Photo: Harper's Trail proprietors Vicki and Ed Collett
There is an organization of financial executives that has
invited me for several years to choose the wines for their final dinner of the
season, and to speak about the wines.
The wines are always from British Columbia, that being a region in
which I fancy I have some knowledge.
This year, I stayed with British
Columbia while throwing my audience a curve by choosing wines from
Harper’s Trail Estate Winery in Kamloops.
After the group got over its surprise … “A winery in Kamloops
?” … the comments
on the wines were all positive. I expected that, having tasted the Harper’s
Trail wines previously.
Harper’s Trail is the first winery in Kamloops. It opened its tasting room this
summer, a few months earlier than Privato Vineyard and Winery, the city’s
second winery. The latest list of licensed wineries includes a third Kamloops winery called
Sagewood. Next spring, Monte Creek Ranch Winery will be the community’s fourth
winery. That is enough for a good day of wine touring.
The Harper’s Trail wines are well distributed in restaurants
and private wine stores. You can find a list on the winery’s website.
If Harper’s Trail is unfamiliar, here is the profile I have
written for the next edition of John
Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide. It will be published next spring.
Harper’s Trail Estate Winery Opened 2012
When to visit: Mid-May to mid-June
11 am – 7 pm Friday through Sunday; daily 11 am – 6 pm (to 7
pm Friday through Sunday) from late June to September 1; daily 11 am – 5
pm September 2 to mid-October.
What makes this vineyard
special is same thing that has enabled Lafarge to operate a cement plant nearby
since 1970: the underlying limestone in the area, which is quarried for cement
but also benefits grape growing. Ed Collett, who owns Harper’s Trail with his
wife, Vicki, points to the cliff above the south-sloping vineyards. “That whole
side hill is lime rock,” he says.
This property on the north
side of the Thompson River is about 16 kilometres (10 miles) east of Kamloops. Formerly, it
grew hay and grazed cattle in what is quintessential British Columbia range country. The winery
is named for Thaddeus Harper, the 19th-century American-born rancher who once
owned the vast 15,569-hectare (38,472-acre) Gang Ranch, one of the first farms
to use sturdy gang ploughs. Ed bought his modest slice of ranch country in 2007
after he had conceived the idea of developing a winery. He acquired a taste for
wine during travels to Chile
on business for the mining equipment company he has run since in 1987.
The desire for a winery
emerged during Okanagan wine tours. Ed remembers relaxing at a bed and
breakfast overlooking a vineyard and remarking: “I’ve got to get myself one of
these.” He began planting vines in 2008. He currently has 11.7 hectares (29
acres) of vines and has plans for more in stages as he and vineyard manager
John Dranchuk determine what varieties will succeed. “You have to take baby
steps,” Ed notes. “We are further north [than most vineyards] but obviously, it
is not a deterrent for us.” The cold winters led to the removal of Merlot while
a 2008 planting of Cabernet Franc succeeded so well that more was planted in
2012, followed with 2.4 hectares (six acres) of Pinot Noir and Gamay in 2013.
Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay also are succeeding. Wind machines combat early autumn frost. Ginseng
shade-cloth on the vineyard’s borders breaks the valley’s constant winds.
Propane cannons deter the birds. “All of this is new to the Thompson,” the
vineyard manager says. “This was the first vineyard with wind machines and bird
The first several vintages, which
included three different Rieslings, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, a
white blend, a rosé and a Cabernet Franc, were made for Harper’s Trail at
Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland. A
tasting room opened at the vineyard in the summer of 2013. The temporary
winemaking facility used for that vintage is being replaced in 2014 by a new
winery. There are future plans for a restaurant and for walking trails on the
Here are notes on the wines, all made from grapes grown on
the estate vineyard.
Pioneer Block Dry Riesling 2012 ($20 for 450 cases). The winery describes
this dry wine with 10.8% alcohol as being made in the “Rheingau style.” It
begins with appealing aromas of lime and apple, delivering flavours of lime,
lemon, and orange peel. It has a fine mineral backbone that contributes to a
good texture. 91.
Harper’s Trail Silver
Mane Block Riesling 2012 ($20 for 513 cases). This is made in the style of
a Mosel Riesling, with only 8.5% alcohol but with 25 grams of residual sugar –
three times as much as the Dry Riesling. The aromas were not as developed as
those of the Dry Riesling but the flavours and the full texture telegraph the
potential of this wine with a few more months of aging. The tangy acidity is
well balanced by the sweetness on the palate. 89.
Harper’s Trail Pinot
Gris 2012 ($18 for 319 cases). The wine has a slightly coppery hue, the
result of giving the wine some skin contact to enhance colour and flavour. It
has aromas of apples and pears with appealing fruit flavours and with a crisp,
dry finish. 90.
Chardonnay 2012 ($22 for 392 cases). The wine begins with aromas of peach
and citrus. On the palate, subtle oak frames the flavours of peach and citrus
and the hint of cloves. The finish is bright and refreshing. 90.
Harper’s Trail Field
Blend White 2012 ($17 for 347 cases). A light and refreshing white, this is
a blend of Riesling and Chardonnay. It has aromas and flavours of apples and
lime with a crisp mineral backbone. 89.
Cabernet Franc 2012 ($25 for 138 cases). The wine begins with aromas of
blackberries and black cherry and delivers mouth-filling berry flavours. The
texture is juicy, thanks to the ripe tannins, and the wine drinks easily. 90.
Not reviewed are the Gewürztraminer
2012 ($18 for 136 cases) and the Rosé
2012 ($17 for 93 cases), probably
because they are sold out.
Not yet reviewed is the Late
Harvest Riesling 2012 ($20 for 445 cases of half bottles). I am saving this
and other dessert wines for a blog that will be posted early in the holiday