Blue Mountain
Part 7 of a series on the Okanagan Valley, a remarkable wine region in British Columbia, Canada


Blue Mountain is ancient by Okanagan standards, dating back to 1971, when Ian Mavety acquired the property and planted vines. The wine industry here would have been very different then, and the vineyards were planted with French hybrids. In the mid-1980s Blue Mountain began planting Vitis vinifera varieties and the modern era began. The 60 hectare property is now fully planted with 32 hectares of vines.

This is a spectacular setting, overlooking Vaseux Lake in the south of the Okanagan, framed by hills and with lots of different microclimates on the farm. The soils on the property are loamy sands with some gravel and rocks.

In 2007 the Mavetys started planting high density blocks (1.2 x 1 metre), with 8-10 000 plants per hectare, and the fruiting cane trained at just 50 cm. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and some Gamay are planted this way. The high density plantings account for 9 hectares in all now. It’s expensive to maintain, and requires a special narrow tractor for managing which had to be imported from Europe.

Overall, the main varieties are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Gamay making the balance.

Compost and organic fertilizers are used here. Blue Mountain provide straw to farmers for bedding cows on, then get it back after it has been used. This provides the basis for the compost along with the skins and stems from the grapes.

'The big thing in the Okanagan is the natural acidity and the clean fruit,' says Matt Mavety, son of the founder, and who we visited with. 'We do lots of work to preserve that acidity in a hot year. For example, we might pick early and then chaptalize.'

Matt Mavety

A big focus here – about a quarter of production – is sparkling, and these are really smart wines.

I was taken by the Gamay, too. ‘Gamay is a variety that has super-high potential here, but it is also difficult,’ says Matt. ‘Generally speaking it is very productive and you have to get the right balance. We target 55-60hl/hectare and it can produce double that. We don't cane prune Gamay, it is spur pruned. All of it was cane pruned to start with, and the result was big clusters with big shoulders. So we use the first couple of buds on spurs and it is much better. Before we had to drop 50% and now we drop 30%. We normally wouldn't do a cordon here because of winter damage, so we work on a fan head.’

‘The essence of the Okanagan is pure fruit and freshness,’ says Matt. ‘The hardest variety is Chardonnay for capturing the right moment: it is easy to be a little off. Pinot Noir is one of the easiest varieties to grow. It's a no brainer in certain spots.’


Blue Mountain Brut NV Okanagan, Canada
Based on the 2011 vintage. 60% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Gris. Tight, appley and fresh with subtle toast notes.Good precision and keen acidity. 89/100

Blue Mountain Vintage 1999 Okanagan, Canada
Disgorged on the morning of tasting. No dosage. Very keen with fresh citrus fruit and some pithiness, as well as subtle toast.. Just a hint of herbiness. Amazing acidity here: so linear with lovely freshness. 93/100

Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2012 Okanagan, Canada
Some old barrels, and part wild ferment. Textured and fresh with lovely pear and citrus fruit. Textured with a bit of toastiness. Linear and pure with good acidity and subtle oak influence. Nice weight and delicacy. 91/100

Blue Mountain Reserve Chardonnay 2010 Okanagan, Canada
60% barrel fermentation. Ripe, mealy and spicy with some toasty oak and fresh apple, pear and citrus fruit. Very stylish with a long nutty finish. 90/100

Blue Mountain Pinot Gris 2012 Okanagan, Canada
Around 40% barrel fermentation. Textured, fresh and clean with apple and pear fruit. Nice purity here with subtle nuttiness. Nice textural wine with some fennel notes. 89/100

Blue Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Okanagan, Canada
From 5 year old vines, around a quarter barrel fermented. Fresh mint, herb, apple and lemon notes. Textured and pure with some grapefruit and fennel. Fresh with keen acidity, showing real finesse. 91/100

Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 Okanagan, Canada
Showing cherries, raspberries and lovely freshness, this is supple, ripe and textured with lively peppery notes and some ripe but elegant kirsch characters. Has some meatiness. 92/100

Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir 2006 Okanagan, Canada
Supple and showing some evolution, with sweet berries and cherries. Real elegance on the palate with chalky, grainy mineral notes, fine tannins and subtle herbs. Elegance allied to ripeness with lovely evolution. 94/100

Mission Hill
TH Wines
Cedar Creek
Blue Mountain
Painted Rock
50th Parallel
Okanagan Crush Pad

See also:

Visiting Ontario's wine regions, Canada (series)

Wines tasted 06/14  
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