Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Hills founders launch Terravista

Figaro is available at Marquis Wine Cellars in Vancouver

The couple that brought you the Black Hills winery and Nota Bene are back in the wine business.

Senka and Bob Tennant have just released the first wine, a white called Figaro, from Terravista Vineyards, their new winery high on the Naramata Bench.

The Tennants, along with Susan and Peter McCarrell, opened Black Hills in 2001 and sold it in 2007 when the McCarrells retired.

After taking a few years off, the Tennants returned to wine growing in 2009 when they began to plant a 1.6-hectare (four-acre) and to develop a winery with an unusual focus for the Okanagan. Terravista Vineyards has only Albariño and Verdejo, two Spanish white varieties never grown before in the Okanagan – and probably not in Canada. The couple travelled in Spain during the 2008 vintage there, picking the brains of growers and winemakers.

They also buy white Rhône varieties and are launching the winery with two blended whites.

“If you are doing this again, you might as well go for it,” Senka says of the decision to plant the Spanish varieties. “I felt we couldn’t plant Merlot clone 181.” She is referring to the most widely planted varietal in the Okanagan. “That would have been rather redundant.”

It was not easy to get even the small quantities of vines they needed. The University of California had just released disease-free stock; nurseries were scrambling to build up stocks of vines to meet the strong demand for these somewhat exotic varieties. The Tennants received just enough vines in 2009 to plant a quarter of the vineyard and some of those vines were killed in a freeze that fall. It was not until 2011, with their new winery under construction, that they got enough vines to finish planting Terravista.

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Photo: Senka and Bob Tennant

The 600-square-metre (2,000 square-foot) winery, set into a hillside and partly below ground, is designed exclusively for producing only small volumes of white wine, with production capped at less than 2,000 cases a year.

“It was nice getting back to the grassroots,” Senka says. “Black Hills got so big. This is great because Bob and I do everything ourselves.”

The winery and vineyard are uphill from the Kettle Valley Trail and offer dramatic views of the Naramata Bench. However, there is no wine shop, nor are there plans to open one. The fans of Senka Tennant’s winemaking will just have to pick up the telephone (778-476-6011) and order.

“Our intent is to sell our wine through our agents to restaurants and stores, and to people who are interested in ordering from us,” Bob says.

The first release is 220 cases of Figaro 2010 ($24 a bottle), made with grapes purchased from neighbouring vineyards and also from a grower in Osoyoos. This is blend of Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne.

The white blend from their Spanish varietals, due for release next year, will be called Fandango.

Both wines are made in a crisp, dry style, suiting the varieties and also suiting the palates of the owners.

“You may as well make what you like,” Bob reasons. “Can you imagine making a wine and saying it is not really what I like but the public likes it?”

Here is a tasting note on Figaro 2010. The wine begins with appealing aromas of melons, apples and apricots. It delivers a complex array of flavours - apples, citrus, honeydew and apricot - with a fine spine of minerality and with satisfying weight on the palate. The finish is crisp and dry. 90.


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