Friday, December 7, 2018

Township 7's wines keep impressing

 Photo: Winemaker Mary McDermott in Township 7's cellar

The wines at Township 7 Vineyards & Winery have gone from strength to strength since 2014, when Beijing businessman Ge Song bought the winery in 2014.

He brought the resources to expand the winery to a capacity of 12,00
0 cases; to buy a major Oliver vineyard; and to update the equipment in the winery.

He pulled all of this together by hiring winemaker Mary McDermott, a talented winemaker from Ontario. Township 7 had been making good wines before that but Mary has raised the bar significantly.

Here are notes on this fall’s releases.

Township 7 Muscat  2017 Rock Pocket Vineyard ($17.97 for 78 cases; wine club only). This wine begins with delicate ginger and rose petal notes. The dry palate delivers flavours of orange peel. The crisp finish is lingering. 91.

Township 7  Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($18.97 for 548 cases). Fermented in stainless steel, the wine begins with lime and stone fruits, leading to flavours of lime, guava and quince. The finish is crisp with lingering herbal notes. 90.

Township 7 Chardonnay 2017 ($20.97 for 648 cases).  Half of this wine was fermented in new 1,000-litre oak fermenter. The other half was fermented in stainless steel. The wine begins with aromas of apple with subtle accents of vanilla. The flavours echo the aromas. There is also a rich buttery note on the finish. The commendable restraint on the oak means the wine delivers fresh fruit flavours. 91.

Township 7 Viognier Raju Vineyard 2017 ($24.97 for 498 cases). The Raju Vineyard is near Osoyoos. Some 30% of this wine was fermented with indigenous yeast in French oak barrels; the rest was fermented in stainless steel. Both the aromas and the flavours are intense, recalling peaches, apricots and passionfruit. The wine has good weight on the palate but the bright acidity maintains appealing freshness. 93.

Township 7 Reserve Pinot Gris 2017 Estate Vineyard ($26.97 for 148 cases). This wine was fermented in neutral oak and in barrel a further five months. It begins with appealing fruity aromas – peach, ripe apricot – that lead to flavours of pear and melon, with a hint of spice on the finish. The texture is generous and the finish is long. 91.

Township 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($27.97 for 788 cases).  The grapes for this are from the Blue Terrace Vineyard at Oliver which has supplied Township 7 since 2000. This was the vineyard which the winery purchased this summer. The wine, which was fermented in 5,000 litre oak fermenters, begins with aromas of black cherry and black currant mingled with toasty oak. On the palate, the flavours echo the aroma, with bright berry notes on the finish. The tannins are long and ripe.  90.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Mirabel Vineyards releases 2016 Pinot Noir

Photo: Mirabel proprietors Dawn and Doug Reimer (courtesy of the winery)

Mirabel Vineyards, which has just released its 2016 Pinot Noir, is transforming from a virtual winery to a land-based winery.

The winery, based on a vineyard in northeast Kelowna, has just received its license. Proprietor Doug Reimer plans a production facility at the property, along with an appointment-only wine shop. Going forward, the wines will be made by David Paterson, the winemaker and general manager at Tantalus Vineyards.

“We will continue to produce only small lots of each of our wines but in doing so, we want to bring them up to yet another level,” Doug says. “We have worked hard this year in identifying different blocks within the vineyard and will now be able to work each one a little differently, creating more complexity in the wines.”

Mirabel, which has also launched its own wine club, produces wines only from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, including a Pinot Noir rosé and, coming next year, a sparkling Pinot Noir. 

Mirabel Vineyards is operated by Doug Reimer and his wife, Dawn. The winery came about after the Reimers, members of a leading Canadian trucking family, purchased this Kelowna property in 2005 to build their dream home. The property is on a sun-bathed slope above the Harvest Golf Course and, at the time, was an apple orchard.

They cleared the apple trees to make room for a vineyard, having decided that vines are more attractive that trees. They had consultants analyze the soils and recommend grape varieties.

“We lucked out,” Doug says. “It is a fabulous property and a fabulous piece of soil. It is only six acres and that is all we can plant.”

