Author: Julian Park
Review Date: September 14th, 2021
BC Wine Trends
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Clos du Soleil is an artisan winery and estate vineyard on the South Similkameen Valley Upper Bench. They produce ultra-premium quality wines in a Bordeaux style with the motto Old World elegance … New World edge!
The name refers to the mountain that towers above the back of our property. They form a natural enclosure to the North, trapping the sun’s heat and reflected rays, necessary for great grape production.
Having fallen in love with the Similkameen Valley and its potential for producing world-class wines, a group of investors led by founding shareholder Spencer Massie, acquired a 10-acre vineyard on the Similkameen Valley’s Upper Bench in 2005. By 2006 they had planted the vineyard with the Bordeaux varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The goal was to produce elegant, and age-worthy wines with a philosophy borrowed from the finest chateaux of Bordeaux, but stamped with the unmistakable flavours of the Similkameen.
Clos Du Soleil changed when Michael Clark, now Managing Director and Winemaker, joined the winery in 2012. He repatriated production from rented space in a Kelowna winery to the new winery on its Similkameen vineyard. The new winery enabled Clos du Soleil to raise production to about 5,000 cases.
Michael Clark runs the business, as well as the production side of Clos du Soleil. Following 14 years as a successful investment manager in North America and Europe, Michael turned his life-long obsession with wine and winemaking into his day-job. It is Michael’s attention to detail which ensures that every bottle of Clos du Soleil wine captures the essential flavours of our land, our seasons and our vines.
Michael trained in winemaking at the University of California, Davis. He had prior winery experience from Geneva, Switzerland, and Bordeaux, France. At Clos du Soleil it is Michael’s goal to marry biodynamic viticulture and the unique terroir of the Similkameen Valley with old-school winemaking in order to produce age-worthy wines of elegance and character.
La Côte Vineyard
Clos du Soleil acquired the vineyard in December 2018 and christened it “La Côte”. This is a nod to both Clos du Soleil’s French influence and the vineyard’s unique topography. More specifically, La Côte has been named for the steep but even slope throughout the vineyard which gives the entire plot a southward-facing aspect – ideal for grape growing.
Located just down the road from the Clos du Soleil Estate Vineyard on the Upper Bench of the Similkameen Valley, the vineyard exhibits exactly the same terroir characteristics. Well-draining stony soils, with water-holding capacity and some organic matter. This soil composition is important to note because it is in line with Clark’s belief that “living soils are crucial to maintaining vine health and for producing grapes that most truly represent their place”. This is also why Clos du Soleil will immediately begin conversion of the property to organic and biodynamic practices, in line with the winery’s existing viticultural methods.
“La Côte already boasted mature vitis vinifera vines, over 10 years in age,and we believe we can produce extremely high quality fruit from this site. The varieties already planted in this vineyard will allow us to bring some brand-new small-lot wines to customers in the coming years, which is very exciting. However, in line with our long-time focus on Bordeaux varieties, we will progressively convert select blocks of the vineyard to more of the same over time. This will supplement our core focus on elegant and age-worthy wines blended from Bordeaux varieties but tasting unmistakably of the Similkameen.”Michael Clark
“I’m excited to get started managing this wonderful parcel of land overlooked by massive rock outcrops. The loamy soils here, the result of many years of erosion and decaying plant matter, should produce fruit of outstanding quality and complexity which, combined with the terroir of this site, will result in truly unique wines, reflecting their place of origin in the heart of the Similkameen valley.”Steve Roche, Vineyard & Operations Manager
Whispering Secret Vineyard
Clos du Soleil began buying Sauvignon Blanc from the Whispered Secret Vineyard near Keremeos in 2014. The 10.3-acre vineyard is on the south side of the Similkameen River. Its north-facing slope makes it slightly cooler than Clos du Soleil’s other vineyards on the north side of the valley. That led to Clos leasing the vineyard and taking over the farming. In 2020, Clos jumped at the chance to buy the vineyard.
“Whispered Secret has to be the most enchanting piece of vineyard land I have ever farmed. Nestled between sheer rock faces to the south and the babbling waters of the Similkameen River to the north. Here we have beautiful alluvial, loamy soils, with fantastic drainage, perfect for cultivating our superlative Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.”Steve Roche
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Clos du Soleil Capella 2019 ($26.90)
Vineyard Sources: Whispered Secret Vineyard, Keremeos BC (SB); Dhaliwal Bros Vineyard, Oliver BC (Sémillon) – 83% Sauvignon Blanc, 17% Sémillon.
Each vineyard block was separately harvested, by hand, at peak maturity. The grapes were whole-cluster pressed and then fermented entirely in barrels (82% French oak puncheons, 18% stainless steel barrels) with the majority undergoing only wild, spontaneous fermentation. 1/4 of the barrels were also allowed to undergo wild malolactic fermentation. All lots were barrel-aged for nine months, on the lees, with lees stirring.
The final wine was created by blending together just the very best barrel lots.
Alcohol 13.5% | pH 3.07 |TA 8.33 gm/L | RS .6 gm/L
The classic Bordeaux blend is a gorgeous rich straw colour. Vibrant aromas of grapefruit, lemon and lime zest and meadow grasses. The wine has complex flavours of Meyer lemon, Key Lime and pink grapefruit with a hint of passionfruit and tropical notes. The dry wine has fresh vigorous acidity, an elegantly textured mouthfeel from the sur lie ageing and a supple mineral backbone. 92 points.
The SB is excellent with all seafood and roasted chicken.
Clos du Soleil Rosé 2020 ($22.90)
The Malbec grapes for this Rosé were grown specifically for this wine, on a steep southern-facing slope of Clos du Soleil’s La Côte Vineyard on the Upper Bench of the Similkameen Valley.
The strawberry hues of this wine announce the delightful aromatic profile.
This delicate and complex Rosé wine greets the taster with the aromas of rose petals, cranberries, and pomegranate.
The flavours dance across the palate with a swirling blend of wild strawberries, cranberries, wildflowers, and lime zest. Soft on the palate, but crisp and dry with a long finish. This 100% Malbec Rosé is delicate, uplifting and food-friendly – everything a Rosé should be.
Clos du Soleil Signature 2018 ($47.90)
42% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot.
The wines were fermented using only native wild yeasts to reinforce terroir expression. After a gentle pressing, the wines were aged for 16 months in 100% French oak barrels. Only the barrels showing the greatest complexity, depth and elegance were selected for our Signature blend.
Signature is the flagship blend of red Bordeaux varieties, produced by hand, and aged for 16 months in French oak barrels. The 2018 vintage is the product of a long, warm growing season and was perfect for producing this classically styled iconic wine.
The taster is enveloped in heady aromas of ripe raspberry and blackberry, baking spices and floral notes. On the palate, the wine is layered with flavours of black cherry, raspberry, cassis, mint and blackberry, with complex notes of graphite and sagebrush. The structure is soft and lush, with polished tannins and a long lingering finish. Enjoyable in its youth, the balance and structure of this wine will ensure its
ability to age for many years.
- Clos du Soliel provided the winery background and tasting notes (except for Capella).
- The original article was updated in September 2021 to include the current wine releases.