This is Part Three of my Wine Bloggers Conference 2013 Preview series, which details a pre-conference scouting trip courtesy of Penticton & Wine Country Tourism. You can read Part One here and Part Two here.
If I think back on my recent trip to the Okanagan, the wines that made the biggest impression on me were those at Blue Mountain Vineyards.
Located on a beautiful site in the Okanagan Falls area, Blue Mountain is a small, family-run winery. In case you’re wondering where the name comes from–the mountains in the distance sometimes look blue. Jane and Ian Mavety started the winery in 1971, and their son Matt and daughter Christie have since joined the family business. Matt Mavety took over the winemaking duties in 2005.
All of their grapes are grown on site. The vineyards are planted at high density, which causes stress on the vines and ultimately results in higher quality fruit. (Like many of us, vines perform best when under a certain amount of stress.) The climate is extremely dry, so lack of water forces them to irrigate. However, the dry climate also means that the risk of vineyard disease is fairly minimal, as is the need for spraying.
About a quarter of their total output is sparkling wine, and they make four different types. Christie told us that they’re the only winery in the area with that kind of sparkling wine program. I tried the Brut NV ($23.90 at the winery), a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and a small amount of Pinot Gris. Quite lovely and refreshing, it was dry, with citrus and toasted notes, and had a very fine mousse. It’s made using the traditional (Champagne) method and is aged on its lees for 24 months.
Their smooth Pinot Gris 2010 ($20.90) was clean and refreshing, with mineral notes and just a hint of oak. The Chardonnay 2010 ($20.90) followed suit: it was also very clean and refreshing, with great fruit and overall harmony. It had a slight kiss of oak as well, but the oak was well integrated and it remained balanced. Cool climate Chardonnay, just how I like it.
But my favourite was the Pinot Noir 2010 ($24.90). It was very fresh, with vibrant notes of cherry, but with an underlying savory earthiness and spice. Light bodied, it still had lots of character and depth. It didn’t have that “cooked” character I find in some New World Pinot. The alcohol is a touch high at 14%, but you couldn’t taste it. Blue Mountain also makes a reserve Pinot Noir called Stripe Label (I bought a bottle to bring home and am looking forward to trying it).
After taking over as winemaker, Matt Mavety began experimenting with wild fermentation (using native yeasts instead of adding cultivated yeasts), believing it could better express the terroir of their vineyard. The 2010 Pinot Noir is about half wild ferment. Why only half? Wild fermentation can be risky, and the Mavetys weren’t willing to risk an entire crop of Pinot Noir for the first few vintages. The 2011 vintage, however, is 100% wild ferment. It will be interesting to see how their portfolio progresses and if they move more and more toward using only native yeasts.
I was impressed by the finesse of these wines: there was no over-oaking or over-extraction to be found here, just pure elegance. And as you can see, the prices are quite reasonable considering the quality. A winery to watch, in my opinion.