Writer and wine columnist John Schreiner is Canada's most prolific author of books on wine.
Monday, August 7, 2023
Chain Reaction Winery: small but good
Photo: Joel Chamaschuk, co-owner of Chain Reaction
Chain Reaction Winery, which opened in 2021 on a tiny Naramata Road property, is making wines that wines that punch above their weight. Perhaps one should not be surprised, given the background of the owners.
Here is an excerpt from my 2020 book, The Okanagan Wine Tour Guide.
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 bought a property on Naramata Road, Joel has taken the viticulture course at Okanagan College and worked in the cellar at Moraine Winery with winemaker Dwight Sick. Both have completed level two in the Wine & Spirits Education Trust program, a sommelier-oriented course that has enrich 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, continues to work as a business analyst to a health care agency. Since 1989, she 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 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 volunteer 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 vines. “We moved here to be involved in the wine industry,” Joel says. “Even if apples were lucrative, we would have pulled them out in favour of vines. 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. Joel and Linda plan to open a tasting room in 2021 in their 2,000-square-foot winery, designed by Landform Architecture of Penticton. “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 the wines. Some of the prices are wholesale.
Chain Reaction Carpe Diem Gewürztraminer 2022 ($23 for 140 cases). Fermented cool and aged in stainless steel, this wine begins with aromas of spice and lychee. The palate delivers tropical fruit flavours with a hint of residual sugar contributing to a rich texture. 90.
Chain Reaction Blanc de Noir 2022 ($24 for 182 cases). This is a white Pinot Noir. The grapes were pressed gently to avoid colour and astringency. The juice was fermented for four weeks at low temperatures in stainless steel, with 25% of the wine being aged four months in new French oak. The wine begins with aromas of apple and white peach. The palate is crisp, with flavours of apple, stone fruits and just a hint of oak on the finish. 91.
Chain Reaction Tandem White Blend 2022 ($18.39 for 196 cases). This is 54% Pinot Gris, 35% Gewürztraminer and 11% Riesling, blended just before bottling. The wines were fermented in stainless steel and aged two months on the lees in stainless steel. The wine begins with aromas of pear with a hint of lychee. The palate is packed with fruit flavours: pear and nectarine. The finish persists. 91.
Chain Reaction Tailwind Pinot Gris 2022 ($18.39 for 385 cases). The fruit for this wine is 75% from a Kaleden vineyard and 25% from the estate McMillan Vineyard. The grapes from the latter were fermented to dryness while a touch of residual sugar was left in the Kaleden lot. Fermentation was long and cool in stainless steel, with two months aging on the lees before blending and bottling. The wine begins with aromas of honeydew melon leading to flavours of pear, nectarine and apple. 91.
Chain Reaction True Colours Pinot Noir Rosé 2022 ($20 for 85 cases). This is a Pinot Noir rosé fermented in stainless steel. The hue is delicate pink. The wine has aromas and flavours of strawberry and raspberry. The wine has a juicy texture. 91.
Chain Reaction Estate Pinot Noir 2021 ($24 for 37 cases). This is a bold Pinot Noir, with aromas and flavours of cherry and plum, with a touch of spice. The palate is richly textured and the finish is long and satisfying. 92.