Ghosts in the Original Grandpère Vineyard

“There’s history in those vines, that tell the story of  Amador. There’s ghosts in that vineyard.” – Marc McKenna, winemaker, Andis Wines

As part of the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference held in Lodi, California, some of us were able to secure a spot in the Amador County pre-excursion. Among many other delicious wine and winery events, we were treated to a speed-tasting session in Plymouth, at the original Shenandoah School House, built in 1876. Surrounded by rows of dusty vines, eight wineries poured special flights of wines that showcased the best of Amador wine country. Within these selections were three old vine Zinfandels from three different producers, sourced from one vineyard that pre-dated the schoolhouse itself, Shenandoah Valley’s Original Grandpère Vineyard.

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Andis Wines winemaker Marc McKenna with one of the original Grandpère Zinfandel vines.

County records suggest that the site was first planted to vine in 1869 (although some speculate that it may have been planted as early as 1865), but give or take a few years, this planting features the oldest living Zinfandel vines in the state. Originally planted by members of the Upton family, the vineyard changed hands over the years, eventually ending up in the hands of Terri and Scott Harvey, who purchased the site in 1984. At the time, the pair were married, and Terri tended the vines while Scott was a winemaker for a number of local wineries, including Santino, and later Renwood, where he utilized some of the Original Grandpère Vineyard’s low-yielding fruit. While at Renwood, cuttings were taken from the old vines and grafted to phylloxera-resistant rootstocks to create what is now known as the Grandpère Vineyard. Scott departed Renwood in 1995, and his marriage to Terri ended shortly thereafter as well. A trademark dispute ensued between Terri and Renwood, but once the Amador dust had settled, Terri was allowed to maintain the legacy of the site by naming it the “Original” Grandpère Vineyard.

Even though the fruit was sold to various commercial and amateur wineries for White Zinfandel in the 1980s, vigorous pruning and careful vineyard management drastically reduced the vineyard yields, while increasing its potential quality. Today, in a unique arrangement I’ve not heard of anywhere else, just four wineries are allowed to source grapes every vintage – Scott Harvey Wines, Andis Wines, Vino Noceto and C.G.Di Arie Winery. What’s most interesting is that each winery does not have one specific parcel or set of rows they are allocated to use, therefore their lot rotates every year.

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Scott Harvey with his 2008 “1869 Vineyard” Zinfandel

I compare this civilized collaboration to the out-dated French Napoleonic laws of succession and inheritance, where an individual’s assets are divided between each child in equal shares, resulting in smaller and smaller parcels of land being passed to the next generation. Coupled with sky high federal inheritance taxes, the situation in premium winegrowing areas of France has become challenging and confusing. But the spirit of collaboration in Amador (even between divorced, but now friendly couples) results in some of the most complex and tasty wines in California.

Of the four wineries currently producing wine from the Original Grandpère Vineyard, we tasted selections from three. The Andis Wines 2012 Original Grandpère Zinfandel was first: delicate, but with rich tannic structure, this Zin showed notes of raspberry, black pepper and grilled red meat. I liked the way it showed now, but thought that a few more years in bottle would bring out lush fruit flavours. From the same vintage, we next tried the Vino Noceto OGP Zinfandel. Winemaker Rusty Folena suggested that the wine has a mind of its own, and he favours non-interventionist winemaking techniques, allowing the vintage to express itself. Quite frankly, this philosophy was shared among the other Amador wineries, who also respect the vineyard enough to let it do its own thing. I thought that the Vino Noceto wine was similar to the Andis Zin, but with notes this time of a more pungent white pepper, balanced with sweeter red fruit flavours. Finally, we tried the 2008 vintage of “1869” from Scott Harvey Wines, poured by Scott himself. “Every layer of soil gives the wine a different dimension,” he said. Indeed, this expression cast off overtly spicy notes in favour of fresh, bright flavours of pomegranate, cherries and sweet earth, as if still wet from a recent rainstorm.

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Owner Jim Gullett and winemaker Rusty Folena of Vino Noceto.

Special thanks to the Amador Council of Tourism, the Amador Vintners Association and to all the wineries for allowing us to taste the living history of this special region.

Coffee and Town Hall Brands

By Kathleen Beveridge

Today is National Coffee Day or as Howard Schultz would say, “I can’t imagine a day without coffee.”

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That being said I am not a coffee drinker, my choice of hot beverage has always been tea BUT there is something to be said about the smell of coffee brewing, the sounds of a coffee shop and the time spent with a warm mug in hand with friends, family and co-workers.

