New World Meets Old World Riesling at Harpers Trail

Who would think that you could get a taste of both the New World and the Old World from Riesling produced in Kamloops, BC?  Well indeed that is what I experienced with two wines from Harper’s Trail winery.  The Riesling vines were planted in 2008 and 2009 over two blocks; the Pioneer Block and the Silver Mane Block, with the latter covering a larger area. The following figure shows the entire Thadd Springs vineyard, and the location of these two blocks of Riesling.

Thadd Springs Vineyard (Image courtesy Harper's Trail winery)

Thadd Springs Vineyard (Image courtesy Harper’s Trail winery)

The vineyard soil is classified by clay but there is a vein of limestone as well, although I do not know exactly where it overlaps with the vineyard.  In Germany, in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region, the Riesling grapes grow in one of slate, slate quartzite, clay slate, sandstone, limestone, gravel, alluvial land, sand, clay, graywacke and quartzite.  So sand and limestone from Kamloops is not out of the question for Riesling.

Why did I mention Old vs New World Riesling and the two different vineyard blocks?  The two bottles of Riesling that I tried to me are good examples of Old and New World Riesling, with the Pioneer Block representing the New World to me, and the Silver Mane Block representing the Old World.  The limestone in the vineyard does come out in the Pioneer Block a bit more than in the Silver Mane Block, giving me some chalk on the palate.  I know it is not always a fair characterization, but in many cases I get a drier, lighter, more citrusy Riesling from New World wineries, and more full-bodied, rounder, and yes sweeter from Old World wineries.  Why I am getting the two different wine styles from the same vineyard, I am not sure.  It could be that the Silver Mane Block was harvested later, reaching higher phenolic ripeness?  I am not sure about Riesling and clones, but it could also be possible that each block is planted with a different clone, giving some flavour and body differences.

Harper’s Trail Thadd Springs Vineyard Pioneer Block Dry Riesling 2013 ($19.90)

This wine was a medium minus lemon in colour.  A youthful, medium intensity nose with candied lemon, peaches, white flowers, and pineapple/vanilla.  Quite a pretty aroma.  Between dry and off-dry this wine was medium bodied with a light acidic prickle on the tongue.  Soft with medium roundness and a bit of weight on the palate.  Flavours of pear, crisp green apple, lime skin and a hint of peaches.  There was a hint of mineral chalkiness at the back of the tongue.  Medium length with some yeast, citrus, honey and mouth watering acidity on the finish.  I also tasted the wine a few hours later, and it brought out a bit of bitter leaf on the palate.  Overall quite an elegant wine.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars A very smooth and mellow wine from start to finish that should pair nicely with sushi.

Harper's Trail Thadd Springs Vineyard Pioneer Block Dry Riesling 2013

Harper’s Trail Thadd Springs Vineyard Pioneer Block Dry Riesling 2013

Harper’s Trail Thadd Springs Vineyard Silver Mane Block Riesling 2013 ($19.90)

This wine has about 1% less alcohol than the Pioneer Block, that came in at 12.2%.  This was a bit deeper lemon in colour.  Light, youthful nose with aromas of Mandarin orange, lemon & lime skin, white flowers and pineapple.  This wine is off-dry, and quite round in the mouth with a lighter acidic prickle.  The acidity is lower than in the Dry Riesling.  Flavours of pineapple, lychee, and pears, followed by pineapple and citrus.  I also picked up sweet spices like cinnamon. Medium length with mouth watering acidity, mint, pepper, and some bitter leaf on the finish.  I tried this wine again over the next 2 days, and it kept it’s flavour profile.  On the third day I became to taste some of the chalkiness in the wine.  Very good quality.  More in a Kabinett style from Germany.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars A fuller-bodied off-dry Riesling that reminds one of German Riesling.  Great to sip on its own or maybe enjoy with a light curry, roast pork, or a squash soup.

Harper's Trail Thadd Springs Vineyard Silver Mane Block Riesling 2013

Harper’s Trail Thadd Springs Vineyard Silver Mane Block Riesling 2013

Bonus – Late Harvest Riesling!

Harper’s Trail keeps trying new things, and their latest is their Thadd Springs Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling 2013 ($20.90).  It doesn’t state that it comes from one block or the other, so I assume it comes from both blocks.  Fairly pale lemon coloured in the glass.  A very nice medium intensity nose, with honey, marmalade, sweet spices, apricots and oranges.  Nice to nose.  Sweetness ranges between medium-dry to medium.  A bit lighter bodied, but very full, intense flavours, primarily of ripe apricots, but also some Indian mango, and a hint of orange, which comes in after a bit of swirling. The sweetness is upfront on the tongue together with a light acidic prickle.  Honey and marmalade on the finish, with medium acidity.  I enjoyed that the wine was not cloying sweet.  Elegant.  I did try this wine a few hours later, and the wine had a much lighter mouth feel after a quick swirl in the mouth, which was nice, as it added to the lightness of the wine.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars  Great fruit on this Late Harvest Riesling.  It has enough acidity to balance out the fruit and sweetness in the wine.

Harper's Trail Thadd Springs Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling 2013

Harper’s Trail Thadd Springs Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling 2013

Where Can You Buy These Wines?

You can order these wines through the Harper’s Trail website, and also purchase the wines from private liquor stores in BC.  Everything Wine in North Vancouver, Swirl Wine Store in Yaletown, and Kensington Square Wines in Burnaby are a few places.  The full list of wine shops is at this link.

If you want to geek out about Riesling history and it’s journey to North America (primarily California in this article) here is an article from UCDavis.