By Rick VanSickle
We are fortunate at Wines In Niagara to taste and review a wide range of Canadian wines, not just the wines in our own back yard.
Canada is such a diverse country, not only its people, but also the wines made from coast to coast. Because of antiquated laws from province to province (B.C., take a bow, Ontario/Quebec, hang your head in shame), it is very difficult to bring wines across provincial borders; it’s against the law, in fact. B.C. wines are the least represented wines at Ontario’s main purveyor of wines, the LCBO. It’s far easier to find any other countries’ wine then our own. Which is a damn shame.
You have to be very determined to grab a case of B.C. wine through various means. Some B.C. wineries will ship, some will not. A few B.C. wines trickle into Vintages from time to time, but not a lot.
There are a few rebel wineries, which will ship a case across provincial borders or have representation in Ontario who sell you those wines.
My one big wish as we celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday on Saturday is a wish so eloquently expressed by Hidden Bench Winery’s Harald Thiel in a post on this site a few weeks ago (read it here) — deliver what the federal government has already determined is the law of the land … a free and open border for wines/cider/spirits from coast to coast.
We have a wide range of reviews from four excellent B.C. wineries — Okanagan Crush Pad (Haywire, Narrative), Culmina, Fort Berens and Township 7. So, sit back, read and dream of the day we can freely buy these wines from other Canadian provinces.
Here’s what we tasted and can recommend. Reviews are by Rick VanSickle and Michael Lowe (ML).
Okanagan Crush Pad
Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie, above, built Okanagan Crush Pad in scenic Summerland on Switchback Organic Vineyard in 2011. The facility, producer of Haywire and Narrative wines, has built a reputation as a premium winery with chief winemaker Matt Dumayne at the helm.
Dumayne creates natural wines using organically farmed grapes in state-of-the-art concrete tanks, using only native yeast and minimal, if any, additives. The wines reflect the region’s unique high mountain/northern desert setting noted for its intensely hot, short growing season with hallmark cool nights.
Narrative XC Method Non Vintage ($25, 91 points) — The Narrative brand was introduced in 2014 as a collection of wines and spirits made from grapes sourced from independent growers across the Okanagan made by the Okanagan Crush Pad. The XC Method of sparkling wine (secondary ferment in charmat tanks) spends 90 (get it, XC?) days in tank and is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and the rest Chardonnay. The nose is bright and lively with notes of raspberry, herbs, strawberry and cranberry made in a fresh, fresh, fresh style. It possesses a gentle mousse and displays bright/tart red berries followed by subtle sweetness that tickles the palate on the finish.
Narrative Red 2016 ($20, 88 points) — A blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot with a nose of mulled red berries, herbs, licorice, raspberry and pure, ripe cherries. It’s fairly friendly on the palate with ripe red berries, smooth tannins and balanced through the finish.
Haywire Switchback Pinot Gris 2015 ($25, 92 points) — Organic fruit, wild fermented and aged in concrete for 11 months on the lees, this is not like any Gris you’ve had from Canada. It has a complex, creamy nose of melon, guava, herbs, pear and baked apple aromas. Such a creamy, round profile on the palate. The range of fruit flavours integrate into a contiguous living, breathing thing that is wholly delicious and thought provoking. It’s lush and melodic, the sum of its many part, are caresses the palate with just a hint of ginger/clove on the lively finish. So good.
Haywire Waters and Banks Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($25, 91 points) — This one really grabs the senses and hangs on – Intensely aromatic, showing passionfruit, lemon-lime and fresh-cut herbs which also explode on the palate. The rich mouthfeel, with persistent fruit throughout, and lively acidity make this wine a great choice for the hot days of summer. (ML)
Haywire Secrest Mountain Vineyard Gamay Noir Rosé 2016 ($23, 90 points) — This is made with wild yeast and is fermented in concrete tanks with no additions or stabilizers used at all. The nose shows lovely red plums, black cherries, savoury notes and a certain untethered wildness. It’s a joy to drink with its mélange of red fruits, herbs and complexity all propped up by refreshing natural acidity.
Haywire Secrest Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir ($27, 91 points) — Again, wild yeast and fermented/aged in concrete tanks for 11 months with manual punch downs. A brambly, savoury nose of wild raspberry, black cherry and a subtle note of cassis. It’s pure and delicious on the palate, a rich broth of wild red berries, bramble, earth and smooth tannins and length through the finish.
Haywire Canyonview Pinot Noir 2014 ($40, 90 points) — Lifted aromas of raspberry and cherry with an underpinning of earth, truffle, herbs and a little cinnamon/pepper spice combine to create some nice complexity here. The palate exhibits a fresh, fruit-froward style with fine tannins on the medium to long finish. (ML)
Culmina Family Estate Winery
Culmina Family Estate Winery is the result of a lifetime of experience in the wine industry for Don, Elaine and Sara Triggs, above. Having worked in the industry for a combined 40+ years, Don and Elaine Triggs began in 2006 with a simple goal: to make the highest quality wines possible from their own family estate on the Golden Mile Bench in the Okanagan Valley.
Culmina Decora 2016 ($23, 91 points) — As the vines on the estate’s Margaret’s Bench age, this stylish Riesling gains more complexity and, more notably, more chalky minerality notes. It is a superb dry Riesling with a nose that’s rife with apple, pear, grapefruit and lemon zest. It’s dominated by a rich vein of minerality on the palate, a touch of smokiness, a certain salinity, then waves of citrus and apple notes with a lively, vibrant finish.
