Monday, August 14, 2017

Backyard Vineyards tasting July 2017

Winemaker James Cambridge

Langley Township’s Backyard Vineyards has clearly found its feet after a long journey.

The property opened in 2002 as Glenugie Winery, a name that emerged from the Scots heritage of proprietor Gary Tayler and his family.

It was not good branding to give a name to a winery more appropriate to single malt Scotch. But Gary also did some things right. He planted five acres of Pinot Noir for sparkling wine which was called Christina, his wife’s name. Admittedly, that was a decade before the Prosecco boom convinced B.C. consumers to drink bubble often. Today, however, Backyard’s Blanc de Noir Brut sells like hotcakes.

Gary, who was a builder, also built a sturdy winery with a big footprint. Today, Backyard has one of the most spacious tasting rooms in the Fraser Valley. There are even tables at which visitors can enjoy quick lunches and wines by the glass. The wine shop is open year round.

After Christina died, Gary listed the winery for sale in 2006. “It is simply not the same without my wife,” he told me. “We were married 34 years. The silence is deafening. I really can’t handle it. I see her everywhere. We built this up from the ground.”  Unfortunately, Gary died the following year.

The winery was acquired in 2008 by Ewen Stewart, a Whiterock businessman with real estate development interests in the Fraser Valley. Even with the help of a marketing consultant, the winery stumbled through several names – Real Estate Winery and then Neck of the Woods Winery – before settling on Backyard Vineyards in 2013.

Perhaps the most important part of helping the winery find its feet came in August, 2013, when Backyard hired James Cambridge, an experienced winemaker. After troubleshooting the inventory he inherited, he has produced a series of solid vintages, including three impressive reserve reds from the 2014 vintage. Like several other large Fraser Valley wineries, Backyard buys most of its fruit from growers in the Okanagan, given that the estate vineyard is limited to Pinot Noir.

James is a graduate of Niagara College, where he finished at the top of his class in the enology and viticulture program. He started his career with Henry of Pelham and the Creekside Estate Winery in Ontario. Since coming to the Okanagan, he has made wine at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Le Vieux Pin and LaStella wineries, and Fort Berens Estate Winery in Lillooet. A 2012 Riesling he made there garnered a Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Fort Berens.

James considers that he has a special affinity to making wines with Syrah and Cabernet Franc. “If I could only make two red wines in my life, it would be Syrah and Cabernet Franc,” he says. “Cabernet Franc is one of the varieties we should be growing more of in this province because we can grow it well.”

Here are notes on currant releases at Backyard Vineyards. Prices do not include taxes.

Backyard Pinot Gris 2016 ($21.95). Made with grapes from two Skaha Lake vineyards, this wine was fermented cool in stainless steel. The lovely aromas of apples and pears are echoed, with good intensity, on the palate. The mid-palate texture is juicy but the finish is crisp and refreshing. 90.

Backyard Rosé 2016 ($19.78 for 350 cases). This is 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, made by the saignée method. The cherry and strawberry aromas are echoed on the palate. An almost imperceptible hint of residual sweetness (left over when fermentation stopped) give the wine a juicy mid-palate. The finish is dry. 89.

Backyard Nosey Neighbour White 2016 ($17.95). This is 42% Gewürztraminer, 30% Riesling, 20% Pinot Gris and 8% Chardonnay. The winemaker describes this as Backyard’s House White. The aroma and the flavours are dominated somewhat by the spice of the Gewürztraminer. The texture is fleshy. This is an easy-drinking white. 89.

Backyard Riesling 2016 ($21.52). The wine has aromas and flavours of lemon and lime. The fruit flavours are vivid and refreshing. The finish is dry. 90.

Backyard Gewürztraminer 2016 ($21.52). There is plenty of varietal character here – spicy aromas with flavours of spice and grapefruit that have just begin to blossom in the bottle. The finish is dry. 90.

Backyard Gossip 2013 ($21.29). It is 56% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Franc, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Syrah. There are aromas of vanilla and cherry; flavours of black cherry and black currant. The long ripe tannins make this eminently quaffable. 89.

Backyard Syrah 2015 ($25.95). The grapes are from an Osoyoos vineyard. It is a big, ripe wine beginning with aromas of plum and black cherry. On the palate, there are flavours of black cherry, plum and fig with a hint of pepper on the finish. 90.

Backyard Reserve Syrah 2014 ($40). Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of dark, ripe fruit and pepper. That is echoed in the generous flavours and textures of this satisfying wine. 91.

Backyard Cabernet Franc 2015 ($22.95). This is an easy-drinking red with brambleberry aromas and flavours. There is a hint of spice on the finish. 90.

Backyard Reserve Cabernet Franc 2014 ($40). The wine is densely concentrated, with aromas and flavours of plum, fig and blackberry. The finish is persistent. 92.

Backyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($23.95). This is a varietally correct Cabernet Sauvignon. It is ripe on the palate, with aromas and flavours of black currant, black cherries and black olives. 90.

Backyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($40). The wine delivers mouth-filling sweet ripe fruit, echoing the aromas of black cherry and cassis. The intense flavours include black cherry, plum and vanilla. The long ripe tannins portend a wine that will cellar well for the next five to seven years. 92.

Backyard Blanc de Noir Brut NV ($24.95). The wine is made with estate-grown Pinot Noir. The slight blush in the hue adds to the appeal of the wine. It has aromas and flavours of citrus and apple. The finish is crisp. 90.


At August 25, 2017 at 7:11 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Congratulations James on lifting this winery to its high status! I am a true Okanagan wine lover but have also fallen in love with the whites and bubbly, :-)
James, this proves without the right guy making the wine a vineyard is just a field of grapes! Keep stomping.


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