Wines evolve with time in the bottle. People talk about how they drink their aged Bordeaux and Burgundy wines. Never drinking them young. In BC many people think that our wines are best enjoyed young. Not thinking about ageing them for a few years, or longer. This masterclass by the Wines of British Columbia had us taste a young and older wine from the same winery so that we can see for ourselves how our BC wines age.
Our winery panellists were Chris Turyk from Unsworth Vineyards, Christine Coletta from Okanagan Crush Pad, Heleen Pannekoek from Fort Berens Estate Winery, John Weber from Orofino Vineyards, and Michael Bartier from Bartier Bros. Vineyard and Winery. We were led through the discussion by sommelier Maude Renaud-Brisson. The winery principals came from different regions of BC so that we could see how terroir affects the types of wines produces plus differences in the cool versus warmer climates and how it affects wine ageing.
We were provided with a newly created chart by the Wines of BC that show the growing conditions and harvest volume for the years 2010 to 2021. It is quite useful for the general public when choosing to purchase a BC wine from a private store, but also is useful for sommeliers in restaurants when they select wines for their restaurants as well as when they describe the wines to their dining customers. As you can see in the chart below, we do have significant variation across the years. If you like big bold red wines, then 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2021 would be the better years to select.
My Tasting Notes and Winery Principals’ Comments at the Masterclass
John Weber from Orofino Vineyards
John mentioned that 2020 was one of excellent quality but limited quantity. The crush period was very long for him from Sept 10 and finished Oct 28. 2012 was not that memorable, which to him meant there were no extremes of temperature or rainfall. They produced more grapes in 2012. 2012 is the first vintage that he separated his three Riesling blocks into different wines. Previously he made a single wine from a combination of the Riesling blocks. 2012 was also the first year that his wines underwent a wild barrel ferment. 2020 is made the exact same way as the 2012 vintage so the comparison of the two wines is possible. John also mentioned that 2010 and 2011 were cooler vintages which produced Rieslings with higher acidity. <MyWinePal: this should give these wines great longevity.>
Orofino Winery, Home Vineyard Riesling, 2020, Similkameen Valley – Bright lemon colour. Medium intensity mix of petrol and ripe stonefruits along with touches of citrus and ginger. Off-dry+, lean and soft with a light body. Roasted pears and dried stone fruit lingering flavours. A bit peppery plus ginger on the finish. –
Orofino Winery, Home Vineyard Riesling, 2012, Similkameen Valley – Bright medium lemon colour. Medium-intensity petrol and stone fruits on the nose. Medium body, off-dry with petrol and dried apricots on the palate. Bright acidity. Mouthfeel gets lighter on the mid-palate. Medium-plus length with a touch of pepperiness.
Christine Coletta from Okanagan Crush Pad
Christine discussed the 2015 and 2016 vintages. Summerland is a small, relatively unknown area, but has wide variability. The area has 3 sub-GIs. Summerland Lakefront is one of the sub-GIs. They planted Pinot Gris Clone 52 Alsace in 2006 with 2009 being the first vintage. Christine noted that 2015 was a hotter vintage than 2016. The wines from 2015 and 2016 are both made the same way with native yeasts in concrete tanks and stayed in concrete tanks for 10 months. The difference is that May 2015 was the hottest Growing Degree Days (GDD) in Summerland on record and April 2016 was the hottest GDD in Summerland. Both had hot Spring seasons. Both summers were hot but 2016 was a tad cooler. Both vintages had a smooth Fall and harvest. Christine mentioned that “texture” is their wine’s signature trait, which they get from the concrete tanks. We tasted 6 and 7-year-old their Pinot Gris wines that showed great character, breaking the myth that you need to drink BC wine wines within a year of being released. Christine felt that the 3 sub-GIs are still so new that it will take more years to figure out how over the next 10 years these sub-GIs will affect the grapes and wines produced. She mentioned that they recently opened a 2009 Pinot Gris and that this wine was still drinking well.
Okanagan Crush Pad, Haywire, Switchback Pinot Gris 2015, Summerland Lakefront, Okanagan Valley – Medium lemon colour. Medium-minus intensity aromas of dried pears and other dried fruits and ganja. Dry, smooth and round, with a thicker mouthfeel. Dried stone fruits, ganja and a touch of honey on the palate. Medium-plus length. A mix of pepperiness and some sweetness on the finish.
Okanagan Crush Pad, Haywire, Switchback Pinot Gris 2016, Summerland Lakefront, Okanagan Valley – A medium pear skin colour. Medium-intensity flavours of dried pears and other stone fruits, plus ganja. Medium body, smooth with a thicker mouthfeel. Lower acidity. Dried stone fruit flavours. Medium length finishing with lighter stone fruits flavours and some pepperiness. –
Heleen Pannekoek from Fort Berens Winery
Heleen noted that 2017 started off like 2022 as a very cold Spring in Lillooet. After bud break, there was an attack of rust mites attacking the early ripening varieties. Their Reserve Chardonnay grapes would be harvested at fewer tons/acre so she expected to see more concentration in the Reserve wine at today’s tasting. The Reserve wines come 100% from their Estate fruit. Both vintages are made in French oak barrels, 20% new oak, and undergo a wild ferment. 2021 was a year of extremes, plus they had a new winemaker that year, Alessandro (Alex) Nel. 2021 was the driest Spring they ever saw. And then the hottest summer they saw, which also had forest fires. The Fall was extremely wet. They then had the coldest winter. As their vines were mature, the summer heat dome did not hurt the vines as much as their younger vines. The younger vines, planted in 2018 and 2019, were stressed by the 2021 heat dome and lost their leaves, which came back later in the season. The vines survived the summer and produced a smaller crop.