In 2006, they planted most of it with three clones of Pinot Noir. The final one and a half acres were planted with Chardonnay in the spring of 2018.

For a number of years, the Reimers sold their Pinot Noir grapes primarily to Meyer Family Vineyards and to Foxtrot Vineyards, two of the Okanagan’s leading Pinot Noir specialists. It gave the Reimers the opportunity to assess what could be produced from their fruit. The first Pinot Noir from Mirabel was made in 2015 and subsequently was released at $70.

“We wanted to produce something that was going to be awesome,” Doug says. “With six acres, we can only do the best with what we have. We are only going to produce the best.”

Until now, the Mirabel wines were made for the Reimers at Okanagan Crush Pad winery and by OCP winemaker Matt Dumayne. OCP operates a custom crush and winery incubator business.

David Paterson, who joined Tantalus in 2009, is a Canadian-born, New Zealand-trained winemaker. Tantalus, also on a vineyard in East Kelowna, is renowned for Riesling but has a rising reputation for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Here are notes on two recent releases.

Mirabel Rosé of Pinot Noir 2017 ($30). This wine is packaged in an unusual but attractive bottle with a glass stopper. The wine begins with a delicate rose petal hue and aromas of strawberry and raspberry. It has surprising weight on the palate, with flavours of strawberry. Fresh acidity gives the wine a clean, refreshing and dry finish. 92.

Mirabel Pinot Noir 2016 ($70 for 450 cases). This elegant and deeply flavoured wine has aromas and flavours of cherry with touches of raspberry, spice and very subtle oak. The freshness of the palate reflects the 2016 vintage, an excellent one for Pinot Noir. The seductive flavours and the silky texture linger and linger. The good acidity gives this wine the ability to cellar well, if you can keep your fingers off it. 96.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Road 13 purchased by Anthony von Mandl

Photo: Road 13 Vineyards and winery

Road 13 Vineyards has been acquired by Anthony von Mandl, adding to a stable of premium wineries that includes his Mission Hill Family Estates.

This was disclosed on Friday by Darryl Brooker, the general manager of Mission Hill. Mick and Pam Luckhurst (right), the founders of Road 13, have decided to retire from winery operations.

This is part of rationalization that has been taking place among the Okanagan’s major wineries. In 2017, Andrew Peller Ltd. acquired Gray Monk Estate Winery, Tinhorn Creek Estate Winery and Black Hills winery, while Arterra Wines purchased Laughing Stock Vineyards.

In all instances except Black Hills, the transactions involved long-time owners ready to exit the wine industry.

The Road 13 acquisition includes 50 acres of vineyards in the Golden Mile sub-appellation as well as a major processing facility in the southern Okanagan. Until now, all of the Mission Hill group’s processing has been done in the north Okanagan, with the exception of that done at the small CheckMate Winery. The latter winery is a neighbour to Road 13.

The Road 13 acquisition does not include the 100-acre Blind Creek Vineyard in the Similkameen Valley. It will continue to be run by Mick Luckhurst and two partners. Brooker expects to continue getting grapes from Blind Creek.

According to Brooker, it will be “business as usual” at Road 13. Joe Luckhurst, Pam and Mick’s son, is expected to continue as the winery’s manager and Jeff Del Nin continues as the winemaker.

Road 13 opened in 1998 as Golden Mile Cellars and was purchased by the Luckhursts in 2003 in what was a fairly dramatic change of lifestyle.

Mick, who was born in Port Alberni in 1950, was a lumber broker, a real estate developer and a building supply owner. Manchester-born Pam, a former flight attendant, has long been Mick’s business partner. They were on a summer-long sabbatical to the Okanagan from Edmonton, where they had sold a business, when the wine industry appealed to them.

The original Golden Mile winery building was designed to resemble a 17th Century Bavarian castle and was making only 1,000 cases of wine annually. Under Mick’s aggressive management, it was expanded dramatically.

The Luckhursts changed the name of the winery to Road 13 in 2008, much to the relief of neighbouring wineries in what has since become the Golden Mile sub-appellation.

