Thursday, July 9, 2009

First releases from Camelot Vineyards

The newest winery in the Kelowna area, Camelot Vineyards, opened its tasting room last month and released its first two wines.

This is a winery to watch because the winemaker is Kelowna-born Ann Sperling, a member of the power couple of Canadian winemaking. She and Peter Gamble, her husband, are winemakers for two exciting Ontario wineries and consultants for several other wineries in Canada and abroad.

Currently, Ann is also making wine for Sperling Vineyards Winery, her family's new Kelowna winery. That winery's tasting room is not open yet but apparently Sperling Vineyards wines have been making their way into the market by way of another winery's license.

Camelot is a venture owned and operated by two Air Canada flight attendants, Robert Young and his wife, Denise Brass. They took over his late father's orchard in 1996, converting the property to vines a decade later because apple growing had become uneconomic.

Having been burned by the apple market, Robert and Denise decided that they would go beyond merely being grape growers by adding a winery.

Last summer when they began looking for a winemaker - they are not winemakers themselves - Robert and Denise discovered that Ann was looking for a licensed winery in which to make the initial vintage for Sperling Vineyards.

It was a marriage made in heaven. The Camelot winery is only a few kilometres from the Sperling property while Ann is a winemaker with 25 years of experience. She began her career in 1984 with Andres, moved to CedarCreek in 1991 and then to Ontario in 1995. There, both she and Peter have launched several top wineries. Currently, she is the winemaker for Southbrook's new Niagara winery.

The plan is to establish a small winery for Sperling Vineyards in Pioneer Market on Benvoulin Road where Ann's mother has operated a popular market and bistro for many years. Fittingly, this is near the Father Pandosy Mission where the Okanagan's first small vineyard was planted about 1860. Ann's parents, Bert and Velma, now own a 45-acre vineyard in East Kelowna.

Meanwhile, the Camelot Vineyards winery easily has the capacity to process the grapes for both wineries, neither of which are large. The total production for both wineries last fall was around
800 cases for each.

The two Camelot white wines reflect the cool 2008 vintage in the north Okanagan. Both are lean, with moderate alcohol levels and good acidity. The Pinot Gris ($22.39) displays aromas and flavours of citrus and pear and has a crisp tangy finish. This is a food wine, not a sipping wine. I make that distinction because Pinot Gris styles vary considerably among the many wineries making this varietal.

The Gewurztraminer ($25.70) is light and refreshing, with typical spicy aromas, mint candy and peach fruit flavours and with a dry finish. This is the one I would sip while preparing the fish to go with the Pinot Gris.

Camelot has four more wines to release: a Chardonnay, a Merlot, a Cabernet Franc/Merlot and a Syrah.

The winery takes its name from what Robert Young Sr. had called a home he once owned in West Vancouver before moving his family to the Okanagan. That inspired his son and daughter-in-law to build a Medieval-themed tasting room, complete with King Arthur's round table, swords, shields, jousting gloves and a six-foot suit of armour.

The tasting room, located at 3489 East Kelowna Road in Kelowna, is open Thursday, Friday, weekends and statutory holidays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (5 p.m. on the weekdays) until November 1; or by appointment.


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