What I’ve noticed since joining Town Hall Brands last year is that our team loves coffee and that coffee is integral to our creative process to ensure we provide the best work for our clients. Whether creative design or communications you can bet each team member has a cup of coffee on their desk bringing focus and creative stimulation.

Now there has been studies that say coffee does not increase creativity however, for the team here I’ll respectfully disagree. Coffee keeps us fueled up and when we need those mental breaks the walk to the coffee shop usually clears the mind enough that productivity is when returning to our desks.

In case you were wondering here’s how the each team member enjoys their coffee!

Leeann

I like my coffee with just a little bit of milk and I like it to be strong. When I have a latte I like four shots of espresso and soy milk. No sugar. I’m sweet enough.

Andrew

Depends on whether it’s good coffee or not. If it’s good coffee it’s black.

Felicia

Often. With lots of cream.

Sujinder

With two (almost) vegans and one with dairy allergies in the house, we rarely have regular (cow’s) milk in the fridge, even though that’s my personal preference. That, and half a teaspoon of brown sugar. Always brown. I rarely get a hot cup of coffee at the home office, but my Stanley mega-thermos keeps it hot enough for the commute to Town Hall HQ. Other than that, I have a Nespresso ‘pixie’ which has served me well for years. My favourite pod is the Arpeggio. It’s intensity is 9/10. Just like me. And for the record, being environmentally-conscious, we scoop the grinds in the compost and recycle the aluminum. Love you, mother nature!

Laurisha

COFFEE IS MY EVERYTHING. IT DESERVES ALL THE ALL CAPS. I need it to be piping hot, fresh ground, and something like Kickinghorse, Ethical Bean or Salt-Spring. I like cream and sugar in it (not too much of either).

Amy

Americano black.

Kathleen

Tea please! Any and all kinds. Or if I have to choose a coffee make it sickly sweet-Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Mocha’s, Carmel Machiattos. I may love the smell but the taste not so much.

Grace

Office coffee with 2 creams every morning. Sometimes with sugar if I’m feeling lazy and go to a café.

Genevieve

I like plain Jane drip coffee with almond milk and HONEY.

Cheers to National Coffee Day! May your day be filled with your favourite brew.

Five Reasons to Love Okanagan Crush Pad Winery

Okanagan Crush Pad is Five today!

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1. Summerland

This winery is located in beautiful Summerland, heart of the Okanagan Valley, and is one of the Bottleneck Drive wineries. The surrounding views are breathtaking and the hospitality and community are so welcoming in this small town.

The view from Okanagan Crush Pad.

The view not far from Okanagan Crush Pad.

2. Respecting history to make wines of today

Since constructing its state-of-the-art winemaking facility and visitor center in 2011, Okanagan Crush Pad Winery has been regarded as one of the most innovative wineries in Canada. One of these reasons is because of its return to yesterday’s wine making techniques using the science and knowledge of today. The use of concrete tanks and clay amphorae really work to bring out the terroir of their Haywire and Narrative wines, which personify where they are grown.

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Haywire natural wines with an amphorae.

3. International insights

The Okanagan Crush Pad Winery team has pulled in consulting minds from Alberto Antonini and Pedro Parra, who have used their global perspective to help the Okanagan Valley shine.

 

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The OCP team learning about the soil at Garnet Valley Ranch with Alberto and Pedro.

4. For the love of the earth and all of its animals

Switchback Vineyard, where Okanagan Crush Pad Winery is located, is certified organic. Garnet Valley Ranch, where vines are grown for Okanagan Crush Pad Winery, is also organic from day one. There are animals onsite, including chickens, ducks, dogs, sheep, cows, worms and bees, which help to keep the biodiversity alive.

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Say hello to the chickens at Switchback Vineyard.

5. A dream team

Owners Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie have assembled an amazing team around them: Christine, Steve, David, Alison, Matt, Julian, Jordan, Megan, Tyler, Theo, Duncan, Kristina, Mike, Lisa, Rebecca, Amy, Rebeka, Paula, Alberto, Pedro, and many more, and we are proud to be part of it!

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The OCP team on the day Switchback Vineyard became certified organic in 2015.

Congratulations to the entire team at Okanagan Crush Pad Winery on your fifth birthday; we are so proud of all of you.

2016 BC Grape Harvest In Full Swing

 

Would you like images, an interview, or to learn more? Contact Sujinder Juneja for assistance.