Road 13 has benefitted from a series of talented winemakers in the cellar, including the late Lawrence Herder. He was succeeded by Michael Bartier. When Michael left in 2010, he turned the cellar over to Jean-Martin Bouchard, a Sherbrook native. J-M, as he calls himself, studied hotel management but, when restaurant jobs fostered a love of wine, he went to Australia in 1998 to study wine science at Charles Sturt University. Two years ago, he was succeeded by Jeff Del Nin, formerly the winemaker at Church & State and Burrowing Owl Winery, who is also Australian-trained.

It was J-M who espoused the Blind Creek Vineyard. He considered it to be one of the best vineyards in Canada and incorporated the fruit in many of Road 13’s premium reds.

Road 13’s Castle Vineyard on the Golden Mile includes some of the oldest Chenin Blanc vines in the Okanagan. The winery produces both an Old Vines Chenin Blanc and a sparkling Chenin Blanc. This is one variety not grown in any of the vineyards owned by Sebastian Farms, von Mandl’s vineyard company.

Brooker notes there is no significant overlap between the Road 13 portfolio and the portfolios of von Mandl’s other wineries. In addition to Mission Hill, von Mandl also owns CedarCreek, CheckMate and Martin’s Lane Winery. As well, he controls a portfolio of other labels, among them Prospect Winery.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

CheckMate releases 2015 Chardonnays

 Photo: CheckMate's Phil McGahan

CheckMate Artisanal Winery has now released five Chardonnays from the 2015 vintage.

It was a challenging year because it was a hot year. However, Phil McGahan, the winemaker at CheckMate, achieved very well-balanced wines of remarkable freshness, with a quality that supports the prices.

“It was quite a warm year,” Phil says of 2015. “It was very important to pay attention to the picking. You had to balance the fruit flavours and ripeness against the acidity, and pick accordingly. It was one of those years with Chardonnay that if you waited until it tastes good on the vine, you have left it too late. We had to make a call predicated on the acidity as well as the fruit character. By doing that, we managed to keep freshness in the wine.”

These wines are the third vintage of Chardonnay released by CheckMate and cement the winery’s reputation as one of the best, if not the very best, producer of Chardonnay in the Okanagan. The winery makes just two varietals, the other being Merlot.

The CheckMate winery is midway between Oliver and Osoyoos, at the location of the former Antelope Ridge Winery. Mission Hill proprietor Anthony von Mandl purchased the winery and a portion of its vineyard in 2012. More crucially, he also purchased a neighbouring vineyard. Here, the mature vines included the Dekleva clone from which Mission Hill in 1992 made the legendary award-winning Chardonnay that put the winery on the map.

Control of these vineyards with their 40-year-plus vines triggered the launch of CheckMate and the making of wines that eclipse anything made here before. The Antelope Ridge winery was refreshed with state-of-the-art equipment. This summer, a further expansion enlarged the cellar and completed the necessary renovation.

Phil McGahan, the winemaker, is a soft-spoken Australian. Born in 1969, he initially became a lawyer before getting his winemaking degree at Charles Sturt University. During his studies, he worked the 2005 harvest at the prestigious Williams Selyem Winery in Sonoma. “Once I graduated, I came back [to California] as an assistant winemaker,” Phil says. He was soon promoted, become one of the winery’s three winemakers. 

He was ready to move to the Okanagan in 2012 when von Mandl recruited him, giving him the responsibility to redevelop the Antelope Ridge winery and to craft world-class wines. “I was at a point when I could have stayed in America, got my green card and hope to advance; or I could take chance,” Phil says. “For me, this has been an amazing experience.”

At CheckMate, he is able to work with a range of cooperage that includes concrete, barrels (all French oak) and larger French oak foudres. He uses the latter for aging Attack, one of CheckMate’s most appealing Chardonnays.

“The foudres give that more reductive environment for the wines, so you get reductive notes – gunflint and a sea salt character on the nose,” Phil says during a tasting at the winery. “More Asian fruits, like lychee and tropical fruit characters. On the palate, I get a mixture of Indian and Asian spices, almost a cardamom character and then that salinity as well.”

