There are plenty of connotations that come with the name Black Widow in popular culture today — the Iggy Azalea song, for example, or the character played by Scarlett Johansson in The Avengers film franchise.
Those are hardly the icons Black Widow Winery proprietors Dick and Shona Lancaster had in mind when creating their Naramata Bench winery. In fact, the occasional black widow spider can be found in the area, owing to the desert-like conditions on the east side of Lake Okanagan (and further south) – hence the name.
The Lancasters bought their 7-ish acre property in 2000, taking some time to ensure all the details were just right before launching their first wines in 2006. And since then they’ve been impressing imbibers of all sorts with their small-batch, mostly single-vineyard whites and reds (they source from other select Naramata vineyards in addition to their own).
The steep slopes at Black Widow Winery were planted with white-wine varieties back in the late 1990s, with reds added a few years later. Since taking over the property, the Lancaster's have added a drip-irrigation system, a gravity flow winery built into the hillside, and much more; including the inclination to use organic and sustainable cultivation practices whenever possible.
They’re not going it alone — in fact, their three children now help out at the winery (daughter Shannon came on in 2011 as assistant winemaker), making Black Widow a truly family affair.
While Black Widow’s production is relatively small (just over 2,500 cases), it’s incredibly consistent. Their single-variety wines include the 2013 Pinot Gris, a racy, vibrant example of a grape that does well on the Naramata Bench — this example brings big crunchy red apple, pear and lemon notes.
On the red side of things there’s the 2012 Merlot, a dark fruit-driven red that manages to balance great ripeness with just the right amount of acidity, tannin and oak (around 20 months in barrel).
In addition to single-varietal reds and whites, they make some tremendous blends such as the 2013 Oasis, a fresh, aromatic whirlwind white blend of Gewürztraminer, Schonburger, and Pinot Gris.
Then there’s their signature blend, the tremendous 2012 Hourglass. It’s a Bordeaux-meets-New-World style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The dark fruit is perfectly ripe, and the 21 months in oak seems just right for a wine of this calibre.
With a relatively small case production, Black Widow wines can be tough to find. Luckily, Black Widow Winery is the March winery of the month at My Wine Canada. Choose the Most Improved Player (MIP) package for only $69 and get 2-3 fantastic bottles of wine from Black Widow, or scale up to the Most Valuable Player (MVP) package and enjoy 2-3 premium wines from this featured winery for $99. Both packages come to you with customized tasting notes written by our team of wine experts. Sign up by March 15 to get in on the wine club shipment from Black Widow.
Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson.