Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A loaf of bread and a jug of wine

 Photo: Platinum Bench banners advertise its breads

Before Fiona Duncan and Murray Jones launched Platinum Bench Estate Winery in 2012, she had a high-stress job in Winnipeg as vice-president of production for Nygård International, the fashion designer and manufacturer.

To relieve stress, she took up the hobby of baking bread, taking courses at the San Francisco Baking Institute. It has now come in handy at the winery and she continues to take courses. This spring she added baking with ancient grains and making gluten-free bread to her repertoire.

The hobby has developed into one of the appeals to visiting this winery on Black Sage Road. Freshly-baked bread is available for sale. It is also paired with the wines served in the tasting room. It is a rare visitor not bowled over by the experience.

Both the breads and the wines are available for sale on the winery web site. The breads are shipped par-baked.

Murray, who owned a manufacturing company, and Fiona got into the wine business by buying a producing vineyard in 2011. For them, it was a major lifestyle change with a learning curve that was more or less vertical.

The 2011 vintage was a challenging one, especially for a couple learning viticulture on the fly (with the help of Okanagan College courses). Richard Cleave, one of their neighbours and a viticulturist with 40 years of experience, become a good friend and a valued mentored.

Judging from the wines recently tasted there, the stars have now lined up for Fiona and Murray. The 2012 and 2013 vintages were stronger than 2011 and, so far, 2014 is also looking very good. Helped by a veteran winemaking consultant, Murray has put some excellent wines in bottle.

The tasting room features a shaded deck overlooking the vines. In increasing number of visitors are stopping for a glass of wine and a few slices of fresh bread.

It brings to mind Edward Fitzgerald’s famously translated quatrain from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

 "A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!"

If you relax with your book of poems on the Platinum Bench deck, these are the wines:

Platinum Bench Pinot Gris 2013 ($20). This is a delicious wine, with rich aromas and flavours of citrus, pear and baked apples. 90.

Platinum Bench Chardonnay 2012 ($25). One-third of this wine was in new oak; one-third in neutral oak and one-third in stainless steel. The result is a crisp, fruit-forward Chardonnay with citrus and tangerine flavours. The buttery and oak notes serve as a subtle background. 90.

Platinum Bench Rosé 2013 ($20). This wine is made with juice from Merlot and Gamay grapes. The wine shows cherry and strawberry aromas and flavours with a touch of white pepper on the dry finish. 90.

Platinum Bench Gamay Noir 2013 ($20). This medium-bodied wine has spice and cherry aromas and flavours. It is a very quaffable red. 90.

Platinum Bench Merlot 2012 ($25). The wine has good concentration and ripe tannins, with aromas and flavours of black currant and black cherry. 90.

Platinum Bench Cabernet Franc 2012 ($25). This wine is just brimming with brambleberry aromas and lively red fruit flavours. 90.

Platinum Bench Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($25). This wine shows the vintage, with minty aromas, red cherry flavours and a lean texture. 88.

Platinum Bench Platinum Red 2011 ($30). This wine shows how Merlot helps fill out a 2011 blend. This wine is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 5% Gamay Noir. There are aromas and flavours of black currant and cherry. The texture is more generous than the solo Cabernet. 89.

Platinum Bench Meritage 2011 ($35). This is another illustration of good blending making a wine better than its parts might have been. All five Bordeaux reds are in this blend. It has a firm, age-worthy texture, with aromas of black currants, black cherry, cola and coffee. 90.

Platinum Bench Syrah 2012 ($N/A). This is an elegant Syrah with aromas and flavours of spicy black cherry supported by hints of deli meats and a touch of pepper. 91.

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