Monday, May 18, 2009

Surprisingly Gris

For the second time recently, we've been quite surprised by how much we enjoyed a local pinot gris. First, it was the Burrowing Owl, now it's Sandhill; however, when I consider the two wineries at hand, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at all. I may generally think red first with both, but both of them are standard "go to's" when I'm thinking of a nice BC wine.

My enjoyment of Burrowing Owl is already acknowledged, but let it be known that I'm pretty darned fond of Howard Soon and Sandhill as well. I remember when Sandhill first got some notice in the press and it stemmed partially from the already burgeoning star status of Burrowing Owl. It turned out that the primary Sandhill vineyard was part of the Burrowing Owl lands and Sandhill promoted that association to great advantage. Plus, the fact that you could actually find a bottle in a liquor store didn't hurt in the least.

Howard Soon has been with Calona Vineyards since 1980. Calona is the oldest continually operating winery in the Okanagan, having been established in 1932 (although a good portion of those years include the production of the "infamous" Baby Duck), and Mr. Soon and is apparently the longest-tenured winemaker in the region. He produced Sandhill's first vintage in 1997 as a higher tier of wines for Calona. From day one, as a winemaker, he has stressed gentle and non-interventionist treatment of the grapes and Sandhill has only created single vineyard wines - which leads us to:

54. 2006 Sandhill King Family Vineyard Pinot Gris (VQA - Okanagan)

Ironically, after talking about the Burrowing Owl vineyard, the grapes for this wine come from the Naramata Bench where the location lends itself to a "lean, zappy, cool climate" expression of pinot gris according to Mr. Soon. "Terroir" isn't the first wine term usually associated with BC, but that may start to change as BC vines start to get a bit age behind them and more winemakers start to learn what works best in their individual vineyards. Howard Soon has to be respected for his efforts on this front.

There's no doubt that there are going to be more Sandhill wines hitting The List.

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