Photo: Painted Rock's John Skinner
Estate Winery is so excited about its 2015 Chardonnay that it has already
distributed some hand-bottled samples for review.
The wine is
actually scheduled to be bottled on May 30. I would expect it will have a month
or so of bottle age before it is released to the market, if only because wines –
especially whites - suffer profound bottle shock from bottling and need time to
But when you
see this wine, do pick up a few bottles. It will sell for $30.50 plus tax.
Painted Rock has every right to be excited about this decadently sensual wine.
I scored it 92 points.
The wine has
ravishing tropical aromas and flavours, ranging from lychee and peach to
citrus. The fruit is so vivid that I took it to be an unoaked Chardonnay. Of
course, Painted Rock does not do unoaked Chardonnay.
achieved all of this bright and layered flavour first by doing three micro-harvests
in its Chardonnay block. Each harvest brought in grapes with different flavour
profiles and ripeness. Then 40% of the wine was aged about eight months in new
French oak, another 40% was aged in second-fill French oak. The final 20% was
aged in stainless steel. Only the latter portion went through malolactic
blended, the ML fraction added texture. But preventing 80% from going through
ML meant that the winery preserved the bright acidity – hard to do in a hot
year like 2015 – which gives this wine a lively, tangy finish.
and tropical characters of this wine led me to ask what clones are in the
vineyard. The answer is French clone 548 and clone 76. Whoever advised Painted
Rock owner John Skinner when he was planting advised him well.
French Ministry of Agriculture organization that certifies clones, says this
about these two clones: Clone “76 is a regular clone in terms of production and
quality; the wines obtained are representative of the variety: aromatic, fine,
typical and well-balanced. … [Clone] 548 has lower-than-average production due
to small and loose clusters with high sugar potential; the wines are aromatic,
complex and concentrated with good length.”
recently tasted two other Chardonnays that are also very good and not yet on
the market. Little Engine Winery, currently under construction on Naramata Road,
is owned by former Calgarians Steven and Nicole French. The tasting room, just
south of the Red Rooster winery, is expected to be open by July 1. The plan is
that 30% of the production will be Chardonnay.
property has three clones of Chardonnay,” winemaker Scott Robinson says. “It is
a hot site, so we should get some good ripe fruit, particularly down on the
corner there. We have clone 548 there. There is not a lot of that in the
valley. It produces ripe tropical fruit characters.”
I have been
able to tasted two pre-release Chardonnays from Little Engine: a 2015 Silver
Label Chardonnay, which will sell for about $33, and 2014 Gold Label
Chardonnay, which will be priced $55 a bottle. I rated the former 92 and the
Engine’s Silver Label is similar in style to Painted Rock: Scott ages 50% in
French oak (25% new) and 50% in tank. He allows some ML but does not let it go
too far because he also wants to preserve the tropical fruit flavours and the
Label (or reserve) is more boldly oaked, with 15 months in French barrels. But
the wine has so much fruit that it handles the oak very well. The wine is very
wineries have made good clonal choices and both have good winemaking.
is a winery with an established reputation while Little Engine will very
quickly emerge as its equal. What is encouraging is that two of the Okanagan’s
top producers are embracing Chardonnay, championing a wine that was out of
favour five or 10 years ago.
There is no
better way to re-establish Chardonnay than with several top flight examples.