The Okanagan Valley in Canada’s British Colombia is an important wine region. Five hours drive from Vancouver, up and inland a bit, it has an ideal climate for growing wine grapes coupled with some interesting soils. But it also has a diverse climate, ranging from cool to positively warm, as you head south towards the US border. For this reason, the region has been working out a classification of meaningful subregions, and one of them is the Naramata Bench, on the east side of the lake running up from Penticton. I recently tried a trio of wines from the bench, and here are my notes.
Upper Bench Chardonnay 2019 Naramata Bench, Okanagan, Canada
13.3% alcohol. Estate-grown fruit, which is often a positive in the Okanagan where growers have the upper hand in most negotiations. Fermented and aged for eight months in 100% new French oak, this has really nice focus. The oak is well integrated, and the high acidity (pH 3.13) balances out the richness that this brings very well. Structured and focused with subtle honey, nuts and lime on the nose, leading to a focused citrussy palate with taut fruit and subtle lemon, honey and spice notes. Very fine and expressive, with potential for development. 92/100
Terravista Vineyards Fandango 2021 Naramata Bench, Okanagan, Canada
13.5% alcohol. This is a blend of Albariño and Verdejo. It’s really bright and vivid with lime and lemon as well as subtle hints of apricot and pear. There’s just a touch of dissolved CO2 which helps with the feeling of freshness and vitality, and then it finishes juicy and stony, with real presence in the mouth. Rare to see these Spanish varieties in the Okanagan, but they work so well. 92/100
Black Widow Hourglass Reserve 2019 Naramata Bench, Okanagan, Canada
14.3% alcohol. Two thirds Merlot, a third Cabernet Sauvignon, with 21 months in oak. This is classically and beautifully aromatic with sweet, floral blackcurrant and spice on the nose. The wood and blackcurrant notes merge very well. On the palate there’s freshness and structure, as well as sweet but focused black fruits, and a fine spicy note, too. This has nice fruit but is very much in a classic, restrained style and should age nicely. Really impressive. 94/100
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