The nice thing about a self-guided wine tour is the ability to take in the views or stop at the local shops on the way to the wineries. And, if a winery is five-deep with wine tasters vying for a space at the counter to do a flight, hop to the next winery and back track since the wineries are not far from each other in Summerland and on the Naramata Bench. Then, there are the wine tour companies and I highly recommend these, firstly, because you won’t be drinking and driving and depending on the tour company, a variety of services are available – from pick up, drop offs at the wineries and point of return, to every manner of service in between from keeping wine purchases cool and organized to box lunches and drivers who double as tour guides with photography skills.
Since my husband was the designated driver, photographer and point of interest person, I was free to sip and savour and to not have to worry about a thing.
After lunch, our next stop was Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland. My very first visit to the Crush Pad was in June 2013 as part of the Wine Bloggers Conference tour (now called the Wine Media Conference, an umbrella for its membership of wine bloggers, traditional wine media, social media influencers and wine industry members involved in the conference). It was a smaller facility then producing 17,000 cases of wine for the winery with nine clients to now producing just under 34,000 cases of wine with 12 clients. The winery/facility also received it organic certification in 2015 and provides vineyard-to-consumer services for certified organic wineries and vineyards, from crushing, pressing, temperature-controlled concrete fermentation, stainless-steel storage and humidified barrel aging, bottling, corking and capping, as well as lab and marketing services.
However, what I remember most from my first visit was how different two Pinot Gris wines tasted from each other — same grape, vintage, winemaking practices but separate vineyards not four feet apart. This was my introduction to terroir, magnetic mapping, analysis of the land and how it affects wine. And you can taste the difference.
But I had bubbles on the mind today and so started off with Vintage Bub 2013 made from small lots Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. When Paulo Craveiro indicated that this bubble was bottled in January 2014 and bottle-fermented no less than 52 months on its lees, I thought I had misheard him. But I didn’t and the wine does show pedigree.
An elegant bubble, fresh and toasty on the nose with baked bread, strawberry, bright apple and lemon zest aromas. Dry, with a fine, persistent mousse of crisp green apple, brioche, toasty hazelnut, creamy and balanced with vibrant grapefruit flavours on the palate. No dosage was added to this vibrant bubble with 11% abv and 2 g/l of residual sugar. Pair with fish and chips, raw oysters with a strawberry mignonette.
Next, was a weighty, textured 100% Sauvignon Blanc (2017) with fresh-cut hay aromas on the nose, vibrant with mouth-watering acidity on the palate and a rich and lush texture of soft tropical fruits. Grapes were whole-bunch pressed, fermented in concrete tank with native yeasts, softened with malolactic fermentation and then left on its gross lees to add structure and richness to this weighty Sauvignon Blanc with 13% abv and .5 g/l residual sugar. It is bone-dry. Pair with fresh oysters topped with a small squeeze of fresh lemon juice or grilled shellfish.
On to Secrest Mountain Chardonnay (2017) sourced from Secrest Mountain Vineyard in Oliver, South Okanagan. The vineyard was planted in 2000 and is located 487 metres (1600 feet) above sea level allowing the grapes to ripen evenly in the heat of the day and to gather their sugars in the cool of the night. This is a bone-dry, medium-plus-bodied, unwooded Chardonnay, creamy with bright tropical fruit, toasted nut and lemon curd flavours on the palate finishing long and mouth watering. Nicely balanced, the Chardonnay rested eight months on its gross lees giving texture, structure and freshness to this wine at 13% abv and .5 g/l residual sugar.
And now something new for Crush Pad – a juicy, vibrant 100% Gamay Rosé (2018) brought up in both stainless steel and concrete tanks. Brilliant steely pink in the glass with sweet red berry, fresh green herb aromas on the nose. Dry, fresh and zesty on the palate, finishing long with fresh cherry, raspberry, strawberry and savoury herb flavours on the palate at 12.5% abv and 1.5 g/l residual sugar.
And a wine flight would not be complete without tasting a made in B.C. Pinot Noir. Canyonview Vineyard is a 4.5 acre vineyard on an east/west terrace with southern exposure that rides down Trout Creek Canyon to nearby Okanagan Lake. The lake moderates vineyard temperatures cooling off the vineyard in the summer and keeping it warm in the winter. The Pinot Noir grapes love this and it shows. In its fourth vintage, Canyonview 2014 Pinot Noir is small-batch fermented with native yeasts and matures in concrete tank for 11 months. Ruby in the glass with bricking at the edge, this PN is enticing on the nose with earthy herb, fresh mushroom, fresh red cherry and red berry aromas. Dry and juicy on the palate with ripe red cherry, black raspberry, savoury herbs and mouth-watering acidity to match at 13% abv and .5 g/l residual sugar. Very satisfying. Pair with roast duck and rack of lamb.
So, I was hungry again and it was on to dinner at Time Winery & Kitchen.
