Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Get To Know... Alan Dickinson

Alan Dickinson
Vintner, SynchroMesh Wines
Okanagan Falls, BC

How do you fill the void of a lack of terroir-driven Rieslings produced in your home wine region? If you're Alan Dickinson, together with your family, you open your own micro-winery and create the minimalist Riesling of your dreams. 'Minimalist' in the way it's made, with little-to-no intervention during winemaking, not 'minimalist' in regards to the impression it makes on the nose or palate.

SynchroMesh, whose name is an ode to the Dickinson's love for vintage cars and racing and which refers to many intricate parts working together seamlessly, is not the first winery whose central focus revolves around producing top-notch Riesling that transmits the terroir from whence it came into the glass (see Tantalus Vineyards). Nor will they be the last (we hope), but they have helped raise the bar and, arguably, produce one of the Province's best under the direction of Alan's hands-off approach.

However, a new business based on a a single-sku product is less likely to achieve financial success and thus, the small winery also produces a few other labels that fit their "what we like to drink" criteria. A Rosé, a Gewurztraminer and a red blend fill-out the portfolio of wines which are available via their mailing list or at the many restaurants that have snatched-up their allotment of these food-friendly wines. For 2013, this portfolio will expand to include a second Riesling label sourced from a Naramata Bench vineyard and a Pinot Noir from an East Kelowna vineyard.

Get to know Alan a bit better and get to know their wines...

Key wines to try:
Stormhaven Vineyard Riesling 2014
Thorny Vines Vineyard Riesling 2012

1. What do you enjoy most about making wine?
Working with the vines and unique properties that bring such different expressions of the same varietals. Producing single vineyard wines focussed on specific varietals allows me to experience the influence that terroir has on finished wines. Farming really is the basis of the wine business and the part I love the most. I don't think the dogs would disagree either, they never looked back when we moved here from Vancouver.

2. What inspired you to become a winemaker?
I was fortunate to taste and work with some of the top wines of the world in my previous employment. I fell hard for Riesling but discovered that most of the wines that I truly loved, were produced with a similar philosophy to that which we follow at Synchromesh. Sustainable vineyard practices, natural low cropping, extensive use of indigenous yeasts and no manipulations or additives in winemaking. I think it makes better wines but it certainly makes more unique and terroir driven wines.

3. What causes you the most stress during harvest?
I actually really enjoy harvest time. It is super long days and nights, crippling back pain, numb fingers and constantly being sticky, but for us it is the first chance to see what our hard work in the vineyard and the unique vintage qualities will bring to our new wines. If I had to say one thing that does stress me out, it would be all the wild fermentation we do. The potential of things going sideways or in a really weird direction is definitely there. Especially at the beginning of our Pinot Noir ferments, they always start off with some concerning aromatics until the right yeasts build up their populations and take over and everyone around has to put up with me thinking I've ruined everything until they sort themselves out.

4. What is your favourite and/or least favourite wine cliché?
It takes a lot of beer to make great wine... I live by it!

5. Away from the cellar and vineyard, what’s your greatest passion in life?
Along with my wife, Amy and our Terriers Morris and Darby, I love vintage cars. Just ask my wife how often I stay up half the night looking through craigslist ads across North America looking for another rusty old car to park on the property.

6. After a long day of work in the cellar, what do you turn to for refreshment?

7. If you could take credit for one other BC wine on the market today, which would it be and why?
I love the McLean Creek Pinot Noir from Meyer Family across the road, they are another great family producer and have similar philosophies to us. It must be the terrior!

8. Of the wines in your portfolio, do you have a favourite food pairing to go with one of the wines?
It goes against what most people think but our 2011 Riesling with lots of residual sugar and acid is a perfect pairing for a rich red meat dish like braised beef with goat cheese. I discovered this pairing eating at The Portly Chef in North Van. The wine cuts through the salt and richness and refreshes the palate.

9. What do you think will be the next big trend in BC wine over the next few years?
I think the keg wine movement will continue to gain momentum in Vancouver's restaurant scene. It's a great, sustainable option for by the glass wines and great way for wineries to provide good value, simpler and more accessible wines at competitive pricing. With talk of a looming oversupply of BC wines in the market, this is a good way for local producers to be competitive with international wines in the entry level price points, gain some of that market and to move their lower tier wines.

10. Screwcap or cork? What’s your preference?
I'm not sold one way or another. I like Screwcaps on aromatic whites and Pinot Noir to keep freshness and delicacy intact as they age but I'm not sold on Bordeaux varietals. There is something magic that happens under cork that we don't fully understand yet.

How to contact Alan and the SynchroMesh/Alto Wine Group team:
Alto Wine Group Inc.
4220 McLean Creek Road
Okanagan Falls, BC
V0H 1R0

  - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2013

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