According to the BC Wine Institute (BCWI), BC’s cool-climate grape crop is on track for another excellent vintage this year. Hot and dry conditions in the spring led to the earliest bud break on record and the earliest harvest ever for some wineries in the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan. The low average temperatures and high rainfall allowed BC grapes to have more time to ripen on the vine and to accumulate flavour and aromatic compounds. This contributes to wines that are fresh, complex and balanced with higher acidity that make them versatile food pairings.

On Vancouver Island

Bailey Williamson, winemaker for Blue Grouse Estate Winery in Duncan on Vancouver Island, is expecting another excellent harvest at the Cowichan Valley estate. A strong growing season in April and May, followed by a cooler June and July than the previous year, led to an elongated flowering and fruit set cycle and allowed the grapes to mature and ripen to classic levels. The Blue Grouse harvest started on September 10, beginning with the popular Siegerrebe, an aromatic white varietal which tends to ripen earliest. After that, there will be a break in harvest until the end of September, when the rest of the grapes will be harvested in earnest. Compared to all the vintages since 2012, this year’s harvest started within a week of normal.

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Blue Grouse Estate Winery in Duncan.

In the Fraser Valley

Conditions on the mainland were similar to Vancouver Island. Andrew Etsell, GM and viticulturist of Singletree Winery in Abbotsford notes that with the warm and dry August, the grapes developed beautiful flavours with balanced acids and sugars. Singletree began its harvest on August 25 – one full week earlier than 2015, and the winery’s earliest harvest on record. “We started with our Siegerrebe, which is evolving into one of our most popular wines,” Andrew shares. “We’re also keeping a close eye on our estate Pinot Noir, which we have just harvested for our first-ever estate sparkling wine. Other estate varietals, such as our Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Grüner Veltliner and Sauvignon Blanc, will follow after that. This year’s harvest will not yield as much fruit as 2015, yet the fruit will be clean and very high quality.”

It’s harvest time at Abbotsford’s Singletree Winery.

In the Okanagan – Naramata Bench

After an unseasonably warm spring, followed by an early summer, Serendipity Winery’s Katie O’Kell was concerned that the harvest would take place much earlier than normal at her estate Naramata vineyard. However, the cooler, wetter weather moved in, which allowed the grapes to mature a more moderate pace.

Serendipity’s harvest started on August 29 with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and continued on August 31 with Viognier. With a dry and cool climate, the phenolics (flavour and aromatic compounds) will eventually catch up to the brix (a measure of potential alcohol) that is currently sitting in the low 20s.

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Serendipity Winery’s estate vineyard in Naramata.

Okanagan – South

Likewise, Lawrence Buhler, director of winemaking for ENCORE Vineyards, which produces wines under the TIME Winery, Evolve Cellars and McWatters Collection labels, is also in the middle of an active harvest. Compared to last year, Buhler and his winemaking team saw a two-day early start to the season on August 17. Harvest has almost been completed for the still whites, with additional harvests to take place in the next two to four weeks for red varietals.

Regarding the balance of the 2016 harvest, Lawrence says the reds are maturing well and the cooler weather is excellent for proper fruit development and sugar accumulation in the berries.

Harry McWatters, president and CEO of ENCORE Vineyards said recently to Global Television, “we had record-breaking temperatures in April and the earliest bud break that I’ve seen in my history in British Columbia. This is my 49th vintage in the wine business and I’ve never seen a harvest this early. What it does is even in the fringe areas, where the grower may be pushing their limit as far as what they’re growing or the amount of crop they’ve got, it gives them a bit bigger window to mature that fruit to its optimum level. It’s a good thing.”

Indeed it is, Harry. And although the wineries – from Vancouver Island to the Fraser Valley to the Okanagan – are right in the middle of an exciting harvest, we already can’t wait to taste the finished wines starting next spring.

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A view towards the lake at Evolve Cellars in Summerland.

 

Town Hall Brands: Specializing in wine, food and hospitality

Town Hall Brands, based in Vancouver BC, build brands and promotes them. We offer marketing strategy, graphic design, packaging, promotional campaigns and PR, and social media outreach.

Can we help you with a story? If it comes to a story in need in wine, we can help or send you to the right place.

BCWI Colour 2016

British Columbia Wine Institute‘s Fall VQA Tasting, Colour, is on the horizon. An event for trade and media to mingle with winery principals and winemakers while tasting new releases.

Later on, at “ChefmeetsGrape” the public will be able to taste the new vintages, accompanying delicious food pairings from hot restaurants.

