We’ve known for some time that the Okanagan Valley wine region of British Columbia, located due north of Washington State’s primary vineyards, could successful produce table wines. Yes, it is farther north than we think about winegrowing, and, yes, there are weather-related problems. But the producers have shown over the years they can be successful, and, in some cases, profitable as well.
It’s just that we Americans don’t get to taste Okanagan wines that often, especially in any volume and variety. There is not a strong marketing hook — no indigenous grapes or Roman ruins — and costs of production in marginal areas don’t give cost advantages.
That said, most of us who like wines are curious about the region’s offerings. I just tasted a case of them over a couple of weeks, usually with meals. There were no revelations or strong conclusions — no real dogs and nothing to send off to Robert Parker to taste.
The 12 wines below aren’t easy to find except online, where you can also check prices with shipping costs. Here are my notes:
Blue Mountain Okanagan Valley brut. Really quite nice — a full, sparkling wine, but one with good balance, rounded apple flavors, and good minerality.
Tantalus Okanagan Valley chardonnay 2012. A tart wine, somewhat like a chard from the south of Burgundy — with green apples turning to gooseberries.
Meyer Family “Winnifred Stewart” Okanagan Valley chardonnay 2011. Lots of spice and plenty of toasty brulée, perhaps too much so.
Tantalus Okanagan Valley riesling 2012. It has some of that oily aroma that rieslings sometimes get in the bottle, along with that signature riesling fruitiness. The finish is quite citric, with notes of orange peel.
Tantalus Okanagan Valley pinot noir 2012. Good fruit, but very tightly wound and with a pronounced tanginess.
Meyer Family “McLean Creek Road” Okanagan Valley pinot noir 2011. Nice rounded, ripe-cherry fruit with a pinot-esque finish of root beer rootiness and a hint of the savory. Pleasantly assertive for a light-complected wine, and a quite enjoyable one.
Black Hills Okanagan Valley carménère 2011. The wine has a somewhat odd, weedy nose typical of underripe fruit, but it is otherwise pleasant, with tart fruit and a crisp finish.
Black Hills “Nota Bene” Canada red wine 2011. A little rustic, perhaps, but nevertheless enjoyably nice with cabernet flavors of green briers and blackberries.
La Stella “Allegretto” Okanagan Valley merlot 2013. A food wine more than a sipper — tart cherry flavors, chalky, good acidity.
Painted Rock “Red Icon” Okanagan Valley red wine 2010. Cherry flavors with a backdrop of fresh oak with a moderate body and light tannins.
Laughing Stock Portfolio Canada red wine 2011. An interesting, medium-bodied Bordeaux blend with tart red fruits and creamy oakiness — a good food wine.
Laughing Stock “Blind Trust” Okanagan Valley red wine 2011. Very bright fruits — elderberry, mainly — with some chalkiness and a tight, tannic finish.