Monday, December 14, 2015

Class of 2015: Lunessence Winery & Vineyard

Photo: The new tasting room at Lunessence Winery

Lunessence Winery & Vineyard
5716 Gartrell Road,
Summerland, BC, V0H 1Z7
T. 778.516.3131

A few decades ago, it was widely proclaimed that listening to Mozart would make you smarter.

One seldom hears about that theory today because the underlying science is questionable. But listening to Mozart is one of life’s great pleasures. People who listen to Mozart probably are smart to begin with.

And that would include Michal Mosny, the winemaker at Lunessence Winery in Summerland. Not only does he have a refined taste in classical music; he plays classical music in the vineyards and to his wines.

Lunessence emerged this summer on the site of a winery formerly known as Sonoran Vineyards. The former operators, the Smits family, sold the winery in  2014 to businessman Zhizhong Si, a China-born environmental consultant who was educated in Canada. He is now based in Vancouver.

(Sonoran reopened at its original location beside Highway 97 and north of  Summerland, where the Smits family first started in the wine business in 2004. With Arjan Smits, the patron of the family, at retirement age, this property also is for sale.)

The new owner hired Michal to manage the vineyard and make the wine. With Michal came a dedication to classical music.

He was born in Slovakia in 1982. “I had a small garage winery next to a village where Beethoven used to go,” he says. “Beethoven wrote Für Elise there,” referring to a piece of piano music familiar to most piano students.

He took up winemaking because his ancestors once had been winegrowers in France.

“First, I started to manage vineyards because that is the key,” he recounts his career. “Then I worked for the biggest winery in Slovakia, not as an enologist but in quality control. My wife and I had to decide what to do. Expanding our small winery was almost impossible because of the government. Before, everything was owned by the government. After Communism, they gave it back to the people. There were hundreds of owners and everybody wanted to exercise rights. It was a never-ending story if you wanted to buy a vineyard.”

So he and his wife, Martina, decided to emigrate, briefly considering Austria and Germany. “She said if we are doing something like this, let’s do something completely different,” Michal says. A reference on television about Canada alerted them to the wineries in the Okanagan and, after some research, this is where they ended up in 2011.

“I developed a vineyard management company, and got a little into winemaking,” Michal says. “Then I got some clients and I ended up here.”

He took over management of the 6.5-acre vineyard at Lunessence. In line with his employer’s environmental sensibilities, that has included resuscitating two small wetlands on the property. As well, the tasting room was renovated and enlarged.

The white varieties in the vineyard are Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Oraniensteiner. The reds are Merlot and Syrah. With a significant quantity of this fruit directed to making dessert wines and Icewine, Lunessence buys many of the grapes it needs for table wines from the south Okanagan.

Music in vineyards and in wine cellars is not unusual. The Ruby Blues Winery on Naramata Road immerses its vines with popular music from the 1960s because Prudence Maher, the winery owner, has a taste for such bands as The Rolling Stones and The Beattles.

Michal and Martina Mosny, on the other hand, are enthusiastic about classical music, especially opera. One is much more likely to hear opera arias among the vines and wine barrels at Lunessence. Michal thinks Mozart is “a bit light.”

“There are a lot of studies about how music impacts the plants,” he maintains. “I did a lot of research about it. They could not prove it has a positive impact but when they took scissors and wanted to cut a leaf, the plant could sense it. They cannot prove that wine senses it but there is good energy. They did not cut the leaf. They just wanted to and the plant sensed it. I think there is something. I can see something in the wines, that they have a different integrity. I think they are happier. 

“When we ferment white wines, usually it is opera we are listening to, to bring some stories into the wines. White wines are usually fermented to Giuseppe Verdi. When the reds come into the cellar, we switch to Puccini. It is fun when you are listening to Puccini and there is some tragedy and you are doing punch downs …”

Whether or not science backs it up is irrelevant if the winery is a happy place and if the wines are good. And they certainly are.

Here are notes:  

Lunessence Gewürztraminer 2014 ($26 for 98 cases). The blend here is 90% Gewürztraminer with five percent each of Sémillon and Schönburger. Clearly, the objective was to add a little complexity to a variety often made as a crowd pleasure. This is an intense wine with spicy notes on the nose and the palate. The finish is off-dry. The winemaker describes this as an “old world” Gewürztraminer.  90.

Lunessence Sauvignon Blanc Muscat 2014 ($22 for 325 cases). This is a fresh, racy and tropical white, with aromas and flavours of lime and grapefruit. 90.

Lunessence Riesling 2014 ($26 for 175 cases). Plump and full, this off-dry Riesling has aromas of Muscatel raisins and flavours of ripe peaches. The finish lingers. 89.

Lunessence Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($36 for 58 cases). This wine shows great focus. There are aromas and flavours of herbs and limes with a racy acidity that gives the wine clean, fresh flavours with a long finish. Some of the wine was fermented with native yeasts and 30% was aged for five months in Slovakian oak barrels. 91.

Lunessence Chardonnay 2014 ($36 for 117 cases). This wine was fermented in stainless steel, some with wild yeast, and 30% was aged five months in Slovakian oak. “French oak sometimes is a little too strong,” the winemaker says. This is a refreshing fruit-forward Chardonnay, with flavours of pear and apple. 90.

Lunessence Rosé 2014 ($18 for 217 cases). This is 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Cabernet Franc. The latter may account for the spicy fruit on the nose. On the palate, there are refreshing flavours of strawberry and cherry. The finish is dry. 90.  

Lunessence Pinot Noir 2013 ($38 for 150 cases). The wine has aromas and flavours of cherry, strawberry and raspberry. This is a cheerful, light Pinot with a silky texture. 88.

Lunessence Merlot 2013 ($32 for 333 cases). This is a big voluptuous Merlot, with aromas of blueberry and black cherry. On the palate, there is black cherry, black currant, plums and figures. 91.

Lunessence Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($36 for 225 cases). Made with grapes from Black Sage Bench, this wine has aromas and flavours of black currant. It was aged 15 months in French oak and the wine has spicy notes of oak on the finish. 90.

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