Anthony Gismondi offers up 14 of B.C.'s best red wines
Our list today explores the very best in B.C. reds based on history, and a bit on unexpected early returns from wines showing immense promise.
I did consult with two Gismondi on Wine contributors, Geoffrey Moss, B.C.’s newest Master of Wine, and Treve Ring, a certified sommelier, Wine & Spirit Education Trust diploma holder, French wine scholar and instructor, to help compile a list that I can best describe as a moving target as this young region matures.
Let us know if we missed your favourite wine, which would be easy given the fast-moving “best” category of anything.
Blue Mountain Single Vineyard Block 9 Wild Terrain Pinot Noir 2017, Okanagan Falls $55
One of three new labels made from select blocks from the winery’s 20-30-year-old Pinot Noir vines. The vines are an integral part of the south Okanagan’s savoury milieu, and you can smell and taste some of the “wildness” in what may be the most genuine and unique wine made at Blue Mountain.
CheckMate Artisanal Winery Silent Bishop Merlot 2015, Okanagan Valley $85
The Silent Bishop is all about the cooler Western benches of the Okanagan. The style is more linear with cooler, anise notes, brown spice and chalky, refined tannins that evoke a quiet sophistication that will age for a decade. You can drink this now, but it will improve through 2023.
Clos du Soleil Estate Reserve Red 2016, Similkameen Valley $53
This wine has the potential to wow the wine world from the get-go, thanks to its savoury, complex aromas of cassis and desert scrub. The palate is alive, not to mention electric, boasting multiple layers of flavours. Impressively balanced already, this wine will age gracefully for 25 years.
Hester Creek Garland 20176, Okanagan Valley $55.99
2016 was the best wine to come out of Hester Creek, and 2017 is an excellent followup. The Garland Cabernets and Merlot are fermented separately, while the Petit Verdot and Malbec are co-fermented. The attack is firm and dry, with very stylish black fruit and polished tannins all in balance. Classy.
LaStella Allegretto Merlot Pie Franco 2015, Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley $65
A stunning single vineyard Merlot from Stagg’s Vineyard rivals any in the country for the best moniker. Crushed cassis, dusky plum, youthful and perfumed wild blackberry aromas and flavours supported by a fine pixelated texture. Tight, fresh, energetic and finessed.
Le Vieux Pin Equinoxe Syrah 2016, Okanagan Valley $79.99
Said to be the more masculine of LVPs Syrah, Equinoxe is a highly structured, savoury, powerful red, with an emphasis on grace. It good every year, but it will have competition moving forward from a new single vineyard line of Syrahs led by a sensational first release labelled Le Faucon Syrah.
MacIntyre Heritage Reserve Ardua 2015, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley $90
Owner Drew McIntrye is a big fan of Pomerol and Bolgheri Merlots, and his Ardua 90/10 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc is fashioned after the great ones. The fruit comes off his mid-Okanagan Valley Naramata estate at Lake Breeze. It has the balance and elegance to age well through 2025.
Martin’s Lane Dehart Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, East Kelowna, Okanagan Valley $100
Set high above the lake facing the setting sun in East Kelowna, the vineyard is a mix of clone 667 and 777, co-fermented in concrete with up to 45 per cent whole bunches. Gentle, gentle is the mantra, and its sweet black cherry and earthy Pinot fruit spill across the palate with precision and polish.
Meyer Family Pinot Noir Micro Cuvée McLean Creek Vineyards 2018, Okanagan Falls $60
The Micro-Cuvée is meant to be the best of the Meyer pinots every year. It is winemaker Chris Carson’s selection of the best barrels, what he likes to call the “most harmonious blend.” A joyous 13.5 per cent alcohol, it’s awash in silky, textured Pinot fruit and a long persistent, mouth-filling finish.
Mission Hill Family Estate Oculus 2016, Okanagan Valley $160
Oculus has a long history, and two decades down the road, it is better than ever thanks to precision viticulture, older vines and exacting fruit selection. Vineyard designated blocks and a 56/27/17 mix of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc present a lush red that ages forever.
Osoyoos Larose 2016, Okanagan Valley $47.99
2016 is a 62.5/12.5/11.8/7.7/5.5 blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec; it is one of the best yet. BC’s original, single-vineyard red it has all the parts: red cherries, stony gravels, floral notes, and a broad swipe of south Okanagan garrigue, to age for 20 years.
Painted Rock Red Icon 2017, Skaha Bench, Okanagan Valley $54.99
Can 2017 be better than in 2016? I think so. From the less is more perspective, less power, less spice, and less intensity has allowed this Bordeaux blend to show a sense of elegance and depth I haven’t seen before. More Euro than most anything but the best red blends in North America
Phantom Creek Estates Phantom Creek Vineyard Cuvée No 21 2016, Okanagan Valley $100
Only 13 barrels were made of this inaugural 38/26/15/8/8/5/ mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The fruit, while intense and on edge, has an elegance aided by the structure, or bones, of the cab Sauvignon. The rest of the grapes work to fill in the flesh.
Quails’ Gate Syrah The Boswell 2017, Okanagan Valley $69.99
The wine sings freshness, reflecting its northern position and ancient volcanic soils. It is the elegance and sleek styling that gives it its gravitas. Look for intense black and blue fruits with fresh cracked black pepper and a touch of salami dusted with a savoury, spicy mix of dried desert herbs.