Monday, August 1, 2016

Harper's Trail releases for 2016

Photo: Harper's Trail wine shop and picnic area

Now in its fourth year, Harper’s Trail Estate Winery has established itself as a must stop for wine lovers passing through Kamloops.

Harper’s Trail was the first winery to open in Kamloops. Now there are four, enough for a relaxed day of wine-touring, including a stop for lunch at Monte Creek Estate Winery or a picnic on the grounds of Harper’s Trail.

For more background, here is what I wrote about the winery in John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide.

What makes this vineyard special is same thing that has enabled Lafarge to operate a cement plant nearby since 1970: the underlying limestone in the area, which is quarried for cement but also benefits grape growing. Ed Collett, who owns Harper’s Trail with his wife, Vicki, points to the cliff above the south-sloping vineyards. “That whole side hill is lime rock,” he says.

This property on the north side of the Thompson River is about 16 kilometres (10 miles) east of Kamloops. Formerly, it grew hay and grazed cattle in what is quintessential British Columbia range country. The winery is named for Thaddeus Harper, the 19th-century American-born rancher who once owned the vast 15,569-hectare (38,472-acre) Gang Ranch, one of the first farms to use sturdy gang ploughs. Ed bought his modest slice of ranch country in 2007 after he had conceived the idea of developing a winery. He acquired a taste for wine during travels to Chile on business for the mining equipment company he established in 1987.

The desire for a winery emerged during Okanagan wine tours. Ed remembers relaxing at a bed and breakfast overlooking a vineyard and remarking: “I’ve got to get myself one of these.” He began planting vines in 2008. He currently has 11.7 hectares (29 acres) of vines and has plans for more in stages as he determines what varieties will succeed. “You have to take baby steps,” Ed notes. “We are further north [than most vineyards] but obviously, it is not a deterrent for us.” The cold winters led to the removal of Merlot while a 2008 planting of Cabernet Franc succeeded so well that more was planted in 2012, followed with 2.4 hectares (six acres) of Pinot Noir and Gamay in 2013. Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay also are succeeding. Wind machines combat early autumn frost. Ginseng shade-cloth on the vineyard’s borders breaks the valley’s constant winds. Propane cannons deter the birds. “All of this is new to the Thompson,” the vineyard manager says. “This was the first vineyard with wind machines and bird bangers.”

The first several vintages, which included three different Rieslings, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, a white blend, a rosé and a Cabernet Franc, were made for Harper’s Trail at Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland.  A tasting room opened at the vineyard in the summer of 2013. The temporary winemaking facility used for that vintage is being replaced in 2014 by a new winery. There are future plans for a restaurant and for walking trails on the property.

Here are notes on the current releases. The winery plans to release its first Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir this fall. Prices do not include tax.

Harper’s Trail Thadd Springs Vineyard Pinot Gris 2014 ($16.49 for 283 cases). This wine begins with lovely aromas of citrus fruits and peaches. These are echoed on the palate, along with flavours of apple, melon and pear. The wine has a dry, refreshing finish. 91.

Harper’s Trail Thadd Springs Vineyard Field Blend White 2015 ($12.99 for 426 cases). This is a blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer. It begins with pineapple aromas, leading to flavours of ripe pears and pineapples, with a hint of spice on the finish. 90.

Harper’s Trail Pioneer Block Dry Riesling 2014 ($17.29 for 404 cases). The wine begins with a hint of developing petrol mingled with lemon and grapefruit. The bright acidity wakes up the palate of this crisply refreshing wine, with flavours of lemon and grapefruit rind. A backbone of minerality adds to the intensity and focus of the wine. 91.

Harper’s Trail Silver Mane Block Riesling 2014 ($17.29 for 324 cases). The residual sugar here (16.9 grams a litre) is very well balanced with bracing acidity of 9.6 grams. The result is a wine that is full on the palate, with flavours of lime and pears. 90.

Harper’s Trail Thadd Springs Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 ($17.29 for 796 cases). This wine spent just eight weeks in American oak barrels before being given its subsequent aging in stainless steel. The result is a fruit forward Chardonnay with very subtle toasty oak on the nose, along with flavours of lime, peach and apple. 88.

Harper’s Trail Thadd Springs Vineyard Rosé 2015 ($16.49 for 410 cases). This is a blend of Pinot Gris and Riesling with a dash of Cabernet Franc. The latter gives the wine its rose petal hue and its flavours of strawberry. The finish is dry. 90.

Harper’s Trail Thadd Springs Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2014 ($25.99 for 307 cases). This is a wine with vibrant aromas and flavours of red cherry, raspberry and blackberry with a backbone of minerality and ripe tannins. 90.

Harper’s Trail Cerqueira Vineyard Merlot 2014 ($20.49 for 846 cases). The grapes for this wine – the only non-estate wine in the winery’s portfolio – are from the Black Sage Bench vineyard operated by Michael Bartier who is also the winemaker for Harper’s Trail. This wine begins with appealing aromas of blueberry and black cherry, leading to flavours of red currants, cherry and raspberry. Long ripe tannins give the wine good weight. 90.

Harper’s Trail Thadd Springs Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling 2013 ($18.19 for 541 cases of 375 ml bottles). This tropical dessert wine has as much residual sugar as an Icewine without the heaviness of Icewine. The aromas and flavours of lime, lemon, mango and papaya linger on the palate. 91.


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