina Family Estate Winery, is a manifestation of this quest to be better.  In the past few years, Triggs has meticulously engaged in soil mapping and analysis of the 43(!) micro-blocks of terroir in his estate vineyards; he has relentlessly, and successfully, helped lobby for the creation of a new delimited sub-appellation (the first sub-geographical indicator in BC) for the Golden Mile Bench, an east-facing angled strip of land stretching southward from Oliver; and he has made Culmina’s winery facilities the most technologically advanced in the area.  This dedication to elevating the level of the Okanagan’s wine game is starting to show in the bottle.

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Wine Review: 2011 Mission Hill Five Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc

5 07 2012

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

General tip: clear bottle = open soon!

You know it’s officially summer when I can sit outside on my deck and write up a review of a crisp white patio sipper.  The sun is shining, there’s a slight breeze blowing through the trees, and it’s almost-but-not-quite-scorching hot — perfect Sauvignon Blanc weather.  This is the second white I’ve written up recently from the good folks at Mission Hill — I took a look at their Reserve Riesling just over a week ago.   This bottle will be an interesting contrast, because not only are we dealing with a different grape, one with somewhat less of a track record in Canada, but we’re also taking a step down Mission Hill’s quality hierarchy to their introductory level bottlings, which retail for $15ish in Alberta.  The Five Vineyards line of MH wines are sourced from (guess how many) five different estate vineyards scattered across BC’s Okanagan Valley:  Osoyoos and Oliver in the south (just north of the Washington State border), Pinehill and Naramata slightly further north, and the aptly-named Mission Hill Road vineyard surrounding MH’s winery just outside of Kelowna in the northern part of the region.  Each vineyard features differing soils, altitudes and microclimates — Oliver and Osoyoos are near-desert conditions, while the other vineyards along the shoreline of the vast Lake Okanagan, which cools and moderates the growing temperatures — all of which makes it easier to grow grapes with a variety of different characteristics to facilitate the creation of a blended wine that is fairly consistent year over year.  I was surprised to note that the two vineyards that Mission Hill’s website mention specifically for Sauvignon Blanc production are the two hottest ones, Osoyoos and Oliver, although I would guess that some of the grapes in this bottle come from other locations as well. 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.

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