Monday, September 15, 2014

Daniel Bontorin's craft at Seven Directions and Volcanic Hills

Photo: Winemaker Daniel Bontorin 

In more than a decade of Okanagan winemaking, Daniel Bontorin has established himself as a specialist in rosé wine.

He launched his own label, Seven Directions, in the 2012 vintage to produce just rosé. Daniel is also the consulting winemaker for Volcanic Hills Estate Winery. He makes his rosé – the volumes are modest – under the Volcanic Hills license. The Seven Directions website indicates where the wines can be found.

As my notes on current Volcanic Hills wines indicates, Daniel also makes good wines for his employer, which probably explains why he is allowed to do a bit of freelancing.

Daniel’s rosé-making pedigree goes back to the 2005 vintage when he made Vaïla, the outstanding rosé at Le Vieux Pin. That wine, along with rosé from JoieFarm Winery, started the renewed interest in a wine style made embraced by the majority of wineries.

Born in Surrey in 1976, Daniel kicked around at several jobs in the Okanagan, including importing motorcycle parts, until 2000 when he recognized that the real future was in wine. After courses at Okanagan University College, he worked in the cellars at several wineries including Fairview Cellars, Domaine Combret, Hillside and Hester Creek. Then he did a vintage in northern Italy.

“My wife and I are both Italian,” Daniel says, who has dual citizenship. “Her Dad lives there and I have relatives there. So we decided to go for a trip, and we figured to make it worthwhile, I will do a vintage over there.”  He returned just in time to join LVP for the 2005 vintage.

Vaïla is a Pinot Noir rosé. Daniel made three vintages at Le Vieux Pin before moving on to consult. He made his mark at Volcanic Hills in his initial vintage there, producing the winery’s first Gamay Noir rosé in 2010 vintage. The wine promptly won a Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence. Daniel continues to produce the Gamay rosé for his client.

For his own rosé, Daniel likes Pinot Noir. In particular, he likes the organic Pinot Noir grown by Kalala Vineyard at Westbank. “The 2007 Vaïla was from the Kalala Vineyard, so I knew the quality of the fruit,” he says. In the 2013 vintage, he also made a rosé with the Zweigelt grown in the vineyard of Sarwan Gidda, one of the owners of Volcanic Hills.

The inspiration for the Seven Directions rosé comes from France. “I have been drinking some French rosé wines the past couple of years,” Daniel says. “I like the texture and the feel.”

The Seven Directions Pinot Noir Rosé 2012 was partially fermented and aged in oak. In 2013, after allowing the crushed grapes to soak on the skins for 18 hours, Daniel fermented all of the juice in French oak puncheons, aging it there for three months. The objective was to produce a rosé with good texture and intensity.

The Zweigelt rosé, on the other hand, was fermented only in stainless steel, likely because it is a variety with more flavour and colour than Pinot Noir. It is one of two Zweigelt rosés from B.C. wineries 2013 that have quite impressed me. The other was made by Corcelettes Estate Winery in the Similkameen.

“I pick the fruit for my rosé as if I were making a red wine,” Daniel has remarked. “Most people make a rose with low alcohol. I have always picked my fruit for rosé at optimal ripeness, as if I were making a red wine. For Pinot Noir, I try to hit 24.5 to 25 brix.  My rosés are always 13.5%-14.5% alcohol, with a rich texture. That’s what they do in France. They don’t pick it to make a rosé; they pick it at the proper physiological ripeness of the grapes.”

Here are my notes on Daniel’s rosé releases from 2013 as well as the current portfolio at Volcanic Hills.

Seven Directions Pinot Noir Rosé 2013 ($27.90 for 100 cases). This wine is now sold out. The wine begins its appeal with a delicate rose petal hue and with pure fruit aromas (strawberry), delivering strawberry and cherry flavours. The texture is generous, giving this elegant dry wine a lingering finish. 91.

Seven Directions Zweigelt Rosé 2013 ($19.90 for 245 cases). This wine has a vibrant ruby hue. It begins with aromas of raspberry and blackberry. The wine is full and juicy on the palate and is packed with fruit flavours. The finish is dry with a spicy note. 90.

Volcanic Hills Magma White 2012 ($15.90). This is a blend of 41.5% Chardonnay, 27% Gewürztraminer, 11% each of Pinot Gris and Viognier, and 9.5% Riesling. This is a juicy white with layer upon layer of melon, lychee, peach and pear flavours. 88.

Volcanic Hills Rosé 2012 ($16.90). This is 92% Gamay, 8% Pinot Noir. A lively and vibrant rosé, it has aromas and flavours of cherry and rhubarb. A touch of residual sugar gives it a juicy texture. 88.

Volcanic Hills Single Vineyard Gewürztraminer 2013 ($20.90).  The wine begins with a bouquet of rose water, spice, lychee and fresh peaches. The wine delivers flavours of lychee, grapefruit and ginger. The palate is rich, thanks to a touch of residual sugar very nicely balanced with refreshing acidity. 90.

Volcanic Hills Reserve Chardonnay 2011 ($24.90). This was fermented and aged six months in French oak. The oak flavours are quite subtle, contributing a buttery/toasty note without submerging the pineapple and lemon aromas and flavours. The wine was not put through malolactic fermentation and remains fresh and lively on the palate. 90.

Volcanic Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 ($27.90). Aged 17 months in new French oak barrels, this wine begins with aromas of strawberry and mushroom. On the palate, there are toasty, earthy flavours, including strawberry and cherry. The wine has a silky texture. 90.

Volcanic Hills Merlot 2012 ($24.90). This is a big, ripe Merlot (14.2% alcohol) with aromas and flavours of black current, black cherry and vanilla. With its generous texture, the wine is drinking well now but it can also be cellared another four or five years. 90.

Volcanic Hills Syrah 2008 ($27.90). While Volcanic Hills has 65 acres of grapes in West Kelowna, the Syrah for this wine came from hotter terroirs in Oliver and Osoyoos. The wine was aged two years in barrel and one year in bottle before release. All that aging has given the wine a seamless texture. It has flavours of vanilla, cherry and blackberry with a pinch of white pepper on the finish. 91.

Volcanic Hills Lava 2012 ($19.90 but sold out). This wine addresses the clientele that prefer an off-dry red wine. It is a blend of 33% Zweigelt, 23% Pinot Noir, 21% Merlot, 16% Gamay and 7% Maréchal Foch, with a dosage of Icewine to add a touch of sweetness. This is a juicy, medium-bodied red with flavours of cherry and strawberry. 88. 

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