Monday, May 1, 2017

Arrowleaf will plant the Arvine grape

Photo: Winemaker Manuel Zuppiger  

Petite Arvine, a grape variety new to the Okanagan, will be planted next year by Arrowleaf Cellars.

It is not a coincidence that the vine is an indigenous Swiss variety. The family which owns Arrowleaf has Swiss roots.

“I have always wanted it,” says Manuel Zuppiger, the Arrowleaf winemaker. “We found a nursery in Ontario, selling it commercially. We said, let’s try it. I don’t know how many years they will be selling it.”

Arrowleaf is not going out on a limb. Less than an acre of this white variety will be planted. Three or four years from now, Arrowleaf should be adding the wine to its well-made portfolio. The small volume likely will be sold just in the winery’s elegant wine shop.

Jancis Robinson and colleagues call the variety Arvine in Wine Grapes, the massive book on 1,368 varietals published in 2012. Petite was added to the name to distinguish it from Gros Arvine, which may be a related grape.

“Arvine is indigenous to the Valais in Switzerland,” the book says. “Like many other varieties from the Valais, Arvine is often said to have been introduced by the Romans. … Arvine the finest of the Valais varieties and produces wines that are nervy but also have substance, typically with flavours of grapefruit and a mineral saltiness.”

It says something about the wines that the legendary Angelo Gaja once had an experimental planting in Langhe, in Northwest Italy. He gave up on the variety because he had “severe problems with coulure and broken shoots.” That does not mean the variety is unsuitable for the North Okanagan, where disease pressure is low. Time will tell.

Arrowleaf has been highly successful since opening in 2003. Production reached 16,000 cases in 2016. The winery relies on estate-grown grapes but also buys from several other vineyards (some of which it manages). Most of its fruit sources are from the North Okanagan.

Named for the Okanagan’s familiar springtime flower, Arrowleaf Cellars came about because owner Joe Zuppiger’s five children did not care for milking cows. Dairy farmers near Zurich in Switzerland, the Zuppigers moved to an Alberta dairy farm in 1986. When it became clear that his children wanted to do something else, Joe bought this 6.5-hectare (16-acre) north Okanagan vineyard in 1997. A born farmer, Joe had already grown fruit in Switzerland

After the Zuppigers sold grapes for several years, Manuel, born in 1976, enrolled in Switzerland’s top wine school. He graduated in 2001 and showed such promise that he landed a practicum with Grant Burge, a leading Australian winemaker, before returning to Arrowleaf.

Over half of Arrowleaf’s production is white wine. Most are aromatic, generally made in a juicy, refreshing style. The Arrowleaf vineyard was first planted in 1986 exclusively with white varietals, including the prized Alsace clone of Gewürztraminer, along with Bacchus, Pinot Gris and Vidal. After taking over the property, Joe added Merlot and Zweigelt and arranged long-term contracts for Pinot Noir and Riesling.

Here are notes on current releases:

Arrowleaf Bacchus 2016 ($15.49 for 2,745 cases). The Bacchus vines were already 11 years old when the Zuppiger family bought this Lake Country vineyard. That was good fortune, for this is one of best-selling wines here. Light and refreshing, with just 11% alcohol, the wine has aromas and flavours of lime and grapefruit. A touch of residual sugar lifts the spicy, fruity flavours. 90.

Arrowleaf Pinot Gris 2016 ($16.49 for 2,465 cases). This wine has aromas of apples and pears, leading to flavours of apple, pear and peach. The wine is juicy, with a weight that fills the mouth with fruit flavours. 91.

Arrowleaf Snow Tropics 2016 ($15.90 for 1,252 cases). This is a blend of 65%  Riesling and 35% Gewürztraminer. Previous vintages used Vidal in the blend. This vintage retains the residual sweetness of the style while benefitting from the lively acidity of Riesling. The wine has appealing floral and tropical fruit aromas. On the palate, it is a fruit bowl with flavours of peaches and grapefruit. 90.          

Arrowleaf Riesling 2016 ($17.99 for 900 cases). The wine has aromas and flavours of lemon, lime and pineapple. It is balanced to a lingering, dry finish. The wine has the youthful fruitiness of a young Riesling and is drinking well now. A year or two of additional bottle age will bring out much more intensity and complexity. 90.

Arrowleaf Gewürztraminer 2015 ($15.50 for 779 cases). This wine has consistently been one of the Okanagan’s best Gewürztraminers, with an intensity of spice and lychee recalling similar wines from Alsace. Full-bodied, the wine has just a note of residual sweetness. 92.

Arrowleaf Rosé 2016 ($16.49 for 1,020 cases). This is a blend of 71% Pinot Noir and 29% Zweigelt. The wine, delicate salmon pink in hue, jumps from the glass with aromas of strawberry and cranberry and fills the mouth with red berry flavours. A hint of sweetness lifts both the aromas and flavours. One glass immediately leads to a second of this refreshing wine. 91.

Arrowleaf Pinot Noir 2015 ($19 for 2,004 cases). This is a fruit-forward Pinot Noir, aged nine months in French oak puncheons. It has aromas and flavours of cherry and raspberry with a touch of vanilla and leather. The texture is silky. 90.

Arrowleaf Solstice Pinot Noir 2014 ($26.49 for 375 cases). Solstice is the Arrowleaf term for reserve wines. This Pinot Noir was made with five clones and was aged 12 months in French oak puncheons. The wine is a step up in complexity and intensity, as one would expect. It begins with aromas of black cherry and spice which are echoed on the palate. The flavours are framed subtly with oak. The texture is silky and elegant. 91.

Arrowleaf Zweigelt 2014 ($19.49 for 590 cases). This Austrian variety seems well-suited to making bold and ripe reds in the North Okanagan. This dark wine begins with aromas of white pepper, cloves, cherry and plum. The flavours are rich and punchy, with notes of black cherry, plum, leather, spice and red licorice. There is a hint of smokiness on the finish. 90.

Arrowleaf Merlot 2014 ($19 for 482 cases). Arrowleaf believes it is the northern-most grower of Merlot in the Okanagan. The grapes, planted in 1998, are farmed accordingly to achieve full ripeness. The long and even 2014 vintage enabled the winery to delivery a bold and ripe red, with aromas and flavours of blackberry and black currant. The wine was aged 15 months in American oak (20% new) and shows a touch of vanilla on the finish. 90.

Arrowleaf Solstice Reserve 2014 ($25.24 for 582 cases). The winery’s flagship red, this is 71% Merlot and 29% Zweigelt. The wine was aged 15 months in French and American oak barrels. The best barrels were chosen for this reserve. The wine is structured to age with firm ripe tannins. It begins with aromas black cherry and plum, which are echoed on the palate, along with dark chocolate and vanilla. 92.

Arrowleaf Vidal Icewine 2015 ($43 for 150 cases). This is the first Icewine ever made by Arrowleaf; previously, the winery made just late harvest Vidal. This wine begins with aromas of ripe pineapple. On the palate, there are flavours of honey, quince and ripe pineapple, with a long, luscious sweet finish. 92.


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