Photo: Hester Creek winery
At a recent tasting of Italian wines in Vancouver,
I was directed to a particular producer from Tuscany, having been told his white wines
were especially good.
It was good advice. The producer, who is not in this market,
had a number of outstanding wines, including a very fine Trebbiano, a leading
white variety in northern Italy.
When I had finished complimenting the producer on the wine,
I added that a winery in the Okanagan also grows an excellent Trebbiano.
An expression of disbelief swept across his face.
“Impossible,” he said. “You don’t have the soils.”
I explained that the Hester Creek vineyard is on an alluvial
fan, rich with minerals and traces of old volcanic soil.
Next he said that it would be impossible because it rains
all the time. He would not have known that there are two mountain ranges
maritime climate and the dry Okanagan.
“The Okanagan,” I replied, “has the same average rainfall as
happens to be 20 inches a year.
A few other exchanges followed but I failed to persuade the
Tuscan that that Trebbiano does thrive in the only vineyard in the Okanagan
that grows it.
The irony is that the Trebbiano cuttings were brought from Italy by an
immigrant named Joe Busnardo. In 1968 he had begun planting vines on that
alluvial fan on what today is the Golden Mile. He also brought various other
Italian varieties. Some succeeded, some did not.
Joe opened Divino Estate Winery in 1983. When he sold the
property in 1996 to move to Vancouver Island
the new owners renamed the winery Hester Creek.
Trebbiano was one of the wines made at Divino. Subsequent
owners have continued it. In recent vintages, Hester Creek winemaker Robert
Summers has really raised the bar with improvements in the viticulture and in the
It was a matter of great regret that I did not have a bottle
handy to persuade, and astonish, the man from Tuscany. As good as his Trebbiano is, Hester
Creek’s is a quality match.
In the notes that accompany the 2014, the winery says that
its Trebbiano vines “respond well to precision viticulture, including
controlled drip irrigation and selective canopy management, resulting in
beautifully ripe and balanced fruit.”
As to winemaking, Hester Creek says: “Minimal intervention
in the winery gets the best expression of character from these gnarled old
vines. After de-stemming, half the berries are lightly crushed and the other
half left intact in order to strike the right balance between flavour and
structure. Carefully selected yeasts and a cool ferment result in a bright,
Here is my note on the wine, as well as a note on a new
vintage of the winery’s delicious Cabernet Franc rosé. Neither of these wines
is in retail stores. You can get them at the winery or through Hester Creek’s
wine club. Some of the Trebbiano is allocated to restaurants.
Trebbiano 2014 Old Vines Block 16 ($22.95 for 1,000 cases). This is a
luscious white with honeyed aromas of passion fruit and with flavours of peaches,
apricots and mangoes. There is a hint of spice (think baked apples) on the
lingering finish. The wine has good weight on the palate. 92.
Hester Creek Cabernet
Franc Rosé 2014 ($19.95 for 1,000 cases). The salmon pink colour and the
generous fruit flavours get their start with 12 hours of extraction on the
skins. The fermentation was long and cool and was stopped when 10 grams of
residual sugar remained. That gives the wine its juicy texture. It has aromas
and flavours of strawberry, cherry and rhubarb. 90.