Author: Chris Costales
As a Californian, I will admit that we are not lacking for good wine. Many wine lovers here in the Golden State cheerfully pass their sunshine filled days with glasses full of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Santa Barbara Pinot Noir. In our wine cellars if you find a bottle with a Meyer name on the label its coming from the Meyer Family Cellars in Mendocino and definitely not the Meyer Family Vineyards from Canada’s Okanagan Valley. While ignorance may be bliss, it is no excuse for wine enthusiasts from California and America to be unaware of the quality that can be found from its neighbor to the North. Kascadia Wine Merchants was kind enough to ship over an abundance of Meyer Family Vineyards wines recently and I excitedly poured each of them into my wine glass to find out what this unappreciated wine region had to offer.
Meyer Family Vineyards is a well-known and respected winery in British Columbia, Canada, producing wine since 2006 and receiving tasting room guests in Okanagan Falls since 2010. Total production of around 6,000 cases is just small enough to allow for thorough attention to quality, with a focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay made with a Burgundian influence. Owner, Jak Meyer describes their production style as emphasizing low intervention, picking on acidity, cropping fruit levels low, and not overusing oak while adding just enough to allow for subtle integration to not mask the fruit. Their two main vineyards, both planted in the mid 1990’s, share soils of alluvial and glacial deposits. The Old Main Road Vineyard is planted entirely to Chardonnay and has a northern aspect, capturing less sun and offering a cooler climate compared to the southern facing McLean Creek Road Vineyard. This vineyard, planted to Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay receives more sunlight, resulting in smoother tannins and a more generous riper fruit quality.
The 2017 Meyer Family Vineyards Rose is a pleasant cruise through the pure delights of crisp red fruits such as strawberry and cherry, along with ripe watermelon and a green rind quality that provides just enough astringency to add complexity and tone down excessive fruity flavor. Not too acidic, fuller bodied and refreshingly clean. The wine is made using the saignée method which is when a smaller amount of Pinot Noir juice is drawn away after a short time left mixed with the grape skins, in this case 12 hours, and bottled separately. Try a pairing of a summer fruit salad with this wine, full of mixed greens and arugula, candied pecans, tomato and salty feta cheese.
Karen MacNeil, author of “The Wine Bible,” has been a supporter of Meyer Family Vineyards Chardonnay in the past, and their 2017 Okanagan Valley Chardonnay continues their tradition of excellence that has won them many awards and fans. The wine has a slight sea spray saline quality with subtle hints of butter, vanilla and cream. A lemon tartness gives the wine persistency and length which is found alongside fruity lemon, yellow pear, white peach, delicate pineapple, and golden delicious apple flavors. Sadly, I only used my imagination and did not actually pair this wine with lobster ravioli in a light cream sauce with shaved Grana Padano cheese but there’s always next time.
I must admit my love for the 2016 Meyer Family Vineyards Gewurztraminer. This is a great example of what this grape offers to wine lovers. Orange marmalade with a slight citrus pith bitterness with floral honeysuckle, ripe yellow peach, kumquat, and the classic lychee fruit character the grape is known for. At 13% alcohol this Meyer Family Vineyards wine shows lighter and more refreshing compared to some of the other bolder and excessive examples from around the world. This grape can sometimes be disparaged from wine aficionados with its lower natural acidity viewed as unsuitable for aging, but I am very impressed to witness how much vibrant life this wine has in it. It may even, dare I say have enough strength and acidity to pair nicely with a certain Canadian delicacy, poutine. For many wine lovers, Gewurztraminer is the grape that first captures the attention of burgeoning wine enthusiasts. It is not a shy wine, having intense floral aromas and fun fruity flavor. Much like the Okanagan Valley, this grape doesn’t get the attention it deserves so make sure to have an open bottle during your next big holiday family gathering as its bold personality fits right in among rich sumptuous dishes and lively personalities.
The 2018 Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir is full of light red raspberry fruit and cranberry with an orange citrus peel edge and slight salinity finish that will mellow with time. At 13.5% alcohol this wine is a welcome relief from the overly ripe and intense style that so often resembles cherry cola. The Pinot Noir grapes here are sourced from six vineyards throughout the Okanagan Valley and aged for eight months in older French oak. The wines ripe red fruit is beautifully balanced with its present acidity and firm but gentle tannins. For a second I caught myself comparing this Pinot Noir favorably to wines from Burgundy, a compliment due to its ability to capture the classic aromas and flavors that have made Pinot Noir one of the most beloved wine grapes throughout the world. To do so, however, would disregard all the love and attention the wine received back in its home. The quality found here is proudly Canadian and should be recognized as such.
2018 Okanagan Falls & McLean Creek Road Vineyard has all the classic red fruits of Pinot Noir along with a denser heftier body in comparison to the Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir. A substantial amount of grapes are planted on south facing steep slopes which are angled to receive continuous sunshine resulting in softer tannins with riper fruits of black raspberry and black cherry which almost reach a cherry cola quality but are brought back down with tart and chewy red apple skin along with a woody presence and mossy earth quality. Eleven months aging with 25% new French oak help round out the wine and bring a smile to the lips of anyone sipping it.
Meyer Family Vineyards also produces a sparkling wine made using the same winemaking techniques as Champagne. Their non-vintage sparkling wine is a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir and features extensive 20-month lees aging with no added dosage, keeping it crisp and focused with green apple and river stone minerality. Owner, Jak Meyer sees great potential for his sparkling wines as the grapes retain great acidity while still reaching maturity and ripe flavor from the Okanagan Valley hot summer. In addition to this NV Extra Brut, they also produce a fresh and crisp Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine.
Canada’s Okanagan Valley represents a hidden frontier for quality wine in North America, and these wines offer some great reasons why they should be in your glass. It is somewhat common for wine lovers to remark over big swirling glasses of red – “this wine needs time”. Time to mature and gracefully age, and live up to all the hope and promise distilled into it from the vineyard and winemaker. Meyer Family Vineyards have dedicated their focus, passion, and energy into capturing this promise in every vintage they bottle. The majority of California wine drinkers probably still will not leave their state when deciding on a bottle, but hopefully after reading this they might be a little more inclined to try and expand their wine horizons. If not, it will mean more delicious Meyer Family Vineyards wines for the rest of us.
Website: Stories of the Vine