Pulling into Bill and Darlene Freding’s Ranch, in Oliver, BC, we were greeted by cowboys and cowgirls on horseback. This would be the start of our cowboy welcome to one of the newest wineries in BC. Bill and Dar, have been cattle ranching together since the late 1970’s in the Cariboo-Chilcotin. Fast forward to 1998, they had purchased some land around Oliver for two-fold purpose: 1) raise cattle 2) grow grapes for wine. Their vineyard was named the Saddle Ridge Vineyard, a dream of Darlene, who is a wine lover. They planted Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Viognier white varieties, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Merlot for the reds.
In the Saddle Ridge Vineyard, everyone takes great care to make the most of the vineyard’s green footprint. “We truly believe we own nothing,’” says Darlene, “but are just the caretakers for the generations to come.” All grape vines are grafted onto Canadian root stock. No insecticides are sprayed; instead, beneficial insects are used to combat undesirable pests. For example, parasitic wasps are released to control flies. All vineyard waste products—wood chips, grape skins, grape stems, manure—are recycled into a quality compost, which is then put back on the fields and vineyard.
In the beginning Bill and Dar would sell their grapes to other wineries, but as of the 2011 vintage, they produced their first wines, thanks to the help of Okanagan Crush Pad, and their winemaker Michael Bartier. Michael Bartier is a seasoned and respected winemaker born and raised in the Okanagan Valley. He has earned a deserved reputation for quality wine production. His experience includes making wine at Township 7, Stag’s Hollow and Road 13 Vineyards. So pulling into their ranch, we were about to be the first to taste their first Pinot Gris and Chardonnay wines. Of course more wines are to come!
Stepping off the bus, myself and the other media people, went into a large shed where there was a line of people waiting to fit us for a cowboy hat and a bandana. After that the two white wines awaited our tastebuds.
The Inaugural Wines
The Rafter F Pinot Gris 2011 ($21) was very refreshing. Bright medium lemon colour. Citrus, stone fruit, and some lees on the nose. Medium plus body, medium acidity, dry with some roundness on the palate. Lots of minerality for this wine, along with pear and apple flavours. I had several glasses of this wine to accompany my beef dinner this evening. I think the minerality really gave this wine a sense of place and character.
The Rafter F Chardonnay 2011 was a little lighter lemon coloured compared to the Pinot Gris. Light citrus and vanilla on the nose. Light body, with some creaminess. Citrusy with light vanilla. It is bone dry, and leaves you with a mouth watering finish.
If you were wondering why the wine label is called Rafter F, it is because that is the name of their ranch, and the “hat” with the “F” on the wine label, is their Rafter F cattle brand.
Where can you buy these wines? You can order them online via Okanagan Crush Pad. Here are the direct web links for the wines.
Rafter F Pinot Gris web link
Rafter F Chardonnay web link
If you are traveling to the Okanagan, you could stop by Okanagan Crush Pad, and also purchase bottles of Rafter F wine from their sales room. Okanagan Crush Pad’s address is 16576 Fosbery Road in Summerland, BC.
Bill and Dar raise Angus beef cows on their ranch, as they have been doing for more than 40 years. But it is a bit different at their current ranch here in Oliver. The cattle are fed quality hay, barley, and corn grown in the South Okanagan. In the last 90 days before the cattle are off to be turned into steaks and more, they are each fed a litre of Okanagan wine a day. This they feel helps to make the cows contented, and adds an extra flavour component to the meat. The Fredings also allow the cows to finish without the use of growth hormones or feed containing antibiotics. Their beef is certified as Okanagan’s Finest Angus Beef, assuring you that the beef you are consuming came from cows born, raised, and processed in BC. You can find out more about Okanagan’s Finest Angus Beef and where you can buy it, from the www.okanagansfinestangusbeef.com website.
So after tasting the two white wines, we eagerly anticipated trying some of this wine fed Angus beef. It was roasted and then sliced for each of us, as we ponied up to the table. Beef along with salads, vegetables and buns, filled us up. Extra helpings were also available. The beef was nice and tender for me. And I appreciated that the beef was free of growth hormones and antibiotics.
I really appreciated the hospitality of Bill and Dar, as I am sure the other media attendees can also attest. I look forward to tasting their red wines when they come out, and trying it again with their Angus beef. Cheers!