Posts Tagged ‘Sandhill Winery’

Not just ANY Chardonnay…

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
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Move over maple syrup, there is a new kid on the block that deserves the spotlight.  Introducing Canadian made wines aged in barrels made from Canadian oak trees.  This is 100% Canadiana just like Beaver Tails, the Bluenose II….these special wines will impress you.

In fact, Canadian Oak Barrels are not brand spanking new, yet in true Canadian style we are not shouting from the roof tops about them.  Not only do the wines taste good, there is a great story how the idea was conceived- let’s just say, some beers were involved!

The story goes…

About 5 years ago (or maybe it was 7), a handful of winemakers were ‘talking shop’ at a backyard BBQ.  Conversations lead to wondering what a barrel made with native Canadian oak would do to their wines. After a lot of research, they found a cooper (barrel maker) in California who would make these one-of-a-kind barrels. Next step was to find native oak trees – luckily found in Brantford, Ontario. The wood staves were cut and shipped in hockey bags (brand new ones of course!).  Their “what if moment” & hard work paid off when several Canadian Oak barrels arrived at the wineries.

From the get go, there were fewer than 10 winemakers across Canada who barrel age some of their wines in this special oak – including Tawse Winery, Featherstone, Malivoire, Strewn, Sandhill Wines to name a couple.  Now there is a cooper in Canada making the barrels  (note the unique maple leaf stamp on the barrel head – right) and over 50 winemakers from coast to coast have experimented with Canadian oak barrels.

Derek Barnett (left), co-owner & winemaker at Lailey Vineyard is a big enthusiast of Canadian Oak.  He barrel ages some of his Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meritage wines aged in Canadian oak.  These wines have been receiving rave reviews from day 1.

We introduced our Savvy Selections wine of the month club subscribers to Lailey’s Canadian Oak Chardonnay VQA 2011.  Here’s are our tasting notes (or read our monthly Savvy eZine):

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: “This wine makes me think of buttered popcorn” suggested Eva.  Golden straw colour with aromas of wildflower honey, tropical fruit (think coconut & sweet citrus) with some nuttiness – walnut perhaps?.  Rich & round mouthfeel with flavours of lime, stone fruit & baking spice with minerality & a lengthy warm finish.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Given the rich aromas & flavours of this Chardonnay try the Chicken & Farfalle with Creamy Walnut Sauce recipe.

Be on the lookout!

Now that you are ‘in the know’, seek out wines aged in Canadian Oak barrels.  You will definitely find a range of Chardonnays at next weekend’s Cool Climate Chardonnay Conference (aka i4C) in Niagara.  This 3 day spread give you the opportunity to learn & taste Chardonnays from every corner of the wine world as well as be WOWED by Canadian Oak Chards.

 

 

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The Essence of Okanagan Wines

Posted by Susan

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009
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The 2009 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival’s featured region was British Columbia – a treat for those of us who enjoy BC wines, yet rarely see the range of them here in Ontario.  The opening plenary, and a number of the trade seminars, provided a unique opportunity to meet and hear from the owners and winemakers, as well as to taste some of their most outstanding wines.

And then, to bring all these attributes together into fabulous wines, you have the “cultural mosaic” of owners and winemakers – pioneers Adolf Kruger and Anthony von Mandl, who left Europe for the BC interior; John Symes, one of the early pioneers who emigrated from New Zealand; Grant Stanley, a Canadian who spent many of his early years in New Zealand, only to return to the Okanagan to produce outstanding Pinot Noir; Lawrence Herder, who came back to the Similkameen after years of producing “big Cabs” in California; Tom di Bello, who has migrated up the coast from California ahead, as he said, of global warming; and the newer arrivals, Brooke Blair of Australia, who produced a Shiraz judged best in the world in 2004, her first vintage here; and Pascal Madevon, a Bordelais who moved his family to the Okanagan in 2002 and has become a Canadian citizen who produces outstanding Bordeaux-style blends.  The outstanding wines of BC are created from this mosaic of terroir, varietals and people, and are enhancing Canada’s reputation on the world wine stage.

BC wines ready to be enjoyed

BC wines ready to be enjoyed

As I listened to the various speakers, the concept of a mosaic came to mind.  In fact, many aspects of the wine industry can be characterized as ‘mosaics’.  The terroir includes a range of soil types, aspects, exposure, microclimates, elevation.  And this wide range of conditions facilitates growing many varietals, and ripening them in ways not found anywhere else in the world – from fully-ripened Cabernet Franc, to brawny tannic Merlot, to lean, crisp Riesling, Ehrenfelser or Gewurtztraminer with exquisite acidity.

 

 

 

These themes were threaded through the discussions and tastings, but an overarching theme was the “coming of age” of the BC wine industry.  As pointed out by the moderators, the industry has grown from 13 wineries and 1500 acres under cultivation in 1990 to now over 160 wineries with more than 9100 acres under cultivation.  Yet, BC is still a small player on the large wine world scene.  Quoting Scholefield, a well-known BC wine critic and one of the moderators, “Yellowtail began producing Pinot Gris two years ago, and now delivers approximately 1.5 million cases to the market.  This is the ENTIRE production of the BC wine industry.”  BC is a niche market that must be characterized by high quality wines, a unique story, and its incomparable terroir. 

