There are more and more new wineries popping up throughout BC, almost daily it seems at times. This summer I will endeavour to visit as many of them as I can (although I don’t know how many trips outside of the Okanagan, Similkameen and Shuswap I’ll be able to make). I have recently updated my Wine Region pages to include all new winery and cidery licenses in BC.
A few weekends ago I decided to visit a few wineries in Summerland – one that I’ve visited before but they have many new products out; one whose wines I have sampled but to whose tasting room I’ve never been; and one that I’d heard good things about but never tried the wines or visited.
I started out by driving to the north end of Summerland to Sage Hills Organic Estate Vineyard & Winery. Perched on the bluffs overlooking Okanagan Lake, with clear views up to Peachland and over to the Naramata Bench, it is a clean modern tasting room and winemaking facility. Rick Thrussell is the owner of the winery & vineyard, with his partner Toby and his son Keenan helping out in the vineyard, the cellar and the tasting room. Tom DiBello is their winemaker. They have a very strong belief about farming the grapes in a way that they refer to as “beyond organic”, striving to farm organically, beyond what is required for a certification process. The vineyard is planted to Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir, and this is what the portfolio is primarily made up of, with the more recent addition of a Syrah and a Syrah rosé, from fruit sourced from Covert Farms in Oliver.
Before visiting Sage Hills, you should be aware that there is a tasting fee of $20. This may turn some people away, but for this fee you can taste through the entire portfolio of whites, reds, orange, rosé and a fortified wine, and the tasting fee is waived if you buy a bottle. Rick began my tasting with the Brut Sauvage 2014 ($39), a sparkling wine made from 100% Pinot Gris. It is pale gold in colour with aromas of pear, apple and some toasty notes. It is dry with high acidity, a fine mousse and some nice minerality. It has flavours of citrus, Granny Smith apple and toastiness. The 2015 Syrah Rosé ($28) is a medium salmon colour, from the 3 hours of skin contact. It has a beautiful nose of strawberry, spice, watermelon and red currants. It is dry with medium acidity and a creamy mouthfeel, with flavours of strawberries & cream, rhubarb and a hint of spice – quite lovely! The 2015 Gewürztraminer ($27) is pale straw in colour with aromas of lychee, rose, grapefruit, orange blossom and mandarin orange. It is dry with medium acidity, medium-minus body and flavours of lemon, pink grapefruit and apple with a medium-plus finish. The 2015 Pinot Gris ($25) is pale straw in colour with aromas of pear, melon, spice and tropical notes. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium body and flavours of lemon rind, pear rind and juicy melon, with a long finish. The 2015 ‘Rhymes with Orange’ ($26) is made from 100% Pinot Gris that was fermented with 5 days of skin contact to give its medium salmon colour and some structure and complexity. It has a smoky nose and savoury aromas. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium body and medium-minus tannins. In some ways, the palate reminds me of scotch, without the alcoholic burn, with smoke, citrus notes, a distinct peatiness and a hint of fruitiness. The 2014 Syrah ($55) is medium purple in colour with jammy aromas of dark berries, plum, blackberry, black cherry, with some meaty notes and smokiness. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, body and tannins with flavours of blackberry jam, pepper and smoke, with a long finish. The 2013 Aft ($29) is a 3-year barrel aged Syrah, fortified with grappa made with their own grape product by Maple Leaf Spirits. It is medium ruby in colour with floral notes, spice, black cherry and plum on the nose. It is off-dry with medium acidity and medium-plus body and balanced alcohol. It has flavours of blackberry, blueberry and violets. It is very smooth and more-ish.
Next up was Okanagan Crush Pad, which seems to have something new every time I visit! The patio seating was being well used on the sunny day that I arrived, and a secondary tasting bar was set up in the main part of the facility, alongside a great display of foodie-centric items from Edible Canada, including cotton candy, a host of jams, marinades, spices, and flavoured tonics to pair with the new Narrative gin being produced on site, now that OCP also has a distillery license.
