I attended the fall Okanagan Fall Wine Festival Medal Winner Tastings in Penticton, BC held at the Penticton Trade & Convention Center.
The tasting was in a small meeting room with approximately 25 tasters who were either lovers or industry members. Wine glasses were waiting for us with corresponding numbers on a paper underneath the glasses to remember which wine was which (it came in handy after you've tasted all 10 wines).
One of the judges from the festival led the tasting and explained why wines received gold, silver and bronze and the differences between the different medal levels.
The event started 15 minutes late because the organizers left the white wine outside to keep it chilled but someone walked away with it, all of the white wine was stolen! The delay was to quickly replace the missing wine.
The first wine that we tasted was the silver medal winning Dirty Laundry Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay 2007. This wine was very balanced, smooth from start to finish and a great toasting taste emerged on the finish, one of the best Chards I've had.
The second wine was the gold medal winning Lang Vineyards Riesling Farm Reserve 2007. This was by far my favourite wine of the tasting. Of the two typical Riesling types, this is more of the German style. It has a mineral and wet stone hints but is very fruit forward with a burst of sweetness that is perfected with a long finish that ends citrusy. The citrus finish creates the perfect balance that's not overly sweet because the acidity dries out the sweetness. This is a very versatile wine and can be paired with many dishes or enjoyed by itself. I went to the winery afterwards to buy several bottles but it wasn't released yet! I'm picking up a few of these the next time I'm in the area.
Next was a silver medal Cedar Creek Estate Winery Gewurztraminer 2007. This is where my pallet disagreed with the silver medal rankings. I say this because Gewurztraminer is typically my go-to wine and I wasn't overly impressed with Cedar Creeks offering. It did have a long finish that left you wanting anther sip, but I've had better.
We had a surprise gold medal entry (because of the stolen wines) of Road 13 Vineyard Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2007. There aren't too many wineries in the Okanagan experimenting with Chenin Blanc grapes because consumers haven't yet gravitated to this grape in the Okanagan, but Road 13 uses them admirably. This wine had a nice aroma and a consistent taste from start to finish and would be good for aging for 2 to 5 years.
The first red wine we tasted was the gold medal winning Church and State Estate Winery Merlot Coyote Bowl Vineyard 2006. Church and State is actually located on Vancouver Island, but they have vineyards in the Okanagan and right on their label they'll post where the wine came from (in this case it came from Coyote Bowl, located on Black Sage Bench, Oliver BC). The
Merlot was the highest entered grape in the competition (and also received the fewest number of awards). This was a smooth
Merlot with good tannins and I think it would age well for 4 to 5 years.
The second Red we tried was the gold medal Sandhill Wines Small Lots Syrah Phantom Creek Vineyard 2006. This Syrah was rated the best red wine from 6 out of the 8 judges. Hands down this was a suburb Syrah, good spice and smoky taste. If you like Syrah, definitely try this one. The bottle we tried in this tasting was corked but I tried another bottle afterwards was amazing.
We tried the Inniskillin Okanagan Malbec Discovery Series 2006. The Malbec is one of the 6 wines used in the making of the red Bordeaux wine blend. It had hints of coffee and chocolate as well as leather and mushroom. This wine is good for drinking right now with its clarity and consistency of fruit. The Malbec is another grape not typically used by itself in the Okanagan.
Gold medal winning Road 13 Vineyards 5th Element 2006 was the next wine we tired. 5 different grapes are used in this blend (hence the name 5th Element), 38% Merlot, 28% Cab Franc, 22% Cab Sauv, 6% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot. I would describe this wine as raw and aggressive, well crafted with lots of pepper. I seemed to pick up a hint of something new each time it tried it that made me want more.
The gold medal winning Summerhill Pyramid Winery Cipes Gabriel Blanc de Blanc NV (no vintage means different years were used in this wine) was the only sparkling wine that we tried. This wine was dry and a great quote was "this wine has a suck the air out of you sort of dryness". It had a good length, very consistent, small bubbles (generally for bubbles, the smaller the better). Blanc de Blanc means that only Chardonnay was used in this sparkling wine. Summerhill sets the benchmark for sparkling wines from the Okanagan.
Jackson-Triggs Winery Proprietors' Grand Reserve Riesling Icewine 2007 won a gold medal. This wine had a great honey taste with just the right sweetness that wasn't overpowering. It has a silky finish with aromas of fresh fruit; I noticed apple and some tropical fruits.