As Albertans, we have the privilege to live at a driving distance from –in my humble opinion- the most diverse and interesting wine region of the country: the Okanagan Valley. Mission Hill, Quail’s Gate, Jackson Triggs, Summerhill, for many people, these names are part of our wine buying habits. Albertans love to support our Canadian wine industry and have strong knowledge of the varietals and products that can be found here. As a Canadian wine enthusiast myself, I decided to conduct this tasting with a single objective in mind: exploring the small and/or not (yet!) well-known wineries and styles available in Alberta and present to our guest my own perspective on what is exciting on our market.
The wines from our tasting:
In 2011, Jay Drysdale and Wendy Rose launched Bella Wines, the first winery in British Columbia dedicated exclusively to sparkling wine. This 100 percent gamay bubbly is sourced from Oliver’s highly regarded Secrest Mountain Vineyards. The wine is a beautiful barely-pink, stainless steel fermented and with no dosage (bone dry!). The result is fresh, crisp and pure fruit. Strawberry, red apple, rhubarb and a hint of orange peel and freshness from first whiff through to a juicy, herbal pink grapefruit finish. Sold out at the winery since the beginning of August, we are lucky enough to have a few bottles left in Alberta. Don’t miss on the opportunity to grab a few bottles for your holiday celebrations!
The 2015 white is a pinot blanc that comes off the Middle Bench Vineyard in Keremeos, an area that has a well-deserved reputation for bearing fruit of exceptional quality. The nose is a delightful mix of perfumed floral notes with stony nectarine, Anjou pear and appeal notes. The palate is clean and juicy with creamy lees and stony, mineral, fruity flavours but all in a minimalist style. Quietly complex and food friendly from grilled halibut to a simple vegetable pasta with olive oil and freshly grated parmigiano.
Synchromesh Wines is a small, family run operation focused on producing terroir-driven, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. From vineyard to bottle they practice sustainable techniques, no-chemical farming, natural low cropping, extensive use of indigenous yeasts and no additives or manipulations in winemaking. With fruit selected from later picks of each property (4 vineyards located on Naramata Bench & Okanagan Falls), this wine showcases more gentle acidity with tropical and stone fruit and was fermented to a much drier profile than the other wines from their portfolio. The nose leads off with ripe apricot, nectarine, white peach and honeycomb. In the mouth the perception of sweet fruit immediately dries to granny smith apple peel, Anjou pear, candied ginger and a long green apricot finish. Sold out at the winery!
A Noble Blend is made in the spirit of Edelzwicker or Gentil, the traditional Germanic-varietal blend of the Alsace region of France. The literal translation of Edelzwicker is “a noble blend.” Year after year, this white wine is gorgeous. Sourced from vineyards across the Okanagan, this leads with perfumed white flowers, candied citrus and rosewater before a medium bodied palate of orchard fruit, lychee and a little swell of juicy acidity, impressive in warm 2015, the earliest vintage on record in the Okanagan. There actually is some residual sugar, which adds to the body of the wine, but the balance is so exquisite that the finish is dry. One to match with Pad Thai or curry dishes.
Norman Hardie’s approach to winemaking utilizes very few modern techniques in the cellar. This “old world” approach entails using absolute minimal amounts of sulphur, natural yeast from the vineyard, extended fermentation on the skins, and natural malolactic fermentation in the spring. It takes tremendous experience and guts to take this natural approach in such a youthful vine growing region (less than 15 years of history, 9 years VQA) – Norman Hardie adheres to this style because of his dedication and desire to create wines that taste of a sense of place or “Vins de Terroir”. The red fruit flavours are rendered in the 2014 County Pinot Noir with sublime freshness and purity. The wine is perfumed and fragrant (like a good Volnay), and packed with flavour and yet tip the scales at an alcohol strength of only 10.9%. Absolutely remarkable.
In November of 2015 Naramata winemaker Marcus Ansems has became only the fifth Canadian to earn the wine industry’s most prestigious professional designation: Master of Wine. With his wife, Rachel, Marcus operates Daydreamer Wines, a small winery they established in 2013. Daydreamer is the culmination of a family winery dream that Rachel and Marcus share. The winery’s Syrah-based blend is named Amelia, after their daughter. This is 90% Syrah, 10% Viognier and the grapes were co-fermented in small batches. The wine has matured nine months in French oak. The wine begins with earthy, gamey aromas of deli meats and pepper. There are flavours of blackberry, raspberry and Christmas spices with dark chocolate and espresso on the finish. Daydreamer is a very promising winery showing signs of greatness!
French family Merlaut, owner of Chateau Gruaud Larose of Bordeaux, now owns Osoyoos Larose. Produced in the Okanagan Valley from vineyards planted in 1998, this ultra-premium winery philosophy is to merge Old World tradition and knowledge with New World technology, spirit and adventure. Le Grand Vin begins with aromas of vanilla, cassis, black cherry and chocolate but also with that note of cigar box that Bordeaux collectors look for. The fruit is densely concentrated, with a sweet core wrapped inside the mineral, smoky and peppery notes, very characteristic of the Southern vineyards of the Okanagan Valley. 94 Points from Decanter Magazine for the 2012 vintage, 91 Point Gismondi; a true collector wine!
1. Daydreamer Amelia Syrah-Viognier
2. Clos du Soleil Grower’s Serie Pinot Blanc
3. Synchromesh Drier Riesling
I had a great evening chatting with a lot of interesting people passionate and eager to share their experiences with Canadian wines, and we were lucky enough to have an amazing all-Canadian platter of charcuteries and cheeses from our next door neighbor Peasant Cheese. Scrumptious! The wines were all showing very well and our guests had a hard time choosing two favourite amongst our selection. The results were a little bit unusual, I must admit, but I was very pleased! 2 Whites amongst the favourites, including a sweeter style of Riesling, and a beautiful Northern-Rhône inspired blend of Syrah and Viognier, from an extremely promising winery.
Next time that you decide to choose a Canadian wine, I encourage you to try a new label, a new producer, or simply talk to one of your wine enthusiasts at the store for a recommendation. The Canadian wine industry has never been more dynamic and exciting and we should be happy and proud to support our local winemakers in their quest to position themselves as a quality driven player on the world wine scene.
Thank you for reading,