Saturday, April 25, 2015

Culmina raises the bar again

 Photo: Culmina proprietor Don Triggs

Don and Elaine Triggs, and Sara, their daughter, launched Culmina Family Estate Winery with wines grown in the challenging 2011 vintage.

As good as the debut wines were, one wondered what Culmina would do with a more typical Okanagan vintage. The answer: even better wines.

Don has a chart tracking the growing degree days in his Arise vineyard (south of Oliver) in the last four vintages. “In 2011, we had about 1,350 degree days on Arise compared with 1,65o in 2014,” he says. “A 300 degree day change.” Both 2012 and 2013 also were warmer years, although not quite as warm as 2014.

The bottom line: wines made in 2012, 2013 and 2014 all show more power and intensity. This spring, Don has been hosting tastings, mostly for sommeliers, to prime the sales when the wines are released.

I have also had a chance to taste the wines and they are terrific. The good news is that this year’s releases include a fine Meritage blend for $25, an entry-level red for those who find Culmina’s $44 red, Hypotheses, beyond their budget. The bad news is that the 285 cases of Unicus 2014, the white made with Grüner Veltliner, is almost entirely on allocation to restaurants.

“The issue is how are we going to find more terroir like Margaret’s Bench,” Don says, referring to high altitude vineyard where he planted the Okanagan’s first Grüner Veltliner. This is the major white variety grown in Austria.

The first release of Unicus, from the 2013 vintage, was only 60 cases. With the vineyard reaching full production in 2014, Culmina expected a more substantial bump in volume.

“It was a big challenge,” Don says. “We are still learning. That early heat wave we got in July, 2014, thickened up the skins. Pressing it was like pressing rubber bullets. We got 40% less wine than we thought we would have had.”

But what a wine! Unicus 2014 ($27) begins with floral and citrus aromas with a hint of white pepper. It delivers a fruit basket of flavour, including lime and guava. The finish of this dry wine refuses to quit. 92.

Decora 2014 ($23 for 800 cases) is the winery’s Riesling. It is a racy, exciting, bone-dry wine that will be offered both to restaurants and to wine stores. It begins with floral and citrus aromas that lead to flavours of lime and lemon with a spine of minerality. While this still shows all the primary fruit aromas and flavours of a young Riesling, it will blossom over the next several years to show that complexity that Riesling fans call petrol. 91.

Dilemma 2012 ($33 for 160 cases). This is Culmina’s Chardonnay. It was released in January and is almost sold out. The style seems Burgundian, perhaps because winemaker Pascal Madevon’s grandfather was from Burgundy. The wine has toasty notes of expensive French oak on the nose and on the palate, along with buttery notes and rich tangerine flavours. 92.

Saignée 2014 ($25 for 600 cases) is Culmina’s dry, food-friendly rosé. The wine is made by bleeding some juice from newly-pressed reds: four tanks of Merlot, two each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. A salmon-pink wine, it has aromas and flavours of strawberry, rhubarb and cranberry.  The wine has good weight on the palate and a very long finish. 91.

This is Culmina’s second rosé. This vintage, which will be available in wine stores, comes in a brilliant package. Culmina is using tall, crystal-clear bottles produced by Saber Glass in Europe, with glass stopper closures.

“This is made entirely from Bordeaux reds and the idea is to position it more as a food wine,” Don says. “This isn’t your sweet pink popsicle. Consumers are starting to discover that rosé isn’t just a refreshment wine. It’s a real food wine and you can do things with it.”

New this year is R&D Red Blend 2013 by Culmina ($25 for 800 cases). This is a meritage anchored around Merlot and made to be an approachable red for earlier consumption than Hypothesis. This wine, to be released in June, shows that 2013 was a strong vintage. The wine begins with aromas of vanilla, black cherry and black currant. It is generous on the palate with flavours of black currant, dark chocolate and coffee. The texture is firm enough that the wine benefits from decanting; it will also cellar well. 91.

The wine has an intriguing label reproducing a Triggs family photograph of eleven-year-old twin brothers, Ron and Don Triggs. Ron is now a retired sales executive and a passionate fisherman.

“R&D is also a reflection of all the research and development we did in the vineyard,” Don says.

Hypothesis 2012 ($44 for 2,200 cases) is the second release of Culmina’s flagship red. This is 57% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 17% Cabernet Franc. This is a wine built to age a decade or so but, with time in a decanter, it can already be appreciated. It has aromas of vanilla and black cherry. The texture is concentrated and almost chewy, with flavours of black currant, black cherry, dark chocolate, coffee and cedar. The point score depends on how long you age the wine. 91-94.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home