He adds: “I have a soft spot for The Attack. It is quite unique. It is a wine that begins reductive in style but, when you have it in bottle, it opens up to be quite rich.”

Here are notes on Attack and its friends.

CheckMate Queen Taken 2015 ($125). The intensity of this wine reflects that the grapes are from vines that are 43 years old. The wine begins with aromas of citrus and peach. The palate is generous, with flavours of orange and stone fruit around a spine of minerality. Bright acidity gives the wine a vibrant personality. 94.

CheckMate Queen’s Advantage 2015 ($85). The fruit for this wine comes for the Combret Vineyard adjacent to the winery, with vines believed to have been planted in the early 1970s. The wine begins with intense aromas of tropical fruits that are echoed on the rich and satisfying palate. Some 43% of the grapes were fermented with indigenous yeast. The wine was aged 16 months in French oak (48% new). 94.

CheckMate Knight’s Challenge 2015 ($85). The fruit for this wine comes from a vineyard on the Black Sage Bench. The wine has complex aromas that mingle brioche and citrus. On the palate, there are herbal notes and flavours of mandarin orange with buttery notes. There is minerality on the dry finish. 93.

CheckMate Attack 2015 ($115). This marvelous Chardonnay was aged in a foudre which perhaps accounts for its mouth-filling fruit. The wine begins with aromas of citrus and spice. On the palate, the spice mingles with tropical fruit and leads to a long, savoury finish. 96.

CheckMate Capture 2015 ($90). The grapes for this wine, all Dijon Clone 76 Chardonnay, are from the Border Vista Vineyard on the Osoyoos East Bench. Some 64% of the wine was fermented with indigenous yeast. The wine was aged 16 months in French oak (34% new). Production: eight barrels. The wine begins with aromas of citrus and orchard blossoms. On the palate, flavours of apple, citrus and peach mingle with a buttery note. The finish is fresh and lingering. 94.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Blue Mountain bubbles for the 2018 holidays

Photo: Blue Mountain toasts the vintage

In the fall of 2010, Blue Mountain Vineyard & Cellars celebrated its 20th vintage by hosting an extensive tasting of its reserve wines.

The wines in the tasting included a 1994 Reserve Brut R.D., which means recently disgorged. If my files are correct, the winery released its next R.D. sparkling wine from the vintage of 2004. Happily, the winery has begun to release is classy R.D. wines with some regularity now.

Blue Mountain has produced an excellent sparkling wine every year since the winery was founded in 1991. For many of those years, the production volume was too limited (or sold too quickly) to allow the winery to hold back a portion each vintage for extended aging on the lees.

In recent years, the winery has been able to do that. The result is a series of sparkling wines that stand side by side with Champagne.

Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut, the winery’s bread and butter sparkling wine, spends two years on the lees before being disgorged, bottled and released. Wines made in this style are typically crisp and fresh. At $28 a bottle, this wine represents outstanding value for its quality.

The R.D wines necessarily are more expensive, reflecting the additional years these wines are aged. The reward for tying up capital for another five to eight years is the enhanced complexity that the wines develop from extended lees contact.

Currently, the winery has three R.D. releases available.

Blue Mountain Brut Rosé 2014 R.D. ($33). The base for this wine is 68% Pinot Noir and 32% Chardonnay. After secondary fermentation in the bottle, the wine aged 30 months on the lees before being disgorged in the fall of 2017. The dosage is 10 grams of residual sugar per litre – just enough to add flesh to the texture while retaining a crisp finish. With its pink hue and fine bubbles, the wine gives a fine display in the glass. The aroma is fruity. Creamy on the palate, the delicious wine delivers flavours of strawberry and brioche that coat the palate and linger on the finish. 93.

Blue Mountain Blanc de Blancs 2010 R.D. ($40). Made with Chardonnay grapes, this wine, after its secondary fermentation, remained seven years on the lees, to be disgorged in August 2017. It is finished in the brut style, with almost no sugar in the dosage. In the glass, the wine has a fine and vigorous mousse. It has brioche aromas and flavours, with hints of lemon and green apple and a crisp finish. The elegance of this wine is quite striking. 92.

