The newest winery in Summerland is taking the efforts of two generations as vineyard manager and president Matt Sartor partners with his parents, proprietors Bob and Andrea Sartor to open Solvero Wines on Wildhorse Road.
“I had pictured a nice flat piece of land somewhere,” says Bob. “Then Matt took us to see this piece of land, and I remember thinking, ‘how the heck are we going to farm this? It is very steep.’”
Steep it is. At 600 metres in elevation, Solvero’s estate vineyard in the Garnet Valley is one of the highest wineries in B.C.
As Bob tells their origin story, “Matt kept saying, ‘No, this is perfect for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; this is the perfect valley, the perfect orientation. This is the one.’ He always had a valid reason as to why it had to be this piece of land. And he eventually got us excited about this piece.”
The name “Solvero” was created by combining the Latin words solo and vero to form the motto “truth in soil.” Integrity and honesty in all aspects of viticulture and winemaking are central to the winery team’s ethos, as are family values.
Matt’s grandparents emigrated from Europe after World War II. “The family has been growing grapes and making wine there for as long as we can remember,” says Bob. “I grew up where, for both lunch and supper, wine was served because my parents were Italian. So, wine was always something that was in my life. I jumped at the opportunity to do this.”
For the past two years, winemaker and general manager Alison Moyes worked closely with the family to develop the vision, craft the wines, and establish the state-of-the-art wine production facility.
The portfolio is very focused, with the initial wine release including a Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir Rosé, each made in small quantities. The grapes are all grown in Summerland on the Solvero’s two vineyard properties, one at the estate in Garnet Valley and the second from a block in Happy Valley. They’re also partnering with local growers.
The site in Garnet Valley was specifically selected for Burgundian varietals. For winemaker Moyes, the flagship is their Pinot Noir. Ten acres are planted with seven different clones of Pinot Noir grapes. Signature berry fruit and spicy notes of this red varietal wine mix with a bit of minerality in the 2019 Solvero Pinot Noir ($35.) The wine barrel aged for 12 months, with 25 percent in new French oak.
In 2023, the winery will have Pinot Noir from all three different sub-GIs (sub-Geographical Indications) in Summerland: Bench, Lakefront and Valley. Moyes says they’re working towards a series of Pinot Noirs that reflect those different sub-GIs.
At the winery opening launch, Matt takes a group up the steep hill to see the rows of densely planted chardonnay on a previously forested block of land. The grapes are all Chardonnay Clone 588, a grape that “is particularly good at reflecting its place.” With 3,000 plants per acre, the block will have a lower yield per plant, but should yield good quality.
The elevation and the narrowness of Garnet Valley reduce sunlight hours slightly from the main valley, explains Moyes. “What that translates to here is retaining natural acidity. I haven’t had to acidify any of these wines. They’re all naturally acidic, which is uncommon for the Valley. We get full flavour development and physiological ripeness in the fruit at lower sugar levels.”
“We are in a harsh climate here with our very high elevation,” she adds. “So we get cold temperatures in the winter; the slopes really help because the cold air doesn’t cool in one location. It flows across the vineyard rows.”
For Pinot Gris lovers, the high slopes at Solvero have yielded grapes that, in the hands of Moyes, have been crafted into a stunning vintage. With a full mouthfeel, the textured 2022 Solvero Pinot Gris ($25) greets you with nectarine, peachy and almond notes that carry on to meet up with flavours of green apple. The 2022 Solvero Rosé ($25), made with 100 percent Pinot Noir, presents a subtle pink with a savouriness yearning to be explored. The dry wine had three hours of skin contact, followed by a gentle press and cool fermented in stainless steel.
Now after almost ten years of vineyard development and building, the newly constructed winery is open for tastings, where visitors are guided personally by winemaker Alison Moyes or vineyard manager Matt Sartor. The grape-to-glass wine experience finishes with a seated tasting on the crushpad with wines served in varietal-specific glassware. Ready to head up the slope? Book in advance at solverowines.ca.