Photo: Winemaker and vineyard manager Ryan McKillop (courtesy Township 7)
Now celebrating its 19th anniversary, Township 7 Vineyards & Winery time in the industry has spanned the (so far) golden age of British Columbia wine.
When the original Township 7 winery opened in Langley in 2001, the VQA program was barely a decade old and still contentious; and there were perhaps 50 wineries.
Today, there are 350 wineries with so many under development that 400 is possible. The VQA program now is mature while a series of new sub-appellations are drilling down to an understanding of terroir wines barely contemplated 20 years ago.
Township 7 consists of two of those wineries. The initial winery in Langley is now dedicated to the production of sparkling wines. The much larger winery at the start of the Naramata Bench makes a full range of table wines.
There have been three sets of owners at Township 7 and each has been better resourced. Businessman Ge Song, who acquired the winery in 2014, has made major investments to expand the Okanagan winery and upgrade the equipment. In 2018, he allowed the winery to purchase the 12-acre Blue Terrace Vineyard near Oliver, securing total control over a vineyard from which Township 7 has been buying fruit almost from the beginning.
He also has supported the winery in critical personnel decisions. Mary McDermott, a skilled winemaker, was recruited from Andrew Peller Ltd. in Ontario. She has had a major impact on the quality of wines. And it was her idea to devote the Langley vineyard to sparkling wines.
This summer, Township 7 added bench strength by hiring Ryan McKibbon as assistant winemaker and vineyard manager. He is a graduate of Niagara College’s Winery and Viticulture program. His expertise includes organic and biodynamic grape growing.
He did a vineyard internship focussed on organic and biodynamic viticulture at Felton Road Wines in New Zealand. He has worked with other organic/biodynamic producers including Hidden Bench Winery on Ontario, Crystallum Wines in South Africa and Phantom Creek in the Okanagan.
Would anyone care to guess on the future direction of Township 7’s viticulture?
The Township 7 journey illustrates why British Columbia wines have improved so dramatically over the past 20 years: better equipped wineries, more experienced winemakers and, most fundamentally, much improved viticulture.
Current releases have benefited for all that.
Township 7 2018 7 Blanc ($18.97 for 888 cases). This is a blend of 56% Gewürztraminer, 22% Pinot Gris, 9% Viognier, 9% Riesling and 4% Muscat. All the varieties were fermented slowly at about 12◦C over three weeks to deliver maximum freshness and flavour. The aromas are predictably, and pleasantly, aromatic with notes of grapefruit and spice. On the palate there are luscious flavours of pink grapefruit and nectarine. The residual sugar adds to the lush texture and lingering finish. 91.
Township 7 2018 Sauvignon Blanc ($18.97 for 828 cases). The grapes for this wine are from the Blue Terrace Vineyard near Oliver. Long a supplier of fruit to Township 7. Most of the fruit was fermented cool in stainless steel; a two-barrel portion was fermented in oak and added to the blend for complexity. The wine begins with aromas of lime mingled with herbs. Crisp and dry on the palate, the wine delivers flavours of lime, grapefruit zest and herbs. The finish is very persistent. 91.
Township 7 2018 Reserve Pinot Gris ($26.97 for 148 cases). The wine is exclusive to Township 7’s wine club. The wine begins with aromas of pears and stone fruit. Rich in texture but with a dry finish, the wine delivers flavours of pear and nectarine mingled with a hint of orange and oak. The wine was barrel-fermented in neutral French oak. Lees stirring added to fullness of the texture. The finish of this delicious and complex wine lingers. 93.
Township 7 2016 Reserve Cabernet Franc ($45.97 for 198 cases). This wine is also a wine club exclusive. The fruit for this wine came from the Romar Vineyard in Osoyoos. The wine was aged 24 months in French oak (60%) and American oak. Dark in colour, the wine begins with very expressive aromas of cherry, blackberry and cloves that explode from the glass. On the palate, the wine has silky tannins and delivers flavours of black cherry, blackberry, tobacco and spice. 93.