Friday, October 20, 2017

Bordertown: a winery built on hustle and good wine

Photo: Bordertown's Mohan Gill

Mohan Gill, the owner of Bordertown Vineyards & Estate Winery, seems to have the drive to expand his business in his bones.

When I first interviewed him in 2015, the recital of his life and career so far was suffused with energy and ambition. After telling me about his vineyards and the winery he was just opening, he added: “I have an orchard. When I have free time, I will also launch cider. The cider business is going well, too.”

The cidery was opened this summer!

The Bordertown winery and cidery is immediately north of Osoyoos. You cannot miss the grand highway-side buildings, including a tasting room with an entrance framed by stone-sheathed pillars. The winery was so fast out of the gate with quality wines that it won a Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence last year for its flagship red, a meritage blend called Living Desert Red.

The more recent releases show that the wine was not just beginner’s luck. These are well-grown wines.

Born in India in 1976, Mohan came to the Okanagan with his parents in 1993.  “I went to Oliver Secondary School,” he recounts. “Then I started working.”

He bought his first orchard (with an older brother) in 1996. He began delivering his own fruit to Vancouver buyers in 1999 with his pickup truck. He turned over fruit delivery to another agency in 2007 but he still packs cherries, peaches and apples under his own brand. His customers include several major retailers.

Mohan dipped his toe into viticulture by planting two acres of grapes in 2005. A quick study, he was comfortable enough with grape growing that he expanded to 20 acres in 2007. He has continued to increase his vineyard holdings. He now grows 38 acres of grapes at two Osoyoos vineyards and another 50 acres in a Peachland vineyard.

One of the winemakers buying his fruit encouraged Mohan to expand into wine production. He did not need much encouragement. He recruited consulting winemaker  Jason Parkes and Bordertown began making its first vintages in 2013.

The winery, now producing more than 10,000 cases a year, has just begun its fifth vintage with consulting winemaker Daniel Bontorin, (right) who took over the cellar several years ago, making the wines.  

“On this property, I am growing five different varieties: Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat, Gewürztraminer and Viognier and Pinot Gris,” Mohan says, referring to the vineyard near the winery. He also has Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris and a block of Grüner Veltliner. The Peachland vineyard, a cooler terroir, is planted primarily in white varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Riesling.  He also grows Pinot Noir there.

The result is an extensive portfolio of wines. Here are notes on current releases.

Bordertown Pinot Gris 2016 ($N/A for 1,000 cases). The wine begins with aromas of nectarine and peach. The palate delivers stone fruit flavours, along with ripe pear and blood orange. The texture is generous and the finish is crisp. The flavours, with a refreshing hint of citrus, linger on the palate. 90.

Bordertown Living Desert White 2016 ($18 for 1,135 cases). This is a blend of 63% Pinot Gris, 27% Riesling and 10% Muscat. It begins with aromas of apple, pear and peach. On the palate, the flavours echo the aromas, with hints of tropical fruit. The refreshing finish is balanced well, with the acidity offsetting the residual sweetness that gives richness to the texture. 90.

Bordertown Muscat 2016 ($22 for 378 cases). This wine begins with delicate aromas of rose petals and spice. After that delicacy, the intensity of the flavours takes one by surprise. There are notes of nectarine and cider apples. The dry finish is punctuated with a light ginger spice. 91.

Bordertown Grüner Veltliner 2016 ($25 for 379 cases). The wine begins with aromas that blend citrus and herbal notes. On the palate, there are flavours of melon, pineapple and white peach. There is a hint of herbs and white pepper on the crisp, refreshing finish of this dry white. 91.

Bordertown Cabernet Franc Rosé 2016 ($23 for 378 cases). This dry rosé presents in the glass with pink hue that verges on orange. In fact, the wine will appeal to the growing number of orange wine fans even if this is fermented on the skins. It has aromas of watermelon and strawberry, leading to flavours of ripe apple and watermelon. 90.

Bordertown Merlot 2014 ($N/A for 434 cases). This wine begins with aromas of black cherry, blueberry and plum, leading to vibrant bright berry flavours – blackberry and black currant. The wine is rich on the finish, with notes of black coffee and dark chocolate mingling with juicy berries. 90.

Bordertown Cabernet Franc 2015 ($24 for 1,800 cases). This bold, ripe red makes a great statement for Cabernet Franc from the South Okanagan. It begins with intense brambly, black cherry aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of blackberry, fig, mint and tobacco with a note of oak. Ripe but firm tannins assure that this wine will continue to improve in the cellar for five to eight years. 94.

Bordertown Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($N/A  for 211 cases). Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of cassis, black cherry and vanilla. On the palate, the wine delivers flavours of black currants, plums, figs, sweet tobacco and chocolate, all framed with well-handled oak. This harmonious medium-bodied wine lingers on the finish. 91.

Bordertown Syrah 2015 $30 for 122 cases). This wine presents in the glass with a deep midnight purple hue that is quite dramatic.  The aromas of plums and figs are equally dramatic. On the palate, this is a rich and generous wine with sweet berry flavours mingled with licorice, cedar and pepper. The finish is exceptionally long. 93.

Bordertown Living Desert Red 2014 ($25 for 980 cases). This is a blend of 45% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, aged 12 to 18 months in French oak. The wine begins with aromas of cassis, dark cherry, vanilla and mocha. On the palate, it delivers intense red berry flavours mingled with dark chocolate. On the lingering finish, there is a delightful mix of savoury sweet fruit and herbs. 92.

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