This is a follow-up to my November post on the Black Market Wine Company, owned by Rob Hammersley and Michelle Shewchuk. We had the opportunity this week to travel to the BC Wine Studio in Okanagan Falls to taste some barrels of Rob and Michelle’s latest vintages. We also ran into Stephen Carter, the owner of the Hawk’s Vineyard that surrounds the BC Wine Studio facility and his faithful dog’s Grapes and Bubbles.
Rob and Michelle had just completed a very successful Calgary Winefest. Two wines, two awards: Secret Society won Best White > $20 and The Syndicate was runner-up as Best Red > $30.
Secret Society White
The blend is not disclosed on the label, likely to underline the mystique suggested by the name. The word on the street is that the blend contains Gewürztraminer (50%), Ehrenfelser (45%) and Chardonnay (5%). The Ehrenfelser was aged six weeks in acacia barrels to add some textural complexity. An aromatic white, the wine is crisp and dry and food friendly. The 2014 Secret Society is almost sold out. The 2015 vintage will be released later this spring.
New this year is a blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc/ 40% Sémillon for the 2015 vintage. The grapes for the blend come from Road 20 in Oliver on the west side of the valley. This block is ideally located for morning sun which helped to mitigate the aggressive ripening seen in the 2015 vintage. The Sémillon was aged in a new French oak puncheon for 4 months to give it some creaminess on the texture to soften the Sauvignon Blanc. The Sauvignon Blanc was tank fermented and aged. This elegant creamy white has good acid levels for food with a crisp orange blossom, caramelized citrus and grapefruit, a beautiful fragrance, medium to full body and nicely integrated oak. The 2015 Collusion will be released in May.
The Syndicate Red
The blend for the 2013 vintage is Cabernet Sauvignon (37%), Merlot (36%), Cabernet Franc (23%) and Petit Verdot (4%). The Cabernet Sauvignon contributes notes of mint to the red fruit aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of black currant and blueberries with hints of coffee and chocolate. The texture is concentrated. We had the opportunity to taste the components of the 2014 Syndicate. The standout was the Petit Verdot with it’s beautiful floral aroma, full-bodied and with great fruit concentration. The Merlot, sourced from a single vineyard in Naramata with old vines, is big with very mellow tannins. The Cab Franc is excellent and could be released as a single varietal. The inaugural 2012 vintage of this wine sold out in just 6 months. The 2013 vintage has just been released.
The Syrah will be released in the fall. Rob’s preference is for a little more acid in his reds wines. He intends to make a Northern Rhône style Syrah. Northern Rhône reds are often identified by their signature aromas of green olive and smoky bacon. The 2014 Syrah has been in oak for 16 months so far and will be bottled in April. He experimented with large 500-liter puncheon style barrels for 2015 and loves the quality and flavours the wine is already showing. The objective was to decrease the percentage of wood to wine. The Syrah grapes come from the Osoyoos East Bench and were cropped at about 3.5 tons per acre. Rob is also experimenting with the smaller neutral oak barrels before a final decision on the 2015 Syrah makeup is made.
Rob is also doing a trial on a small batch of a single vineyard Pinot Noir from the 2015 vintage that tasted very well even after just 3 months in oak. The grapes are from an established vineyard in North Oliver from where Rob sources his Cab Franc. From the barrel tasting, this wine is definitely going to be a darker medium plus body Pinot, with black cherry notes, which is the style I prefer. The wine was simply crushed and fermented and put in barrels, so Rob could determine the true nature of the fruit. Keep your eye out for this Pinot.
Summing up the challenges of the warm 2015 vintage, Rob said it was all about managing the delicate balance between sugar and acid levels in the grapes.
Black Market released around 220 cases in 2015, their first year on the market. For 2016 he expects to release 140 cases of Collusion 2015, 120 cases of Secret Society 2015, and 120 cases each of The Syndicate 2013 and Syrah 2014 for around 500 cases total. The longer term objective is to nurture the Black Market brand while growing to around 2000 cases per year and to set up their own winery.
We spent a great afternoon with Rob and Michelle. I’m looking forward to the release of the new Black Market BC wines. I expect them to sell fast like last year. So put your order in early!