Five cool wineries for 2016

Vin Perdu Cellars 
Why it’s cool: Wines with a clean, fresh palate and a certain je-ne-sais-quoi

Wine to watch: Elegant and pure 2015 Gamay Noir

The people at Vin Perdu are reclaiming grapes that, for years, have been sold to others. Owned by the Coulombe family (dad Ray, mom Wendy, with daughters Catherine and Nathalie), this formerly “lost wine” winery is reminiscent of something one might find in a small European town with armchairs in the tasting room, and a large antique table tucked away in a private tasting salon. Ray and Wendy left their Montreal advertising business to make Oliver their home in 2009. After three years selling grapes to other wineries, they decided to make their own wine under the guidance of an experienced consultant. Now, Ray holds court in the cellar and Wendy manages administration. 

A close-knit family, the Coulombe daughters have joined in – Catherine traded Google’s Montreal kitchens for the tasting room and cellar, Nathalie left her Vancouver art studio for the vineyard. Everyone does a bit of everything. Their five acres of chardonnay, gamay noir, pinot gris, and cabernet sauvignon keeps production low, and with the inclusion of sourced cabernet franc, their current vintage will reach just over 630 cases. Clean, focused, and restrained wines, reflective of what the soil can offer.

5381 Highway 97, Oliver vinperducellars.com Vin Perdu photographs courtesy J Montgomery

Little Farm Winery
Why it’s cool: Sense of place farming in an emerging wine region
​Wine to watch: Takes-me-to-the-sea, oyster-shell-and-stone riesling

Eons ago, the Similkameen Valley was a big riverbed, catching limestone and calcium runoff from local mountains. In 2008, when Rhys Pender and Alishan Driediger went in search of land to grow grapes for crafting mineral-centric wines, they were over the moon to find a small farm here. 

Over the next year they replanted a neglected orchard and fallow hay field with four acres of riesling and chardonnay, certified it organic, and in 2011, launched Little Farm Winery with 56 cases of wine. Current vintage comes in around 600 cases of chardonnay, riesling, and rosé.

Pender is a Master of Wine who has worked in the industry since he was a teenager, first in his native home of Australia and then in Europe. Driediger has a culinary diploma and founded a well-loved local bakery, studying winemaking at Guelph University. 

They have a clear vision for their paysan (French for “small farmer”) wines: hand grown, naturally crafted, with little intervention. The winery building plays crush pad, barrel cellar, tasting bar. On a smaller scale everything has big impact; for Little Farm, whether to filter those 600 cases is a decision requiring serious contemplation – not filtering results in a more natural wine, but it could be risky for their low production. These are serious wines from people who truly love what they do.

Opening summer 2016 2155 Newton Road, Cawston littlefarmwinery.ca 

Tantalus Vineyards 
Why it’s cool: Old-world inspiration with a new-world vibe
Wine to watch: You-had-me-at minerality 2013 Chardonnay

Tantalus has earned a solid reputation for crafting riesling with a laser focus on terroir. Yet there’s more to this LEED certified Kelowna winery than racy acidity. After more than a decade on this site, Tantalus is just beginning to hit its stride with old-world influenced pinot noir and serious mineral-driven chardonnay. Winemaker David Paterson joined Tantalus in 2009 and pushed to keep the winery a true estate, not buying or selling grapes. The 40+ acre vineyard grows riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier in what Paterson describes as “austere soils.” 

Some of the plantings on this granite-based lakebed silt date back to 1978 and 1985, with wines earning a title as coming from “old vines.” Inspired by Montrachet and classic French houses, the team uses minimal interference in the vineyard with natural ferments in the cellar when possible – coaxing out the nuances of terroir and bringing minerality to the forefront. Wine made from younger plantings is available under a “Juveniles” label, while those of deeper roots are bottled directly under the Tantalus banner. The result: rich and textured wines with layers of flavour, and an unrelenting freshness at the forefront.

1670 Dehart Road, Kelowna tantalus.ca 

Arrowleaf Cellars
Why it’s cool: Crafting quality wines since 2001, seemingly on the QT
Wine to watch: Quiet-restraint meets-richness-and-depth 2014 Solstice Pinot Noir

In 1996, Joe and Margrit Zuppiger sold their 10-year-old Alberta dairy farm and purchased 16 acres in Lake Country just north of Kelowna. The family planted vines and built a small winery, while son Manuel studied winemaking in their home country of Switzerland, opening a modest room to the public in 2003. From a first vintage of 1,000 cases to their current 15,000 cases per year, the original acreage now includes one leased vineyard and a long term buying contract from a neighbour. In 2015 they built a new, modern tasting room and barrel cellar to keep up with demand for their wines. Joe runs the vineyards, Margrit the office, and Manuel the cellar. 

Manuel’s depth of knowledge is hidden beneath a friendly modesty. After 15 years and even with increased production, he still works the cellar with only one fulltime assistant and a small seasonal crew at vintage. In the summer, his sisters (Karin and Janine) return from Montreal and Vancouver to run the new bistro that overlooks Lake Okanagan. Aromatic white wines and delicately layered reds anchor a portfolio that provides a beautiful expression of the diligent and consistent work of this unassuming family.

1574 Camp Road, Lake Country arrowleafcellars.com

Daydreamer Wines
Why it’s cool: Wines of interest with a hands-on approach (literally)
Wine to watch: Shiraz two ways – 2014 Daydreamer Amelia or Marcus Ansems signature

Having worked in the wine industry for years, Marcus and Rachel Ansems knew what was in store when they purchased five acres in Naramata with vineyard potential and a home for their family of five. Still, the to-do list at their new property has some big items – such as taking topsoil cleared from a pasture and moving it back where it belongs before hand-planting three sloping acres with pinot noir, chardonnay, and riesling. Until the new vineyard comes into its own, Marcus will continue leasing a vineyard to supply their 1,500 case production, while Rachel manages the winery’s marketing and administration.

Marcus is a trained oenologist, viticulturist, and Master of Wine with winemaking experience in Europe, South Africa, Australia, and Canada. He has a strong technical background, which is beneficial, as he turns his focus to more natural ways. Easygoing and open, Marcus is happy to explain why one-third of his chardonnay goes through natural malolactic fermentation, or how he selected only the top of the syrah block for his signature shiraz. This Naramata-focused portfolio of rosé, pinot gris, chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot/cabernet franc, and shiraz (with a dollop of Golden Mile Bench viognier in the co-fermented Amelia) is reflective of the man making the wines: inviting and approachable with a quiet ease.

Opening in Naramata summer 2016 daydreamerwines.ca

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