Photo: 50th Parallel Winemaker Grant Stanley
challenge to 50th Parallel Estate’s winemakers – Grant Stanley and
his assistant, Matthew Fortuna – is to make wines as grand as this destination
releases indicate that they are holding up their end.
is owned primarily by Curtis Krouzel and Sheri-Lee Turner-Krouzel. Grant became
a partner when he joined 50th Parallel three years ago.
He works in
a gleaming new gravity-fed winery 10,000 square feet in size, backing onto a
61-acre vineyard. An expanded hospitality centre to open next year completes
the spectacular architecture on this property. The owners had to built a
destination winery because 50th Parallel might strike some wine tourists
as being off the beaten path.
In fact, it
is not. It is an easy 15 minutes from either Vernon or from Kelowna
International Airport. 50th Parallel is one of six wineries in Lake
Country – six and counting. A seventh winery, O’Rourke Family Vineyards, is
under construction not far from 50th Parallel, with plans to open a
tasting room next year.
Parallel winery was designed primarily with Pinot Noir in mind. The gentle
handling that grape requires is quite appropriate for the rest of its
portfolio: aromatic whites and Chardonnay.
Grant and his team had to deal with the same conditions that faced their peers
further south in the Okanagan, but also missed some.
south, the Okanagan Valley experienced long periods of degraded air quality
with intense smoke and ash particles heavy in the air from late July to the
middle of August,” 50th Parallel said in a comment on the vintage. “The
smoke was created by massive forest fires in Washington State and near Oliver
and Osoyoos. 50th Parallel vineyards were very fortunate, however,
as our Central Okanagan vineyard location is directly north of the fire zone by
over 100 kilometres. This distance, combined with favourable wind directions
and a later harvest period, saved our fruit from being immersed in the smoke
and from any effects of smoke taint.”
As I read
that, it occurred to me that was last year. There have been serious forest
fires in the North and Central Okanagan in the past. One hopes it will not
happen again but the trees in the hills above the vineyards get tinder dry in
these unusually hot summers.
also has its benefits. “The long, hot and dry summer [of 2015] created healthy
and disease-free growing conditions for the entire season,” the winery’s
commentary continues. “The resulting harvest was early … Fruit was disease-free
and nearly perfect in appearance from all vineyards and the cluster weights
were 15% lower than what was expected.
yield can be attributed to the drought-like growing conditions that lowered the
residual water volume of the actual grapes. This resulted in fabulous and
intense ripe flavour concentrations in the berries, and an excellent natural
balance of acid and sugars.”
notes on the wines. Two are from 2014, also a solid vintage.
50th Parallel Gewürztraminer 2015
($19 for 1,814 cases). The style here is off-dry and crowd pleasing. The wine
begins with bold spicy aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of pink
grapefruit and quince. The 12 grams of residual sugar contributes to a juicy
texture and an easy drinkability. 90.
50th Parallel Pinot Gris
2015 ($19 for 3,100
cases). This wine begins with aromas of citrus and peach. On the palate, the
wine is rich and presents a medley of fruit, including peaches, pears and fresh
50th Parallel Riesling
2015 ($19 for 498
cases). This wine begins with aromas of lemon and lime, leading to flavours of
lemon, lychee and nectarine. A touch of botrytis adds a note of honey and sweet
fruit to the palate. The texture is juicy, in part thanks to 10 grams of
residual sugar. However, the sweetness has been nicely balanced with bright acidity.
50th Parallel Chardonnay
2014 ($32). This
wine begins aromas of with peach and citrus set against toasty oak notes. It
presents a medley of tropical flavours with a lingering note of tangerine and
butter on the palate. In a word: delicious. 91.
50th Parallel Pinot Noir
Rosé 2015 ($19 for
820 cases). Delicate rose petal in hue, this wine has aromas of strawberry and
flavours of strawberry and cherry. 88.
50th Parallel Pinot Noir
2014($29 for 3,194
cases; plus 190 magnums). This elegant wine begins with aromas of spiced cherry
and strawberry, fruit that is echoed on the silky palate. The flavours are
supported by toasty oak. The finish lingers. 92.