Writer and wine columnist John Schreiner is Canada's most prolific author of books on wine.
Monday, May 3, 2021
Four Shadows releases for spring 2021
Photo: Wilbert and Joka Borren
When wine touring returns to normal, consumers can pack in several good wineries with little driving by spending a day on Upper Bench Road at the edge of Penticton.
Four Shadows Vineyard & Winery anchors the south end of the road. Proceeding north, one would stop at Upper Bench Winery, Roche Wines and Da Silva Vineyards. And then Three Sisters Winery and Township 7 Vineyards are just around the corner.
To me, this has always been one of the appeals of the Okanagan. There are a lot of wineries packed into a small area. And the wines are invariably appealing.
I will not give you the full tour in this blog. I will introduce you just for Four Shadows, For background on the winery, here is an except from the Okanagan Wine Tour Guide. The 510-page book was released for $25 at the end of April, 2020. The pandemic forced me and co-author Luke Whittall to cancel planned book launch events.
Wilbert and Joka Borren, both immigrants from the Netherlands, are nothing if not industrious. Wilbert was a 20-year-old graduate of an agriculture college when he arrived to work on an Alberta dairy farm. He met Joka in 1990, shortly after she arrived in Canada. In 1993, after the couple married, Wilbert concluded that the rising cost of milk quotas prevented him from realizing a dream of his own dairy. So he bought a hog farm near Lacombe, Alberta. “It took some persuading,” Joka admits.
When they tired of hogs and hard winters, they moved to the Okanagan in 2011, now with four sons, to become grape growers. They bought the bankrupt Mistral Estate Winery and its 4.9 hectares (12 acres) of neglected vineyard on the eastern edge of Penticton. Wilbert made up for his lack of experience by engaging viticultural consultant Graham O’Rourke, co-owner of nearby Tightrope Winery. “I am a farmer,” Wilbert says. “Stepping into the wine business is a new game.”
Within a few years, Graham suggested that Wilbert did not need help anymore. Four Shadows Vineyard—a name inspired by the four Borren sons—was selling quality fruit to such top-flight wineries as Foxtrot Vineyards and Synchromesh Wines. “It was never our intention to start a winery,” Wilbert says. “But then we were selling grapes [to wineries] that were all making good wines. People started to ask why we were not making our own wine.” Once again, they overcame winemaking inexperience by turning to consultants. Tightrope’s Lyndsay O’Rourke made the Four Shadows wines in 2017, and Pascal Madevon, formerly the Osoyoos Larose winemaker, took over in 2018.
The former Mistral tasting room, empty nearly a decade, was professionally renovated: one of their sons is a carpenter, while another, a welder, fashioned the winery’s unique steel signage. Four Shadows opened in May 2019 with five wines, well made and well priced. Cautiously, the vineyard continues to sell some grapes to other wineries. “We are starting small so we can just ease into it,” Joka says. “And we can expand if it goes well.”
Here are notes on the wines.
Four Shadows Riesling Dry 2020 ($23.99). The wine begins with aromas of guava. On the palate, there are flavours of green apple and lime. Bright acidity leaves a fresh, tangy finish. Another six to 12 months of bottle age will allow the wine to unlock more of the tropical flavours. 90.
Four Shadows Riesling Classic 2020 ($22.99). A little residual sugar balanced with fresh acidity accentuates the intensity of the stone fruit aromas and citrus and tropical flavours. There is an impression of fullness on the palate; yet the acidity leads to a refreshing finish. 91.
Four Shadows Sparkling Riesling 2020 ($24.99). The rush of bubbles give this wine a creamy texture. The offsetting natural acidity gives it a crisp finish, with notes of citrus and green apple. 90.
Four Shadows Chardonnay 2019 ($23 for 113 cases). This wine was fermented 40% in second year French oak and 40% in stainless steel. Aromas of apple and melon mingle very subtly with oak. The aromas are echoed on the palate. 89.
Four Shadows Rosé 2020 ($21.99). The blend is Pinot Noir and Merlot. The rose petal hue is appealing. It has aromas and flavours of strawberry and cherry. The touch of residual sweetness adds to the refreshing finish. 90.
Four Shadows Pinot Noir 2018 ($28 for 275 cases). This wine was aged for 10 months in French oak (20% new). It has aromas and flavours of cherry mingled with hints of mocha and vanilla. The wine’s silky finish gives it a feminine elegance. 91.
Four Shadows Merlot 2018 ($26 for 530 cases). The wine was aged 10 months in French oak barrels (30% new). The wine begins with appealing aromas of cassis and blueberry jam. On the palate, there are flavours of black currant, figs and plum mingled with spice on the finish. The flavours linger on the palate. 91.