As the British Columbian wine industry continues to grow, it’s important to maintain awareness of our history and embrace aspects of our heritage that have brought us to where we are today. Granted, we are a very young region in the world of wine, but our roots are literally and figuratively getting deeper all the time.
All aspects of this, from the soils where these roots grow to the cultural and business aspects that affect our modern wine industry, will be discussed at an event called Origins of Wine: The Golden Mile Bench next Thursday (April 13) at Science World.
Many winemakers and principals from the Golden Mile Bench, the Okanagan Valley’s first officially designated subregion (technically referred to as a sub-Designated Viticultural Area), will be pouring at the event, then weighing in on these topics during a discussion moderated by yours truly in the Omnimax Theatre.
Spearheading much of this is Joe Luckhurst, the general manager of Road 13 Vineyards, who will be on hand and very likely speaking about one of his signature wines, the Old Vines Chenin Blanc (sourced from vines planted at the winery’s home vineyard in 1968). Those are some legit old vines!
Although the Chenin’s 2015 vintage is available at private stores around town ($27 to $32, recently spotted at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales), it’s a wine with a strong cult following and it can often be difficult to track down a bottle. First off, there are very few wineries in B.C. making Chenin Blanc, and none that I know of have vines that have been going this long. After basking in the hot Oliver sun all summer, this vineyard produces a rich and ripe wine, full of pears, lemon curd, and brioche, with a lovely kiss of honey on the finish.
Even harder to come by is their sparkling version of the wine, made in the traditional method (just as the sparklers in Champagne are made), giving the Chenin a little extra pizzazz. Check out their wine club at the Road 13 Vineyards website; joining it is the best way of guaranteeing yourself a spot at the front of the line when the wine is released.
While we’re talking rarities, a seven-minute drive from Road 13 is Hester Creek Estate Winery, the proprietors of which are also caretakers of precious 1968 vines and will be at Science World for the event as well. A classic British Columbian oddity, and personal favourite, is Hester Creek’s Old Vines Trebbiano Block 16. (The 2016 vintage is currently available for $23.95 at the Hester Creek website.) These 49-year-old vines bring us a multilayered wine with gobs of tropical fruit like passion fruit and mango, and aromatic herbs like sage and sorrel, all kept crackingly fresh with lively acidity.
As much as poring over history books and statistics about what makes this region unique is important, it’s also valuable to have folks on hand who have been farming the region, growing grapes and making wine going back a good stretch of time. Bill Eggert of Fairview Cellars carries a good dose of this tribal knowledge, having planted his own vineyard in 1993 and produced his first wines from the 1997 vintage. While Eggert will be pouring some of his juicy, opulent reds and vibrant whites, he’ll also have a great deal of wisdom to offer, as he’s been scoping out the lay of the land for quite some time.
Plenty of others are making the trip down the Coquihalla for the event, all with their own unique take on the history and the local and global context of our terroir. Andrew Moon is an Australian expat who is the vineyard manager at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards. Interestingly, the team at Tinhorn Creek recently pulled out some of their older Kerner vines, planted in the mid ’90s, in favour of new plantings of Roussanne. This just goes to show that wineries don’t always believe that maintaining heritage vines is the best step forward.
These decisions are most often linked to what vines are most suitable for the land; I’m looking forward to drilling down into what makes the Golden Mile unique, what goes into making these big viticultural choices, and what those on the Golden Mile Bench believe the future holds.
Proceeds from the event go to Science World’s On the Road program, which brings programming and educational-curriculum presentations to schools outside of Metro Vancouver, so our sipping and dialogue will be for a good cause! Oh, and besides the nine wineries in attendance, Oliver’s Backyard Farm and Tinhorn Creek’s Miradoro Restaurant will be providing food pairings.