Photo: Rafter F's Bill and Darlene Freding
There is a very good reason why Darlene and
Bill Freding have no plans for a Rafter F winery on their Saddle Ridge Vineyard
on Black Sage Road.
They also raise and finish livestock here.
“I don’t think it is wise for me to have a
feedlot and a winery at the same location,” Darlene says with a chuckle. “A
certain number of people might think it is unique and enjoy it, but a number
will not and won’t enjoy it.”
That is why they are winemaking clients of
Okanagan Crush Pad Winery. It is a concession to the olfactory-challenged among
So far, Rafter F has released just two
wines from their debut 2011 vintage: 83 cases of Pinot Gris and 95 cases of Chardonnay.
In the spring, Rafter F will release three reds – a Syrah, a Cabernet Franc and
a Cabernet Sauvignon. Also look for more wine production in the future because
the Fredings, with 47 acres of vineyard, would like to grow the brand to 3,000
Rafter F is the brand that the family has
used in ranching for several generations. Bill Freding, whose master’s degree
in agriculture includes expertise in genetics, is a fourth generation rancher.
His great-grandfather, John Allison, was the first settler and rancher near
what is today called Princeton.
Bill and Darlene began their ranching
career in the Cariboo, running four different ranches until Bill, in 1988,
bought a feedlot south of Oliver that had been in receivership. Here, he could
better apply the genetics and the other sciences that he had learned at university.
Ultimately, the Fredings have developed a
premium beef product which they sell as Okanagan’s Finest Angus Beef. The
animals are fed a daily litre of wine for 90 days in the last 90 days of
finishing them for beef.
“It was Bill’s idea,” Darlene says. “We had
a customer from Merritt who owns a large ranch. He was acquiring the Kobe beef as calves and
sending them to us and we were finishing them. Then his product was going to Japan.
Of course, when BSE happened, all that came to a halt.” (BSE is so-called mad
Kobe beef is as succulent and tender as it is in part because the
animals are finished with sake and beer in their feed. “Why can’t we try it with wine?” Darlene
“And it is fabulous,” she discovered. “As a
matter of fact, I like it better. The meat is a beautiful red colour. It has
its own distinct flavour. If you know it has wine in it, you can imagine it was
marinated in wine. It has that bit of a flavour. It helps to tenderize the
meat. And when you cook it, the meat will caramelize better.”
Before we get too far down this path, it
should be said that the Fredings did not start making wine to nourish their
animals. It is just a coincidence.
They grow a lot of corn for animal feed. In
1998, with Richard Cleave as their vineyard consultant, they began planting vines
in one of the corn fields. Today, they grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc,
Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, Viognier and Pinot Gris.
For a number of years, fruit from their
Saddle Ridge Vineyard was being sold to Road 13 Vineyards. Michael Bartier, now
the senior winemaker at Okanagan Crush Pad, was then Road 13’s winemaker.
“Last year [in 2011], after Mike Bartier
joined the Okanagan Crush Pad team, I decided it would be fun to see what we
could do,” Darlene says. She sent OCP the grapes from 2½ acres and had Michael
make the initial Rafter F wines. In 2012, she has sent double the quantity of
grapes. Clearly, the Fredings are feeling their way cautiously into the wine
“We just plain, simple, agricultural folk,”
Don’t kid yourself. This is a salt of the
earth couple that grows good beef and good grapes.
Here are notes on the first two wines:
F Pinot Gris 2011 ($21). This wine begins with
aromas of citrus and toasty lees. On the palate, there are flavours of green
apples and lemon. The texture is flinty and the finish is quite dry. 88.
F Chardonnay 2011 ($21). This unoaked Chardonnay
begins with citrus aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of white peach and
citrus. It finishes dry, with a mineral note. 87.