Photo: The new Corcelettes winery in the Similkameen
Few Similkameen wineries have changed as dramatically in a
few years as Corcelettes Estate Winery.
The winery opened in 2013 on a three-acre vineyard (with
three white varieties) near Cawston. It was launched by the Baessler family,
who are originally from Switzerland. Their son, Charlie, who had gained
experience in the vineyard and cellars at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, became
the winemaker at Corcelettes. The wines were excellent but there was not enough
The Baessler family’s fortunes looked up in early 2015 when,
with silent partners, they acquired the shuttered Herder Winery & Vineyards
“I have always had my eye on that place since I worked there,”
Charlie told me last year. “It is such a beautiful place.” Charlie’s first
winery job in 2008 involved vineyard and cellar work with Lawrence Herder, then
one of the winery’s owners.
By the spring of 2015, Corcelettes moved its tasting room
and wine production to the larger Herder facility. The 6 ½-acre Herder
vineyard, while it needed some resuscitation, provided Corcelettes with a
number of additional varieties. This spring, another three acres of vines were
planted, including more Syrah.
The flagship red blend at Corcelettes is called Menhir (the
name of tall standing stones in Switzerland). The wine is a blend of almost
equal proportions of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine usually is sold out
by early October because, with the limited tonnage of grapes available, production
has been small.
The first vintage in 2011 was just 80 cases. The 2014
vintage, which is almost sold out, was 205 cases. Charlie should be able to
increase this, if only modestly, in subsequent releases.
The Herder purchase also gave him access to Pinot Noir,
including some 14-year-old vines planted by the owner who sold the property to
Herder in 2007. Charlie made a light and fruity 2015 Pinot Noir. As well, with
Herder wine still inventory at the time of the Corcelettes purchase, he produced
a reserve Pinot Noir. In the future, Charlie will continue to make both styles
of Pinot Noir.
The Herder inventory included mature Bordeaux varietals that
had aged gracefully for up to two years on oak, thanks to Lawrence Herder’s decision
several years earlier to install large French oak vats. These do not add oak as
aggressively as smaller barrels do. Corcelettes has released both a Meritage
and Merlot/Cabernet blend, as well as a Merlot from that inventory. It lays out
a road map for future additions to the Corcelettes range made by Charlie.
The other new wine in the portfolio is a sparkling wine
called Santé. The first release was built with some Herder whites that had been
resting on the lees. Future offerings of Santé may be different blends but
sparkling wine now has a permanent place in the Corcelettes portfolio.
Here are notes on the wines.
($19.90 for 370 cases). This is a blend of 50% Chasselas and 25 each
of Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. The winemaker says it is intended as an “easy
sipper” and it certainly succeeds, with a spicy aroma and flavours of apples,
melons and pears. 90.
($24.90 for 45 cases; sold out). This is a crisply dry wine with
intense aromas and favours of apples, green melons and pears. 91.
($17.90 for 230 cases). Charlie made this wine with grapes from the
same vineyard – but he picked one lot three weeks later than the other. The
work allowed him to build a wine with layers of luscious fruit and flavours of
spice and grapefruit. The acidity from the early pick preserves the freshness
of the wine. 90.
($23.90 for 205 cases). This is made with Zweigelt grapes; it
needed just six hours of skin contact for adequate colour and flavour
extraction. The wine begins with a hint of raspberry mingled with pepper on the
nose, leading to flavours of pomegranate and rhubarb. 90.
($19.90 for 350 cases). This carbonated wine is a blend of 70%
Viognier, 25% Pinot Gris and 5% Chardonnay. It has a toasty flavour from the
time some of the wines spent on the lees, along with tropical fruit flavours
and a crisp finish. 89
($24.90). This is a “nouveau” style, which is to say juicy and
easy to drink. The are aromas and flavours of spicy cherries with a hint of oak
and chocolate on the finish. 90.
Noir Reserve 2011
($27.90). This wine spent 24 months on oak. It has spicy
cherry aromas and flavours, with ample barnyard/forest floor aromas and
($27.90). Aged in an oak vat, this wine has aromas and flavours of
black currants. This is a note of black coffee on the savoury and dusty finish.
($31.90 for 205 cases). The blend is 62% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38%
Syrah. This complex and satisfying wine is almost sold out. It has aromas of
blueberries and plums. On the palate, there are flavours of plum, black cherry
and black coffee with herbs and black pepper on the finish. 91.
($39.90 for 275 cases). This is 40% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon,
25% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec and 4% Petit Verdot. The wine was aged 24 months
in French oak vats. It has ar0mas and flavours of black currant. In addition,
there are flavours of black cherry, chocolate and leather with a note of spice
and cedar on the finish. 90.