Sunday, May 5, 2013

Inniskillin Okanagan releases a fresh and fruity pair






 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 consistent.

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 reasonable alcohol.”

In 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 screw cap).

“I 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.

(Sandor is planning to release the first Dark Horse Cabernet Franc and he promises it is just as exciting as the Cabernet Sauvignon.)

The 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 Lake. 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.
Inniskillin Okanagan 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.






Inniskillin Okanagan 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.

 





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