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Food Bites: A taste of Summerland at OK Crush Pad
A visit to Okanagan Crush Pad is worth the trip for wine lovers.
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Sitting in a vineyard, sipping on some Pinot Gris while wearing a white blouse and Panama hat has long been dream of mine, and I finally got to live it out at Okanagan Crush Pad.
Located on a hillside overlooking the currently flooded Okanagan Lake in Summerland, Crush Pad’s completely concrete winery and tasting room is in juxtaposition from its pastoral setting – all angles except for the unique round cement tanks that are the key ingredient to their wine.
Crush Pad opened in 2011 as a 30,000 case facility that produces Haywire and Narrative brands. The organic Pinot grapes used to make their most notable wine, Switchback Pinot Gris, are grown right on the property and owners Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie recently purchased the 300 acre Garnet Valley Ranch which will increase production significantly.
The valley is scenic with yellow and purple wildflowers growing in the tall grass, rows of grapes and sheep grazing in a paddock. It’s hot and a little rugged, but totally pictorial.
Coletta and Lornie wanted to find virgin land to allow grower Duncan Billing to create a farming system tailored to the region and the high elevation – 680 ft above sea level. This method of farming takes longer and more effort, but they are thinking of the long game and want to produce quality grapes using organic practices. This is admirable considering the two are of retirement age and won’t be able to truly enjoy the fruits of their labour for many years.
Enough setting the scene, let’s talk about wine.
Crush Pad is best known for their Switchback Pinot Gris and I sampled their vertical from 2011 when the wine was first produced to 2015. It’s was an amazing study in how different the same wine can be year to year and how conditions greatly affect the finished product.
While the 2011 was very mineral and acidic with a peach aroma, the 2015 had a grassy aroma and was very juicy and full bodied with tropical fruit notes. The same wine, different years and totally different flavour profiles. Fascinating.
Crush Pad is unique because they ferment their wine in cement tanks, rather than oak or stainless steel. Cement is porous, therefore there will always be residue from a previous batch influencing the wine. They also been experimenting with wild fermentation and clay tanks, which make a more complex wine, which is harder to control. This seems to be just fine for Crush Pad’s winemaker, Matt Dumayne.
Perhaps the greatest example of his lust for pushing the envelope is the Haywire 2015 Free Form White. If you’ve ever wanted to know what wine tasted like in ancient times this would be pretty close.
The Sauvignon Blanc grapes are fermented over nine months using only their natural yeast. The wine is then bottled unfiltered, which gives it a cloudy appearance.
The first word that comes to mind while sipping on this unusual wine is lambic. For the beer nerds out there, lambic is a Belgian style beer and is brewed using only wild yeast, which gives it a certain tangy, sour smell and taste. Not entirely something you’d expect in a wine, but the wild yeast gives it something more lively and mineral.