Monday, January 21, 2013

A Minister and a Blaster Walk Into a Church...

One of the most discussed topics in the BC winemaking world (even if it is more prevalent with pundits than it is with winemakers) is whether or not BC should have a signature grape. Indeed, the University of British Columbia Alumni Association is even hosting a panel debate and tasting on the topic in a couple of weeks.

That being said, the next wine to be added to The List is about as strong an argument as there is against a signature varietal wine. It might present an argument for promoting blended white wines as the region's signature, but that's a little different now. Isn't it?

1247. 2010 Blasted Church - Hatfield's Fuse (VQA Okanagan Valley)

I think it's fair to say that Hatfield's Fuse has become a signature wine for Blasted Church. More Hatfield's Fuse is made than any other wine by the winery and it is perhaps the easiest wine to find in local stores. Being a blend of nine different grape varieties, it is often compared to popular California wine Conundrum. The list of grapes going into the wine - Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Optima and Ehrenfelser - is pretty much a what's what of the primary white grapes grown in the Valley. Indeed, according to the 2011 BC Wine Institute Crop Report, the first seven grapes in Hatfield's Fuse are the top seven white varieties grown in the province by both volume and value.

The wine may be a blend but it is hardly a hodgepodge of leftover wine once all the varietal wines have been completed. It's true that each variety is vinified separately from each other until the final blend is assembled; however, most winemakers will tell you that blends are often much harder to assemble than individual varietal wines are to make. The Blasted Church website also refers to different processes - such as cold soaking some of the Pinot Gris and whole bluster pressing a portion of the Gewürztraminer - to best capture varietal expressions and add complexity to the blend.

Beyond liking the easy drinking profile of the wine, I like the fact that the name and label captures much of the whimsy behind the winery's marketing. In his The Wineries of British Columbia, John Schreiner tells the tale of how the winery's name came about. "There is a century-old wooden church in Okanagan Falls that originally was in Fairview, the long-vanished mining community near Oliver. In 1929, when the church was dismantled to move it, the crew loosened the nails from the sturdy timbers by exploding dynamite inside the building." Harley Hatfield was the foreman of the crew that dismantled the church. Hence, Hatfield's Fuse.

I'm finding myself drawn more and more to these BC blends when it comes to approachable whites. Along with Red Rooster's Bantam and Stoneboat's Chorus, these blends seem to nicely capture the big fruit that Okanagan wines are known for and, yet, I find the blending adds a complexity that isn't always there with the single varietals. I say "Keep the blends coming."

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