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Sunday, April 18, 2021
Peak Cellars: rising Lake Country star
Photo: Winemaker Stephanie Stanley
Peak Cellars is a winery in Lake Country that opened in 2017 as The Chase Winery. A trademark dispute led to a name change.
Whatever the name on the label, the winery is a rising star as a white wine producer, notably of Riesling, Chardonnay and Grüner Veltliner. The winemaker is Stephanie Stanley.
She is a Kelowna native who graduated at the top of the class from Brock University in 2003. Fluent in German, she had developed her interest in wine as a youth while working in Germany.
“I was working in a restaurant in the Pfalz area and there were wine festivals every weekend, every other weekend,” she told me in an interview. “Working in the restaurant, I just loved the social aspect of it and just loved the whole industry. It brought people together. It was a good lifestyle. I realized there is some kind of science involved in it and that’s where I figured I could apply my science skills.”
After graduating from Brock, she returned to Kelowna to work with Howard Soon at Calona and Sandhill Wines. Beginning in 2015, she has also done several vintages at Wither Hills Winery in New Zealand.
In a recent Zoom interview and tasting, she discussed her wines. “In keeping with the classic style of the house, we are, for the most part, making all our wines dry,” she began. “You can get nice intensity and concentration with the right viticulture; and the things we are doing at the winery to drive the flavour intensity. We don’t find we need to keep natural sugar back to help lift and enhance any textural or aromatic profile.”
Several wines have been inspired by Alsace. “I have had a passion for Alsace for 20 years or more,” Stephanie says.
The white blend called Fieldling, first released from the 2018 vintage, was created by Adrian Baker, the original winemaker at Peak Cellars. It is a field blend of three varietals, which are fermented together. Stephanie describes the wine as “Adrian’s Tribute to Marcel Deiss” a legendary Alsace winemaker. The 2020 version of this wine will be released under a new name: Goldie White. There will also be a Goldie Red. Both get their names from the winery’s location on Goldie Road.
The winery’s dry Gewürztraminer also mirrors the Alsace style that Stephanie admires. The winery’s Pinot Gris, full or intense tropical fruit flavours, is typical of quality mainstream Okanagan Pinot Gris.
One of the most exciting whites in the winery’s portfolio is the Grüner Veltliner. There are about a dozen producers in the Okanagan with this Austrian varietal. The first, and still one of the best, is from Culmina Estate Winery. However, an established Okanagan style has yet to emerge. Peak Cellars, which released 680 cases from the 2019 vintage, may be the winery to define the general style. The 2019 wine won a platinum award at a Seattle wine competition.
“I think that, at four acres, we have the largest single planting of Grüner in the valley,” Stephanie says. “We have the most northerly planting in the Okanagan. We harvested almost 17 tons of it this year. At 17 tons, we will produce close to 1,100 cases in 2020.”
Riesling is another variety that gets a lot of attention at Peak Cellars. “Riesling is my desert island wine,” Stephanie says. “If I had to pick one wine to be marooned with, it would be dry Riesling.”
Peak Cellars will soon have four different Rieslings in its portfolio, including a traditional method sparking wine yet to be released.
Here are notes on current releases.
Peak Cellars Pinot Gris 2019 ($18). The fruity aromas lead to flavours of peach mingled with apple and the slightest hint of oak. 90.
Peak Cellars Fieldling Block 26 2019 ($24). This is a field blend, with 53% Pinot Gris, 32% Riesling and 15% Gewürztraminer. The wine presents a rich palate, with savoury flavours of citrus, pear and stone fruit. It has a fresh and spicy finish. 91.
Peak Cellars Gewürztraminer 2019 ($18). This is an Alsace-inspired wine; about 30% was fermented on the skins to dryness. The wine delivers tropical fruit aromas of lychee and dragonfruit. The palate echoes the aromas, with added flavours of lychee and grapefruit. The finish is dry. 90.
Peak Cellars Grüner Veltliner 2019 ($24). This excellent wine could be fresh from a leading Austrian producer, with the classic notes of white pepper in the aroma and mingled with the flavours of apples, peaches and pineapples. The finish is lingering and intense. 92.
Peak Cellars Riesling 2019 ($22). This wine earned a platinum award at last fall’s Lieutenant Governor’s wine awards in the Okanagan. It is a superbly balanced dry Riesling with considerable intensity. It has aromas and flavours of citrus with the classic notes of petrol on the nose and palate. 92.
Peak Cellars Chardonnay 2018 ($30). This complex and satisfying wine begins with aromas of vanilla and baked spiced apples, leading to flavours of pear and citrus mingled with spice and vanilla. The wine was aged 10 months on the lees in French oak barrels (20% new). The finish is persistent. 92.