Krissy Neilsen led me on an extensive portfolio tasting, beginning with the 2014 Samantha Chardonnay (from sommelier Samantha Rahn, of Araxi Restaurant in Whistler), fermented and aged in concrete.It has a pear and apple nose, is dry with medium acidity and body with a creamy mouthfeel. The 2014 Switchback Pinot Gris fermented for 9 months in concrete. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and medium-minus body with flavours of pear and lemon. The 2015 Secrest Gamay Noir Rosé is a pale salmon colour with a strawberry nose. It is fresh and dry with medium acidity and light body with flavours of melon and strawberry. The 2015 Switchback Wild Ferment Pinot Gris spent 9 months on skins in a clay amphora. It is a pale salmon colour and has a complex nose. It is dry with medium body and medium-minus body and flavours of apple, dried apricot and citrus. The 2014 Free Form Sauvignon Blanc has a lovely nose of quince and apricot. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and medium body with a complex palate with multiple layers of flavour – lovely. The 2014 Free Form Red is Pinot Noir that spent 5 months on skins in a clay amphora and then just the free run juice from that. It is pale ruby in colour and slightly off-dry with medium acidity, medium body and medium fine tannins. It has flavours of strawberries, with some sweet herbal notes. The 2014 Samantha Gamay was a wild ferment, part in concrete and part in stainless steel. It is pale ruby in colour with a rich nose. It is dry with medium acid, medium-minus body and medium tannins. It has nice complexity on the palate with ripe flavours of red plum, raspberry and spice – very tasty. The Narrative XC Method sparkling wine is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made in Charmat tanks with 100 days lees contact. It has a fresh, toasty, fruity nose with a nice mousse. I finished off with a Fortified that is a combination of 60% Syrah and 40% Merlot. It is smooth with rich ripe dark fruit flavours with a hint of pepper and mint.
My third winery of the day was Lunessence, which opened last year (in the former location of Sonoran Estate Winery after they returned to their original location to the north of Summerland). They have done a lovely refresh of the building outside and in. The primary focus at Lunessence is in the vineyard and the harmony achieved through an integrated protection plan, following biodynamic principles and the rhythms of the moon, and introducing classical music throughout the vineyard, winery and tasting room. It certainly makes for a serene tasting experience. I met Michael, the winemaker, and he led me through most of my tasting. The 2014 Chardonnay ($28) had a third of the wine spend 6 months in new Slovakian oak barrels but didn’t see any malolactic fermentation, giving it some very lovely aromatics. It is very delicate and pretty on the nose with fresh aromas of apple and pear with some light floral notes. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and medium-minus body. It has flavours of citrus, apple and a hint of spice.
The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc ($28) had a similar barrel program to the Chardonnay having one third spend 5 months in Slovakian barrels.It is a pretty wine with tropical notes, citrus and lemongrass on the nose. It is dry with medium acidity and body with flavours of gooseberry, citrus and tropical fruit. The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Muscat ($22) is a field blend made up of approximately 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Muscat Canelli, with the remaining 10% made up of Chardonnay, Semillon and Viognier. It is crisp with lovely aromatics and is well-balanced. The 2014 Riesling has aromas of citrus, apricot and peach. It is off-dry with medium-plus acidity, medium body and a creamy mouthfeel. It has flavours of lemon-lime, peach and apricot and a medium-plus finish. The 2014 Gewürztraminer has 5% Semillon and 5% Schönberger blended in. It has aromas of lemon, lychee and rose petal. It is off-dry with medium acidity, medium body and is fresh on the palate with flavours of lemon meringue and lychee with a long finish. The 2015 Rosé ($18) is made up of 70% Cabernet Franc from Osoyoos and 30% Pinot Noir from Naramata. It is medium salmon in colour. It is off-dry and I was surprised to know that the residual sugar is at 22g/L, because it does not come across as that sweet. The acidity is kept high enough to nicely balance it out. This rosé is pure juicy strawberry.
The 2014 Merlot ($28) spent 6 months in a combination of French, Hungarian and Slovakian barrels, followed by 8 month in stainless tanks. It has a rich nose of ripe dark plum and cherry with some liquorice. it is dry with medium acidity, medium-plus body and medium-plus-plus fine tannins. On the rich palate there are dried herbs, plum, cherry and spice with a long finish. The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($28) spent 6 months in Slovakian and neutral French barrels, followed by 6 months in stainless steel. It has very rich ripe nose of black cherry and liquorice. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and body and medium-plus-plus tannins. It has flavours of black cherry, plum and eucalyptus. I enjoyed my tasting at Lunessence and will hope to return.