If you’re a lover of BC wine (and haven’t been living under a rock for the past two decades), you’ve probably heard of Black Hills Estate Winery.They are especially known for their flagship wine, a Bordeaux style blend called Nota Bene which made its debut back in 1999. Black Hills mainly owe the launch of their brand to local wine writer, John Schreiner, who predicted that the Nota Bene would become a “cult red wine capable of appreciating in value” from that very first vintage. Each year since its inception, the blend has been comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
At this year’s Vancouver International Wine Fest, we had the chance to taste a vertical of 12 vintages of Nota Bene ranging from 2000 to 2015 at the swanky Vancouver Club. Their new winemaker, Ross Wise, led us through each wine with commentary on the variance in weather from vintage to vintage, technological changes at the winery throughout the years, and his personal tasting notes on each wine. What stood out for me was the ageability of this iconic BC wine. For example, vintages from 2000 to 2005 still had some very interesting characteristics, but I would recommend drinking them now if you’re still holding on. Starting in 2006, they moved to a new winemaking facility, which came with more space and more technology, having a positive effect on future vintages. My personal favourites, 2007 and 2008, still have a lot of life ahead of them, so no need to rush. Looking back on my notes, I can’t help but laugh at my thoughts that the 2007 Nota Bene exhibited “a sour bacon quality, but in a good way?” Everyone around me was so into the tasting, we couldn’t help but toss around some unique descriptors. Jumping ahead to 2012, Nota Bene was increased from 10 months of aging in oak, to 18 months, and this was also their only vintage that was Merlot dominant instead of Cabernet Sauvignon. Naturally, this vintage is lighter in body than the others due to the blend, and the experts in the room suggested pairing it with a duck dish rather than steak. The three vintages after this point were lovely of course, but could use a little time in your cellar before you crack them open.
Once we were through all 12 wines, we were asked to submit our favourite vintage. The winners were:
#1 – 2013 Vintage. Perfect weather from budbreak all the way to harvest.
#2 – 2007 (my personal favourite) & 2009 Vintages Tied for 2nd Place.
*Written by our contributor, Monica Zorawski.