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During a trip to Okanagan wine country last October, the winemakers I met were clearly excited by the quality of the grapes both in their vineyards and turning up at their wineries to be processed. Veteran winemakers and winery owners around the region were expecting the 2020 vintage to be good for red wine varieties and potentially great for white wines.
Despite a slow start to the season, things kicked into gear starting July 15 with constant sunny and dry conditions, which gave grapes enough time to ripen. The only challenge facing vintners is there’s less yield than anticipated. Smaller berries and lighter grape clusters resulted in less wine.
The arrival of new releases from Okanagan wineries, notably early release aromatic white wines and rosés, are showing how effectively winemakers were able to harness that potential. These youthful wines, such as the rich and refreshing chardonnay from Meyer Family Vineyards and the distinctively fruity white from Quails’ Gate reviewed this week, offer attractively ripe and juicy characters with nice balance and purity.
Other new and recent releases to watch include two rewarding red wines and a fashionable rosé from the south of France to help usher in sunny days to come with a sense of style.
Featherstone Estate Winery Cabernet Franc 2019 (Canada), $19.95
To my mind cabernet franc is the signature wine made at Featherstone in Vineland, Ont. With a mix of fruity and savoury flavours and aromas, it’s a red wine with real fragrance and charm. Its bright acidity makes it best enjoyed with a meal or a good candidate for short-term aging in the cellar to gain more depth and dimension. Drink now to 2027. Available in Ontario at the above price or direct through featherstonewinery.ca.
Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Yellow Label Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (United States), $23.95
Grapes sourced from specific locations in California help to contribute to the fruity and appealing character of this sauvignon blanc from Coppola’s popular Sonoma County winery. The simple citrusy flavours are riper and the texture is broader than the zesty styles made in New Zealand and other cool climate growing regions. This offers more succulent and juicy fruit notes. Available in Ontario at the above price, $24.80 in Quebec (2018 vintage).
Foxly Chardonnay 2016 (Canada), $28.99
Foxly is a new addition to Foxtrot Vineyard’s portfolio, which focuses on expressive pinot noir and chardonnay from estate vineyards in the Okanagan. More affordably priced and released with some bottle age, this is a leaner and lighter style of chardonnay with bright citrus and apple notes. It’s refreshing and enjoyable to drink now. Available in British Columbia at the above price or direct through foxtrotwine.com, various prices in Alberta.
Jean-Marc Brocard Kimmeridgien Chardonnay 2018 (France), $19.95
Jean-Marc Brocard is best known for wines produced in Chablis. This estate-bottled wine is labelled under the broader Bourgogne appellation, but offers much of the light and bright character found in Chablis, right down to the stony and salty flavours on the lingering finish. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, $32 in Nova Scotia.
Lafage Miraflors Côtes du Roussillon 2020 (France), $17.95
This is a stylish and serious dry rosé from the south of France made with grenache gris and grenache noir grapes. It offers the fashionable pale pink colour, with a pleasing mix of melon, red berry and nectarine flavours. Nicely balanced with a refreshing crisp finish, the purity makes this stand out. Available in Ontario at the above price, $19.35 in Quebec, $27 in Nova Scotia.
La Nerthe Les Cassagnes Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2018 (France), $24.95
Produced with grapes grown at Domaine de la Renjarde, an organic estate near Orange in southeastern France, this blend of grenache, syrah and mourvédre makes for a crowd-pleasing red wine. Its complex mix of ripe berries, peppery spice and herbal flavours are nicely rounded out by a smooth texture and lingering finish. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $26.65 in Quebec.
Louis Bouillot Perle d’Aurore Brut Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne (France), $22.95
A blend of pinot noir, gamay and chardonnay from vineyards spread across Burgundy, this pink sparkling wine offers the expected mix of citrus and red berry aromas and flavours. It’s a simple and enjoyable bubbly that’s ready to drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $26.99 in British Columbia ($24.99 until June 5), $22.60 in Quebec.
Meyer Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2020 (Canada), $19.22
Meyer’s winemaking team is saying the 2020 vintage is the best in recent years, a claim that’s reflected in the rich and refreshing character of its largest production chardonnay. A blend of four vineyards, stretching from the winery in Okanagan Falls down to Osoyoos, this is a fresh and generous dry white with terrifically balanced fruit flavours and acidity. Drink now to 2026. Available at the above price in British Columbia and direct through mfvwines.com, various prices in Alberta, $33 in Nova Scotia.
Quails’ Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2020 (Canada), $19.99
The chasselas grape was one of the first European varieties planted by the Stewart family in 1961. The light and refreshing white it produces for Quails’ Gate continues to be a summer staple year after year. Its distinctive fruity and floral fragrance is easy to appreciate, which helps to explain why it continues to be one of British Columbia’s bestselling bottles. Drink now. Available in British Columbia and Manitoba at the above price or direct from quailsgate.com, $20.99 in Saskatchewan, $19.95 in Quebec.
Xavier Vignon Ventoux 2017 (France), $17.95
A blend of syrah, grenache and mourvèdre from Southern France where vineyards are located on the lower slopes of the Ventoux mountain, this is a nicely layered and flavourful red wine. The core of juicy ripe fruit is nicely complemented by spice and dried herbal accents. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.