Naramata Bench Wineries; Part One

This project was a fun one and twofold.

After all I am new to working on the Naramata Bench and I needed to try some of the wineries that I was unfamiliar with and secondly, I needed to procure some wine for a friend that had helped remove some of the flooding aftermath devastation that had occurred in the summer of 2017.

Enter in a power tasting day of 14 wineries on the Naramata Bench and a wonderful and varied selection of some must-try wines to take note of.

More to be posted as I taste my way across the Bench.



84 wines later and a well used credit card, here are the wines that I had selected:

Bench 775 2016 Chill – A delightful summer sipper, this wine is a blend of Pinot Gris, Semillon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Viognier. Pair with friends and fun.

Moraine 2017 Riesling – The wines of Moraine are crafted by a New Zealand trained winemaker names Jacqueline Kemp. The entire portfolio is amazing and in particular, I highly recommend the 2017 Riesling and the 2016 Pinot Noir. This particular vintage of Riesling was whole bunch pressed, and cold fermented preserving a racy acidity that will add to cellaring potential of this wine. Pair with a pulled pork sandwich topped with coleslaw or a, order of anything from Sushi Genki in Penticton. (A personal wine ninja fave)

Lake Breeze 2016 Semillon – From a beautiful vista the wines of Lake Breeze do not disappoint. Semillon is a rare varietal in the Okanagan and this has previously been a great example of wine. Wine not available for tasting, purchased because of previous vintages

Van Westen Vivacious 2016 – A blend of 95% Pinot Blanc and 5% Pinot Gris, this wine is delightfully refreshing with hints of freshly cut apple and hints of lemon. Pairs best with friends by the pool

Howling Bluff Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2017 – This is a cellar must have, it is 85% Sauvignon Blanc and 15% Semillon with a steely herbaceous-ness and lively acidity. Pairs best with halibut or snapper with a lime zest and tarragon cream sauce and a side of asparagus or green beans

Lake Breeze Winemaker Series “The Spice Jar”2016 – Extremely aromatic, this wine is a blend of 30% Gewurtraminer, 30% Ehrenfelser, 20% Schoenburger, and 20% Viognier. Slightly off-dry, this wine pairs best with spicy Thai or Asian cuisine or even curries.

Deep Roots Parentage 2016– Blend of Muscat, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer, another easy sipper for the patio.

Tightrope Viognier 2016 – This complex Viognier was a culmination of careful vineyard work and attention to detail in the cellar. A longer hang time and ageing on lees in stainless steel and partial barrel (neutral oak) gives this wine an incredible complexity with a long finish. Always a fave.

Origin “Eden” 2016 Chardonnay – One of the newest wineries to open on the Naramata Bench is owned and made by Daiya Anderson and sourced from a 8.5 acre vineyard. The wines are stunning, only matched by their view. This wine is aged 70% in French Oak with lees stirring and malo-lactic fermentation. Can be cellared up to 6 years and a perfect pairing that I have yet to make would be King Crab Mac n’Cheese with Upper Bench Gold … #glutenfree of course.

Tightrope Rose 2017 – This delicious Rose is 97% Pinot Noir and 3% Barbera that had 1-2 days of skin contact before being pressed and fermented over 30 days.

Roche “Texture”Rose 2016 – This unique Rose is made from 20 year old self-rooted 97% Zweigelt that had only 45 minutes of skin contact before being pressed, the aromatics of this wine are complemented with 3% Schoenburger that is also 20 year old self-rooted vines. Penelope is a 5th generation winemaker from Bordeaux and Dylan is a Burgundian trained winemaker who was born in North Vancouver.

Moraine 2016 Pinot Noir – Sourced from the Sophia vineyard on the Naramata Bluffs, this wine is 100% clone 777 Pinot Noir and absolutely delicious.

Roche “Tradition”2015 Pinot Noir – Certified organic grapes, Burgundian in style this handcrafted wine is 50% clone 777 and 50% clone 828 that have each been fermented separately and aged or 14 months in 2nd fill, 3rd fill, and neutral oak. Drink now to 8 years. Pair with Prime Rib, rack of lamb, duck confit, or the biggest T-Bone you can fit on your BBQ!

Serendipity Next Step 2012 – This robust bend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc has chewy tannins with tones of fruit and can further benefit with additional cellaring. Pair with hearty fare.

Marichel Lone Wolf Syrah 2015 – My most favourite Syrah, this is a home vineyard sourced co-ferment of 97% syrah and 3% Viognier, deep in colour and definitely one to stock up on. You don’t even need a pairing with this one! 

