Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Walking A Tightrope

When I started this blog back in 2009, there were around 170 wineries in production in BC. Six years later and there are over 250. With a few wineries changing hands every year and some closing down altogether, there's a steady stream of new wineries every time you take a new look. Given Boo's and my participation in the BC Wine Appreciation Society and the number of times we visit the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys or attend industry-coordinated tastings, I figure I have a better handle on local wineries than most.

I still can't keep up with the ever-changing landscape though. There's only so much space on the Naramata Bench but it seems that we find a new selection of wineries even there when we pay a visit. I ran across this bottle when trying to locate a hard to find wine from the Bench at the Naramata General Store. Being an out and out aficionado of Rosé, I grabbed this instead when my other wine wasn't available.

1908.  2013 Tightrope Rosé (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

Tightrope began selling its wines in 2013 but I had yet to run across them. The winery is a new venture of Lyndsey and Graham O'Rourke. The couple are hardly strangers to the Okanagan and the Naramata Bench though. Lyndsey was the award-winning winemaker for Ruby Blues and Graham was a viticultural with Mission Hill. According to local wine scribe, John Schreiner, Graham learned about Okanagan growing conditions in 26 vineyards through the valley and "launched the Mission Hill sustainability program and ... composting program." I figure it's fair to say that they bring a bit of a pedigree with them to the fledgling winery.

Both Graham and Lyndsey have left their respective positions to concentrate on their own 10-acre vineyard and wines - although they still make some time available for consulting services. The couple has planted a selection of grapes known to do well on the Bench including Pinot Gris, Riesling, Viognier, Pinot Noir and Merlot. They've also added small blocks of Cab Franc and Barbera, the latter being one of the rarer varieties to be planted in BC. Barbera doesn't even make the list of top twenty red varieties planted by tonnage or by value. It's rare enough that its production falls behind those juggernaut grapes Zweigelt, Dunkelfelder and Rotberger.

Tightrope's Barbera makes it into this Rosé, however. The variety was about 15% of the 2013 vintage, the balance of the wine being Pinot Noir. All of the grapes came from Tightrope's own vineyard and production was definitely on the smaller side - only 100 cases of the Rosé was made in 2013 - but the abundance red fruit and bright acidity on the palate will make it worth running into again.

There was still no tasting room for the winery when I came upon this bottle but word is that the O'Rourkes hope to have a tasting room up and running sometime in the near future - hopefully before the 2015 tourist season kicks in for the Okanagan. We'll have to give them a taste next time we make it up to Naramata.

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