Photo: Culmina's Golden Mile winery
Culmina Family Estate Winery was so named because it is the culmination of a career in wine for Donald and Elaine Triggs. They founded Culmina in 2007 and sold it in 2019 to Arterra Wines Canada. The career has come full circle.
Donald, who was born in Manitoba in 1944, began his career in 1972 with the winery arm of John Labatt. He left that a decade later to run the North American operations of a British fertilizer company. But in 1989, when Labatt sold its wineries, Donald led the team buying them and co-founded Jackson-Triggs. This became Vincor, which had grown to the world’s 14th-largest wine company by the time Constellation Brands (the largest wine company at the time) took it over in 2006.
Donald was not done with wine. A year later, he and Elaine began developing 56 acres of densely planted vines on three mountainside benches on the Golden Mile as the site of Culmina.
The three vineyard benches, each with differing soils and elevations, provide winemaking options. Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon make up the largest blocks, followed by Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. There is also 2½ acres of Grüner Veltliner, the Austrian white.
The well-equipped winery is perched on the mountainside, allowing the winemakers to move wine gently with gravity. The design also affords superb views over the valley from the wine shop.
Culmina was deeply influenced by the same French winemaking expertise that Donald had employed in the development of Osoyoos Larose Winery. Initially, that was a joint venture between Vincor and Bordeaux’s Groupe Taillan; now it is solely owned by the Bordeaux group.
Culmina tapped the expertise of Alain Sutre, the same Bordeaux consultant who helped get Osoyoos Larose launched, as well as Pascal Madevon, the initial winemaker at Osoyoos Larose.
In 2015, when Pascal opened his own consultancy, he was succeeded by another French-trained winemaker, Jean-Marc Enixon. It is hardly surprising there are Bordelaise fingerprints all over Hypothesis, Culmina’s flagship red blend.
When Donald and Elaine decided to retired last year, the sale of Culmina to Arterra had considerable symmetry for the Triggs family. Arterra’s wineries include the Canadian wineries that once formed the heart of Vincor in Canada. Jay Wright, Arterra’s president, formerly was a right-hand man to Donald at Vincor.
The two recently released reds indicate that Arterra has taken over some great assets.
Here are notes on the wines.
Culmina Hypothesis 2015 ($46). This is the flagship red from Culmina. It is a blend of 36% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec. Dark in colour and full on the palate, the wine begins with aromas of cherry and plum mingled with sage and cassis. The wine has flavours of dark fruit mingled with toasted oak, chocolate and spice. The long, ripe tannins lead to a generous and robust texture and a long finish. 93.
Culmina No. 006 Unfiltered ‘Jeunes Vignes’ Malbec 2016 ($29 for 250 cases). The number wines from Culmina are special projects, usually offered just to members of the wine club. This name of this wine suggests grapes from young Malbec vines were used. That may account to the vibrancy of the wine. It has appealing floral and fruit aromas with flavours of cherry and blueberry with a hint of pepper. 92.