Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Rustic Gewurtz

Last weekend was of course my little jaunt up to the Okanagan for the BCWAS Bus Tour. I'd arrived a day before the Tour actually kicked in and, as otherwise reported in this blog, the Wine Grrrlz and I did a little pre-emptive tasting on the Golden Mile and Black Sage Road between Oliver and Osoyoos. We drove back and forth a couple times along Hwy 97 that day and we continually saw a collection of roadside signs announcing, "The Zin is In!"

Now, Zinfandel is not exactly one of the more common varietals grown in Okanagan. So, on my way back to Osoyoos, I thought I'd pay a visit to Rustico Farm & Cellars and see what all the zin was about. In spite of the fact that I'd arrived only ten minutes before the scheduled closing, proprietor, Bruce Fuller, gave me as warm a welcome and "Howdy" as I've ever received at a winery.

As soon as you've driven on the Rustico property, it's not hard to grasp that there's going to be something different about this winery. If the clothesline - featuring petticoats and long johns - remaining from an old movie shoot isn't enough of a hint, the Wild West entry and ubiquitous folk art has to be.

Oh yeah, Bruce's full moustache, cowboy hat and overalls tend to play into the initial impression as well.

In creating his vision for the winery, Bruce decided to celebrate the characters and the richness of the region's ranching, mining and agricultural history. The Tasting Saloon, yes that's correct, you're visiting a "Saloon," is actually part of a heritage log cabin that was originally a silver mine bunkhouse from the late 1800's. The bunkhouse was purchased by the vineyard's original owner and moved to its present location in the 1960's, a couple of logs at a time, from the old Sally Mine that was located on Anarchist Mountain - about a two to three hours drive full of steep, winding roads.

932. 2008 Rustico Farm & Cellars - Farmer's Daughter Gewurztraminer (Golden Mile - Okanagan Valley)

The thematics of the winery carry right through the labels and wine names as well. Bruce was telling me that he aims to produce an aromatic, well-bodied Gewurtz that he wants people to get real cozy with - just like the farmer's daughter that is central to so many jokes of old. Since Bruce likes his Gewurtz particularly dry, he reckons this one's bracing acidity leads to "her" being a "bit of a tart."

Despite my late arrival, I was served up all seven of the wines that Rustico now offers - including one of the few Zins in the Valley. Although Bruce only opened the doors to his Tasting Saloon in September 2009, the vineyard actually has some of the oldest vines around - including one of the few blocks of the Chancellor varietal that remain in the Okanagan - and has been producing grapes for many of the neighbouring wineries for years. I ended up leaving with three or four bottles (including the Zin but remembering, of course, that I was on my No Buy Leash) and this is the first of those bottles that Boo and I have opened.

As a rule, I don't buy bottles of Gewurtz in big numbers; so, the fact that I picked one up at Rustico is a pretty good indication that I rather liked the Farmer's Daughter myself.

And there is no doubt that I enjoyed my chat with Bruce. I have a feeling that he might give Bill Eggert, of Fairview Cellars up the road, a bit of a run for his money when it comes to who's the wine industry's biggest character in the Southern Okanagan. It'll take some time for Bruce to have as wide a selection of wine stories to keep up with Bill, but he's off to a good start.

One of those stories involves the fact that Rustico is likely the only winery in the Okanagan that has a hitching post outside the tasting room so that folks riding on the near-by horse trail can leave their steed outside while they sample a bit of wine before galloping away. Funny thing is that Bruce really does get some visitors arriving at the winery on horseback.

I think it will be interesting to see how the winery does over the next so many years. The theme behind the winery will likely act as a draw for many but it may prove to bit a bit gimmicky for some.

In the mean time, I just say "yeee haaaw."

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