The Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland, B.C., celebrated its fifth anniversary in September. It seems like it’s been around for much longer than that.
What started as a plan to operate a custom crush wine facility capable of producing 20,000 cases has evolved into a vision that includes organic farming and the production of more natural wines that embrace a minimal intervention winemaking style spread across a few different labels. An incredible 725 tons of fruit is being processed at OCP this fall.
During the last five years the winery has evolved to produce wines that embody the natural, wild beauty of the Okanagan Valley’s wine growing region.
Owners Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie leapt into the wine business in 2009 when they crafted 200 cases of Haywire Switchback Pinot Gris from their now organic 10-acre Summerland vineyard. This started a chain of events that included the construction of a state-of-the-art wine facility and visitor center at Switchback Vineyard in 2011, the launching of Canada’s first purpose-built custom crush business, the addition of a 320 acre parcel, and an increase in their own production of labels Haywire and Narrative to 15,000 cases annually.
The custom crush model was a novel idea in 2011 that other B.C. wineries have since embraced. While it was commonplace in other wine regions, it was done on a very small scale and not openly, due to restrictive provincial regulations. Okanagan Crush Pad’s team found a way to comply with the regulations and has seen their custom crush business grow to 25,000 cases annually.
“Custom crush is a great cost-effective model for small or emerging wineries. They get to have their wine made in a facility that has the very best equipment and winemaking talent and enter the competitive marketplace with premium wine quality,” said Coletta. Since opening five years ago, OCP has graduated 14 new wineries from their cellar.
In 2012, OCP purchased the 320-acre Garnet Valley Ranch (GVR) that had 60 acres of fallow hayfields. Since then the team has planted 20 acres of high density vineyards on the surrounding slopes, added 8 acres of vegetables and incorporated livestock. The ranch was certified organic this past spring. The long-term goal will see an additional 40 acres of grapes planted, a move towards biodynamics this year, and the addition of cattle.
The most significant change has occurred in the cellar. With the arrival of Matt Dumayne in 2013, the wine portfolio has evolved to focus on minimal intervention winemaking. The team places their efforts on viticulture in their organic vineyards to ensure delivery of super premium grapes come harvest time. The aim is to craft wine fermented and aged in concrete tanks with zero additives, free from oak and commercial yeasts, and with some of the wines being produced in clay amphorae.
“The last five years have been a whirlwind of activity with little time to rest and reflect,” said Coletta, “OCP is very fortunate to have a passionate team all pulling in the same direction to the same end game. The next five years will bring many new firsts. When you love what you do you, it is an exciting ride.”
I have been fortunate to taste the vast majority of OCP wines since the inception of the winery and its brands. The dedication to quality right of the gate has been incredible to watch and fun to taste as the portfolio has migrated to a more natural style without the use of oak and minimal intervention in the winery.
The natural program has been a highlight for me as well as an extensive sparkling wine production that is going to expand with the release of an upcoming vintage-dated reserve sparkling wine program with several vintages sitting on the lees as I write this.
Okanagan Crush Pad is continually moving forward with an excellent portfolio of wines.
We have reviews for Haywire and Narrative wines from OCP plus reviews for new releases from Tinhorn Creek in Oliver and Monte Creek Ranch in the Thompson Valley in Part I of our look at B.C. wines. To come is Time Estate, Evolve and McWatters wines.
Note: This post marks the debut of fellow Wines In Niagara writer Michael Lowe, usually seen writing about food, who is helping with the wine reviews from time to time on this site. He’s no stranger to reviewing wines and has written reviews for various publications. His reviews are indicated with a ML at the end of the review.
Haywire and Narrative
Haywire Free Form White 2015 ($35, 90 points) — 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Waters & Banks Vineyard (Summerland) that is in its third year of transitioning to certified organic. Made with zero cellar intervention, wild yeast, full malo and nine months of skin contact then pressed and bottled unfiltered. So, essentially a “natural” wine that will require an acquired taste for consumers. It’s a mineral bomb on the nose with underlying fresh-cut hay, mango, pineapple and apple skin. It has a rich, creamy feel on the palate with complex notes of flinty minerality, citrus and pulpy tropical fruit with an earthy component that builds on the finish. Exciting and thought-provoking white, not-quite-white, wine.
Haywire Free Form Red 2015 ($55, 93 points) — The natural brother to the Free Form white above. Nothing added to this 100% Pinot Noir that was fermented in two 800-litre amphorae then aged on skins for eight months. Totally wild wine with a nose of red plums, cherry pie, brambly raspberry, and cassis that all builds in intensity. Untethered and free-spirited, this red shows bushy raspberry, tar, leather, earth and a pepper note on the palate with silky tannins and a subtle dusty cocoa note on the finish. Um, wow. Geek out on this.
