After a decision to change careers and enter the wine world Jak Meyer and Janice Stevens-Meyer spent three years searching for the perfect vineyard site in the Okanagan Valley. In 2006 they purchased a small 1.62 Hectare vineyard on the Naramata bench. In late 2008 they purchased a 6.9 Hectare property in Okanagan Falls. Their business philosophy is to hire the best winemaker and viticulturists and focus on small lot single vineyard wines using traditional Burgundian methods. They produce less than 6000 cases annually from mature 18 to 20-year-old vines, they strive to produce the finest wines possible. Meyer is one of a small group of BC wineries focused on terroir and sub-appellations to make exceptional wines (2). The 2013 McLean Road Vineyard Pinot Noir was nominated in the April Decanter as one of the best Pinot Noir in the World outside of Burgundy and receiving a Highly Recommended rating.
Meyer Family Vineyards thrives on having each wine reflects the single vineyard of its origin, the soil, the climate, the slope. The carefully selected grapes are grown on three main vineyards:
1. McLean Creek Road Vineyard, Okanagan Falls, BC
This is the home vineyard where the tasting room is located. The vineyard has a predominantly steep southerly aspect with the soil comprised of alluvial and glacial deposits making up a mix of gravel and sandy loams. The largest of these blocks has a steep southerly aspect for capturing the full range of the sun, the second block has a gently sloping westerly aspect giving a slightly higher temperature from the afternoon sun and the third and coolest of the blocks has a north-west aspect. Varietals grown include Chardonnay – 3.5 acres; Pinot Noir – 8.5 acres planted and Gewurztraminer – 4 acres.
2. Old Main Road Vineyard, Naramata, BC
This vineyard is located on a terrace that has a gentle northerly aspect with the soil comprised of alluvial deposits making up a silt loam overlying a clay loam. The fifteen-year-old vineyard has 4 acres planted with Chardonnay vines.
3. Reimer Vineyard, Kelowna, BC
This vineyard has a moderately steep northwesterly aspect with the soil comprised of alluvial and wind-blown deposits making up a silt loam overlaying a gravel loam. The 6-acre vineyard is planted with 100% Pinot Noir; a mix of French Pommard and Dijon clones.
Chris Carson – Winemaker
Chris returned to Canada in 2008 after eight years spent in New Zealand, California and Montrachet. He brings his expertise in crafting award-winning wines. Chris is hands on in the vineyard, following the grape from pruning to harvest and creating excellent wines. He especially loves the heartbreak grape, Pinot Noir and supervised the planting of 9000 new pinot vines at the McLean Creek Road Vineyard. A graduate of Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand with his Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology, Chris Carson brings with him his extensive enthusiasm and skills in all areas of winemaking and production.
Meyer Family McLean Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 – Light toasty, dark cherry nose. Dry, medium plus body, with some minerality. Ripe raspberries, red cherries and some vanilla. Pepperiness sneaks in mid palate to finish with a hint of liquorice on a full and silky palate.
Meyer Family McLean Creek Chardonnay 2014 This is an intense Chardonnay with a crisp finish. It begins with citrus aromas. On the palate, there is a medley of tangerine and stone fruit flavours around a good spine of minerality.
Meyer Family Rosé 2015 This is a deeply coloured, Pinot Noir-based rosé with strawberries and spice on the palate. The rich and creamy textured mouth feel is balanced out by bright acidity and minerality.
You can read the complete listing of wines and their tasting notes here.
I had the opportunity to discuss with Jak Meyer how he was able to successfully develop such a strong export channel for Meyer Family Vineyard wines. Here is a summary of the Q&A.
- How were you able to achieve the full corporate listing in 169 Marks and Spencer stores in the UK? This came about due to Marks and Spencer coming to BC looking for a Canadian wine. I was introduced to them due to the fact that I was already exporting to the UK through Ellis of Richmond and interested in export markets. It is still shocking how few BC wineries are actively pursuing this market! I met with them and we negotiated a deal to be able to provide the wine and the label and at a price that made us both very happy.
- Any info you can share on how you successfully entered the other 6 markets. Not sure if China is one of the Markets, but I would be really interested in this story? Again my interest in exporting is twofold. One to expand our sales channels and have some diversification. I always said the day that there is an earthquake in Vancouver half the BC wineries will be out of business overnight. Secondly, I was tired of hearing the comments of either “oh you make ice wine or didn’t know you made wine in Canada”. I felt it is important to get our wines outside of BC in order for the rest of the world to know about them. The distributors I have found have been from continually looking for opportunities and people interested in importing our wines. I expect to grow our US distribution and add a distributor into Norway this year. Our agent in China is an ex-Vancouverite who I knew already. He was starting out with a small firm and I was interested in working with him and growing slowly.
- What distributors are you employing? We have been with International Cellars since about 2010 who represent us for Western Canada. I have distributors in Quebec and Newfoundland. I self-distribute to Nova Scotia and Ontario. I have distributors in each of the export countries we deal with as well.
- Any comments on the keys to success for exporting BC Wine? It is like any other sale to any other person. You have to be willing, actively looking and patient. I have gone from banging on doors to getting a call every month or two unsolicited asking if we are interested in exporting. I can definitely feel the momentum shifting and interest growing.
Future Plans and 2016 Vintage
I was also fortune to have Jak share information on their future plans and the 2016 vintage. “We are now in the 6,000-7,000 case per year range. It is my interest to increase sales to about 10,000 cases which we have the capacity for now. However, I am only interested in increasing our higher end single vineyard premium wines. I am fully aware this is a slow growth but is also a very loyal and long term approach. We feel the greatest opportunity is direct shipping and marketing our BC Wine across Canada by way of online sales and our wine club.”
2016 is looking very good. We are ahead of normal by about 3 weeks and very good fruit set. We will start harvest this week and likely finish everything before the end of September.
I would definitely recommend a trip to Meyer Family Vineyards the next time you are travelling through Okanagan Falls.
- Background information and BC Wine tasting notes provided by Meyer Family Vineyards.
- Anthony Gismondi: B.C. Pinot Noirs snapping at Burgundy’s heels