Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wineries to discover: Twisted Tree Vineyards

Still being discovered by wine tourists, Twisted Tree Vineyards and Winery is a gem at the eastern edge of Osoyoos that opened in 2006.

The winery had something of a coming out at the recent Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.

Beata and Chris Tolley, the owners, have kept a low profile in their initial years but, with some interesting wine offerings and production approaching 3,500 cases, they are bidding for more notice. Taking part in the wine festival was part of that strategy.

Twisted Tree is the first Okanagan winery to release a table wine made from Tempranillo, the variety that is one of the major reds in Spain.

(There are other plantings of Tempranillo in the Okanagan. Both Inniskillin Okanagan and D’Angelo Vineyards have Tempranillo icewines available.)

There is more novelty to come from Twisted Tree, including wine from the Corvina grape (the grape of Italy’s Valpolicella) and from Tannat (the big red of Uruguay). The winery’s delicious 2007 Viognier Roussanne blend, which was released last year, is sold out but might still be on some restaurant wine lists.

As these offerings suggest, the Tolleys have brought some original thinking to the Okanagan wine scene.

The Tolleys both had successful business careers in Calgary before switching to wine. Chris was a software engineer and Beata, who was born in Poland, is a chartered accountant. “We were looking for something more, something better, and we decided to do a winery and vineyard,” Chris says.

To prepare themselves, they both spent most of 2003 at Lincoln University, New Zealand’s top wine school. “Despite the rapid career change, both Chris and I are pretty risk averse,” Beata says. “We like to manage it. It seemed like the sensible thing to do.”

After returning returning to Canada, the Tolleys had purchased an orchard that for years had sold its products through a fruit stand beside Highway 3, just on the eastern edge of Osoyoos. The venerable cherry trees on the property inspired the winery’s name. “Bent trees that had had so many prunings on them that they were looking haunted and twisted,” Chris recalls. Ironically, all the trees were removed so that vines could be planted efficiently.

The Tolleys have six acres of vines on a west-facing slope overlooking Osoyoos and the lake. “We decided to plant varieties that we could not readily find in the valley,” Chris says. Thus, they planted Tempranillo, Tannat and Carmenère; the whites are Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier. Corvina was planted later on another Osoyoos property that the Tolleys control.

Meanwhile, they purchased grapes and launched with well-made wines - Their winery has been built where the fruit stand once stood. The elegant wine shop offers views over the vines and the lake.

In spite of what Chris said in 2005, they clearly caught on quickly, debuting with excellent wines made from purchased grapes. Previous releases have included Riesling, Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Merlot. Their source of Riesling grapes is no longer available to them but the other varietals remain in the portfolio.

Twisted Tree also has developed a subsidiary label called Second Crossing for value-priced wines (under $20) that sell through VQA stores and private wine stores. The Twisted Tree wines can be purchased directly through the winery’s website.

Here are notes on currently available releases:

Twisted Tree 2007 Tempranillo ($27.90). A wine with a jewelled ruby hue, this begins with aromas of red berries, mocha chocolate and minerals. On the palate, it has spicy flavours of cherries, currants, mocha and coffee. The firm texture suggests that the wine will develop even more complexity and richness with a year or two of cellaring. 88 points.

Twisted Tree 2007 Pinot Noir ($24.90). I tasted this a few months ago, shortly after it was released, when the wine was still tight. But in retasting the opened bottle several times over a few days, I found that the fruit and the oak were coming into harmony and the wine opening up with attractive spicy raspberry notes; and the texture showed the classic fleshiness of the variety. 87.

Second Crossing 2007 Pinot Gris Chardonnay ($15.90). This wine represents great value – fresh, uncomplicated, fruity, with flavours of pears, peaches and tangerine. 87.

Second Crossing 2007 Merlot ($17.90). This is a big wine for the price, with bold oak supporting the spicy aromas of red currants and plums and with almost 15% alcohol. When the wine is decanted and allowed to breathe for a few hours, it reveals its rich ripeness. 87.


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