Nichol Vineyard has been operating in Naramata Bench, using 100% Naramata fruit, since 1993. Owner and winemaker Ross Hackworth’s priority for the small estate winery is to produce world-class wines. For example, the 2012 Syrah placed 4th versus global competition at the 2015 Judgement of BC. Since 2006 he has been at the helm creating premium, limited vintage wines, carrying on the tradition of his parents.
The vineyards sit on a pocket of land tucked against steep, heat-radiating red granite cliffs. The vines are perfectly situated under the former Kettle Valley Railway and above Okanagan Lake. This site offers the ideal place to grow grapes that produce wines with intense fruit and bright acidity in perfect balance.
Looking west across from the vineyard and over Okanagan Lake, you can see the shores of Summerland and the landmark Giant’s Head Mountain. The soils at Nichol Vineyard were created during the prehistoric time when volcanic activity and glaciation provided the terroir that generates fine wines.
The Syrah vineyard was the first to be planted in Canada and consists of 17 rows planted on granite in the north-east portion of the vineyard. All of the vineyards are west and south facing and range from 1400-1500 feet in elevation.
We happened to run into Ross harvesting Pinot Gris when we stopped by the winery. He mentioned that this year’s harvest was very similar to last year but he was lucky not to be affected by the September rain. Some local vineyard had Botrytis mould problems due to too dense a canopy limiting air flow. His famous Syrah grapes will not be picked for another month.
We were fortunate to have Nicole Hackworth pour and provide the background on the following wines. All wines are 100% Naramata village.
2015 Nichol Vineyard Pinot Gris – The vines were planted from 1990-2005 on a mix of granite, granite shard, loess and glacial till. The grapes were hand-picked on September 12, 2015. Gently crushed and left to settle on the skins for 36 hours in open top fermenters. Pressed of the skins with fermentation taking place in a combination of 2 tonne open top fermenters and 5+ year old French barriques. Gently filtered and bottled in February 2016. Clear and youthful with a beautiful salmon hue. Aromas of peach pit, apricot, ginger and apple skin. Medium bodied with citrus and orchard fruit on the dry but concentrated palate. Fresh acidity carries the grapefruit tinged finish.
2014 Nichol Vineyard “Nine Mile” Red – Nine Mile was named after the original name of Naramata village. This wine is a unique barrel selection of St. Laurent and Pinot Noir. St. Laurent (sometimes written in French as Saint Laurent or in German as Sankt Laurent) is a highly aromatic dark-skinned wine grape variety and is the most widely planted red grape variety in the Czech Republic. There is less than an acre of St.Laurent planted in British Columbia ¹. Both varietals are hand-picked then gently de-stemmed into open top fermenters with fermentation taking place on the skins. After primary fermentation, they are basket pressed with the malolactic taking place in neutral French barrique. They are racked once after primary and once before bottling. Unfined and unfiltered. Barrel selection took place in December 2015. Bottled in March 2016. Bright, youthful cherry in colour. Delicate aromatics of wild strawberry, thyme and red flowers. Medium bodied and juicy with cranberry, red cherry and sweet herbs.
2013 Nichol Vineyard Cabernet Franc – Hand-picked on October 22, 2013. De-stemmed into open top fermenters. Basket pressed with the malolactic taking place in neutral French barrique. Raised in neutral (3-6 years old) French oak barrels for 12 months. Racked twice and bottled unfined and unfiltered in March 2015. Dark ruby. Youthful, vibrant. Rhubarb, soil and cranberry on the nose. Crunchy, packed palate of sage, iron and sweet rhubarb. The tannins are firm but very fine.
Nicole also introduced us to NaramataSlow. The grounds of the Naramata Centre will be the site of the community’s first NaramataSlow Long Table Potluck Dinner on Sunday, October 9th. The meal will be provided by the guests ‘potluck-style’ where guests will be challenged to showcase as much Naramata grown, raised or sourced ingredients in their dish to share. A library of recipes from the afternoon’s meal will be compiled and available for future use on the NaramataSlow Pinterest board.
If you are in Naramata for Thanksgiving please make sure to check out Nichol Vineyards and NaramataSlow Potluck Dinner.
Source: 1. 2014 BC Wine Grape Acreage report