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
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 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
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:
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
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
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
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.