Sunday, September 20, 2015

Saxon Winery hires Tom DiBello

Photo: Saxon Winery owners Jayne and Paul Graydon

The big news at Summerland’s Saxon Estate Winery this vintage is that Tom DiBello has agreed to make the wines.

Tom is also the winemaker at Sage Hills Estate Winery, another Summerland winery and one with which Saxon has had a co-operative winemaking arrangement for several vintages.

It is a sensible arrangement that allows the wineries, both based on organic vineyards, to rationalize equipment and staff costs over a larger volume of wine.

Saxon is owned by Paul and Jayne Graydon who bought the winery in 2012 when it was known as Hollywood & Wine. The previous owners, Neil and Betty Massey, had begun planting an organic vineyard in 2001 in a secluded valley west of Summerland. They opened the winery in 2007, selling it five years later when they recognized it was more work than they wanted as a retirement project.

The Graydons are half their age. They came to Canada from Britain in 2003 with Paul pursuing a career in technology based in Calgary until he and Jayne set up a wine import agency. He came across Hollywood & Wine when he was looking for Okanagan wines to represent. That led the couple to buy the winery and move to the Okanagan.

The winery’s original name had been inspired by Neil Massey’s work as a truck drive and equipment manager for film production companies working in western Canada.

The name, Saxon, comes from the Graydon family’s original home in Kent in Britain. The Anglo-Saxons settled the area after the Norman Conquest in 1066.

Winemaker DiBello (right) should help Saxon anchor the style of its wines. Hollywood & Wines products were on the rustic side. The Graydons are working at developing consistency in a portfolio that has had the fingerprints of several winemakers before Tom DiBello.

A winemaking graduate of the University of California at Davis, Tom made his mark in the Okanagan during the 10 years (to 2010) when he was the winemaker at CedarCreek Estate Winery. Since then, he has consulted with several Okanagan and American wineries. He made the initial Sage Hills vintage in 2012.

In 2013, Sage Hills and Saxon employed South African Danny Hattingh. When Danny moved to Fort Berens Estate Winery, his place was taken by Andrea Lea, a Summerland native trained in Australia. This summer, she moved to Chaberton Estate Winery, succeeding Barbara Hall, now at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery.

Ironically, Tom DiBello made the 2013 vintage at Burrowing Owl before resuming his consulting career.

No doubt, winery owners like Paul Graydon will hope that winemaker musical chairs settle down for a while.

Here are notes in Saxon’s current releases:

Saxon Gewürztraminer 2014 ($15.99). An off-dry wine, this begins with aromas of rose petal spice and grapefruit. The flavours are intense, with notes of grapefruit, lime and nectarine. 88.

Saxon Pinot Grigio 2013 ($13.99). The wine has aromas of citrus and pear, leading to flavours of pear and apple. The texture is juicy and refreshing. 88.

Saxon English Rose 2014 ($15.99). This cleverly-named rosé is a blend of Pinot Gris and Leon Millot. The latter is a dark red variety but enough Pinot Gris has been blended in to give the wine a strawberry blush. The wine has aromas and flavours of strawberry, including stewed strawberries. The texture is fleshy and the finish lingers. 89.

Saxon Four Play Red N.V. ($17.29). This is Saxon’s big red; a blend of Leon Millot, Merlot and Pinot Noir from the 2014 vintage plus Cabernet Sauvignon from 2014. This bold wine has earthy aromas, along with plum and vanilla. It delivers big plum and black cherry flavours. 90.

Saxon Unoaked Merlot 2013 ($17.29). As one expects from an unwooded Merlot, the fruit flavours are bright and the texture is on the lean side. There are aromas and flavours of blackberry and black currant with a touch of coffee, dark chocolate and pepper. 88.

Saxon Pinot Noir 2013 ($22.99). This light-bodied wine is a cheerful quaffer with aromas and flavours of cherry and raspberry with a hint of oak. 88.

Saxon VIP 2010 Fortified Red Wine ($24.99 for 500 ml). This port-style wine was made, surprisingly, from Pinot Noir grapes. The wine was aged two years in French oak and then fortified with brandy made from Maréchal Foch. The medium dark colour is appropriate for a port-style wine. It has aromas of vanilla and fruit cake that are echoed on the flavour. In another time, one would have enjoyed this with a fine cigar. Dark chocolate and fruit cake will do. 90.


At September 23, 2015 at 9:37 PM , Blogger Judith Cassidy said...

Jayne and Paul are the perfect topping to a wonderful line of beautiful wines. They have a eye for detail. I thoroughly enjoy their VIP.


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