Sunday, August 14, 2022

Lakeside Cellars has authentic Provençal rosé

Photo: Lakeside's Ricky Dhaliwal
Many wineries speak of making a Provençal rosé but the rosé just released by Lakeside Cellars in Osoyoos is close to authentic. It is made with Cinsault, a variety that Lakeside’s Ricky Dhaliwal planted after tasting rosé wines made with that variety in Provence. He now has about two and a half acres here.
Lakeside Cellars opened in 2019 on an historic property that Ricky’s parents, orchardists Harbans and Harkesh Dhaliwal, had purchased in 2015. The 14-acre property once was the homestead of Judge J.C. Haynes, the first customs agent and a major rancher in the South Okanagan. The elegant 10-room house he built for his family in 1882 had fallen into disrepair by the time the Dhaliwals began developing the winery. Timbers salvaged from the house have been used in the new wine shop and tasting room. There were Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc vines, planted in 1998 and 1999, already growing here. Ricky expanded the plantings to include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Malbec, and, of course, Cinsault and, more recently, Orange Muscat.
Ricky, who was born in 1990, developed his interest in viticulture just after high school, when his parents began converting orchards to vineyards. “Some years ago, I took a winery assistant course in Penticton,” he told me several years ago. “I had just turned 19. I was into grape growing but I wasn’t totally into winemaking yet, so I didn’t finish the course. I started the course in January but when March rolled around and the vineyard work picked up, I stopped going to class. But I came back and did the viticulture course.” Lakeside’s initial vintages, totaling around 4,000 cases a year, were made under the guidance of Jason Parkes, a consulting winemaker from West Kelowna. Because Ricky is ambitious to grow the winery, Lakeside hired a fulltime winemaker last year. She is Paula Cooper, an Okanagan native and previously the winemaker at C.C. Jentsch Cellars until that winery closed in August 2021 (after the death of the owner).
While he enjoys making wine, Ricky has decided to focus on viticulture. Ricky’s objective is to raise Lakeside’s production over the next several years to about 10,000 cases. He has access to grapes from four vineyards, including the estate vineyard, totaling 35 acres. What is called the Desert Valley Vineyard on the Golden Mile grows Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Recently, Ricky added Malbec and Carménère. In another nearby Golden Mile vineyard, he grows Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Syrah and Semillon. Ricky also leases a vineyard on Black Sage Road from which he plans to produce a reserve quality Syrah.
Here are notes on current releases.
Lakeside Cellars Lakeshore Vineyard Bubbles 2021 ($21.65). This is zesty carbonated sparkling wine made with Sauvignon Blanc grapes. There are aromas and flavours of lemon and lime. The finish is crisp and refreshing. 90.
Lakeside Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2021 ($24). This wine nods more to the New Zealand style, with aromas and flavours of lime and lemon mingled with herbs. The wine is crisp and fresh with a long finish. 91.
Lakeside Cellars Portage White 2021 ($21). This is a blend of 53% Sauvignon Blanc, 31% Chardonnay and 16% Pinot Gris. It begins with aromas of citrus and peach, leading to flavours of peach, apple and apricot. The texture is fleshy but the finish is dry. 91.
Lakeside Cellars Rosé 2021 ($22). This is made with Cinsault grapes. The hue is pale rose petals. There are aromas and flavours of strawberry and raspberry with an herbal note on the nose. 90.
Lakeside Cellars Portage Red 2018 ($23). This is 43% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Franc and 21% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine aged 24 months in neutral French oak. The wine has a hint of oak on the nose mingled with dark cherry and black currant. The dark berries are echoed on the palate along with a touch of chocolate. The tannins are long and ripe. 90.
Lakeside Cellars Cabernet Franc 2018 ($29). While this was also aged 24 months in neutral oak, the classic brambleberry aromas of Cabernet Franc jump from the glass. On the palate, there are flavours of cherry and blackberry. 92.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Fort Berens's new winemaker shines in his first Canadian vintage

Fort Berens Winemaker Alex Nel
Founded in 2009 by Dutch immigrants Heleen Pannekoek and Rolf de Bruin, Fort Berens Estate Winery in Lillooet has become one of British Columbia’s most successful wineries. How successful? It was one of more than 250 wineries competing in the 2022 WineAlign National Wine Awards. Fort Berens was judged #3 among Canada’s top 10 small wineries, bringing home one platinum medal, three gold medals and two silver medals. Several of those wines are among the six reviewed here. I scored them all in gold medal territory.
