Photo: Tasting room at Bartier Bros. (credit Lionel Trudel)
The current wine releases from Bartier Brothers Winery comes with
an updated media kit about Michael and Don Bartier, the owners, and their
philosophy about wine.
“Don’t try to copy Napa, or Bordeaux, or Burgundy; make Okanagan wine,” the brothers advise. “Those
places make beautiful wines,
but they’re different from what the Okanagan gives, and they don’t have the
privilege of working with Okanagan grapes.”
That should put Domaine de la
Romanée-Conti in its place!
Actually, one has to admire the brothers for
their self-confidence and for the confidence they have in the Okanagan. Their
Cerqueira Vineyard south of Oliver does not have Romanée-Conti’s 1,000 years
grape-growing heritage but who is to say what is in the future. I am not
suggesting that the Bartier Brothers have set the bar that high for themselves,
at least not yet.
As for the here and now, one still afford
the wines from the Cerqueira Vineyard. It has been a long time since you could
say that about Romanée-Conti.
Michael is a well-known figure in Okanagan wine with more than 20 years of
experience. I first met him in 1994 at Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards, under
awkward circumstances. I had had an appointment to interview the HMV winemaker.
When I announced myself at the winery, there was a lot of awkward shuffling
until Michael, the assistant winemaker, was produced. As I learned later, the
winery owner and the winemaker had parted company abruptly in a falling out
still not healed.
gave an excellent interview – as he has on every occasion since when I have met
him. His journey to his own winery (in partnership with brother Don, an
accountant) has involved a number of stops along the way. After Hawthorne
Mountain, he made wine at Stag’s Hollow Winery, Township 7 Vineyards &
Winery, Road 13 Vineyards and Okanagan Crush Pad Winery. As the Bartier
Brothers media kit sums it up: “He quickly made a name for himself: first as a maker of
white wines, earning two Canadian White Wine of the Year titles within three
years, and then as a maker of red wines
with several consecutive Lieutenant Governor’s awards for his red wines.”
first vintage of Bartier Brothers was made in 2009. While the brand was getting
established, the brothers were busy tying up ownership of the Cerqueira
Vineyard on Black Sage Road. Michael had identified the property some years
earlier and bought fruit for his various employers. When the owner retired, he
and his brother exercised their option to buy the vineyard. A tasting room was
opened last summer at the property’s new address on Ryegrass Road.
the Bartier wines now are estate grown. The Gewürztraminer comes from a small
vineyard at Summerland owned by Don. The rest are from the Cerqueira Vineyard.
vineyard, planted between 1997 and 2008, is 13.7 acres in size. The varieties
grown there are Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Semillon.
media kit describes why Michael believes that the Cerqueira Vineyard is
“The site of this vineyard was a cataclysmic flood plain
from an event about 10,000 years ago, when a burst glacial dam deposited a lot
of glacial debris on the valley bottom very suddenly. This glacial till is
highly mineralized, especially with a great deal of calcium. Since the dam burst, rainwater has been percolating
through the soil, leaving a limestone precipitate crust on all the stones
through its deep profile. Vine roots seek out these stones for the small amount of water to be found on this rough crust surface.
It is controversial to say that these vines are ‘feeding’ off these minerals,
but that’s exactly what we believe is happening and it shows in the minerality
of the wines vintage after vintage.”
I don’t want to push the parallel too far but
there obviously is something special also in the soil and terroir of Romanée-Conti
(or any other top vineyard).
notes on the current releases. It is worth noting that all the wines have been
fermented with wild yeast and the reds are unfined and unfiltered.
Semillon 2014 ($20 for 649 cases). This wine has aromas and flavours of lime
and lemon. It has bright acidity, giving the wine a crisp and refreshing
finish. The spine of minerality that defines the texture clearly reflects the
Cerqueira soils. 90.
Gewürztraminer 2014 ($19 for 282 cases). The wine is made with fruit from
brother Don’s Lone Pine Vineyard at Summerland. The vineyard sits on the flank
of extinct Giant’s Head Volcano, benefitting from the volcanic elements in the
soil. The wine seems surprisingly delicate (alcohol of 10.6%), with a rose
petal aroma. The tropical flavours seemed a little mute, making me wonder if
the wine was not just going through a phase. Some wines do that.
The wine was more expressive on the second day. 88.
Chardonnay 2014($27 for 248 cases). Michael’s
wine of the year awards were both earned with Chardonnay, a variety he has some
affinity for. A portion of this wine was fermented in two-year-old barrels and
a portion was fermented in stainless steel. Thanks to the wild yeast, the
fermentation was slow, lasting seven weeks. Both lots were left on the lees
before being blended. This wine was also more expressive on the second day,
with aromas and flavours of citrus and tropical fruit. I wonder whether this
wine is best decanted. 90
Bartier Bros. Cabernet Franc 2013 ($30 for 347
cases). This wine is emerging as one of the Okanagan’s go-to Cab Francs. It is
a delicious wine with aromas of cherries and blackberries leading to bright
brambleberry flavours and long, elegant tannins. The wine has aged 15 months in
neutral French oak. 92.
Bartier Bros. Merlot 2013 ($27 for 451
cases). This wine begins with aromas of
cassis, cranberry and cherry which are echoed in the flavours. The wine has
good weight and a firm (not hard) texture. It has a long, spicy finish. The
wine benefits from being decanted. 90.
Bartier Bros. Syrah 2013 ($27 for 258 cases).
This is certainly a wine that should be decanted. We tasted it over two days,
giving its disciplined structure a chance to show an underlying richness. There
is pepper in both the aroma and on the finish, along with flavours of plum and