Wednesday, October 11, 2017

50th Parallel will make sparkling wine





Photo: Curtis Krousel and Sheri-Lee Turner-Krousel


Fans of 50th Parallel Estate Winery will cheer the news recently announced by this Lake Country winery.

The winery said: “Winemaker Matthew Fortuna is working with our vineyard team to harvest and press the first of the Pinot Noir grapes of 2017 for what will also be the first sparkling wine vintage ever produced at 50th Parallel, our 2017 Blanc De Noir! This cuvée will be produced in the traditional 'Methode Champenoise' using our premium estate Pinot Noir from our oldest vineyard, Block 1. The wine will be made in premium French oak, and will contain Dijon clones 115 and 777. This limited small release of 300 cases will debut in 2019 in our Restaurant with a small allocation reserved for wine club member purchase.

 That announcement alludes to other developments at 50th Parallel this year.

·       *  Matt Fortuna has taken over as winemaker, succeeding his long-time mentor, Grant Stanley (still a consultant to 50th Parallel).

·        * The restaurant is expected to open next year in the $5 million expansion being completed at the winery.

“The expansion includes an event space which can seat up to 200 people for banquets and weddings,” says Curtis Krouzel, who opened this winery in 2013 with his wife, Sheri-Lee Turner-Krouzel. “We are building the infrastructure that we need to support all of the destination tourism we are trying to attract here. We have a second to none facility. Now the idea is to bring people here the experience it.”

With a production of 16,000 cases planned this year fr0m a maturing vineyard, 50th Parallel would certainly benefit from wine tourism.

“We are trying to convince a few more of our neighbours to develop wineries,” Curtis says. “It would be great to have a few more of these orchardists have wineries, because they have beautiful properties and terroirs.”

To be sure, winery expansion is happening in Lake Country. O’Rourke Family Vineyards opened The Chase Winery this summer and will open its major winery just down the road from 50th Parallel in a couple of years. As well, a yet to be revealed winery is being developed for an unnamed owner by consultants James Cluer MW and Marcus Ansems MW.  

“It is so close to Kelowna,” Curtis points out. “You can be here in half an hour. We are away but we are not. Sparkling Hill Resort and Predator Ridge are developing so quickly. A lot of energy is coming. The road is all paved now. We now have tourists coming for the scenic wine route.

“Sheri-Lee and I started this with nothing, with friends and family investors,” Curtis continues. “Then we built our limited partnership in 2011. We realized we were developing a 60-acre property, not a 20-acre property. We have about 12 people in total, people we have gotten to know over the years. Some of them started with us in 2009, 2010.”

Curtis and Sheri-Lee are wine enthusiasts from Alberta. They spent 10 years searching for a vineyard property before discovering, as Curtis says, “this beautiful piece of property that seemed to be sitting predominantly idle.”  Jordan & Ste. Michelle Winery had grown grapes in the 1970s but the vines were pulled out in 1988.

The property is a sun-bathed slope stretching down to the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake. It is a bucolic 30-minute drive north from Gray Monk Estate Winery. Or as Curtis like to say, it is half an hour from Kelowna (or from Vernon).

“It was 61 acres [24.7 hectares],” Curtis says. “It was about three times the size of the project I intended but I had always wanted to do something fairly world class. So we set out on this mission to create a winery focussed on Pinot Noir.” Sixty-eight percent of the 16.6 hectares (41 acres) planted since 2009 is dedicated to Pinot Noir. The remainder is Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay

Born in 1975, Curtis grew up in Edmonton, earned a degree in engineering design technology and soon established his own company, designing plants for the oil and gas industry. With parents from the former Czechoslovakia and grandparents active in the Austrian wine industry, Curtis developed a passion for wine at the family table.  

Matt Fortuna (right) was born in 1981 in Niagara Falls. “Growing up in a wine region, I was exposed to wine,” he says. “I was working in one of the hotels in Niagara on the Lake. Pretty early on, I was exposed to good wine and I was exposed to a lot of Niagara wines.”

The turning point in his career came after he tasted a Pinot Noir from Oregon. “It was unlike anything I had tasted before, or smelled before,” he recalls. “It was beautiful, it was complex.  It was aromatic. That turned me on to the idea of Pacific Northwest Pinot Noirs as something unique, and I tried to get myself here.”

He volunteered to do a vintage at Quails’ Gate Estate Winery in 2007 and stayed for five years. At the time, Grant Stanley was the winemaker there.

“That is where I learned the ropes,” Matt says. “For the first three years I was side by side with Gary, the cellar master there. He taught me all my cellaring skills. I learned everything I could from him. And I developed a good relationship with Grant Stanley as well – a mentor, a long-time friend.” Grant joined 50th Parallel in 2013 and brought Matt with him.

“I learned a little more about stylistic winemaking when I was his assistant here,” Matt says. “Going forward, we are pretty fortunate to have Grant work with me through this year, consulting. I hope to adopt his stylistic approach in winemaking and continue the program he has developed here.”

Matt also took the winemaking course at Okanagan College and did a vintage in the Southern Hemisphere. “I was in Mornington Peninsula,” Matt says. “I worked with one of the pioneering wineries there, Moorooduc Estates. Dr. Richard McIntyre has owned it for 30 years, trying to recreate a little Burgundy in Australia. That was a really good experience for me.”

Matt points out that his surname, Fortuna, is Italian for luck. He comes from Italian stock. “There was always homemade wine on the table throughout my whole life,” he says.

Here are notes on the current wines.


5oth Parallel Pinot Gris 2016 ($19.90). This wine delivers gloriously focussed aromas and flavours of fruit, notably peach, citrus and lychee, with a backbone of minerality. The finish lingers and lingers. 91.

50th Parallel Riesling 2016 ($19.90). The winemaking technique involves whole bunch pressing and a long cool fermentation to preserve the fruit. The wine has aromas and flavours of lemon and lime with herbal notes on the tangy, crisp finish. 91.

50th Parallel Gewürztraminer 2016 ($19.90). The wine begins with aromas of rose petal spice and citrus, leading to flavours of lychee and spice. The 14 grams of residual sugar are carefully balanced with acidity, giving the wine good weight and a lingering finish. 92.

50th Parallel Rosé 2016 ($19.90). Forty-hours of cold-soaking the juice on the skins have given this a lively pink hue, with aromas and flavours of strawberry and raspberry. The wine is refreshing, with a dry finish. 90.

50th Parallel Chardonnay 2015 ($35). The wine begins with aromas of citrus and vanilla, leading to flavours of buttery marmalade. The wine is fruit forward, with a delicate touch of oak. Good acidity gives this a crisp finish. 90.

50th Parallel Pinot Noir 2014 ($29). This wine begins with aromas of cherry and toasted oak that are echoed on the silky palate. This is an elegant and pretty wine. 91

50th Parallel Pinot Noir 2015 ($29). The dark colour signals a bigger wine, reflecting the ripe 2015 vintage. It begins with aromas of red fruit and sage, leading to flavours of black cherry and strawberry. Still youthfully firm in texture, the wine has the structure to age gracefully for five or 10 years. 92.


50th Parallel Unparalleled Pinot Noir 2014 ($50). A selection of the 14 best barrels, this is a more of everything super-premium wine. The aromas are so rich and appealing that one lingers before tasting the wine. On the palate, there are flavours of toasted oak, black cherry and plum. This bold, concentrated wine will certainly blossom into a great bottle over the next 10 years. 94.

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