Writer and wine columnist John Schreiner is Canada's most prolific author of books on wine.
Saturday, February 19, 2022
Chain Reaction: Naramata Road newcomer impresses
Photo: Proprietors Linda and Joel Chamaschuk
One of the newest additions to Naramata Road is Chain Reaction Winery, which opens its tasting room this spring at 980 Naramata Road.
It is well worth a visit. The winery has debuted with excellent, award-winning wines made with the consulting oversight of the very able winemaker, Dwight Sick.
For more background, here is my profile from the Okanagan Wine Tour Guide, published in 2020.
Joel and Linda Chamaschuk, who own Chain Reaction, have come a long way in appreciating wine since they had a U-Brew make the wine for their wedding. “We didn’t know anything about wine,” Linda confesses. “We just knew if we liked it or if we didn’t.” Since 2017, when they bought a property on Naramata Road, Joel has taken the viticulture course at Okanagan College and worked in the cellar at Moraine Winery with Dwight Sick, the winemaker. Both have completed level two in the Wine & Spirits Education Trust program, a sommelier-oriented course that has enriched their wine knowledge enormously.
The decision to commit to a winery developed gradually as Joel and Linda pursued successful business careers. Joel, who was born in New Westminster in 1967, has a science degree from Simon Fraser University. He has, at various times, been a business consultant, an intellectual technology manager and a photographer. Linda, who was born in Powell River in 1968, has been a business analyst and manager of technology projects in both the private sector and the public sector.
Neither grew up in families with much interest in wine. Their interest began in 1992 when they started camping in the Okanagan each summer and began visiting wineries. “I could not imagine a better job than to be the guy behind the tasting bar,” Joel says. “Getting into the wine business has been in the back of our minds for decades. It always seemed a big dream because we did not have any formal training in that area.”
Sometimes the desire for a winery was just dormant. Joel would bring it up from time to time with friends, one who advised him to go to Similkameen Valley, whose potential for growing wine was then overshadowed by the Okanagan. Joel and Linda ended up on the Naramata Bench. They had become familiar its concentration of wineries through volunteering or competing in Penticton’s renowned IRONMAN Canada triathlon. Both are avid cyclists, a pursuit that inspired the name for their winery.
Beginning in 2018, they converted a former apple orchard to 1.6 hectares (four acres) of vines. “We moved here to be involved in the wine industry,” Joel says. “Even if apples were lucrative, we would have pulled them out.” The largest block is Pinot Noir, followed by Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. Chain Reaction’s first modest vintage in 2019 was made with purchased Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris. “We are targeting between 2,000 and 3,000 cases at full production,” Linda says. “We hope to stay small and focus on quality, not to mention enjoying a great quality of life which is what brought us to the Okanagan.”
Here are notes on current wines.
Chain Reaction Carpe Diem Gewürztraminer 2019 ($23 for 152 cases). The fruit for this wine was from a small organic vineyard in East Kelowna. The grapes were hand-harvested, lightly crushed by foot and cold-soaked. After a cool three-week fermentation, the wine was aged four months in stainless steel. The modest residual sugar is well-balanced. The wine is crisp and fresh with a hint of ginger in the aroma. That carries through to the palate, along with flavours of quince and lychee. 91.
Chain Reaction Tailwind Pinot Gris 2020 ($23 for 63 cases). A long, cool fermentation and four months on the lees in stainless steel has given this wine a refreshing fruitiness. This wine begins with spicy aromas of pear and apple. On the palate, the texture is full and delivers layered tropical fruit flavours -peach, mango and ripe pear. 92.
Chain Reaction Purple Bike Riesling 2019 ($23 for 124 cases). The fruit for this wine was sourced from a high-altitude vineyard at Peachland. The wine’s bracing acidity is nicely balanced with residual sugar. The wine has aromas and flavours of lemon. It has developed a hint of the petrol so classic with Riesling. The finish is dry. 91.
Chain Reaction True Colours Pinot Noir Rosé 2020 ($25 for 141 cases). Three hours of skin contact has given this wine an appealing rose hue. There are aromas and flavours of strawberry and red plum. The texture is juicy. 90
Chain Reaction Midnight Sparkling Wine 2019 ($25 for 107 cases). This is 70% Riesling, 30% Gewürztraminer. Both wines were fermented separately and aged on the lees for four months before being blended. The bubbles result from a CO2 injection. The wine is crisp and refreshing, with the residual sugar nicely balanced with acidity. There are aromas and flavours of apple and citrus with a hint of brioche. 91.
Chain Reaction Pendulum Pinot Noir 2020 ($30 for 196 cases). Fermentation of this wine was done with indigenous yeast, with care taken not to let the fermentation temperature to exceed 25◦C. It was aged in barrels (15% new). Aromas and flavours of cherry and ripe strawberry are accented with a hint of toasted oak. The flavours are generous and the silky tannins contribute to a lingering finish. 91.