Photo: Bartier Brothers wine shop (courtesy of the winery)
Bartier Brothers Vineyards & Winery has now opened its
tasting room and visitors centre on its Black Sage Road vineyard.
The winery started life at Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland
but moved this year to the 14.5-acre Cerqueira Vineyard after winemaker Michael
Bartier and his brother, Don, acquired the property. They have been buying
Cerqueira grapes for at least five years and are convinced that the terroir has
special qualities for the production of premium wines.
“We want people to see and taste first hand that wine
pedigree comes from farming in rocks – in our case the rocks of the Black Sage
Gravel Bar,” Michael said in a news release.
He argues that all of the wines from this vineyard had
distinctive minerality derived from the mineral rich glacial till beneath the
vineyard’s top soil. The vines, which are between seven and 16 years old, have
put their roots down into the gravel, to access the limestone mixed in with the
Excavation done during the tasting room construction enabled
the brothers to examine the soil closely. They will be able to do more
geological detective work next year when a separate building will be
constructed for wine making.
The vineyard slopes downhill from Black Sage Road to Ryegrass Road (the new name for what used
to be called Road 9). The winery’s address is 4821 Ryegrass Road.
The so-called Black Sage Gravel Bar is distinctly different
from the vast expanse of sand in the soils about Black Sage Road. The likely explanation
is that the cobbles and gravel were dropped by a retreating glacier while the
sand was the beach of a glacial lake.
In his long winemaking career, Michael has made or tasted
wine from both sides of the road. And he is willing to argue that the wines
from his site are distinctive.
“I know that the character from our wines,” he says. “It
tastes minerally to me. That is coming, I believe, from that calcium carbonate
which is covering our rocks down deep.” He ferments with indigenous yeasts, in
part to let the terroir shine through the wines clearly.
But, he cautions about minerality and wine: “Science has not
proven this.” Visitors to the tasting room need to decide for themselves.
The brothers are both natives of Kelowna. Don became an accountant in Calgary in 1978, where he
pursued an oil industry career. Influenced by Michael’s passion for wine, he
planted the Lone Pine Vineyard, a two-acre block of Gewürztraminer in
Summerland, several years before the brothers collaborated on their initial vintage
Michael (right), who was born in 1967, has a 1990 degree in
recreational administration at the University
. “I wasn’t
interested in the recreational field,” he admitted later. “By the time I
realized that, I was too far along in my degree to stop those studies.” On
graduation, he spent five years selling wine.
Returned to the Okanagan in 1995, he briefly considered becoming
a rock climbing guide until taking a job at Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards (now
See Ya Later Ranch). He was quickly promoted to assistant winemaker. He began
taking winemaking courses and, in 1998, did a vintage at the Thomas Hardy
Winery in Australia
Since 2002, he has honed his craft at Stag’s Hollow, Township 7 and Road 13 and
finally at Okanagan Crush Pad where he was senior winemaker until the end of
He left to focus on Bartier Brothers (along with a modest
handful of wineries that rely on his consulting services).
The Bartier Brothers wine shop is a smartly designed modern
structure nestled comfortably amid the vines.
“The Okanagan is a wine region in the desert,” Don is quoted
in a winery news release. “It’s important for us to feature shade prominently
in our design.” The building design
achieves this with large overhangs, timber arbours, and a cooling breezeway,
while remaining bright, open, spacious, and contemporary.
Cerqueira Vineyard, which the brothers contracted for
several years before acquiring it, is planted to Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah,
Chardonnay and Sémillon. The latter variety, planted in 1999, is the oldest
Here are notes on the wines I tasted during a recent visit.
Gewürztraminer 2012 Lone Pine Vineyard ($18.90 for 211 cases). This wine is
balanced to finish crisply, with aromas and flavours of spice, grapefruit,
lemon and apple. The volcanic soils of the Summerland vineyard have contributed
a backbone of minerality. 90.
Sémillon 2013 Cerqueira Vineyard ($19.90
for 640 cases). This is a dry and crisp wine with aromas and flavours of
apricots, including dried apricots, and with a spine of minerals. Giving the
aging ability of this varietal – Michael last year enjoyed a 2002 Sémillon he
had made – this wine should be cellared. 90.
Syrah 2012 Cerqueira Vineyard ($26.90). Aromas of plum jam pull one into the
wine. On the palate, there are flavours of plum, black currant and blueberry
with a touch of pepper on the finish. The texture is rich and generous. 92.
Merlot 2012 Cerqueira Vineyard ($26.90). This wine is firm and concentrated
with aromas and flavours of cassis, black cherry and vanilla. There is a
slate-like minerality on the finish. 91.
Cabernet Franc 2012 Cerqueira Vineyard ($N.A.). This wine
immediately marks Bartier Brothers as a leading exponent of this varietal. The
wine has aromas and flavours of blackberry, black currant and cherry. The
texture is concentrated and the finish is long. 91.