Tuesday, July 19, 2016

8th Generation has a new tasting room

Photo: New tasting room at 8th Generation Vineyard

Bernd and Stefanie Schales, the owners of 8th Generation Vineyard, had drafted the plans in 20o7 for a winery at their vineyard near Okanagan Falls when a major setback occurred: they could not find a contractor to build it in time for that fall’s vintage.

“Then in July 2007, this one came on the market,” Stefanie told me in 2008. She was referring to a cavernous building set in a vineyard beside the highway south of Summerland. It had opened in 2003 as Adora Estate Winery. 

When Adora’s two founding partners had fallen out, one moved the winemaking equipment to a packing house on Black Sage Road and the other put the empty plain Jane building on the market.

 “We thought, okay, it is a winery facility,” Stefanie recalled. “We don’t have to put in drainage, and so on. When we first showed up here, we thought this is too huge. But then, when we thought everything over, it was not too bad a solution.”

They scrambled to put in their own winemaking equipment and to modify the building with, among other changes, a utilitarian wine shop. One of strengths of the facility was a location visible to drive-by traffic. Most of 8th Generation’s annual production of 5,500 cases can be sold directly to passing consumers.

This spring 8th Generation increased its appeal to those consumers by replacing the wine shop with a tasting room in the character house (circa 1942) on the property. The house was part of the package that Bernd and Stefanie (below) bought in 2007. For a number of years, it was rented to tenants.

With the application of Stefanie’s drafting skills, the old house has been turned into an elegantly rustic wine shop beside a garden with a picnic license. The windows behind the tasting bar look out towards the garden. The interior has been stripped to expose the original wood. Some interior walls were removed (steel beams now hold up the roof) to create a large, airy tasting room. The old fireplace has been refreshed to become part of the décor.

The difference between this and the former airless wine shop is dramatic. The former had all the romance of a hardware store. The new wine shop has the feel of a charming country inn.

In an added touch, the white-tiled steps leading into the shop bear the names of ancestors of the owners, underlining the winegrowing heritage in Germany of Bernd (eight generations) and Stefanie (10 generations).

Before coming to Canada, Bernd, who was born in 1972 at Grünstadt in the Pfalz and trained at Weinsberg, had spent nine or 10 years managing a vineyard for his family’s Weingut Schales in Flörsheim-Dalsheim. When he and Stefanie had decided to strike out on their own, they considered opportunities in South Africa, New York State and Ontario before being seduced, during a vacation, by the Okanagan’s beauty.

In 2003, they bought an established 10-acre Okanagan Falls vineyard with a breathtaking view of Vaseux Lake. Subsequent purchases enabled them to increase their vineyards to 25 acres, including the Summerland vineyard and one on Naramata Bench.

Their picturesque original vineyard, where terraced vines wrap around the base of the slope, was planted in 1985. It includes a four-acre block of Riesling. The variety is obviously familiar to Berndt and Stefanie. It is also the signature variety for 8th Generation’s wines and is produced in three or four different styles, depending on the vintages.

“The Riesling vines were already 18 years old when we took over, but we had no idea how special the site is,” Stefanie has said. “We are lucky. We knew the exposure was good but we had no idea how the wines would taste. The previous owner was selling the grapes.”

The 8th Generation wines are made primarily with estate-grown fruit. Here are notes on the wines currently available in the 8th Generation wine shop.

8th Generation Pinot Gris 2014 ($17.39). This is the last vintage of Pinot Gris from this winery, for two reasons. Stefanie thinks the market for that variety is overcrowded. More to the point, the grapes are needed for the winery’s two sparking wines. This Pinot Gris,  20% of which was fermented in barrel to enrich the texture, has flavours of citrus and pear. 88.

8th Generation Chardonnay 2014 ($19.15). This is a barrel-fermented Chardonnay with very subtle oak framing the bright flavours of apples and citrus. 90.

8th Generation Riesling Selection 2015 ($24.78). This is the winery’s premium Riesling made only  in the best vintages with grapes from a carefully selected block at the Okanagan Falls vineyard. The wine is fermented with wild yeast. The complex aromas have just begun developing (the winery recommends decanting Selection for about four hours to let it open up). On the palate, lime flavours wrap around the mineral notes. The texture is rich but the finish is dry. 92-94.

8th Generation Riesling Classic 2015 ($18.26). This is another dry Riesling, beginning with aromas of lemon and flavours of green apples. The finish is tangy and refreshing. 91.

8th Generation Riesling 2015 ($18.26). This a Riesling where a touch of residual sweetness propels the lemon/lime aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of peach mingled with a hint of grapefruit. 91.

8th Generation Integrity 2015 ($20). This frizzanté-style wine is 52% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Gris and 18% Kerner. Balanced almost dry, this refreshing wine delivers flavours of citrus, apples and peaches with a good display of bubbles. 90.

8th Generation Confidence 2015 ($20). This frizzanté-style pink wine is a fruity blend of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Gris. It has aromas and flavours of cherry and strawberry with a hint of sweetness on the refreshing finish. 90.

8th Generation Pinot Noir 2014 ($21.30). This has aromas of strawberry and cherry that are echoed in the flavours, along with class forest floor/earthy complexity. The wine has begun to develop a silky texture. 90.

8th Generation Cabernet Merlot 2014 ($20.86).  Still youthfully grippy, this wine – which is 80% Merlot) begins with appealing aromas of cassis and blueberry. On the palate, there are flavours of black currant, black cherry and blueberry. 91.

8th Generation Syrah 2014 ($21.74). This wine has notes of pepper in the aroma and on the palate, along with flavours of plum and cherry. 90.

8th Generation The Red One 2015 ($19.15). This juicy summertime red is an unoaked blend of Merlot and Syrah. Just brimming with cherry flavours, it is a soft, chewy red best chilled before serving. 88.

8th Generation Late Harvest 2013 ($14.35 for 200 ml). Made with botrytis-affected Chardonnay, this has honeyed tropical fruit aromas and flavours, including apricots. Very well-balanced, this desert wine dances on the palate. 91.

8th Generation Syrah Icewine 2010 ($52.10 for 375 ml). This wine was aged for three months in French oak, adding complexity to the rich tropical flavours of quince and plum and marmalade. The wine manages to be sweet and savoury at the same time. 94.

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