Column: Tasting the Golden Mile wines at Hester Creek

Spending a week in the Okanagan is a daunting but pleasurable task as there are so many good wineries to explore and delicious wines to enjoy. A perfect way to begin your visit is at Hester Creek Estate Winery on the Golden Mile near Oliver.

When my Australian mate D’Arcy Walsh and I entered the attractive tasting room, wine shop manager Jacqueline Davidson led us through an informative tasting of over a dozen wines.

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The motto of Hester Creek is “Our roots run deep,” and Davidson explained how this is true botanically and historically.

“The winery started 51 years ago by Joe Busnardo. He’s the first one to plant vinifera,” she said. “We had hybrids at the time. Joe went to Northern Italy to get cuttings. The ones that are surviving today are our Pinot Blanc, Trebbiano, and Cab Franc.”

For years I’ve been fond of Hester Creek’s Pinot Blanc ($16.99), which has a tasty pear, apricot and apple personality with great minerality. Enjoy as a summer sipper or with spot prawns or halibut.

Then there’s the Character White ($17.99) that showcases the character and the soil on the Golden Mile Bench. As Davidson describes: “ The white is a Pinot Gris and a Gewurztraminer blend. The Gewurz cuts through the acidity. It's a versatile white wine. Great with artichoke dip because it cleanses the palate.”

But the most unique varietal at Hester Creek is the 2018 Trebbiano ($20.99) from the oldest vines dating back to 1968.

“No one in the Okanagan valley grows it. It’s very soft on the acidity with a beautiful nectar finish on it,” said Davidson. Unfortunately, they don’t grow very much of this Italian varietal, so if you come across it, give it a try!

Their 2017 Chardonnay ($21.99) is made in two separate lots, some of in neutral oak barrel and some of it in stainless steel and then they blend it. Davidson describes how the blended Chard evolves as it changes in the bottle over a year of aging.

The white wine develops a “beautiful amber (colour); a real citrus butterscotch finish. In July we will be releasing the 2018. It will be very light coloured, almost like a Pinot Blanc, very light in the oak and then the oak integrates through the year with in the bottle as it changes. Very nice with any citrus, anything acidic like tomato soup, anything creamy like grilled cheese sandwiches.”

Rosés are becoming very popular with Okanagan winemakers and the Hester Creek 2018 Rosé Cabernet Franc ($17.99) is a winner. Serve chilled on the patio at Hester Creek or at home and savour the scents and flavours of raspberry, strawberry, cherries and rhubarb.

In addition to the complimentary portfolio tastings, you can choose from a variety of tasting adventures. In the nearby demonstration kitchen, you can indulge in artisan cheese and wine pairings. Or try private tutored tasting in the Garland Room concluding with a tour of the ultra-modern winery.

Eric Hanson is a retired Richmond teacher and wine educator.

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