By Tasting Room Confidential contributor, Nancy Baye
Last month, a small group of wine enthusiasts gathered for lunch with two of the top peeps from Hester Creek Winery: General Manager Mark Sheridan and Winemaker Robert Summers. The intimate setting at Gastown’s Cork and Fin allowed for ample opportunity to talk, and sip, and be spoiled by cheerful owner, Frances Regio.
Hester Creek Estate Winery sprawls across 95 acres of the Golden Mile region near Oliver BC, and boasts some of the area’s oldest vines. Winemaker Rob Summers, originally from Ontario’s Niagara region, joined the winery in 2006 and takes great pride in his craft and the winery. Believing that it was important to ‘create experiences,’ the winery has recently invested in some changes.
Hester Creek has added six old world Mediterranean-style guest houses that overlook vineyards, orchards and valley. And, Terrafina restaurant continues its Mediterranean theme – and the kitchen has added another unique component: small on-site cooking classes with acclaimed chefs.
But Hester Creek is really all about the fresh, lively wines that convey the spirit of the beautiful locale, unique terroir and loving care of the winemakers. Our wine selections, all new releases, were paired with a fresh and lavish lunch that was served platter-style.
We began with the limited-release 2012 Chardonnay. Aged in a combination of French and American oak for eight months, the lush wine has notes of caramel, tropical fruit, baked apple, and citrus.
The crostini topped with house made ricotta, Harissa honey, and seared figs was a terrific match for the chardonnay. A platter of local oysters, so fresh they brought the sea with them, were delish; however, some found their saltiness an unsuitable match to the wine’s richness.
Between courses, I got the scoop from Robert. Since moving from the fast pace of the Niagara wine country, where he worked with Cave Spring Cellars and Peller Estates, among other wineries, he and his family have settled into the slower vibe of the west coast. He no longer gets antsy waiting in line at the supermarket.
Summers had long ago recognized the potential of the South Okanagan, and since joining Hester Creek in 2006, he has been living the dream that balances work and life satisfaction.
His philosophy is to “let the grapes express themselves,” their varietal character and Hester Creek’s unique terroir. This philosophy shines through, as does the fact that Rob and Mark are excited about Hester Creek, and clearly love their wines.
We were pleasantly interrupted by a platter of zesty salad greens and a new pour, the 2011 Block 2 Reserve Merlot, made with some of the winery’s oldest vines. This leggy wine hints of black pepper, with notes of toffee and ripe plum, plus grippy tannins that slightly overpowered the salad.
Then it was onto the 2011 Block 3 Reserve Cabernet Franc, which had a nose of black pepper, raspberry and cherry, a racy mouthfeel, and a hint of woodiness. This was a perfect match for our pasta course: orecchiette with sausage, broccolini and chilies.
Warmed up on reds, I turned my attention to Mark Sheridan, General Manager at Hester Creek. Hailing from Australia’s Barossa Valley in Australia, Mark worked with some of Australia’s top wine producers before moving to Canada. He too saw the potential of the Okanagan Valley, and joined Vincor Canada in 1999 before moving to Hester Creek as GM.
Our final estate wine, and by far the most luscious, was then put before us: the Limited Edition 2010 The Judge. This blend of Merlot, Cab Franc and Cab Sauvignon is big and hearty. Aromas of chocolate and black fruits open to an elegant palate full of black berry and cassis on a smooth, velvety mouthfeel. The finish is fruity and a touch sweet. It was a great accompaniment to the rare-grilled New York Strip loin, finished with lemon, and platter of creamy pureed potatoes.
As an extra bonus, Mari Kane used her oenophile wiles to access a bottle of Hester Creek Trebbiano, the only trebbiano made in BC. It was velvety smooth, and ripe with apple and pear flavours. I’m sticking with her… I can’t wait to find more of this one and to sit on the bench with The Judge again