Photo: The vineyard at Pipe' Dreams
Vineyard and Estate Winery
The name of
this winery comes from a question that John Ness, the owner, asked himself when
launching the project: is it a big dream, or just a pipe dream?
of the wines answers the question. When the tasting room opens (soon), the
offerings include one of the best Grüner Veltliner wines made in BC.
The list of
Grüner Veltliner producers still is short. The first in the Okanagan to make wine from the leading Austrian white grape was
Culmina Family Estate Winery three vintages ago. Culmina set the bar high with
its wine, called Unicus, and Pipe' Dreams has risen successfully to the
which offers four other wines, is a short drive north of Oliver and west from
Highway 97. There is a sign on the highway but, when I visited recently, no
sign yet at the winery. However, Sportsman Bowl is a road that dead ends at a shooting
range. Turn around and look for a flat vineyard on the north side of the road.
A big man
with a friendly personality, John (left) was born in 1947 in Winnipegosis and grew up
in Vancouver. His family usually vacationed in the Okanagan every summer with
friends who lived there.
spend a week cliff diving with the other kids,” he remembers. “I always loved
it here. I always thought we should move here but we never did.”
finished Grade Twelve, his main interests were skiing and surveying. “Around
1968, I was offered a job at Jasper on a professional ski patrol,” he says. “I
was in the Canadian National Ski Patrol, going every weekend.”
summer, he took a surveying course. “I was offered a job and I really loved
surveying out in the bush. So I gave up my ski patrol career.”
from 1968 to 1975,” John continues. “Then I started with Nova Corp., surveying
pipelines. About 1980 I went into construction management in the pipeline area.
That’s what I have been doing every since: construction management, looking
after quality specifications, inspection staff, that kind of business.” He is
currently involved with one of the proposed liquefied natural gas projects.
his career, he has been based either in Edmonton or Calgary, where he still has
a residence. But the lure of the Okanagan never went away.
come here skiing,” he says. “And I had a
motorcycle back then. I would come here
in the summer and ride through and then go back to work. I loved the place. I
always thought this is where I should be.”
looking for property about seven years ago. As he became more serious, he
engaged consulting winemaker Mark Wendenburg to help him screen properties. He
bought the winery property late in 2009.
being cultivated there at the time. “I thought I will do some grapes,” John
says. He planted the available 3.4 acres in 2011.
he chose varieties outside the mainstream of Okanagan plantings: Grüner
Veltliner, Kerner, Gamay Noir and Zweigelt. “I did not want to have the same
kind of grapes as everybody else,” John says. “I didn’t want to do Merlot
because everyone does Merlot.” As it happens, he now leases a one-acre block of
Merlot from a neighbour.
to keep Mark Wendenburg to advise him on viticulture and winemaking,
recognizing that the consultant’s experience is invaluable to the success of
Pipe Dreams. John’s only winemaking experience involved making kit wine – and
his last 200-bottle batch froze in poor storage.
Mark, who established
his own wine consulting company since 2010, is an Okanagan veteran. He dates
his introduction to the wine industry from 1980, when he and his late father,
Chris, planted the five-acre family vineyard near Penticton.
He is best
known for his 18 years as winemaker at Sumac Ridge Estate Winery. He left that
winery in the spring of 2010 to consult, with Blasted Church Vineyards his
first major winery client.
Mark (right) was
born in Penticton in 1961, shortly after his parents arrived in Canada. They
had owned agricultural land in Germany’s Harz Mountains until the East German
government relieved them of their property.
helping plant the family vineyard near Penticton, Mark went to Germany in 1982,
apprenticing with wineries in three regions, and earning a winemaking diploma
at the Bavarian State Institute for Viticulture and Enology in Franconia.
in 1987, he started working at the T.G. Bright & Co. winery near Oliver.
(now Jackson-Triggs). In winter of 1988, Mark did a crush at the Nobilo winery
in New Zealand; the following winter, he did the crush at S. Smith & Sons
in Australia (better known as Yalumba).
those assignments, he resumed working at Brights. He also became involved in a
sparkling wine project that had been launched in the Okanagan by California’s
Schramsberg Cellars with Inkameep Vineyards and what is now Blue Mountain
Vineyard & Cellars. One of his bosses at Brights told him to choose between
Brights and the sparkling wine project. Mark chose the sparkling wine project.
project wound up in 1991, Mark joined Sumac Ridge which was just getting its
Steller’s Jay Brut sparkling wine launched. Sumac Ridge had begun handcrafting
the wine in 1987 but production was insignificant until Mark came on board. Steller’s
Jay is now one of Canada’s best traditional method sparkling wines.
through the Pipe' Dreams winery reveals Mark has a modern facility well-equipped
to make sound aromatic whites and solid reds. The first vintage from this
vineyard was made in 2014 – only 500 cases. Production tripled last year,
reflecting the vineyard’s rising production.
Veltliner is one of the most interesting wines here, if only because there
still are few examples in BC. Currently, the other wineries with this varietal,
in addition to Culmina, include Bordertown Winery and Vineyard in Osoyoos and
de Vine Vineyards in Saanich. Soon to join this elite group is Fort Berens
Estate Winery in Lillooet which made trial lot in 2014 from its 25 Grüner
Veltliner vines. The wine is so promising that more vines will be planted.
the first Pipe' Dreams Grüner Veltliner quite simply, without skin contact or
oak aging. “Especially at the beginning, I just wanted to see how the varietal
shows itself in British Columbia,” he says. “I have visited the Wachau in
Austria. The Grüners there can be very acidic, very aggressive wines. I did not
think that is what they would be like here, just because of the climate.”
It turns out
he was right. Here are notes on the wines.
Pipe' Dreams Grüner Veltliner 2014 ($29). This is a crisp and fresh wine
with aromas and flavours of peaches, nectarines and melon. It has good weight
in the palate and has a slightly tangy finish. 91.
Pipe' Dreams Kerner 2014 ($29). This is a bold, even
full-bodied, white with 14.7% alcohol but with such fruit intensity that the
alcohol is not evident on the juicy palate. The wine begins with aromas of
nectarine and peach and delivers flavours of peach and apple. There is just a
hint of sweetness on the finish. 90.
Pipe' Dreams Gamay 2014 ($29). The wine begins with aromas
of cherries. On the palate, there is a generous medley of bright red berry
flavours with a hint of pepper. 90.
Pipe' Dreams Zweigelt 2014 ($32). The dark colour heralds a bold
red, with red berry aromas and spicy plum and cherry on the palate. The spice
continues on the finish. 91.
Pipe' Dreams Merlot 2014 ($29). Lean and medium-bodied, the
wine has aromas of black currants. On the palate, there are bright, fruity
flavours of lingonberry, blueberry and black currant. 90.
Pipe' Dreams Merlot Reserve 2014 (not released). This is a bold,
concentrated Merlot, with aromas of vanilla and black currant and flavours of
plum, black currant and spice. 92.