BACK IN TIME WITH SUMMERGATE WINE
By Roslyne Buchanan.
I had the rare opportunity to join SummerGate Winery Owners/Winemakers Mike and Gillian Stohler in the last of three special vertical tastings from the family’s personal library collection hosted at their Summerland site.
The focus was on the 2014 to 2018 vintages of Muscat Ottonel as we travelled “Back in time with SummerGate Wine”. With a set up similar to a television talk show, the Stohlers sat up front at a coffee table to discuss the history of each growing season and some other special elements of the evening. Guests sat at long tables with custom-made placemats delineating each year and the vintage’s unique characteristics.
As we tasted the expressions, we were given tips on the steps in tasting and learned about factors such as the alcohol by volume; residual sugar; total acidity; brix — fundamentally a measure of sweetness; number of cases produced; what, if any, were still available; and climate/creature influences. In previous sessions, they had profiled their Kerner and Riesling wines in a similar fashion.
To help us travel “Back in Time” through the two-hour guided tasting, onsite was a DeLorean, one of the few remaining real-life specimens of the vehicle featured in the blockbuster movie “Back to the Future.” During the presentations, DeLorean owners Brenda and Guy Henley were brought to the front to share their story of the first DeLorean they owned and sold and how they got their hands on this one. Stohlers were appreciative of being able to make it part of the attractions.
Light Snacks were provided with live music interludes by JAMES (James Salloum) covering music by Neil Young, Cat Stevens, Elvis, the Beatles, Elton John, and more. Sound engineer was his father Marty Salloum who shared stories of his career and time with Canned Heat, Ten Years After, Jefferson Airplane and others.
The Stohlers have six children and they participated in the event with some of them preparing the food and assisting throughout the evening. Highlight of the dessert were the Aurora-variety berries grown at Mel Kozun and Jolene Palmer’s farm, Summerland Haskap, on adjacent property on Prairie Valley Road.
This is a variety of berry bred by the Fruit Program at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon and released in 2012 as a companion/pollination for Borealis variety. Chock full of antioxidants, the Haskap is high in Vitamin C along with high fibre and potassium. The flavour makes it easy to take your medicine offering a bit of a zing with a sweet tangy balance that makes me think of a meld of blueberry, saskatoon, raspberry and black currant.
Back to the stars of the show, the vertical of Muscat Ottonel. This varietal was first planted in BC in 1984 by Hillside Winery when it was planted by then owners Bohumir and Vera Klokocka recent immigrants from Czechoslovakia. Mike Stohler joked it was nicknamed the “panty grape” because it was transported overseas in ladies underwear. Those original Muscat Ottonel Hillside Winery vines were propagated from using cuttings from a local Penticton gardener, says Hillside Winemaker Kathy Malone. Malone and the Hillside team have stewarded those plantings devotedly and make delicious Muscat Ottonel from them.
The plants at SummerGate are a replica of Hillside’s, said Mike. In tasting the vintages one by one, we noticed all shared some classic Muscat Ottonel’s characteristics such as floral and spice aromas yet the variation in flavours was remarkable. Some were more orange blossom with peach and grapefruit while others displayed rose petals, tangerine, honey, lychee and green apple. Sadly, all but the 2018 are sold out in the tasting room.
In true celebration of all things Muscat Ottonel, our evening started with a glass of Moscato Frizzante comprised of it with a splash of Riesling. This bubbly twist offered those floral notes and a tarty tinge of red grapefruit.
In SummerGate’s wines there is no adding back of sugar and a reductive winemaking style is used with the principle of low intervention. It is described on their home page summergate.ca “Using estate-grown organic grapes, hand harvested and gently pressed, our wines are slowly fermented in small batches with the result of an amazingly fresh, crisp, fruit forward wine series.”
For the Stohlers, it was always about what was best for the health of their own family in creating premium wines using estate grown grapes. “We use natural techniques such as reduced crop yield, special canopy and vineyard management practices, and working – as nature intended – without petro-chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers to ensure the production of high-quality fruit. Hand harvested and gently pressed, our wines are slowly fermented in small batch stainless steel tanks.”
Always quick to give credit to others, the Stohlers noted the leadership from Summerhill Pyramid Winery and Karnail Sidhu from Kalala Organic Estate Winery in working with nature to farm and demonstrating that wine made organically tastes better.
SummerGate Winery is a fabulous stop in your Summerland touring whether for a tasting or one of its popular events. The value to cost ratio on these well-made organic wines is terrific. For the latest activities follow it facebook.com/summergatewinery/
Featured photo: Courtesy of SummerGate Winery, the Henley’s DeLorean.