Fort Berens Estate Winery, White Gold Reserve Chardonnay 2017, Lillooet – A lighter bright lemon colour. Light aromas of apples, white flowers, and vanilla, plus a touch of toastiness. Medium-minus body, soft and round with a light mouthfeel. Light flavours of roasted apples, vanilla, and tasty sweet spices that linger on the finish. Buttery. A very elegant wine. A touch of pepperiness on the finish. –
Fort Berens Estate Winery, White Gold Reserve Chardonnay 2021, Lillooet – Pale lemon colour. Light aromas of stone fruits, sweet spices, and white flowers. Light aromas of oranges, apples, stone fruits and a touch of sweet spice. Medium body, with a very soft supple, round mouthfeel. Light flavours of apples along with sweet spices and white flowers on the finish. A buttery finish with medium length.
Chris Turyk from Unsworth Vineyards
Chris noted temperatures are more even and steady on Vancouver Island. 2019 was a wetter year overall than 2018 on Vancouver Island. He mentioned that when the rain came in each year showed up as differences in the wine. In 2018 it rained in April drenching the soil and then dried up, slowing the start of the growing season. There was not much rain in the summer and was a bit warmer than 2019 (200mm rain through the season). 2019 was a dry April giving them dry soil and a nice start to the season and then intermittent rain through the weeks (300mm). Chris noted that 2018 is more fruity than 2019 but overall have similar characteristics. This year, 2021, the warm Fall helped to save the crop as the cool spring and summer set back ripening. He also noted that their Pinot Noir grapes are slowly getting riper due to climate change warmth. They have been able to make a varietal Pinot Noir wine, not just sparkling wine from Pinot Noir, since 2012 due to our warmer climate.
Unsworth Vineyards, Pinot Noir 2018, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island – Medium-minus translucent to the core garnet colour. Dill, red fruit and red cherries on the nose. Lighter body, dry and soft with bright aromas of dill and red fruits. Light oak tannins. Medium length with some tart red fruits and a hint of pepperiness on the finish. –
Unsworth Vineyards, Pinot Noir 2019, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island – Medium intensity translucent garnet. Light red fruit, red cherries, sweet spices and a touch of candied cherries aromas. Medium body, soft and round mouthfeel. Red cherries and red fruits with a touch of sweet spices. Light tannins and medium acidity. Medium-minus length.
Michael Bartier from Bartier Bros.
Michael noted that their vineyard is located on Black Sage Road in Osoyoos where the temperatures can get extremely hot in the summer. 2011 and 2019 were chosen for this tasting as they are his favourite vintages in the Okanagan Valley. 2011 was a cool vintage and is controversial in his opinion. He does not view that even more heat is better for grapes. He recently tasted a 2011 Syrah he made and felt it was spectacular. The 2011 vintage started slow and cold, then there was a moderate summer, but not extreme temperatures and September was beautiful leading into part of October when the weather declined. 2019 was a fantastic vintage. It was a moderate June-August and a wonderful September. Nothing extreme happened. The wines produced were top quality across the varieties grown, red and white. For the 2011 wine, he mentioned that the wine tasted good early and still tastes good. Good wines taste good regardless of age, <MyWinePal: of course up to a point when excessive age takes over>.
Michael noted that they need irrigation in the Okanagan or else there would be no viticulture. The minimal amount of rainfall in the Okanagan has a negligible effect on the vines. Irrigation affects the vines more significantly. They use two root stalks and own-rooted vines but has no preference on root stalks to deal with climate change. He said that if there was a catastrophic freeze that their own-rooted vines would come back faster with grapes that could be harvested.
Bartier Bros. Merlot Cerqueira Vineyard 2019, Okanagan Valley – A deeper translucent garnet colour, about 80% opaque. Light aromas of ripe red cherries, cranberries, and light oak. Medium-body, soft and roundish. Dill, dried herbs, and dark fruit flavours. Medium-intensity fine-grained tannins. Medium length with red fruit and a touch of pepperiness. Drying tannins on the finish. I think this wine could age another 4-5 years.
Bartier Bros. Merlot Cerqueira Vineyard 2011, Okanagan Valley – Deep garnet with some orange bricking. Medium-intensity aromas of red cherries, vanilla, and sweet spices along with a touch of capsicum. Fuller body, thick and round mouthfeel. Medium-plus tannins. Ripe, sweet dark fruit flavours along with touches of capsicum and cedar. Medium acidity. Medium length finishing with sweet black fruit, red apples, and sweet spices. Medium-intensity drying tannins. Maybe 2-3 years more ageing potential. –
Thank you to the Wines of BC for inviting me to this Masterclass. It is always educational to taste wines from different vintages from the same winery and to hear from winery principals. I thought that the Chardonnays from Fort Berens Winery were exceptionally good. If you have not tried Fort Berens’ wines, you should. Cheers.