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I recently had the pleasure of meeting Tyler Harlton and Bill Adams of Tyler Harlton Wines, a new venture this year, located in an industrial park in Summerland. It’s not exactly what most people think of when they try to visualise a winery, but it has everything that Tyler and Bill need to make some stunning products! We tasted through some of their wines and discussed them. Tyler acquired contracts with some growers around Oliver to provide some quality grapes and has a commercial winery license, which allows him to bring in his fruit rather than have it planted on site. He and Bill met when they both worked for Osoyoos Larose and decided to work together with this new venture. With the 2011 vintage, they brought in 10 tonnes of grapes including Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Viognier, as well as some certified organic apples (from Harker’s Organics in Cawston). From this fruit, they have so far produced a white wine (blend of Pinot Gris and Viognier), a rosé (100% Cabernet Franc) and an apple wine (that tastes like an apple should). The Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Franc remain in barrel, to be released later this year and next. The apple wine is made up of a few different varieties of apples, but primarily Braeburns. It was partially barrel-fermented using wild yeast strains. It is relatively dry, with a hint of sweetness at 6g of residual sugar. It has lovely clean crisp flavours, pure unadulterated apple! This wine tastes exactly how you expect a crisp ripe apple to taste – fabulous! The 2011 Cabernet Franc Rosé is made in the Loire style, crisp, dry and very food-friendly. It spent 6-12 hours on the skins to get its colour and had some aging in neutral French barrels, which seems to have imparted a nice mouthfeel. It is well-balanced, with nice acidity and flavours of citrus, a hint of berries and spice. The 2011 Pinot Gris Viognier is a blend of two thirds Pinot Gris/ one third Viognier. It has a lovely apricot nose, which carries onto the palate, along with some citrus flavours. This wine has a wonderfully full mouthfeel and some great complexity on front, mid and back palates. The wine was made in six different fermentation batches, 50% of the Pinot Gris underwent malolactic fermentation to soften it and it also underwent lees stirring. Once it was all blended together it has resulted in a wonderfully elegant wine. Bill blended some barrel samples of the 2011 Pinot Noir since it is the red that is closest to being ready. There are currently two barrels of this wine and they anticipate a fall 2012 release date. The wine has spent some time in new French oak, but it is currently sitting in neutral barrels. Bill made this in more of a New Zealand style, with elegant flavours and lower alcohol. It has soft tannins and lovely flavours of cherry and spice. I look forward to the release of this Pinot Noir! The labels for Tyler Harlton wines are quite original and a bit whimsical, based upon a painting that Tyler commissioned from his sister, artist Angela Morgan.

The next winery that we headed to was Bonitas, at the north end of Summerland. It is nestled beautifully into the hillside and is a popular venue for vineyard weddings and events. Although I have not eaten at the on-site bistro, I have heard good things of the food there. The 2009 Pinot Gris has nice acidity and flavours of melon and pear. The Vino Blanc is a blend of Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer with flavours of tropical fruit and citrus. The 2010 Gewürztraminer has a nose of peach and mango, a rounder mouthfeel and citrus on the palate. The Vino Tinto is a non-vintage blend of 65% Merlot, 30% Pinot Noir and 5% Shiraz. It has a floral nose, light tannins and is quite soft and fruity, with flavours of plum and blackberry. The 2008 Pinot Noir is light-bodied, quite earthy, with tasty flavours of cherry and spice.

Sumac Ridge is one of the founding fathers of the BC Wine Industry, having celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. We arrived a couple of days after a massive windstorm had swept through the valley and a large tree in the picnic area of Sumac Ridge was the unfortunate victim of that storm. I have visited the winery several times before and tasted many  of their wines so decided to just sample a few that I hadn’t tasted recently. The Ridge White is a crisp dry blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc primarily. The Ridge Red is one of my new go-to wines when I’m looking for something relatively cheap yet quaffable. At only $12.99 a bottle, this blend of Zinfandel and Pinot Noir is medium-bodied, fruit-forward and has a bit of spice to it. The 2011 Unoaked Chardonnay has flavours of apricot, citrus and melon, is fairly light-bodied, with nice acidity, and a decent finish. The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc is right up my alley, with its grassy gooseberry nose, with citrus and gooseberry on the palate and crisp acidity. The 2010 Cabernet Merlot is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. It has a bit of green bell pepper on the nose, with plum and black cherry on the palate. It has some decent tannins and nice acidity, with a medium length finish. The 2009 Black Sage Vineyard Cabernet Franc is medium-bodied with medium tannins. It has flavours of dark berries and a bit of spice. The 2009 Black Sage Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon has black currant, olive and liquorice on the nose, with cassis and black pepper on the palate. It is a bit lighter than I expected but is still pleasant drinking.

