As the Canada Day weekend was drawing to a close we headed to Lake Country and a stop at Ex Nihilo Vineyards. The holiday weekend was a busy time for the Okanagan Valley wineries and we were greeted with a full parking lot when we arrived. We found a spot as a wine enthusiast was leaving and headed for the 8000 sq. ft. winery and Tasting Room. Ex Nihilo has a great layout with abstract art lining the walls and the private tasting room, so we browsed the art while waiting for a spot at the tasting bar to open up.
The Ex Nihilo owners are Jeff and Decoa Harder, Jay and Twila Paulson. On their first holiday together, Jeff and Decoa came across the sculpture of Ex Nihilo at an art gallery in San Francisco. They immediately fell in love with the carving of Ex Nihilo and its translation, a Latin word meaning ‘out of nothing.’ Frederick Hart’s original Ex Nihilo, depicting creation, adorns the west façade of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC. They decided at that moment that Ex Nihilo would be the perfect name for the winery that they had discussed and dreamed of having. Jeff felt that the name would suit their winery as it would have to be created from nothing, with respect to their pocket book. Ex Nihilo, the name, and the sculpture reminded Decoa of how grape vines come out of the ground to produce the fruit that is then made into wine, a new vintage is created every year.
Jay and Twila Paulson, who had gone to high school with Jeff and have been great friends ever since came out from Alberta to visit that Christmas. They had also discovered a passion for wine; Jay had just finished his Sommelier certification. The first time they all walked the steep untouched 10 – acre property they saw the great potential to create a special place. Two adjoining property were recently purchased that increase the vineyards to 23-acres.
Wine Making Team
Jay Paulson, Proprietor, crafts the wines under Consulting Winemaker Dr. Alan Marks. Dr. Alan Marks has made wine commercially since 1987 in North America, relocating to the Okanagan in 1994. He also consults for a number of other Lake Country wineries. Jay and Alan are passionate and dedicated to making Ex Nihilo wines stand paramount.
Retirement from teaching has never kept Decoa’s father, Gordon Tucker, so busy. His meticulous approach to the vineyard has helped the Lake Country site prosper. Gord can be found tending to each individual vine on the property from sun up to sun down throughout most of the growing season. We happened to meet Gordon tending the vines as we left the parking lot and had a brief discussion on how the Pinot Noir grape berries will shortly change colour (veraison).
Ex Nihilo Vineyards sX Tous Pinot Noir Sparkling Rosé 2015. 14% Alcohol, 5.3 g/L acidity and 2.4 g/L residual sugar. What strikes you first with this bubbly is the lovely hint of orange colouration. This is a beautifully balanced brut sparkler featuring strawberry, peach, rhubarb and cranberry on the palate. Made with the Saignée method, which is capable of producing some of the longest lasting Rosé wines. It is actually a by-product of red winemaking. During the fermentation of a red wine about 10% of the juice is bled off. This process leaves a higher ratio of skin contact on the remaining juice, making the resulting red wine richer and bolder. The leftover bled wine or “Saignée” is then fermented into Rosé. Wines made from the Saignée method are typically much darker than maceration method wines and also much more savory.
Ex Nihilo Vineyards Pinot Gris 2014. 13.1% Alcohol, 6.8 g/L acidity and 4.8 g/L residual sugar. A Juicy and crisp, this wine displays notes of pineapple, citrus, mango and passion fruit. Well balanced with a delicate, lingering finish of ripe tropical fruits and spice. This is a very enjoyable, easy drinking, off-dry wine.
Ex Nihilo Vineyards Privata Chardonnay 2014. 12.8% Alcohol, 6.0 g/L acidity and 0.5 g/L residual sugar. The grapes were hand harvested and brought into the winery and gently foot stomped in bin, then de-stemming, crushing, and gentle full extraction pressing. 60% was then fermented in new oak (60% French & 40% convection toasted American) with the remainder in stainless steel. Convection toasting delivers a uniform toast throughout the oak, exhibiting more sweet characters in the aromatics and increased viscosity on the palate. The chardonnay was aged 8 months sur lie experiencing bi-weekly batonnage. This results in a dry, rich and creamy wine with butterscotch and caramel aromas and flavours of ripe mango, pineapple, and citrus.
Ex Nihilo Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014. 13% Alcohol, 6.0 g/L acidity and 1.1 g/L residual sugar. The grapes were handpicked off both the Lake Country and Vernon vineyard site on November 2 and 3. After the whole berry fermented in stainless tanks, the 2014 Pinot Noir was then aged for 9 months in 100% French oak, 20% new oak barrels. What strikes you first is the violets led aroma with ripe red cherries, strawberry, and coffee. The silky smooth texture is well balanced with dark spice on the finish. Drink now through 2018.
Ex Nihilo Vineyards Privata 2013. 14% Alcohol, 7.5 g/L acidity and 2.0 g/L residual sugar. Some things are meant to be kept private. A rare treasure motivates the spirit to maintain exclusivity. Yet it is a privilege to have the option to keep it confidential or to share the exquisite find. We choose the latter…for now! 100% French Oak – 19 months. My guess, which is more than likely completely wrong, is a Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet with perhaps a touch of Petit Verdot to give the inky purple tint to the colour.
It was a very busy afternoon and we made the mistake of not reserving a table in the Chaos Bistro before starting the wine tasting. Anyway, our server Desmond was extremely innovative and started us off at a table in the barrel room while we waited for an outside table to open up. As we finished the first glass of our bottle of sX Tous Pinot Noir Sparkling Rosé 2015, Desmond escorted us to a lovely table for two, right next to the Pinot Noir vines. We finished the lunch with an excellent Charcuterie Board.
Ex Nihilo should be a definite stop the next time you are in Lake Country. You can take a guess at the varietals in their mystery Privata wine too!