Mirabel Pinot Noir “of wondrous beauty” publicly launched

Mirabel Vineyards

Note from Leeann Froese:

If you follow us on social media, you will note that our design team has been working on a beautiful new label with an illustration from Darrell Underschultz, for the Reimers, a lovely Kelowna couple, for their new Mirabel Vineyards Pinot Noir.

This limited release Pinot made by Matt Dumayne is both bold and silky at the same time, and with only a few cases made, is sure to go quickly.

We are very proud to also handle the publicity for this new wine, and here is the official press release.

Mirabel Vineyards Announces Debut Release
Reimer Family focused on terroir-driven Pinot Noir

Doug and Dawn Reimer are pleased to launch their inaugural Mirabel Vineyards wine with the release of the 2015 Pinot Noir, sourced exclusively from their South East Kelowna hilltop estate and vineyard overlooking the Okanagan Valley.

Mirabel, meaning “of wondrous beauty”, perfectly represents the Reimer family’s stunning South East Kelowna hilltop estate and vineyard overlooking the beautiful Okanagan Valley.

The sustainably-farmed Reimer Family Vineyard was planted in 2006 on a steep hill with both southwesterly and northwesterly aspects. Grapes were planted at high elevations over complex soils. Analysis of the terroir suggested the estate was best planted to specific clones of Pinot Noir, to be blended together for optimum colour, flavour, acidity, tannin and length. The yield is cropped at a low 2.5 tons per acre and harvested by hand. One-and-a-half acres of Chardonnay will be planted this spring.

The family’s commitment to quality is realized with this first vintage release of 237 cases of a luscious, elegant, sustainably-grown Pinot Noir.

The 2015 Mirabel Pinot Noir ($70.00 for 750ml, $160 for 1500ml Magnum) was aged 11 months exclusively in French oak (30% new). Gentle handling, including gravity transfer from barrel to bottle, helped to maintain the subtle texture, rich fruit, soft spice and generous length. As the Reimers do not yet have a winery, this wine was made at Okanagan Crush Pad by chief winemaker Matt Dumayne.

Mirabel Vineyards was founded through Doug and Dawn’s shared love of travel, and the belief that the creation and sharing of wonderful food and incredible wine is one of life’s greatest joys. Following a vacation to the Okanagan in 2004, the couple purchased an exclusive piece of property that was ideal for growing grapes. The fruit was previously sold to other wineries, but it will now be reserved for the Mirabel Vineyards label.

Initial praise for the Pinot Noir includes a review from noted BC wine authority John Schreiner, who described it as having “great purity of fruit”. A saignée-method Pinot Noir Rosé and a Chardonnay will be released later this year. 

“We believe that what is in the bottle is more than just wine; it is a place and time; a snapshot of the vineyard. We invite you to join us, as we pursue our dream.” – Doug and Dawn

Those seeking access to these limited-production wines are invited to sign up at mirabelvineyards.com.

If you are a member of the trade seeking an allocation, please contact info@mirabelvineyards.com.

For media, or anyone who wants to know more about the Mirabel Vineyards story, download the information kit HERE.

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Singletree Welcomes the Harvest with Community Social

According to general manager Andrew Etsell, visitation at Mt. Lehman’s Singletree Winery is up more than 100% over last year. “We’re not just busy on the weekends, but every day, Wednesday through Sunday. This is because more and more people, especially from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, are realizing there’s a new winery literally at their back door. Through tastings at trade and media events, along with strong accolades from wine journalists, the word is getting out there about Singletree.”

singletree family

The Etsell family welcomes you to Singletree Winery in Mt. Lehman, BC.

Next up for #winelover-s is the winery’s first annual Mt. Lehman Community Social, on Saturday, August 20, from 5:30pm until late. It’s a free event for the community to connect, socialize, and come together as one. All are invited to bring a favourite dish to share at a potluck, family-style feast, with the Mt. Lehman Community Association sponsoring live music from Langley’s alternative folk-rockers, Prairie Dance Club.

New vintages of Singletree wine will be available for purchase by the glass or by the bottle, alongside craft beer on tap from a local brewery, and other non-alcoholic beverages.

Laura Preckel of Singletree says, “We want to bring old neighbours and new friends together. We’re inviting the Mt. Lehman community, their friends and family to bring a dish and to raise a glass with us. It’s about giving back to our community through sharing. And what a better way to do that than with a glass of wine?”

