Forging a new era of exploration for the Thompson Valley, Monte Creek Ranch Winery offers the next frontier in winemaking. Just a 10-minute drive outside Kamloops City limits, Monte Creek Ranch aims to follow in the footsteps of the area’s early explorers and uncover what the land can offer. The winery, which made its first vintage in 2013, is owned by a family from the Fraser Valley who operate a major plant nursery. Growth has been exponential with current winery production around 15,000 cases.
Monte Creek Ranch sits at the frontier of cool climate viticulture with two vineyards in the South Thompson valley, Lion’s Head vineyard on the north side of the valley, and Monte Creek Ranch vineyard on the south side where the winery resides. Some varieties that are not well suited to the region or varieties that are currently planted in estate vineyards but are not yet in production are purchased from the Okanagan.
Lion’s Head vineyard is a 300-acre property with 20 acres currently planted with grapes. Predominant varieties are Riesling, Frontenac Gris, Frontenac Blanc, and Marquette. The gentle, south facing slope makes this site truly special as it provides optimal sun exposure and superior air drainage. Lion’s Head bluff rears above the vineyard and reflects heat back onto the property. This vineyard is also the site of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay trials being planted in 2015.
Monte Creek Ranch vineyard is a 900-acre property, with 300 acres of valley land. Forty acres are currently planted with grapes. Due to the relatively flat aspect of MCR vineyard, the difference in daylight hours between it and Lion’s Head is minimal, though you will notice the presence of windmills here to aid in air movement for frost protection. This vineyard is planted to a range of varieties, but primarily Marquette, Foch, and La Crescent.
Galen Berhardt grew up in the North Shuswap and developed a passion for wine after 15 years in the restaurant industry and several years travelling the world. In 2009, he returned to school to study at the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) at Brock University in Niagara, Ontario.
Galen began his winemaking career with a vintage in Niagara, followed by Cedar Creek Estate Winery in Kelowna where he worked his way up to the position of Assistant Winemaker. While working with Cedar Creek, he took an opportunity to work with the ultra-premium Pinot Noir producer Ata Rangi in Martinborough, New Zealand. In 2014, Galen moved to Western Australia to work with Cape Mentelle Vineyards.
Galen joined the Monte Creek Ranch team in December of 2014. His broad range of experience has been instrumental in the completion of the winery and the guidance of the winemaking and viticulture. Galen strives to make balanced and elegant wines that are representative of the unique South Thompson terroir.
Challenges of the 2015 vintage
An early bud break, followed by one of the hottest years in BC history, led to the earliest recorded grape harvest. They began picking some of our grapes in August, a full month ahead of schedule. 2015 was all about trying to slow things down. Luckily, the cool South Thompson nights helped to retain plenty of acidity and freshness in the white wines. Meanwhile, the intense heat created some of the most concentrated and deeply coloured red wines they have ever produced.
Monte Creek Ranch Riesling 2015 This classic Riesling beauty is perfectly balanced (residual sugar and acid both 8 g/L) with a brilliant colour and aromas of peach, lime zest, and honeysuckle. It is delicate and dry on the palate with minerality and lively acidity. This cool climate grape loves Kamloops chilly winters and mineral rich soil.
Monte Creek Ranch Hands Up White 2015 This is a blend of 61% Frontenac Blanc, 25% Le Crescent and 14% Viognier. This wine has remarkable aromas and flavours of ripe apricot and peaches. A touch of residual sweetness lifts the aromas and adds weight to the texture. The fruity finish is persistent.
Monte Creek Ranch Rosé 2015 100% Marquette. This red wine grape is a new world creation that ripens early and is well suited to cooler climates. These small berries with pink pulp provide a nice skin-to-juice ratio and a pretty colour, ideal for a crisp and fresh Rosé. It smells like strawberry, rhubarb, cherry and caramelised sugar. The palate is off-dry with medium body.
Monte Creek Ranch Hands Up Red 2014 This unique blend of 59% Marquette, 23% Frontenac Noir, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot is an easy-drinking red, with aromas and flavours of red cherry and red currant.
For more details on the winery please check out the Monte Creek Video
Plans for the future
An application for new 500 seat amphitheatre to be built on-site for large events has been submitted. The proposed amphitheatre will host live music and theatre — a maximum of six events annually — with the bandshell to the south of the winery building. Monte Creek plans to continue to develop the visitors’ experiences when they come to the ranch. A guided walking tour program was launched this year, along the with the opening of the Terrace restaurant. Plans are also to produce a Haskap wine along with continuing to produce Blueberry wine.
If you are in the Kamloops area, please make sure you check out the great cold climate wines at Monte Creek Ranch.
Source: The photos and wine notes are courtesy of Monte Creek Ranch Winery.