Naturally, the winery owners are beside themselves were pride in what they are accomplishing. In a statement, Rolf said: “This achievement is a result of the hard work, dedication, determination, and passion of an incredible team of winemakers and grape growers. We are so proud of our team.” Rolf continued: “This award is a great encouragement for our winemaking and viticultural team. Alessandro (Alex) Nel joined the Fort Berens team as winemaker and viticulturist in January 2021. He worked on our 2021 vintage from the start of pruning to the last press load of grapes on November 10th.” The winery calls Nel “an accomplished and award-winning winemaker.” He has a degree in Viticulture and Oenology at Elsenburg University. He spent 10 years as winemaker at Cederberg Winery in the Western Cape of South Africa where he produced one of the Top 50 wines in the 2021 Decanter World Wine Awards. Alex has also worked at wineries in California, France, and New Zealand before joining Fort Berens.
The winery statement quotes Alex on his winemaking approach. “When I joined Fort Berens, we tasted through a lot of prior vintages with several standout wines. The wines expressed bright fruit and fresh acidity that naturally develops in this unique area, with big diurnal temperature differences. Being isolated from other vineyards, we have a virus free and minimal disease area, leading to exceptional quality grapes, which is where great wine starts. I believe in each variety being treated with respect to show its true Lillooet terroir. White wines are made with no oxygen exposure and extended lees contact for added mouthfeel, resulting in wines that are aromatic and fresh. Further refining of the extraction process on reds with increased skin maceration and barrel maturation adds finesse and elegance.”
Lillooet is a new and emerging wine region in BC’s growing wine industry. Fort Berens was the first winery in Lillooet and now has close to 40 planted acres of vineyards. Rolf added: “In 2009, when we first pioneered this new wine region and planted our first vines in the ground in Lillooet, we set out with a goal of making world-class wines. After just a few years, our 100% estate grown Fort Berens Riesling 2012 was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in BC Wines. It was a sign of encouragement, and we continued to work incredibly hard to prove that grapes and wine from Lillooet could find a spot in the world of wine. Over the years, we explored uncharted territory and amazed ourselves and others with the capacity and growth of this emerging wine region. This incredible recognition further validates the potential of Lillooet as a grape growing and winemaking region.”
The six wines reviewed here are Alex’s first wines made in Canada. They represent an impressive debut.
Fort Berens Riesling 2021 ($21.99 for 1,735 cases). Fruit for this wine comes from The Rise Vineyard in Vernon and the estate vineyard in Lillooet. The winemaker elected to give 12 hours of skin contact after crushing the grapes, followed by a light pressing and a long, cold ferment in stainless steel. The wine begins with citrus aromas leading to flavours of apple and lemon. Residual sugar is artfully balanced with bright acidity. There is a long, fruity finish. 90.
Fort Berens Pinot Gris 2021 ($21.99 for 1,313 cases). Silver at WineAlign. Half the grapes for this wine were given six hours of skin contact before pressing; the other half were pressed immediately. The objective was to combine fresh fruit flavours with structure and aromatics. The effort was hugely successful. This is a delicious wine with aromas and flavours of citrus and pear and a touch of anise on the crisp finish. 91.
Fort Berens Chardonnay 2021 ($22.99 for 840 cases). This is a crisp, fruit-forward Chardonnay. It was fermented and aged 70% in stainless steel; the remaining 30% was fermented naturally in neutral French oak barrels, aging for six months in barrel before blending with the larger portion. The wine has aromas of apple and pear leading to flavours of apple, citrus and stone fruit. 90.
Fort Berens Small Lot Dry Riesling 2021 ($24.99 for 453 cases). The intensity of the aromas and flavours of this wine reflect both mature vines in the estate vineyard and a very long and cold fermentation. The wine begins with aromas of lemon and lemon zest. On the palate, there are flavours of citrus and apple mingled with minerality. 92.
Fort Berens Small Lot Grüner Veltliner 2021 ($24.99 for 208 cases). Gold at WineAlign. Estate fruit was used for this wine. It had nine hours of skin contact before a light pressing and then a cold ferment with an aromatic yeast strain. The wine begins with aromas of honeydew melon, stone fruits and herbs. There are gobs of fruit on the palate – pear, apple and apricot. The texture is lush. 92.
Fort Berens Rosé 2021 ($21.99 for 1,381 cases). This wine is made with Lillooet fruit. The blend is 79% Pinot Noir, 13% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc. The winemaker allowed 12 hours of skin contact, extracting an appealing rose petal hue. The wine has aromas and flavours of strawberry and raspberry. The finish is refreshing. A delicious rosé. 91.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Stag's Hollow is a rising Pinot Noir producer

Photo: Winemaker Keira LeFranc
Founded in 1995, Stag’s Hollow Winery, which produced 6,600 cases in 2021, is emerging as Pinot Noir specialist in Okanagan Falls, even as the winery also makes excellent wines from Spanish and Italian varietals. Perhaps winemaker Keira LeFranc’s competence with Pinot Noir has not been fully recognized. I reach that conclusion when I see that the winery is only asking $30 a bottle for its two flagship Pinot Noirs. Stag’s Hollow is leaving money on the table.
