Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Class of 2016: Mirabel Vineyards

Photo: Mirabel Vineyards' Doug Reimer

Doug and Dawn Reimer moved in 2005 from West Vancouver to a property in Kelowna to build their dream home.

Now, they also operate their dream winery, Mirabel Vineyards, which is about to release a $70 Pinot Noir. It will be the most expensive Okanagan Pinot Noir but the quality is  impressive.

The Reimers are Winnipeg natives. Doug, who was born in 1955, is a member of renowned trucking family. His father, Donald, started Reimer Express Lines in 1952 with one truck. It became one of Canada’s largest trucking firms before it was sold in 1997 to Roadway Express, an American company. When the non-compete provisions of the sale ended, the Reimer family launched Reimer World Corp. in 2003, a company that now employs 3,000 in Canada.

Doug and Dawn developed an interest in wine as consumers and collectors, with an eclectic cellar that ranges from Argentine Malbec to Château Pétrus. Dawn also has Italian heritage and comes from a family that made wine at home.

Mirabel Vineyards, however, emerged from their desire to do more than just build a home on their Kelowna property, which is near the Harvest Golf Club and commands a terrific view.

“We have always loved wine but that is not how I got interested in growing it,” Doug says. “When we bought the property, we had such a beautiful piece of property but we thought we could do more than grow apples and pears. They don’t pay very much and they don’t look that good. There are a lot of sprays that go with it. I did not want that around the house. So we decided to rip out the hill in front of us that was blocking our view. After we did that, we asked now what do we do?”

They engaged two masters of wine, Rhys Pender and James Cluer, to advise them. The decision, after soil samples were analyzed, was to plant six acres of Pinot Noir in 2006 on the steep slope. The western-facing vineyard rises from an elevation of 930 feet to 1,220 at the top. Three Dijon clones are grown: 115, 667 and 777.

Doug is a decisive businessman. Growing grapes tested his corporate patience. “The crazy thing about this wine business is that you plant a stick in the ground and you have to wait three years,” he says.  “I am in the transportation business where, when you do something, you do it right away. This waiting business was hard for me to take.”

By the second year, however, the vines produced enough berries to keep him engaged. In the third year, the vines yielded four tons of grapes. For the next number of years, the grapes were sold to two the Okanagan’s premier Pinot Noir producers, Meyer Family Vineyards and Foxtrot Vineyards. Both made vineyard-designated wines that have helped establish the name of Reimer Vineyards.

Selling grapes to Meyer and to Foxtrot enabled the Reimers to assess the potential of their vineyard. “We were waiting to see what this terroir would really produce,” Doug says. “If it produced something we were excited about, then we want to take ownership and put our name on it.”

“We grew with our vines,” Dawn says. “We planted them and watched them grow. I walk the dog every day, up and down the [84] rows. It has been such an experience and we have grown so passionate about it.”

The experience was not without setbacks. A freak hailstorm one day in August 2013 devastated the grapes in the Reimer Vineyard (as well as in several neighbouring vineyards). “It happened in 10 minutes,” Doug says. “We were getting ready for harvest. Everything had been done, all the expenses incurred, and then we lost it all.”

Even so, it did not deter their ambition to make wine. The strong 2015 vintage triggered the decision to launch the winery they call Mirabel Vineyards, from Latin for “wondrous beauty.” They have retained Matt Dumayne (left) to make about 230 cases of Pinot Noir for them at Okanagan Crush Pad Winery, where he also is chief winemaker.

Crush Pad makes its wines in concrete. The Reimers, however, determined that their Pinot Noir would be made in oak barrels from the François Frères cooperage in France. Those barrels are favoured by many Pinot Noir producers, including Foxtrot.

The Reimers clearly intend to raise the bar. “We are trying to establish what will be a superior Pinot Noir in all of Canada, and knock down some doors in Oregon as well,” Doug says. “I love Oregon Pinot Noir. I have done extensive travelling in the Pinot Noir areas in Oregon. Maybe that is where our love started.”

Doug has added an acre and a half of Chardonnay vines to his vineyard this year. Beginning in the current vintage, he purchased Chardonnay grapes to add that wine to the Mirabel portfolio while waiting for the estate grapes to begin production.

In the 2016 vintage, Mirabel is producing about 200 cases of Chardonnay, 100 cases of rosé and about 500 cases of Pinot Noir.

“That’s it,” Doug says. “Eight hundred cases is where we will max out with Pinot Noir. I want to be exclusive. I don’t want to go to 5,000 cases.”

The 2015 Pinot Noir is to be released in the next month or two to select restaurants and through the winery’s website (which is still under development). Longer term plans call for opening an appointment-only wine shop at the winery.

Here is a note on the wine.

Mirabel Vineyards Pinot Noir 2015 ($70 for 237 cases). This elegant wine was aged 11 months in barrels (30% new). Gravity was used to transfer it to barrel and then to the bottling line. The gentle handling is reflected in the silky texture of the wine, which has great purity of fruit. It begins with appealing floral and cherry aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of cherry and strawberry with subtle hints of oak and spice. The wine has good weight on the palate, with lingering finish. 95.


Warren said...

Nice post, as usual. The biggest question left unanswered for us fans of MFV Reimer PN is whether this means the end for that wine. Will Mirabel use all the Reimer vineyard grapes? Is the MFV Reimer a thing of the past?

JohnSchreiner at Goodgrog said...

I believe the Meyer Reimer Pinot Noir (also one of my favourites) is history. There is a 2014 Reimer Vineyard to be released by Foxtrot Vineyards but Foxtrot did not get any Reimer fruit either in 2015.

JohnSchreiner at Goodgrog said...

Further to my comment: Meyer will indeed he releasing Reimer Vineyard Pinot Noirs from the 2015 and 2016 vintages and possibly in future vineyards, depending on how big Doug Reimer wants to get.