Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Class of 2013: Cana Vines Winery

Photo: Lisa Elgert

Cana Vines Winery
129 Brauns Road
Oliver, BC V0H1T2
T 778-439-3340
When to visit: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. Sundays May to October

If location is a key to success, Cana Vines Winery launched with an advantage. The winery, with its three hectares (7.5 acres) of sunbathed vines, is beside the highway, just south of Vaseux Lake and north of McIntyre Bluff. Not many wineries enjoy as much drive-by traffic.

While the address is Brauns Road, that is a stub of a street from Highway 97 near Vaseux Lake. The highway address of the vineyard is 9001 Highway 97.

“They have changed our address four times since we moved here,” says winemaker Lisa Elgert.

Arnie Elgert, a commercial fisherman, bought the property in 1990, he just wanted to move his family to the Okanagan from Vancouver. “He was thinking of retiring from fishing,” says Filipino-born Mindi, his wife, who had to learn to drive because they were distant from a community.

“My dad researched different crops that could have grown here,” says Lisa, his daughter. “We had all sorts of suggestions – ginseng, hemp, seabuckthorne. Somebody wanted us to open a McDonalds. There were all sorts of ideas. He settled on grapes.”

The family spent the better part of the decade picking rocks while deciding what to grow before vines were planted in 1997. The varietal choices – Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay - were made on the advice of Arnie’s friend, Sandor Mayer, the winemaker at Inniskillin Okanagan.

Cana Vines was registered in 2000 as the vineyard’s name, inspired by a passage in Mindi’s bible about the first miracle attributed to Jesus – turning water into wine at a wedding at Cana.

Arnie soon was thinking about opening a winery. He sent Lisa to get a business degree at Trinity Western University with the object of having her run the business. Then in 2008, Arnie was stricken with cancer and died that December. “We were so devastated,” Mindi says. “We tried to get rid of the vineyard so we could forget everything and have a new start.” However, they could not sell the vineyard because of an economic slump. As they continued to farm it and sell the grapes, Lisa took Okanagan College winemaking courses. She and her mother decided to realize Arnie’s dream.

They arranged to have their initial 2011 vintage made at Kalala Organic Estate Winery. That gave them time to turn a three-car garage into a functional winery and to complete a tasting room and a picnic area with a fine view of vineyards and McIntyre Canyon to the south. And they have grafted some of their vines to additional varietals, giving them a bigger tool box for make blends.

The wedding at Cana theme has also inspired the labels of several wines scheduled for release this summer. There is a 2011 Chardonnay called “Water to Wine” and a blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay called “The Wedding Feast.” An unoaked 2012 Merlot is called “First Sign.”

When I visited the winery in April, prior to the opening of the wine shop, there were only two wines in bottle, although I was able to sample several from barrel or tank. In particular, the unoaked Merlot is juicy and delicious.

Here are notes on the finished wines.

Cana Vines Pinot Gris 2011: ($16 for 126 cases). This fruity wine with a touch of sweetness on the finish has aromas and flavours of pear and apple. Sweetness aside, it is balanced to have a crisp, refreshing finish. 88.

Cana Vines Merlot Rosé 2011: ($14 for 256 cases). Think strawberry. The wine has a strawberry hue, with aromas and flavours of strawberries. It is an easy summer-time quaffer. 88.


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