Photo: winemaker Charlie Baessler
One of the rarest white grape varieties in British
Columbia is Chasselas, which happens to be the major white in Switzerland.
Quails’ Gate Estate Winery has an old planting by chance.
The nursery supplying vines when the vineyard was planted originally in the
1960s mixed up the order and sent Chasselas instead of a white hybrid. The
error was fortunate. Today, those grapes are blended with Pinot Gris and Pinot
Blanc to produce the winery’s most popular wine.
There was another small planting of Chasselas in a vineyard
. The owners planted Chasselas because they had lived in Switzerland
before coming to Canada
opened a winery called Echo Valley
but sold the property five or six years ago
and returned to Europe
. I have no info
rmation on what became of those vines.
St. Hubertus Estate Winery, whose owners are Swiss, has been a consistent exponent of Chasselas, as you might expect.
The fourth modest planting is in the Similkameen near
Cawston. This vineyard was the original location of Corcelettes Estate Winery,
which opened 2013. Urs and Barbara Baessler, who established the vineyard, are
also Swiss. The winery carries the name of their family farm in Switzerland.
Charlie Baessler, their winemaker son, blends Chasselas with
Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer to produce an excellent wine called Trivium. In
2014, he also made a small batch of single variety Chasselas. It is an
excellent white but not enough was made for a general release. Friends and
family get to enjoy it.
The Baesslers came to Canada
in 1978 to
grow wheat, not to make wine. For many years, they ran a grain farm in Manitoba
as well as a buffalo farm in Wyoming
. When they had had enough of Prairie
winters, they moved to an organic garlic farm in the Similkameen Valley
In the meantime, Charlie was completing a
science degree at the University
graduating, he accepted a job in 2008 with Lawrence Herder, then the owner of
Herder Vineyards. The next year, he took a job in the vineyards and cellar at
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery where he developed his skills as a viticulturist
Once they recognized they had a winegrower
in the family, the Baesslers in 2010 planted one hectare (2.5 acres) of grapes
on their farm. These vines, along with fruit from purchased grapes, enabled
them to begin making wines in 2011. Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon subsequently
were planted at a nearby vineyard. The initial intent was to produce between
1,000 and 1,500 cases of wine.
That changed in
2015 when Corcelettes took over the larger Herder winery and moved the production
there. Herder had 2.6 planted hectares (6.5 acres) with another hectare to be
planted in 2016. The varieties grown here (Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah,
Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir)
significant expand Charlie’s repertoire and
the future production volume.
Charlie is even thinking of reviving Josephine, formerly the
flagship red at Herder.
“It’s still in the cards,” he said recently, responding to
questions I sent him. “I’m excited to have Petit Verdot and Malbec on the farm
now. Working towards the greatest Bordeaux
blend you have ever put in your glass is my goal. My strongest skill set is the
vineyard and the result of these efforts will determine what Sku's and blends
we focus on.”
Here are notes on the current releases.
($18 for 370 cases). This is a blend of 50% Chasselas and 25% each of
Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris. The blend came about because the original
Corcelettes vineyard near Cawston grows those three varieties in those
proportions. I have no info
on whether the three are co-fermented. The blend is effective, beginning with
aromas of spice and herbs with a touch of citrus. On the palate, there are
flavours of green apple and white peach. The finish is crisp and refreshing.
Gewürztraminer 2014 ($18 for 221 cases). This wine is one of what the
winery calls its “Vineyard Accolade Edition,” meaning the grower gets credit on
the back label. These grapes are from the Second Chance Vineyard near Cawston.
The wine has superb varietal definition, with aromas and flavours of spice,
lychee and pineapples. The tropical fruit flavours are luscious on the palate,
leading to a long, dry finish. 90.
2014 ($24 for 150 cases). Made with Zweigelt grapes from the LadyHawke
Vineyard at Keremeos, this wine presents itself with a vibrant pink hue. It has
aromas of cherry and cranberry leading to flavours of cherry, strawberry and
gooseberry. The finish is crisp and dry. 90.
Corcelettes Syrah 2013
($27 for 220 cases). This is the first release of Syrah from the winery’s
Middle Bench Vineyard near Keremeos. The wine begins with aromas of black
pepper, black cherry and plum. The pepper carries through to the palate, giving
a lift to the earthy and meaty flavours. There is a lingering finish of peppery
black cherry. The tannins are long and ripe. 91.
2013 ($32 for 205 cases). This is the winery’s flagship red, a blend of 60%
Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Syrah. The wine begins with aromas of herbs and black
cherry. There are generous red fruit flavours on the palate – black cherry,
plum – with notes of mocha, tobacco and, ever so slightly, bell pepper. The
texture is rich and ripe. 92.