At some point, we all need to come home.
For Serendipity Winery’s new winemaker, Shauna White, the call to return to her roots was, yes, serendipitous.
Growing up in the family vineyards in Kelowna, White started on her path to winemaking with the urging of Grandma — and followed in the footsteps of her aunt, award-winning winemaker Ann Sperling.
With early stops on the world wine map — Chablis, France, Willamette Valley, Oregon, Hunter Valley, Australia and the Central Otago region in New Zealand — White now returns to the Okanagan following more than a decade of winemaking in Ontario.
She likes to be in the vineyard as much as the winery, and the mature vines on the Naramat Bench are her new playground.
There are some gems in the Serendipity portfolio. White lovers will salivate at the delicious Sauvignon Blanc – picked more on the tropical French side and less so than the New Zealand style — and the very dry Viognier. Both are early sellouts each Spring.
“I’ve worked with Viognier the last few years, and it can be so interesting and so different depending on how you treat it,” says White. “The Viognier here has a lot going on. It’s not just one thing. It’s not just fruit forward; it’s about texture, oiliness and balance.”
You’ll find hints of peaches, orange blossom, and an outstanding balance of acidity and dry finish.
“We wanted the focus to be straight down the palate, so it refreshes while eating.”
That focus on pairing with food is the foundation for their cellar program and an unwavering commitment to release wines only when “drinking right.”
The reds, aged in barrel for up to five years, see further aging in bottle before release. Look to the new releases of the 2016 Pinot Noir ($40) and the 2013 Reserve Serenata ($70). The moniker for this flagship Bordeaux-style red comes from a blend of “Serendipity” and “Narmata.’ True music.
“(Owner) Judi loves earthy characteristics, so we purposely work in the vineyard with that model ensuring we’re not getting too much sun on the berries,” says White. “We don’t want jammy flavours. We want those tobacco flavours, those leather flavours. We want all of those things that are usually hidden and subtle.
“When you have an earthy wine and then bring some food into the game, suddenly those fruit characters start jumping out. It’s not the first thing you notice, and it’s not in your face. It’s very complex.”
Back from a Mommy stint away from the cellar, viticulturist and winemaker Amber Pratt is readying for the 2022 crush at Moraine Winery in Naramata. Her resume boasts time at Road 13, Black Hills and as winemaker at C.C. Jentsch.
After working with some “beautiful fruit on the Golden Mile Bench, such great Bordeaux reds and the Syrah,” Pratt is taking a more subtle and elegant approach with the Moraine portfolio, reflecting a cooler climate expression of the northern vineyards of Syrah, Merlot and Malbec.
“Malbec is the one that gives me all the anxiety, every vintage,” says Pratt. “We’re so far north, it’s always like, ‘Come on, baby, get ripe.’”
Naramata Malbec differs from a South American or French Malbec, offering a medium red (think the weight of Pinot Noir, rather than Cabernet Sauvignon). The 2021 Malbec, with its delicate tannins, is full of juiciness with notes of blueberry and a touch of menthol. With only a couple of hundred cases produced, this wine becoming a bit of a cult wine for them — and now reserved for wine club members only.
A small bit of that precious Malbec was reserved for the 2020 Meritage ($39).
Having the chance to head the team at Moraine, Pratt was looking forward to the change of terroir. “I really like freshness and elegance and almost a femininity to my red wines,” she says.
Ruby Blues Winery welcomes Graham Pierce — late of Black Hills and Kitsch Wines — as their new winemaker.
“I’m certainly excited to be here and working with an established team that’s been making wine for a long time,” says Pierce. “(Owners) Beat and Prudence (Mahrer) have been on the bench for over 30 years and planted over 100 acres of vines on the bench. They understand this area. They understand farming and the whole business.”
It’s a great area for viticulture, adds Pierce. “We get all this late afternoon light, a fair bit of heat for this area and then tons of lake effect.”
While the iconic blend Red Stiletto will be a priority for Pierce, he’s going into this harvest with his eyes on a number of varietals, including Gewürztraminer.
“With that kind of wine, you want to have great aromatics, but you don’t want anything to be over the top. When it’s all one thing — like just roses or lychees — it can be a problem.”