Photo: Tyler Harlton of TH Wines
Before he became a winemaker, Summerland-based Tyler Harlton
played eight seasons of professional hockey and seldom had more than 60 penalty
minutes a season.
Everyone who meets this laid-back artisan is surprised his
penalty minutes were even that high. He is as gentle a personality as you will
find in the Okanagan wine industry.
And he hangs out with other artisanal winemakers. In June,
TH Wines, as he calls his winery, joined five other small wineries for an informal
tasting in Vancouver. They should consider keeping this league
together. Their personalities and winemaking styles are quite complimentary.
TH Wines is one of the smaller of these producers, making
just 1,100 cases in 2013. The winery was established three years ago in
quarters that Tyler
rented in an industrial park in Summerland. His business model calls for
spending money on buying grapes and getting the brand established before tying up
capital in a vineyard or in a fancy building. He opened a modest tasting room
this year for the first time.
He may be operating on a shoestring but that is not
reflected in to quality of the wines. These are notes on the wines.
TH Wines By Hand
White 2013 ($19.99 for 468 cases). The name of this wine is inspired by the
new labels – the image of two hands on a wine barrel. They are Tyler’s hands and the image underlines the
artisanal approach here. This wine is 84% Chardonnay, 16% Sauvignon Blanc. It
is a richly textured wine with flavours of pear and apple mingled with herbs.
The finish lingers. 90.
Th Wines Viognier
2013 ($N/A). This is a classic Viognier, with a creamy texture and with
apricot and peach aromas and flavours. The finish lasts and lasts. 90.
TH Wines Rosé 2013 ($21.99
for 119 cases). This is made with Merlot with a splash of Malbec and
Chardonnay. It has aromas and flavours of apples and strawberries. The texture
is generous and the finish is dry. 89.
TH Wines Pinot Noir
2012 ($29.99 for 270 cases). This is an utterly seductive Pinot Noir. The
silky texture and the pretty aromas and flavours of strawberry and cherry make
this a charming wine with a finish that lingers. 91.
TH Wines Cabernet
Merlot 2012 ($34.99 for 306 cases.) The
blend here is two-thirds Cabernet Franc, a varietal that Tyler favours. The other third is Merlot and
Malbec. The wine has brambly flavours of blackberry and cherry on a foundation
of earthy notes and long ripe tannins. 90.
friends include Little Farm Winery
the Cawston boutique operated by wine educator Rhys Pender MW and his winemaker
wife, Alishan Driediger (left). They moved to this property in 2008, planting a
four-acre vineyard of Chardonnay and Riesling.
Little Farm may well be the smallest licensed winery (or
close to it) in the Similkameen and Okanagan. Production in 2013 totalled 353
cases, with the target at full production being 800 cases.
Chardonnay 2013 ($29.90 for 68 cases). Crisp and refreshing and reminiscent
of Chablis, this wine has delicate citrus aromas and flavours of grapefruit and
green apple. 88.
Little Farm Riesling
2013 ($29.90 for 115 cases). In the style of German Riesling, this wine
spent some time in neutral oak barrels, gaining texture and softening the
bracing acidity. The wine has citrus aromas and tangy citrus flavours wrapped
around a nice spine of minerals. The finish is dry. 90.
Little Farm Rosé 2013
($24.90 for 170 cases). This is made with Cabernet Franc and it displays
the vivacity of the varietal. There are aromas and flavours of strawberry and
raspberry, with notes of herbs and pepper on the dry finish. 90.
Also in Tyler
circle is Orofino Vineyards
, also of Cawston. John and
Virginia Weber (right) moved from Saskatchewan
in 2001 to take over a six-acre vineyard and, within a few years, become
accomplished wine growers. Earlier in July, they hosted vertical tastings of
their wines, reaching as far back as a 2003 Pinot Noir and a 2003
They have not chosen to stay small even if there is great
artisanal style in the winemaking. Orofino
now is making about 4,500 cases a year.
Vineyard Riesling 2013
($22 for 600 cases). Here is a polished and refined
Riesling, with aromas and flavours of lime around a spine of minerals. The wine
is crisply tangy and dry with good potential to age. 91.
Vineyard Old Vines Riesling 2013
($29 for 100 cases). Most of this was
fermented in old barrels; two barrels were fermented with wild yeast for
additional complexity. The racy acidity is nicely balanced with residual sugar.
There are aromas and flavours of lime and grapefruit around a mineral core. The
finish is tangy. 90.
Orofino Scout Vineyard Riesling 2013
350 cases). A touch more residual sugar brings out aromas and flavours of lime,
apple and peach. The texture is juicy. 90.
Orofino Celentano Vineyard Gamay 2013
120 cases). This could be a light Beaujolais Cru wine. The aromas and flavours
of spicy cherry and raspberry dance on the palate. A note of pepper on the
finish wraps up this lively wine very nicely.
Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012
($32). The wine begins with aromas of cherries
mingling with the toasty notes from the barrels. On the palate, there are
flavours of cherry and strawberry with a touch of mocha on the finish. 90.
Bridge Merlot 2011
($25). This is the only
wine in Orofino
’s portfolio not made
with Similkameen fruit. The Merlot grapes come from the Oak Knoll Vineyard in
Kaleden. This is a very quaffable Merlot (a gold medal winner at the All
Canadian Wine Awards) with aromas and flavours of black currant and blueberry.
