Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Maverick Estate Winery: golden or not?

 Photo: Winemaker Bertus Albertyn

The new Golden Mile sub-appellation has such tight boundaries that it excludes some of the best producers on what was historically considered the Golden Mile.

The only published map of the sub-appellation that I can find is a bit hard to read. However,  Maverick Estate Winery is beyond the southern limit of the Golden Mile Bench.

As I read the final report on the sub-appellations, wineries within the historical Golden Mile (as opposed to the bench defined by soil characteristics) might still be allowed to use a variation of Golden Mile on their labels.

Maverick, which was established in 2009 by winemaker Bertus Albertyn, his father Dr. Schalk De Witt, and their spouses, should be one such winery. Its wines are bound to reflect well on the reputation of Golden Mile.

A doctor from South Africa, Schalk was practicing in Edmonton when he bought he bought two parcels for future vineyards in 2006 and 2009. The latter block, seven and a half acres beside highway 97, was an organic farm that was soon planted to vines. Planting is scheduled to begin in 2015 on the other block, 48 acres of raw land next to the Osoyoos Larose vineyard.

Schalk had great good fortune when one of his daughters, Elzaan, (also a doctor), married Bertus, the winemaker with the training to manage vineyards and make superb wines.

When Bertus, born in 1978 in South Africa, finished his enology degree at Stellenbosch University, he started his career at a large wine cooperative before joining family-owned Avondale in 1994 as winemaker.  He came to the Okanagan early in 2009 when Elzaan began to practice in Osoyoos. He was Burrowing Owl Winery’s winemaker until mid-2013, when he left to concentrate on Maverick.

Maverick began selling wines in 2013. This summer, it opened an elegant tasting room on the property beside the highway.

The winery has quickly established itself as a rising star among the new Okanagan wineries. Here are notes on current releases.

Maverick Chardonnay 2013 ($26.90 for 100 cases). The winemaker uses the term “restrained power” to describe this wine. My first impression is how exquisitely pure and pristine the fruit aromas and flavours are. There is a note of peach and tangerine in the aroma, leading for flavours of tangerine, peach and mango. The wine is very subtly oaked (just five months in new French oak. The wine is elegant and refreshing with a lingering finish. 91.

Maverick Rubicon 2012 ($25 for 360 cases). This is a blend of 65% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Franc and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a very effective blend: the Cabernet Franc brings vibrant brambly flavours and aromas while the Syrah adds gamey plum and pepper. The Cabernet Sauvignon adds the structure. The wine, which was aged in a 3,500 litre oak vat, is drinking well now but will age. The winery recommends drinking it over the next three to seven years – if you can keep your fingers away from it. 91.

Maverick Pinot Noir 2013 ($29 for 250 cases). Here is a robust, assertive Pinot Noir, beginning with aromas of toasty oak, dark berries and vanilla. The wine tastes of black cherries and spice. The texture is elegantly silky, with a rich and long-lasting finish. 91.

Maverick Sofia 2012 ($30 for 285 cases of 500 ml bottles). The back label of this VQA wine describes Sofia (named for the winemaker’s daughter) as a Port. I am not sure how this slipped through the regulators because Canada, under an international agreement, is not permitted to use Europe’s wine names on its VQA wines. In fact, the label was rejected but due apparently to a printer's error, it ended up on the bottle. The winery is asking for a one-time exception. That said, I doubt that Portugal will be up in arms over Maverick’s 285 cases.

To make this wine, the grapes – ripened to 28 Brix – were handpicked into 30 pound trays and were cooled to 10°C overnight. In the tradition of Port, the grapes went into a large bin and were crushed by foot. The must was fermented several weeks on the skins, with alcohol distilled from the winery’s own grapes used to fortify the wine and stop fermentation. The must was then pressed and the wine was aged 18 months in French oak. The brandy spirit used to fortify the wine also was aged in oak for 12 months.

This is a terrific wine but, made with Syrah, also an atypical Port. The aromas began to fill the room as soon as the cork was pulled. In the glass, there are aromas of spice, white pepper, and Christmas fruitcake that are echoed in the flavours. The savoury flavours include plum, liquorice, chocolate and candied peel. The texture is rich. The wine carries its 19% alcohol very well, with a finish that goes on and on. 92.


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