Lake Breeze Meritage 2016 – Gold medal winner, this wine is a blend of 40% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Malbec. Pair with roast beef, earthy Parmesan reggiano, or a BBQ steak.

Kettle Valley 2011 Malbec – Cellar gem.  Amazing structure, this wine shines though with earthy rugged tannins and a long finish. This wine craves a prime rib with a demi-glace of reduced berries and wine finished with butter.

Howling Bluff Sin Cera 2013 – Super delicious, this wine is a bold blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. To be paired with friends and family and a hearty fare.

Nichol Vineyard 2015 Old Vines Syrah – Oldest Syrah vines planted in Canada (1993), 100% Naramata bench. The terroir is definitely glacial with granite shard, bedrock and silt. The grapes were handpicked, basket pressed and bottled unfined and unfiltered. Limited production from 17 rows, drink now to 10 years.



A visit to Bartier Bros. new winery

The Bartier Bros. are Michael and Don Bartier who grew up in the Okanagan but moved away to pursue their education, Different directions chosen when they were young still had a common path and have winded them back along the same goal.

Don is the accountant, having moved to Calgary in his younger years to attain his designation and of course working in the oil and gas industry has a wealth of experience and many achievements to be proud of, as well as an appreciation for wine.

Michael is proficient in wine making, having amassed both on the job training and experience along with distance education from UC Davis and Washington State University. That and a few Lieutenant Governor’s Awards along with a couple of Canadian White Wine of the Year has made his consulting business solid and sought after.

Only 2 weeks open, I have had a chance to visit their winery located on the Cerquiera Vineyard in the lower Black Sage bench in person. Their first vineyard resides in Summerland, the Lone Pine Vineyard planted and kept by Don’s wife and family and their 2 Siberian Huskies.

I had first the opportunity to visit the vineyard a couple of years ago when I relocated back to the Okanagan from Vancouver. I was lucky enough to witness the pure drive in Michael to have a “sense of place“. It was the middle of winter, and listening to him talk about the cobble stones in this vineyard site and what they did to the wines and to revisit the terroir and actual site a few years later is truly amazing.

MIchael showing is the cobblestones in the vineyard deposited by glaciers many years ago in the south Okanagan (Feb 2013)

Michael showing the cobblestones in the vineyard deposited by glaciers many years ago in the South Okanagan (Feb 2013)

Calcium Carbonite on the bottom of the cobblestones today

Calcium Carbonate on the bottom of the cobblestones today

Located on the lower Black Sage Bench, the Cerqueira Vineyard is almost near the bottom of the valley, there are many limestone-rich deposits, and with such rocky vineyard soil, the vines have to work hard. So much so that with a little digging, the Bartier Bros. were able to see that the vines had latched onto the cobblestones in search of nutrients, finding small fissures of moisture and minerals to feed off of.

This became their “sense of place“, their signature of their Okanagan Valley wines.

Wines tasted:

2015-09-24 10.37.17

Lone Pine Gewurztraminer 2013 – 6 year old vines located in Summerland. Dry, and crisp, this wine shows great minerality and viscosity, very refreshing 8.8/10

Semillon 2013 – Concrete egg and stainless steel ferment; 80/20 with an extended time on lees. The result was a unique Semillon with both a balance of bracing acidity and a softening creaminess on the palate with hints of citrus, wiffs of licorice and sage. 8.9/10

Obrigado 2014 – Obrigado translates to “Thank you” in Portuguesethis wine is an un- oaked Chardonnay, expressing some of the best of the Cequeira vineyard site. It’s extremely fresh and crisp with an incredible mouth-feel, I loved it immediately and stocked up! 9.0/10

Barrel-fermented Chardonnay 2013 – Half of this wine was fermented in barrel and half in stainless steel, a balance in synergy with hints of nuttiness, savoury citrus tones and hints of anise. 8.9/10

Syrah 2012 – What a treat! This youthful Syrah was bursting with juicy soft fruit tannins, white pepper tones and hints of minerality. 9.1/10

Cabernet Franc 2013 – 8 yr old vines, the first time this wine has been bottled alone and not blended. Grippy and juicy jammy tannins, hints of cedar and plum with a subtle capsicum. Well structured with a long finish. Stocked upYum! 9.1/10

Merlot 2012 – Plummy and cherry tones of balanced acidity with a multi layered level of cocoa nibbs, red licorice and rich fruit with a long lingering finish. Excellent. 9.0/10

The Goal 2012 – Their top wine, and a wine named for a piece of history, the Penticton Vees claimed Gold the World Hockey Championship in 1955. This bold wine is a blend of 67% Merlot and 33% Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet France gives it an elegant ageing potential of up to 10 years. It has hints of ripe blackberries, raspberries, with a rounded and firm presence of tannins, with multi-layers of complexity.

