Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Class of 2012: Adega on 45th Estate Winery

Photo: Adega's Alex Nunes and Fred Farinha

The handsome Adega on 45th Estate Winery, which opened this spring, brings to mind the realtor’s maxim: “location, location, location.”

The winery is readily visible from downtown Osoyoos. It is also on the same street that leads to Nk’Mip Cellars, the first winery in Osoyoos. It is a location that should keep the expansive tasting room busy all season.

Operated by two families of Portuguese ancestry, this is the fourth winery in Osoyoos. The other two are Moon Curser Vineyards and Young & Wyse. These comprise the critical mass for a day of wine touring, including a lunch at Nk’Mip and a cultural tour at Nk’Mip’s desert interpretation centre.

Here is the profile of Adega on 45th winery from the recent edition of John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide.

Ringing the church bells to communicate deaths and other important village events was an art that Alex Nunes learned one summer in his native Portugal. He was 13 and home from a stint in the seminary. Although he emigrated to Canada two years later, the memory of the two big bells in that village church inspired Alex to add a bell tower to the winery’s façade when it was built in 2011. There is, however, no bell in the tower, at least for now. “It is just for show,” Alex admits.

The winery, whose warm butterscotch tones fit the desert landscape of Osoyoos, was designed by Alex and his brother-in-law, Fred Farinha, who own the winery with their wives, Maria and Pamala. The winery sits high on the vineyard’s west-facing slope. The tasting room windows offer a grand view over the town and the lake. The 557-square-metre (6,000-square-foot) winery has thick concrete walls and a naturally-cooled cellar, for 400 barrels, buried against the hillside. The interior’s public areas acquired the instant patina of age by having walls finished with Italian clay and tiles on the floor.

The winery’s European ambiance reflects the Portuguese heritage (adega is Portuguese for cellar). Alex was born in Portugal in 1950 while Fred was born in Penticton in 1966. Their families were among the many Portuguese immigrants who came to Osoyoos at that time as tree fruit growers. Both Alex and Fred operated orchards until about 2005 when vanishing returns from tree fruits left them with a stark choice: sell the land or plant grapes. “We decided to keep the land and build a winery,” Alex says.

Initially, they were going to sell grapes to existing wineries. After planting three vineyards totalling 15.4 hectares (38 acres), they plunged completely into wine production. “Create our own future, you could call it,” Alex says. Wine, after all, is in their blood. “We had wine on our tables and in our homes, always, since we were born,” Alex remembers. “Your mom would ask to you go to the tavern in the village to get a litre of wine. It did not matter if you were five years old or ten years old. You would just go and get it.” While they use a consulting winemaker, Alex and Fred, with years of experience as home winemakers, do much of the work in the winery as well as the vineyard.

They grow all the major varietals found in the south Okanagan. Alex even has two late ripening Touriga Nacional vines even though he doubts the variety, used in port production, will thrive in the Okanagan. Adega will make its port with Merlot. Because the term, port, cannot be used in Canada, the winery will call it Portāo Da Adega – meaning door of the cellar.

Here are notes on those wines available for tasting at the time of my visit.

Felicidade 2010 ($16). Named for one of the family grandmothers, this is a Viognier. The wine is crisp, with flavours of melon and pineapple and a spine of minerality. 87.

Viognier 2010 ($20). Appealing and juicy in texture, this wine has flavours of peaches and apricots. 88.

Pinot Gris 2011 ($20). Consulting winemaker Phil Soo has crafted a popular patio sipper, with apple and citrus aromas and with flavours of peaches. 88.

Rosé 2011 ($17). This is a somewhat unconventional blend of equal parts Merlot and Viognier that succeeds as good dry rosé for summer. It has aromas and flavours of strawberries and a crisp finish. 88.

Syrah 2010 ($N.A.). This begins with the classic black pepper aroma and flavour common with South Okanagan Syrah. On the palate, there are flavours of black cherry, fig and liquorice. The tannins are ripe and approachable. 88.

Cabernet Franc 2011 (tank sample). This is a marvellous, full-bodied red with the brambly aromas and flavours that distinguish this varietal in the Okanagan. 90.

Manuel 2011 ($N.A.). Another unconventional blend – Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Viognier – this was not yet available when I visited. The name honours a family grandfather.  

Adega on 45th Estate Winery
7311 45th Street
Osoyoos, BC V0H 1V6
T 250.495.6243


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