A winery that sells its wine under another producer’s
license is almost guaranteed to have a low profile.
I am not surprised when I meet consumers who have not yet
heard of Tightrope Winery on the Naramata Bench even though it was one of the
best new wineries to begin selling in 2013. Tightrope did not have a tasting
room because it had not built its own winery. It sells under the license of
Ruby Blues Winery where Lyndsay O’Rourke has been the winemaker. She owns
Tightrope with husband Graham, who also has his own viticulture consultancy.
The arrangement with Ruby Blues will change later this year.
The O’Rourkes are building a 5,000 square-foot winery beside their seven-acre
vineyard. Lyndsay expects it will be complete in time for the 2014 crush. If
everything goes to plan, they might also be able to open their own wine shop by
the fall wine festival. It is at 1050
Fleet Road, just off Three Mile Road, an easy location to
incorporate into the wine touring routes.
Lyndsay also begins to unwind her winemaking relationship
with Ruby Blues but will stay on as a consultant to the new winemaker there,
She and Graham, who are both graduates of Lincoln University
in New Zealand
are concentrating on building Tightrope over several years, with a target
annual production of between 4,500 cases and 5,000 cases of wine. That will
include grapes purchased from other growers, ideally growers on Naramata Bench.
The winery is just releasing its white and rosé wines from
2013. The Pinot Noir is still in barrel, with no firm decision on when it will
be bottled and released.
Also maturing in barrels are Barbera, Cabernet Franc and
Merlot from the Tightrope vineyard. The tentative plan is to assemble these
varietals into a single blend.
Barbera is an Italian varietal seldom grown in the Okanagan.
Sandhill Wines formerly released Barbera, a wine that Lyndsay admired. They
also draw some inspiration from their time in New Zealand.
“We were on the north island in New Zealand as part of a school
wine tour,” Graham recalls. “We went to a winery – I think it was Vin Alto –
and they had a Merlot Barbera blend that was outstanding. So we thought we
could do the same thing here, recreate that same blend. And the Barbera makes
an excellent rosé.”
In fact, since their Barbera vines began producing in 2010,
they have sold the grapes to wineries for rosé. In 2013, a very warm vintage,
they kept the grapes for their own wines.
Here are notes on the new releases.
Tightrope Riesling 2013
($22 for 260 cases). The almost imperceptible residual sugar in this wine
contributes to a juicy texture; but the wine is well-balanced and the finish is
dry. The wine has aromas and flavours of lime and lemon. The wine is still
integrating in the bottle but will develop well by the end of summer and then
will reward cellaring. 90 +
Tightrope Pinot Gris
2013 ($19 for 180 cases). The grapes were whole cluster pressed and
fermented in stainless steel, accentuating the fruit. The wine is rich on the
palate with flavours of citrus and ripe pear. The finish is crisp and fresh.
2013 ($27 for 185 cases). Half of the wine was fermented in barrel in 2013,
up from 20% in 2012 (one new barrel, one second fill barrel and two neutral). The
wine also benefitted from more lees stirring. That is perceptible in a rich
palate weight. More complex than the 2012 wine, this wine begins with aromas of
orange blossom and pineapple. On the palate, there are flavours of apricot and
pineapple around a spine of minerality. 91.
Tightrope Rosé 2013 ($19
for 100 cases). This is 85% Pinot Noir, 15% Barbera. The wine has a lovely
vibrant hue, with aromas and flavours of strawberry and cherry and a spicy Barbera
note on the finish. The texture is silky. The wine is dry, but with just enough
sweet fruit to give the wine a satisfying and juicy finish. 90