Baillie-Grohman winemaker Dan Barker
There are now three wineries in or near Creston, the
Kootenay city previously known just for the Columbia brewery and general agriculture.
With a population of 5,300 (2011 census), Creston has been
growing out of the down-at-the heels personality it had as recently as a decade
ago. There is, for example, a well appointed new Ramada Inn to accommodate
visitors far better than the old motels favoured by tree planters.
Perhaps the wineries have played a role in this revival, as
tourists passing through on the way to the Okanagan discovered it was worth
their while to stop and taste Creston’s well made wines.
I have recently been able to taste wines from two of the
Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery is the only one of the three
which distributes its wine outside the Kootenays. To acquire the wines of
Skimmerhorn Winery or Wynnwood Cellars, it is necessary to visit Creston. If
you do, Skimmerhorn has a good summer-season restaurant.
Skimmerhorn, which opened in 2006, was the first Creston
winery. Owners Al and Marleen Hoag (who have the winery for sale now) found a
clever way to overcome the lack of winemakers in Creston. They went to New Zealand and found Mark Rattray, a veteran
winemaker who agreed to do vintages in British Columbia when wineries in the southern
hemisphere are not busy.
Bob Johnson (right) and Petra Flaa opened Baillie-Grohman in 2010
across the street from Skimmerhorn. They recruited a New
winemaker named Dan Barker, the owner of
well-regarded Moana Park Winery in Hawkes
. He was New Zealand
Young Winemaker of the Year in 2003 and has picked up more than 250 awards
Both he and Mark got their Creston winery clients ably
Wynnwood Cellars began selling wines in 2012. The partners
here are Michael Wigen (left) and Dave Basaraba. The Wigen family has been in the
Creston area since 1892 and Michael now is an executive in the family business,
Wynndel Box & Lumber Company. Dave is from Walla Walla
but has lived in the Creston area since 1987. He broached the idea of growing
grapes to Michael. The partners, after starting the vineyard in 2007, opened
the winery north of Creston beside Highway 3A.
“This route we are on, the Kootenay Lake Route, is one of Car and
Driver’s 10 best roads,” Mike says. “From the ferry down to Creston, it is 53
miles of corners; only six passing zones. The Ferrari Club, the Porsche Club,
all the bike clubs go through here all the time.”
Chances are those drivers welcome a glass of wine in Creston
at the end of such an exhilarating drive.
Here are notes on some of the wines.
Récolte Blanc 2013
($17). The name means harvest white. It is a tasty
aromatic blend of Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Schönburger. It begins with
floral and tropical aromas and delivers flavours of green apple, melon and
citrus. The racy acidity makes for a crisp and tangy lemony finish. This would
be especially refreshing as an aperitif.
Gewürztraminer 2013 ($19). Sometimes, wines from this varietal will
surprise you by developing over two or three days after the bottle has been
opened. This had an appealing spicy aroma and flavour, along with vivid
grapefruit tastes, on first being opened. Over the next several days, the
bottle came out of the fridge for another glass. Each one was fuller on the
palate, with more herbs and grapefruit. I wish I had had a magnum. 89.
Gris 2013 ($20). This is a juicy expression of the variety, with aromas of
tropical fruits and flavours of peaches, apples and grapefruit. 90.
de Noirs Rosé 2013 ($19). Here is a summertime charmer if I ever tasted
one. It begins with dramatic aromas of cherries and strawberries, with a juicy
palate that delivers a fruit bowl of flavour. The wine is well balanced, with
just enough residual sugar lift all that exuberant fruit. 90.
Noir 2011 ($25). This medium-bodied wine might fairly be described as
feminine, with easy appeal. There are notes of strawberry in the aroma and
spicy cherry flavours. The texture is silky. 88.
Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
($25). The grapes for this blend are from a
vineyard in the Similkameen
. The wine’s soft,
ripe tannins make it very drinkable in its youth. There is a core of black
cherry and vanilla on the palate with black currant and spice on the finish.
Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($21.95). This is a crisp and tangy wine, with aromas
and flavours of lime and lemon, a fine spine of minerals and racy acidity on
the finish. 87.
Chardonnay 2011 ($22.95). Nothing on the back label indicates whether this
wine is unoaked or barrel aged. The generous texture suggests either time in
neutral barrels or good lees work. Yet the wine still manages to be fruit
forward in a restrained way, with aromas and flavours of apple and citrus. 88.
Pinot Noir 2011 ($23.95). The winery has four clones of Pinot Noir in its
main vineyard – clones 114, 115, 667 and 777 – which displays a commendable
commitment to the varietal. While the aroma displays the funkiness that nerds
call barnyard, there are good black cherry flavours. The tannins are firm and I
would recommend aging this wine a few more years. 87.
Merlot 2012 ($24.95). This is a lively and youthful red, with aromas of
raspberry and cherry. On the palate, it is juicy with flavours of cherry and
black currants framed with a touch of oak. Creston is not the usual terroir for
Merlot. Wynnwood Cellars succeeds because it tents the vines in spring to give
then a jump on the season. 88