Sleeping Giant Fruit Winery (and Summerland Sweets) was doing a booming business the day we showed up! Between the delicious jams, jellies, syrups and candies, the ice cream counter and the tasting bar, it was teeming with people. Although I have sampled many of the Summerland Sweets products over the years (growing up in the Okanagan it was pretty hard not to have done so) I had only tried the odd wine from Sleeping Giant and didn’t realise quite how broad their selection is! I decided to try a bit of a cross-section of the wines, starting with one of my favourite fruits – the Saskatoon Berry wine. This is a dry wine with nice acidity and is a great representation of the Saskatoon berry flavour. Apparently it pairs well with wild game. Next I tried the Blueberry wine, which is dry and tastes of lovely ripe blueberries. I was starting to notice a trend – these fruit wines actually taste of the fruits they’re made from, which is not always the case. Next up is one of the more original wines I’ve tasted – it’s made from Pumpkin, and has added spices of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. This is very tasty, although is perhaps an acquired taste for some. It is somewhat like a less-sweet version of pumpkin pie. I think it would pair beautifully with roast pork. Next I tried the Blackberry Dessert wine, one of their specialties. It tasted of ripe juicy blackberries, with a hint of cinnamon and ginger on the nose. The Cherry Dessert wine, which won a Bronze medal at the All-Canadian Wine Championships was made from Lapin cherries and is rich and full-bodied.

Okanagan Crush Pad is booming these days. Their custom crush facility concept proved so popular in their first year of operation that they are currently expanding to meet the needs of their clients for the upcoming crush season! At the moment there are eight brands currently available through OCP: Haywire (by owners Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie), Bartier Scholefield (partnership between Michael Bartier, the head winemaker, and David Scholefield), Bartier Brothers (Michael Bartier and his brother Don), Bella Wines (Jay Drysdale and Wendy Rose), Harper’s Trail (a new winery venture in Kamloops by Vicki and Ed Collett), Rafter F (a new winery venture in Oliver by Bill and Darlene Freding), Di Bello Wines (by Tom and Tari Di Bello), and this year’s release from Okanagan Crush Pad’s “Wine Campus” program, where Vancouver’s Sommelier of the Year has the opportunity to make his/her own wine. The current release is from the 2010 winner, Kurtis Kolt, and is a Semillon named Kurtis. I started my tastings with the 2011 Haywire Pinot Gris, which was fermented in the concrete “eggs” rather than the traditional stainless steel tanks. I find that the concrete eggs contribute to a much rounder mouthfeel in the wine. This Pinot Gris is lovely with crisp grapefruit flavours. The 2010 Bartier Scholefield (BS) White is a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. It is dry, with nice acidity, flavours of citrus and a round mouthfeel. The 2010 Bartier Brothers Cowboy is a blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Schönberger. It has lovely aromas of honey and the floral characteristics of the Schönberger. It is dry yet fruity. The 2011 Rafter F Pinot Gris has a very light nose and apple and pear on the palate, with a hint of spice. The 2010 Haywire Rosé is made from 100% Gamay grapes from the Secrest Vineyard at the north end of Oliver. It is lovely crisp and dry, with flavours of grapefruit and cranberry. In contrast, the 2010 BS Rosé was made with 100% Gamay grapes, also from the Secrest Vineyard but spent more time on the skins, providing a darker colour and a much fuller body. It has lovely strawberry and citrus flavours. The 2008 BS Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Syrah. It has lovely flavours of dark fruits and spice, with medium tannins and well-balanced acidity. Surprisingly, this is also the same red wine that is found in the Crush Pad Red bag-in-a-box – very tasty! The 2010 Haywire Pinot Noir has a bit of earthiness, with cherry and spice on the nose and dark cherry and plum on the palate. This is a delicious Pinot Noir!