By Rick VanSickle
I have always had a soft spot for the wines crafted by Dwight Sick in the Okanagan Valley.
The winemaker’s sense of adventure and experimentation with non-traditional B.C. varieties — especially those of the Rhone kind and other Old World varieties such as Dolcetto, Tempranillo, Albarino and Teroldego — have intrigued me from the very first time I discovered them over a decade ago while visiting Stag’s Hollow where he was once the winemaker.
A year ago, Sick left what he successfully built at Stag’s Hollow after being appointed winemaker and director of vineyard/winery operations at Moraine Winery, which was completing a major reconstruction, including an expanded winery production area, barrel cellar, tasting room and guest experience centre, at the time of his hiring.
“I couldn’t be happier with the situation. There is a strong team at work and they are doing great things at Moraine Winery. My hopes are to add to these successes and to help take the brand to a new level.”
Now a year into his new job, Sick, with his wife Jeanette, above, was able to unveil a project “I have been visualizing and conceptualizing for the past 15 years.” Amulet is Sick’s new wine brand, a collaboration with Dylan and Penelope Roche of Roche Wines that is dedicated to Rhone varieties grown in the Okanagan.
His first two wines — the Amulet Red, a Grenache/Syrah/ Mourvedre blend, and the Amulet White, a Viognier/Marsanne blend — were released this fall exclusively through a mailing list offering here.
The label is quite striking. The embossed medallion on both bottles is a replica cast of the original hand-struck Gold Angel coin from the Elizabethan era. First appearing in 1470, the coin depicts St Michael slaying an evil dragon. Rumoured to be Shakespeare’s preferred method of payment for his services, the gold coin was also frequently worn as an amulet to ward off evil and bring good luck to those in possession.
“This concept of good vs. evil plays well with the style of our Rhone-inspired wines as, we believe, in order to be good we sometimes must be a little evil,” says Sick.
We have reviews for the new Amulet wines as well as new wines from Haywire, Narrative, Township 7 and Noble Ridge.
Amulet White 2018 ($27, 163 cases only, 92 points) — The Viognier and Marsanne were hand harvested before being gently pressed whole cluster. The juice was chilled, left to rest for 48 hours and then transferred to French oak barrels (14% new) for a long, cool fermentation. The wine was aged for 6 months on gross lees with periodic bâtonnage stirrings. In late spring the wine received a small sulphur addition of SO2 before being racked from barrel, blended, lightly cold stabilized and bottled, unfined and unfiltered. It has a golden hue in the glass with a slight haze and a saline nose of apricot, lemon, peach, grapefruit and honeysuckle. There is a leesy/spicy note on the palate with a complex array of apricot, white pepper, fuzzy peach and lemon all driven by a racy vein of acidity. It’s on the tight side right now and will benefit from some cellaring.
Amulet Red 2018 ($36, 123 cases only, 91 points) — The Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre were hand harvested before being de-stemmed and left whole berry to cold soak in 1-ton open top fermenters. After 5 days, 1/2 of the most lignified Grenache stems were added back into the ferments and, shortly after, an indigenous fermentation began. Delestage was completed on all ferments combining the fermenting juice before being transferred back over top of the grape solids. Hand punch downs were used to gently extract tannins and to keep the fermentation cap healthy. After 20 days, the free run wine was drained off, the grape skins were gently pressed and the wine transferred into French oak barrels (20%) to mature on fine lees for 7 months. The wine was bottled, unfined and unfiltered, with minimal sulphur additions. There is a much more reductive and funky feel on the nose of the red version of Sick’s Amulet wines. But under the earth, funk and forest decay, it comes alive with wild raspberries, plums, anise, savoury herbs, violets and black peppercorns. It’s juicy and on point on the palate with a deep dive on juicy, brambly raspberries, plums, kirsch, pepper and spice all delivered on a smooth and textured finish that shows wonderful vibrancy and balance to the very end. Not your typical Rhone blend, but rather one that is unique to this winemaker from Okanagan terroir.
You won’t find these wines in stores yet and what is left after consumers get first dibs will be open to licencees. Click here to go get them.
Okanagan Crush Pad
The venerable collection of labels under the Okanagan Crush Pad umbrella — Haywire, Narrative and Free Form — celebrated eight years of winery operations in September. And what a ride it’s been.
Based in Summerland, in the heart of the Okanagan Valley, OCP is owned by Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie. The pair leapt into farming in 2005 when they converted an old orchard to a vineyard, starting a chain of events that ultimately led to the construction of a purpose-built custom crush wine facility in 2011, and further land purchases in 2012.
