Monday, July 7, 2014

Class of 2014: Lusitano Estate Winery

Photo: Fernanda and Fred Ganhao (courtesy Lusitano)

This recently-opened winery is the newest addition to the burgeoning group of Okanagan Falls wineries.

This is the profile appearing in the new edition of John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide. The book will be available in late July.

To name their winery, Fred and Fernanda Ganhao simply dipped into their Portuguese heritage. Lusitano derives from Lusitiania, the name applied by the Romans to indigenous peoples in central Portugal. While they are only a small percentage of Portugal’s modern population, the name occasionally is applied to expatriate Portuguese. It is better known today as the name of Lusitano horses, a breed of beautiful show horses.

Fred and Fernanda both were born in central Portugal. He came to Canada in 1966, when he was eleven, when his parents joined relatives who already lived in Osoyoos. Fernanda immigrated in 1978 to marry Fred. In the same year, they bought an orchard near Vaseux Lake, north of Oliver, and operated it for 25 years before selling it. Several times during that period, Fred suggested switching to growing grapes but his cautious wife talked him out of it.

“We sold the orchard in 2003 and we were semi-retired for three years,” Fernanda says. However, retirement was not appealing after a life full of activity and they looked for ways to re-engage with agriculture. In 2006 they bought a rural Okanagan Falls property that enchanted them. “When you come up the driveway, it feels like you are closer to the sky,” she says. “You have a beautiful view of the valley.”

The property included a meadow where the previous owner kept horses. Most of it was covered by pine trees. Fred proposed replacing the trees with vines and this time Fernanda agreed. In the spring of 2007, they planted close to 25,000 vines in a 5.5-hectare (13.5-acre) vineyard. The major varieties here are Pinot Gris, Merlot and Pinot Noir, with smaller blocks on Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and – on a sunbathed south-facing slope – Cabernet Sauvignon.

After several years of selling their grapes, they retained consulting winemaker Philip Soo to make their debut 1,200 cases in the 2013 vintage. They continue to sell about half of their crop while easing their wines into the market. “We did not want to go too far ahead of ourselves,” says Fernanda, who has not lost all her caution.

She looks forward to selling wines from the Lusitano tasting room. “When we had the farm, we had a fruit stand,” she says. “I enjoyed being out there, meeting new people every day. When you have good products, you can see the smile on peoples’ faces.”

A recent visit to the tasting room confirmed that Fernanda runs a welcoming wineshop and that visitors have reason to smile.

Here are notes on the wines.

Lusitano Chic 2013 ($18). This is the name given to the winery’s Sauvignon Blanc. The wine begins with herbal and citrus aromas, delivering flavours of limes and tropical fruits. The finish is crisp and tangy. 88.

Lusitano Rolling Hills Chardonnay 2013 ($17). This is an unoaked Chardonnay, in part because Fernanda is not a great fan of oaked white wines. This wine has citrus aromas and flavours of citrus, apple and white peach. It is crisp and refreshing. 88.

Lusitano Luscious Rosé 2013 ($17). Made from Pinot Noir, this juicy rosé has aromas and flavours of strawberry. A charming wine with a slight touch of residual sweetness, it has a silky finish. 88.

Lusitano Marco’s Pinot Noir 2013 ($19). This is great value – a full and silky textured Pinot Noir with aromas and flavours of cherry and strawberry and an intriguing note of cloves on the finish. 89-90.

Lusitano Prestigious Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($18). This wine is a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot. It has had seven months in oak but it would have benefitted from more time in barrel and bottle. The wine is too young to rate but will be satisfying with at least six more months of bottle age.

Lusitano Estate Winery
2318 Rolling Hills Road
Okanagan Falls BC V0H 1R2
T  250.497.7055
Open daily 9:30 am – 6 pm May to October


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