Monday, July 2, 2012

Intrigue Wines makes four in Lake Country

Photo: Interior of Intrigue wine shop; courtesy of Intrigue Wines

Now there are four wineries with tasting rooms in Lake Country – the North Okanagan community still better known perhaps as Winfield.

The senior citizen among these wineries is Gray Monk Estate Winery, which opened in 1982, and had to attract wine tourists all on its own until Arrowleaf Cellars opened in 2003 and Ex Nihilo in 2009.

The new kid on the block is Intrigue Wines, which has had wines on the market for several years but which has now opened a wine shop at 2291 Goldie Road. The shop, which overlooks a vineyard, is no more than 10 minutes west of Highway 97, and about the same distance from Gray Monk.

These four wineries make for a nice one-day wine tour, including a stop for lunch at the excellent Gray Monk restaurant.

Plus, a fifth winery is expected to open a wineshop nearby next year: 50th Parallel Estate Winery, which is growing Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer not far from Carr’s Landing.

Intrigue was launched in 2009 by two couples: Roger and Jillian Wong, and Ross and Geri Davis. Roger is the winemaker for Intrigue as well being on the winemaking staff at Gray Monk.

He can juggle the two jobs because of the difference in scale. Gray Monk, where George Heiss Jr. also makes wine, produces about 80,000 cases a year. Intrigue made 1,400 cases in the 2011 vintage and might make as much as 3,000 cases in 2012.

To date, Intrigue has been able to sell its wines through the internet, through private wine stores and through restaurants. However, as the winery grows, a wine shop open to the public is essential. The shop is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm until at least October.

The shop, 1,750 square feet in size, is modest but functional, with a warm interior built with wood and bricks salvaged from heritage farm buildings that were being demolished.

Currently, there are six wines in the Intrigue portfolio. Here are my notes.

Intrigue Riesling 2011 ($16.90 for a production of 420 cases). This exquisitely balanced wine has just enough residual sugar to take the edge off the racy acidity while lifting the fruity aromas and flavours. There is a mouthful of lime and grapefruit, with good spine of minerals. 90.

Intrigue Pinot Gris 2011 ($16.90 for 100 cases). This is a full-bodied Pinot Gris, with aromas and flavours of apples and pears. The crisp finish is refreshing and lingering. 90.

Intrigue Gewürztraminer 2011 ($16.90 for 210 cases). The winemaker again has left in enough residual sugar to round out the texture while keeping the finish reasonably dry. It begins with attractive floral and spicy aromas and has flavours of citrus and lychee. 90.

Intrigue “11” ($14.90 for 450 cases). In each vintage, Roger puts together a white blend with some of the best grapes available to him. The 2011 blend is 76% Riesling, 21% Gewürztraminer and 3% Muscat Canelli. The winery’s own notes describe this as “summer in a glass.” Once again, Roger has balanced the lively acidity of 2011 with a touch of sweetness. The wine has spicy and herbal aromas, leading to flavours of grapefruit and peach. 90.

Intrigue Merlot 2010 ($19.90 for 230 cases). While Roger relies on vineyards around Lake Country for most of his grapes, he goes south, to warmer vineyards, for Merlot. These grapes come from Summerland; and the wine gets 12 months in French oak before being released. The wine is still youthfully firm, with a good concentrated texture and with aromas and flavours of black currant and blackberries. 90.

Intrigue Focus Riesling 2011 ($19.90 for 69 cases). The Focus label was created to feature wines made with the grapes that Roger believes are best suited for a region. For Kelowna and Lake Country, he thinks Riesling is the best varietal. And he selected his very best Riesling grapes to make this elegant wine with citrus aromas and honey and grapefruit flavours. The wine is balanced to be perceived dry, although there is again enough residual sugar to give the wine some weight. This wine will age well. 91.

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