Today, OCP is a 45,000-case shared facility where the winery’s own labels Haywire, Narrative and Free Form are made. At the heart of the winemaking facility is a small guest center where visitors will discover concrete tanks and clay amphorae in a state-of-the-art space where table wine, sparkling wine, and spirits are made. Time-honoured, generations-old winemaking techniques are used, benefitted by the most advanced technology, and adhering to a “less is more” philosophy.
Wines are made under the careful eye of Matt Dumayne, above with Coletta, who employs native fermentation, and extended skin contact followed by a gentle pressing, free of rough handling, commercial additives and low to no sulfites.
It is their pursuit to craft “wines of place” and celebrate the inherent difference and pleasure of vineyard and vintage. Each is one of a kind – never to be repeated.
Here are the latest OCP wines under review:
Haywire Free Form Rosé 2018 ($27, 91 points) — This is made from certified organic Cabernet Franc from Osoyoos and was gently squeezed to create this rendition of rosé. The wine was naturally fermented in concrete with full malolactic fermentation and extended lees aging with no SO2. It has a pure nose of cran-cherry, bramble, strawberry patch and savoury herbs. It is clean and bright on the palate with red berries, integrated earthiness, vibrancy and verve through the finish.
Haywire Free Form White 2017 ($27, 90 points) — This blend of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier is sourced from three different vineyards. The grapes were destemmed and left to ferment using native yeast, with the Pinot Blanc in concrete and the Chardonnay and Viognier in separate large oak barrels. After eight months of aging on skins, the wines were pressed off and blended into a single large concrete tank. It shows a golden hue in the glass with a nose of marmalade, umami, guava, apricot, nectarine, peach cobbler and reductive notes that dissipate with vigorous swirling. It has some tannins on the palate to give it structure and texture to go with orange rind/marmalade, salinity, apricot and a tropical fruit cocktail that is vibrant and alive through the finish. A wine for late-night contemplation with your wine geek friends.
Haywire Gamay Rosé 2018 ($23, 89 points) — It shows juicy plum, cranberries, cherries, bramble and savoury herbs on the nose. The mouth-filling red fruits and plums are joined by a touch of underlying earthiness on the vibrant finish.
Haywire Pinot Gris 2018 ($25, 90 points) — This Gris was naturally fermented and aged in concrete tanks for eight months. The nose reveals fragrant peach, melon, apple skin and creamy pear notes. It has gorgeous texture and mouth-feel with stone fruits taking the spotlight all leading to a tangy/fresh finish.
Haywire Pinot Noir 2018 ($27, 88 points) — The Pinot Noir grapes were fermented with native yeasts in large concrete wine tanks. Each lot of wine was aged separately and bottled unfiltered. A pure and pretty nose of rosehips, raspberries, cherries and savoury notes. There’s a rich broth of fresh-crushed red berries on the palate with silky smooth grape tannins and good lift on the finish from the racy acidity.
Haywire The Bub 2016 NV ($30, 92 points) — The non-vintage Bub is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which was harvested mid-August in 2016. Primary fermentation took place in a combination of concrete and stainless steel tanks before bottling in November 2016 for secondary fermentation. No sugar is added in the dosage. A nose of lemon-grapefruit, green apple and toasty biscuit with an energetic mousse. It’s mouth-filling and fresh with green apple, lemon-citrus, almonds, brioche and a perky, finessed finish.
Haywire Vintage Bub 2013 ($45, 93 points) — This is the debut wine from the Reserve Series you will be seeing in the future. The blend of 50/50 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay was bottled in early January, 2014 and remained on its lees en tirage for 52 months. At disgorgement, no dosage was added. Tiny, elegant bubbles form in perfect beads in the glass. The nose shows complex bready/toasty/leesy notes with green apple, lemon brioche, toasted almonds, cream and lifted grapefruit zest. It’s still lively with persistent bubbles on the palate and reveals creamy/smoky notes to go with mature apple, flint, a range of citrus with racy acidity and finesse on the finish. A wonderfully mature bubble with room to cellar.
Haywire Water & Banks Pinot Noir 2015 ($30, 91 points) — This is the second release of this single vineyard Pinot Noir. The wine was fermented in small batches with wild yeast, and manual punch downs. It was then transferred to age in concrete tanks for 11 months. The nose shows dark cherry and anise with a complex vein of minerality and then earthy/bramble/forest floor and a pinch of spice. It shows sweet raspberries, bramble, forest berries, dark cherries/kirsch and earth on a smooth texture with a vibrant finish.
Narrative Cabernet Franc 2017 ($30, 88 points) — The Cabernet Franc grapes were sourced from certified organic vineyards in Kelden and Osoyoos. The wine was fermented and aged in Nico Velo concrete tanks for 8 months. This is sure to elicit a range of reactions with its contemplative reductive nose to with savoury red berries, anise, mulled herbs and forest floor notes. Such lovely supple texture on the palate with a basket of red berries, smoke, herbs, bramble and plenty of acidity on the finish. Best to decant to tame the reductive qualities of this wine.
