Tales from the Canadian Okanagan – Black Hills Winery

20140806_123427After starting at a very well-known Canadian winery, and then moving onto a very busy second winery, I had convinced myself that at that point, I was going small.  These were commercial, impersonal, with too many people and not enough personal interaction for me.  When I tour wineries, I like to ask a lot of questions.  I tend to worm my way to the “front of the line” so to speak and even try to get a personal tour!  Yup, its happened, and although I knew my time was short on this day, I still wanted that “personal touch” at least at one place!

To be honest, I almost drove by this one…after being underwhelmed at the previous two commercial, impersonal wineries, I wanted to get moving onto some smaller ones, because I felt I would get the experience I was looking for.  But with a resigned sigh, I pulled into the parking lot and went inside to yet another “larger-ish” winery.  I was immediately welcomed as soon as I got in the door and saw a bright, clean, wide open space.  After shaking hands with my welcomer, and she asking questions to find out a little more about me, I was invited to try the portfolio tasting.  I knew at this point that this was going to be a different experience and even though I didn’t know how much this was going to cost me, it didn’t matter.  I had already been made to feel welcome and was told that someone who knew wine well, would be on their way to serve me.

In a matter of moments there was 3 Riedel white wine glasses on my table, and a bit later 3 more for the reds.  This is serious here…not just any wine glasses, but the specific glasses for the varietals I was about to taste.  Luke came over to my table and introduced himself.  After the formalities, I noticed his name tag called him a “Wine Evangelist”.  I thought that very interesting and asked what the deal was with the title.  The only Evangelist I really ever knew about was Billy Graham, so to have the word “wine” in front of “evangelist” was kinda funny!  Luke informed me that all the servers at Black Hills had some sort of formal education in the wine industry, and after looking up the definition of evangelist, it also means  “a zealous advocate of something“.  Ok, now we’re getting somewhere! It all makes sense!  Luke has started his Level IV WSET diploma through the Vancouver Culinary Institute, and I will be starting my own trek through the diploma in just over a month’s time, so we already had something in common and somewhere to start our conversation.   Although Luke was busy with other customers, he took the time to chat with me whenever he could, and was willing to answer any questions I had. Luke loves Okanagan wines, and his passion for it is evident!  He has a podcast, website and blog all dedicated to Canadian wines and wineries. Check it out for a more detailed experience!

I already knew quite a bit about the Black Hills wines as the store I work at carries several varietals.  Of all the varietals in this flight, the only one I hadn’t tasted was the Carmenere. Again, knowing that Canada grows a Carmenere kinda blows my mind, but when it comes to Canadian wine, my mind is wide open.  I also tasted a Trebbiano and a Pinotage on this day!

20140806_124339From left to right:

2013 Alibi – a white Bordeaux blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon. Fresh, crisp acidity with some lovely citrus notes.  Very fruit forward! Perfect for the patio during this hot summer, but would be nice with some creamy cheeses too!

2012 Viognier – now THIS was how a Viognier should smell…seriously! That intense floral and stone fruit aromas that was reminiscent of a well made Viognier from Condrieu.  I’m not a big Viognier fan, but this was truly enjoyable.  Luke came to the table as I was writing my notes on this one, and after I sang its praises, he told me that as good as this Viognier was, to go check out another winery close by for their interesting take on the varietal.  Stay tuned for THAT winery!!

2012 Chardonnay – fermented in a combination of new, 2nd and 3rd use oak.  Just a nice touch of oaky vanilla on this one without it being overpowering. Some GREAT minerality and white peach with that hint of butteryness on the palate.  Loved it, so this was the one I chose to purchase and bring home.

I was so impressed by the whites, the conversation, the experience, that I totally forgot to take a picture of the reds in my specialty glasses!!  Arghh!!  Although I don’t have a picture, I WILL tell you about them!!

2012 Carmenere– as I said, super surprised to see this in my glass…in Canada no less.  The most interesting factoid about this wine is that Black Hills is currently the only winery in Canada producing this as a single varietal. I think this wine has potential, but I found the balance to be a bit off.  A bit “hot” in alcohol and super strong tannins, I could still pick out the cherry and earthy notes in it.  I would’ve appreciated a piece of meat with this one! But because it’s so unique, I have no doubt the locals will come back to purchase this one again and again.  I know I’ll never see this wine in Alberta!

2012 Syrah – I have to say…there are some goooddd Canadian Syrah’s out there.  This is one of them for sure.  I just wish I could’ve had it sit in my glass a little longer! Over time, it would have opened up nicely in my glass.  That black fruit smokiness that is such a big part of an Okanagan made Syrah, it’s aged in a combo of both French and American oak. All that oak imparted some flavours of chocolate as well. Big Yum.


Very hard to get this photo! The wines were in an enosystem and with the glass it was hard to get a good photo…You can see my reflection in the glass! Not cool!

2012 Nota Bene(latin meaning “note well”)- Black Hills version of the Bordeaux blend. This vintage has 57% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc. The percentages will change from year to year, depending on the harvests and the ripening of the grapes.  Again, aged in that combination of French and American Oak for optimal flavours. This wine needs time.  Lots of time.  Some tightness showing as it’s still young.   With time, this wine could be extremely beautiful.  Big, bold aromas and flavours of black fruits, mocha and coffee. I was super impressed to see it served in a big Riedel Bordeaux glass. (One of the other options was to do a vertical library tasting of the Nota Bene. Four vintages starting with ’09…next time!)

Overall, a fantastic tasting experience for me!  If I get to taste AND have a great conversation in the process I consider it a fantastic experience.  I would HIGHLY recommend a trip to this winery, especially if you get a Luke of your own!  Cheers!


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4 Responses to Tales from the Canadian Okanagan – Black Hills Winery

  1. james59 says:

    I’ve enjoyed the Nota Bene, but while it was still relatively young. I’d be interested to see what kind of aging it handles, and at least be able to taste a more mature vintage, something that was maybe 7 or 8 years old. But my memory of the young vintage that I did try is favourable. I think it might have been a 2010 vintage that I tried before summer last year.

  2. Sounds great! Thank you for sharing. Would love to tour some Canadian wineries some day.

  3. Lots of details! Wow! And “…a Luke of your own!” – Haha priceless!! Thanks for the link to my site. Cheers!

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