Photo: Platinum Bench banners advertise its breads
Fiona Duncan and Murray Jones launched Platinum Bench Estate Winery in 2012,
she had a high-stress job in Winnipeg
as vice-president of production for Nygård
International, the fashion designer and manufacturer.
To relieve stress, she took up the hobby
of baking bread, taking courses at the San Francisco Baking Institute. It has
now come in handy at the winery and she continues to take courses. This spring
she added baking with ancient grains and making gluten-free bread to her
The hobby has developed into one of the
appeals to visiting this winery on Black
. Freshly-baked bread is available for
sale. It is also paired with the wines served in the tasting room. It is a rare
visitor not bowled over by the experience.
Both the breads and the wines are
available for sale on the winery web site. The breads are shipped par-baked.
Murray, who owned a manufacturing company,
and Fiona got into the wine business by buying a producing vineyard in 2011.
For them, it was a major lifestyle change with a learning curve that was more
or less vertical.
The 2011 vintage was a challenging one,
especially for a couple learning viticulture on the fly (with the help of Okanagan College
courses). Richard Cleave, one of
their neighbours and a viticulturist with 40 years of experience, become a good
friend and a valued mentored.
Judging from the wines recently tasted
there, the stars have now lined up for Fiona and Murray. The 2012 and 2013
vintages were stronger than 2011 and, so far, 2014 is also looking very good.
Helped by a veteran winemaking consultant, Murray
has put some excellent wines in bottle.
The tasting room features a shaded deck
overlooking the vines. In increasing number of visitors are stopping for a
glass of wine and a few slices of fresh bread.
It brings to mind Edward Fitzgerald’s famously translated
quatrain from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:
Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise
If you relax with your book of poems on the Platinum Bench
deck, these are the wines:
Platinum Bench Pinot
Gris 2013 ($20). This is a delicious wine, with rich aromas and flavours of
citrus, pear and baked apples. 90.
Chardonnay 2012 ($25). One-third of this wine was in new oak; one-third in
neutral oak and one-third in stainless steel. The result is a crisp,
fruit-forward Chardonnay with citrus and tangerine flavours. The buttery and
oak notes serve as a subtle background. 90.
Platinum Bench Rosé
2013 ($20). This wine is made with juice from Merlot and Gamay grapes. The
wine shows cherry and strawberry aromas and flavours with a touch of white
pepper on the dry finish. 90.
Platinum Bench Gamay
Noir 2013 ($20). This medium-bodied wine has spice and cherry aromas and
flavours. It is a very quaffable red. 90.
Platinum Bench Merlot
2012 ($25). The wine has good concentration and ripe tannins, with aromas
and flavours of black currant and black cherry. 90.
Cabernet Franc 2012 ($25). This wine is just brimming with brambleberry
aromas and lively red fruit flavours. 90.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($25). This
wine shows the vintage, with minty aromas, red cherry flavours and a lean
Platinum Red 2011 ($30). This wine shows how Merlot helps fill out a 2011
blend. This wine is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 5% Gamay Noir. There
are aromas and flavours of black currant and cherry. The texture is more
generous than the solo Cabernet. 89.
Meritage 2011 ($35). This is another illustration of good blending making a
wine better than its parts might have been. All five Bordeaux reds are in this blend. It has a
firm, age-worthy texture, with aromas of black currants, black cherry, cola and
Platinum Bench Syrah
2012 ($N/A). This is an elegant Syrah with aromas and flavours of spicy
black cherry supported by hints of deli meats and a touch of pepper. 91.