Three clones of Pinot Noir grow in the winery’s Stag’s Hollow Vineyard, the winery’s original vineyard, now with a total planted acreage of 7.7 acres. The Pinot Noir vines are about 30 years old. The vineyard also has Vidal, Merlot, Tempranillo, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat Ottonel. In 2011, Stag’s Hollow’s founders Larry Gerelus and Linda Pruegger planted 15 acres in a second Okanagan Falls vineyard, now called the Shuttleworth Creek Vineyard. The plantings include seven clones of Pinot Noir, along with such exotic varietals as Albariño and Dolcetto. They sold the winery in 2019 to Eric Lui but Stag’s Hollow has not changed directions. Both of its vineyards are primarily in the Okanagan Falls sub-appellation, which was declared in 2018. The major varietal in the sub-appellation is Pinot Noir. The leading producers in Okanagan Falls of that varietal include Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars and Meyer Family Vineyards. That is good company to be in.
Here are notes on current Stag’s Hollow releases.
Stag’s Hollow Albariño 2021 ($26 for 365 cases). This is a crisp and focussed white wine. It begins with aromas of citrus and pineapple, carrying through to flavours of peach, mango and lime. The texture is rich but the bright acidity gives the wine a crisp, refreshing finish. 92.
Stag’s Hollow Pinot Gris 2021 ($24 for 590 cases). The winery’s objective is to make a Pinot Gris in the mold of Alsace. To do so, the winery does two picks of this block at harvest: an early pick to capture bright acidity and fruity flavours; and a second a month later when the more mature fruit shows honeyed and raisined notes. This blend is the result. The wine has aromas and flavours of peach, melon and spice. 90.
Stag’s Hollow Dolcetto Rosato 2021 ($25 for 180 cases). The magenta hue of this rosé will get under the skin of the fans of anaemic-looking Provençal-style rosés. Tough. This is what you get when the winemaker stomps the grapes by foot and then indulges in a five-day cold soak. The flavours are equally dramatic: red fruits mingled with herbs and spice. The finish is dry. 90.
Stag’s Hollow Simply Noir 2020 ($23 for 440 cases). This superbly quaffable wine is a blend of 67.7% Pinot Noir, 22.6% Merlot, 5.5% Gamay and 4.2% Dolcetto. The wine is juicy with aromas and flavours of cherry and raspberry. 88.
Stag’s Hollow Pinot Noir 2020 Shuttleworth Creek Vineyard ($30 for 175 cases). This wine is a blend of six Dijon clones (777, 115, 828, 114, 667 and Pommard), all fermented and aged separately for 12 months before the final wine was assembled. The wine begins with floral aromas mingled with spice and red fruit. The silky palate delivers flavours of cherry and strawberry, with a savoury “forest floor” note on the finish. 91.
Stag’s Hollow Pinot Noir 2020 Stag’s Hollow Vineyard ($30 for 195 cases). This wine is a co-ferment of clones 115 and 667 in an estate block of Pinot Noir almost 30 years old. It was aged 12 months in French oak barrels (16% new). The vine age has led to a darker, slightly brooding Pinot Noir, with aromas and flavours of cherry, raspberry, plum and spice. 91.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Lakeboat Winery opens in Kaleden

Photo: Lakeboat proprietor Tara Mathison
Lakeboat Vineyard and Winery, which opened in July, is the fourth winery in Kaleden. The challenge now is making wine tourists aware of this tiny wine region ten minutes south of Penticton. “We just have to figure out how to get people to know we are here,” says Tara Mathison, Lakeboat’s owner. “Kaleden is one of those places that you just drive by all the time.”
If all it takes is quality wines, Lakeboat will help to raise the profile of Kaleden, a bucolic lakeside village established in 1909 and now bordered with vineyards and orchards. The first winery to open here in 2010 was Krāzē Legz Vineyard and Winery, now operating as SKAHA Vineyard @ Krāzē Legz Winery. (Its tasting is closed this season). Farm Gate Winery, which fronts on Highway 97, has been open about three years. Black Market Wine Co., which decided to base itself on a Kaleden vineyard after operating as a virtual winery for several years, opened its tasting room this spring. Another former virtualk winery, Anthony Buchanan Wines, now has a tasting room in the village (Friday and Saturday by appointment). Lakeboat’s tasting room is open five days a week – Wednesday through Sundays and on holiday Mondays.
I profiled Lakeboat two years before it opened, in The Okanagan Wine Tour Guide which was published in 2020. Here is an excerpt.
