Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Jenn Triggs expands the family footprint in wine

 Photo: Phasion's Jenn Triggs (courtesy Phasion Estate Winery)

First, there was the Mondavi family in wine. Now there is the Triggs family.

Okay, that may be pushing it but you get the point. Donald Triggs, who once ran Vincor, the world’s 14th largest winery, is now making an impact in the Okanagan with his Culmina Family Estate Winery.

Jenn is his cousin. She launched her Phasion Estate Winery two years ago with a much smaller production which was very carefully allocated to wine stores in Calgary and in the Okanagan. Not as well-heeled as cousin Don, she works with a custom crush winery. A tasting room is a few years away.

But she is as passionate about wine as her cousin. The wine industry can never get enough of that Triggs passion.

Jenn was born in Victoria but grew up in Calgary, to which her mother had moved after a divorce. Jenn initially pursued a career other than wine, working with Telus Communications Co., where she was doing health and safety training.

“I was going through some transition in my personal life,” she says. “I was looking for a career change. I have always had a passion for this industry in regard to the history behind it; and a passion for wine.”

She continues, describing the journey from Telus to wine: “I also had an opportunity to meet the Triggs family. I never really knew them, growing up. Six or seven years ago, I was able to meet them and get to know the family.”

She asked her cousin for advice on getting into the wine industry. Since she is not a winemaker, he suggested she arrange to have her first vintages made at Alan Dickinson’s Alto Wine Group (now Synchromesh) where several small producers were being nurtured. There she worked with winemaker Mark Simpson and she moved with him when Mark opened BC Wine Studio near Okanagan Falls. Here, he produces wines under his own Siren’s Call label, as well as wines for several clients, including Phasion.

The name  of Jenn’s is actually pronounced fashion. While that is a bit of a play on the pH of wines, it really reflects Jenn’s interest in the arts as expressed in fashion and fashion accessories. The names of her wines are influenced by the interest in fashion.

“I launched July 1, 2013 with wines from 2011,” Jenn says. “My first releases were the 2011 Haute Couture, the Bordeaux blend, and my Tres Chic Chardonnay.”  She has since added a second Bordeaux blend called Glitterati. She is about to release a Pinot Gris; the name has not been revealed yet.

She was still living in Calgary at the time of the first releases, and placed the wines in the Calgary market. She moved to the Okanagan last year and looks after sales in British Columbia.

Jenn moved to the Okanagan as part of a total commitment to her new wine career. She is immersed in a three-month viticulture program at Okanagan College. She is likely to enrol in the winemaking program in the future but her current priority is to learn about vineyards.
“I will still work with Mark for consulting,” she says. “I still need a winemaker. I don’t have that education; or at least I am not at that spot to make my own wine. But I am getting there. We will still work together for the next one to two years.”

Currently, she is in negotiation to lease a property in East Kelowna. “I really like my Riesling,” she says. “As well, I want to play with some Pinot Noir. I think that will be a great match for the Kelowna property.”

The wines in her current portfolio are all made with South Okanagan grapes. One would expect that to continue because the Bordeaux blends will develop a following.

Here are notes on the current releases.

Phasion Estates Tres Chic 2013 ($22.99 for 250 cases). This is 100% Chardonnay aged in stainless steel, but so bold and ripe that it could be taken for a barrel-aged wine (it spent just a month in oak). The winery’s notes speak of aromas of “lemon meringue, melon, ginger ale and coconut.” I found the coconut dominated. On the palate, there are flavours of tangerine and papaya. The 14.6% alcohol results in a finish that is slightly hot. 87.

Phasion Estates Haute Couture 2012 ($23.99 for 250 cases). This is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, according to the winery’s technical sheet. The back label says there is also some Petit Verdot. The wine was aged 18 months in French oak (50% new). It begins with aromas of cassis, black cherry and vanilla. These are echoed on the palate, along with flavours of plum. The structure suggests the wine, which benefits from decanting, will continue to develop for another five years. 90.

Phasion Estates Glitterati 2012 ($24.99 for 75 cases). This is a blend of 57% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 13% Malbec. The wine was aged 18 months in French oak. This wine is stunningly packaged in a bottle that absolutely does glitter. It takes a while for the nose to open; when it does, it shows the lovely perfume of the Malbec along with cassis. On the palate, there are flavours of plum, fig, black currant and chocolate.  This is an elegant wine with the structure to develop for another five to seven years. 91.                                                                                                                                                            


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