Monday, June 26, 2017

Blasted Church announces new winemaker

Blasted Church has just announced a change of winemakers.

That is not unusual for this Okanagan Falls winery. By my count, the winery has had seven winemakers since 2002.

The list starts with Frank Supernak, who died in November 2002 in an accident at another winery. The successors have been Marcus Ansems, Kelly Moss, Richard Kanazawa, Mark Wendenburg and, since 2010, Elaine Vickers.

Elaine’s departure was announced last week, to be succeeded by Evan Saunders, who has been at Blasted Church since 2014, initially as a cellar hand.

What strikes me, as I look at that list, is that the quality of Blasted Church wines has been consistent even as cellar personnel changed. There are other Okanagan wineries which have had significant turnover among their winemakers and quality has not missed a beat. Burrowing Owl Vineyards comes to mind.

That points to the old adage that 80% of a wine is made in the vineyard. Clearly, the vineyards at Blasted Church and Burrowing Owl are managed very well.

Here is a biographical note on Evan from the Blasted Church website:

“The perfect blend of Prairie charm and enological wit, Evan joined the congregation in 2014 as a cellar hand, rose to Assistant Winemaker, and recently promoted to Winemaker at Blasted Church.

“After completing a degree in microbiology from the University of Victoria, Evan moved to Ontario to study Grape and Wine Technology at Brock University. Applying his scientific background with wine was a perfect pairing. Returning to BC, Evan spent over three years learning the art of Bordeaux style reds at Osoyoos Larose, Oliver, BC, and traveled to Sonoma for a Pinot Noir harvest at Kosta Browne in Sebastopol, CA. Evan brings a wealth of red wine making experience to our winemaking team.
“Since joining our team three years ago, Evan has been a driving force in the pursuit of stellar quality in our wine program. His contagious enthusiasm in the cellar, along with his finely balanced artistic and scientific approach to winemaking have made Evan the natural choice to spearhead our wine operations into the future.” 

During Elaine’s time in the cellar, Blasted Church has become a much larger producer. From 2011 to 2013, Blasted Church production grew from 17,000 cases a year to around 25,000 cases. That is why, when consultant Mark Wendenburg moved on to his other Okanagan clients, the winery added Evans to the cellar staff.

As Elaine takes her résumé elsewhere in the wine industry, the current releases from Blasted Church should serve as excellent references. Here are notes on two.

Blasted Church Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($24 for 665 cases). Dry and tangy, this wine begins with aromas of lime, pineapple and herbal spice. On the palate, there are flavours of lime and lemon. The bracing acidity is moderate with the texture of the 10% that was fermented in French oak. 90.

Blasted Church Rosé 2016 ($20 for 336 cases).  The blend here is complex: 63% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Malbec  and 5% Pinot Noir. The winery’s notes do not disclose the winemaking method but one can assume some juice was bled from tanks of each of the varieties to make Blasted Church’s first rosé in six years. The wine presents with a vibrant rose petal hue in the glass. Aromas of strawberry and raspberry rise from the glass. On the palate, there is a rich fruit compote of flavours (strawberry, cherry). A hint of fruit sweetness adds to the lingering finish. 91.


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