2015-09-24 09.51.32 Merlot just picked2015-09-24 10.52.42Small Basket press in their vineyard.

Le Vieux Pin and La Stella tasting notes

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September 10th, 2014 tasting

I had a chance to try some of the new releases this year and of course I was impressed with the line up. La Stella and Le Vieux Pin have always been very well structured and serious wines for me, this year was no different, in fact more so!

First up was the Le Vieux Pin 2012 AVA; it is a blend of 61% Viognier, 21% Roussanne, and 18% Marsanne sourced just north of Oliver. I didn’t even have to hold the wine close to my nose and I was greeted with a burst of honeysuckle, which had underlying tangerine zest notes with hints of spice. This wine was 45% barrel aged in 500L French Barriques (33% new) for 9 months to give it the extra bit of complexity on the palate. Delicious 8.9

Second was the Le Vieux Pin Syrah “Cuvee Violette” 2012. All of the Le Vieux Pin Syrah have 3% Viognier in them. I was impressed with this wine and its distinctive “feminity”, I love that some vineyards are now making a few distinct styles or expressions of one grape in their vineyard. This wine is the most floral delicate version of Syrah. There was no bottle ageing and about 19% new French oak. On the nose, there was white pepper, violets, deep crimson red fruits and hints of eucalyptus & mint. On the palate, there was a continuation on the theme with beautiful soft fruits of moderate intensity and a long lengthy finish. Definitely a wine to pick up. 9.0

The Le Vieux Pin Equinoxe Syrah 2011 needs no introduction, the flagship wine is the perfect balance. 2011 marks the year of the winemaker’s favourite harvest to date. The grapes for this wine hail from Northern Oliver and the Black Sage Bench. 18 months in barrel and 1 year in bottle before release. I was extremely impressed with this wine, it has super intense earthy fruits and pepper with subtle floral tones. While muscular on the nose with hints of olive, it was very balanced on the fruit side with brambly fruits, a slight herbal nose and is what I consider to be a perfect textbook version of Okanagan Syrah. This wine can age 5-10yrs easily. 9.4

Lastly, the La Stella Maestoso 2011 Solo Merlot was the final wine in the line up. This vineyard property wine composed of 100% Merlot was planted in 1999. The vines for this wine are cropped very low, and the end product is truly stunning. This wine is well structured and elegant, I would call this a masculine Merlot, it had earthy fruits, hints of eucalyptus and cherries and chewy tannins. It was a bit reminiscent of a structured Zinfandel, just in hints. An excellent wine, this is a wine to be shared, cellared, enjoyed, and all of the above. It was truly an experience. 9.3

All in all, and excellent tasting


A visit to the Okanagan Crush Pad

It has been almost a year since I was last at the Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland BC and I was pleased to see so many more changes and a few more residents of the four legged variety! Owners Christine Coletta and Steve Lorne have made a commitment to the land and to producing the best fruit possible with little intervention. Back to basics, and to the true expression of Okanagan Terroir.

No pesticides or sprays are used, in fact there is a real synergy happening in the vineyard with every detail thought and carried out by the wonderful vineyard team. There are chickens and ducks to help with pests, sheep to help with fertilizing and even a worm farm to help make the best compost possible. It is a very natural looking vineyard with beneficial cover crops planted to attract the right king of bug predators and deter the wrong ones.


Next year their Switchback vineyard will be certified organic and the Haywire Wild Ferment Pinot Gris that is coming from the home vineyard is nothing short of spectacular.

5 different lots within the 7 acre vineyard were used to create this amazing BC wine. The juice was wild fermented in the large Concrete Eggs on site and no additional yeasts were needed due to the ambient atmosphere.

They have several “concrete egg”wines and these wines have an incredible mouth feel, intense fruit flavours and a long finish all from separate vineyards. I highly recommend getting your hands on the Canyonview Pinot Noir 2011 that won the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence and the Wild Ferment Switchback Vineyard Pinot Gris 2012.

Other favourite wines are the White label 2012 Pinot Gris which had an delicious vibrancy, their 2012 Gamay Noir rich and ripe, and their 2012 Syrah hailing from the Black Sage bench, full of red fruits, earthy spice and just a touch of clove.

Lastly, another new addition to see was the wine amphora pictured below, full of Pinot Gris fermenting happily away in its new home. I cannot wait to have a sip of the end product!