Little Farm Winery, Mulberry Tree Vineyard, Riesling, BC VQA Similkameen Valley, British Columbia, Canada, 2016
On BC VQA (British Columbia Vintners Quality Alliance) Similkameen Valley
The Similkameen Valley vineyard, at latitude ~49°N, and altitude ~380m, is centred on its eponymous river, lying mainly between Cawston and Keremeos (map of BC wineries), representing about 6.5% of BC’s vineyard, ie ~266ha, in 2020 [1,5]. The river runs east then south then east again, to eventually join the Okanagan River, just south of the US border.
The Valley lies in the rain shadow of the Coast Mountains Range, with a cool dry descending foehn wind on the eastward side. This blows relentlessly , picking up moisture, reducing humidity and so pest and disease pressure, moderating temperature in the hottest months, and making the region ideal for organic viticulture . Similar situations exist in eg Alsace and Jurancon.
Winters are cold, but not always cold enough to produce icewine, which needs -8°C and below. The growing season is generally of a warm and dry nature, with peak temperatures in July/August, of around 30°C. Clear skies lead to a significant diurnal range of 15-20°C, which, coupled with the cool foehn wind, slows ripening and helps retains acidity, with some wines characteristic of a cooler climate ie less of an upfront fruity nature, more herbal and ‘mineral’ .
Soils can vary widely, though predominantly gravel, with many stony areas, also silty loam [1,2].
Varieties here are predominantly vinifera. The most common earlier ripening varieties include chardonnay, gamay, pinot noir and riesling, and later varieties eg cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah [1,2].
This wine: lot No. 3117 B13 200161101 (below front label), organic, varietal riesling, wild yeast fermentation in stainless steel, some skin contact, lees ageing, minimal intervention; screw-cap closure, 12.5% abv, The Wine Society, £19 (01/19)
Consumer tasting note: riesling without a doubt, a bit of chemical bomb to start – petrol, windowlene and metal polish on the nose, which gradually decreases in strength, taking on a more restrained profile of lime, stewed and lightly bruised apple, with a touch of richer stone fruit – a completely different wine. Brisk acidity, medium-full bodied, with that telltale riesling grip, with a cooking apple-citrus mid-palate. A sound medium length.
Drink now – RTD, and will keep for 2-3 years – Wait. Decant but for 30 minutes, if not keen on petrol-like aromas.
WSET style tasting note
Appearance: clear and bright, pale intensity gold, showing tears [no deposit].
Nose: clean, pronounced intensity, fully developed, with aromas as they come, of petrol and paraffin, metal polish – definitely a metallic tang about it, Windowlene also comes to mind, lime juice, lime pith, stewed cooking apple with a bruised apple edge and a sugary confected nuance, a hint of steak fat, the merest hint of richer riper stone fruit.
Palate: dry, high acidity, medium alcohol, medium (+) body, medium (+) intensity, a velvety tending to oily texture with a light to moderate grip, with flavours of crushed cooking apple, a hint of baked apple, lime pith and a touch of more strident zest, a hint of grapefruit pith. A solid medium length (~20s) with a clean finish of lime pith, and a light-moderate grip.
Quality: good, well balanced brisk acidity with moderate alcohol, suiting the quite strong but weakening mid-palate profile. The nose is somewhat overwhelmed by chemical notes for 30 odd minutes in the glass, before subsiding to citrus and orchard fruit, of a much more restrained sound medium intensity. Showing moderate concentration and complexity, leading to a medium length.
Drinking readiness/ageing potential: drink now, unsuited to further ageing, but will hold for 2-3 years. The initial, persistent and strident chemical profile is a concern, and would not be widely appreciated, requiring decant time to reduce it. It is not showing the honeyed gingery character of age, so this is a youngish wine, but without the secondary post petrochemical intensity, concentration and length, to suggest further improvement with time.
- Wines of British Columbia – Similkameen Valley [online] accessed 14/01/20.
- Philips, R. (2017). The Wines of Canada. infinite ideas ltd.
- British Columbia Wine Authority [online] accessed 14/01/20.
- In the Similkameen Valley. 02/07/16. Goode, J. [online]. accessed 15/01/20.
- Wines of Canada. [online] accessed 16/01/20.
- On some varieties grown in Canada. [online] accessed 18/01/20.