Writer and wine columnist John Schreiner is Canada's most prolific author of books on wine.
Monday, October 9, 2023
Painted Rock's vines survived the 2022 winter
Photo: Consultant Alain Sutre gave good advice (photo courtesy of Painted Rock winery)
How impressive are the wines from Painted Rock Estate Winery? Here is a little story.
The winery sent me nine samples to taste and review. That is a lot of wine to taste over dinners so, to accelerate the pace, I invited some knowledgeable wine friends to spend an afternoon tasting with me and then take some of the leftover wine home. Before the evening, one couple had joined the Painted Rock wine club. They had been that impressed with the wines.
The good news for members of the Painted Rock wine club is that the winery, unlike many others in the Okanagan, has had a 2023 harvest almost normal in quantity and above normal in quality.
“We were extraordinarily lucky last winter,” writes Lauren Skinner Buksevics, the winery’s director of sales and marketing. “We know it was devastating for many, but the only area of our vineyard that had any impact was a very small portion of Syrah. Overall, our harvest is very typical volume-wise and of exceptional quality. We expect to have lower volumes than 2022 when complete, but we will be well above 2019 and 2020.”
She gives two reasons why Painted Rock’s 25-acre vineyard came through such a hard winter in reasonable health.
“First, the air flow we have on the site,” Lauren says. “Thanks to the contouring that was done prior to planting, there are no frost pockets or areas at risk of decreased airflow. Secondly, after the vines were planted, our consultant Alain Sutre gave us some spectacular advice. He recommended we spade every second row each year for the first four years, alternating every year. This would cut off any horizontally trending roots and encourage the roots downwards. Alain’s comment earlier this year when [proprietor] John Skinner asked why our plants were so strong and had fared so well, was ‘your plants didn’t know it was cold outside because the roots are so deep’.”
Alain Sutre is a consultant from Bordeaux who has worked, and may still work, with a number of Okanagan producers, including Osoyoos Larose Winery. John Skinner employed him in 2006, two years after buying the 25-acre property near the climbing bluffs on the east side of Skaha Lake. Clearly, it has been money well spent.
Considerable credit for these wines also goes to Gabriel Reis (above), Painted Rock’s long-time and low-profile winemaker. A native of Cawston in the Similkameen, he joined Painted Rock as a cellar hand in 2009. In the same year, he took the winery assistant program at Okanagan College. By 2016, he had completed his enology training through Washington State University.
Here are notes on the current releases. Note that the 2020 Red Icon was first released a year ago. The winery has now decided to hold its flagship red back for an extra year of bottle age in the winery’s cellar.
Painted Rock Chardonnay 2022 ($44.99). This is a seductively pretty fruit-forward Chardonnay. The grapes were picked in four harvests over two weeks to capture various flavours in the fruits. Some 85% of the wine was aged in French oak (45% new). The 15% from the last pick was aged in stainless steel. Only 23% of the wine went through malolactic. The aromas and the flavours of the wine are fresh and bursting with peach, lime and tropical fruits. The finish is long. 92.
Painted Rock Rosé 2022 ($32.99). The blend is 47% Merlot, 24% Malbec, 11% Cabernet Franc and 9% each of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Malbec was harvested early and direct-pressed for a rosé. The juice from the other varietals was obtained by the saignée method. The colour of this wine is perfect: not too pale, nor too dark. It has aromas and flavours of watermelon, strawberry, cherry and rhubarb, with a long, dry finish. 91.
Painted Rock Merlot 2021 ($49.99). This is a big, ripe wine. The alcohol is 15.1% but the wine is so rich on the palate that one never notices any heat. It begins with aromas of dark cherry, plum, figs and chocolate. All that is echoed on the intensely-flavoured palate, along with a hint of oak. The wine was aged 18 months in French oak (30%new). 93.
Painted Rock Cabernet Franc 2021 ($54.99). The winery has a three-acre block of this varietal. The fruit was picked mid-November, 2021, a hangtime allowing full flavour development. The wine was aged in French oak barrels for 18 months. The wine begins with aromas of herbs, spice and dark cherry. On the palate, there are the classic brambly flavours of this varietal. The tannins still have a bit of grip. This wine will age superbly. 92.
Painted Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 ($59.99). There is a single 2.15-acre block of this varietal in the Painted Rock vineyard. The berries had four days of cold-soaking and then were fermented in tank with twice-daily pump overs. The wine was aged 18 months in French oak (30% new). The texture and the flavours are rich and concentrated. The wine begins with aromas of sage and eucalyptus mingled with dark fruits. On the palate, there are complex flavours of black currant, dark cherry, plum and mocha. 94.
Painted Rock Malbec 2021 ($59.99). Only 190 cases were made in this vintage because most of the fruit from the vineyard’s small block is blended into Red Icon. The wine was aged 18 months in French oak (30% new). The wine has the classic perfumed aromas of the varietal: violets mingled with raspberry and blueberry and accented with an intriguing hint of pepper. The pepper carries through to the palate to lift the flavours of cherry, blueberry and spice. 93.
Painted Rock Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 ($49.99). The winery produced 270 cases of this wine, a blend of 78% Syrah and 22% Cabernet Sauvignon. The varietals are fermented separately, aged 18 months in French oak (30% new) and then blended. The wine begins with aromas of pepper, black currant, blackberry and fig, which are echoed on the rich palate, along with notes of chocolate and leather. 92.
Painted Rock Syrah 2021 ($49.99). The summer of 2021 was unusually hot, leading to very ripe fruit and a wine in this case that has 15.6% alcohol. Once again, the concentrated flavours and rich texture along with good acidity balance this wine. The wine was aged 18 months in oak (80% French, 20% American) of which 30% was new. The wine begins with aromas of violets, cherries and white pepper. The palate delivers a medley of dark fruit flavours, including fig, plum and cherry with a hint of pepper and spice. 93.
Painted Rock Red Icon 2020 ($79.99). This wine, which is also available in magnums and doble magnums, is a blend of 39% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 14% Petit Verdot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Malbec. The various batches were aged 18 months in French oak (30% new) prior to blending. This is a cerebral wine beginning with aromas of spice, black cherry and black currant. On the palate, there are layers of dark fruits – black cherry, blackberry, plum and blueberry – mingled with spice and notes of chocolate. The tannins are firm but the extra year of bottle age has polished the texture. Decant for immediate consumption or lay it down for a decade or so. 95.