Several years ago in the Kelowna airport, Calgarian Tara Mathison encountered a friend, Gordon Haskins, from her time studying law in Toronto. He was now, she discovered, a banker in Kazakhstan and he was in the Okanagan to find a vineyard property for an eventual career change. She agreed to help by tasting wines from nearby producers every time he identified a possible vineyard. (He did find property on the Naramata Bench.) “I think that is how I got sucked into buying a winery,” she laughs, referring to Lakeboat.
It is a little more complicated than that. She has travelled and tasted in many wine regions with her former husband, a developer with a love for food and wine. When she stopped practising law to raise her three daughters, she became involved through his business in renovating houses. In 2016, she purchased a century-old house in Kaleden to renovate. The house was surrounded by the vineyard of Topshelf Winery, a struggling property that was also for sale. Tara bought it in November 2017 – and found she taken on an even more challenging renovation job.
Topshelf Winery had been established by Leonard and Myra Kwiatkowski and got its name because two of their sons had played professional hockey. They bought the Kaleden property in 2008 as a retirement project (Leonard was 60) and opened the winery in 2011. They had taken on more than they had counted on and put the winery on the market soon after Tara bought the heritage house.
The vineyard, she discovered, was neglected. The mildewed grapes of the 2017 harvest had to be destroyed. She hired vineyard professionals to rejuvenate the 1.4-hectare (3 ½-acre) vineyard of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Merlot. The winery’s new name reflects Tara’s interest in the sternwheelers and sidewheelers that used to ply Okanagan lakes before railroads and highways. “They all had interesting stories,” she says. “I find the history of the lake boats fascinating.”
Recognizing the gaps in her wine industry skill sets, Tara has sought support with the requisite experience. Lakeboat’s general manager is Will Coleman, one of the founders in 2001 of Township 7 Vineyards & Winery, and more recently general manager of Skimmerhorn Winery & Vineyard in Creston. The winemaker at Lakeboat is Mireille Sauvé, whose own label is The Wine Umbrella. Those wines are also available in the Lakeboat wineshop.
Mireille and Will have known each other since they worked the harvest at Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards in 1996. However, Mireille, who was born in Edmonton, came to wine by way of working in restaurants. “I started working in restaurants at 14,” she says. “By the time I was 21 I wanted to take on management positions. Nobody really wanted to hand over their keys to me because I was 21.” Helped by a scholarship from Les Dames d’Escoffier, she attended George Brown College in Toronto and emerged as Canada’s youngest sommelier in 1997. She has subsequently honed her winemaking skills with a mentorship at Hedges Cellars in Washington and with a wine chemistry course from the University of California. She has reciprocated the support of Les Dames by producing wines, starting in 2014, that raise funds for the organization. “It is all encompassing,” Mireille says of wine. “It takes over your whole life. I do get excited about every single glass of wine that showcases terroir. There is a story in that glass that goes generations back and makes that wine what it is. It is the only topic I have discovered in my life that has grabbed me with that interest, that I actually never want to talk about anything else.”
Lakeboat intends to use grapes primarily, perhaps exclusively, from Kaleden vineyards. “My goal with all of these wines is to make them as varietally typical as possible, so that we can showcase the terroir, the sense of place,” Mireille says. “Pinot Gris is the Okanagan’s darling,” she continues. “I want those fresh orchard flavours to shine through. I focus hard on balance when it comes to Chardonnay. I believe in a responsible use of oak. I don’t want to overwhelm the fruit.” Pinot Noir is made in a what she calls a new world style, showcasing fruit. “The Merlot is a nice big bold wine,” she says. “That is close to my heart. Merlot is such an under-appreciated grape variety.”
Here are notes on the wines.
Lakeboat Pinot Gris 2021 ($21.95). This wine is crisp and fresh. It begins with aromas of pear and peach. The palate delivers peach and apple notes. 91.
Lakeboat Chardonnay 2021 ($26.95). The wine presents with a golden hue. Aromas of butter, vanilla and citrus lead to flavours of guava, mango and stone fruit. The texture is rich and the finish is long. 92.
Lakeboat Pinot Noir 2020 ($29.95). The wine begins with aromas of cherry and spice. The silky palate delivers flavours of cherry and plum. 91.
Lakeboat Merlot 2020 ($32.95). The wine begins with aromas of black cherry and cassis. Full-bodied, the wine has flavours of black cherry, blackberry and cassis. Long ripe tannins give the wine a satisfying, juicy texture. 91.
Wine Umbrella Fleur 2019 ($26.95). This is 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 31% Viognier and 9% Muscat. The wine is a delicious bowl of tropical fruits, with aromas and flavours of melon and peach mingled with lemon. 91.
Wine Umbrella Co-Syrah 2020 ($39.95). This is 91% Syrah, 9% Viognier. It begins with aromas of toasty oak, plum, fig and dark chocolate. All that is echoed on the palate, mingled with black cherry and a touch of pepper. 91.