There is a lot to be said about B.C.’s maturing winemaking prowess and its incredible diversity across nine geographical indications (GIs). A focus on the Okanagan Valley and its growing number of sub-GIs — most notably in the Naramata Bench region — reveals convention-bunking winemakers centered on microclimates, soils, clones, oak, yeasts, and non-interventionist viticulture — all in hot pursuit of ultimate terroir expression. —DICK SNYDER
There’s confidence here in the Naramata Bench sub-GI, with winemaker Lyndsay O’Rourke applying a stylistic brush in a way that feels completely transparent. The wines are pure, fresh, vibrant — coming from a 7.5-acre estate planting and nearby vineyards. Pinot Noir from the Fleet Road vineyard — the old lake bed of heavy silt soils — yields intense, earthy, and concentrated fruit. Across the road, the Rubus vineyard’s light sandy-rocky soils make Pinot that’s all delicate red berries.
Dolcetto, Arneis, Syrah, Malbec, Tannat, Touriga Nacional… It’s all here on the East Bench of Osoyoos in the South Okanagan. “We were crazy people when we started. We didn’t know much,” says Chris Tolley. But they are getting- ting a lot right, particularly with Syrah, bottled as single-vineyard and blended wines. That Arneis is a treat, too — tasted off the vine and from a 2014 bottle, it’s remarkably textured, with citrus, savoury, and spice.
A tasting of library wines reveals lovely evolution, with winemaker Grant Stanley coaxing elegant, textured expressions from various clones and vineyard sites. Saddle Block Vineyard — now in the new East Kelowna Slopes sub-GI — was planted in 2008, purportedly with the first Pinot clone 828 in the valley. In outstanding years, Stanley bottles this is a single-clone wine.
Three tiers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay reveal a decidedly Burgundian way of thinking — however, not as an exercise in mimicry. About 7,200 cases are made and they sell fast to club members. Thirteen clones of Pinot are harvested and fermented separately. “It gives you an unbelievable palette to paint with,” says owner Steven French. “The goal is to showcase terroir.”
A stunning location under a rock precipice highlights…well, the rocks of Okanagan Falls. Single-vineyard Pinot and Chardonnay are the obsession here, with the B Field Pinot Noir standing out for its structure and complexity. It’s five clones off a 1.5-acre plot, harvested and fer- mented separately, then blended. Delicious.