Current releases from Twisted Tree Vineyards & Winery
Photo: Twisted Tree's Chris and Beata Tolley
Chris and Beata Tolley, the owners of Twisted Tree Vineyards & Winery in Osoyoos, have a strategy to make them stand out among the growing profusion of Okanagan wineries: make wines with varieties that are rare in the valley.
For example, they currently have two vintages of Tannat and one vintage of Corvina aging in their barrel cellar.
To the best of my knowledge, they are the first to grow these varieties in the Okanagan. Tannat is a red variety that produces big, firm wines in Uruguay and in the south of France. The variety’s reputation to be overly tannic likely explains why it is not often found elsewhere.
Twisted Tree has not yet released a wine, in part because Chris is still learning how to deal with the variety. In the Okanagan, high tannin seems not to be the issue. He has found that the variety, grown on his sandy site, comes in with normal tannins.
However, the variety has an unusual sugar composition which caused fermentation to stick in two barrels in 2007, the first vintage. Chris learned what the problem was after having a sample analyzed in a California wine laboratory. He then took the necessary action to get fermentation complete in those two barrels. That wine has a different flavour profile than the other barrels.
Chris has talked an Okanagan laboratory into acquiring the technology for analyzing the sugars in Tannat. The ferment in 2008, as a result, was normal.
Both vintages, tasted from barrel, are quite interesting. The 2007 is a muscular and pleasantly rustic wine while the 2008 has a more elegant structure and attractive cherry flavours. Undoubtedly, the variety will yield good wine in the Okanagan. But until Chris dials in the style of Tannat that he wants, he is likely to blend these two vintages and release them under Twisted Tree’s other label, Second Crossing.
Corvina is the Italian red grown to make Amarone. Twisted Tree has only 500 vines. So far, Chris has just the 2008 vintage in barrel. In the classic fashion, the grapes were air-dried in the winery, reducing the cluster weight by a third, before fermentation began. That technique concentrates sugars and flavours. The barrel sample of the unfinished reveals a rich, plummy red with some residual sweetness. This will be an exciting red when released.
Chris says that Twisted Tree has “a few other experiments” in its vineyards as well. Twisted Tree produces mainstream varietals, such as Merlot, from purchased grapes, reserving its own vineyards for cutting edge varietals, often Rhone varietals.
He also has a small plot of Carmenère, one of the few in the Okanagan with this late-ripening red. He is unlikely to expand his plot. Because the variety is late, it must be cropped at uneconomic yields in cool years. “I don’t think I would want to have 10 acres,” Chris says, even though the barrel sample of his 2008 is quite tasty.
The current releases show both strategies – wine from exclusive estate varieties and wine from purchased fruit.
Twisted Tree 2008 Viognier Roussanne ($21.90). The estate-grown wine is a blend of 47% Viognier, 46% Roussanne and 7% Marsanne. This is a delicious wine with good weight. Floral and citrus on the nose, it has honeyed melon and apricot favours with a crisp, dry finish. 88
Twisted Tree 2008 Trio ($21.90). This is 50% Marsanne, 36% Viognier, 14% Roussanne. This somewhat exotic white also has honeyed melon flavours intertwined with grapefruit. The fresh acidity gives this wine a tangy finish while the mineral structure adds richness. 88
Twisted Tree 2007 Six Vines ($24.90). This is the ultimate of Bordeaux red blend: 25% Malbec, 23% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Carmenère, 10% Petit Verdot and 6% Cabernet Franc. This is medium-bodied with aromas of berries and cassis and flavours of plum, cherry and cocoa. The firm texture suggests the wine will age well for several years. 88
Twisted Tree 2007 Merlot ($24.90). This is a full-bodied version of Merlot, aged 18 months in oak (50% American). It begins with aromas of vanilla and plum, with flavours of plum, cherry and chocolate. The ripe tannins contribute to a rich, generous texture. 88
Twisted Tree 2007 Syrah ($24.90) A wine of considerable elegance, this begins with inviting aromas of black cherries, plums and pepper. The palate follows through with flavours of cherry, chocolate and vanilla, set on a texture of soft tannins. The wine has 14.7% alcohol but yet has a generous, satisfying finish without any alcoholic heat. 90