For the Etsell family, farming is in their blood, with their roots firmly entrenched in the Fraser Valley; first with turkeys, and now into viticulture and wine making. Their farming roots extend to the label, where they are called “Singletree Winery”.
What is a singletree? It is a wood and iron harness yoke with three iron rings circling a wood bar, one at each end and one in the middle, each with additional iron rings to which a harness would have been attached. It would be located behind the horse, and in front of the farm implement or wagon that a farmer would need to be pulled. So the name is a nod to the Fraser Valley’s farming history, and shows their roots in the farming community.
Garnet Etsell, the father, has two sons; one son Andrew, decided that he would like to try viticulture and wine making, so on approximately 6 acres of their land they started to plant grapes. But before he reached that decision, Andrew went to California to get trained in horticulture. Part of his program was to have a practicum, and he chose his with Mission Hill winery in Kelowna. Thus the grape seeds were planted in his mind, they germinated and grew till he had to plant and grow grapes for himself. Their first plantings, in 2010, were all white grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Siegerrebe, and Pinot Gris, but they have later planted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gruner Veltliner which they expect to be producing wines from in the next year or two. The first harvest for their Abbotsford grapes is 2013, of which we were able to try.
Singletree Winery Wines at Forage
To introduce SIngletree’s wines to the media, and onward to the public, they held a lunch tasting at Forage in the Listel Hotel downtown. Forage is one of my favourite restaurants in Vancouver. Chef Whittaker can do no wrong with me. We were served the following Wine and Course Pairings:
2014 Sauvignon Blanc
House-cured juniper lonza, potato and garlic puree
Albacore tuna crudo, lemon verbena infused olive oil, gooseberry, salad greens, dandelion dressing
2013 Farmhand White
Grilled Yarrow Meadows duck breast, confit arancini, grilled garlic scapes, liver parfait, elderflower and cherry preserve
2013 Pinot Noir
Elderflower Neufchatel cheese puff, ice cream, cordial,
Unruly gin-spiked blueberries
Singletree Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – Nice nose with vanilla aroma. Light floral, herbal, and citrus on the palate. All the flavour is upfront and falls off quite quickly. I wish the flavour would last a little longer. Rating:
Singletree Siegerrebe 2013 – My favourite of the tasting. Siegerrebe is a white grape that was bred in Germany by by crossing Madeleine Angevine and Gewürztraminer. The grape is suited to cool climates and ripens early, making it an excellent choice to grow here. This wine had nice honey, stone fruit and floral aromas. Off dry, light body and light acidity, with a progression of flavours starting with red apples, pears, floral, and finishing with lychee. Layers of flavour. It has a light mouthwatering finish. Very tasty! Rating:
Singletree Farmhand White 2013 – A blend of 64% Sauvignon Blanc and 36% Pinot Gris, partially fermented in neutral French oak barrels. The wine has peach, with lesser amount of citrus on the nose, along with a hint of lees and vanilla. Dry, medium body, round, with a heavier mouth feel. Light peach and pears, together with some vanilla and stoniness. It also has a bitter edge to it. Mouth watering acidity and sweet spices on the finish. Not bad. Rating:
Singletree Pinot Noir 2013 – These grapes for this wine comes from Summerland in the Okanagan. Very pale cherry in colour. Light sour cherry and strawberries on the nose. Lighter bodied, with very soft and light mouth feel. Light sour cherries and vanilla on the palate. It gets a bit peppery from mid palate to finish. With a bit more of air, I also picked up on some tea leaves on the palate. Rating:
While Andrew Etsell is a certified wine maker, he is not yet making the wines at Singletree. That task goes to Matt Dumayne from Okanagan Crush Pad. Matt is from New Zealand and is quite familiar with cool climate wines, and I think is a good fit to produce Singletree’s wines. Andrew gets to work with Matt, and at some point the singletree will be yolked up to Andrew to vinify the wines.
All the wines are in the $20-$22 range. All but the Sauvignon Blanc that we tasted were from their inaugural 2013 vintage. Being the first try with these grapes, the wine maker does not know exactly what to expect when they produce the wines. It is a learning experience. The wines I tasted, were a good first attempt, and I look forward to seeing the wines getting better over successive vintages.
The first course with the House-cured juniper lonza, potato and garlic puree paired with the Singletree Siegerrebe 2013 was excellent. My favourite pairing. The potato and roast garlic puree was outstanding on its own. Very creamy, garlicky and citrusy. The Siegerrebe had enough acidity to make the flavours in the dish more lively. Complementary flavours.
The second course, the Albacore tuna crudo, lemon verbena infused olive oil, gooseberry, salad greens, and dandelion dressing paired with the Singletree Farmhand White 2013, also had complementary flavours that worked together, but the food flavours were a little bit stronger than the wine. I really liked the Albacore Tuna crudo, so soft and creamy, paired with the citrus and orange flavours from the lemon verbena infused olive oil, gooseberry and dandelion dressing. You also had nice crunchiness from the broccoli. A beautifully plated dish.
The third course was the Grilled Yarrow Meadows duck breast, confit arancini, grilled garlic scapes, liver parfait, elderflower and cherry preserve with the Singletree Pinot Noir 2013. The lightness and sour cherry flavour of this wine paired nicely with the duck. I really enjoyed the crunchy skin of the duck breast. The duck meat itself was soft and slightly pink. There was a saltiness to the crunchy skin, that really worked with the Pinot Noir. The confit arancini was extremely rich between the duck and cheese ingredients; very creamy and earthy flavoured.
Finally the dessert was an Elderflower Neufchatel cheese puff, ice cream, cordial, and Unruly gin-spiked blueberries. No Singletree wine for this pairing. The dessert was delicious. The cheese puff was about twice the size of a regular cream puff. I love the creaminess and hint of cinnamon in the puff crust, along with the citrus and elderflower flavours. A winning dessert. Forage should put this dessert on their daily menu.
Where to Get These Wines
Singletree Winery is a Farmgate operation, which means if you want to buy and try their wines you need to go to their winery. Luckily they are in the Abbotsford area, so you can enjoy a nice weekend jaunt out to see them. Their address:
5782 Mt. Lehman Road
Abbotsford, BC, V4X 1V4