Anthony von Mandl, owner of Mission Hill, said it is time to “take BC wines to the world.  As the Okanagan, as BC winemakers, we have to go to the world . . . There’s an enormous opportunity.”  There was a consensus that BC has what the world wants!

And speaking of the terroir, there were many discussions concerning the varying terroir from north to south in the Okanagan, and into the Similkameen valley.  According to Anthony Gismondi, wine critic and Editor-in-Chief of Wine Access magazine, his opinion is that while the rest of the world is attempting to move away from big, bold, powerhouse and overextracted wines, BC wines are naturally crisp, clean and fresh wines.  “Acidity is our friend” was an oft-quoted phrase, attributed to Grant Stanley of Quail’s Gate  

Howard Soon, a veteran of the industry and winemaker at Sandhill Winery, discussed his Pinot Gris.  “This is how we might describe BC white wine to the world:  lean, edgy, crisp, fresh.  Profoundly food friendly and appetizing.” 

As I listened to pioneers of the industry including Harry McWatters, who founded Sumac Ridge on a golf course; Anthony von Mandl, who founded Mission Hill and used to come to the Okangan for holidays during his childhood, as well as some of the more recent arrivals – Brooke Blair, Australian winemaker who immigrated to work at Jackson-Triggs and who made an immediate impression with her first Shiraz in 2004 winning best Shiraz in the world at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London. 

Anthony von Mandl (standing with mic), Harry McWatters (sitting at right with beard)

Anthony von Mandl - owner of Mission Hill Winery (standing), Harry McWatters - founder of Sumac Ridge Winery (sitting at right)

There was also a significant amount of discussion regarding the unique character of varietal wines made from Cabernet Franc in the Okanagan.  Not only has the Cab Franc in the southern Okanagan been shown to have unique terpenes (winespeak: flavor components), it continues to ripen through the summer heat (some other varietals shut down temporarily) and well into the late autumn.  It delivers wonderfully rich, intense wines with aromas of cocoa and herbs.  And Merlot, which is often soft and round in other regions, is the tannic backbone of the outstanding red Bordeaux style blend wine created by such wineries as Osoyoos Larose (wine name: Le Grand Vin), Mission Hill Winery (Quatrain), Black Hills Winery (Nota Bene), Herder Winery (Josephine), the newly named Road 13 Winery (Fifth Element).  Tom di Bello, of CedarCreek Estate explained, “The Okanagan is one of the best places in the world to grow Merlot.  The fruit is bright, vibrant, with more natural acidity.  And we’re getting mature tannins with less sugar because the fruit ripens sooner physiologically.”

 

 

 

To these pioneers – old and new – BC’s microclimates are critical.  Early pioneers planted with their palates, for instance, trying to grow Pinot Noir in the southern Okanagan.  But the ‘heartbreak grape’ lived up to its reputation, suffering through the long hot summers.  It was soon either ripped out or grafted over with more suitable varietals, such as Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Shiraz.  Brooke Blair’s award-winning Shiraz thrives in the deep sandy soil beside a sun-warmed rock formation on the 49th parallel.  And winemakers have learned that the aspect and soils of the Black Sage bench are uniquely different from those of the Golden Mile, although these sites sit across from each other in the narrow valley near Oliver. 

Lawrence Herder explained that the components of his red assemblage come from three very different parcels in the Similkameen Valley.  “We’re barely discovering what to plant where.  Each section of the valley is a specific microclimate.”

But along with this diversity, there is a unique defining character to the wine of the Okanagan.  You might call it the essence of these BC wines.  Both David Scholefield and Anthony Gismondi highlighted the characteristic earthiness and the unique flavors of Okanagan wines.   “I think you’ll find a dry herbal character somewhere in every single one of these wines.  Herbal, savory character . . . when you see that, think Okanagan,” said David.  “I encourage visitors to get out of their car, walk off the road and look at the sagebrush and everything that’s growing there . . . and smell.  That scent is somehow transposed into our wines,” said Anthony.    

While there was great focus on the wines, Howard Soon reminded us all that you have to remember to lift your head up when you’re in the vineyard – there is a breathtaking view to be had, whether you are near the lake just south of Kelowna, in some of the higher vineyards near Okanagan Falls, or on the Black Sage bench near Oliver.  “Don’t forget the unique scenery that is the Okanagan.” 

So, if you’re planning a trip to a wine region, consider a visit to the Okanagan.  Whether you visit this dynamic wine region after next years Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival in 2010 (tip: the Okanagan Spring Winefest occurs April 29-May 8, 2010), during the peak summer months, or in the fall (the Fall Winefest is September 30-October 10, 2010), there are a wide range of wineries to visit, all led by people passionate about their wines and excited to share the fruit of their vines with you.

Drop me a note if you’re planning a trip to the Okanagan, as I’d be happy to help you plan your winery visits. 

Here are a few of the many BC wines I discovered while in Vancouver last month:

  • CedarCreek Ehrenfelser
  • Wild Goose Stony Slope Riesling
  • Thornhaven Estates Gewurztraminer
  • Road 13 Old Vine Chenin Blanc
  • Quail’s Gate Family Reserve Pinot Noir
  • Nk’Mip Qwam Qwmt Merlot
  • Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc
  • Jackson-Triggs Sunrock Vineyard Shiraz
  • Herder Winery Josephine
  • Mission Hill Quatrain
  • Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin

 Cheers & Enjoy,

 Susan

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