Narrative Non-Fiction Red 2017 ($27, 89 points) — Narrative Non-Fiction is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from a certified organic vineyard in Osoyoos. Fermented and aged in concrete vessels for 8 months, the nose shows black currants, anise, licorice, herbs, forest floor and savoury notes. It has such lovely texture on the palate with polished tannins to go with a range of dark fruits, herbs and savoury accents.
Narrative Riesling 2017 ($23, 88 points) — Native fermentation took place in stainless steel followed by 8 months of aging in concrete egg-shaped tanks. It shows powerful lime, citrus, grapefruit, green apple and a pinch of peach. There is some flesh on the palate but essentially driven by lime/citrus notes and a touch of sweetness on the finish.
Noble Ridge Vineyard and Winery
Noble Ridge Vineyard Winery is situated in the Okanagan Valley at the northern most tip of the only desert in Canada. The winery is named for the noble varieties of grapes grown at the estate and the ridge that divides the land on which they thrive.
Jim and Leslie D’Andrea began their winery in 2001. When they purchased the property, they had only 3.5 acres of vines. Since then they have planted an additional 20 acres and have grown their dream into an award-winning winery.
The goal of the Noble Knights and Dames label, the first two reviewed below, is to showcase people who emulate honourable traits of nobility, perform exemplary deeds, demonstrate effective contribution to their communities or profession and act as incredible ambassadors for Noble Ridge. Over time, each new Noble Knight or Dame will be honoured with a wine named after them.
Noble Ridge Noble Knights Powers Vintage Chardonnay 2017 ($40, 91 points) — Named after Richard Powers, this is a barrel-fermented Chardonnay that spent 12 months in oak (seven of those on its lees). It has an enticing nose of apple, lemon, creamy pear and a range of elegant oak spices. It’s rich on the palate with flavours of baked apple, poached pear, butterscotch and vanilla toast with a vibrant, citrus-tinged finish.
Noble Ridge Stone Vintage Cabernet 2017 ($39, 91 points) — Named after Drs. Jim and Pam Stone, this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc that spent 16 months in French & American oak barrels (20% new oak). Such an expressive nose of blackberries, anise, black currants, plums, Cuban cigar leaf, oak spices and subtle savoury herbs. The Cab Franc shines on the palate with plenty of savory/herb notes to go with dark fruits, a touch of dark cherry, tobacco and lovely spices with a firm acidic backbone to keep it nicely balanced.
Township 7 Wines
Township 7 sources its grapes from a variety of estate and grower vineyards in the Okanagan Valley chosen especially for each wine it makes. Recently, the winery hired Ryan McKibbon, above, a graduate of Niagara College’s winery and viticulture program with stints at Phantom Creek and Hidden Bench in Niagara, as assistant winemaker to Mary McDermott.
Here’s a selection from the most recent release at the winery.
Township 7 Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($19, 88 points) — A fresh and lively nose of lime, herbs, grapefruit, gooseberries and a mélange of stone fruits. It’s a clean and bright expression on the palate with zesty citrus, gooseberries and underlying herb notes through a vibrant finish.
Township 7 7 Blanc 2018 ($19, 88 points) — This is a proprietary blend of Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Riesling and Muscat from various vineyards. As you would imagine, there’s a lot going on here. The nose rocks with lychee, nutmeg, grapefruit, stone fruits and a nice spicy note. There is some sweetness on the palate with generous lychee nut, grapefruit-lime, pear and peach with a subtle spiciness on the finish.
Township 7 Pinot Gris Reserve ($27, 90 points) — 100% Gris from the estate’s Naramata Bench vineyard that is barrel fermented (wild) in neutral French oak. It has an expressive nose of vibrant peach, melon, citrus, pear and minerals. There is just a smidge of sweetness, but racy minerality, fuzzy peach, tropical fruits, pear and peach are delivered on a fresh wave of acidity through the finish. Really nice Gris.
Township 7 Cabernet Franc Romar Vineyard 2016 ($46, 93 points) — Romar Vineyard is located in the warmest part of the Okanagan Valley in Osoyoos near the U.S. border. The wine was aged in 60% new French oak for 24 months and bottled unfiltered. Just a gorgeous Cab Franc on the nose with aromas of tobacco, charred cedar, herbs, chunky ripe raspberries, kirsch, savoury spices, herbs and eucalypt. It has weight and firm structure on the palate and it’s loaded up with juicy red/dark fruits, licorice/anise, mulled herbs, polished tannins, elegant oak spice notes and balancing acidity on the finish. Decant now and enjoy or cellar 6+ years and be richly rewarded.