Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Get To Know... Michael Bartier

Photo courtesy Bartier Bros.
Michael Bartier
Vintner, Bartier Bros., Okanagan Crush Pad Winery 
Summerland, BC 

Bartier's CV is about as long and respected as it gets in the Okanagan's (relatively) youthful wine industry. He's held just about every job the industry has to offer from sales rep to cellar hand to head winemaker; learning and absorbing everything he can along the way. After stints as the winemaker for Hawthorn Mountain Vineyards (now See-Ya-Later-Ranch), Township 7 and Road 13, Bartier set out on two new projects; developing his own label (in partnership with his brother Don) and helping Okanagan Crush Pad Winery establish itself as a premier custom crush facility.

Bartier has been major contributor to BC wine over the years, helping to raise the bar of quality at every winery he's worked at and by broadening the reach and diversity of the sometimes homogenic industry via the many micro-labels he's consulted for.

Get to know Michael and get to know Bartier Bros. wines a bit better...

Key wines to try:
Bartier Bros. Semillon: 2013 
Bartier Bros. Barrel Fermented Chardonnay: 2013 
Bartier Bros. Syrah: 2011

1. What do you enjoy most about making wine? 
I enjoy most that it is a cycle on every level, through the planning, growing, the processing of fruit, and the all important and satisfying finishing of the wine. However, despite the cycle, it is always a learning experience. As soon as we think we know it all, along comes another vintage . . . 

2. What inspired you to become a winemaker? 
I can't say that I was inspired to be a winemaker, the opportunity appeared in front of me and I embraced it. I think I can honestly say, though, that I would have embraced other opportunities just as enthusiastically; I enjoy process and I immerse myself in whatever is in front of me.

3. What causes you the most stress during harvest? 
The local wine festival sometimes applies marketing demands on my time when I am definitely in a farming (read antisocial) frame of mind! Having said that, I can't complain; the wine festival has done as much, or more, for our little wine industry in the Okanagan than any other single event.

4. What is your favourite and/or least favourite wine cliché? 
The word "balance" is so overused, - it is a cliche, - but it is a cliche for a reason.  Balance is everything in wine; flavour, texture, fruit, minerality - these all play each other and must be in balance. For these to be in balance, the vines must be in balance. To me a vine in balance is one that grows just enough leaf canopy to ripen the fruit - no more - and the rest of the vine's energy goes into the fruit. Anything more is just wasted vigour in vegetative growth, and eventually wasted flavour leading to off-balance. The single most important job I have as a winemaker is to achieve balance in the vineyard - healthy vines in healthy soil, which grow just enough to make balanced wines. 

5. Away from the cellar and vineyard, what’s your greatest passion in life? 
My wife and son - nothing else comes close.

6. After a long day of work in the cellar, what do you turn to for refreshment? 
Exercise outside - mountain biking or trail running - followed by a crisp light beer. . . 

7. If you could take credit for one other BC wine on the market today, which would it be and why? 
I'm very proud of the consulting work I do with Harper's Trail winery in Kamloops.  Riesling, Kamloops, Limestone . . . a very important combination.

8. Of the wines in your portfolio, do you have a favourite food pairing to go with one of the wines? 
Our Syrah is typically lighter in style (very Pinot like) with refreshing structure and acidity. It goes great with a rustic pasta dish I love to make which involves lots of garlic, onion, chilies, fresh tomatoes, and chorizo. The acidity of the wine matches the difficult tomato pairing, and of the spiciness of the wine very much matches the spiciness of the dish.

9. What do you think will be the next big trend in BC wine over the next few years? 
The articulation of wines being Okanagan, rather than compared to reference points like Rheingau, Burgundy, or Bordeaux. These are important places making delicious wines, but we are getting the confidence now to start referring to our own style which reflects what the Okanagan is; fresh, alive, pristine, mineral, juicy, and delicious.

10. Screwcap or cork? What’s your preference?
Screwcap, hands down.

 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

Monthly Picks: April '15 - Quails' Gate

Springtime in BC means the release of last year's whites, rosé wines and the occasional red to the market. The first such release to land on our review table arrived from West Kelowna's Quails' Gate Winery. They have 3 new whites, their always dependable blush and their killer Pinot Noir to try. Enjoy.

2014 Dry Riesling - $17.11
A very consistent label for the West Kelowna winery, this Riesling is an exploration of the balance between the crisp and sweet facets of tart orchard fruit like green apples and lemon/lime.
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2014 Gewurztraminer - $17.11
For 2014, the Quail's Gate Gewurztraminer showcases a little more of the opulent, tropical fruit we've come to associate with the Alsatian variety than from the 2013 release - especially on the off-dry palate where the initial citrus tartness is overtaken by lychee and papaya fruit through to the bright and spicy, mineral-infused finish.
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2014 rosé - $18.14
The palate is juicy and refreshing with near off-dry levels of residual sugar balanced by plenty of wild berry and rhubarb acidity. Flavours of delicate red fruit, minerals and sweet citrus with bring a smile to your face.
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2014 Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris - $19.18
Popular for its approachable and affordable combination of refreshing orchard fruit and mineral flavours, this is the ultimate patio wine with some residual sweetness balanced by mannered acidity and grassy notes on the finish.
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2013 Pinot Noir - $28.15
Essentially, this is everything you want from a BC Pinot Noir: expressive red fruit supported by earthy characters and hints of herbs and oak.
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 - Liam Carrier ©copyright 2015

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Photo Album - La Frenz Winery

After many trips through the Okanagan Valley to visit its wineries and meet the folks behind the great wines on offer, I've accumulated many photographs over the years

Every time I visit the Naramata Bench I try and make time to enjoy a glass of Sauvignon Blanc on the humble patio of La Frenz Winery. These photos are taken from multiple visits to La Frenz since my first trip in 2009.

La Frenz Winery's tasting room