Sunday, May 27, 2018

Class of 2017: Seaside Pearl Farmgate Winery

Photo: Seaside Pearl's David Zimmerman

David and Allison Zimmerman, who opened Seaside Pearl Farmgate Winery in May 2017 near Abbotsford, are practical people.

Allison once operated a shop called Seaside Pearl on the beach at White Rock. Since she still owned the name, she and David simply transferred it to their new winery.

The winery, of course, is some distance from the seaside. But it is one of three wineries in a cluster in Abbotsford’s Mount Lehman district. David believes the cluster will become larger because several small vineyards in the area also are considering opening wineries.

The two other wineries currently operating nearby are Mt. Lehman Winery, which opened in 2009 and Singletree Winery, which opened in 2015. Both are on Mt. Lehman road while Seaside Pearl’s location at 5290 Ohlund Road is just east of Mt. Lehman Road.  

The three wineries all are within five minutes of each other, making for a very convenient afternoon of wine touring a beautiful rural setting. On a clear day, the views extend across the valley, with Mt. Baker prominent among the mountains.

The Zimmermans moved from the Ocean Park district of South Surrey in 2011, choosing to settle on acreage in the Mount Lehman district. Both have portable skills. David, who was born in Vancouver and who grew up in Kamloops, trained as a tool and die maker at the BC Institute of Technology and then moved on to mining. Latterly, he and several partners have a gold property in northern BC. Currently, they are recovering placer gold but plan to drill the property.

Allison was born in Trinidad and Tobago but has lived in Canada since she was 13. She is an entrepreneur with expertise in sales and real estate.

“We always wanted to be on some acreage,” David says. “We kept looking and we found this place, because our daughter is into horses, and we have some horses here. Then we had all this land out front and no agricultural status for farm tax status. We have always been interested in wine and grapes, so we decided to plant grapes.”

At the time, Fraser Valley vineyard development was being promoted by David Avery, who had opened an Abbotsford area winery in 2002. He and a partner were promoting the planting of hybrid vines that had been developed in Switzerland and were said to be suited to the growing conditions of the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island.

David Zimmerman was one of the property owners who ordered vines from David Avery. On a field in front of the current wine shop, David Zimmerman in 2012 planted a large block of a white hybrid called Petit Milo. On a small plot behind the tasting room, he planted a red hybrid called Cabernet Foch.

Then David Avery’s winery, called Lotusland, failed, stranding growers like the Zimmermans who had expected to sell their grapes to Lotusland. So the Zimmermans, eminently practical, took the next step and fulfilled an ambition to have their own winery.

They recruited consulting winemaker Mark Simpson. While he made an early vintage at his BC Wine Studio custom crush facility in the Okanagan, the Zimmermans turned a portion of the farm’s rambling stables into a processing facility and a barrel room. With an eye to future tasting events, the high-ceiling barrel room has been equipped with chandeliers above a long, sturdy table. The effect is rustic baronial.

The tasting room at Seaside Pearl is a separate building, styled to resemble a chapel (left). It is a cozy room but the winery’s picnic license and its barrel cellar both have the capacity to handle overflow crowds.

The wines, made from both Fraser Valley and Okanagan grapes, are released under labels celebrating the rich history of the Fraser Valley.

For example, there is a red blend called Landing Road. The winery explains the name is inspired “by one of the scenic roads that wander through the Fraser Valley’s stunning Wine Country. Early settler Sam Lehman built a network of trails surrounded by rich farmland. The trail leading from the wharf at Lehman’s Landing was called Landing Road.”

There is a Sam & Isaac Pinot Gris. The winery explains: “Sam and Isaac Lehman arrived on the banks of the Fraser River in 1873. Upon arrival they were quickly enamoured with the beautiful surroundings and the potential of the fertile land. Sam and Isaac set to work clearing the land and building a wharf for a riverboat to have access to the farming riches of the area, now called Mount Lehman.”

The sparkling wine is called Daffodils because the flowers were an early crop in the area. Charlotte, as the Petit Milo is called, was the wife of a horticulturist who encouraged daffodil growing.

Clearly, the Zimmermans have become immersed in the lore of the Mount Lehman regions.

David Zimmerman took me through a tasting of reds in the barrel cellar that were not bottled at the time of my visit. These include an excellent 2016 Landing Road Red Blend and solid 2017 reds – Cabernet Foch, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. The wines merit a second visit when they are released.

Here are notes of the current releases.

Charlotte Estate Petit Milo 2016 ($22). This white has aromas and flavours of citrus and guava. It manages to have a plump mouthfeel but also a crisp and dry finish. 90.

Fraser Gold Chardonnay 2016 ($27). This unoaked Chardonnay is made with Okanagan grapes. It begins with aromas of citrus leading to flavours of apples. The finish is crisp. 88.

Matsqui Prairie Gew├╝rztraminer 2016 ($25). Slightly off dry, this wine has aromas and flavours of spice and lychee, with a fleshy texture and a long finish. 90.

Sam & Isaac Pinot Gris 2016 ($22). This wine has aromas and flavours of pear and apple, with a spicy note that creates a dry, zesty finish. 89.

Daffodils Sparkling White Wine 2017 ($25). A carbonated sparkler, this is a blend of Petit Milo, Chardonnay and Muscat. The latter variety adds a spice note to the citrus flavours and aromas. 90.

Lover’s Lane Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($35). This is a ripe and rich wine, with aromas of cassis and flavours of black currant, black cherry and chocolate. 90.

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