Tuesday, September 20, 2016

White wine specialists: Gray Monk, Township 7 and Terravista

Photo: Gray Monk Estate Winery 

Surely, the end of summer does not bring down the curtain on enjoying white wine.  I would like to recommend interesting wines from three different Okanagan producers.
The senior member of this trio is Gray Monk Estate Winery which is making its 34th vintage this year. The winery made its reputation with its white wine. While the winery now includes good reds in its portfolio, white wines still rule. No winery in the Okanagan makes as much Pinot Gris as Gray M0nk (almost 26,000 cases in 2015).

Gray Monk was one of the earliest wineries to plant Pinot Gris in the Okanagan. It may well have been the first, importing the variety fr0m a nursery in Alsace in 1976, along with Auxerrois and Gewürztraminer. Pinot Gris took a long time to catch on with consumers. The variety was only five percent of total white grape production in 1997. Today, it is the most widely planted white, well ahead of Chardonnay, and the go-to house wine for many restaurants and many consumers.

The second member of this trio is Township 7 Vineyards & Winery, which celebrated its 16th anniversary in September, 2016. Unlike family-owned Gray Monk, Township 7 has changed ownership three times. Each new owner has invested in expanding Township 7’s production and market penetration.

Township 7 operates two wineries. The original winery in Langley gives it year-round exposure to wine consumers in the Lower Mainland. The second winery, just expanded, is near Penticton, almost at the start of Naramata Road. The location guarantees steady tasting room traffic.

The third member of this trio is Terravista Vineyards. This winery, located on the upper Naramata Bench, is operated by Senka and Bob Tennant. They were one of the two couples that started Black Hills Estate Winery on Black Sage Road, south of Oliver. After Black Hills was sold in 2006, the Tennants took a few years off and then, in 2009, planted two Spanish white varieties – Albariño and Verdejo - entirely new to the Okanagan.

During the last five years, or so, these have been blended into a wine called Fandango. In the past two vintages, some of the Albariño has also been released as a single varietal white. These are exceptional wines, as is the Terravista Viognier, made from purchased grapes and now sold out.

The volumes of wines made at Terravista are never large. You need to react quickly when there is a new release. I happened to be in Scandinavia in August when these wines were released and when I would have preferred to review them. All are superb seafood wines and equally great patio wines. And these wine have each won gold medals at the Canadian Wine Awards.

Here are notes on the wines. With the exception of Terravista, prices exclude taxes.

Gray Monk Pinot Gris 2015 ($15.99 for 25,946 cases). The volume of this wine is greater than the total production of most B.C. wineries. Clearly, there is no problem selling the wine because each refreshing glass tastes like you want a second glass. It begins with fruity aromas of grapefruit and peach which are echoed on the palate, along with flavours of citrus and pear. 90.

Gray Monk Gewürztraminer 2015 ($14.79 for 7,175 cases). Gray Monk also pioneered this variety in British Columbia. It begins with aromas of lychee, spice and herbs. On the palate, there are flavours of lychee, pink grapefruit and peach. The wine’s 14 grams of residual sugar makes this a very consumer friendly wine, although it finishes too sweet for my palate. 88.

Township 7 Chardonnay 2015 ($19.97 for 548 cases). Consumers should pick up a few bottles of this wine if only because most of the grapes in it came from the Sundial Vineyard on Black Sage Road. Harry McWatters sold it early this year and the current owners are expected to phase out selling fruit as they develop a new winery over the next few vintages  This wine begins with aromas of citrus and apple. Half of the wine was fermented in French oak and the subtle toasty oak aromas and flavours delicately frame the apple, peach and vanilla flavours. 91.

Township 7 Unoaked Chardonnay 2015 ($17.97 for 398 cases). This is an exuberant wine brimming with pure fruit, including apples, pears and pineapple. With just three grams of residual sugar, the wine is crisply refreshing. Once again, each glass tastes like you want to have a second glass. 90.

Township 7 Riesling 2015 ($24.97 for 398 cases). The price premium says a lot about the rising profile of Riesling. This wine has laser focus of aromas and flavours, beginning with citrus aromas that lead to flavours of lime and lemon around a backbone of minerals. The racy acidity a refreshing tang. Think of a dry Mosel. 90.

Terravista Fandango 2015 ($24.90). This is a blend of Albariño and Verdejo. It begins with aromas of melon and Asian pear. The flavours are intense, with notes of apple, green plum, cantaloupe with a delicate and refreshing squeeze of lemon.  The wine’s 14% alcohol contributes to the good weight of this delicious wine. 91.

Terravista Albariño 2015 ($24.90). This is a fresh and fragrant wine, with floral and fruity aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of honeydew melon, green apple and citrus, with bracing but refreshing acidity on the finish. 91.

Terravista Viognier 2015 ($18.90). This wine begins with aromas of pears and stone fruit, leading to apricot on the rich palate. 90.


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