B.C.’s Wild Side

Prior to Wines of British Columbia‘s fall release “Colour” event in Vancouver (described in a separate post), we were invited to attend a wine seminar called “B.C.’s Wild Side” led by moderator and B.C. wine expert Michaela Morris.

The exclusive tasting focused on organic, biodynamic and natural B.C. wines, looking at how some wineries use wild fermentation, skin contact and ancestral winemaking techniques.

Ten wines from Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley and Golden Mile Bench were tasted; three were pre-release samples, and unfortunately, a couple of wines are already sold out.

2016 Bella Wines Gamay Noir Ancestrale Sparkling Wine, Okanagan Valley
Bella Wines’ Beaumont Estate Vineyard in West Kelowna has been 100% certified organic since 1995. This wine is unique because the barrels were raised and bottled by gravity while fermenting. “For our rosé program we only use Gamay Noir, an under-appreciated B.C. grape. At Bella, the goal is to make world-class sparkling wines that are perfectly dry and left natural with no dosage so you can taste an elegant, genuine expression of the vineyards, and therefore micro-climates, we source from.”

2016 Little Farm Winery Pied de Cuve Riseling, Similkameen Valley
Little Farm has always had a goal to make wines with minimal manipulation. Pied de Cuve is the label for their “naturalish” wines — wines that receive almost no intervention from start to finish “and are therefore a pure reflection of the place, the grape and the vintage.” This Riesling is bone dry, with aromatics of peach, apple and lime, which carries through to the palate, where there is an added minerality on the finish.

2015 Summerhill Vineyard Gruner Veltliner
This is the first vintage of Summerhill Gruner Veltliner, which is produced at B.C.’s only biodynamically certified vineyard. The grapes were partially macerated and fermented naturally. If you’re not familiar with this grape, you’ll find it a crisp, ripe, aromatic medium-bodied white wine with flavors of lemon, celery and white pepper.

2016 Sperling Vineyards Amber Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley
Pinot Gris is the most-planted white wine grape in British Columbia; from this popular grape, Sperling created an orange wine. It was natural-yeast-and-malolactic fermented, with no sulphites or other additives, and no fining or filtration. Try ordering this golden orange wine at a restaurant — it is quite dramatic. Of note, Sperling Vineyards expects to be certified organic this year.

2014 Tinhorn Creek Vineyards Innovation Series Kerner Orange Wine, Golden Mile Bench
This is the only bottle we tasted that trumpeted “orange wine” on the label. This wine has a perfume scent, with aromas of dried fruits, caramel, flowers and fresh pear. Fruit flavors  carry into the powerful palate, along with a hint of ginger. You can only purchase Kerner Orange Wine at Miradoro, Tinhorn Creek’s restaurant. Kerner grapes are typically used for ice wines, which are very popular in B.C.

2016 Haywire Free Form Red, Okanagan Valley
Haywire produces natural wines using organically farmed grapes in state-of-the-art concrete tanks, native yeast and minimal additives. Haywire Free Form Red was fermented in clay amphorae, used in ancient Greek and Roman times. No SO2 or other additives were used in the production. An intense 100% Pinot Noir, this is a silky wine with dark fruit and sweet fruit flavors.

2015 Tantalus Vineyards Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley
Tantalus farms “as sustainably as possible,” without the use of herbicides or pesticides. This Pinot Noir was made with wild fermentation. But decant this wine or wait a few years before pouring; it will be better aged over the next 7-10 years.

2016 Laughing Stock Vineyards Amphora Syrah, Okanagan Valley
As mentioned, an amphora was used to make wine in ancient Greek and Roman times. Laughing Stock has been working with terracotta clay amphorae for four years because wine is made more naturally with indigenous yeast fermentation, no filtration and minimal intervention. We enjoyed this Syrah and others obviously did as well, because it is already sold out. Keep your eyes on this winery for futures.

2014 CedarCreek Estate Desert Ridge Meritage Amphora Project, Okanagan Valley
This Bordeaux-styled blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (54%), Cabernet Franc (35%) and Malbec (11%) was our favorite at this tasting. Unfortunately, it’s also sold out; only 35 cases were produced. The skins and seeds spent nine months in Tuscan clay amphorae without the addition of sulphur dioxide or acid. Then the grapes were stomped and placed in small stainless steel tanks for another eight weeks. We will be looking for more wine from CedarCreek’s Amphora Project in the months ahead.

2013 Clos du Soleil Winery Estate Reserve Red, Similkameen Valley
This reserve red blends Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) with Merlot (37%), Cab Franc (8%), Petit Verdot (4%) and Malbec (1%). Like other wines at this tasting, this reserve red is unfined and unfiltered. We immediately noticed the perfume and fruity flavors — blackberries and raspberries lead into hints of baking spices, stone fruit and pepper.

Of note, the color of these amber and orange wines is beautiful, although unusual for those of us who are used to sipping red and white wines.

In addition, many of these wines are in the experimentation phase and might not appeal to everyone. But if you want to get out of your comfort zone — be brave, be open-minded and go for it.

Our thanks to Wines of British Columbia‘ and the B.C. Wine Institute for inviting us to the seminar so we could increase our education of B.C. wines and natural wine processes.

Margot and Dave