It was 15 years ago when I first found myself at Blasted Church Vineyards at Okanagan Falls. As midnight approached, wine lovers congregated in the cellar to hear the angelic voices of the gospel choir. What an introduction to wine festivities.
There’s no doubt that grace has touched this precious piece of land on the Skaha Bench appellation. Just south of Penticton, the vineyards have been producing stunning vintages for 20 years.
This milestone anniversary was marked in part with the resurrection of the original labels illustrated by Whitehorse-based artist Monika Melnychuk from the inaugural vintage in 2002. You’ll find the beloved retro characters on the 2021 Chardonnay, a must for your dinner table.
Winemaker Evan Saunders, who joined the team in 2014 and has been heading up winemaking since 2017, has expanded the portfolio with some unique small lots, aptly named small blessings. Here you’ll find the intense notes of the Cabernet Sauvignon harvested from a block almost 30 years old, and the Amen, a 100% Merlot and a nod to what Saunders believes is the signature red for the Okanagan.
There is so much to explore in Saunder’s portfolio, so put this winery on your next weekend road trip. Plan some time so you can appreciate the extent of the journey, from lively and unique whites and balanced Chardonnays to the intensities of the Bordeaux-inspired blends offered.
Then head to the wineshop and pick up a bottle of sparkling OMG so that you can offer congratulations and gratitude for this gem of a winery in the South Okanagan.
Further south, I’m walking a newly planted block of Syrah with Okanagan Falls’ newest vintner, Shay Code. Given the battle to get rootstock across the border, these young plants are rather precious and are now thriving in the heat that builds in the low end of the hillside vineyard.
Code had his sights set on this specific clone of Syrah, and he believes it was worth the two-year wait. Along with the Syrah, the five acres boast carefully selected clones of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and a touch of Viognier, across nine blocks. The little bit of Viogner is destined for a Rhone-inspired co-ferment with Syrah.
Current standouts include the 2020 single clone Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir 2020, the first vintage of clone Dijon 777.
Tasting Code Wines is a sensory endeavour. Even before the aromas of the earthy Pinot Noir reach your nose, or the berry juicy deliciousness touches your tongue, one can begin a tactile experience with this wine simply by picking up the bottle. I run my finger across the tiny embodied letters behind the label as the string of the letters A G C T form the genetic code of the Pinot Noir grapevine.
I’m not one to be distracted by a fancy label, but when it’s a nod to the authenticity of the wine in the bottle, I pay attention. Oh, and just maybe I like a bit of science.
If Bio 30 was a few years back for you as it was for me, those four chemical bases that makeup DNA are adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T).
On the cusp of their first crush on site (the 2020 and 2021 vintages were crushed at Roche Wines) the family has also cracked the code on how to market
their tiny micro lots. Rather than entice visitors to their stunning site, they’ve begun building up clientele with direct shipping from codewines.ca – a smart move given the limited, elegant and dedicated portfolio.
With production of only 600 cases, these quality wines won’t last long – time to get your wine-geek on.