Hester Creek winemaker Rob Summers
Hester Creek Estate Winery in the Okanagan calls itself Canada
only producer of Trebbiano.
The release from the 2013 vintage is, without a doubt, the
finest Trebbiano from the property. The price has increased a few dollars but
the wine is worth every penny.
For the first time, the wine has been released with the tag
“Old Vines” on the label, drawing additional attention that there might be
something special in the bottle.
There is history here.
Joe Busnardo, the original owner of the winery – it was then
called Divino – is believed to have planted the Italian variety in 1968. He
sold the vineyard in 1996 to relocate Divino to the Cowichan Valley
He took vine cuttings, including Trebbiano, with him for the Vancouver
vineyard. If he produced that wine there, it likely
disappeared into a blend.
It is not known whether anyone ever asked Joe where he
sourced Trebbiano in Italy.
There are at least six varieties of Trebbiano listed in Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson et al. The varietals are not even
always related to each other.
The odds are that Hester Creek has Trebbiano Toscano. “It is
by far the most widespread of the heterogeneous group of varieties with
Trebbiano in their name and the second most widely planted in Italy,”
Robinson writes. “It generally disappears into blends or in some countries into
a still. Its neutral nature and high acidity make it an ideal candidate for
distillation.” It is in fact the same variety as Ugni Blanc, much favoured by
Hester Creek’s vines might also be Trebbiano Spoletino, a
much less well known Umbrian variety. Joe Busnardo came from Treviso,
north of Venice, which is closer to Umbria than to Tuscany.
It would take extensive DNA work to establish which
Trebbiano this is. In fact, the Hester Creek vineyard still has a few other old
Italian varieties, including one just called Italian Merlot, that need more
research. Joe was blazing trail when he started planting the vineyard in 1968
with vines both from Italy
He planted as many as 136 varieties, experimenting more than a decade before
the Becker project. Pinot Blanc, the most successful varietal in the Becker
project, was already thriving at Joe’s vineyard.
Joe and succeeding owners have been winnowing the varietal
mix down to what succeeds best here (and with consumers).
Hester Creek has propagated enough Trebbiano from its
original block to support an annual production of 800 to 1,000 cases. Half of
the 2013 Trebbiano has already been sold. I would not delay picking up a few
Rob Summers, the Hester Creek winemaker, gave several
reasons when I asked him why the wine had made such an apparent jump in
“It was a beautiful vintage,” he says. “And the old vines
are the key.” The original vines in Block 16 date from 1968 and they provided
cuttings for an additional planting in 2002.
There also was a technical upgrade in the winery’s
fermentation equipment. The winery invested $20,000 in equipment that enables
the winemaker to lift the cap of solids in a tank of juice and rack off the
clear juice from the bottom. “You don’t let the juice settle on the solids for
two to four days,” Rob says. He was able to ferment very clean juice and, after
a healthy fermentation, do just minimal filtration.
Because the equipment arrived midway through the harvest, he
was not able to use it with all the whites. The Pinot Blanc, however,
benefited from this process and the 2013 vintage of that variety also is
impressive. This fall, all the whites will get the treatment.
Here are notes on the Hester Creek releases.
Hester Creek Pinot
Gris 2013 ($17.95 for 6,000 cases). The wine begins with aromas of citrus
and apple. On the palate, there are flavours of citrus and pear with a hint of
anise on the finish. The wine is crisply refreshing with good weight. 88.
Hester Creek Pinot
Blanc 2013 ($16.95 for 4,500 cases). The wine begins with aromas of apples
and melons. Those flavours are delivered to the palate, alone with a fine
backbone of minerals. The flavours are fresh and crisp. 90.
Hester Creek Old
Vines Trebbiano Block 16 2013
($22.95 for 1,000 cases). The wine is elegant
in a Burgundy
bottle, with a light golden hue
in the wineglass. The aromas are complex, including herbs, nuts, citrus and
pears. The imperceptible touch of residual sugar expresses itself in richness
on the palate. The wine has flavours of cantaloupe, pear and grapefruit, with a
long lingering finish. 92.
Hester Creek Rosé
Cabernet Franc 2013 ($19.95 for 1,000 cases). I have heard it argued that
rosé wines should be a pale pink. I am glad Hester Creek is not of that school.
This wine’s dark and vibrant hue is instantly appealing. In the aroma, there
are strawberries, cherries and rhubarb. The medley of fruit flavours fill the mouth. Here, the residual sugar (12
grams per litre) gives the wine volume, with a touch of black currant jam on
the finish. 90.