Monday, November 5, 2012

A New Addition to The Bench

As I've written recently, Mr. D and I managed a quick weekend to Penticton and the Naramata Bench a couple of weeks back for the Red Rooster Adopt-A-Row Fall Harvest party.  I'm not kidding when I say that it was a quick weekend.  Most of our available time was spent with the gang at Red Rooster, but Mr. D. and I had a small window of opportunity to take in a couple tasting rooms between picking grapes and heading out for the winemaker's dinner.

I'd really hoped to fit in one of the newest wineries on the Bench.  I didn't know much about the wines of Upper Bench but I had read that Shana Miller, wife of owner/winemaker, Gavin Miller, was creating a buzz of her own with her Upper Bench cheeses.  Whenever we're lucky enough to be in the Okanagan, I try to load up on some of the legendary Poplar Grove cheeses.  Well, Shana was a cheesemaker with Poplar Grove and she's brought her ample skills with her to the new operations.

Suffice it to say that I'm going to keep hoping that their production levels build to the point where they can provide some cheese to one of the Vancouver cheese shops because I won't be able to make it to the Okanagan often enough to keep it in stock in our fridge.  If they can get it down here, I don't think Les Amis du Fromage would have any problem finding customers for the assortment of beautiful cow milk cheeses.

I picked up the three cheeses that they had available at the moment and it only made sense to try an Upper Bench wine when we chowed down on the King Cole semi-soft blue.

1280.  2011 Upper Bench Riesling (Okanagan Valley)

Having only purchased the winery in 2011 as part of the Holman Lang receivership, the Millers have spent the last year renovating the winery, setting up the cheesery and re-working the vineyards.  It's far too early to be able to pass judgement on where Gavin is going to take the winery, but he sports quite the pedigree himself.  Even if you don't recognize Gavin's name, anyone who knows the big guns in BC wine will likely have tried a wine that he's been involved with.   He's recently been a winemaker at both Poplar Grove and Painted Rock - two wineries that are intimately familiar with the production of award-winning wines.

Gavin wasn't in charge of the vineyards at the start of the 2011 vintage; so, Upper Bench's wines will, no doubt, see change in the years to come.  I think the Riesling stands on its own already though - not that it's going to be easy to find.  There were only 112 cases made.   The wine's got a touch of sweet on the palate but there's plenty of acidity to give it a nice contrast.  There's also plenty of fruit - to the point of tropical, even.  Regular readers of the blog will know that I'm a big Riesling fan.  I'd have no problem coming back to this bottle at all.

I've got to say that I'm not entirely sold on the logo though.  I asked the young lady manning the tasting room about its provenance and she said that the "U" is meant to represent a wineglass - minus the better part of the stem.  I said, "Yeah, I suppose I can see that," but she let out a big guffaw when I told that the "U" really reminded me of a saggy, old boob though.  After she'd stopped laughing, she told us that no one had come out with that one yet and that she couldn't wait to lay that one on Gavin.

I may never be able to see the logo in another light now.  I suppose, however, that, if it's got to be a saggy old boob, I'll just have to associate it with mother's milk or the cow's udder needed to make all that fine cheese.  Either way, I'm happy to welcome Upper Bench to the Bench.

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