John Schreiner

By John Schreiner
reprinted with permission

Black Hills

It has been a busy summer at Black Hills , with the opening of a $1 million tasting room and, now, the release of a second label, called Cellarhand. At least, that is how the winery spells it in a media release. On the bottles, the label is two words, both lowercase.

The logic behind a second label is simple. Any winery that wants to elevate its first labels and Black Hills certainly is trying to raise the bar with Nota Bene, its premium red blend will have some wine that does not make the cut for the blend. This certainly still is good wine, just not up to bottling in wines selling at more than $50 each.

A winery without a second label usually sells the cull wine. There are not many Okanagan wineries that would turn down the culls from Black Hills , knowing the quality is there easily for blends fetching $20 to $25.
Well, Black Hills decided to bottle the culls for its own second label. The result: very good wines at reasonable prices.
The current releases from Black Hills include both its flagship wines and the new second label wines.

Black Hills Nota Bene 2010
($53 for a production of 3,300 cases). As usual, this blend is anchored with Cabernet Sauvignon, at 57%, with Merlot at 32% and Cabernet Franc at 11%. The Cabernet Sauvignon contributes a touch of mint to the aroma and flavour, complementing the cassis aroma. The wine has luscious flavours of black currant and plum, with long, ripe tannins. The wine finishes with a polished elegance. 92.

Black Hills Carmenère 2010
($50 for a production of 300 cases). This is an interesting and complex red with aromas of pepper and red berries.
The pepper carries through to the palate, along with flavours of plum, black cherry and chocolate. The alcohol is a moderate 12.2%, as it was in 2009, a much warmer vintage. This seems to be a variety that develops flavour before packing on the sugar. 90.


Black Hills Alibi 2011
($24.90). This is a blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Sémillon. The Sémillon was barrel-fermented in oak puncheons. The wine begins with aromas of herbs, grapefruit and lime, leading to flavours of grapefruit, kiwi and peach. The Sémillon contributes to the full texture and the subtle notes of honey. 90.

Cellar hand Punch Down Red 2010
($24.90). This is a blend of 45% Syrah, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Merlot. This is a delicious and accessible red, with aromas of plum, black cherry and pepper. On the palate, there are flavours of peppery black cherry along with the gamy fruit of the Syrah. The texture is generous. 89.

Cellar hand Free Run White 2011
($15.90). This is amazing value. The wine is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Chardonnay, Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The percentages are not disclosed, not that that matters to most consumers. The wine is a fruit salad of aromas and flavours: ripe peaches, apricots, melons and a touch of apple. It has a fine spine of minerals and tannin (the Viognier kicking in?) that gives the wine a crisp focus; yet the texture is rich and lingering. 90.
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