Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Unicus - Something Unique for the Okanagan

Boo and I didn't have a whole lot of time to visit wineries or wander around following yesterday's Half-Corked Marathon. Indeed, Mr. Cool and the Mimster left early in the morning to return back to Vancouver. We had enough time to make a couple stops and one of the wineries foremost on my wishlist was Culmina - the latest foray into BC wine by Don and Elaine Triggs, with their daughter Elaine joining the team this time around.

Part of the Half-Corked course took us alongside the new Culmina winery and vineyards but, unfortunately, except for a quick sip of their Rosé, there was no time for a visit during the race. I'd been lucky enough, however, to visit Culmina a couple of years ago when a small group of us from the BC Wine Appreciation Society met with Don to check out his new digs. Rather than reiterate myself (when I'm so far behind with my writing), I'll just add a link to that post where you can discover some of the inspiration behind the project.

1926.  2014 Culmina Family Estate - Unicus (Okanagan Valley VQA)

Back during that initial visit, one of the more intriguing announcements Don made was that they had planted a section of Grüner Veltliner, the white variety most closely associated with Austrian winemaking. Culmina's planting was the first for the Okanagan Valley but Don thought there was potential for the grape in BC. The winery produced a scant 60 cases of Grüner with its first vintage in 2013 and the team had hoped for a bigger production with the 2014 wine. While the harvest resulted in an increased volume of 285 cases, the winery quickly found out that they're still navigating a learning curve when it comes to the new grape. John Schreiner reported that Don thought they'd make an additional 40% in volume with the second vintage but the heatwave experienced in July throughout the Okanagan toughened and thickened the grape skins, thereby resulting in a troublesome press of the juice.

Access to the reduced volume wasn't helped by the fact that most of the production was earmarked for restaurants in the province. I was fortunate to be able to pick up a bottle at the winery.

That being said, I would never have guessed that the wine in my glass was Grüner Veltliner had I not already known. Not that I'm anything close to a seasoned pro when it comes to the variety. I did find that the acidity went on for days but, if anything, I thought the flavours were more reminiscent of a Sauv Blanc.

That high level of acidity is, no doubt, partly due to the fact that Culmina has planted the vines at a higher elevation than is seen in the lower part of the Okanagan Valley. As you can see, the vineyard is quite a bit higher than the rest of the winery's property - and the rest of the Golden Mile's plantings for that matter.

It will be interesting to see where the wine goes down the road. The 2014 vintage was aged completely in stainless steel casks but the winery is planning to perform a little experiment with the upcoming year's fruit. Don and winemaker, Pascal Madevon, plan to mature the wine in three different vessels - a stainless steel tank, a concrete egg and a concrete amphora. The intent is to age equal amounts of the wine in each of the three containers and see what impact the various vessels might have on the wine.

I'd love to be one of the lucky folks who get to taste the results before any final blending.

That next vintage is some ways off in the distance. In the mean time, I've got another 75 wines to go before I hit the 2001st bottle in my own little odyssey.

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