Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Class of 2013: C.C. Jentsch Cellars

 Photo: Chris Jentsch

C.C. Jentsch Cellars
4522 Highway 97
Oliver BC V0H 1T1
T 778.439.2091

The BC Wine Institute’s fall tasting this week was a coming out event for C.C. Jentsch Cellars, the most recent winery to open this summer.

C.C. Jentsch – the “J” is pronounced “Y” – has come out of the gate quickly because proprietors Chris  and Betty Jentsch already had a suitable building right on Highway 97, midway between Oliver and Osoyoos. The finishing touches are being done on the tasting room.

There is a dramatic story behind this winery beginning with the Testalinden Creek mud slide on a Sunday afternoon in June 2010.

Here is how the Globe & Mail reported the event:
Betty Jentsch was home with her 16-year-old daughter Emily Sunday afternoon when she heard "a roaring thunder sound that wasn't stopping."
Mrs. Jentsch looked out her window at Testalinden Creek, which flows down a hill next to her property from a reservoir lake built in the 1930s. "Just a wall of mud was coming down the creek," she said.
She ran upstairs and grabbed her daughter. When she got back downstairs, she looked out the back door and saw "a mountain of mud with my vehicle coming towards the house," she said.
Mrs. Jentsch and her daughter ran out another door and headed north as quickly as they could move, running through orchards and hopping several fences until they reached higher ground. "She turned around and looked back and saw the mountain of mud with our garage heading our way," said Mrs. Jentsch of her daughter.
Mrs. Jentsch, whose family is now staying with relatives, has not spent too much time worrying about who is responsible for the mudslide. "I'm just glad that we're okay. Everything else can be replaced," she said.
[Eventually, the Jentschs moved to a new home near Summerland.]
The slide missed the nearby Jentsch packing house, a modern building just beside the highway which was then being rented to Road 13 Vineyards for wine storage. That was a stroke of good fortune for Road 13, and now for Chris Jentsch.

A self-described entrepreneur, Chris, who was born in Kelowna in 1963, is a third-generation Okanagan fruit grower. He became an independent apple grower in the 1980s. He built his first packing house in 1989 and rebuilt it after fire destroyed it in 1991. When apple prices collapsed in the mid 1990s, he converted his orchards to cherries. “We were in a golden time for cherry exports, with a 63 cent Canadian dollar,” Chris recalls. “Cherries were getting air freighted to Taiwan.”

In 1999, Chris planted his first vineyard, a 7.6 hectare (19-acre) on the Golden Mile, just south of the Tinhorn Creek winery. He sold it five years later to go to a much larger project – replacing his cherry trees with vines after overplanting led to a cherry surplus.  “That was hard because we were ripping out highly productive cherry blocks that were picture perfect,” Chris says.

In his usual style, Chris jumped in with both feet. Between 2005 and 2008, he planted 65,246 vines on a superb 19.4 hectare (48-acre) plateau on the Golden Mile. Once the vines produced, he sold grapes to several wineries, including Andrew Peller Ltd. But Peller’s own vineyards now are in full production. Chris, facing uncertainty about where he would sell all of his grapes, has made the final jump by converting the packing house into a 10,000-case winery.

When he asked Okanagan Crush Pad to make his initial vintage in 2012, Chris had more modest objectives in mind.

“My intention at the time was to continue on with my 2,000 cases, and continue to sell to Peller,” he says. “But with the Peller situation, I got forced into doing my own thing. But really, it fits me better. I would rather die by my own action, right or wrong.”

The expertise at Okanagan Crush Pad has launched him with good wines and, more critically, with marketing advice.

C.C. Jentsch opened with 300 cases of Viognier, 120 cases of Gewürztraminer, 550 cases of Syrah and about 900 cases of a Meritage blend called The Chase. Chris has arranged to have Matt Dumayne, one the OCP winemakers, make the C.C. Jentsch wines in 2013.

Here are notes on the first releases.

C.C. Jentsch Gewürztraminer 2012 ($17.99). This is a fine dry wine, beginning with classic aromas of spice, rose petals and grapefruit. The wine is full on the palate with flavours of grapefruit and a hint of lychee. 90.

C.C. Jentsch Viognier 2012 ($24.99). This wine has fully ripe flavours of apricots and peaches with tropical fruit aromas, all set on a rich palate with the variety’s typical spine of minerals, tannin and alcohol. 89.

C.C. Jentsch The Chase 2012 ($19.99). This is a blend of 35% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5% Petit Verdot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 7.5% Malbec. The wine has been made in a soft and approachable style for early drinking, although perhaps not this early. I would lay it aside at least six months. Now, it has aromas and flavours of cassis and blueberry but is still developing in bottle. 88-90.

C.C. Jentsch Syrah 2012 ($28.99). Here is another ripe, mouthfilling red. It begins with aromas of black cherry, chocolate and spice. It delivers earthy, cherry flavours with a touch of white pepper on the finish. 90.


At September 5, 2013 at 12:36 PM , Blogger RW said...

Well done Chris.
Thanks for post.


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