Culmina Unicus 2016 ($29, 91 points) — Grüner Veltliner in the Okanagan? You bet, and here it’s done right. The nose opens with floral notes followed by flint, ginger, lemon curd and apple pie aromas. It has a spicy edge on the palate with pronounced notes of ginger and jasmine that work well with the citrus, pear and baked apples flavours all propped up by zippy acidity on the finish.
Culmina Saignée 2016 ($24, 92 points) — The blend of this rosé is Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec and is another brilliant effort in this style from Culmina (the R&D was reviewed here earlier this spring). The colour is an attractive pale salmon and the nose is pretty with notes of strawberry, cherry and mineral made in a delicate, contemplative style. It’s gorgeously dry on the palate with a mix of red berries, subtle herbs and minerality on a textured frame that leads to a refreshing finish. Wonderful rosé.
Culmina R&D White Blend 2016 ($20, 88 points) — This is a blend of estate Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Viognier from all three benches. The nose shows ripe peach, citrus, white pepper and lychee notes. All that and added apricot and tropical fruits on the palate with subtle sweetness and decent acidity through the finish. Interesting white blend.
Township 7 Vineyards and Winery
Township 7 was founded in 2001 and operates two B.C. wineries, one situated in the scenic Fraser Valley and the other on the picturesque Naramata Bench in the Okanagan Valley.
The winery is named after the historic community of south Langley, who’s original name in the late 1800s was “Township 7”— the cottage on the property is a homesteaders building from the 1930s.
Township 7 7 Blanc 2016 ($18, 87 points) — For the 7 Blanc, winemaker Mary McDermott blends Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Muscat, Viognier and Riesling. The nose is all about summer freshness with aromas of peach, apricot, lychee, white flowers and ginger. It’s off-dry on the palate and packed with ripe fruits and just a pinch of spice with enough acidity to keep it refreshing through the finish.
Township 7 Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($18, 88 points) — A smart and sassy savvy with a nose of gooseberry, herbs, grapefruit and citrus. It’s wonderfully fresh on the palate with passion fruit, citrus and grassy/herb notes that all lead to a zesty finish.
Township 7 Rosé 2016 ($18, 89 points) — The blend for this lovely rosé is mostly Merlot with a splash of Pinot Gris and Malbec. The Merlot was treated two different ways — some of the grapes sent directly to press with a smaller portion treated in the saignee method. The nose shows strawberry, cranberry, raspberry and rhubarb notes. It’s fairly dry on the palate with a range of tasty red fruits that are all well balanced and refreshing from beginning to end.
Township 7 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($40, 92 points) — This is the first “Reserve” CS from Township and McDermott has done a great job with the fruit grown at the Vanessa Vineyard in the southern Similkameen Valley. It’s quite dense in the glass and displays a complex array of blackberries, cassis, cherries, graphite and fine oak spice and toasted oak notes on the nose. It’s robust and concentrated on the palate with fine tannic structure, dark fruits, vanilla and beautiful spice accents. Can age 5+ years.
Fort Berens Estate Winery
Fort Berens Estate Winery is a culmination of the dreams, vision and pioneering spirit of several entrepreneurs. It was founded with a pioneering spirit and forged on the road less travelled. The winery is owned by a team of eight individuals who share a common belief in the incredible winemaking potential of British Columbia’s Fraser Canyon and a shared vision to make Fort Berens into one of Canada’s leading producers of fine wine. It is the first winery built in Lillooet, B.C.
Fort Berens Chardonnay 2016 ($19, 89 points) — The fruit was sourced from a combination of vineyards in Lillooet, Cawston and the Okanagan with light oak treatment. The nose is fresh and lively with aromas of grilled pineapple, citrus, bright apple and subtle spice. It’s fresh and fruity on the palate with tropical fruits and integrated apple and zesty citrus with a racy, mouth-watering finish.
For Berens Pinot Gris 2016 ($18, 90 points) — Aromas of honeysuckle, pear and white peaches are mirrored on the palate. The honeyed, ripeness of the fruit is balanced by zesty green apple, a touch of spicy oak and a clean mineral-laced finish. Try it with grilled seafood or soft, creamy cheeses. (ML)
Fort Berens Pinot Noir Rosé 2016 ($18, 89 points) — A two-clone blend of Pinot Noir from estate fruit that shows a pale salmon colour in the glass. It has a pretty nose of light strawberry, cherry and a basket of other red fruits. It’s fresh and lively on the palate with subtle sweetness from the range of ripe red fruits. A delicious summer sipper that shows restraint through the finish.
Fort Berens Dry Riesling 2016 ($19, 91 points) — An expressive and complex melange of lime, apple and wet stone minerality, both on the nose and the palate. A focused seam of racy acidity supports the ripe, tropical, citrus and apple notes beautifully. A precise example of well made riesling. I sipped it with Beau Soleil oysters – spectacular. (ML)
Fort Berens Late Harvest Riesling 2016 ($18, 88 points) — From the estate vineyard in Lillooet, the fruit was left to hang on the vine until early November. The nose shows lemon tart, tropical fruit, baked apple and honey notes. It’s semi-sweet, but delicate on the palate with a range of apple, citrus, pear, apricot and honey.