It was a big day in July 1907 when the first Great Northern Railway train pulled into the station at Keremeos.
The Great Northern was a railway company founded in 1889 in
Minnesota by a group headed
by James J. Hill, a legendary name in railroading. Its major lines ran between Minnesota and the . Pacific Coast
The line that came through the Similkameen may have been the Vancouver, Victoria & Eastern Railroad but it was owned by the Great Northern.
According to the Wikipedia entry on the Kettle Valley Railroad: “The Kettle Valley] railroad was built primarily in a mile-for-mile battle with the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern Railroad (VV&E). The VV&E was actually owned by Great Northern Railway. The competition between the KVR and the VV&E during constructions of both railways was intense and resulted in many areas within the Southern Interior being serviced by two railways, when one would have been sufficient. Eventually, the hatchet was buried between the KVR and VV&E, as they both were forced to collaborate when constructing their railways through the
.” Coquihalla Valley
All of these historic railways are now gone. (The American portion of the Great Northern was absorbed a generation ago by Burlington Northern.)
But by a remarkable coincidence, both
and Great Northern
now live on wine labels. The Kettle Valley Winery opened in 1996 near Naramata
and was named the railway whose right of way between Kettle
high above what is now Kelowna Naramata
Road. (Today, it is a popular hiking and cycling
route with access to numerous wineries.)
Several years ago, Bob Ferguson and Tim Watt – the owners of Kettle Valley Winery along with their wives – bought a vineyard just southeast of Keremeos, close to the former right of way of the Great Northern. (Technically, the Great Northern Vineyard, as it is called, is owned by spouses Colleen Ferguson and Janet Watts, who happen to be sisters.)
The first wines from this vineyard, which have just been released, carry the Great Northern label. Like the
wines, the Great
Northern wines also have a steam locomotive on the labels, keeping historic
railroading in the family. Kettle
The current vintage with the Great Northern grapes is being handled primarily by Tom’s son, Andrew. His title still is assistant winemaker but, given his resume, a promotion should be in the offing. He completed enology studies at
in 2010. Subsequently, he has gained experience doing vintages in New Zealand Chile, New Zealand,
and the Okanagan. Nova Scotia
The first releases from Great Northern, of course, were made by Bob and Tim. Here are notes on the wines. The wines are available at $22 a bottle in mixed cases – four bottle each of the three wines.
Great Northern Viognier 2012 (101 cases). This has the classic Viognier aromas and flavours of apricot, peach and ripe apple. The texture is rich, reflecting the fact that a portion of the wine was fermented in older French oak. But the flavours and the finish are crisp and tangy, reflecting the tank-fermented portion of the blend. 90-91.
Great Northern Zinfandel 2011 (46 cases). Think
wine has 15.6% alcohol. It is a big, almost porty wine with vanilla and black
cherry aromas; spicy brambly flavours; and – as you would expect – a touch of
heat on the finish. 89. California
Great Northern Syrah 2010 (47 cases). Reflecting a cool vintage, this is a medium-bodied Syrah with notes of plum and with a touch of white pepper on the finish. The relative lack of intensity is due perhaps to the youth of the vines at the time. This would have been the first fruit from a vineyard which was just a year old when the
owners took it over a few years earlier. It could also be that this vineyard wants
deliver elegance rather than power – although that seems unlikely, judging from
the muscular Zinfandel. 87. Kettle Valley