Winery named global leader

The holidays aren’t always the best time for the staff at one of the Okanagan’s oldest wineries.

Picking frozen grapes in the cold certainly doesn’t bring up images of sun-soaked harvest days, and inevitably, the cold snap that signals the harvesting of grapes for icewine falls at Christmas, says Inniskillin winemaker Derek Kontkanen.

The cold snap this past November brought an early icewine harvest, but staff still scrambled as the picking came as the rest of the harvest was still coming in.

That Canadian cold can’t get at the sugars in the grapes, and the resulting concentrated grape juice in the hands of a skilled winemaker will translate into a luscious honeyed nectar.

As a young grad from Brock University, Kontkanen learned some “icewine magic” from wine industry pioneer and Inniskillin co-founder Karl Kaiser. The 91 Vinexpo Grand Prix award for their Vidal Icewine put Canadian winemaking on the world map. Kontkanen worked five years with Kaiser at the Niagara estate before coming out west in 2004.

With its golden hue, the 2018 Inniskillin Riesling Icewine ($29.99) has peach flavours, honey notes and balanced sweetness. A characteristic aroma of subtle petrol presents on the nose.

Kontkanen believes “all great winemaking boils down to where and how you grow your grapes.”

“The way the Valley formed gave us unique soil deposits that are so different in each area,” he says.

The Inniskillin vineyard sites deep in the South Okanagan on the sun-soaked steppes on the eastern side of Osoyoos Lake were planted decades ago: Dark Horse in 1992, Bull Pine in 1998 and Whitetail in 2001.

The winery offers a discovery series so those looking to taste something new can explore some unique grape varieties. 

With only a handful of producers of Tempranillo in B.C., the 2019 Inniskillin Discovery Tempranillo ($29.99) is a wine to be noticed. Native to Spain, the Tempranillo grape thrives in the hot summers of the South Okanagan. This smooth ruby-coloured vintage is full of flavour with its blueberry notes and subtle spice. Its easy finish will have one reaching for a second glass. 

The discovery series also offers a remarkable white wine.

Here, Kontkanen takes his time with the single vineyard block of Chenin Blanc grapes, leaving them on the vines as long as he can to ensure ripe fruit flavours — and he has.

Green apple comes through in this crisp sipper with an enticing honey aroma. For the 2020 Inniskillin Discovery Chenin Blanc ($18.99), grapes were cold fermented in tank with a small portion in neutral oak to add some creaminess. The 2022 vintage will see some time in concrete eggs.

The Inniskillin portfolio extends into a reserve series, and this exceptional quality landed the winery on Wine & Spirits Magazine’s top 100 Wineries of 2022 list – the only Canadian brand included in the global lineup.

Those looking for a premium white will find subtleness in the 2020 Inniskillin Reserve Fume Blanc ($24.99) with just the right tang of grapefruit tartness that a fine-crafted Sauvignon Blanc wine can achieve.

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