B.C. WineNewsTop Stories

Three B.C. wineries, three different approaches: Amulet, TIME and Coolshanagh

By Rick VanSickle

In this B.C. Wine Report we taste and review wines from three Okanagan wineries — Amulet, a Rhone variety specialist, Coolshanagh, a small Chardonnay focused winery, and Time Family Wines, which has just rebranded its look through the brands.

But first …

Amulet Wines

B.C. wines

Winemaker and proprietor Dwight Sick, above, is building Amulet into one of the most exciting Rhone variety inspired portfolios in the Okanagan Valley.

He just released his two new reds — the 2020 Amulet Red and the 2019 Amulet Syrah — this past Labour Day weekend with mailing list customers getting first crack at the wines. Go here to get on the list.

The Medallion Story

The initial releases of Amulet wines featured a medallion on the bottles, which is a replica recast 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. These types of coins were often given to sufferers of the ‘evil’ by the monarch in ceremonies that were presided over by the clergy.

The coins were pierced with holes for a string, which were then draped around the neck and were worn as Amulets of healing or protection to those in its possession.

As every coin has a flip side, after much research, Amulet has found theirs. The fall 2021 Amulet Wines releases will feature this replica recast of the opposite side, which features an image of a merchant ship. The inscription on the coin loosely translated reads: “This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous.” Perhaps it is a direct allusion to the new wines themselves, Sick says.

“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 bit evil.”

Trio of Amulet Wines

Amulet White 2019 ($26, 92 points) — This brilliant Rhone variety blend of 88% Viognier and 12% Marsanne was aged in French oak barrels (20% new, 20% second fill, 60% neutral) for a long, cool fermentation. The wine completed malo and then was aged for 6 months on its lees with periodic bâtonnage stirrings. It was bottled unfined and and unfiltered with minimal sulphur added. Such a gorgeous nose as it opens up with aromas of ripe apricots, grapefruit and some exotic tropical notes, with a hint of smoke, spice and white pepper. It’s more intense on the palate with a range of apricot, guava, sweet oak spices, orange and lemon zest, honeycomb and subtle white pepper notes. It’s rather weighty on the palate with a creamy texture but finishes with a nervy blast of acidity keeping it all together. Great job on this unique expression of Vio and Marsanne.

Amulet Syrah 2019 ($63, 93 points) — A small amount of Viognier is added to the Syrah and the wine is aged in French oak barrels (50% new, 50% 2nd fill) to mature on the lees over the winter months into the following spring. After a further 20 months, the wine was racked and bottled, unfined and unfiltered, with minimal sulphur added. It shows a deep purple colour in the glass with profound meaty/smoky nose followed by ripe red berries, blueberries, anise, lifted floral notes, earth and cracked black peppercorns. It’s rich and savoury on the palate with dense cherries and brambly raspberries, blueberry pie, cassis and anise, forest floor, charcuterie notes, sage and fine oak spices with a firm spine of acidity holding this beauty all together through a plush and long finish. Can cellar 5+ years.

Amulet Red 2020 ($35, 91 points) — This blend of 50% Grenache, 43% Syrah and 2% Viognier is aged in neutral French oak barrels to mature on its lees for 7 months. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered, with minimal sulphur added. Such a rousing floral nose with lifted cherry perfume, brambly red berries, plums, integrated spice notes and lavender. It’s a bold red that caresses the palate revealing ripe red berries, dark plums, anise, herbs, soft oak spices and chewy tannins with length and verve on the finish. Can cellar 6+ years.

Coolshanagh Wines

Coolshanagh, a Gaelic word that translated means “a meeting place of friends,” is the name of Skip and Judy Stothert’s vineyard property on the Naramata Bench overlooking Okanagan Lake. The soil (studded with limestone and calcium carbonate), slope, drainage, and sunlight, combined with organic farming practices, results in wines that the couple says “beautifully express a sense of place.”

In 2014, terroir specialist Dr. Pedro Parra assessed the soil of Coolshanagh and noted the vineyard’s soil was in the top 15% in the world, comparing it to Meursault. This comparison inspired the style of Coolshanagh Chardonnay.

