Thursday, October 31, 2019

Meyer Gewürztraminer and friends

 Photo: Meyer Family Vineyards owner JAK Meyer

Gewürztraminer is a wine that seems to be slowly falling out of favour, perhaps because too many in previous years were boring and sweet. Consumer palates have moved on.

It was a bit of a surprise, therefore, when a recent quartet of wines from Meyer Family Vineyards of Okanagan Falls included Gewürztraminer.

Meyer is well known as a producer of premium Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. However, the winery inherited a block of Gewürztraminer vines when JAK Meyer, the winery owner, purchased an Okanagan Falls vineyard in 2008. Much of the vineyard has since been replanted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. While some Gewürztraminer also was pulled out, JAK kept a block which, the winery says, was planted in 1994 with cuttings from Germany.

Hats off to JAK for that decision. Meyer now produces one of the Okanagan’s best Gewürztraminers. The wine is neither boring nor sweet. The downside is that Meyer made just 360 cases of it in the 2018 vintage, and the wine is now sold out. You may want to reserve some from the 2019 vintage.  The other three wines reviewed here still are available.

For some background on Meyer Family Vineyards, here is an except from my 2017 book, Icon: Flagship Wines from British Columbia’s Best Wineries.

The winery was launched by JAK Meyer and his partner, Janice Stevens-Meyer. It was a hobby initially. Born in Alberta in 1958, JAK had succeeded as an investment dealer and real-estate developer while becoming passionate about wine. 

With help from James Cluer, MW, then a Vancouver wine educator, JAK bought a 1.5-hectare (3.5-acre) Chardonnay vineyard that had been planted in 1994 on Old Main Road near Naramata. He engaged an architect to design a winery while arranging to have both the 2006 and 2007 vintages made by Michael Bartier, whose mastery of barrel-fermented Chardonnay is legendary.

“During blending [the 2006 Chardonnay],” recounts the notes on the vintage, “five French oak barrels stood out as being superior quality. Blended together, the five barrels created a truly special wine that demanded to be bottled on its own as a small batch or Micro Cuvée.” Ever since, the flagship Chardonnay from Meyer has always emerged from the best barrels, while also being a single-vineyard wine. Virtually all the Chardonnay from the Old Main Road vineyard is treated the same way: fermented in French oak and aged on the lees for seven or eight months before being bottled. Those barrels that do not rise to the Micro Cuvée standard are usually blended and bottled for the winery’s Tribute Series Chardonnay—also a fine wine that some collectors even prefer.

The winery was still something of a hobby, producing 600 cases of wine a year, when JAK began marketing the wines in February 2008. He discovered “how much work it is to sell the wine,” he recalls. “We realized that we will never make money at 600 cases. So we made the commitment to expand in the spring of 2008.” Before the year was over, JAK had taken over an uncompleted winery and vineyard in Okanagan Falls. The 6.5-hectare (16-acre) McLean Creek Road Vineyard, as it is called now, has been replanted largely with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Here are notes on the four recent releases.

Meyer McLean Creek Road Gewürztraminer 2018 ($15.75 for 360 cases). Behind this wine is detail-oriented winemaking. The first picking went into the press as whole bunches and was pressed gently. Subsequent picks were destemmed; the berries were slightly crushed and left 24 hours on the skins before being pressed. Both lots were combined for a long, cool ferment with wild yeast in both stainless steel and seasoned French oak barrels. The wine remained five months on fine lees. The wine begins with aromatic spicy aromas. It is full on the palate, with flavours of grapefruit and lychee.  The finish is dry with lingering spice. 91.   

Meyer Okanagan Valley Chardonnay 2018 ($17.49 for 1,600 cases). Think Chablis! This is a crisply refreshing and fruit forward Chardonnay. It begins with aromas of citrus leading to flavours of citrus, peach and apple. 91.

Meyer Stevens Block Chardonnay 2018 Old Main Road Vineyard ($24.45 for 350 cases). This wine comes from an acre of Chardonnay planted in 2006 with two French clones. Whole clusters were pressed gently, with the purest juice from initial pressing kept for this wine. A long cool fermentation with wild yeast lasted two months in stainless steel. The wine was aged six months on fine lees in older French oak. The result is an elegant wine with aromas and flavours of citrus, tangerine and peach. The finish is lingering. 93.

Meyer Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir 2018 ($22.71 for 2,600 cases). This is the winery’s entry level Pinot Noir, with fruit vineyards in Okanagan Falls, Southeast Kelowna, Naramata, Kaleden and Osoyoos. The grapes were pressed and left on the skins for a cold soak before fermenting with wild yeast. There was also a post-fermentation maceration before the wine was pressed into old French oak barrels for eight months. The wine begins with lively cherry aromas leading to cherry and raspberry on the palate. The wine is fresh and fruit forward. Even so, it will benefit from decanting. 90.

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