Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wineries in Vancouver's "backyard"

Photo: Backyard Vineyards winemaker James Cambridge

Now that the Okanagan wineries are a winter highway away from Vancouver, it is useful to remind wine tourists that  a dozen wineries are just beyond the Port Mann Bridge.

One of these wineries, Backyard Vineyards in Langley, makes the point of its accessibility in its very name.

Except for the fruit wineries, all of wineries in Vancouver’s “backyard” make wines both with Okanagan or Similkameen fruit and with grapes from Fraser Valley vineyards.

This blog reviews six wines from Backyard Vineyards and three from Singletree Winery in Abbotsford, which opened earlier year.

A recent blog looked at the current releases from Township 7 Vineyards & Winery. Township 7 operates a winery near Penticton but also another (its original winery) in Langley Township.

A future blog will deal with Chaberton Estate Winery (formerly known as Domaine de Chaberton). Established in 1991, Chaberton was the first grape winery in the Fraser Valley and now is by far the largest. It attracts visitors not just with its wines but also with a popular French bistro which offers lunch and dinner during the latter days of the week and on weekends.

I will list all the other valley wineries after these reviews.

Backyard Vineyards, which opened in 2002 as Glenugie Vineyards, changed names and ownership in 2008. The wines became worth a visit after the winery hired James Cambridge, a seasoned winemaker, in 2013.

Cambridge started his career in oenology 15 years ago,” the winery said when announcing his hiring. “He studied at Niagara College, completing a fully integrated Oenology/Viticulture Program and graduated at the top of his class. Cambridge has since gone on to work for some of Canada’s most respected wineries including Henry of Pelham, Creekside Estate Winery, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Le Vieux Pin, LaStella Estate Winery, and Fort Berens Estate Winery.”

Here are notes on the wines.

Backyard Vineyards Riesling 2014 ($20.25). This wine, which has won three gold medals, begins with citrus aromas mingled with herbal notes. On the palate, there are flavours of ripe grapefruit, with a hint of green apple. The wine has a good mid-palate weight. It is balanced to finish dry. 88.

Backyard Vineyards Gewürztraminer 2014 ($20.25). The wine begins with floral aromas lightly spiced with a hint of ginger. It has flavours of lychee and honeydew melon with a hint of grapefruit on the finish. 88.

Backyard Vineyards Merlot 2013 ($21.98). The wine begins with aromas of blueberry and black currant jam. Soft on the palate, the wine has flavours of cassis and plum, with a hint of cedar and spice on the finish. 88.

Backyard Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2013 ($21.98). The wine begins with aromas of blackberry, raspberry and black currant. The palate is generous, with flavours of black cherry and black currant, mingled with hints of dark chocolate and espresso.  The wine has a lingering, spicy finish. 91.

Backyard Vineyards Gossip 2012 ($19.98). Gossip is a blend of 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 25% Syrah and 22% Cabernet Franc. The wine begins with aromas of cassis, plum, vanilla and oak. I can’t do better than winemaker James Cambridge’s tasting notes: “Ripe raspberry, black cherry, cocoa, black forest cake, white pepper, black olive and mint.” 9o.

Backyard Vineyards Porch Wine NV ($24.25 for 500 ml). The word, Port, is off limits to wineries not in Portugal, which leads to inventive naming of fortified wines made elsewhere. I am still chuckling at this winery’s pun for its fortified (19% alcohol) red. This is a reasonably full-bodied wine with aromas of vanilla and figs. On the palate, there are flavours of black cherry, figs and chocolate with a finish recalling spicy fruit cake. 89.

Singletree is operated by Garnet Etsell with his son, Andrew (above). The Etsell family also happens to be one of major turkey growers in the Fraser Valley.

The turkey business is on a 67-acre property that the Etsells bought in 2001. This land has been farmed since the 1870s. “It has been a dairy farm, a vegetable farm, a soft fruit operation, a turkey operation and now a vineyard,” Garnet said. “We have the remnants of the old orchard.”

They began planting vines in 2010. They now grow about 10 acres of grapes and they lease a 1.5-acre Siegerrebe vineyard near the Abbotsford International Airport. Except for a few experimental rows of Pinot Noir, the Singletree vineyard is planted entirely in white varieties: Siegerrebe, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, a small block of Grüner Veltliner and a large block of Sauvignon Blanc.

With Andrew as the understudy, the winemaking is handled by another seasoned vintner, Matt Dumayne, the chief winemaker for Okanagan Crush Pad Winery.

The winery’s name has an agricultural root. A singletree is part of a working horse’s harvest that is positioned at the animal’s shoulders and anchors straps used in pulling a buggy or a plough.

Here are notes on the wines:

Singletree Winery Siegerrebe 2014 ($19.04 for 395 cases). This early ripening white grape is well suited to cool coastal vineyards. This wine is an example of how showy and tropical this varietal can be, with aromas of grapefruit, raisins and spice that leap from the glass. Juicy on the palate, it is refreshing and lingering, with bright, but well-balanced, acidity. 90.

Singletree Winery Farmhand White 2014 ($17.30 for 95 cases). This is a blend 77% Pinot Gris and 23% Sauvignon Blanc; both are grown in the estate vineyard. The wine was barrel-fermented. It begins with intriguing aromas of butterscotch and tangerine, leading to citrus flavours. It is light and refreshing, with 11.8% alcohol and with a crisp dry finish. 88.

Singletree Winery Pinot Noir 2014 ($21.65 for 169 cases). Light and charming in style, the wine begins with aromas of cherry and toasty oak. On the palate, there are flavours of cherry and raspberry, with spice on the finish. The texture is typically silken, as one expects from this variety. 88.

The wineries

Backyard Vineyards
3033 – 232nd Street, Langley, BC.
Toll Free: 1.866.233.9463
T: 604.539.9463

Blackwood Lane Vineyards & Winery
25180 8th Ave, Langley, BC
T. 604.856.5787

Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm & Meadery
2595 Lefeuvre Road
Abbotsford, BC, V4X 1L5

T. 604.856.2125

Chaberton Estate Winery
1064 216 St, Langley, BC V2Z 1R3
T. 604.530.1736

The Fort Wine Co.
26151 - 84th Avenue,
Langley, B.C. V1M 3M6
T. 604.857.1101

Krause Berry Farms & Estate Winery
6179 248th Street,
Langley, BC, V4W 1C3
T. 604.856.5757 

Lotusland Vineyards,
28450 King Road,
Abbotsford, British Columbia, V4X 1B1
T. 604.857.4188

Maan Farms Estate Winery
790 McKenzie Road
AbbotsfordBC, V2S 7N4
T. 604.864.5723

Mt Lehman Winery
5094 Mt Lehman Rd
AbbotsfordBC V4X 1Y3
T. 604.746.2881

Singletree Winery
5782 Mount Lehman Rd,
AbbotsfordBC, V4X 1V4
T. 604.381.1788

Township 7 Vineyards & Winery
21152 16th Ave, (at 212th St), 
LangleyBC, V2Z 1K3
T. 604.532.1766

Vista D’Oro Winery
346 208th Street
LangleyBC, V2Z 1T6
T. 604.514.3539

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