Writer and wine columnist John Schreiner is Canada's most prolific author of books on wine.
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Osoyoos Larose releases 2017 Grand Vin and plans new winery
Photo: Winemaker Caroline Schaller
Osoyoos Larose Estate Winery will finally own its own winemaking facility, two decades after making its first vintage in 2001.
The winery, now owned totally by Groupe Taillan of Bordeaux, has recently purchased the former Fernandes packing house, a 32,000-square-foot building at the east end of Osoyoos beside Highway 3. Because extensive renovations are required, the winery does not expect to make a vintage there until 2022.
This news comes just as the winery releases Le Grand Vin 2017, its flagship red wine. This is the first wine made in Canada by Caroline Schaller, who was sent from France in July 2017 to be the executive manager and winemaker at Osoyoos Larose.
Osoyoos Larose was established as a joint venture between Vincor International and Groupe Taillan, with the intent of bringing the expertise of a seasoned Bordeaux wine producer to the Okanagan. Taillan’s Bordeaux properties include Château Gruaud-Larose, a distinguished second-growth winery in Saint-Julien, created in 1725. The Okanagan vineyard was planted in 1999 on the slopes northwest of Osoyoos. For production, barrels and fermenters were placed in a dedicated area at the rear of the Vincor/Jackson-Triggs winery north of Oliver.
The Bordeaux partner dispatched a French-trained winemaker, Pascal Madevon, to make the wine in 2001, and for the next nine vintages. He was enchanted with the Okanagan, became a Canadian citizen and now is one of the busiest consultants to British Columbia wineries.
Vincor was taken over in 2006 by Constellation Brands, a big U.S.-based wine company with little commitment to the Okanagan. It sold its 50% share of Osoyoos Larose in 2013 to the French partner and gave Osoyoos Larose five or six years to relocate its winemaking facilities.
When the Osoyoos Larose vineyard was planted, an area had been set aside for a future winery. The location has a spectacular view over the vineyards and the valley. But on closer study, it proved to be a difficult location for a production facility, with inadequate water, sewage and electrical services. Osoyoos Larose then purchased an orchard with a rather palatial house north of Osoyoos, just beside the highway. Its plan to build a winery there was thwarted when the Agricultural Land Commission ruled the property was not big enough for a production facility.
Osoyoos Larose still maintains the house as a future hospitality centre and grows white varieties in the vineyard. Last year, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon was planted. This year Muscadelle will be added so that, in a few years, Osoyoos Larose will add a Bordeaux white to its portfolio.
While looking for a production site, Osoyoos Larose rented space in 2019 at the Bordertown Winery just north of Osoyoos. The 2019, 2020 and soon the 2121 vintages are being made and cellared here, pending the move to the packing house.
It is perhaps surprising that Groupe Taillan, given the frustrations it has endured during the past decade, has not thrown in the towel on the Okanagan, its only investment in the Canadian wine industry. Instead, the company has seen to it that Osoyoos Larose wines are consistently made to the same high quality that was envisioned from the outset.
Caroline Schaller, the fourth winemaker sent to Canada by Taillan, was born in Toulouse, did her wine training there and started her career in wineries in southwestern France. She also burnished her skills by working wineries in California (Pine Ridge) and Chile (Viña Leyda). She was the manager and winemaker at Domaine d En Segur, in Tarn France, when Groupe Taillan recruited her for the Okanagan.
Here is a note on the new release.
Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2017 ($48.99). The blend is 61.4% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.6% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. The wine was aged 12 months in French oak barrels (60% new). The structure is reminiscent of a Bordeaux red, as one might expect. This is an excellent wine for cellaring. I decided to decant it overnight. The result was a rich, fruity wine with aromas of cassis and blueberry and with flavours of black currants and cherries. 93.