 Blue Mountain Reserve Brut 2010 R.D. ($40). This is 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay. This wine has had six and a half years on the lees before being disgorged in the fall of 2017. In the glass, the mousse is fine and active. The wine has aromas of citrus and toast, going on to delicate fruit and brioche on the palate. The finish is lingering. The wine has the classy elegance of Champagne. 92.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Burrowing Owl at 25

Photo: Pair of burrowing owls in the Oliver breeding facility

One of the great success stories of the Okanagan, Burrowing Owl Estate Winery celebrates its 25th anniversary this fall.

The vineyard was established in 1993 by Jim and Midge Wyse. The first vintage was made in 1997 and the winery itself was opened in 1998. It has grown to be a 40,000-case producer of premium wines, with grapes from 220 acres, almost all from the south Okanagan.

The Tuscan-style building today is perched on vast underground barrel cellars. So many solar panels have been installed on top of the buildings since 2006 that Burrowing Owl is practically energy self sufficient. And the parking lot by the wine shop has eight electric vehicle charging stations that customers are free to use.

It all started with a newspaper advertisement that Jim chanced to read in 1993 when he was still active as a property developer.

“I had been spelling off our real estate sales people as we approached the end of our sales of a 40-unit stratified town-house project in Vernon,” he remembers. “I was browsing a local newspaper and noticed the advertisement for the sale of a winery named “Chateau Ste. Claire” near Peachland. So I called the owner, Goldie Smetliner,  and met with her once, or possibly twice.”

Even without a wine industry background, he recognized that her winery was run down and that the vineyard was poorly located.

But Goldie gave him a useful bit of advice: talk to Harry McWatters, the founder of Sumac Ridge Estate Winery and even then, one of the best-connected individuals in the Okanagan. Harry introduced him to a realtor with a portfolio of vineyard properties. These included several on Black Sage Road that were fallow after the original plantings of hybrid grapes had been pulled out in 1988.

Jim was soon convinced this was a prime site for growing big red wines. He first bought 100 acres and then, joined by investors, acquired adjoining land until he controlled 288 acres. This was later subdivided, with half becoming Sandhill Vineyards. Subsequently, Jim and his son, Chris, who now runs the winery, added significant vineyard property near Osoyoos and planted a small vineyard in the Similkameen.

Burrowing Owl has built its reputation on making big red wines. “Our original big leap of faith was to get into the Bordeaux reds,” Jim says. That started with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, fleshed out since with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Syrah.

While the winery is seen as a red house, white varietals are also produced – notably Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and most recently Viognier, due to be released next year.

 Burrowing Owl made its first vintage in 1997 while building the winery in which wine has been produced since 1998. The winemaker for the first seven vintages was Bill Dyer, a legendary consultant from the Napa Valley. The style of his wines – rich and ripe - set up Burrowing Owl for immediate success with consumers. While he is long gone, his impact remains on the portfolio.

The inspiration for the winery’s name came from a roadside sign about a struggling Burrowing Owl breeding program in the Okanagan. The ground-dwelling bird, remarkably cute and cuddly, had become extinct in the Okanagan about 1980. A program at the Vancouver Zoo had spawned the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society and Jim Wyse (above) became a major supporter.

Since 2004, the winery has directed more than $1 million – money from tasting fees at the winery – to support the Society. There are now three breeding centres in B.C., including one near Oliver, and these now release about 50 breeding pairs of owls annually back into what was formerly their natural habitat.

On its website, the winery adds: “Visitors to Burrowing Owl Estate Winery are sometimes surprised – and often delighted — to see a live burrowing owl perched on a portable roost in our Wine Shop alongside a Wildlife Biologist who manages the South Okanagan chapter of BOCS.  These birds are not pets or mascots; their presence in our shop is intended to raise awareness of, and appreciation for, our feathered friends. 
The birds that are chosen to be “ambassadors” for their species are usually the LOTH (Last One To Hatch), or the runts of litters, and they would not have survived in the wild.  They spend a limited amount of time in the shop (3 – 4 appearances per year), and are always closely monitored for signs of stress by highly trained members of the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society.  Burrowing Owls are naturally social birds, and the ambassadors seem to enjoy the stimulation of meeting members of the public.  We’ve seen for ourselves the positive impact that seeing these birds up-close can have on visitors, who frequently express enthusiasm about the preservation of the species and the conservation of its habitat upon meeting the birds.”
Here are notes on some of Burrowing Owl’s current wines. Some will be sold out at the winery but still available in select wine shops and restaurants.

Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris 2017 ($22). This wine, now sold out, alas, begins with aromas of citrus and apple. On the palate, there are flavours of pear and citrus, with a backbone of minerality. The finish is crisp. 91.

 Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2016 ($30). This wine begins with appealing aromas of citrus, apple and tropical fruit. On the palate, there are flavours of peach, pear and melon. The finish lingers. The oak is very subtle and well-handled. 92.

Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2016 ($38). This is made in Burrowing Owl’s signature full-bodied and juicy style, with aromas and flavours of cherry and strawberry. The winery concedes that Black Sage Bench is not ideal Pinot Noir terroir – but the wine has a strong and steady following. 90.

Burrowing Owl Merlot 2016 ($30). This plush wine begins with aromas of blueberry and cassis, leading to flavours of black cherry and black currant, with savoury notes on the long finish. 91.

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2016 ($35). This wine has aromas of blackberry, black cherry and raspberry which are echoed in the savoury and bramble flavours. The texture is generous. The bright, refreshing flavours are typical of the 2016 vintage. 92

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($38). This elegant wine begins with aromas of cassis and black cherry. On the palate, the fruit is luscious, with flavours of black cherry and blackberry. The fruit flavours, mingled with spice, persist on the finish. 93.

Burrowing Owl Athene 2015 ($N/A). This is a wine made from equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from a single block in the Burrowing Owl vineyard. The grapes are co-fermented. The wine is dark in colour and rich on the palate, with aromas and flavours of plum and black cherry. 92.

Burrowing Owl Meritage 2014 ($50). The blend is 32% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec and 11% Petit Verdot. This concentrated wine begins with aromas of black currants, black cherry and spice. On the palate, there are flavours of  dark fruit mingled with cherry, vanilla, tobacco and chocolate. The tannins are ripe but firm. The wine will continue develop in bottle for at least the next 10 years. 94.

Burrowing Owl Coruja NV ($N/A). This is a superb fortified wine which the winery began making in 2007. It is made in the solera style, with half of each vintage held back to blend with succeeding vineyards. Consequently, the wine now has the complexity of good Port, with aromas and flavours of fig, plum, blackberry jam and vanilla. 93.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Class of 2018: Lightning Rock Winery

 Photo: Vintners Jordan Kubek and Tyler Knight

Lightning Rock Winery
6611 Giants Head Road
Summerland, BC, V0H 1Z7

During his career, Ron Kubek has lent a helping hand to many. That has included franchisees for Keller Williams Realty Canada, the company he founded in 1989 on Vancouver Island and developed nationally.

It included improving the fundraising capacity of the Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Penn., and backing a charitable foundation that supports a hospital in Romania.

Most recently, he has enabled his winemaking daughter, Jordan and her husband Tyler Knight, to launch Lightning Rock Winery in Summerland.

“He has always been really supportive of his kids,” says Jordan, who was on the winemaking team at Okanagan Crush Pad from 2011 until this September. When Ron asked her what her goal was in the wine industry, she replied that she and Tyler hoped to start their own winery. Jordan recounts: “He said, ‘Let me help you with that – we can start a project together’.”

Since 2016, Ron has purchased two vineyards and established Elysia Vineyard and Winery, the holding company for Lightning Rock. He styles himself both the chief executive and the chief tasting officer. Beginning with the 2017 vintage, Jordan and Tyler have made the wines; Tyler manages the vineyard.



Lightning Rock’s soft opening coincides with the “Light Up The Vines” Festival in Summerland on November 24, December 1 and December 2.

