Thursday, January 11, 2018

Mirabel releases a Chardonnay

Photo: Mirabel's Doug Reimer

Kelowna’s Mirabel Vineyards has just released a remarkably elegant Chardonnay, rounding out a Burgundian-inspired portfolio that began with the release of a premium Pinot Noir late in 2016.

A portion of both of those wines has been aged in new François Frères oak barrels, the cooperage of choice for many Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producers. Except for Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland, whose winemaker, Matt Dumayne, makes the wines for Mirabel. Most Crush Pad wines are fermented and aged in concrete.

Doug and Dawn Reimer, the owners of Mirabel, insisted that their wines be aged in a combination of oak and stainless steel.

“I guess I am just sort of old school,” Doug says. “There may be nothing wrong with the concrete tanks. I am not a real modern guy. I don’t like modern houses. I don’t like anything too modern, except for my phone.”

Then, with a chuckle, he admits that concrete tanks, or the equivalent, have been used in making wine at least since the Roman Empire. Over the past century, oak barrels and stainless steel have come to dominate winemaking, with concrete making a comeback only recently. Anthony von Mandl’s new Martin’s Lane Winery makes its exceptional $100 Pinot Noirs with a combination of stainless steel, concrete – and François Frères barrels.

In my view, Doug Reimer, also a wine collector with an eclectic palate, is on the right path with his “old school” preference for some oak aging for his wines.

Mirabel Vineyards came about because the Reimers, members of a leading Canadian trucking family, purchased East Kelowna property in 2005 to build their dream home. The property is on a sun-bathed slope above the Harvest Golf Course and, at the time, was an apple orchard.

They cleared the apple trees to make room for a vineyard, having decided that vines are more attractive that trees. They had consultants analyze the soils and recommend grape varieties.

“We lucked out,” Doug says. “It is a fabulous property and a fabulous piece of soil. It is only six acres and that is all we can plant.”

In 2006, they planted most of it with three clones of Pinot Noir. The final one and a half acres will be planted with Chardonnay in the spring of 2018.

For a number of years, the Reimers sold their Pinot Noir grapes primarily to Meyer Family Vineyards and to Foxtrot Vineyards, two of the Okanagan’s leading Pinot Noir specialists. It gave the Reimers the opportunity to assess what could be produced from their fruit. The first Pinot Noir from Mirabel was made in 2015 and subsequently was released at $70.

“We wanted to produce something that was going to be awesome,” Doug says. “With six acres, we can only do the best with what we have. We are only going to produce the best.”

The 2016 Chardonnay, just being released, is produced with fruit purchased from a Naramata Bench vineyard. Mirabel will need to purchase grapes for several more vintages until the estate Chardonnay begins producing in three or four years.

“As soon as our Chardonnay comes in, the wine will all be estate grown,” Dawn says. The portfolio will then also include a Pinot Noir rosé (the first was released in the summer of 2017) and a sparkling Pinot Noir. The 100-case cuvée for that was made in the 2017 vintage and will not be released for two years.

By limiting itself to just estate-grown grapes, Mirabel will never be a large producer.  The volume of the debut Pinot Noir was 237 cases; the Chardonnay was 185 cases; the rosé was 100 cases.

Here is a note on the Chardonnay.

Mirabel Chardonnay 2016 ($40). The aromas and flavours are rich and tropical, beginning with orange peel and buttery notes on the nose. The bright citrus flavours are supported subtly by toasty oak. Good acidity gives the wine a refreshing finish as well as the potential to develop in the cellar for the next five years. 93.


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