You can order the wines here.

The Chardonnay

Coolshanagh Chardonnay 2018 ($30, 93 points) — This Chardonnay was 25% new French oak barrel fermented and aged, 25% concrete tank fermented and aged and 50% stainless steel fermented and aged. It spent nine months on the lees in barrel and tanks. It has such an inviting nose of ripe pear, golden apple, caramel cream, elegant oak spices, stony minerality, lemon blossom and roasted hazelnuts. It shows a New World style on the palate and it’s not shy to shows its ripe, creamy and spicy roots with poached pear, flinty minerality, ripe apple, citrus pulp and caramel that all lead to a bright, lifted finish. This small, boutique winery is proving it can make consistently outstanding Chardonnays vintage to vintage.

TIME Family of Wines reveals new look

The last year and a half has had a profound impact on everyone, and that is especially true for the team at TIME Family of Wines. The downtown Penticton winery was purchased by new owners Ron and Shelley Mayert and has undertaken several projects as well as a new look to set the tone for exciting times ahead.

Along with the new look, TIME just introduced a new brand called Chronos.

The Chronos line will include Chronos Chardonnay, Riesling, Rosé, Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and the red blend Ouroboros.

In addition to Chronos, Evolve Cellars has received a visual refresh that includes a light, casual aesthetic and two new wines, the white blend Spontaneity and the red blend Momento.

The McWatters Collection remains the legacy brand with a limited series of wines that reflect the philosophy of their namesake, Harry McWatters. The new packaging in this premium-tier brand appropriately includes a tribute to McWatters on each bottle. The new vintage also includes the addition of a White Meritage to the portfolio.

The brand refresh is revealed just as the 2020 wines are released in the tasting room and on shelves across the country. The 2020 vintage will be the first wines fully crafted by winemaker Lynzee Schatz, who joined the TIME family in 2019. Schatz’s focus has been to elevate the character of each brand, enhancing their unique flavour profiles and authentic expression of the varietal.

In addition to new wines and a new look, TIME is expanding its physical space in the coming months with a new epicurean experience named Orolo, formerly TIME Kitchen. The expansion also includes two new private meeting and dining spaces; the PenMar and McWatters Legacy Suites. A rooftop patio will follow in 2022.

TIME is also opening of a satellite experience centre at The District Wine Village in Oliver later this fall. The newly opened District Wine Village is the first true wine village in Canada. Located in the heart of the South Okanagan, the Village is surrounded by vineyards and home to 16 artisan producers including TIME Family of Wines.

“We felt that with everything our team has been through in the last two years, a brand refresh would be the final touch for the new phase at TIME Family of Wines,” said Christa-Lee McWatters, general manager of TIME Family of Wines. “We hope the fans of TIME wines are excited about Chronos and that you all come to see our new space when Orolo and The District Village location open its doors. We are looking forward to what is to come!”

A trio of TIME family wines

Chronos Rosé 2020 ($25, 90 points) — This 100% Syrah rosé is sourced from the Silver Barrel Vineyard. It shows a pretty pink colour in the glass with inviting aromas of bright red berries, white pepper, herbs and rhubarb. There is a touch of sweetness on the palate with earthy red berries, pepper and zip on the finish. It’s a bolder style of rosé, but nicely balanced with juicy acidity.

Evolve Spontaneity 2020 ($22, 89 points) — This is a proprietary blend of Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Ortega. Peach shines on the nose with apricots, nectarine and pear chiming in. It’s nicely dry on the palate with ripe peach, pear and apricot fruits and subtle herbaceous notes through an electric finish.

McWatters Collection White Meritage 2020 ($30, 92 points) — Whenever I see the word Meritage in Canada, the late, great Harry McWatters comes immediately to mind. He championed the style in Canada and this 55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillon is a prefect example of that style. It has an elegant nose of grapefruit, gooseberries, pear and a touch of spice and herbs. It has gorgeous texture, grapefruit, guava, honeydew melon, pear, herbs, integrated spice notes and a juicy, lifted finish. Drink now or cellar for a few years.