Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Another Unique Okanagan Varietal

Fast on the heels of adding Ehrenfelser to my Wine Century Club list, I'm adding another and this one is going to be about as rare as any that will make it to my final list.

537. 2008 Calona Vineyards Artist Series Sovereign Opal (VQA Okanagan)

Sovereign Opal is not a trade name for a winery blend. It is, indeed, the grape used for this 100% varietal wine. I mentioned that this will be a "rare" addition to both The List and the Wine Century Club because, as far as anyone seems to know, the grape is only grown for wine production at one vineyard in, not only the Okanagan Valley but, in the world. And Calona is the only winery that actually make a varietal wine with it.

The grape was developed at Agriculture Canada's Research Station in Summerland in the Okanagan. Back in the 1970's, the general consensus was that the classic European varietals couldn't be grown in BC. The objective was to breed a winter hardy grape that could thrive and fully ripen in the Okanagan Valley. In 1976, a new "grape series" was released for trial and the series of grapes was named "Sovereign" and each of the different grapes was then sorted by a gem name; hence, Sovereign Opal was born. It is the only varietal from the series that has found any commercial application at all.

The grape is a cross of Marechal Foch and Golden Muscat - interesting in that Foch is a red grape and Muscat is a white - and is known for its floral, fruity and spicy characteristics and its crisp acid. Since Calona is the only winery that works with the grape, it was up to Howard Soon (who you would normally see associated with Sandhill in this blog) and company to discover that the best means of producing a wine with Sovereign Opal is to vinify it somewhat off-dry and let the high acidity reign in the residual sugar.

Furthermore, this wine isn't simply a quick sip and a spit of some different, god-awful rarity, the 2008 vintage actually won a Bronze medal at 2009 Canadian Wine Awards.

Niether Riesling, nor Gewurztraminer, but reminiscent of both, this is about as "true" a local wine as you'll ever find in BC. How fun is that for a wine lover?

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