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March 28, 2009
Nota Bene Hosts a Vertical Tasting

On Friday, Black Hills Estate Winery hosted a vertical tasting at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, offering fans of its Nota Bene label a chance to compare 9 consecutive vintages from 1999 to 2007.

At $150 a seat it was one of the first festival seminars to sell out, and winery President Glenn Fawcett says it is unlikely that Black Hills will ever do another tasting like it any time soon. Why?  Because due to its cult-like status with local wine drinkers, stocks of the older Nota Bene vintages are now so rare, and so expensive, they can no longer afford to give away any of their library.

Even the newer vintages are in limited supply because the wine is produced exclusively from grapes grown on a single 27 acre parcel of land in the South Okanagan’s Black Sage region. This means that their current output of 3,900 cases has almost capped  production capacity and the owners have sworn never to augment the yield with grapes grown or purchased elsewhere.

Always has been, always will be” (single vineyard specific) is the company slogan.

Which is why a vertical such as this one can offer tasters an interesting perspective on a wine. 

Having constants in such factors as vines (now 13 years old), terroir (sand up to 35 feet deep in spots), local couperage, water from their own wells (calcium rich),  and a blend restricted to three varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc) meant that tasters could eliminate many other variables that can influence a wine and try to zoom in and identify its unique taste profile. In Nota Bene’s case we are talking about ripe plum, black olive, truffle and cedar elements tinged with a dusty herbaceous accent that is characteristic of Black Sage wines.  It was weather, improved vintnering techniques and the changes in varietal percentages that were generally responsible for the shifts in the taste that were detectable from year to year.

No matter what age, the wines were all still drinking well, but perhaps the year most people were curious to taste was the yet to be released 2007 which will be made available to Black Hills investors on April 18, and to the general public on May 4th.

Getting some may not be easy. Last year, the total production of 3,300 cases for the 2006 vintage sold out in less than 45 minutes online, and that included 5 server crashes thanks to the 10,000 unique visitors who tried to log onto the website in the same initial ten minutes.

This year, the winery directors expect the same sort of buying frenzy and have bolstered their website to handle the rush. But they are being secretive about the price. All they will reveal is that they will be charging more than last year (natch), even even though they did try to keep the recession in mind.  For those who get shut out at the gate. They may get another chance when a few cases will be released for sale at the winery during the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival. Failing that, hopefully your favourite restaurant is on their client list. Check here
Thus, if demand continues, your stashed cases of Nota Bene can only get more valuable. Although general manager Graham Pierce advises that you should probably just drink it up and enjoy. The wines were designed for a practical ten year shelf life.

The company is currently looking to purchase more property in the neighbourhood. But that will probably be used for growing Syrah.

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Copyright Cityfood Magazine 2009