For years, I’ve been reading Black Hills Nota Bene wine. With a cult-like following, the wine sells out nearly immediately every year and when I do see it on wine lists in restaurants, it’s always out of my price range. I’ve twice driven past Black Hills Estate winery in the last 10 years, both times there have been signs stating that they’re SOLD OUT and CLOSED for tasting. How’s that for being unapproachable and inaccessible? For some, I guess those qualities make it even more desirable, to others, it’s a real turn-off. For me, I’ve remained curious with the knowledge that if I ever got to taste Black Hills Nota Bene, it would come with such high expectations that it could only end up in disappointment.
On my recent visit to Osoyoos, I once again researched Black Hills only to find out that not only have they expanded to release a portfolio of wines available for tastings, but they do so in such a way that only the truly devoted, or curious in my case, will partake. $20 for a tour&tasting or $35 to add to the “experience” with food pairings, this isn’t for everyone. Heck this wouldn’t even be for me if I wasn’t so interested in finding out about the hype.
The first part of the experience took us into the barrel room to have a sampling of the (about to be bottled) 2009 Syrah. A first tasting in the production area in and amongst the myriad of aromas led to a confused palate. We were led outside to continue tasting the Syrah in the fresh air where I was able to detect notes of blackberry cola.
The sit down portion of the tasting begins with a brief history of the winery. The wine “evangelist” who guides you through the experience was enthusiastic and educated without being boring or snooty.
We started the tasting with the Alibi, a crisp citrus fruity white. A characteristic that I’m not fond of in whites is too much minerality, (I equate it to tasting like you’re sucking on a rock). This had a great deal of minerality.
Second was the Viognier, which was fruiter than the Alibi.
Next up was my favourite white of the tasting, a rich and luscious partially oaked Chardonnay, which was paired with the most whimsical presentation of the experience.
The Carmenere is a very unique wine to the region and at Black Hills, it’s one of a kind. Rather than being spicy with strong black pepper and cherry aromas, this is more earthy with hints of white pepper and raspberries.
Last up was the Nota Bene. This tasting came with a 10 year build up of expectation. Could this much touted wine priced at $60/bottle that sells out almost immediately really live up to the hype? Well, it was a wine that very much suited my palate. This Bordeaux-style blend of Cab Sav, Merlot and Cab Franc hits all of the right notes with big red fruit and mocha on the palate. With smooth tannins and a long finish, I was swooning with each sip. I could only imagine what this ’09 would be like in a few years.
My thoughts on the Black Hills Food and Wine Experience? It’s pricy but I thought it was fun, a very good way to taste the normally inaccessible Black Hills portfolio and I learned some things in the process. My thoughts on Nota Bene? Now that I’ve tasted it, I no longer have to be curious about what the hype’s all about. Was it amazing? Yes, but for the price, there are a lot of BC wines being produced that are just as amazing if not better. Most of those are coming from smaller wineries that seem to be driven by the love of the game, rather than creating a brand.
Black Hills Estate Winery – 30880 Black Hills Rd, Oliver, BC