Monday, August 3, 2009

New releases from See Ya Later Ranch

Shortly after Vincor Canada took over Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards in 2000, I suggested to one of its senior officers that the winery’s unusual dog legacy presented a good marketing opportunity.

It took Vincor several years to take up this idea – probably not until one of their own marketers had conceived the idea independently and passed it through a focus group or two. Big companies do not go out on a limb without research.

Subsequently, the wine group has plunged in with considerable enthusiasm. There are four dogs memorialized on the labels of current releases.

This is the background. This Okanagan Falls winery is on property owned for over 40 years by Major Hugh Fraser, who died in 1970. A pet enthusiast – he was president of the Penticton chapter of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – he owned at least 12 different digs in succession. He buried the dogs under headstones which can now be viewed in a circle under a tree outside the winery’s tasting room.

Several years ago, Hawthorne Mountain created a premium label, See Ya Later Ranch, and that in time has become the name for the winery as well.

The legend is that the major’s British bride returned to Britain in the 1920s, leaving a note saying “See ya later.” The more likely story is that the major scrawled See ya later at the conclusion of his letters; and he was a prolific correspondent.

The SYL labels included the image of a cute white dog with wings, flying, presumably, to whatever heavens dogs go to. Then the winemaker, reacting to all the dog lovers in the world, began crafting wines which carry the names of several of the major’s dogs.

The first was an excellent red Meritage blend called Ping. The next was a terrific white blend (Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sémillon, called Jimmy My Pal.

The latest releases recall two more of the major’s dogs: Rover and Nelly.

This winery doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to welcoming dog owners and their pets. Dogs are definitely welcome at See Ya Later Ranch, one of the few Okanagan wineries with water accessible to pets.

Here are notes on the current releases:

See Ya Later Gewürztraminer 2008 ($16.99). This wine, available in the Liquor Distribution Branch as well as private stores, has just won a Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence. It begins with appealing aromas of spice and grapefruit, continues on to juicy flavours of pink grapefruit. The spicy Muscat bite on the finish and the refreshing acidity define the elegant structure. 90

See Ya Later Barrel-fermented Sémillon 2007 ($22.99). This rich, mouth-filling wine is available only in private stores. The wine, beginning with citrus aromas, has layers of flavour – tangerine, orange peel, butter and oak. 89

See Ya Later Nelly 2008 ($16.99). This rosé, widely available, is an unusual blend of Gamay, Cabernet Franc and Gewürztraminer. The wine’s deep hue, almost as dark as a red wines, comes from a prolonged cold soak of the juice on the skins of the red varieties. The aroma and the flavours suggest a bowl full of cherries and strawberries. Unfortunately, the acid is too low and the alcohol is too high (14%), costing the wine that refreshing character one wants with rosé. 85

See Ya Later Pinot Noir 2007 ($22). This is a big, robust wine, with good colour, with aromas of cherries and spice and with flavours of black cherries, mocha and vanilla. It is limited to private wine stores. 88

See Ya Later Rover 2007 ($24.99). This wine is available in both the LDB and private stores. It is Shiraz, with five percent Viognier, and has been aged 18 months in oak (French and American) before it was bottled. This is an appealing wine with ripe, long tannins and spicy flavours of juicy black cherries. 88


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