We showed up for our tasting at Culmina Family Estate Winery about a week after the big news hit the Canadian wine world – Don and Elaine Triggs had sold their life’s work wine project to Arterra. While chatting about the sale with manager, Maryke Vandermarel, who should appear but Don himself – who still, by the way, plans to be in and around the winery plenty.
The winery produces some stunning examples of what is possible when first class grape-growing and winemaking are combined – Riesling, Chardonnay, Rosé, Cabernet Franc, and Meritage blends. And although I came away with bottles of just about everything, the one I really wanted to learn more about is their Unicus, the Okanagan’s original Grüner Veltliner.
Because she knew how keen I was to taste it, Maryke had the 2017 and 2018 vintages in the tasting line up. I’d contacted her months before looking for some bottles for a private tasting I’d held, but hadn’t been able to offer it to my clients because it’s only available at the winery. Now was my chance.
However, the 2018 had ever-so-slightly more RS (3.2 g/l), and had spent 3-4 months on a wild ferment in neutral oak barrels in addition to its time in concrete egg, amphora and stainless steel. What a delicious version with mouth-watering acidity, delicate white flowers, chalky rock minerality, lemon, white grapefruit and a hint of white pepper pickle juice.
While Culmina can grow 10 tons of Grüner grapes, they crop down to only 2 to ensure the yield is not too high. If it is, the wine will end up being green and uninteresting. And since 2015, they’ve been experimenting with using the concrete eggs and amphora to allow for texture and micro-oxygenation.
It will be interesting to watch how Culmina’s wines and brand shift over the next few years – if, in fact, they do at all. Our visit to Culmina and chats with Don and Maryke were highlights of this trip to Oliver.