Evolve Cellars Lawrence Buhler
Now in its second year, Evolve Cellars has given veteran Summerland wine grower Harry McWatters a place to hang his hat while his other winery, Time Estate, completes converting a movie theatre in downtown Penticton into a winery.
Harry and his daughter, Christa-Lee McWatters Bond, leased the former Bonitas Winery last year, turning it into Evolve Cellars. The tasting room is at 20623 McDougald Road, Summerland.
Bonitas opened in 2008, based on a lakeside vineyard north of Summerland – and coincidentally, not far north of Sumac Ridge Estate Winery, Harry’s original Okanagan winery. Sumac Ridge is now owned by Constellation Brands while Harry continues to have his finger prints are all over the BC wine industry.
The scenery around Bonitas is so picturesque that Lawrence Hopper, the former owner, once arranged to have a helicopter based there, offering sightseeing tours.
But when the Bonitas wines did not achieve the same altitude as the helicopter, the winery was put on the market. Harry took the opportunity to lease it as an outlet for wines more modestly priced than those of his other brands, Time and McWatters Collection.
Last month, Encore Vineyards, the holding company for Time and Harry’s other brands, took over a former theatre and is now creating an urban winery in Penticton. That move was triggered when Harry sold the Sundial Vineyard – with its half-completed winery – to a Chinese consortium.
Evolve Cellars wines have the benefit of winemaker Lawrence Buhler, the veteran winemaker who had been recruited by Encore in 2015.
Lawrence, who has been involved in the wine industry since 1999, was previously the chief winemaker at Colio Estate Winery, a major Ontario winery based in Harrow. Previously, he has worked with Peller Estates and Angels Gate in Ontario, as well as Cape Mentelle in Australia.
Lawrence, who has extensive family in the Okanagan, was attracted by the opportunity to work with Okanagan grapes. "It's going to be very exciting to make wines in the Okanagan and be close to family at the same time," he said last year.
Evolve’s 2015 wines provide the first glimpse of his winemaking hand with Okanagan grapes. Here are notes on four wines just being released.
Evolve Riesling 2015 ($16.99 This wine has aromas of citrus with floral notes and a hint of honey. On the palate, there are flavours of citrus, apple and peach. The flavours and the aromas are lifted by the surprising amount of residual sugar, 23 grams. But winemaker Lawrence Buhler has balanced the wine very nicely: there also are 11 grams of acidity. Asa result, the finish is tangy and seems almost dry. 88.
Evolve Pinot Gris 2015 ($15.99). The wine has a clean “fresh air” aroma of spring blossoms with hints of white peach. On the palate, there are flavours of nectarine and pear with a hint of spice on the finish. 90.
Evolve Gewürztraminer 2015 ($15.99). This has an appealing aroma of spice, lychee and grapefruit. On the palate, there are flavours of lychee, ripe nectarine, honeydew melon, all punctuated with spice and an off-dry finish. 89.
Evolve Rosé 2015 ($16.99). The wine has a light salmon pink hue with aromas of watermelon and wild strawberry. It delivers juicy flavours of strawberry, cherry and watermelon. The slightly off-dry finish lifts the fruity aromas and flavours. 90.