Photo: wine grower Sal D'Angelo
In April, vintner Sal D’Angelo, the owner
of D’Angelo Estate Winery on the Naramata Bench, will release four of the best
red wines he has made so far in British
Unlabelled samples arrived last month
because the wines will be launched with redesigned labels. I expect the labels
will be interesting but what is inside the bottles is what really counts.
Sal is an interesting man, if only because
he operates a winery in Ontario
as well. He opened his Okanagan winery in 2007 on a vineyard just north of Penticton and beside the Kettle Valley
hiking and cycling trail. The winery also operates a popular bed and breakfast.
One reason it is popular is that five or six other wineries are within walking
Here is an excerpt from the winery profile
in the current edition of John
Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide.
Sal D’Angelo, who runs a winery (also
called D’Angelo) near Windsor in Ontario, which opened in
1989, has been attracted to the Naramata Bench since he started vacationing
here in the early 1990s. He has a rare condition of the nervous system called
Guillan-Barré Syndrome, which is far less trying in the dry Okanagan than in
humid southern Ontario.
Not that he has ever let the condition hold him back: during one four-hour
medical treatment some years ago, he landed a $1,100 wine order from the
Born in Italy
in 1953, Sal grew up in Canada
in an immigrant home where his family made wine each fall. “I grew up with the
smell of fermenting grapes,” he says. He became a science teacher but began to
plant grapes in 1983 in his Windsor-area property, opening a winery six years
later. During an early Naramata vacation, he presented one of his Ontario reds to Hillside
Cellars founder Vera Klokocka with the cocky assertion that the Okanagan was
not suited to growing big reds. She produced a Cabernet Sauvignon (she was the
first in the Okanagan to make this varietal). Sal changed his mind and starting
considering the Okanagan.
Since 2001, Sal has acquired an entire
peninsula on the eastern bluffs above Lake
Okanagan, only minutes north of Penticton. He planted
about three hectares (7.4 acres) initially, with room to triple his plantings.
Not afraid to be original, Sal was the first in the Okanagan to plant
Tempranillo, the leading red variety in Spain. He also planted red Bordeaux varieties and
some Pinot Noir and intends to add Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc.
If there was any lingering doubt about the
Okanagan’s suitability for big reds, these four samples from the winery
certainly dispel it. No doubt, it helps that three are from the 2009 vintage
and one from 2007, two of the best vintages in the last decade in the Okanagan.
Here are my notes.
Pinot Noir Riserva 2009: This has yet to be priced.
Sal has been tasting it against other Pinot Noirs priced anywhere from $25 to
$50, trying to settle on a benchmark. I am betting the price will end up around
$35, similar to most of the other Naramata Bench Pinot Noirs.
This is a dark Pinot Noir, with savoury aromas
of forest floor, black cherry and chocolate. This is reminiscent of those red
Burgundies said to have a barnyard note, something that Burgundy
enthusiasts consider desirable. The flavours are savoury and herbal with a
touch of cherry. The structure is still firm but evolving. I would recommend
cellaring this wine another five years so it can blossom to its full potential.
Tempranillo Riserva 2009 ($19.90). The aromas and
flavours of this big red reminded me of some big Spanish reds I have tasted. It
begins with spicy blackberry and vanilla aromas. On the palate, there is
blackberry, boysenberry, dark chocolate and vanilla, with a lingering finish of
spice and vanilla. The texture is generous. 90.
Merlot Cabernet Riserva 2009 ($22.90). The Merlot
in this blend contributes appealing sweet berry flavours to this ripe and
generous wine. It shows aromas and flavours of black currant, vanilla,
chocolate and coffee. The wine benefits from decanting to liberate all of the
aromas and tastes. 89.
Sette Coppa Riserva 2007 Unfiltered ($24.90). The
flagship red blend’s name, Sette Coppa, means “seventh measure.” This comes
from the nickname of Sal’s great-grandfather, Donato, who persuaded the local
flour mill to take every seventh measure as payment for grinding his grain when
others were being assessed every sixth measure. You can see where Sal gets his
This wine begins with mint, vanilla and
black currant aromas. Full-bodied, it tastes of black currants, coffee, dark
chocolate and vanilla. The latter reflects the long, but not excessive, barrel
aging that Sal gave to all of his big reds. 90.