The Fraser Valley’s Geekiest Wine
It’s natural, it’s orange and it’s local—what else could you ask for?
A year ago I was having lunch with a Rhone Valley winemaker when the subject of natural wines came up. Now, the Rhone isn’t exactly a non-interventionist hotbed, but even this guy had to admit that the natural wine movement was here to stay. He even offered that he liked them…with some provisos. Chief among them was you had to drink natural wines where or close to where they were made. “If I’m in Beaujolais, I’ll drink natural Beaujolais, I’ll in in the Loire, I’ll drink natural Loire,” he said, but for him travel was the kiss of death for wines not bolstered for the journey with “additions.”
Now, I’ve had some dynamite bottles of natural wine that crossed an ocean and arrived in glorious shape, but I do admit that I’m drawn to the idea of drinking natural wines as close to the source as possible. And while we have a growing number natural winemakers in the Okanagan (like this guy), as far as I know, this is the only wine from the Fraser Valley that falls under the broad rubric of “natural.” For starters, they rolled the dice on a spontaneous fermentation in lieu of of inoculating with commercial yeast. They seem to be using a lower amount of sulphur. And they employed some extended skin contact with the grapes making this a version of an “orange” wine as well (although the colour is pretty light).
The other cool thing going on here is the varietal. Siegerrgebe (the “Siggy” in question) is a cross between Gewurtzraminer and some grape called Madeline Angevine. And when I say cross, I don’t mean it in the sense that it tastes similar; I mean it’s an actual hybrid of those two grapes bred by some German Viticulturist in 1929 to create a grape that could ripen in colder climates. Hybrids, in the grape world, are akin to riding a bike with training wheels when you’re an adult. But in the last few years, people have started granting them some respect for their place in our history and making them with the same reverence they’d give to Syrah.
So the end result is a wine that has seen a lot of love (and sweat, I imagine) go into it. It’s definitely unlike almost any other Fraser Valley wine I’ve had. Siegerrebe is a grape that often produces a wine that’s a little flat, lacking acidity, but here the extended skin contact imports some helpful tartness to go with the natural floral characteristics of the grape. I’d even call it juicy and it definitely will open some minds if you bring it to you next BBQ.