Hello and Welcome to the Official Relaunch of Babbling Bottles, a place to discover hidden gems in the Okanagan Wine and Craft Beverage Industries.
I first started this project as a personal blog with the intention of focusing on my education and experiences in the Winery + vineyard. Unfortunately, despite my best intentions, the summer soon faded into fall with only three posts to show for it, and I was then invited to participate in the harvest season, helping to process apples and grapes. Needless to say, I soon found myself far too busy and tired at the end of the working day to properly document and reflect on my time. Never to fear, I plan on peppering in tales from
Babbling Bottles' First Harvest + Winter in the Cellar
featured in its own special series. Until then, please enjoy this inaugural post from Babbling Bottles, circa 2017.
A Summer in the Vines...
Today, in this first post from Babbling Bottles, I am going to take a moment and reflect on my time working for The View Estate Winery and Vineyard. This has proven to be an exciting adventure that began early April with an offer to work in the tasting room at one of Kelowna's most exceptional wineries located in historic East Kelowna. I have been blessed with the opportunity to gain real-world experience behind the scenes and have been privileged to be a part of the many sides to running such an impressive operation! From giving tastings to amazingly receptive wine lovers, to running the canning line and working in the front lines of the vineyard, I have been busy learning so much that I haven't had a chance to reflect and appreciate it properly!
One of the most valuable aspects to producing good wine is to produce good fruit, something that The View's winemakers take very seriously in their terroir-based approach to cultivation. Some of the varieties grown on the property include Gewurztraminer, Ehrenfelsner, Riesling, Pino Gris, and, our signature red, Pinotage. The vineyard team at The View take measures to ensure that we maximize our efforts at sustainable farming, and utilize drip watering techniques at intervals of up to two weeks in order to promote deep roots that need minimal watering. Nearer to harvest, the grapes are left to soak up the remaining fall sunshine without watering, which shrivels the skins of the grapes and maximizes sugar and phenolic concentration.
The View does amazing things with varietals such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer, including the debut of the Dry Reserve, now called The Revolution - which is simple that - a revolutionary take on Gewurztraminer that I will have to feature in an upcoming post. But one I really wanted to focus on in this post is the 2015 Pinotage Reserve. I was unfamiliar with this specific varietal before joining the team at The View, and I quickly learned that this is because Pinotage is not widely known in the Okanagan, or in North America, for that matter. The grape is considered the national variety of South Africa, and apparently, they like to try and keep it within their borders, as a matter of national pride! The more I dug into researching this grape, the more I fell in love with the story of its genesis in the early 1900's (coincidentally, in the same decade that The View's historic tasting room was being constructed as an apple packing house under the CanWest Tree Fruits organization).
Pinotage originated in a university garden as a cross between the well-known Pino Noir and the regional variety Cinsault, found in the Hermitage Appellation de'Origine Controlle (AOC) of France located in the northern Rhone Valley (pictured below). After doing more research I discovered that this particular AOC has strict rules (as they all seem to have) as to which varieties can be grown. This AOC allows Syrah as the single red varietal, Marsanne and Rousanne as the only two white varietals. Winemakers in this AOC are allowed to blend Syrah grapes from different areas of the vineyards within the AOC, which is only 130 hectares in size, and are permitted up to 15% of Marsanne and Rousanne grapes to be added to their blends (a practice that is not widely utilized, however). The wines produced in this region are seriously structured reds with high concentrations of tannins and are some of the longest-lived wines in the world. Ageing these wines soften them and complexities in texture, taste and smell are all enhanced by this process. At the least, a rigorous decanting is often suggested.
The crossing of this serious red grape with the light peppery fruity nature of Pinot Noir resulted in what I would deem an exceptionally balanced, relatively new varietal of wine. This Pinotage grape almost fell into non-existence over the next 50 years, until it exploded on to the wine scene in the 1980's-90's, and since then the wines produced have seen a significant improvement in quality thanks to the perseverance of South African producers who wish to preserve the grape's integrity. Known for its notes of earth, dark cherry, coffee, the Pinotage Reserve produced by the View has some of the most intricate and intriguing aromas that always keep me coming back for more! Immediate aromas of smoke and butter exude from a simple swirl of the glass bring to mind toasted pine nuts, or perhaps the best buttery movie popcorn you've ever tasted, even the thought of it has my mouth watering for another sip of this elusive medium-body red. The silky smooth mouthfeel brought about by ageing in New and Neutral French Oak provides a seamless finish.
I've gained a whole new level of appreciation for the Pinotage produced by The View from working in the vineyard, where we began the spring season by 'tying-off' the bud-less vines to the wires that will support their growth in the coming season. After that job came the task of suckering, where I was amazed at the number of growths that sprout from all over the vine, from the base all the way up the central branches. Seriously, these vines would be quick to overgrow themselves and produce fruit with less than ideal quality, so it was a hugely important task to thin out the shoots and ensure that the remaining shoots were growing to the sides or upwards toward the sky. The Pinotage blocks, in particular, were startling because of the sparseness of growth and the presence of a few compromised or dead plants. Our vineyard manager explained that Pinotage is a tricky variety to grow here in the Okanagan, and is prone to die-offs due to issues with the soil and climate. Why is it always that the best things in life are always the most difficult to come by.
Just writing about this incredible varietal has left me looking for a phantom glass that should seemingly be perched beside my laptop, but seeing how its only 11 AM I should probably wait until Wine O'Clock, AKA whenever all the errands and chores are done for the day! ;) In fact, after teasing myself by writing this post I might even have to go on a mission to our wine shop to grab myself another bottle! Along with our signature Pinotage Reserve, The View is the only winery in North America that also produce Pinotage Rose (silver winner at the Best of Varietals 2017 in Penticton, and I believe also received silver or gold at the All Canadians 2017) as well as our highly unique Blanc de Noir, the White Pinotage, which is another exceptional anomaly in the dismally small North American Pinotage market. The View also produces delicious Pinotage blends, such as our Silver Lining Estate Red that blends Pinotage with Merlot (sourced from the South Okanagan). This uber smooth blend of dark cherry, smoke and buttery spice notes always keeps my mouth watering for more, and at the excellent price point of $16.95 (not even including my handy dandy discount!), I've found myself indulging in more red wine this spring/summer than ever before!
There is so much to say about this amazing place and the wines produced here, I could babble until the wine cows come home. Until next time, cheers to all of you who made it through this rambling post and I hope you'll keep tuning in to hear more stories about my ongoing adventure into the world of wine!
xo Babbling Bottles