Photo: Cynthia and David Enns
David and Cynthia Enns, the power couple on the Naramata Bench when they owned Laughing Stock Vineyards, are back with a tiny Pinot Noir winery called 1 Mill Road Vineyard.
The first wine, a 2018 Pinot Noir priced at $48 plus tax, will be released in June, 2020, to those who have their names on the winery’s online mailing list. There are only 400 cases. Partial proceeds from the sale will go to the Food Coalition, a partnership between Vancouver restaurants and local farmers to support the needy impacted by COVID-19.
David and Cynthia sold Laughing Stock in 2017 to Arterra Wines Canada. They had launched that winery in 2003 and, for a number of years, also ran a successful financial consulting firm on the side. They exited that business with the growing success of Laughing Stock where the production in recent vintages approached 12,500 cases.
1 Mill Road, the name of the winery, is taken from the address of the property, located at the northern edge of the village of Naramata. David and Cynthia bought the five-acre property in 2012, planted vines in 2013, and moved there in 2016, after having a house built.
“We went looking for a property, mainly to move away from the winery property because we were trying to get some balance in life,” Cynthia explains.
1 Mill Road’s vineyard, which is on a bench about 50 feet above Okanagan Lake, was a former organic pear orchard that was semi-abandoned when they bought it. They planted a little more than 1 ½ acres of Pinot Noir vines, all clone 115. It was their strategy to keep their fingers in the wine industry but with a less onerous commitment than Laughing Stock had become.
“When we sold Laughing Stock, we knew we wanted to keep working with this little vineyard,” says Cynthia, who is the grape grower. “We stare at that vineyard from our dining room table. It is very immediate, more so than at Laughing Stock, the way we experience the vineyard. It is small enough that I have been able to tackle the farming without too much difficulty.”
The winery’s 2018 release was made at Laughing Stock and was then transferred to 1 Mill Road when David had completed a production facility there. At 1,000 square feet, it is – they believe – the smallest commercial winery in British Columbia. David equipped it with the best of modern winemaking equipment, scaled to the winery’s production.
The production facility is not at the vineyard but nearby, in a former packing house in the village. The packing house has been renovated and turned into what David calls the Naramata Wine Vault. Currently, seven other wineries rent storage space (and there is a waiting list).
David and his industry supporters are also planning to develop a shared tasting room here for a number of wineries. While that would not be permitted under current regulations, David and his partners, backed by the British Columbia Wine Institute, are negotiating with government to have shared tasting rooms allowed.
David has been making Pinot Noir for about a dozen years, and always with clone 115, sometimes regarded as the go-to clone for solid Pinot Noirs.
“At my heyday at Laughing Stock, I was doing 60 or 70 ferments each vintage, which came down to 12 or 15 wines,” says David (referring a portfolio of multiple varietals). “To get back to making 500 cases and doing one wine is just a fantastic opportunity to focus.”
The challenge, however, is to build in complexity when making a small volume from a single vineyard. At 1 Mill Road, this is resolved both in the vineyard and in the wine making.
The vineyard undulates slightly toward the lake, meaning the grapes do not all ripen at the same time. At harvest, pickers pass through the vineyard several times.
In the winery, David has four fermentation vessels, with the primary ones being two vats from a cooperage in Burgundy. “Basically, the 2018 had four different types of treatments, all hand-punched down, all temperature controlled,” David says. “I re-assembled the wine post-ferment.”
The 2019 vintage, which is now aging in barrel, was made at the facility at the Wine Vault. A barrel sample shows that the wine is as promising as the 2018, if not even better.
David believes that the terroir of the vineyard brings a subtle earthy backbone to the wines. He came to that conclusion because he started working with these grapes from their third leaf and now knows what to expect.
David and Cynthia are also looking for a small additional source of Naramata Bench Pinot Noir, if only to bulk up the production at 1 Mill Road. Wineries usually are required to produce a minimum of 500 cases.
Here is a note on the first release.
1 Mill Road Pinot Noir 2018 Home Block ($48 for 400 cases). The wine presents in the glass with a light and delicate hue and aromas of raspberry and blackberry. Elegant and silky on the palate, the wine has flavours of cherry and strawberry with a hint of earthiness on the finish. 91.