Sunday, October 20, 2019

Mt. Boucherie opens wine experience centre soon

Photo: Mt. Boucherie winemaker Jeff Hundertmark

Better late than never: perhaps that is what they are saying at Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery as they prepare to open their wine experience centre just as the 2019 wine touring season draws to a close.

“The new building is 15,000 square feet,” says Jesse Harnden, the general manager. “We are doing a restaurant and a wine experience centre -- something that shows off our wine a little better than the cabin that has been there for the last 20 years or so.”

Ground was broken on the new tasting room in the summer of 2018 and it was scheduled to take two years to complete it. Such was the complexity of the construction that the builders slightly overshot the targeted completion date. However, this $10 million building should attract visitors from day one. The quality of the wines should assure repeat visits.

Mt. Boucherie has had its ups and downs since it was opened in 2001 by the three Gidda brothers, Sarwan, Nirmal and Kaldeep. A few years later, Sarwan left the partnership to start Volcanic Hills Estate Winery just down the hill from Mt. Boucherie. Then in 2014, a rift between Nirmal and Kaldeep plunged the winery into receivership.

The receiver kept the winery running, soliciting bids for it in 2015. The successful bidder, a group headed by Vancouver businessman Sonny Huang, took over Mt. Boucherie on March 30, 2016. The management team he installed at the winery has been busy every since: rejuvenating the 200 acres of vineyards and acquiring new winery equipment and barrels.

In February this year, Jeff Hundertmark took over as chief winemaker from Jim Faulkner, Mt. Boucherie’s long-time winemaker. He and Jim had already been working together after Jeff was recruited in 2018 as winemaker at Rust Wine Co., a sister winery near Oliver. Most of Rust’s 2018 wines were made at the Mt. Boucherie winery.

Born in Saskatoon, Jeff came to winemaking after a long career in restaurants. “I became a sommelier in the mid-1990s,” he told me last year. “I was a sommelier at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. I became the restaurant manager and they said, with that, comes the cellar. I had to learn very quick how to identify all the different labels we had.”

He worked at other restaurants and, for three years, ran his own. “I fell in love with the whole aspect of wine, wine growing, winemaking,” Jeff told me. “I decided in my 40s it was time to go back to school and learn to be a winemaker. I was tired of wearing suits and ties.”

He started his winemaking career in 2007 in Niagara, first at Marynissen Winery and then at Stoney Ridge Estate Winery. He was attracted to the Okanagan after accompanying the Ontario Grape King on a tour of the valley. “For eight years, I was trying to figure out how I was going to get out here.” He found a harvest job in the Okanagan in 2017 and then took over at Rust in early 2018

(After he moved to Mt. Boucherie, Rust recruited Ryan DeWitte, another former Niagara winemaker.)

Earlier this year, Mt. Boucherie also hired a new vineyard manager, Brett Thiessen, who came from Summerhill Pyramid Winery. He is charged with converting Mt. Boucherie to organic viticulture.

“We plan to move to more organic, more sustainable viticulture,” Jesse Harnden says. “The way the vineyards were treated over the last few decades is something we thought need to be upgraded a little. He has eliminated herbicides this year.”

Mt. Boucherie’s extensive vineyards in both the Okanagan and the Similkameen give its winemakers a lot of options. Operating a restaurant will provide an outlet for market testing of small lot wines.

“Because we have so much vineyard and different macroclimates within those vineyards, we could do different style wines and just see which works the best,” Jeff says.

Here are notes of some of Mt. Boucherie’s current releases.

Mt. Boucherie Sémillon 2017 ($17.99). This is a crisp but full-textured wine with citrus and green apple aromas and flavours.  

Mt. Boucherie Sémillon 2018 (N/A). This barrel-fermented wine likely is one of the small lots for the restaurant. The hint of spicy new oak adds complexity to the citrus aromas and flavours. 92.

Mt. Boucherie Pinot Gris 2018 ($19.99). This wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel. The texture is surprisingly rich. The wine delivers aromas and flavours of pear and citrus. 91.

Mt. Boucherie Gewürztraminer 2018 ($17.99). Spicy on the nose, this wine delivers flavours of ginger and lychee. The finish is dry. 90.

Mt. Boucherie Rosé 2018 ($21.99). The fruit in this wine is mostly Zweigelt, a variety that – at least in B.C. – makes some of the best rosé wines. With 22 hours of skin contact, the wine has an attractive rose petal hue. The floral aromas lead to flavours of strawberry. The texture is juicy, with good acidity to give the wine a dry finish. 91.

Mt. Boucherie Chardonnay Reserve 2017 ($29.99). This wine was barrel-fermented and aged 12 months in French oak (30% new). It has aromas of marmalade mingled with bacon fat. On the palate, the wine is rich with buttery citrus flavours. 92.

Mt. Boucherie Blaufränkisch 2017 ($27.99). Mt. Boucherie is one of the few Okanagan wineries to make a red from a grape that, like Zweigelt, is a stalwart of Austrian wines. The wine has a cult following among Mt. Boucherie’s fans. The wine begins with smoky and spicy aromas leading to flavours that mingle black cherry, cranberry and smoked meat. 91.

Mt. Boucherie Pinot Noir 2017 ($24.99). This is an easy-drinking red, with aromas and flavours of strawberry and cherry. The fruit for this wine is from a Mt. Boucherie vineyard in the Similkameen Valley. Under the new ownership, the winery has also planted about 10 acres of Pinot Noir near Okanagan Falls. 90.

Mt. Boucherie Merlot 2017 ($24.99). This is a juicy with aromas of black cherry, plum and spice. The palate delivers almost jammy flavours of black cherry and black currant. 91.

Mt. Boucherie Merlot Reserve 2017 ($34.99). The fruit for this wine is mostly from the Similkameen. The wine has an appealing touch of mint on the nose leading to flavours of black cherry, blackberry and blueberry. It is rich and concentrated on the palate. 93.

Mt. Boucherie Syrah 2016 ($44.99).  This is a sensual Syrah, with aromas of delicatessen spices. On the palate, there are flavours of plum, black cherry and fig. Long ripe tannins give the wine a full texture. 93.

Mt. Boucherie Summit 2016 ($54.99). This is a blend of 51% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Malbec and 3% Syrah. The fruit is from one Similkameen vineyard, one on the Golden Mile Bench and one near Okanagan Falls. The wine was aged 24 months in French oak (35% new). It begins with aromas of black currants and vanilla. On the palate there are flavours of black currant, black cherry, cedar and chocolate. 94.

Mt. Boucherie Contessa 2015 ($88.88). This limited release wine is a blend of 39% Merlot, 31% Syrah, 18% Zinfandel and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. It was aged 25 months in French oak (40% new). This ultra-premium blend gets brambly aromas and flavours from the Zinfandel, a firm backbone from the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and a medley of dark fruits from all of the varieties. 92.

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