Indeed, wine lovers are increasingly adventurous and are not only seeking wine that reflects a sense of place, but are interested in unique vineyard experiences.

“We’ve been holding more winery events, including our popular concert series, and our (usually sold out)  painting parties in the vineyard,” says Andrew.

Singletree painting party

Singletree’s popular painting parties beside the vineyard are often sold out in advance.

The winery is very foodie and family-friendly. Visitors to the tasting room can purchase specially-selected local cheese, charcuterie, fresh breads and crackers from the wine shop, and take them to its newly-licensed picnic area, where they can also enjoy wines by the glass or by the bottle. It’s al fresco dining at its best!  Plus – the family lends everyone a picnic basket with glasses, plates and cutlery, to complete the experience. There are always games and toys for kids at the picnic area, and families are encouraged to get up close and personal with the vineyards that surround the winery and tasting room.

“We’ve also been receiving numerous requests for onsite weddings,” continues Laura. “Surrounded by vineyards and farms, with mountains in the background, it’s the perfect site for a rustic valley wedding.”

Singletree at night

Singletree at night offers fun and excitement for the whole family.

Up next for the winery is arguably the most important event of the year… the HARVEST!

The weather in April and May was extremely hot, which gave an early boost to the vines. Although June and July have been slightly cooler than normal, if trends continue, Singletree can expect another great vintage in the Fraser Valley. Bud break started in the first week of March, four weeks ahead of schedule. Andrew is projecting to start harvest in mid-September. This will be about two weeks later than 2015, but still earlier than average vintages. They’ll start the 2016 harvest with their popular and early-ripening Siegerrebe (“get siggy with it”), followed by Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, with Grüner Veltliner and Sauvignon Blanc to follow. Andrew is carefully watching his two acres of Pinot Noir, which he will use for Rosé and – spoiler alert – Singletree’s first-ever vintage of traditional method sparkling wine.

For more on Singletree, visit www.singletreewinery.com.

Naramata Winemaker Brings International Experience To BC

Note:
Katie O’Kell is available for interviews. To schedule, please contact Sujinder Juneja | 604-367-6745 .

Serendipity Winery’s Katie O’Kell has just returned from a three-month stage at New Zealand’s ultra-modern Delegat Wine Estate, where she worked harvest for the 2016 vintage. This new winemaking experience falls on the heels of O’Kell earning her winemaking certificate from UC Davis in California, where she received an impressive 100% on her final exam. O’Kell brings this newly-acquired knowledge and experience to the cellar at her family-owned, Naramata-based winery.

In Bloom

Katie New Zealand Crew

Serendipity’s Katie O’Kell (back row standing, 5th from left) along with her fellow international winemakers in New Zealand.

Becoming a winemaker was not O’Kell’s first career choice, but this role has evolved naturally since her mother Judy Kingston purchased the land on what would become Serendipity Winery in 2005.

O’Kell was born and raised in Toronto and received her BSc in Biology with a specialization in microbiology and pathogens at Hamilton’s McMaster University. After ruling out medical school, O’Kell was accepted into law school, but during a break between her undergrad and the start of the next session, she traveled to Naramata to assist her mother. She had already spent a few summers helping at the winery, so knew what she was getting into… almost. O’Kell ended up loving the work at the winery so much that she deferred her law school acceptance and stayed on at Serendipity full time since 2011.

Adopting the role of ‘second in command’, O’Kell wears many hats: at the winery, vineyard, and at the wine shop. While she prefers to spend time in the cellar, she has also conducted tastings, acted as a sales representative for the winery, delivered cases of wine to stores and restaurants, and has managed the popular wine club as well as on-site winery events. But since winemaking is her greatest passion, she knew that she needed more than just hands-on experience to truly make her mark.

California Dreamin’IMG_3921

Most budding winemakers recognize that the winemaking certificate from California’s UC Davis is one of the most thorough and respected programs in North America. For the past 18 months, taking breaks only during the BC harvest, O’Kell worked in her spare time to complete the program, designed for those that already work in the industry. The course focuses on quality control and sensory analysis, viticulture, the history of winemaking, and the biology of wine. O’Kell attended video lectures three times per week, successfully handed in weekly quizzes, and completed a new winemaking assignment every two to three weeks, with a final exam for each course. Averaging 95% on her course work, O’Kell scored 100% on her final exam, which she completed in March 2016.

The Land of the Silver Fern

O’Kell wished to further expand her range of experience beyond the Okanagan’s borders, hoping to work a harvest in another wine region. She initially set her sights on Australia so that she could work a harvest during spring in the Southern hemisphere and return in time for the fall vintage in BC. Eventually, she chose New Zealand as its climate and grape varietals are very similar to British Columbia. Proving the apple doesn’t fall far from the pear tree, her mother had also trained at a winery in New Zealand. Ultimately, O’Kell chose Delegat Winery in Blenheim, within the Marlborough region on the South Island, the centre of New Zealand’s wine industry. She was interested in working at an ultra-modern facility that processed varietals similar to those that she worked on at Serendipity, including Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. She also wanted to learn processes that are not widely used in BC, including environmentally progressive clarification and filtration methods.

“I specifically requested to be put on the flotation team at Delegat,” O’Kell says. “It’s a process for removing suspended solids in the wine, using micro-bubbles of food-grade nitrogen injected into the must. It allows a winemaker greater control over the degree of desired clarification, and can improve the efficiency of filtration and water usage. It’s a new technology that’s just beginning to be implemented in the Okanagan, and I want to make sure we’re ahead of the curve.”

Since mid-March 2016, O’Kell worked 12 and-a-half hours a day, with one day off every eight, with a crew that consisted of 12 full time staff, along with 66 international winemakers from France, the Ukraine, the USA, Australia, and Russia; which gave her additional insight on winemaking techniques from across the globe.

“There were some international winemakers finishing up their PhD studies while I was there,” O’Kell notes. “Even though I was focused on one aspect of winemaking, I spent as much time as I could learning about their particular areas of expertise. For example, I learned a lot about new methods of extraction in red wines, efficient cellar management techniques, as well as creative solutions for pump overs, racking, and how to effectively manage tank space. These ideas will be integrated into the work that Bradley [Cooper, Serendipity’s head winemaker] and I do in the cellar this vintage.”

While on this group international experience, each of the visiting winemakers brought a bottle of wine from their home country for comparison and discussion. O’Kell shared Serendipity’s terroir-driven 2014 Rosé, a blend of white and red grapes from her estate vineyard, purpose-planted exclusively for rosé wine.

Home Sweet Home

O'Kell in front of Serendipity Winery's emblematic cellar door.

Katie O’Kell and her winemaking certificate in front of Serendipity Winery’s emblematic cellar door.

Now, armed with valuable international experience and her winemaking certificate, O’Kell plans to fully-integrate what she has learned to the winemaking program at Serendipity, while sharing new tips and tricks with her fellow winemakers on the Naramata Bench. Working alongside Bradley Cooper, O’Kell is putting the final touches on the first vintage of Sparkling Truth, a traditional method sparkling wine made from the 2014 vintage, which has been O’Kell’s pet project. Watch for the Sparkling Truth to be released in August 2016.

Looking forward to the forthcoming harvest this fall, O’Kell says, “I have had the privilege of working with many young winemakers from around the world, and I am inspired by their techniques, and I’m looking forward to bringing new methods and practices to the table at Serendipity. After all, I’m a scientist at heart, and experimenting with new ideas is the most exciting thing about what I do.”

Compare and contrast: Finger Lakes Wine and BC Wine

by Sujinder Juneja

#TownHallOnTour

#FLXWine vs #BCWine

We have been lucky enough to attend the 8th annual Wine Bloggers Conference, a gathering of bloggers (naturally), industry professionals and wine lovers. This year, the event was held in Corning, New York with a focus on the great wines, producers and the people of the Finger Lakes AVA.

FLX_Vineyard

The view from Ventosa Vineyard in the Seneca Lakes AVA.

A diverse, progressive and passionate industry, the Finger Lakes wine region shares many similarities with that of British Columbia, where we are happy to call home. Here are a few of our observations on the connections between the two regions, for your reading pleasure:

Cool Climate Viticulture

The Finger Lakes and British Columbia are both described as ‘cool climate’ wine regions and on average, share a similar amount of degree growing days. However the Finger Lakes region experiences a highly variable climate, with cold winters, cool to warm summers and a short growing season. While there is diversity of climate within the five main BC wine regions (Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands), the climate is less extreme overall and degree days are higher on average.

FLX_Traminette

Traminette is a French-American hybrid varietal favoured by producers throughtout the Finger Lakes AVA.

Planting Grapes To Site

The most established wine regions in the world plant grape varietals that are best suited to that particular site or climate. The most planted grapes in the Finger Lakes are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc along with a selection of lesser known Vitis vinifera (Blaufränkisch, Saperavi, Sereksiya Charni), native Vitis labrusca (Catawba, Niagara) and French-American hybrids (Traminette, Vidal, Seyval Blanc, Valvin Muscat) that suit the climate and produce balanced and delicious wines. By contrast, the top white grape varietals in BC are Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds. Other crosses and hybrids such as Ortega, Marechal Foch and select Blattner Hybrids are also planted to produce successful wines. The Finger Lakes and BC wine industries began with native and hybrid varietals with the belief that they would better suit the climate, but consumer preferences in the Fingers Lakes and British Columbia are favouring the more popular vinifera varietals.

Bottled sunshine within the Ventosa Pinot Noir.

Bottled sunshine within the Ventosa Pinot Noir.

What’s Wrong With Hybrids Anyway?

Nothing. If a hybrid grape is grown on a site which allows it to mature to full ripeness, and in the hands of a talented winemaker, they can produce wines that are both balanced and delicious. It’s worth noting that hybrids sell for significantly less by the ton, compared to vinifera varietals, which can affect a winery’s bottom line. Add to that the fact that hybrids are generally less well-known and often hard to pronounce, and therefore market to consumers. One of the most vocal debates during Friday’s Introduction to Finger Lakes Wine Country panel discussion swirled around the contentious use of crosses and hybrids in the region. Consider this: if a hybrid varietal, developed specifically for a particular climate, can produce tasty wines, should they not be celebrated, granting uniqueness to the wine region as a whole? Not all winemakers are convinced. But if you ask someone like Art Hunt at Hunt Country Vineyards, he’ll tell you that his varietally-labelled Seyval Blanc and Valvin Muscat are among their most popular wines. “Millennials want to try new things,” he says. “You can taste 100 Rieslings from the Finger Lakes, but wine drinkers want experience something unique.”

Judy Wiltberger at Keuka Spring Vineyards is proud to show off her Vignoles, a French-American hybrid that sells out every year. In her experience, the key is to market regionally, get people into the tasting room where people can try the wines in person. 70-75% of her sales are through her cellar door and challenging her guests with distinct varietals is a way to excite their palates with something new.

A view towards Seneca Lake.

A view towards Seneca Lake.

A Sense of Community

Unlike other more competitive regions in the global wine world, the Finger Lakes and British Columbia both enjoy a strong sense of community and partnership. I know firsthand that winery owners and winemakers in BC regularly collaborate and share information and ideas that make the region stronger as a whole. The same is absolutely true for the wineries of the Finger Lakes. If you had the chance, for example, to taste the Tierce Riesling, made by Fox Run, Anthony Road and Red Newt, you’ll know that the wine – and the wine region – is greater than the sum of its parts.

A Window to the World

The Finger Lakes and British Columbia wineries both face the double-edged sword that most of their wine is consumed in their local areas. The challenge offered by the locavore movement in North America means that major cities such as New York and Vancouver consume most of the wine produced in each respective region. Add to that the high tourism rate that each region enjoys means that most wine is sold via the cellar door, limiting the chance for export and global distribution. What this means is that fewer consumers internationally have the chance to taste the wines and understand what the region is all about. At this point, allocation to outside markets becomes a critical path to increasing the prestige and recognition of the regions as a whole.

Fox Run  Vineyards owner Scott Osborn & Town Hall's Sujinder Juneja.

Fox Run Vineyards owner Scott Osborn & Town Hall’s Sujinder Juneja at Wine Bloggers Conference 2015.

With Open Arms

At the end of the day and at the end of this conference, the greatest impression left on us about the Finger Lakes wasn’t the wine. It was the people. It wasn’t just the wineries and winemakers that opened their arms to welcome us, but also the restaurants, shops, hotels and the community at large. From our first day in Keuka Lake, throughout the expertly-organized pre-conference excursion and to the last day of the conference itself, there was an excitement and overall warmth that was impossible to ignore, and wonderful to be a part of. When the wine bloggers visited Penticton, British Columbia for #WBC13 it was a similar experience as well. Community, a sense of place, and the celebration of diversity were as much a part of the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference as they are in 2015.

See you in 2016 in Lodi, California.

Bob Halifax, April Yap-Hennig, Leeann Froese, Jeff Kralik at James Melendez at Wine Bloggers Conference 2015.

Bob Halifax, April Yap-Hennig, Leeann Froese, Jeff Kralik at James Melendez at Wine Bloggers Conference 2015.