Monday, November 19, 2018

Class of 2018: Lightning Rock Winery

 Photo: Vintners Jordan Kubek and Tyler Knight

Lightning Rock Winery
6611 Giants Head Road
Summerland, BC, V0H 1Z7

During his career, Ron Kubek has lent a helping hand to many. That has included franchisees for Keller Williams Realty Canada, the company he founded in 1989 on Vancouver Island and developed nationally.

It included improving the fundraising capacity of the Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Penn., and backing a charitable foundation that supports a hospital in Romania.

Most recently, he has enabled his winemaking daughter, Jordan and her husband Tyler Knight, to launch Lightning Rock Winery in Summerland.

“He has always been really supportive of his kids,” says Jordan, who was on the winemaking team at Okanagan Crush Pad from 2011 until this September. When Ron asked her what her goal was in the wine industry, she replied that she and Tyler hoped to start their own winery. Jordan recounts: “He said, ‘Let me help you with that – we can start a project together’.”

Since 2016, Ron has purchased two vineyards and established Elysia Vineyard and Winery, the holding company for Lightning Rock. He styles himself both the chief executive and the chief tasting officer. Beginning with the 2017 vintage, Jordan and Tyler have made the wines; Tyler manages the vineyard.



Lightning Rock’s soft opening coincides with the “Light Up The Vines” Festival in Summerland on November 24, December 1 and December 2.

Purchased in 2016, Elysia Vineyard is a mature vineyard with 3 ½ acres of Pinot Noir, one acre of Viognier and half an acre of Syrah. The winery – for the time being a beautifully renovated log home – sits at the top of a steep eastern-facing slope with an exceptional view over Okanagan Lake.

Earlier this year, Ron purchased the Canyonview Vineyard (four acres of Pinot Noir and one of Chardonnay) which had been planted by Krimo Souilah. A barrel salesman and a former Napa winemaker, he bought the property about 2003 with a winery in mind. When that did not materialize, he sold grapes to various wineries, including Okanagan Crush Pad, where Jordan came to admire the quality of the fruit.

Lightning Rock also gets grapes from a 2 ½ acre Summerland vineyard called St. Katherina, purchased last year by Tyler and Jordan. Planted mostly to 50-year-old Pinot Noir, the vineyard had become derelict. Regulatory restrictions prevented removing the property from the Agriculture Land Reserve. The owner agreed to let the young winemakers take it over and revive it.

Jordan was born in Victoria in 1990. Teenage jobs in restaurants fired her wine interest. She aspired to become a sommelier and came to the Okanagan in 2010 to complete her training. She worked the harvest at Stoneboat that vintage and then joined Okanagan Crush Pad, eventually becoming the sparkling wine specialist there.

Tyler was born in Prince George in 1986 and grew up in the Okanagan. He has a degree in biology, with an ecology major, from the University of British Columbia. He was trying to figure out what career to pursue when he met Jordan in 2012 and began working in the vineyard at Crush Pad.

The winery sponsored Jordan’s winemaking studies at Washington State University and gave her time off in winter to make wine in the southern hemisphere. Attracted both by wine growing and by travelling, Tyler went along.

They did harvests at Seresin Estate, a biodynamic winery in New Zealand, at  Xanadu Wines in Australia and at Clos des Fous, a Chilean winery whose owners include Pedro Parra, a viticultural consultant  to Crush Pad. In 2015, the couple travelled to a number of European wine regions, adding to their experience.

“I wanted to travel and figure it out,” Tyler says of wine. “Everything I have learned has been through my reading and by experience. This will be 10 vintages for me. The science is not particularly complicated. For me, winemaking is mostly experience.”

They were eager to launch their own winery when Jordan’s father purchased the Elysian Vineyard. They made 1,100 cases of wine in the 2017 vintage and, with fruit from Canyonview and a little from reviving St. Katherina, doubled production in 2018 to about 2,250 cases.

About 40% of the winery’s production is Pinot Noir; about 30% is traditional sparkling wine and the remainder is Chardonnay, Viognier and a little Syrah. The latter varietal will likely be replaced by a grape Tyler judges better suited to the Summerland terroir. “The Syrah is not happy here,” he says.

They are making a number of single vineyard wines to explore the terroir of their three vineyards.I am super interested and excited to compare the three single vineyard sparkling pinot noirs, as they are all on very different soils but are all still in Summerland,” Jordan says. All vineyards will be organic.

“In the winery we are using a mix of neutral puncheons and barrels with some newer oak, a foudra and a couple Nomblot concrete tanks (concrete for the Viognier),” Jordan says. “All ferments will be wild using a "pied de cuve" from grapes in the vineyard as a starter. Minimal sulphur and no other additions is our goal. We also are aiming for no fining or filtration but we are not interested in making faulted wines.”

Here are notes on the first three releases. 

Lightning Rock Viognier 2017 ($25 for 350 cases). The wine begins with aromas of quince and stone fruit that are echoed on the palate. It has the classic firm spine of the variety. 90.

Lightning Rock Rosé 2017 ($25 for 317 cases). Made with Pinot Noir, this wine was fermented on neutral oak puncheons. The wine is fresh and fruity, with an appropriately deep hue. The finish is dry and the texture has good weight, making this an excellent food wine. 90.

Lightning Rock Pinot Noir 2017 ($35 for 379 cases). Twenty-eight days macerating on the skins have given this rich aromas and flavours of cherry and spice. The texture is silky and the finish lingers. 91.


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