Photo: Detail from label with the flying dog.
See Ya Later Winery in Okanagan Falls has a lot going for it: a breath-taking location, a romantic history and well-made wines at popular prices.
It also is the destination for wine tourists travelling with dogs, especially in a hot year like 2017. The winery always provides water for its canine visitors as well as wines for their owners. There is even a winged dog on all the labels.
Here is an excerpt from the profile in the most recent edition of John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide.
This is a dog lover’s winery with a wonderful story, reflected both in its name and in that of several wines – Belle, Nelly, Ping, Rover, Hunny and Jimmy My Pal, formerly the names of dogs. This picturesque property on a mountainside above the vineyards of Okanagan Falls was owned for about 45 years by Major Hugh Fraser. Over that time he owned Nelly, Ping, and numerous other dogs. When they died, each was buried under headstones which, in recent years, have been placed at the base of a tree near the vintage home (circa 1902) now serving as the charming tasting room.
According to one legend, the Major brought an English bride with him when he moved to this farm after service in World War One. She could not handle the isolation and returned to England, leaving a note signed “See Ya Later.” The real explanation, or so it is said, is that the major, a prolific correspondent, scrawled “See Ya Later” at the end of his letters.
This is the third name for this winery. An entrepreneur named Albert LeComte launched the winery in 1986 under his own name. It became Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards when Sumac Ridge founder Harry McWatters bought it in 1995. A few years after Vincor (now Constellation) purchased the winery in 2000, it was rechristened to take advantage of the history and the canine legacy. The winery honours that legacy by welcoming visitors with dogs and by contributing to the major’s favourite charity, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals.
This 40.5-hectare (100-acre) property is the highest elevation vineyard in the south Okanagan, rising to 536 metres (1,759 feet) and sloping to the northeast, an unusual exposure for the northern hemisphere. However, this cool location makes it one of the Okanagan’s best sites for Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Ehrenfelser. Its Gewürztraminer block, at 26 hectares (65 acres), is the single largest planting of this aromatic variety in North America. The other grapes for See Ya Later wines come from Constellation’s extensive plantings in the south Okanagan.
Winemaker Dave Saysomsack (left), in releasing these wines, commented that the 2016 vintage was excellent for white wines. (It certainly was also a good year for reds, not many of which have yet been released.)
“Our white vineyards yielded full crops,” the winemaker says. The resulting wines are “bursting with flavour and a rounded acidity reflected in our 2016 Chardonnay, 2016 Pinot Gris and 2016 Riesling.”
The 2015 Meritage, of course, is from a hotter vintage – but that season led to full-bodied and ripe reds.
Here are notes on the wines.
See Ya Later Ranch Chardonnay 2016 ($17.49). There is what the winery calls “a splash” of Pinot Gris blended in this wine. The wine begins with aromas of citrus and apple with spice and herbs. On the palate, the fruit flavours are luscious, with notes of melon, pear and citrus, subtly enhanced with a very light touch of oak. 90.
See Ya Later Ranch Riesling 2016 ($16.99). Extended cool fermentation has preserved the floral Riesling aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of lime and lemon and stone fruit, with just the right amount of acidity to give the wine a very refreshing tang. The finish goes on and on; and the wine is dry. 91.
See Ya Later Ranch Pinot Gris 2016 ($16.99). Forty per cent of this was fermented in French oak; the rest in stainless steel. The wine begins with aromas of peaches and apples. On the palate, there are flavours of pears, peaches and apples. The texture is mouthfilling and the finish lingers. 90.
See Ya Later Ranch Ping Meritage 2015 ($24.99). This is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, aged 14 months in American and French oak barrels. The wine begins with aromas of black cherry and cassis which are echoed in the red fruits on the palate. There are also notes of vanilla and mocha. The tannins are ripe and the texture makes this full-bodied red easy and approachable. 90