6 Rieslings Taste-Off


By Brandon Little

Battle Of The Okanagan: Riesling

Photography: Jeremy Spruston

Venue: Arrowleaf Cellars, Lake Country

Snacks: Gumtree Catering



… the most misunderstood grape. I’ve lost track on how many times I’ve heard the comment “I don’t like Riesling because I don’t like sweet wines” and by that statement alone is why it’s misunderstood. Rieslings come in all types of sweetness levels, yes, there are some sweet Rieslings, and honestly, they are very good, but they can also be dry — even bone dry! In the Okanagan it’s hard to tell which ones are sweet and which ones are dry, we don’t really have much for labelling, so you either have to be in the know, tried it, or make sure to ask when you buy a bottle. I promise you, there are a lot of dry Rieslings out there and they are fantastic!

Rieslings are serious Summer sippers. Perfect for patios, parks, beaches, anywhere it’s hot and the wine is kept cool. When Rieslings are served cold, they becomes crisp, extremely refreshing, and thirst quenching, BUT if it’s too cold, you’ll miss the fruit, so a good move, is when it’s cold, pour a larger glass and enjoy the experience at different temperatures, from crisp and refreshing to fruity and succulent as it warms.

The attributes of an Okanagan Riesling can be light, tart and dry, but it can also be full-bodied and sweet (we do all sorts of different styles). The flavours found in our Rieslings are typically green apple, honey, petrol (gas, diesel kerosene, motor oil), stone fruits like nectarine and peach, citrus - lemon, lime, grapefruit. Those aren’t all of them, but generally a good start.


We were at Arrowleaf for the tasting. I remember when I first came here six years ago, they had a tiny tasting room and I was extremely impressed with the quality of their wine, along with their reasonable prices.

Fast forward to today, quality is the same, if not better, and their prices are still bang on. They have a much larger/modern tasting area with a picnic area that has a view to die for.

For this round we decided to up it a notch and have three guest judges: Dave, Thatyana and Kyla. Dave and Thatyana were over a couple months ago for an around the world Riesling sampling, so I’d say they are considered average Joe and Josephine experts and perfect for this round.

Kyla is the owner of Gumtree Catering and wine lover and was gracious enough to provide us with snacks for the tasting. It was 6pm on a Tuesday and we had to run from our jobs to get to Arrowleaf and food was certainly welcomed.

We would’ve been pretty wasted by the end if we didn’t have any food in our bellies. Yes, yes, I know we’re supposed to be spitting, but who wants to do that...all the time?? Kyla came up big with probably some of the best hummus I’ve ever had and a nice appetizer spread, all of it was good!


The six wines we chose were mostly ones we’ve heard good things about and a couple we’ve had, just not current vintage.

We tasted, rated and scored each of these Rieslings blind. This post will provide you with a description of each bottle, who won, and what the winners’ score was. In no particular order…

The Six.jpg

#1 50th Parallel

Vintage: 2018

Region: Lake Country

Price: $19.90

Colour: Medium Lemon Aroma: Medium + Intensity, ripe green apple, lemongrass, honey, lime, wet rocks, slate, petrol Taste: Off-dry, high acidity, medium body, stone fruits (that hard bit that surrounds the pit of a nectarine or peach and is a bit sour), lime, petrol, sour apple, red grapefruit Finish: Lingers for a bit, a touch of sweet and a bit rocky

Comments: “Young, simple, balanced and racy” & “Summer Wine!”

fiftieth parallel.jpg

#2 Monster

Vintage: 2018

Region: Naramata Bench

Price: $19.90

Colour: Pale Gold Aroma: Medium intensity, vanilla, burnt sugar, apple, peachy, straw Taste: Bone dry, scathing acidity, medium body, boozy, bitter (that grapefruit white flesh after you peel it) Finish: Short, sour, dry, textural

Comments: “Needs food!” & “perfect afternoon wine”


#3 Summerhill Organic

Vintage: 2016

Region: Kelowna

Price: $22.00

Colour: Pale gold Aroma: Medium intensity of thick motor oil, dried peach, plum, dates, exotic Asian fruit, dried yellow fruit Taste: Dry, high acid, almost full bodied, white pepper, sour grapefruit rind, petrol, minerals, grassy Finish: Medium finish, tart citrus, petrol, grapefruit, plum, sour

Comments: “hard and stern” & “would go nice with duck l’Orange”

Organic Riesling.jpg

#4 Summer Gate

Vintage: 2018

Region: Summerland

Price: $23

Colour: Medium Lemon Aroma: Subtle, blossoms, melon, underripe peach, candle wax, honey, cherry orchards in the spring Taste: Borderline off-dry, medium + acid, light, tingly, granny smith apple, sweet peach, strawberry, refreshing, delicate, balanced, shows depth Finish: Medium, sweet, simple, underripe pear, changes from acidic to smooth berry and apricot

Comments: “A real people pleaser”


#5 Red Rooster

Vintage: 2017

Region: Naramata

Price: $16.99

Colour: Medium Gold Aroma: Extremely aromatic, lavender, petrol, blossoms, fragrant pear, key lime, red apple Taste: Off-dry, high acid, medium body, crisp minerality, wild raspberry, lime, pears, plum, grapefruit, intense, deep and interesting Finish: Long, lime, tart candy, minerality, herbs, satisfying, complex

Comments: “Damn this is good”, “BIG, Tart, Personable, Complex, and age-worthy”, “I will drink this wine with food…turkey dinner”


#6 Summerhill Vineyard

Vintage: 2017

Region: Kelowna

Price: $28.00

Colour: Medium Lemon Aroma: Low intensity, wet dog, honey Taste: Off-dry, high acid, light, honey, blossoms, key lime, rubber, melon Finish: Prickly minerality, medium, refreshing, burnt honey

Comments: “The finish isn’t half bad and will inspire a second glass”



This certainly was interesting, there were so many different wines, and that made this the most difficult round to judge so far. The different aromas of petrol were a bit off-putting for some judges, however some really liked it (including myself). There aren’t many white grapes that can have those complex aromas and flavours, which is why I like Riesling so much, it can be so interesting.

And the winner is.......

#5 - 2017 Red Rooster

with an average score of 11.7/15

Talk about an eye opener on what Red Rooster is doing with their Riesling, wow, I’m not sure more needs to be said, but here’s more anyway...

As we went through our tasting, I was waiting for something to stand out, there was one that we all liked, but when we had the Red Rooster, it honestly caught me off guard, and it was the wine I was waiting for. It was complex, extremely well balanced, carried a good amount of fruit and minerality,

petrol, acidity, and the texture and body were spot on. I can go on and on, but I’d suggest trying it for yourself, especially if you like Rieslings.

Red Rooster is on the Naramata Bench, which seems to be a consistent theme with our winners...hmm I haven’t been RR in quite a while, but after this, I’m going to visit and I’d suggest you do too. I “had” a favourite Okanagan Riesling that wasn’t included in this competition, but I think that’s changed.


Congrats to Red Rooster! Well done!

Keep an eye on Instagram as throughout the week we’ll be posting the second and third place winners, along with our favourites.

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