Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Great Estates opens Penticton tasting room

Photo: Great Estates's Josie Tyabji

The Arterra Canada wineries styled as Great Estates of the Okanagan have just opened a wine experience centre in Penticton that appears to break new ground for the B.C. wine industry.

The centre, located in a 2,500 square foot are on the ground floor of the Penticton  Lakeside Resort’s new wing, effectively is the first offsite tasting room for an associated group of wineries.

Offsite tasting rooms had been proposed by Okanagan wineries during the liquor policy review several years ago by the previous provincial government. Even though there is nothing radical about the idea – these exists in many other wine regions – the proposal was left on the cutting room floor.

How has Great Estates pulled it off? They took over a grandfathered wine store license that once belonged to Harry McWatters. The store in the Wine Experience Centre sells wines produced at the eight or nine Arterra brands in the Okanagan. The license prevents the store from selling non-Arterra wines – but is will not stop the centre from inviting other wineries in to host tastings.

The store presumably pays the bills for a centre that is far more than just a wine store.

“The whole objective is to focus attention on the South Okanagan, in terms of a destination and a region,” says Josie Tyabji, Senior Director Estates and Industry for Arterra.

The centre will host tastings, educational programs and food and wine pairings that will involve numerous South Okanagan wineries, not just the Arterra group.

“Our objective is to bring knowledge to the consumer about some of the differences in the soil types; and differences in the varieties that do well in different areas,” she says.  “We are not limited to the wines from the Great Estates themselves. For instance, if we wanted to have an evening or a day to speak to the Golden Mile, we could bring in some guest wineries and winemakers to help people understand why a certain varietal or wine style is doing well in that area.”

At least some of the credit for this idea belongs to Ms. Tyabji. “How did it come about?” she recounts. “I was driving by this building daily. I looked at it and said, that is an incredible space.” It was, she decided, an ideal place in which to develop a wine presentation centre, a ground floor space with windows looking west toward the beach. Those at the tasting bar get a million dollar view along with their wines.

The Lakeside’s new wing is part of a redevelopment of the hotel after the casino moved out. That has freed up substantial space for conferences in the former casino space. “We have had quite a few inquiries already for conferences,” she says. “It is an opportunity to educate people who are coming here but not necessarily for wine touring.”

The media announcement of the centre included six premium wines that represent some of the Great Estates wines that can be found here. These are my notes.

See Ya Later Ranch Legacy Chardonnay 2016 ($32.99). This wine begins with lovely aromas of citrus and pineapple mingled with buttery vanilla, which are echoed on the palate. The oak is very subtly integrated (the wine aged 10 months in barrel, 25% new). Quite simply, this wine is delicious. 92.

Black Sage Vineyard Meritage 2015 ($60). The blend is roughly equal parts Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with a splash of Petit Verdot. This wine was a selection of the 10 best barrels. It begins with aromas of cassis, mint, black cherry and chocolate. Rich on the palate, the wine has flavours of blackberry and black currant. The texture is still firm, indicating a wine that will age well. 90.

Inniskillin Discovery Series Zinfandel 2015 ($27.99.) This is one of the best Okanagan Zinfandels I have ever tasted. It begins with jammy red fruit aromas, leading to luscious flavours of blackberry, cherries and spice cake. The finish is vibrant. 92.

Inniskillin Dark Horse Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 ($35.00). This wine begins with toasty and stewed fruit aromas (cherry, strawberry). The wine had good weight and a silky texture, with flavours of cherry, vanilla and mocha, and with earthy notes on the finish. 90.

Nk’Mip Cellars Qwam Qwmt Syrah 2015 ($32.99). Bold and ripe, the wine begins with aromas of black cherry and deli meats lightly spiced with black pepper. On the palate, there are layers of fig, black cherry and pepper. 91.

SunRock Vineyards Illumina 2013 ($39.90). This is a blend of 64% Zinfandel and 36% Shiraz. Subsequent vintages have slightly more Zinfandel. The Zinfandel accounts for the aromas of blackberry and black cherry. These are echoed on the palate, along with spice and vanilla. 91.


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