Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Frind releases its Premier wines

Photo: Markus Frind
With the first release of red wines, West Kelowna’s Frind Estate Winery has immediately established itself as one of the Okanagan’s premier producers. The line will strike some as an insider joke: the winery brands its top reds as “Premier” wines. There appear to be two reasons for that. Premier is a word often designating top-quality, as these wines most certainly are. Secondly, the winery has been built on a lakefront property once owned by the late Bill Bennett, a former Premier of British Columbia.
Here is an excerpt from my 2020 book (with Luke Whittall), Okanagan Wine Tour Guide.
The experience here begins with arrow-straight tree-lined driveway leading to the rambling taste room beside Okanagan Lake. This is a property with history. For more than 50 years, it belonged to the Bennett family: both W.A.C Bennett and his son, Bill, served as premiers of British Columbia. In the fall of 2017, when Markus Frind began planning a major winery, he purchased the 5.5-hectare (13.5-acre) Bennett property because it is strategically on the Westside Wine Trail which is travelled by thousands of wine lovers each year. For several years, Markus expects to sell the Frind wines primarily from this wine shop.
This property is the tip of the iceberg of one of the Okanagan’s most ambitious wineries. Markus also owns about 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of vineyard land that is being developed so that it can be farmed, in large measure, with self-driving machinery. If this succeeds, it will represent a breakthrough of precision agriculture amid Okanagan vineyards – by a winery owner whose initial success was in technology, with a dating web site called Plenty of Fish. Born in Germany in 1978, Markus was just four when his parents, descended from generations of farmers, moved to a 485-hectare (1,200-acre) farm at Hudson’s Hope in northeastern British Columbia. After high school, Markus studied business and computer science at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Then he had a series of technology jobs until, early in 2003, he created Plenty of Fish on his home computer. The web site’s success was explosive: by the second year, it was generating monthly revenues of $200,000 a month. Markus sold the site at its peak in 2015 for $575 million.
By then, he already had a summer place near the Westside Wine Trail and was a patron of the wineries. After reviewing wineries that might be for sale, he decided he had to start his own to achieve the scale of a major producer. Just before buying the Bennett property, he purchased 121 hectares (300 acres) of raw land on a hillside northeast of Kelowna. Advised that just 10% was suitable for vines, he deployed heavy equipment to fill in a gulley and sculpt the slopes so that 80% can be planted. He also owns twice as much undeveloped land near Vernon, along with small vineyards in the south and central Okanagan. And the driveway to the tasting room sweeps by a 2.4-hectare (six-acre) block of Maréchal Foch. The major varieties Frind is planting are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Meunier – and Regent, a cool-climate German red hybrid new to the Okanagan. Typical of Markus, he is making a bold statement by planting 30 hectares. Eric von Krosigk, Frind’s veteran winemaker, suggests that Regent produces wines recalling full-bodied Italian reds.
Here are notes on the wines. The symbol of a pinecone used to separate the text appears on most bottles.
<i>Frind Big White 2019> ($20.99). The blend is 30% Gewürztraminer, 27% Kerner, 16% Sauvignon Blanc, 8% Chardonnay, 7% each of Pinot Blanc and Viognier and 5% Schönburger. The wine was fermented in stainless steel. The wine begins with aromas of peach, pineapple and tropical flowers. On the palate, there are flavours of melon, apple and peach. The bright acidity leaves a crisp, refreshing finish that is persistent. 90.
Frind Brut N.V. ($24.99). This is a traditional method sparkling wine, a blend of 76% Riesling and 24% Chardonnay that was 15 months on the lees before being disgorged. This is a delicious bottle of bubbly – fruity on the nose and on the palate, with flavours of pear and citrus. It is creamy on the palate, with moderate acidity, but just enough to give the wine a refreshing and crisp finish. 90.
Frind Premier Merlot 2019 ($32.99). The fruit is from the Frind-owned Rock Pile vineyard near Oliver. The wine was aged 10 months in a combination of new and neutral French oak cigars. Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of black cherry and blueberry mingled with a slight toasty oak note. Those elements are echoed in the generous flavours of black cherry mingled with cassis and framed by silky tannins. 92.
Frind Premier Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 ($37.99). The fruit is primarily from the Rock Pile Vineyard. The wine begins with lovely aromas of cassis leading to flavours of black currant and cherry. There is a hint of leather and licorice on the finish. The tannins are firm but supple. The oak is imperceptible in this appealing, fruit-driven wine. 92.
Frind Premier Cabernet Franc 2019 ($34.99). The fruit is primarily from the Rock Pile Vineyard. The wine was aged 10 months mostly in neutral oak; a small portion was aged in new French oak cigars. The aromas deliver notes of blackberry, cherry, red currant and even a suggestion of red licorice. The brambly flavours are bright and expressive, mingling red currant and cherry, with a hint of spice on the finish. 90.
Frind The Premier 2019 ($39.99). The blend is 52% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4.5% Syrah and 1.5% Regent. The wine was aged 12 months in French and American oak. This is a dark and brooding wine, beginning with aromas of plum, fig and earth that are echoed on the palate. The wine will age well for several more years but should be decanted for current consumption. 92.

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