Photo: Winemaker Dylan Roche
A rare Appassimento red wine – in effect, an Amarone style
wine – has been introduced in the Okanagan by Intersection Estate Winery.
In the classic Amarone style, Intersection winemaker Dylan
Roche air dried newly harvested Merlot grapes for 40 days for the inaugural
2012 vintage (25 cases). That partial dehydration concentrated the flavours and
the sugars, resulting in a finished wine with 17% alcohol and rich,
About 70 cases of 2013 Appassimento are maturing in barrel
for release in a year or two.
Wines like this are seldom made in the Okanagan. To the best
of my recollection, only Pentâge Winery and Castoro de Oro Estate Winery have
made wines from air dried grapes.
The innovative Appassimento is among the impressive wines
that have just been released by Intersection. The winery, which opened in 2011,
is so named because of its location at the intersection of Highway 97 and Road
8, a short drive south of Oliver.
Proprietor Bruce Schmidt is a Kelowna-born venture capital
entrepreneur who is also a veteran of the British Columbia wine industry. He started
his career in the late 1970s as a marketing executive with Calona Wines,
famously turning the Schloss Laderheim brand for several years into Canada’s
largest selling white (a million cases a year).
While he left Calona in the early 1980s for careers in
advertising, biotechnology and venture capital, he almost always kept involved
with the wine industry. In 2007 he bought vineyard property with a vacant
packing house. The vineyard is planted mostly with Merlot while the packing
house has been turned into a very serviceable winery.
The initial wines were made by a consultant until Bruce was
able to recruit Dylan in March 2012. Born in Vancouver
in 1976, Dylan immersed himself in wines and winemaking while living in Burgundy and working for
the bicycle tour company, Butterfield & Robinson, starting in 2000.
He earned a diploma in Viticulture and Oenology in 2004 from
the Faculté d'Oenologie de Dijon in Bourgogne. Until
returning to Canada, he made
wine at three Bordeaux chateaux, as well at
several properties in Burgundy and in New Zealand.
“I lived five years in Burgundy
is only about 3½ hours away,” Dylan says. “I would go down on weekends and ride
my bicycle and taste. We would taste lots of things in Valpolicella, including
Amarone. I thought the Okanagan would be a great and easy place to make Amarone
because of the dry climate.” In fact, he even elaborated the idea in his thesis
at the wine school.
Soon after joining Intersection, he persuaded Bruce that the
winery should make an Appassimento. “We set aside some Merlot from the south
block and we picked it straight onto mesh drying racks. The grapes spent 40 days
- whole bunches drying on racks indoors, as you would in Valpolicella. It was
destemmed, fermented on skins in upturned barrels with heads off. It went into
barrels around December 20, 2012, and was pressed off in early February.” The
wine then was aged 18 months in French oak.
Intersection Appassimento 2012, not yet priced, is likely to be
allocated through Intersection’s tasting room and to the winery’s wine club. It
is a stunning wine which I have scored 94 points. It has richly concentrated
flavours of plums and prunes, with notes of liquorice on the long finish. The
alcohol is 17.2% but the wine is so full and viscous that it just does not seem
I once drank a fine Amarone in Italy with a big wedge of parmigiano
reggiano. That would be a great pairing with this wine as well.
Here are notes on other wines from Intersection.
Edge White 2012 ($18.90). This intriguing blend is 75% Sauvignon Blanc, 25%
Viognier. The wine begins with aromas of honeyed pineapple, leading to flavours
of pineapple and apricot. The finish lingers. 90.
(about $17-$18). This is from the first harvest from a young block of
Riesling in the Intersection vineyard. The wine has herbal and lemon flavours,
fairly soft acidity and a crisp, dry finish. Like most Rieslings, it needs to
age a bit in the bottle. 88.
Intersection Barrel Ferment Viognier-Marsanne 2012 ($24.90). The wine again has
honeyed aromas and flavours of apricot and citrus, with tropical fruit flavours
on a very long finish. 91.
Ferment Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($24.90). Seventy percent of this was
fermented in barrel; the rest was fermented in steel to preserve the
fruitiness. The wine’s herbal aromas lead to an explosion of explosion of
tropical fruit on the palate and a long finish. 91.
2013 ($17.90). This is a Merlot rosé with a dash of Cabernet Franc to
enhance the lovely rose petal hue. It is a dry French style rosé, with a hint
of strawberry in the aroma and flavour. 88.
Red 2011 ($18.90). Made entirely with Merlot, this is a quaffable
fruit-forward red, with flavours of cherry and black currant. Aged in barrels –
but not new oak – the wine has long, polished tannins. 88.
Unfiltered Merlot 2011 ($21.90). Here is a Merlot with depth and
concentration whose flavours are just beginning to open. There are tastes of
black currant and mulberry with a hint of chocolate and coffee on the finish.
The long ripe tannins were burnished by aging the wine 12 months in French and
American oak. 90.
Unfiltered Cabernet Franc 2012 ($24.90). This is a big, brambly red,
beginning with floral and raspberry aromas. On the palate, there are flavours
blackberry, raspberry and plum. There is appealing spiciness on thje long
2012 (not released). This unfiltered Merlot is from a specific block in the
northwest corner of the vineyard with complex alluvial soil. The wine is big
(14.8% alcohol) and concentrated, with flavours of plum and black currant. On
the finish, there is cola and chocolate framed with toasty oak. 92.
2012 (not released). Also an unfiltered Merlot, this is from a sandy block
in the vineyard. The wine has appealing aromas of plum and cassis with plum and
black currant flavours. The texture is leaner and the tannins are a bit more
aggressive than Alluvia. 91.
The vineyard blocks are practically adjoining. “You can
actually walk from one zone to another,” Bruce says. “It is the same vineyard.
The irrigation line segments the blocks. What is ironic is that we always felt
this northwest block wasn’t very good. Yet the Alluvia turned out to be
Bruce continues: “There has been a lot of talk lately about
appellations and terroir. This indicates
that we feel the same way. We should be talking more about our micro-terroirs.
And that just doesn’t mean soil. In this case, we split and irrigation system.
We will supplement the soil differently – yet the blocks are butting up against
each other. It also plays in a little bit into the idea of the French small