Located in downtown Penticton and a 15-minute walk from the lake is the Time Winery & Kitchen with an atmosphere that feels like everyone knows your name. This open-concept, modern and chic winery is the vision of wine legend and maverick winemaker, Harry McWatters. The winery once housed a movie theatre and is now a multi-purpose facility with a fully-fledged winemaking operation, events area, lounge, kitchen and bar. There is always something going on there from wedding receptions to sport team celebrations, wine tastings and tours. The kitchen itself, in short, is amazing. The food, well, don’t bother going if you’re on a daily diet of 1200 calories. You will blow that with the appetizer alone. But you will think you have died and gone to heaven.
Hospitality Manager, Kelley Michael Schaefer gave us a royal tour and thieved a bit of 2017 Shiraz out of a barrel for us to try – it was black-cherry lush, weighty and smooth on the palate and I could have had a glass of that with dinner. But, there were many more wines to try.
Something for everybody, a classic flight of five wines is $5 and redeemable per bottle purchase of wine. A flight from the Time Portfolio and Signature Wine tasting runs $10 per person and redeemable with a minimum $50 purchase per guest. The Barrel Tasting and Tour option includes four of Time Winery’s best wines – McWatters Chardonnay Exclusive tasting from oak barrique, McWatters Meritage, TIME Equity and TIME Chronos for $20 per person also redeemable with a minimum $50 purchase per guest. There is also a cocktail menu and the Timeless Ol’ Fashioned is worth every penny at $15 made from Okanagan Spirits BRBN bourbon, bitters, house-made cherry syrup, a cube of brown sugar, decked out with an orange wheel, marinated cherry and a smoldering sprig of rosemary.
Then, there is the food. The Build Your Own Board menu is a fun way to sample everything from warm mushroom and garlic confit, duck rillette, cashew cheese and cherry marmalade to a variety of cheeses accompanied with chutney or poached fruit. The Big Plates menu is an experience. But if you need something a little lighter, choose something from the Bruschetta menu.
We started with a pork rillette, frites all accompanied with ginger apricot chutney and paired it with a three-ounce glass of Time Winery’s Cabernet Franc 2016 – an absolutely perfect pairing with the Cabernet Franc’s raspberry, dark cherry and dried herb flavours, mouth-watering acidity to cut through the richness of the rillette and also standing up to the chutney.
For the main, George had the Open-Faced Steak Sandwich, prepared with a beef bavette done sous vide perched on wilted greens, smoked mushrooms topped with green peppercorn mayo and shaved pecorino. He paired it with a glass of Time Winery’s 2014 Syrah, fragrant with dark cherry, earthy violets and savoury herb aromas on the nose, juicy, spicy, elegant and lush on the palate with powdery fine tannins and a perfect pairing to the sous vide bavette. My choice was the Time Burger, one-half pound of minced chuck and brisket, complete with pickles, crispy onion, bacon jam and smoked pepper mayo on a Petrasek Bakery bun. I paired it with a glass of Time Equity 2016 and it was also a perfect match weight for weight. This wine has a dark soul with intense spicy aromas, candied cherry, blueberry and earthy on the nose, full-bodied, juicy with liquid dark cherry, blueberry, anise, cinnamon and ginger spice flavours that flow across the palate.
And, although the Gratify Blueberry Cheesecake looked and sounded amazing with its blueberry lavender coulis and pretty, candied lemon topping, we simply couldn’t bring ourselves to do dessert. In fact, we were more than happy to waddle back to our B & B on the shore.
At the time of this wine tour, Time Winery & Kitchen, President and CEO, Harry McWatters was about to celebrate the open-house launch of Time Winery Brut on July 12 2019, a beautiful, elegant brut bubble and a first for Director of Winemaking, Graham Pierce. Who could know that shortly after that celebration, on July 23 2019, Harry McWatters would peacefully pass on in his sleep. But knowing what I do know about Harry McWatters, the wine legend, he would want the wine show to go on.
So, a befitting end to this blog and a tip of the hat, as well as a toast to the man and his joy of bubbles, a final wine note about their new release, Time 2018 Brut:
Pale pink pearl with the tiniest of bubbles in the glass, clean and fresh with a clean mineral nose that is reminiscent of the tangy smell of sea, along with aromas of baked pie crust and citrusy florals. Made in méthode cuvee clos, bone-dry, with a fine creamy mousse, lifted with lemon meringue and nutty flavours finishing long, clean, vibrant with balanced acidity. Simply elegant and delicious. Buy it by the case.
Produced from 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay, the cuvée was fermented in neutral French oak barrels, stainless steel barrel and tank. Lees stirring in barrels added freshness, structure, creaminess and nutty flavours to this sparkling brut with 12.4% abv and 1.0 g/l residual sugar. Pair with brunch dishes, smoked salmon Bennies, friends and family – anytime.
A special “Thank you” to Town Hall Brands and their marketing team for the help in setting up this tour.