Top BC Wine Awards
Mireille Sauvé hopes to put Kaleden on the wine map, marking the distinct growing regions along the western bench above Skaha Lake in the South Okanagan.
“At Lakeboat Vineyard we make single varietal wines, and we do that because we’re trying to establish a new sub-GI (geographical indication),” she says. “The best way to do that is to express the terroir purely, without blending.
“Down the road, the plan is to have blends that are in a reserve tier, but right now, while we’re establishing ourselves, we’re making these single varietal wines so that you can taste Kaleden, get a real sense of place, which is what terroir is supposed to be.”
Sauvé is establishing herself as a full-time winemaker. While Lakeboat is her first posting, she’s been making wine since 1997.
Some describe Sauvé as lurking in the shadows for years (perhaps under her wine umbrella, the moniker she’s given her marketing company).
This emerging winemaker is now taking centre stage and showcasing a talent for Burgundian wines.
“It’s a Kaleden thing,” she says “I didn’t pick those grapes, they picked me.
“And who doesn’t love Pinot Noir? We do it beautifully in B.C. I think we’re very similar to Bourgogne (Burgundy, France),” she says.
After spending last summer in Bourgogne and helping with an early harvest in France, she returned to the Okanagan and worked the harvest here.
“It’s quite similar as far as the climate goes, with many of the soil types similar as well,” she says.
Sauvé is modest about the acclaim Trends Top Wine Awards bring.
“These were the grapes that were planted in our vineyards, and my job is just to make them as good as they can be,” she says.
Lakeboat Vineyard & Winery’s Chardonnay shone as the Top White Wine of the competition, while the Pinot Noir and Merlot also earned gold medals.
“I love Chardonnay,” says Sauvé. “I think it’s beautiful. There are many gorgeous flavours in that wine, the grape itself. But, what I tell my customers is that we believe in responsible use of oak. This wine needs a frame. It’s like a picture without a frame. For me, the oak is the beautiful frame you put on a piece of art.”
She is happy to chat about the uniqueness of the Kaleden vineyards.
“In our Pinot Gris, there’s this flinty note I don’t see in any other B.C. Pinot Gris. It reminds me of Germany; it reminds me of the Mosel.”
The defining character is the wines’ unique minerality. Wind and cool nights on the bench allow the grapes to hang on the vines a little longer, extending the growing season and creating more flavours.
“The acidity is also really high in Kaleden, so there’s a freshness to the wines,” she says. “I noticed that in the wines our neighbouring wineries as well.”
Initially drawn to Kaleden by the village’s quaint charm, Lakeboat Vineyard & Winery’s owner Tara Mathison takes pride that her small boutique winery is the first in the region to craft small-batch wines exclusively from locally sourced grapes.
“It is our hope to lend a respectful nod to the rich history in this bustling agricultural community,” she says. “We are working with our peers to establish a long-overdue sub-GI for this established vinifera winegrowing area.”
The estate’s award-winning, small-batch Merlot, produced in just 100 cases, might be the catalyst for this recognition.
“There’s six rows in the vineyard that grow the most spectacular Merlot I could imagine,” says Sauvé. “And it’s year after year. It’s our grapes that are making these wines, it’s not me.”
This wine educator, who took her first course at the age of 22, has never forgot her early cheerleaders. In 1996, she was accepted to the George Brown College Sommelier program in Toronto. With a Les Dames D’Escoffier scholarship in hand, the young wine enthusiast was able to afford her tuition and move all her things from Vancouver to Toronto.
Today, Sauvé is giving back to the B.C. chapter (lesdames.ca) and supporting its work to mentor and sponsor women in the hospitality, food and beverage sectors.
Since 2015, she’s made a fundraising wine each year, starting with her first vintage at Meyers Family Vineyards in Okanagan Falls, guided by winemaker Chris Carson.
Wines crafted at Sperling Vineyards in Kelowna and Roche Wines on the Naramata Bench followed.
Mathison strongly supports the fundraising efforts, offering her winemaking facility and selling the bottles through the winery’s tasting room and online wine shop.
A must-try is The Wine Umbrella 2020 Co-Syrah. This rich, fruit-forward red, a co-ferment of premium Osoyoos Syrah (91%) and Viognier (9%), showcases ripe blackberries and star anise pair with toasty notes of black plum and vanilla.
Through her consulting company, Sauvé has worked with wines from all over the world. With clients mainly in Europe, including France, Spain, Germany and Portugal, she’s also promoted New Zealand wines.
This diverse exposure has greatly enriched her appreciation of and perspective on the British Columbia wine industry.
“The big difference from all those places is that here in B.C. we have all of these mountains and lakes that get in the way of planting vineyards.
“We don’t have the luxury of having a giant bulk wine production area. There’s just no space.”
Rather, the B.C. wine landscape is dotted with boutique vineyards.
“We have small-lot, handcrafted wine. And when you look across the board at every country on the liquor store shelves, those boutique wines are all priced the same, including B.C.
“So we’re actually not priced differently,” she notes. ◆
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