Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tightrope’s new releases in 2014

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, Blair Gillingham.

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. 90.

Tightrope Viognier 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


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