Photo: Small Guys vintners Jay Drysdale and Wendy Rose
Some time ago, I heard the scary statistic that 80% of the
sales of British Columbia
wines are made by the three largest wine producers.
That leaves the other 320 producers (including fruit
wineries) scrambling for 20% of the sales, if those figures are correct. Even
if those figures are not entirely accurate, they are close enough to indicate
how competitive the wine business is.
In the last two years, a number of the smallest producers
have come together to host “Garagiste North: The Small Guys Wine Festival.”
They are trying to grab some attention and move from under the shadow of the
Big Three. The total production of all of these wineries would hardly fill a
tank at Jackson-Triggs or Mission Hill.
The second of this year’s two festivals is being held Sunday
at the Laurel Packinghouse in Kelowna.
There will be 21 wineries.
I attended the first festival in Vancouver
in June, which featured 28 wineries including two from Vancouver
. Most of those wineries are at the Kelowna
I was struck by the number of wineries in the room in June.
The number of wineries in British
Columbia in 1994, when I completed the first edition
of The Wineries if British Columbia, totalled
35. They would have filled either venue at which the Small Guys have been pouring
The explosion of new wineries has been nothing short of
stunning; and it is not slowing down. There are two wineries at the Kelowna
festival that I have never even heard of:
Nighthawk Vineyards and Phasion Estates Winery, both in Okanagan Falls
(Phasion is a virtual winery being incubated by Mark Simpson’s BC Wine Studio,
which is also at the Small Guys festival.) These are the only three whose wines
I have not tasted this year.
The development of new wineries has vastly outpaced the
number that has failed. That speaks to the loyalty of wine consumers in British Columbia and also
to the generally high quality of the wines being produced.
The appeal of the Small Guys is that, if you can find them,
you are usually dealing directly with winegrower. And you are getting wines
that are unique.
Here is a taste of some of the Small Guys wines I have
tasted this year:
Anarchist Mountain Vineyard
, Osoyoos. Andrew Stone and
Terry Meyer Stone produce two wines totalling about 250 cases. Anarchist Mountain Elevation Chardonnay
is a complex Burgundian-style Chardonnay (90 points). Anarchist Mountain
Wildfire Pinot Noir 2013
($35) is a bright, juicy wine with aromas and
flavours of cherry and strawberry (90 points).
Naramata. Jay Drysdale and Wendy Rose produce about 500 cases and sell it from a
secluded tasting north. Just follow Naramata
Road north of the village and watch for the signs.
They make just sparkling wines. My favourites are the two 2013 Sparkling
Rosé Brut Natural wines, each $24 and each 91 points. His 2014
Methode Ancestrale Rosé ($40) is unlikely to be poured at the festival but
it is an excellent example of unique winemaking from a Garagiste. Another 90
point wine, it is made the way sparkling wine was made before Dom Perignon got
Black Cloud Winery, Penticton
. Bradley Cooper
and Audralee Daum produce about 450
cases, all Pinot Noir. The flagship is Cumulous Nimbus 2013
the entry level wine is Fleuvage 2013
($25), scored 91 and 90 points
Black Market Wine Co.
is another winery being incubated by BC Wine Studio. It is owned by
Calgarians Rob Hammersley and Michelle Shewchuk. Production is about 180 cases
and includes a solid 90 point Bordeaux
red, Syndicate Red 2012 ($30). An equally fine 2013 is in the wings.
Winery, Keremeos, is operated by Charlie Baessler and his family. The Small
Guys program understates the production as 738 cases – it is quickly heading
for 2,000 plus. I reviewed the wines in a recent blog. The standout, at 92
points, is Corcelettes Menhir 2013 ($32 for 205 cases).
1,100-case producer, it is operated by Rachel and Marcus Ansems. Marcus, who got
his Master of Wine last month, routinely makes 90 point and higher wines. This
include Daydreamer Pinot Gris 2014 ($20) and Daydreamer Jasper 2013
($25), a very good Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend.
Deep Roots Winery,
Naramata, was opened last year by the Hardman
family. I have been impressed (90 plus) by the Gamay 2014
($24 but sold
out), the Syrah 2013
($34) and the Malbec 2013
Giant Head Estate
Winery, Summerland, was opened this summer by Jinnie Lee and John Glavina.
I have blogged on this winery as well. My favourite wine was Giant Head
Blanc de Noir 2014 ($32), scored 90 points.
Legz Vineyard & Winery, Kaleden, at five years of age, is one of the
more established of these Garagiste wineries, with a production of about 2,000
cases. One of the 90 point wines here is Skaha Vineyard Impulsion 2012
Osoyoos. Owners Dan and Carol Scott produce just two wines, both excellent. I
scored the Lariana Cellars Viognier 2014 ($23) at 93 and its red
partner, Lariana Cellars Twelve 2012 ($44.90) at 91.
Lock & Worth
sells about 700 cases from the same building that houses the Poplar Grove
Cheese Co. The winery has two 92 point wines at the previous Garagiste North
tasting, the Sémillon 2013 and Square One Cabernet Franc 2013,
Marichel Vineyard and
Winery, Naramata. Richard Roskell, who opened this winery, specializes in
Syrah. His current release, Syrah 2010, $40, is a surprising good Syrah
from a cool vintage.
Nagging Doubt Winery,
Rob and Abbey Westbury was incubated by BC Wine studio but now are on their own
property in East Kelowna
. At the spring
festival, they had two wines that I scored 92 points: Viognier 2013
which seems to be sold out, and The Pull 2013
($29.90), a Bordeaux
Niche Wine Company,
. James and Joanna Schlosser
produce about 500 cases. They will certainly have the only Maréchal Foch
($25), one of the varieties grown on their high elevation
vineyard. It is a 90 pointer.
River Stone Estate
Oliver. Ted and Lorraine Kane make about 1,700 cases, most of which
score 90 points or better. My favourites include River Stone Pinot Gris 2014
($19.90) and River Stone Stones Throw 2013
($23.90), a red Bordeaux
Roche Wines, Penticton. Dylan and Pénélope
Roche make artisanal wines reflecting their training in France. At the
earlier Garagiste festival, they had a terrific Rose 2014, made with 93%
Zweigelt and 7% Schönburger. They made 185 cases but it might be sold out now.
vinPerdu Cellars Inc.,
Oliver, was opened this summer by
the Coulombe family. I posted a blog on this winery recently. It has
distinguished itself by the warm reception given tasting room visitors. My
favourites (both 90 points) are vinPerdu Gamay Noir 2014
($27.90) and vinPerdu
Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot blend.