Purchased in 2016, Elysia Vineyard is a mature vineyard with 3 ½ acres of Pinot Noir, one acre of Viognier and half an acre of Syrah. The winery – for the time being a beautifully renovated log home – sits at the top of a steep eastern-facing slope with an exceptional view over Okanagan Lake.

Earlier this year, Ron purchased the Canyonview Vineyard (four acres of Pinot Noir and one of Chardonnay) which had been planted by Krimo Souilah. A barrel salesman and a former Napa winemaker, he bought the property about 2003 with a winery in mind. When that did not materialize, he sold grapes to various wineries, including Okanagan Crush Pad, where Jordan came to admire the quality of the fruit.

Lightning Rock also gets grapes from a 2 ½ acre Summerland vineyard called St. Katherina, purchased last year by Tyler and Jordan. Planted mostly to 50-year-old Pinot Noir, the vineyard had become derelict. Regulatory restrictions prevented removing the property from the Agriculture Land Reserve. The owner agreed to let the young winemakers take it over and revive it.

Jordan was born in Victoria in 1990. Teenage jobs in restaurants fired her wine interest. She aspired to become a sommelier and came to the Okanagan in 2010 to complete her training. She worked the harvest at Stoneboat that vintage and then joined Okanagan Crush Pad, eventually becoming the sparkling wine specialist there.

Tyler was born in Prince George in 1986 and grew up in the Okanagan. He has a degree in biology, with an ecology major, from the University of British Columbia. He was trying to figure out what career to pursue when he met Jordan in 2012 and began working in the vineyard at Crush Pad.

The winery sponsored Jordan’s winemaking studies at Washington State University and gave her time off in winter to make wine in the southern hemisphere. Attracted both by wine growing and by travelling, Tyler went along.

They did harvests at Seresin Estate, a biodynamic winery in New Zealand, at  Xanadu Wines in Australia and at Clos des Fous, a Chilean winery whose owners include Pedro Parra, a viticultural consultant  to Crush Pad. In 2015, the couple travelled to a number of European wine regions, adding to their experience.

“I wanted to travel and figure it out,” Tyler says of wine. “Everything I have learned has been through my reading and by experience. This will be 10 vintages for me. The science is not particularly complicated. For me, winemaking is mostly experience.”

They were eager to launch their own winery when Jordan’s father purchased the Elysian Vineyard. They made 1,100 cases of wine in the 2017 vintage and, with fruit from Canyonview and a little from reviving St. Katherina, doubled production in 2018 to about 2,250 cases.

About 40% of the winery’s production is Pinot Noir; about 30% is traditional sparkling wine and the remainder is Chardonnay, Viognier and a little Syrah. The latter varietal will likely be replaced by a grape Tyler judges better suited to the Summerland terroir. “The Syrah is not happy here,” he says.

They are making a number of single vineyard wines to explore the terroir of their three vineyards.I am super interested and excited to compare the three single vineyard sparkling pinot noirs, as they are all on very different soils but are all still in Summerland,” Jordan says. All vineyards will be organic.

“In the winery we are using a mix of neutral puncheons and barrels with some newer oak, a foudra and a couple Nomblot concrete tanks (concrete for the Viognier),” Jordan says. “All ferments will be wild using a "pied de cuve" from grapes in the vineyard as a starter. Minimal sulphur and no other additions is our goal. We also are aiming for no fining or filtration but we are not interested in making faulted wines.”

Here are notes on the first three releases. 

Lightning Rock Viognier 2017 ($25 for 350 cases). The wine begins with aromas of quince and stone fruit that are echoed on the palate. It has the classic firm spine of the variety. 90.

Lightning Rock Rosé 2017 ($25 for 317 cases). Made with Pinot Noir, this wine was fermented on neutral oak puncheons. The wine is fresh and fruity, with an appropriately deep hue. The finish is dry and the texture has good weight, making this an excellent food wine. 90.

Lightning Rock Pinot Noir 2017 ($35 for 379 cases). Twenty-eight days macerating on the skins have given this rich aromas and flavours of cherry and spice. The texture is silky and the finish lingers. 91.