Sunday, September 2, 2018

Roger Wong's "Intriguing" success

 Photo: Winemaker Roger Wong in the new Intrigue cellar

Prior to opening Intrigue Wines in 2009, Roger Wong made 400 cases from the 2008 vintage.

In this fall’s vintage, he plans to make about 15,500 cases. And he hopes to sell most of it from Intrigue’s busy wine shop in Lake Country.

Few Okanagan wineries have such meteor growth in just a decade – and a decade in which many other new wineries opened and in which the quality of almost everyone’s wine was better each year. I don’t know what magic dust Roger has on his shoes but, if I owned a winery, I would like some too.

Roger, who was born in Vancouver in 1965 and has a geography degree, worked n a federal government job until he was 30. Having been a home winemaker since he was 17, Roger then followed his passion. He volunteered at Tinhorn Creek for the 1995 crush. They hired him and encouraged him to take winemaking courses. He became winemaker for Pinot Reach Cellars in 1998 and, following an ownership change there, moved to Gray Monk in 2005 as a winemaker (a position he still retains).

He first tried to launch his independent Riesling label, Focus, while at Pinot Reach, suffering a setback in 2003 when forest fires drenched the grapes in East Kelowna vineyard with smoke.

He rebounded five years later by launching Intrigue with his wife, Jillian, and partners Geri and Ross Davis. Both the Wongs and the Davises planted Lake Country vineyards. Conveniently, Geri and Ross live in a rambling house, half of which was soon turned into a winery.

The winery is just up the hill from the Intrigue wine shop which is strategically located beside Okanagan Centre Road, one of Lake Country’s most-travelled streets. The Chase Winery, which has a restaurant, opened last year just across the street from Intrigue. And there are five other wineries in the neighbourhood. These attract a number of wine tourists. “If we can bring more traffic to Lake Country, we all win,” Roger believes.
Last year, Intrigue added a barrel cellar that is accessible to visitors. Somewhere down the road, Intrigue’s rising production will require the partners to move winemaking from the Davis house to a dedicated winery. The first step was taken last year when Intrigue, which has been crushing at Gray Monk, equipped its own crush pad. Currently, the Davis house is given over to wine storage. Almost all of the tanks are outside, including two 30,000-litre tanks on order for this fall.

“We know we need to put in a winery building,” Roger says. “Down here [beside the wine shop] would be the reasonable spot. There is three-phase power down here. It is a big jump … a couple of million dollars to do it.”

Here are notes on the current releases from Intrigue.

Intrigue I Do Sparkling Wine 2016 ($19.90 for 2,000 cases). This is a very quaffable sparking wine with a delicately pink in hue and with a good mousse. There are aromas and flavours of raspberry and cranberry. The finish is crisp. 90.

Intrigue Pinot Gris 2017 ($16.90 for 1,430 cases). The wine begins with aromas of pear and apple. On the palate, there is a medley of fruit flavours – apple, nectarine, ripe pear – lifted by a touch of residual sugar. The finish lingers. 90.

Intrigue Gewürztraminer 2017 ($16.90 for 980 cases). The wine begins with classic aromas of spice, with flavours of lychee and ginger. By arresting fermentation, the winery has retained just enough residual sugar to lift the flavours and flesh out the texture. There is a lingering finish of tropical fruit flavours. The balance, however, seems dry. 90.

Normal"> Intrigue Chardonnay 2017 ($16.90 for 405 cases). Some 12% of this wine was fermented in new French oak barrels. That added complexity, with a toasty note mingled with the citrus aromas and flavours. The finish is fresh. 90.

Intrigue Social White 2017 ($14.90 for 3,050 cases). This is a blend of 68.3% Riesling, 28.4% Gewurztraminer, 3.3% Muscat Canelli. The wine is an uncomplicated, easy-drinking blend. It has aromas and flavours of lemon, pear and apple, with a juicy texture and a hint of residual sweetness. 90.

Intrigue Riesling 2017 ($16.90 for 950 cases). This dry Riesling, with just 10.9% alcohol, mingles aromas and flavours of citrus and petrol around a fine mineral spine. 90.

Intrigue Focus Riesling 2017 ($N/A for 205 cases). This elegant Riesling begins with aromas of citrus and a hint of petrol. At this stage of its youth, the wine is still tight. There is no rush to open a wine with such intense fruit flavours. The finish is very long, with a lovely spice lingering on the palate. 92.

Intrigue Frosted Vines 2016 ($18.90 for 468 cases). This wine is a blend of 47% Kerner, 30% Riesling, and 23% Ehrenfelser. The grapes were picked after the first frost. As in the production of Icewine, the object is to concentrate aromas and flavours. This wine is balanced to finish almost dry, even with 40 grams of residual sugar. It has citrus aromas and flavours. The texture is full and luscious. The sweetness kicks in on the long, long finish. 90.

Intrigue Social Blush 2017 ($16.90 for 2,010 cases). This is 63.3% Riesling, 16.3% Gewürztraminer, 8.5% Merlot, 7.5% Rotberger and 4.4% Kerner. It begins with aromas of wild strawberries; that is echoed in the flavour, along with cherry. The texture is juicy. 89.

Intrigue Social Red 2016 ($18.90 for 1,000 cases). This is 92% Cabernet Franc, with dramatic aromas of blackberry and cherry. The flavours are intense, with smoky, cherry notes. The tannins are ripe. 91.
This wine is sold out but the 2017 release is imminent.

Intrigue Damitz Good Red Blend ($24.90). The wine is a tribute Bordeaux blend, with a portion of the proceeds going to different community projects each year. There is a hint of vanilla and black currant on the nose; this is echoed on the palate. The wine is firm, with an age-worthy texture. 90.

Intrigue Merlot 2015 ($21.90 for 600 cases). This wine was aged in oak for 12 months. It begins with aromas of cassis and back cherry, leading to spicy flavours of black currant, black coffee and chocolate. The palate is generous and the finish lingers. 91.



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