Photo: Winemaker Marcus Ansems MW
Naramata winemaker Marcus Ansems this week has become the
fifth Canadian (and third British Columbian) to earn the wine industry’s most
prestigious professional designation: Master of Wine.
The ceremony where he is awarded his MW culminates five
years of study, tastings and research. He joins an elect group numbering just
340 world wide.
“It’s a big day,” recounts James Cluer MW. “You go to
Vintners Hall in London.
In a room packed with hundreds of major wine personalities, you go up on stage
and they give you your MW certificate. Jancis [Robinson] is in the crowd
clapping. It’s surreal. Good thing there’s a healthy dose of Champagne afterwards.”
Cluer is a wine educator who operates Fine Vintage Ltd. He
has just recruited Marcus to join his staff of teachers.
With his wife, Rachel, Marcus operates Daydreamer Wines, a
small winery they established in 2013. They also are principals of Grassroots
Wine Consultants. He has been the international wine buyer for the Hemisphere
Wine Guild since 2008.
His induction into the Institute of Masters
of Wine should go a long way to raise the profile of Daydreamer Wines. He
currently is releasing his 2014 vintage wines, all of them well made.
These include two Syrah/Shiraz wines. That is where Marcus’s
He was born in Australia
in 1974. His family once
owned a share of Mount Langi Ghiran, the legendary Shiraz
producer in the state of Victoria
and his uncle, Trevor Mast, was a winemaker. “One of my favourite wines in the
world was made at my family winery,” Marcus says. “It is just unique to that
site … an atypical Shiraz
That wine was what inspired me to want to get involved with the industry.”
graduated in enology in 1997 from Adelaide
. He worked as
a “flying winemaker” to gain experience, first with Simonsig in South Africa
and then in Tuscany
and the Rhône. He resumed his career in Australia
briefly before coming to Canada
where he was recruited in 1999 to run wineries in Ontario
and Nova Scotia
In Niagara, before he returned to Australia
in 2002 as a consulting
winemaker, he met Rachel, an accountant with a talent in design and
They moved to British Columbia
in 2004 where Marcus became
the winemaker first for Blasted Church Vineyards
and, a year later, for Therapy Vineyards.
Daydreamer is the culmination of a family
winery dream that Rachel and Marcus share. The winery’s Merlot-based blend is
named Amelia, for their daughter. Daydreamer launched with about 1,000 cases including
Chardonnay and the two Syrahs, one co-fermented with Viognier. “I like
cool climate Syrah,” Marcus says. (One
of the Syrah wines is released as a Shiraz
the Australian name for the varietal.)
His Syrah style is influenced by the Langi
“They were never very big wines but I was struck with their
elegance,” Marcus recalls. “Super spicy. It is a very peppery block of Shiraz
. There was this
inherent balance that I did not often see in the warmer climate Shiraz
. I guess the warmer
did not appeal to me as much. That is one of the reasons I was attracted to Canada
I do like northern Rhone
styles. I do like
cooler climate expressions of that variety. I think the Okanagan has a real
potential to do it.”
Daydreamer wines currently are made in space that Marcus and
Rachel lease on the Naramata Bench. “We’d like to have a facility from which we
can do 2,500 to 3,000 cases,” Marcus says. “We are only doing about 1,300 cases
this year. We need to find a site where we can do at least 2,500 cases. I don’t
have any ambitions to do more than that. I don’t want to make more than I can
He plans to become organically certified
when the new winery is built.
“Because we have such
a dry climate with low disease pressure, it just makes sense for me to do it
that way if we can,” he says. “My family vineyards were organic and biodynamic.
I do some biodynamic practices now. Anything that makes the vineyard healthier makes
the wine taste better at the end of the day.”
requirement for the MW is to do original research and write a 10,000-word
thesis on it.
wanted to do something that is relevant to the industry here,” says Marcus. His
research looked at the effect on the flavour of Syrah wine made with lightly
frozen grapes and also with hard frozen grapes. In some vintages in the
Okanagan, vineyards will be nipped by frost before picking is finished. Marcus
made wine with grapes frozen at -2C and at -10C.
caveat, the entire research is now owned by the Institute of Masters
of Wine,” Marcus says. “It is up to them whether or not they wish to publish
it. In a nutshell, the basic findings were that there were no sensory
differences between the treatments.”
Daydreamer come in two tiers, with
the popular-priced wines under the Daydreamer label and the premium wines under
the Marcus Ansems label.
Here are notes on the wines.
Pinot Gris 2014
This wine was fermented and spent one month in new oak. That and the 10%
Viognier in the blend contribute to the generous weight on the palate. It has
fruity aromas of pears and apples, leading to flavours of lime and green
apples. The finish is crisp, tangy and refreshing. 90.
($20). This is
50% Pinot Noir, 30% Syrah and 20% Merlot; all made with free run juice after 18
hours of skin contact. This is a robust dry rosé, with an appealing salmon pink
hue and aromas and flavours of cherries. The wine has enough weight to be
paired with meals over winter. 90.
is 78% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc. It is a big ripe and juicy wine, with aromas
and flavours of cherry, blackberry and vanilla. There is a touch of spice on
the fruity finish. 90.
($N/A). This is
a Pinot Noir. The colour is dark and the spicy cherry aromas are deep and spill
from the glass. The wine has flavours of cherry, blackberry and ripe
strawberry. The texture is firm but it has begun to evolve toward a velvet polish.
is 90% Syrah co-fermented with 10% Viognier. The wine begins with aromas of
plum, spice and white pepper. On the palate, Syrah’s typically gamey flavours
include plum and black cherry. With long ripe tannins, the wine is immediately
Marcus Ansems Chardonnay 2014
This is an appealing fruit-forward Chardonnay. It was barrel-fermented and had
modest barrel aging, but not enough to add noticeable oak flavours. It has
aromas of apples and pineapples with a hint of vanilla (that’s the barrel doing
its work). The wine is fresh and lively with lemon and apples flavours and with
bright acidity. 91.
Marcus Ansems Shiraz 2014
115 cases of this wine were produced; one needs to be fast to get some. (Most
of this winery’s sales are done via the Daydreamer website.) This wine is dark
with muscular aromas of plum, black cherry, vanilla and pepper. The texture is
concentrated, supporting bold flavours of black cherry, delicatessen meats,
Christmas spices, coffee and black pepper. 92.