Haywire Waters & Banks Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($25, 90 points) — Fermented in concrete tanks with native yeasts keeps this wine lively and fresh, full of fruit and lip-smacking acidity. Look for grassy, herbal, and citrus notes with some tropical undertones. Mouthfeel is rich and creamy with persistent fruit on the medium-long finish. ML
Haywire Secrest Mountain Vineyard Gamay Noir 2015 ($27, 89 points) – Red berries abound, both on the nose and the palate. A touch of pepper and spice marry well with refined tannins. We paired with duck confit, roast/gingered carrot puree and black (forbidden rice) risotto – Outstanding. ML
Narrative XC Method 2015 ($25, 88 points) — Secondary fermentation for this 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay took place in charmat tanks at the Okanagan Crush Pad. Shows a spunky, lively mousse with a nose of lemon, bright apple and lime zest. It’s round, mellow on the palate with mineral, lemon curd, lime and a touch of sweet apple on the finish.
Narrative Ancient Method 2015 ($40, 92 points) — 100% Pinot Noir sparkling made in the ancient method (pet-nat) and bottled with 22 grams of residual sugar during primary fermentation, forgoing any additives or stabilization. A bready/yeasty entry with rich apple, muted citrus and a lovely floral note on the nose. It’s bright and energetic on the palate with a persistent mousse and flavours of citrus rind, tart apple and toast that all lead to a fresh and finessed finish.
Narrative Syrah 2015 ($30, 91 points) — Sourced from the Black Sage Bench, this Syrah was gently destemmed with 25% whole clusters into concrete tanks. No oak was used in the making of this wine. The nose is all savoury, peppery notes with plums, boysenberry, earth and rich dark fruits chiming in. It’s bold and peppery on the palate with a range of savoury spices, deep dark fruits, ripe tannins and an earthy finish.
Narrative White 2015 ($19, 88 points) — This blend of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer exhibits lifted, floral, spiced apple/pear and lychee notes. Racy acidity mingles with the spiced, tropical fruit and there’s a distinct seam of minerality. ML
Narrative Red 2015 ($20, 88 points) — A blend of Gamay, Cabernet Franc and Syrah with a nose of spicy plum, currants, raspberry and peppery overtones. The palate reveals rich red berries, earth and smooth tannins with a nice peppery finish.
Tinhorn Creek, Oliver, Okanagan Valley
Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2Bench Red 2013 ($30, 91 points) — Utilizing all five Bordeaux varietals, with nearly half Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a gorgeous red blend from the Diamondback Vineyard on the Black Sage Bench. It shows a range of dark and red fruits on the nose with interesting herbs, spice, tobacco and leather notes. It’s refined on the palate, not heavy, with intense berries and interwoven with balancing spice and fine tannins. Nicely balanced and drinking fine now with room to improve.
Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2015 ($20, 89 points) — The nose shows tropical fruits, spiced apple, citrus and subtle minerality. Quite nice on the palate with rich, full tropical fruits, citrus and spicy overtones all balanced by zestiness on the finish.
Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Merlot 2013 ($27, 91 points) — Also from the Diamondback Vineyard, the nose shows black cherries, mocha, currants, plums and elegant oak spices. It’s rich and layered on the palate with lovely texture that complements the intense red fruits, plums and toasted oak spice notes. Smooth tannins, licorice and a long finish complete this wine.
Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc 2014 ($22, 88 points) — The nose shows a range of red fruits, herbs, cranberry with light spice notes. Look for cherry fruit, savoury spices, dried herbs and bramble on the palate.
Monte Creek Ranch Winery (Thompson Valley, B.C.)
Monte Creek Ranch Chardonnay 2015 ($17, 88 points) — Monte Creek, established in 2009 with the winery opening in 2015, is a growing concern in the Thompson Valley. The Monte Creek Ranch is an incredible 900 acres of land, with 45 of that planted to grapes. It also farms 20 acres of vines on its Lion’s Head property. The wines keep improving as the vines mature and that’s reflected in the fall release of wines. The Chardonnay shows a nose of pear, apple, minerals and vanilla toast. On the palate look for poached pear, charred oak spice, apple and balancing citrus zest on the finish.
Monte Creek Hands Up Red 2015 ($16, 87 points) — Ready? A blend of Merlot, Marquette, Cabernet Sauvignon, Frontenac Noir and Cabernet Franc. The nose shows dark fruits, spice and earth. It’s fruity on the palate with a range of red and dark fruit, bright acidity and earthy-spicy notes on the finish.
Monte Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($30, 90 points) — Just a touch of Merlot and Cabernet Franc added to the blend. It’s quite concentrated on the nose with blackberries, currants and subtle oak spice notes. It’s thick and rich on the palate with ripe dark fruits, elegant oak spice and notes of espresso bean, black licorice and uplifting acidity.
Monte Creek Blueberry Wine ($16, 89 points) — From Reka blueberries grown on the ranch, this is lovely. The nose shows wild blueberries, kirsch and subtle spruce tips. Feels dry on the palate and offers a smooth entry with rousing acidity that lifts the blueberry flavours. Pair with fowl, salty feta or Thai food.