Photo: Lamont Brooks and Pat George
Symphony Vineyard, which opened early in
June, has returned winegrowing to a Saanich farm that grew loganberries in the
1960s for Growers Wine Company, then based in Victoria.
Lamont Brooks, who runs this winery with
his wife, Pat George, is a second generation member of the Brooks family to
manage this farm, once 30 acres in size and now 10 acres. His mother, Thelma,
also grew strawberries before Lamont and Pat leased part of it for the 2.1 acre
vineyard they planted in 2004.
The winery represents a second career and a
lifestyle choice for the couple, both of which are trained in geology and earth
sciences. Lamont, who was born 1957, is a physics graduate from the University of Victoria. Upon graduation, he went to
work in the oil industry in Calgary,
where he met Pat. They spent 13 years with Shell, including three years in Holland, until Vancouver Island
drew them back in 2003.
Pat now describes herself as fully retired
from the oil industry while Lamont remains modestly involved with a start-up
oil and gas company.
They returned to the Saanich Peninsula
at a time when the promoters of Victoria Estate Winery had been encouraging the
planting of small vineyards.
seemed like a fine hobby for us to launch into, on the existing land here,”
Lamont says. “In 2004, we planted the
vines and built the winery building. We began making pretty serious wines from
our own grapes, starting in 2006, when the vines were in third leaf.”
start, this was much more than a hobby. They joined the Wine Islands Growers
Association, with Pat serving for many years as the president. WIGA is a
technical association that promotes education and problem solving for the grape
growers and winemakers of the coast. It is vital because most of the
viticultural research is done in warmer terroirs, like the Okanagan and California, and is of
limited use on the coast.
viticulturists have had to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, do trials
and figure out how to get the best crop in this climate,” Lamont says. “We
really have to figure out what works in this climate. Ninety per cent of the
research is from warmer places.”
The varietals planted for
Symphony are Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir and Léon Millot. The latter is a French
hybrid from Alsace
plant breeder Eugene Kuhlmann, who also developed Maréchal Foch. Lamont and Pat
planted it to produce a full-bodied red.
In a typical year, the vineyard
should yield enough grapes for about 400 cases (the winery opened with about
300 cases from 2011, a difficult, low-production year). Lamont and Pat will
augment that by buying grapes from other island growers as they target an
annual production of 600 cases.
always aim to be a small winery,” Lamont says. “We don’t want to get to the
1,500 case level. We want to stay a small boutique producer of high quality
not plan to buy Okanagan grapes. “We do want to stay with island fruit,” Pat
says. They have already noted the positive response when consumers in the wine
shop ask where the grapes come from -- and they can point the vineyard that is
just a few hundred yards away.
from the wine shop also takes in a picnic patio, the locale of some of the
music events held here over the summer. Given the winery’s name, it is only
logical that they would host musicians.
“Music and wine seem to go together well,
and there are lots of musical people in our family,” Lamont says. “Also, the
definition of Symphony: “an elaborate instrumental composition in three or more
movements, of grand proportions and varied elements”, could almost describe the
long process leading to a bottle of wine – springtime in the vineyard, bursting
into a long ‘summer movement’ as grapes form, a quieter fall ripening phase
followed by the flurry of harvest and fermentations, and a final slow aging
when the sensory character of the wine develops.”
The first wines released this summer
establish Symphony as a winery worth visiting. Here are my notes.
Pinot Gris 2011 ($18). This wine begins with an
appealing and fresh aroma of lime and rhubarb which carry through to the
flavour that also has hints of pear. The finish is tangy and crisp. 89.
Pinot Gris 2011 (barrel-fermented) ($19). Barrel
fermentation has given the wine a fuller palate. It still shows attractive
aromas and flavours of citrus and has
softer acidity while still having a dry finish. 90.
Gewürztraminer 2011 ($19). Nicely balanced to
finish dry but not austere, this wine has delicate citrus aromas and flavours
with the classic hint of lychee that the variety often shows. 90.
Pinot Noir Rosé 2011 ($18). This wine displays a lovely rose petal hue, with aromas and
flavours of strawberries. It has a dry finish but with just a trace of residual
sugar to give it a juicy texture. 90.
Millot 2011 ($21). Aged in American oak, this is a
dark and fleshy wine, with aromas of black cherries and flavours of plums and
cherries. The soft tannins – a touch of tannin was added during fermentation –
give the wine youthful approachability. 89.
6409B Oldfield Rd, Saanichton,
BC V8M 1X8.
Telephone: 250.208.8784 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 250.208.8784 end_of_the_skype_highlighting