Monday, June 7, 2021

French Door's big reds and juicy whites

Photo: Winery owners Audra and Jason Shull
Pascal Madevon made big red wines for 10 vintages at Osoyoos Larose and for several more vintages at Culmina Family Estate Winery before hanging out his shingle as a consulting winemaker. “I was looking for a client that wanted to make this style of wine again … something very big,” he says. “I found some clients like that and one of them is French Door Estate Winery.”
The winery opened in 2020 after owners Audra and Jason Shull acquired the vineyard and the buildings of Montakarn Estate Winery on Black Sage Road. They renovated the former winery, adding top flight winemaking equipment that Pascal needed to make both big red wines and whites packed with flavour. The French Door name reflects at insight the Shulls once had while visiting wineries in Provence. “Why are we even here?” Jason said to his family. “We have Provence in our back yard.” That led them to think of their winery on Black Sage Road as their door on French wine country. “The lavenders, the lake, the orchards, the vineyards … it is identical,” Jason says.
The couple grew up in Osoyoos where they had been high school sweethearts. They had pursued careers away from wine country but always with a desire to get back. Jason, who formerly ran a Vancouver-based firm called Golden Capital Corp., once put in a bid, with some partners, for Hester Creek Estate Winery when it was in a court auction. Now, Jason can look across the Okanagan Valley at Hester Creek. In 2019, he and Audra took over Montakarn Estate Winery (which relocated to Okanagan Falls). “I like this side of the valley better,” Jason says. “The vineyard has a southern exposure.”
Pascal Madevon (pictured in a vineyard), who was born in Paris in 1983, came to the Okanagan in 1981, sent here by the French owners of Osoyoos Larose. Pascal promptly fell in love with the valley and subsequently became a Canadian citizen. Jason interviewed 10 winemaking candidates before turning French Door over to Pascal. “They have a very good vineyard,” Pascal says of French Door’s seven acres. “They got good equipment. They are precise in the winery. And they are exceptional with the welcome of people in the tasting room. Everything is nice, very clean. They do a very good job.” On Pascal’s recommendation, Jason installed three 3,000-litre oak fermenters from a premium cooperage in Burgundy. These tanks are critical to making the big red wines. “When Jason and I started the project, he asked me what do we need to do to make a top wine,” Pascal says. “I said the best way to make big reds is to ferment in wooden tanks. It gives you round tannins during fermentation. I think fermentation in wooden tanks is the key part.” The white wines are fermented in French oak barrels but Pascal is very careful not to let the oak intrude on the pure flavours of the fruit.
The vineyard grows eight reds - Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir and a small block of Cinsault- and three whites - Viognier, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. French Door also purchases grapes from other growers in the valley, tapping the premium growers that Pascal has worked with during his 20 years in the Okanagan. French Door’s production still is relatively small. Last summer, the wine shop closed at the end of July because the wines were sold out. There is a little more production this year but anyone interested in these excellent wines should not delay ordering some.
Here are notes on the current releases.
French Door Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($30). The wine begins with aromas of herbs and lime. The flavours are intense, with lime, gooseberry and herbs mingled with a hint of oak and spice. The finish lingers. 93.
French Door Chardonnay 2019 ($38). This a luscious, voluminous wine with aromas of citrus and peach. On the palate, there are flavours of mandarin orange, stone fruit, butter and spice, with an extraordinary finish. 94. b>French Door Rosé 2020 ($30). This is a blend of Mourvèdre and Grenache. This is a striking dry rosé with aromas and flavours of pine needles and orange peel. It is somewhat reminiscent of a fine single malt scotch without the bite of the alcohol. A superb rosé with food. 92.
French Door Héritage 2018 ($48). This is a blend of 44% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Franc, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% each of Petit Verdot and Malbec. Dark in colour, it begins with aromas of dark cherry and black currant. The palate is concentrated with flavours of dark berries, tobacco and chocolate. Decant this wine to fully unlock its personality. 93.
French Door Malbec 2019 ($58). A hint of white pepper in the aroma and on the palate adds complexity to the variety’s typically perfumed aroma and red cherry flavours. The long ripe tannins give the texture polish. 92.
French Door Merlot 2019 ($78). This is a bold, deeply-flavoured wine with aromas and flavours of black cherry, blueberry, cassis and plum. The wine is very concentrated. Decant it for drinking now or lay it away for several years. 93.

No comments: