Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

DAY THREE:August 4th: Jackson-Triggs Okanagan, Osoyoos Larose, Sunrock Vineyards

Off to Jackson Triggs Okanagan
Jackson Triggs Okanagan wasn't far from Spirit Ridge. It was located in Oliver surrounded by some of he most beautiful scenery anywhere this side of Heaven! With desert (true desert) to the south and mountains, lakes, vineyards all around, it isn't hard to imagine why people loved their homes here. Jackson Triggs originally leased over 400 acres of the Osoyoos Lake Bench from the Osoyoos Native Band. The site was divided into two main vineyards: Bull Pine (240 acres) and Bear Cub (186 acres). In 2006, the winery opened its Tasting Gallery.
Both Greg and I were quite impressed with the gallery (especially when Sally Sharpe was there with coffee, muffins and sandwiches on hand) and the wines that went with it. It seemed that on this trip, we were going to experience some great sites and great wines also.
We walked the large glass doors that allowed onlookers to peak at the goodies. We were net by Guest Services Manager, Suzanne Coles. She led us through the nicely decorated wine gallery to the tasting bar. There she had some wines waiting for us.
We tasted three wines, Jackson Triggs Sauvignon Blanc, Jackson Triggs Shiraz and Jackson Triggs Icewine all of which were prize efforts.
Greg and I did some comical routines with the Icewine where we would ask Suzanne to obtain some water or something and then Greg would quickly get the bottle of Icewine and pour himself a glass before she came back. This was all done for the purpose of film comedy of course and it was fun. We paid our respects to Suzanne and were off to our next visit with gregarious and passionate Pascal Madovan of Osoyoos Larose
What can I say about Pascal. He is a passionate and talented wine maker who came to British Colombia from Chateau La Tour Blanche in Bordeaux to make wine. I remember what he said about his first encounter with the grapes at Osoyoos Larose:"I saw the quality of the grapes of the very young vines and I knew immediately that great wine could be made here."
Osoyoos Larose was a joint, 1998 venture between Vincor, Canada (now a part of Constellation) and Group Taillan of Bordeaux, France. It was created with the intent of producing a Canadian wine that was clearly exceeded the quality standards of the Vintners Quality Alliance in Canada. The wine would be made up of Bordeaux grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
No expence was spared in the making of this vineyard/winery. Top consultants were hired in the form of Michel Rolland and Alain Sutre, both of France. Special vine clones were shipped from the Mercier Nursery of Bordeaux and Mr. Sutre personnally designed the special con shaped fermentation tanks. Each grape variety is fermented on its own and produces varietal wine that by itself could be award winning. Only French Oak from top (Sequin, Sylvain, Garnier etc.) barrel makers or coopers. Everything from the grape selection, to the fermentation to the pumping to the aging is done gently and meticulously. One interesting thing was the painting of the barrels with grape must colour----I guess to keep the barrels looking neat in case of spillage.
I had the pleasure of being put to work doing this by Pascal----the perfectionist. He said that I did a good job. At least I did not get the other parts of the barrel and myself painted. Later that day I did find some small red splash marks on my shirt.
We had a great filming at the winery with all the special equipment et all and then made plans to meet Pascal at the vineyard later on that afternoon.
We left Pascal and Osoyoos to meet Troy Osborne, Vineyard Operations Mangager for Jackson Triggs, for a tour of the Sumac Ridge Vineyard. We met him at the Cock and Bull Restaurant in Oliver---a town incorporated in 1921 by a John Oliver as a respite for World War One Veterans. It is called for some reason, the "Wine Capital Of Canada" though there are many Ontario wineries who would disagree!
Troy took us first to his work depot where he showed us the grape harvesting machine that was used to gather grapes. These machines can do the work of a whole crew of people and do it much faster. While expensive, they save money in the long run. He also showed us the Discovery vineyard right next to the depot. Greg took advantage to get this on film and then we were off to Sumac Ridge Black Sage Vineyard just off Highway 97 on Black Sage Road.. Here, high on the vineyard hill we looked out upon vineyards and open country or should I say dessert. It was interesting to see vineyards that were not on great ground as compared to those on better quality drainage. We viewed some more while discussing the wildfire situation in the areas North of Kelowna. Troy actually called in to see how things were. Thus, we ended up expaining why the light smoke was hazing the area. In actual fact, it was not that bad as far as clarity was concerned since a warm, sunny, smoggy day in Toronto was more of an impediment to the clarity distance than the fire was. We then parted ways with Troy after he drove us to our vehicle rental which was parked at the work depot. Then we were off to Osoyoos Larose located between Highway 3 and Highway 97 not far from Oliver.
Osoyoos Larose Vineyard
We arrived at the Osoyoos Larose Vineyard rather quickly and there was Pascal waiting for us. I said to myself, what a nice likeable fellow. His enthusiasm was contagious as he showed us his pride and joy---the vines. I really pulled a blooper, while on the way, I was talking to Greg about Le Clos Jordanne and the significance of the masqueline "Le" as compared to the feminine "Jordanne". I wondered why it was not "La Clos Jordanne". I asked Pascal this and his answer was that the word "Clos" is always masqueline and thus it is Le Clos Jordanne as compared to La Clos Jordanne. It wasn't that important but it allowed me to start thinking Pinot Noir. When I saw the vines and grapes I asked Pascal about the Pinot on the vines. He looked absolutely shocked saying "There is no Pinot Noir here!" I realized my mistake and he immediately started shouting and laughing, "Chuck has a blooper!" Mea Culpa!
The vines were planted according to the dictates of their physiological needs. Merlot, was, for example planted high on the vineyard hill to take advantage of the cooler temps---especially in the afternoon while the Cabernet Sauvignon was planted closer to the bottom nearer Lake Osoyoos in order to get more sun and heat exposure. The vines also were irrigated in a unique way with pipes aiming the water away from the leaves (to prevent disease). Here at Osoyoos disease is not as prevalent as in other wine growing areas since the area is very dry. The only major problem that could be pointed to is leaf hoppers and they themselves did not pose that much of a problem..
Pascal then brought two Riedel glasses and an open bottle of Osoyoos Larose part of which we drank in the vineyard. Great stuff!
Sun Rock Vineyards
We set off to the next visit to Sunrock vineyard and a meeting with Jackson Triggs winemaker D erek Kontkanen. Derek is quite young but firmly established as a reputable winemaker. Sun Rock Vineyard is an exceptionally lovely place whose dominant feature is a large massive rock structure that has vines readiating from it. In the centre there is a Gazebo which overlooks the entire vineyard. One thing, there are also signs warning against rattlesnakes. While we were warned to watch for them, we really never had fear of coming across one. It seems, though that others have and it was best to always be careful.
Derek brought sevcral wines for us to taste at the Gazebo. We tasted a Sun Rock Chardonnay and a Jackson Triggs Rose. The wines tasted magnificent but Iknew very well that a great atmosphere such as this Gazebo midst the sensual setting of vines and sun could have affected my perception. I tasted the wines again in the privacy of my room and guess what! The wines still tasted superb. The day ended quite well with us eating a delicious meal at our suite with the Osoyoos Larose left over from the tasting.
Wines Tasted

Jackson Triggs Okanagan

Jackson Triggs Sauvignon Blanc: Pleasant herbal characteristics with honey-dew melon and some grape fruit citrus.

Jackson Triggs Sun Rock Shiraz: Plum. blueberry,pepper and vanilla wood. On the nose: Dark fruit with black cherry, blackberry and black currant tastes.

Jackson Triggs Icewine (Riesling): Very nice and pleasant sweetness. Not cloying. The wine has aromas of apricots, peaches and nectarines. Lucious consistency and flavour on the palate. Sweet pear/apricot/peach.

Osoyoos Larose

Osoyoos Larose 2006: A truly great wine with ripe red cherry/raspberry, vanilla, chocolate and coffee on the nose and palate. Excellent integrity and tannin structure with a lingering and lasting finish.

Sun Rock Vineyard (Jackson Triggs)

Rose:Pleasant notes of strawberry/raspberry on nose and palate. Crisp refreshing acidity (especially on the Gazebo on a very warm afternoon).

Sun Rock Chardonnay: Yellow gold in colour. Nose: Ripe tropical fruits, apple, wood vanilla and nuts. On the palate: citrus, mango, peach with a touch of butterscotch. Pleasant acidity on the finish.

Jackson-Triggs Proprietor's Grand Reserve Caberbet Sauvignon: Black fruit, coffee and spice on nose with black fruit (cherry, blackberry), coffee/chocolate and anise on palate. Full bodied and delicious (tasted later).