($34). This is the winery’s flagship Bordeaux
blend, comprising 50% Merlot, 30%
Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Dark in colour,
the wine has a ripe, concentrated texture. There are aromas and flavours of
black currant, black cherry and mulberry nicely framed with oak from the 20
months aging in French and American oak barrels. It is a sophisticated wine
with the potential to age easily for another five to seven years. 93.
a 1,700-case boutique making just white wine. There is a delicious irony in
that. The owners are Paul and Senka Tennant, one of the couples that founded
the Black Hills
winery where the star was a
red wine called Nota Bene. When the Tennants established a new winery in 2008
on the Naramata Bench, Senka (left) decided she did not want to go on making red wine.
They really differentiated Terravista by planting Albariño
and Verdejo, two Spanish whites new to Okanagan vineyards. The blend from these
is called Fandango. A blend of Rhone
varieties, made with purchased grapes, is called Figaro.
The winery’s tasting room high on the Naramata Bench offers
one of the best views over the entire region.
2013 ($24.90). The wine is 70% Albariño and 30% Verdejo. Crisp and fresh,
the wine has aromas and flavours of melons and green apples. This is a wine
worth aging for a year or two. The 2012 Fandango has developed hints of
hazelnut to enhance the complexity. 90.
2012 ($23.90). This is a blend of Roussanne, Viognier, and Marsanne.
Glorious tropical fruit aromas charge from the glass. The wine is full on the
palate, with flavours of apricot and peach. 90.
2013 ($17.90). This is new to the portfolio, probably because the winery
ended up with more Viognier than it needed for blending. The wine is crisp and
fresh, with aromas and flavours of citrus and peach. 89.
Bill Eggert (right)
owner of Fairview Cellars
, has been
a fixture in Okanagan winegrowing longer than most of the other six. He opened
the winery, based on a six-acre vineyard, in 2000. His focus has been Bordeaux
although he planted a small Pinot Noir vineyard a few years ago.
I sometimes wonder whether Bill is best described as salt of
the earth, or just plain salty. However, the wines are as forthright as the
Fairview Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2013
This vibrant and tangy white has aromas and flavours of lime and grapefruit,
with herbal notes on the dry finish. 90.
Fairview Cellars Pinot Noir 2012
is another charmer, with aromas and flavours of strawberries and red cherries,
supported subtly by hints of oak. The texture is silky. 90.
Fairview Cellars Madcap Red 2011
300 cases). This blend is based on Merlot, with 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10%
Cabernet Franc. It begins with aromas of mint and cassis. On the palate, there
are flavours of black currant. The tannins are ripe. 90.
Fairview Cellars Cabernet Franc 2012
The winery has made a name for itself with Cabernet Franc and this is an
exuberant example. It brims with aromas and flavours of blackberry, black
currant and blueberry. 90-91.
Fairview Cellars The Bear 2011
($34.90 for 300
cases). This is a Meritage with all five of the major Bordeaux
reds. The Cabernet Sauvignon in the
blend seems to have contributed slight notes of mint to the aroma and the
flavour, turbo charging the spicy cherry and black currant flavours. 91.
Fairview Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Premier Series
($39). Fourteen months barrel-aging has given this wine a not of
vanilla in the aroma, complementing the black cherry. The wine has a rich
palate weight, with flavours of black currant, black cherry and dark chocolate.
Fairview Cellars Iconoclast 2009
wine is also 100% Cabernet Sauvignon but it spent 27 months in barrel (new and
used). The wine is rich on the palate, with depth and complexity. There is
vanilla and cassis on the nose, leading to flavours of black currant, prune,
cola and coffee. 93.
Robert Van Westen (left), who runs Van Westen Vineyards
near Naramata, comes by his salt of the earth personality naturally. His family
has been growing fruit, mostly cherries, on the Naramata Bench since his
parents immigrated from Holland
The winery has taken over a former fruit packing house.
Robert runs the tasting room, when it is open, with a warm informality. He also
delivers his wine personally to many of his customers. When he can’t do it, he
has a sister in Vancouver who will also deliver.
Van Westen Viognier
2012 ($N/A). This is voluptuous in texture, with aromas and flavours of
citrus and apricot, with subtle spice on the finish. 90.
Van Westen Vino
Grigio 2012 ($19.90 for 530 cases). This is a refreshing, crisp Pinot Gris
with aromas of citrus and flavours of citrus, pear and apple. 90.
Van Westen Vivacious
2013 ($19.90). This is a crisp Pinot Blanc, with aromas and flavours of
apples, with a hint of citrus. 90.
Pinot Noir 2012 ($34.90 for 125 cases). The VD on the label reflects that
this is a joint venture wine made by Rob and by Tom DiBello. It begins with
aromas of toasty red fruit, leading to flavours of cherry. The firm texture
suggests this is a Pinot Noir that should be aged a few more years. 89.
Van Westen Vivre La Vie 2010 ($29.90). This is a Merlot
with a concentrated texture. It has aromas and flavours of blueberry, mulberry
and blackberry with a peppery note on the finish. 90.
Van Westen Voluptuous
2010 ($29.90 for 218 cases). This is 66% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Franc. The texture has grip, as it should
have in a wine designed to develop in bottle for at least six more years. At
this tasting, Rob also allowed guests to sample three previous vintages,
including a 2006 which is drinking very well. The 2010 has aromas of cassis and
sage, with a medley of flavour including black currant, black cherry, herbs and