Photo: Winemaker Daniel Bontorin
In more than a decade of Okanagan winemaking, Daniel
Bontorin has established himself as a specialist in rosé wine.
He launched his own label, Seven Directions, in the 2012
vintage to produce just rosé. Daniel is also the consulting winemaker for
Volcanic Hills Estate Winery. He makes his rosé – the volumes are modest –
under the Volcanic Hills license. The Seven Directions website indicates where
the wines can be found.
As my notes on current Volcanic Hills wines indicates,
Daniel also makes good wines for his employer, which probably explains why he
is allowed to do a bit of freelancing.
Daniel’s rosé-making pedigree goes back to the 2005 vintage
when he made Vaïla, the outstanding rosé at Le Vieux Pin. That wine, along with
rosé from JoieFarm Winery, started the renewed interest in a wine style made embraced
by the majority of wineries.
Born in Surrey
in 1976, Daniel
kicked around at several jobs in the Okanagan, including importing motorcycle
parts, until 2000 when he recognized that the real future was in wine. After
courses at Okanagan University College
he worked in the cellars at several wineries including Fairview Cellars,
Domaine Combret, Hillside
and Hester Creek.
Then he did a vintage in northern Italy
“My wife and I are both Italian,” Daniel says, who has dual
citizenship. “Her Dad lives there and I have relatives there. So we decided to
go for a trip, and we figured to make it worthwhile, I will do a vintage over
there.” He returned just in time to join
LVP for the 2005 vintage.
Vaïla is a Pinot Noir rosé. Daniel made three vintages at Le
Vieux Pin before moving on to consult. He made his mark at Volcanic Hills in
his initial vintage there, producing the winery’s first Gamay Noir rosé in 2010
vintage. The wine promptly won a Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence.
Daniel continues to produce the Gamay rosé for his client.
For his own rosé, Daniel likes Pinot Noir. In particular, he
likes the organic Pinot Noir grown by Kalala Vineyard at Westbank. “The 2007
Vaïla was from the Kalala Vineyard, so I knew the quality of the fruit,” he
says. In the 2013 vintage, he also made a rosé with the Zweigelt grown in the
vineyard of Sarwan Gidda, one of the owners of Volcanic Hills.
The inspiration for the Seven Directions rosé comes from France
“I have been drinking some French rosé wines the past couple of years,” Daniel
says. “I like the texture and the feel.”
The Seven Directions Pinot Noir Rosé 2012 was partially
fermented and aged in oak. In 2013, after allowing the crushed grapes to soak
on the skins for 18 hours, Daniel fermented all of the juice in French oak
puncheons, aging it there for three months. The objective was to produce a rosé
with good texture and intensity.
The Zweigelt rosé, on the other hand, was fermented only in
stainless steel, likely because it is a variety with more flavour and colour
than Pinot Noir. It is one of two Zweigelt rosés from B.C. wineries 2013 that
have quite impressed me. The other was made by Corcelettes Estate Winery in the
“I pick the fruit for my rosé as if I were making a red
wine,” Daniel has remarked. “Most people make a rose with low alcohol. I have
always picked my fruit for rosé at optimal ripeness, as if I were making a red
wine. For Pinot Noir, I try to hit 24.5 to 25 brix. My rosés are always 13.5%-14.5% alcohol, with
a rich texture. That’s what they do in France
. They don’t pick it to make
a rosé; they pick it at the proper physiological ripeness of the grapes.”
Here are my notes on Daniel’s rosé releases from 2013 as
well as the current portfolio at Volcanic Hills.
Pinot Noir Rosé 2013 ($27.90 for 100 cases). This wine is now sold out. The
wine begins its appeal with a delicate rose petal hue and with pure fruit
aromas (strawberry), delivering strawberry and cherry flavours. The texture is
generous, giving this elegant dry wine a lingering finish. 91.
Zweigelt Rosé 2013 ($19.90 for 245 cases). This wine has a vibrant ruby
hue. It begins with aromas of raspberry and blackberry. The wine is full and
juicy on the palate and is packed with fruit flavours. The finish is dry with a
spicy note. 90.
Volcanic Hills Magma
White 2012 ($15.90). This is a blend of 41.5% Chardonnay, 27%
Gewürztraminer, 11% each of Pinot Gris and Viognier, and 9.5% Riesling. This is
a juicy white with layer upon layer of melon, lychee, peach and pear flavours.
Volcanic Hills Rosé
2012 ($16.90). This is 92% Gamay, 8% Pinot Noir. A lively and vibrant rosé,
it has aromas and flavours of cherry and rhubarb. A touch of residual sugar
gives it a juicy texture. 88.
Volcanic Hills Single
Vineyard Gewürztraminer 2013 ($20.90). The wine begins with a bouquet of rose water,
spice, lychee and fresh peaches. The wine delivers flavours of lychee,
grapefruit and ginger. The palate is rich, thanks to a touch of residual sugar
very nicely balanced with refreshing acidity. 90.
Reserve Chardonnay 2011 ($24.90). This was fermented and aged six months in
French oak. The oak flavours are quite subtle, contributing a buttery/toasty
note without submerging the pineapple and lemon aromas and flavours. The wine
was not put through malolactic fermentation and remains fresh and lively on the
Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 ($27.90). Aged 17 months in new French oak barrels,
this wine begins with aromas of strawberry and mushroom. On the palate, there
are toasty, earthy flavours, including strawberry and cherry. The wine has a
silky texture. 90.
Volcanic Hills Merlot
2012 ($24.90). This is a big, ripe Merlot (14.2% alcohol) with aromas and
flavours of black current, black cherry and vanilla. With its generous texture,
the wine is drinking well now but it can also be cellared another four or five
Volcanic Hills Syrah
($27.90). While Volcanic Hills has 65 acres of grapes in West Kelowna
, the Syrah for this wine came from hotter
terroirs in Oliver and Osoyoos. The wine was aged two years in barrel and one
year in bottle before release. All that aging has given the wine a seamless
texture. It has flavours of vanilla, cherry and blackberry with a pinch of
white pepper on the finish. 91.
Volcanic Hills Lava
2012 ($19.90 but sold out). This wine addresses the clientele that prefer
an off-dry red wine. It is a blend of 33% Zweigelt, 23% Pinot Noir, 21% Merlot,
16% Gamay and 7% Maréchal Foch, with a dosage of Icewine to add a touch of
sweetness. This is a juicy, medium-bodied red with flavours of cherry and