Thursday, September 20, 2018

Forest fire survivor Fitzpatrick winery releases its table wines

Photo: Winery president Gordon Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards specializes in very fine sparkling wines but Gordon Fitzpatrick, the president, has been in the wine business long enough to know there is also a solid demand for still wines.

Accordingly, the winery also produces still table wines. It has recently released five white table wines and one red. Consumers who turn off Highway 97 just south of Peachland to visit the winery will also be impressed with the affordable quality of these wines.

They should be pleased to find a winery at all. In July, a ferocious forest fire on nearby Mount Eneas roared down the hillside. The winery was evacuated for three days. But for Highway 97 – and skillful fight fighting – the flames might well have swept through the vineyard toward the winery. Some embers did reach the vineyard but were put out.

The winery, formerly Greata Ranch Vineyards, had been extensively remodelled over two years before re-opening to the public in the spring of 2017. Fortunately, the attractive structure, with a restaurant and an underground Champagne cellar survived.

For Gordon, the experience was déjà vu all over again. “In 2003, and the firestorm at Cedar Creek, we were on the front lines there,” he told Global News. “So I don’t know whether we are unlucky to have had to deal with it twice, or very lucky we came out of it both times in not too bad of shape.”

In 2003, the massive fire swept across Okanagan Mountain Park and ultimately destroyed more than 400 homes in Kelowna. Its progress was contained at the border of the CedarCreek vineyard. However, the thick smoke saturated the grapes to the detriment of their winemaking quality.

Because the 2018 Eneas Mountain fire was earlier in the season, smoke taint is unlikely to be an issue for the Fitzpatrick winery. That will be a relief for those who have come to enjoy the purity and the freshness of the wines here.

Here are notes on the current releases.

Fitzpatrick The Mischief Pinot Blanc 2017 ($18.50 for 516 cases). The wine was aged 55% in neutral oak and 45% in stainless steel in an apparent strategy to augment the texture while retaining the varietal’s crisp fruit. It has aromas of melon and apple that are echoed on the palate, along with a mineral spine. The finish is dry. 90.

Fitzpatrick The Lookout Riesling 2017 ($18.50 for 377 cases). The wine begins with a pleasant note of petrol mingled with citrus. On the palate, there are flavours of lime and green apple. The wine has 20.3 grams of residual sugar which lift the aromas and fleshes out the texture. At the same time, bright acidity balances the palate superbly. The wine has a lively intensity on the finish. The wine is drinking well now but will age into an even more complex wine over the next five years. 93.

Fitzpatrick The Unwinder Ehrenfelser 2017 ($19.50 for 265 cases). The Fitzpatrick family established a cult following for Ehrenfelser at CedarCreek Estate Winery. They continue to champion a wine some call “fruit salad in a glass”. It begins with aromas of ripe pineapple and peach, leading to layers of tropical fruit flavours. There is a touch of residual sugar but the wine is balanced toward a dry, food-friendly finish, with a spine of minerality. 91.

Fitzpatrick Interloper Gewürztraminer 2017 ($18.50 for 512 cases). Made with estate-grown fruit, the wine begins with aromas of ginger and lychee which carry through to the flavours, along with hints of mango and ripe apple. The wine has good weight, finishing on the dry side. 90.

Fitzpatrick The Runabout White 2017 ($16.50 for 803 cases). Made with estate-grown fruit, this is a blend of 43% Chardonnay, 31% Gewürztraminer, 19% Pinot Blanc and 7% Riesling. The long, cool fermentation was in stainless steel. The wine has a moderate 12.2% alcohol, with a crisp dry finish. It has aromas of apple and peach which are echoed on the palate. 90.

Fitzpatrick Sudden Inversion Meritage 2016 ($28.50 for 992 cases). The winery sourced the grapes from Maverick Vineyard in Osoyoos. The blend is 67% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was aged 14 months in French oak (12% new). The ripe tannins and the subtle use of oak contribute to the generous and drinkable texture. The wine has aromas and flavours of black cherry, blueberry and plum with spicy fruit and chocolate on the finish. 91.


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