Nota Bene, Take Two

by David Lawrason

This feature was commissioned by Black Hills Estate Winery.

Last year, WineAlign readers were offered an exclusive opportunity to purchase a six-bottle case of the 20th Anniversary 2018 Nota Bene, one of the most collected reds of British Columbia, but rarely seen outside of B.C., especially in eastern Canada. And it proved so popular, we are teaming up with Black Hills Estate Winery to do it again, for a limited time, while quantities last. I can imagine that for some this might be the second step in building a Nota Bene vertical tasting. It is certainly a wine designed to age, although the winemaking has also created a wine balanced enough to be enjoyable in its youth.


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nota bene finger 3 The WineAlign team tasted the 2019 Nota Bene in early June, with all four critic ratings coming in at 93/94 points. You can read the complete reviews nota bene finger 3here, but all the commentary reflects on the fine structure, balance and complexity of this vintage. It is full bodied but not heavy, dense or thick, and I immediately noted its energy, partially as a result of the coolness of 2019. To some, a cooler vintage suggests a lesser vintage. But in the quirky south Okanagan, cooler is a good thing. The desert conditions are notorious for very hot summer days that build in power and weight, but alcohol and tannin levels can get out of hand. In 2019, the summer was normally hot (with no wildfire smoke taint), then a cooler mid-September harvest period was punctuated by a Thanksgiving weekend frost. The result is better balance.

nota bene finger 3 For collectors, vintage variation is as important and interesting in the Okanagan Valley as it is in Bordeaux, even though the continental and maritime climates are vastly different. At this northerly latitude of 49 degrees (almost on the US border) the growing season is shorter, with always potentially limiting late spring and early fall frost events. Nota Bene employs the same red grape varieties as top Bordeaux, in this vintage merlot 48%, cabernet sauvignon 34% and cab franc 17%, with a splash of petit verdot. The components are separately fermented and aged before assemblage by winemaker Ross Wise and team, and further aged in French oak. And by the way, 2019 marks the first full vintage with the estimable Ross Wise at the helm. He made this wine the same year he became Canada’s 7th Master of Wine.

nota bene finger 3  For those new to Nota Bene, it is one of the most storied wines of Canada – among the first full bodied, “Bordeaux” reds in the country. It was first made in 1999 in a quonset hut winery perched on yet-to-be declared excellent vineyard land on the barren Black Sage Bench. Star winemaker Rusty Figgins, from Leonetti in neighbouring Washington, was hired to consult on the early vintages, with part-owner Senka Tennant taking over the winemaking and guiding Nota Bene and Black Hills through its formative years. Graham Pearce, another star B.C. winemaker took over until moving on in 2018. Enter New Zealand born and raised Ross Wise, who spent several years in Niagara before moving west.

nota bene finger 3 We hope you will be intrigued enough to give this offering a turn. There remains a certain reticence to purchase more expensive Canadian wine, but Nota Bene is actually now less expensive than several more ambitiously priced wines in B.C.  And if you have not been following the messaging in the last two or three years, the Okanagan Valley is rapidly gaining global status as a fine wine destination, with mega projects and great wines. Looking back ten years on, this price will be considered a steal.

6-pack price including all taxes with free delivery is: $483.53 .

Black Hills Estate Winery Nota Bene 2019

Black Hills Estate Winery Nota Bene 2019

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This feature was commissioned by Black Hills Estate Winery. As a regular feature, WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single winery. Our writers independently, as always, taste, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted on WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in the winery profile. Wineries and wine agents pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, and its content, is entirely up to WineAlign.

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