Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Singletree opening second winery on Naramata Road

 Photo: Singletree's Andrew Etsell

Four years after opening its tasting room on Abbotsford’s Mt. Lehman Road, Singletree Winery plans to open a winery and a second tasting room on Naramata Road by mid-year.

It is only the second winery in BC with wine shops in both the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan. The other is Township 7 Vineyards & Winery, which has a winery in Langley that opened in 2001 and a second outside Penticton that opened in 2004.

Singletree has just acquired Ledlin Family Vineyards, a small winery that opened last summer on Naramata Road. In January, Fred and Erica Ledlin, the owners, listed the winery for sale at $1,850,000. Singletree has not disclosed what it paid.

Singletree was opened in 2015 by Andrew Etsell, his wife, Laura Spreckel, and Andrew’s parents, Garnet and Debbie. It is located on a vineyard where planting began in 2010. Now 13 acres in size, it grows Siegerrebe, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and what may be the only planting of Grüner Veltliner in the Fraser Valley.

Singletree’s first five vintages, 2013 through 2017, have been made at the Okanagan Crush Pad Winery in Summerland. As production has grown – Singletree made 3,500 cases of wine in 2017 – the Etsells began planning a processing facility on their Mt. Lehman property, where they already have a tasting room.

“We had gone through the design phases and we were moving to the building phase,” Andrew says. “But prices just kept going up and up for building in the valley. And the time line would not have been met for us to do crush there in 2018.”

In January, they began looking at wineries in the interior that were for sale. The Ledlin property appealed because it is on Naramata Road, one of the Okanagan’s best locations for wine tourism. As well, Singletree has major grape contracts with vineyards on the Naramata Bench. “It was an easy decision to choose Naramata,” Andrew says.

The Ledlin winery had been started by Fred Ledlin, a former professional hockey player (18 years in Europe) and then a Vancouver builder. Several years ago, he and Erica, looking for a summer residence in the Okanagan, came across this five-acre property on Naramata Road, which was in receivership. The 3.5 acre vineyard was being uprooted just as they bought the property. They managed to save 14 rows of Merlot and Pinot Gris and decided to replant the remainder with Cabernet Franc and Pinot Blanc.

“We designed this as our weekend getaway,” Fred told me in an interview last year. “Now we had a vineyard. What do we do with the grapes? We decided to open up a winery at the front end of the property.”

The winery opened last summer with wines from the 2015 and 2016 vintages, made with estate fruit and with purchased grapes. Wine was also made in the facility in the fall of 2017. Singletree, with its own flourishing brand, decided not to buy any Ledlin inventory.

“It seemed to me that there was a dream,” Andrew speculates on why the Ledlin winery was put on the market so quickly. “After the first year of being open, they realized how hard wineries are, and decided to sell. For us, it was great timing.”

The Etsell family to add additional equipment to the 2,000-square-foot Ledlin facility, with plans to double the size next year to accommodate Singletree’s growing production. Andrew also plans upgrades to the vineyard, although there is little additional acreage suitable for vines.

“There were plans to build a house there,” Andrew says. “We are not planning to build a residence there. We will be based out of the valley here.” Two rooms in the Ledlin winery that had been designed as bed and breakfast suites will be used by the new owners and their staff.

“I am looking at splitting my time between the two stores,” Andrew says. “I will be up in the Okanagan one week and down in the Fraser Valley the other. That gives me somewhere to stay.”

Singletree Naramata Bench, as the Etsells plan to call their winery, gives them the opportunity to expand sales exposure for their wines. The intent is to have Fraser Valley wines available there as well as Singletree’s Okanagan wines.

Singletree has just begun to release its 2017 wines, which were made by Andrew and consulting winemaker Matt Dumayne. Andrew, who trained in horticulture, has mentored with Matt and has taken professional winemaking courses.

“Even when we have the production facility this year, Matt will still be helping me with the wines,” Andrew says. “We work really well together. It is nice to have someone who knows the in and outs of winemaking and has a similar style to how I like to make wine.”

Here are notes on the new releases.

Singletree Pinot Gris 2017 ($17.30). The estate-grown fruit was fermented and aged in stainless steel. The purity of focus is remarkable: crisp, fresh aromas and flavours of citrus and pear with a lively finish. 91.

Singletree Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($17.30) While previous vintages had been fermented and aged in barrel, this wine – again from estate-grown grapes – was fermented and aged in stainless steel. Once again it shows a laser-like brightness, with aromas and flavours of lime and lemon. The finish is tangy. 90.

Singletree Grüner Veltliner 2017 ($17.30). This is the winery’s second vintage of estate-grown Grüner Veltliner. It is a late ripening Austrian white that delivers plenty of flavour and aroma from a Fraser Valley terroir. It begins with aromas of grapefruit and herbs, leading to flavours of lime, grapefruit and cantaloupe. The wine has good weight on the palate. 91.

Singletree Sieggie 2017 ($16). This Fraser Valley-grown Siegerrebe, arguable Singletree’s flagship varietal. The wine begins with aromas of spice and citrus. On the palate, it is a bowl of tropical fruits – lychee, grapefruit and melon – with a juicy texture and a crisp finish. 91.

Singletree Rosé 2017 ($19.48). This wine is made with organic Pinot Noir from a West Kelowna vineyard. The wine has a delicate pink hue with aromas and flavours of strawberry and rhubarb. The finish is tangy and crisp. 91.

Singletree 2016 Wild Siggy ($21.60). Fermented on the skins with wild yeast, this is Singletree’s natural wine. I have never been a big fan of natural wines but this is one I would drink with pleasure. The wine has a light gold hue, dramatic aromas of citrus and honey that lead to flavours of peach and pear. Rich in texture, the wine finishes with spice notes. 91.

Singletree Pinot Noir 2015 ($21.66). The wine is made with grapes from the Lazy Dog Vineyard on the Naramata Bench. Dark in colour, the wine was aged 11 months in new French oak. Subtle notes of oak mingle with aromas and flavours of cherry. The wine also has some of the classic forest floor notes of Pinot Noir. 91.

Singletree Merlot 2016 (not yet released). The wine is approachable now but Andrew will age it in bottle until the fall, allowing further development of the cassis aromas and flavours of black currant and black cherry. The texture is full and the finish is long. 92.

Singletree Harness 2014 ($30.35 for 275 cases). This is blend of 51.3% Merlot and 48.7% Cabernet Sauvignon. Made with grapes from a great red vintage, this wine was aged in barrel for 18 months. It begins with aromas of cassis, black fruits and spice leading to flavours of blackcurrant and black cherry mingled with notes of leather and chocolate. 91.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home