Writer and wine columnist John Schreiner is Canada's most prolific author of books on wine.
Friday, September 2, 2022
Terravista adds Mencía to its varietal mix
Photo: Dallas and Eric Thor
When Terravista Vineyards was established in 2009 on the Naramata Bench, founders Bob and Senka Tennant planted Albariño and Verdejo, white Spanish varietals never before planted in the Okanagan.
Dallas and Eric Thor purchased Terravista in 2019. They not only continued producing the Spanish whites. In 2022, they also planted a block of a Spanish red varietal called Mencía, the first in British Columbia and perhaps in Canada.
“We wanted to do something Spanish, since we have Spanish whites here,” Eric says. “It would not do to compliment the white varieties with something French. There is a legacy in the Terravista name. A red Spanish variety seemed key.”
Jancis Robinson and her colleagues, writing in 2012 in Wine Grapes, described Mencía as an “increasingly appreciated aromatic variety found in both Spain and Portugal.”
Writing about its viticultural properties, the authors say: “Small bunches of medium-sized berries in Spain; medium to large berries in Portugal. Early budding, mid ripening. It is said to have good production potential in Portugal but to be not very productive in Spain. It is prone to wind damage and susceptible to powdery and downy mildews and botrytis bunch rot.”
Will the variety thrive in the Okanagan’s Naramata Bench? Only time will tell.
“We don’t know a tremendous amount about the grape just yet,” Eric told me in June. “We have done a cursory review of where it grows and how it grows. It is very Pinot Noir-esque. We are rolling the dice a little bit, but given that Pinot Noir is successful on the bench here, it seems reasonable to expect Mencía to do well. It is a bit of a gamble but it is also fun. It will turn all our brains on for years to come. I just don’t want to be copying another Pinot Noir, or try to chase something everybody else is after.”
Three and one-half acres of Mencía occupy half of a seven-acre site not far from Okanagan Lake, which Terravista calls the Naramata Outlook Vineyard. “We have Mencía planted in a few different orientations,” Eric says. “A rolling slope to the west; some on a true north to south orientation. And some high-density plantings.”
I first interviewed Eric and Dallas soon after they took over Terravista. Here is an excerpt from my 2020 book, Okanagan Wine Tour Guide (with Luke Whittall as co-author).
When Dallas and Eric Thor acquired Terravista Vineyards in 2019, it was the culmination of the wine journey Eric began as a bar manager in a Vancouver restaurant in 2000. He was showing off his wine knowledge to a guest. Then he discovered he was talking to Harry McWatters, the founder of Sumac Ridge, who promptly hired him to work that fall’s vintage. He even got to put the Christmas lights on Harry’s house before work ran out at Sumac Ridge.
Eric, who was born in 1978 and grew up in Penticton, went back to school to learn accounting. In 2003 he joined Point Grey Research, a technical start-up (digital cameras) launched by five University of British Columbia graduates. Eric had become the company’s chief financial officer by 2016 when Point Grey was taken over for $250 million. Eric’s share was more than enough to get him and Dallas, his wife, back into the wine business.
A teacher with a master’s degree in science, she shares his passion for wine. In 2016, when they were buying an ocean-going catamaran in the south of France, they lived for seven weeks at the village of Canet en Roussillon, working the harvest at a small winery. They returned to Penticton to buy some land in 2017 on the Naramata Bench for a vineyard. And they asked Senka Tennant to be their consultant.
Senka and her husband, Bob, are legendary in the Okanagan. They were co-founders of Black Hills Winery, where the flagship red, Nota Bene, acquired a cult following. Two years after Black Hills was sold in 2007, they established Terravista Vineyards, based on a 1.6-hectare (four-acre) vineyard with the Okanagan’s first planting of Albariño and Verdejo, two Spanish white varieties. Once again, the wines attracted a cult following.
Senka thought it was premature for Eric and Dallas to seek her advice before they had planted a vineyard. (A small block of Pinot Noir was planted in 2019 while Syrah was planted in 2020 on most of their two-hectare vineyard.) The Thors continued to consult with Senka; and they joined Terravista’s wine club. The relationship blossomed. “They did not bother letting us know they were selling for a couple of meetings,” Eric recalls. “When they decided we would be suitable candidates to take over their baby, they let us know they were selling.”
As Senka reduced her consulting relationship, the Thors have retained Nadine Kinvig as their winemaker. An Okanagan native, she went to New Zealand to train as a winemaker. Back in the Okanagan, she worked previously at Time Winery and Poplar Grove Winery. “She eats and breathes wine,” Eric says.
Here are notes on current releases from Terravista.
Terravista Albarino 2021 ($27 for 204 cases; sold out). This is a crisp, refreshing white, with aromas and flavours of citrus and green apples with an herbal note on the finish. 92.
Terravista Fandango 2021 ($29 for 471 cases). This is 51% Albariño, 49% Verdejo. The wine has nice weight on the palate, with aromas and flavours of peaches, pears and apples. 92.
Terravista Figaro 2020 ($33; sold out). This is a blend of 48% Roussanne, 35% Marsanne and 17% Viognier. The first two varieties were barrel-fermented and, for the most part, co-fermented. The wine is fleshy, almost full-bodied, with aromas and flavours of citrus and stone fruits. 91.
Terravista Viognier 2021 ($24 for 266 cases). This wine was made with fruit both from the Naramata Bench and the Similkameen Valley. It has aromas and luscious flavours of apricot and pineapple. 92.
Terravista Syrah 2020 ($35; not yet released). This was tasted a few hours after it was bottled, so there is no score. But the flavours of plum, figs and other dark fruits promise it will be delicious when released in October.