Cool climate Chardonnay is gaining momentum and nowhere is it “cooler” than from the state-of-the-art Okanagan Crush Pad in British Columbia.
Intriguing Wine North Of The Border
Some people only think of Canada this time of year – when the Stanley Cup playoffs capture their attention. Not us. We’ve been fans of Canadian wine for decades. We’ve travelled far and wide visiting wineries and tasting their goods – but perhaps our favorite location is Okanagan Valley, British Columbia.
Okanagan Valley is a land of mountains and sunshine that is unknown to many in the US. It features more than 120 wineries, has 8,000 acres of vineyards and 60 different varieties of grapes. What more can a wine lover ask? The scenery is spectacular and the people amazingly friendly.
Our visit to Penticton, BC, for the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2013 opened our eyes to the great wine being produced there. Most of it doesn’t make it to other Canadian provinces – let alone across the border to the US. One wine brand that impressed us was Haywire – in particular their Gamay Noir.
There’s more to the story of Haywire than that tasty bottle of Gamay Noir. Haywire, named for the wire used to bale hay that’s often tangled and unpredictable, was founded in 2006 by Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie. In addition to the Gamay Noir we so enjoyed, they produce Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and traditional sparkling wine – each playing up the unique cool climate terroir.
But Haywire wine is just a fragment of the story. In 2011, Christine and Steve launched Okanagan Crush Pad, a state-of-the-art 40,000 case winery with 320-acres of vineyard and farmland and a focus on creating natural wines exclusively from organic grapes. Okanagan Crush Pad is literally “crushing it” with amazing wines that capture the magic of the Okanagan Valley. Through our Canadian connection (Leeann Froese of Town Hall Brands) we were able to review a pair of OCP-produced Chardonnay.
Free Form And Cool Chardonnay
During a recent wine tasting at Vino-Sphere world headquarters, we were joined by the Cabernetor (who was also on the trip to Penticton). The duo from Okanagan Crush pad are great examples of way cool climate wines are rapidly gaining fans. Lower acidity, lighter body and crisp flavors are part of the attraction.
We first sampled the Haywire 2013 Free Form which is a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc blend – a natural and unfiltered wine. During the winemaking process a bit of sediment can accumulate from dead yeast cells and the like. Many wineries use a process called fining, where they put gelatin or egg white into the wine which binds with the unwanted particles which are then removed.
Free Form dispenses with that and goes natural. It displayed a healthy collection of sediment in the bottom of the bottle. The wine has a beautiful yellow golden glow. On the palate, it has peach and minerality. The wine has a brassy, aggressive opening that warms and mellows at the finish. The acidity keeps it crisp and light.
We next explored the 2014 Coolshanagh Chardonnay. Coolshanagh Vineyard is in the Naramanta Bench between what was the ancient west coast of North America and Okanagan Mountain. The calcium carbonate-loaded soil is made up of fractured glacial bedrock.
Vineyard owners Skip and Judy Stothert originally sold their grapes to other winemakers – but in 2012, they decided to make their own. They produce “small batch” Chardonnay – about 270 cases annually. Matt Dumayne, winemaker at Okanagan Crush Pad, helps them craft Chardonnay using large oak barriques, concrete “eggs” and lees aging.
The Coolshanagh is in stark contrast to the Haywire blend. Where the Haywire is light and minerally, the Coolshanagh has a lush texture. The oak is well integrated and doesn’t dominate. On the palate there is a medium body with notes of lemon, butter and toasted oak. This is an multi-sensory Chardonnay experience!
Okanagan Crush Pad, located in a unique northern desert setting, is a shared workspace for vintners. It also provides access to winemakers and consultants with global experience. We dig this sort of collaboration and the results have been stellar and reflective of the vibrant Okanagan Valley wine scene.
Full disclosure: We received this wine as marketing samples.