Writer and wine columnist John Schreiner is Canada's most prolific author of books on wine.
Thursday, March 18, 2021
Bordertown is on a roll
Photo: Bordertown's Mohan Gill
Mohan Gill, the proprietor of Bordertown Vineyards & Estate Winery, surely is one of the most ambitious winery owners in the South Okanagan.
The winery, located beside the highway at the northern edge of Osoyoos, produced 3,000 cases of wine in 2013, Bordertown’s first vintage. In the 2020 vintage, Bordertown made 10,000 cases of wine, with a plan to reach 40,000 cases a year when all of Mohan’s 100-plus acres of vineyards are producing.
On top of this, Bordertown also produces apple cider. The cider was launched in 2019. Last year, the winery made 7,000 cans (each with 470 ml of cider); it plans to make 10,000 cans this year.
I touched on his ambition in the Bordertown profile in the Okanagan Wine Tour Guide, which was published last year:
Mohan Gill summarizes his biography concisely. Born in India in 1976, he came to the Okanagan in 1993 with his immigrant parents. “I went to Oliver Secondary School,” he recounts. “Then I started working.”
Mohan has never stopped working. He bought his first orchard (with an older brother) in 1996. Today, he and his brother operate 44.5 hectares (110 acres) of vineyards and orchards in the Okanagan. They have their own fruit-packing house and, since 2018, a cidery attached to the winery.
Mohan dipped his toe into viticulture by planting less than a hectare (2 acres) of grapes in 2005. A quick study, he began increasing his vineyard area in 2007 and was soon selling grapes to both large and small wineries. One of his clients was Mark Simpson, who operates BC Wine Studio, a custom crush winery near Okanagan Falls. On Mark’s urging, Mohan opened Bordertown in 2015, locating it strategically on the highway just north of Osoyoos. The expansive wine shop signalled Mohan’s ambition that Bordertown become a substantial winery quickly.
Bordertown’s 100 acres of vineyard, of which 40 acres is coming into production over the next several years, are dedicated primarily to red varietals, led by Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The major white varietal is Pinot Gris. Mark Simpson's role is limited to cider making. The wines are made by Daniel Bontorin, one of the Okanagan's top consulting winemakers.
Mohan is sensitive to the need to release competitively-priced wines. Bordertown produced 4,500 cases of Cabernet Franc alone last year. The wine is widely available for $21.95 (plus tax).
Last fall Bordertown also introduced two three-litre bag-in-the-box wines: a Cabernet Merlot blend and a Pinot Gris, each priced around $60. That translates as $15 a bottle. There is VQA quality wine in the packages although wineries are not permitted to label these boxes as VQA wines. Mohan simply labels them British Columbia wine.
Here are notes on some of Bordertown’s current releases of its premium wines.
Bordertown Grüner Veltliner 2019 ($22 for 200 cases). The varietal is an Austrian white that is finding a home in the Okanagan. This wine has aromas and flavours of stone fruit, pineapple and honey. The crispness benefits from being nicely chilled. 89.
Bordertown Living Desert Red 2017 ($27 for 995 cases). The blend is 28% Syrah, 22% Cabernet Franc, 22% Malbec, 12% Petit Verdot, 9% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is quite an expressive wine, with aromas and flavours of cassis, cherry and blueberry. The tannins are soft, the texture is generous and the finish is persistent. 91.
Bordertown Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($33 for 600 cases). This is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon, with plenty of grip; it benefits from decanting. It has aromas of black currant, mint and cherry. The mint mingles on the palate with dark berry flavours. 90.
Bordertown Syrah 2018 ($35 for 500 cases). The wines matured between 12 and 18 months in American oak. It is a muscular, brooding red with aromas of plum, prune, cherry and black pepper. The palate has layers of dark fruit with a hint of black pepper. 90.
Bordertown Malbec 2018 ($35 for 520 cases). Matured in French oak, this wine begins with the appealing perfumed aromas of the varietal – blueberry and black currant. On the palate, it is full and delivers intense flavours of blueberry, raspberry and black cherry. 91.
Bordertown Petit Verdot 2018 ($35 for 224 cases). Matured in French oak, this wine is dark as night, typical of a varietal rarely seen on its own. This is an intense wine, with aromas of black currant and plum and with flavours of prune, blackberry, black currant, tobacco. There is a note of flint on the finish. This is a big wine, ideal for pairing with game. 93.