Inniskillin Okanagan winemaker Sandor Mayer
When Inniskillin Okanagan began releasing Pinot Gris wines a
decade ago, it labelled them Pinot Grigio.
It is likely that it used the Italian variant on the
varietal name because its parent winery on Niagara
had a long established Pinot Grigio. Marketing wanted to keep the branding
Pinot Grigio implies a fresh and fruity wine style with
moderate alcohol. However, some of the earlier vintages of Inniskillin
Okanagan’s Pinot Grigio were so alcoholic that they reminded one of an Alsace late harvest
Pinot Gris. I attributed that to the heat of the south Okanagan. Winemaker
Sandor Mayer explains that it was a little more complicated than that.
“I was receiving fruit from very young vineyards in those
days,” he says. One property was a hot site as well. The conscientious grower
also grew low tonnage with his Pinot Gris and the grapes tended to get
overripe. The result was Pinot Grigio with alcohol above 14% and, in one
vintage, close to 15%. The wines were delicious but it was a stretch to call
them Pinot Grigio.
Now, Inniskillin Okanagan has released its 2012 Pinot
Grigio. With 13.4% alcohol, it has the fresh and fruity attributes of a Grigio.
The grapes now come mostly from Constellation Brands’s
McIntyre Vineyard, located on the plateau east of Oliver. This is a cooler site
for the south Okanagan and the vines are about 10 years old. Sandor no longer
has to cope with super-ripe grapes.
“Older vineyards are more settled and more stable,” Sandor
says. “With Pinot Gris, you want to get mature but not overripe fruit. You need
to have certain brix level; otherwise, the fruit does not come through and you
get a simple neutral wine, lacking in intensity and fruit. That’s the trick –
to catch the fine balance of good maturity without over-ripeness, to get
the 2012 vintage, the Pinot Gris grapes were picked on October 12 and were
delivered to the winery first thing in the morning, still cold. That allowed
Sandor to crush the grapes but to leave the juice in contact with the skins for
four hours, a winemaking trick to accentuate the flavours. Then the wine was
fermented with specially-select yeast at fairly cool temperatures (13°C - 17°C) for two weeks, further
protecting the wine’s fresh fruity flavours.
And the wine has been released under screw
cap, sealing in all of that freshness.
Along with this excellent Pinot Grigio,
Inniskillin Okanagan also released a fruity 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon (also under
love to work with Cabernet Sauvignon,” Sandor says. It was one of the varieties
planted in 1990 when Sandor was in charge of planting the Dark Horse Vineyard,
a sun-drenched site on the hillside just above the winery. In most vintages,
the fruit from that two-acre block of Cabernet Sauvignon has been blended into
a very good Meritage. On those occasions when Inniskillin Okanagan has released
a Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine usually has won numbers gold medals,
both in Canada
and internationally. This is a wine designed to be cellared for some time.
is planning to release the first Dark Horse Cabernet Franc and he promises it
is just as exciting as the Cabernet Sauvignon.)
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon which has just been released is a more accessible
style. It is made with grapes from Constellation’s Bull Pine Vineyard, which is
on a sandy bench northeast of Osoyoos
. While 2011 was a
vintage with a cool start, it ended with a good long autumn, affording the hang
time that late ripening Cabernet Sauvignon needs. The grapes for this wine were
picked on October 25.
“I have trust in the site,” Sandor says. “We get nice
maturity and good fruit – not green, but ripe fruit character in Merlot and
Cabernet. I am never disappointed in that.”
Those attributes are well presented in this wine which, in
spite of spending 12 months in French and American oak barrels, is finished
with soft tannins for good drinkability on release.
Here are notes on the wines. Both are made in about 3,000-case
volumes and are widely available.
Pinot Grigio 2012 ($15.09). It appeals immediately with aromas of aromas of
apple and citrus. On the palate, there are flavours of grapefruit and apple.
The well-balanced but tangy finish is just bursting with freshness. 90.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
($17.09). Soft and juicy, this uncomplicated but
very drinkable wine begins with aromas of plums and cherries. On the palate,
there are flavours of blackberry, black currant and vanilla. With just a touch
of chilling, this is perfect for barbecues on warm summer evenings. 88-90.