With a winery, location is everything. The location of Bench 1775 Winery on the Naramata bench is so good that when they named their winery, they simply used the property’s street number — 1775 Naramata Road — as their name. There are few spots as picturesque in the Okanagan Valley as Bench 1775’s spot on the Naramata Bench. And hey, it doesn’t hurt that it’s also an ideal spot for growing grapes. Can’t make it to the winery? No worries — you can enjoy Bench 1775’s wines in the comfort of your own home (just close your eyes and pretend you’re on the Naramata Bench) as part of My Wine Canada’s wine club. Bench 1775’s wines are featured this month, so sign up and get some delivered today. You'll also receive my tasting notes and pairing suggestions in your package.
Bench 1775’s winemaking, under the guidance of general manager/winemaker Val Tait, has been incorporating organic winemaking practices in the vineyard as well as minimal intervention (in the way of oak, etc.). For the most part, the wines are fruit-forward, accessible crowd-pleasers, although they also make some pretty serious, award-winning reds and whites as well.
The Naramata Bench is one of B.C.’s hottest winemaking regions when it comes to gains made in quality style in the wines. Both cooler- and warmer-climate grapes seem to do well on the bench, and Bench 1775 has used grapes from the region (and beyond) in crafting their wines.
Here are my crib notes on the wines featured this month as part of MWC’s wine club:
2015 Chill ($20.70)
Bright red apple, lemon meringue, pineapple, tropical fruit, spice and apricot notes on the nose show well on this proprietary blend of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Semillon. It’s a light-plus bodied, somewhat viscous white, delivering ripe peach, red apple and pineapple notes on the palate without any oak influence. A cheerful crowd-pleaser that will appeal to wine drinkers across a wide range of palates.
2015 Pinot Gris ($23)
Ripe red apple, pear, melon rind, Meyer lemon and apple seed aromas do well on the nose. It’s a light-plus bodied Pinot Gris that’s all about the fruit — namely red apple, pear and melon flavours. Secondary citrus flavours are ripe rather than tart, while modest peach and papaya notes are lots of fun. The addition of 4% Gewürztraminer adds the faintest hint of spice, and the freshness of the fruit stands out thanks to stainless steel (instead of oak barrel) fermentation.
2014 Groove ($20)
A blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, the Groove brings fresh plum, blackberry, blueberry and dark chocolate aromas most on the nose, with secondary leather, smoke and black tea notes. This full-bodied, rich red may technically be a Bordeaux-style blend, but flavour-wise it’s anything but. Plush blueberry and plum notes driven by the Merlot make way for dark chocolate, vanilla and black berry flavours. Modest oak aging here adds complexity without overpowering the fruit or adding any sweetness.
Here’s the absolute steal of the bunch. Blackberry, chocolate, cassis, mint and light herbal and bell pepper aromas show well, with underlying leather, smoke and black tea notes. It’s a full-bodied, elegant red made from a single clone of the Cabernet Franc grape, with ripe cassis, white pepper, mint, raspberry, espresso and dark chocolate flavours. It’s a beautifully balanced, complex Cabernet Franc that’s drinking very well right now but has five to eight years’ aging potential. Bench 1775’s take on this underrated grape brings incredible finesse and style.
Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson.