Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Monte Creek Ranch is planting more vines

Photo: Monte Creek Ranch Estate Winery

One of four wineries near Kamloops, Monte Creek Ranch Estate Winery is now in its third year of sales.

The newsletter the accompanied the spring releases implies that the wines are being well received.

Monte Creek already has 65 acres of vines in two vineyards. Some 45 acres are planted at the ranch, south of the Thompson River and the TransCanada. The primary vines are winter hardy varieties: Maréchal Foch, Marquette and La Crescent.

The remainder of the producing vines are at a property called Lion’s Head, a southwest-facing slope on the north side of the Thompson. The vineyard is named for the bluff that looms over the vineyard. The varieties here primarily are Riesling and three hardy Minnesota hybrids, Frontenac Gris, Frontenac Blanc and Marquette. There is also a trial block of Chardonnay.

Evidently, the Chardonnay trials have been promising. This year, the winery will plant more Riesling along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Those are all vinifera and not quite as hardy as the hybrids, although Riesling is one of hardier vinifera.

The Minnesota hybrids which Monte Creek planted were developed, as the name suggests, in Minnesota and Wisconsin. They are varieties capable of surviving the hard winters of the American Prairie as well as the frigid winters expected in Kamloops from time to time.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no other significant plantings of Minnesota hybrids elsewhere in British Columbia. They are planted widely in Quebec where the winters are cold enough to kill vinifera. In fact, the Quebec winters are so cold that many vineyards bury even the hybrid vines in the fall to keep the buds and vines alive over winter.

The Kamloops winters are not that brutal. Even so, Monte Creek Ranch will plant its vinifera vines on their own roots. Own-rooted vines can regenerate after a hard freeze. If the vines were grafted and suffered a killing freeze, the likelihood is that just the grafted rootstock would survive. Rootstock produces no fruit.

Monte Creek is taking an extra precaution. “For the first 2 years, the vines will be buried go protect them from winter’s harm,” the winery says. It is likely the vines will be able to better handle the cold when the trunks are more mature.

I hope that Monte Creek succeeds with these new plantings. Except for the danger of hard winters, the Lion’s Head vineyard has all the attributes to produce excellent wine.

And the Minnesota hybrids are producing interesting wines, as the spring releases show. Here are my notes.

Monte Creek Hands Up White 2016 ($15.49). This is a delicious fruit basket of a wine, made with 54% Frontenac Blanc, 27% Viognier, 16% La Crescent ands 3% Riesling. There are aromas of apple and nectarine leading to flavours of nectarine, peach and honeydew melon, with a citrus note on the crisp and refreshing finish. 90.

Monte Creek Riesling 2016 ($16.99). This is a ripe and tropical Riesling, with aromas and flavours of nectarine, peach and citrus. The wine has a moderate alcohol of 11%. The winemaker has retained enough residual sugar to lift the flavours while balancing the sweetness with enough acidity that the finish seems dry. 88-90.

Monte Creek Chardonnay Reserve 2015 ($24.99). This is a richly textured, fruit-forward wine with flavours of citrus, melon and guava. The soft acidity reflects the hot 2015 vintage. There is a slight bitterness on the finish. 87.

Monte Creek Rosé 2016 ($16.99). This wine is made with Marquette grapes, a Minnesota-developed variety. The wine presents with a vibrant hue and cherry aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of cherry, plum  and red currant. This is a robust and juicy rosé. 88.

Monte Creek Ranch Hand Red Reserve 2015 ($29.99). This is a blend of 47% Merlot, 35% Frontenac Noir and 18% Cabernet Sauvignon. Sixteen months in barrel have polished the texture of this wine, giving it a rounded softness making it drinkable at just two years of age. There are aromas of black cherry, leading to flavours of plum and cherry. 90.


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