Thursday, September 13, 2018

Corcelettes Winery: Swiss flavour in the Similkameen





 Photo: Jesce and Charlie Baessler of Corcelettes

From its start in 2013 on a postage-stamp vineyard new Cawston, Corcelettes Estate Winery now is solidly established on 21 acres north of Keremeos in the Similkameen Valley.


The original Corcelettes winery was opened in 2013 on a three-acre vineyard near Cawston by Urs and Barbara Baessler and their winemaker son, Charlie. His wife, Jesce, has now joined the business to look after marketing and to manage the tasting room.

The original vineyard, which was sold last year, was planted just to white varieties, including Chasselas, the Swiss white varietal.

The opportunity to grow quickly came in 2015 when the Baessler family was able to buy the former Herder winery. That winery had operated from 2004 until it closed in 2013. The late Lawrence Herder had planted at least eight acres of vines, among them Syrah and Bordeaux reds, which grow so well here.


Charlie’s career in wine began at the Herder property in 2008. Born in 1985, he had just completed a science degree in 2007. While he was deciding what to do next, he began working for Herder, first in the vineyard and then in the cellar. When he finished the 2008 crush, he moved to Burrowing Owl Vineyards. He stayed there until his family began developing Corcelettes.

During the early years at Corcelettes, Charlie also worked at the Clos du Soleil winery, which was being planted just down the slope from Herder. “I have always had my eye on this place since I worked here,” Charlie says of the Herder property.

Charlie’s parents are from Switzerland, where the family farm on Lake Neuchatel was called Domaine de Corcelettes. Urs and Barbara emigrated to Canada, buying a grain farm near Brandon in 1978.

Urs and Barbara moved to British Columbia in 2007, attracted by mountains reminding them of Switzerland. They bought an organic garlic farm near Cawston and converted it to vines in 2010. This was the original vineyard, sold after Corcelettes moved to the larger property.

Being Swiss, the Baesslers included Chasselas, Switzerland’s most widely planted white, among the varietals in the original vineyard. That grape was one of three anchoring a white blend called Trivium. Now that Chasselas from the original vineyard is longer were available, the Baesslers have begun buying the grapes from St. Hubertus Estate Winery – the other British Columbia winery with Swiss owners.

At Corcelettes, Charlie recently released a single variety Chasselas wine. “We are looking to plant Chasselas at a vineyard in Cawston that is a little bit cooler,” Jesce says. “This site here is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. In Switzerland, Chasselas is all grown near Lake Geneva – not too cold in the winter and not too hot in summer.”

The Herder property taken over and extended by the Baesslers grows excellent big reds. “Cabernet Franc is one of our rock star varietals in this vineyard,” says Jesce. “Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah are our three cheer leaders.

The winery’s original tasting room was part of the baronial house which Lawrence Herder had turned into a winery. Charlie and Jesce took over the top two floors of the house after the birth of their twins. The tasting room was moved down to the winery level, which is now crammed as production increased at Corcelettes to 3,000 cases a year.

The new tasting room, which opened in late August, 2017, allows Corcelettes to greet winery visitors away from the production area. The view from the tasting and its deck offers a panorama over the Similkameen Valley.

The vineyard, now more than 15 acres, has given Charlie access to red varieties and to Chardonnay. The winery also purchases grapes from several other Similkameen vineyards, allowing it to offer a full portfolio.

A note on names. The elder Baesslers they had a farm  in Switzerland named Corcelettes. Menhir, the winery’s excellent Cabernet Syrah blend, takes its name from stone monoliths found in Europe. 

Here are notes on the wines.

Corcelettes Santé 2017 ($19.04 plus tax). This is the winery’s first sparkling wine, a carbonated response to the rising demand for sparkling wines. It is a blend of 60% Pinot Gris and 40% Chardonnay. It begins with fruity aromas. It has flavours of citrus and pear, with a crisp, refreshing finish. 90.

Corcelettes Trivium 2016 ($19.90). This is a blend of 40% Chasselas, 35% Pinot Gris and 25% Chardonnay. The wine begins with aromas of apple, with a note of wet stone minerality. On the palate, there are flavours apple, pear and lychee. This is the final vintage of Trivium because the grapes in the blend are directed now to sparkling wine and to varietal Chasselas, which has just been released. 90.

Corcelettes Chasselas 2017 ($21.65 for 92 cases). This refreshing white just screamed for a cheese fondue, the classic Swiss pairing. The wine begins with aromas of peach and citrus. On the palate there are layers of lemon, pineapple and quince flavours. The wine is available only at the winery. 92.

Corcelettes Gewürztraminer 2017 ($17.90 for 175 cases). The wine begins with floral and spicy aromas leading to flavours of grapefruit and pineapple with a spicy finish. 90.

Corcelettes Oråcle 2017 ($19.90 for 190 cases). This is made with Zweigelt, a variety that Charlie has been getting for several vintages from LadyHawke Vineyard near Keremeos. It only took four hours of skin contact with half the grapes to achieve a festive pink hue. The wine has aromas and flavours of wild strawberry and strawberry on the refreshing and dry finish. 90.

Corcelettes Pinot Noir 2017 ($24.90 for 575 cases).  Deep red in colour, the wine has aromas and flavours of cherry and strawberry. It is juicy on the palate, with a developing silky texture. 90.

Corcelettes Merlot 2015 ($26.90). This wine was released last October. The aromas are powerful, beginning with notes of blueberry and black currant jam. The texture is rich and concentrated, with flavours of black currant, black cherry and plum. 92.

Corcelettes Merlot 2016 ($26.90 for 490 cases). The release of this wine is imminent. It begins with aromas of black cherry and blueberry leading to flavours of black currant, black cherry, vanilla and cedar. The tannins are firm but ripe. The wine will cellar well. 91.

Corcelettes Menhir 2015 ($31.90). This is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah, fermented and aged 16 months in oak puncheons. It is a round and generous wine, with sweet fruit aromas and flavours of black cherry, cassis and mocha. 93.

Corcelettes Meritage 2015 ($34.90). This is 60% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. The wine was aged 16 months in a combination of French and American barrels and vats. It begins with aromas of cassis and vanilla, leading to flavours of black currant, black cherry, tobacco and dark chocolate, with a spicy note to the lingering finish. 92.

Corcelettes Meritage 2016 ($34.90 for 325 cases). The release of this wine is imminent. The blend is 46% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. This is an elegant and polished red, with aromas of black cherry, cassis and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of black cherry and black currant mingles with notes of dark chocolate and cedar. Once again, there is a lingering, spicy finish. 92.

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