TRADE: In order to plan your strategy for tasting your way through the day, Town Hall Brands is going to give you the inside scoop on each of our PR clients that are attending and what you can taste from them.

Since the tasting will be organized alphabetically (we hope), let’s start at the top:

Evolve Cellars

Evolve Cellars

Evolve Cellars, located in Summerland, offers a lineup of wines that are fruit-forward and approachable.  Believing every choice has intention Evolve encourages everyone to #raiseaglassto those who inspire them.

Principals attending: Christa-Lee McWatters-Bond, director of sales and marketing

Wines being poured:

  • Pink Effervescence – NEW bubbles!
  • Effervescence – NEW bubbles!
  • Pinot Blanc 2015
  • Riesling 2015
  • Cabernet Merlot 2015

Okanagan Crush Pad

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Located in Summerland, Okanagan Crush Pad is home to Haywire and Narrative Wines. The winery team’s aim is to produce distinct, terroir-focused super-premium wines from the Okanagan Valley.

Principal attending: Christine Coletta, owner

Wines being poured:

  • Haywire Switchback Vineyard Pinot Gris 2014
  • Haywire Canyonview Pinot Noir 2013
  • Narrative XC Method NV
  • Narrative Rosé 2015

Serendipity Winery

Serendipity-Vinessmall

Nestled among the rolling hills of the picturesque Naramata Bench, a visit to Serendipity is about discovery, surprise and warmth. The journey began in 2005 following a serendipitous turn in the road made by owner Judy Kingston, and continues with each new vintage of wines crafted to be paired with food and shared with loved ones. Judy, a former lawyer, brings her smarts and wit to the wines and their labels. Each bottle has a story.

Principal attending: Judy Kingston, owner

Wines being poured:

  • Next Step 2012
  • Sauvignon Blanc 2015
  • Rosé 2015

TIME Winery

Wine making is about time and place, and that’s what TIME Winery proves with each new vintage. As what will be Penticton’s first urban winery, spearheaded by industry pioneer and icon Harry McWatters, these wines are complex yet approachable.

Principal attending: Harry McWatters, owner

Wines being poured:

  • Cabernet Franc 2014
  • Meritage (white) 2014
  • Meritage 2013
  • McWatters Collection Chardonnay 2013

These applauded BC wines call for an Encore!

Hot Client News!

Encore Family Shot

We’re taking a moment heading into the long weekend to #raiseaglassto one of our amazing clients and their winemaker Lawrence Buhler. The results of the NorthWest Wine Summit are in and it’s safe to say that ENCORE Vineyards, parent company of Evolve Cellars, McWatters Collection and TIME Winery, and their winemaker deserve a round of applause for their recent landslide of awards.

The Superlative Awards

“Best” Category – Evolve Cellars Riesling 2015

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Jerry Mead Awards:

Best Value Wines: Evolve Cellars Rosé 2015, Evolve Cellars Riesling 2015

Gold

Evolve Cellars

  • Riesling 2015
  • Rosé (Merlot & Pinot Blanc) 2015

McWatters Collection

  • “HMC” Chardonnay 2013

HMC Family

TIME Winery

  • Meritage (39% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc) 2013

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Evolve Cellars

  • Gewürztraminer 2015

McWatters Collection

  • “Meritage” 60% Cabernet Sauvignon (three clones) 20% Merlot (two clones), & 12% Cabernet Franc (one clone) 2012

TIME Winery

  • Cabernet Franc 2014
  • Chardonnay 2013
  • Meritage (white blend: 68% Sauvignon Blanc, 32% Sémillon) 2014

Bronze

Evolve Cellars

  • Cabernet Merlot 2014
  • Pinot Blanc 2014
  • Pinot Gris 2015
  • Sauvignon Blanc 2014

 

ENCORE Vineyards Ltd., is a progressive Okanagan-based company, and home to TIME Winery, Evolve Cellars, and McWatters Collection.

The ENCORE team is led by president and CEO Harry McWatters, a 49-year veteran of the British Columbia wine industry. Christa-Lee McWatters-Bond is the ENCORE director of sales and marketing, offering lifelong wine industry insight. Lawrence Buhler is ENCORE’s director of winemaking, who has experienced more than 16 vintages in Ontario, British Columbia, Chile, Argentina, and Australia. He will oversee the company’s growing portfolio of premium British Columbia wines.

Congratulations winemaker Lawrence; the Town Hall Brands team awaits your encore!