During our recent trip to Naramata, we were invited to Black Widow Winery, to see the Gewürztraminer harvest and experience the crush first hand. Shannon Lancaster did an excellent job describing the crush process and as an added bonus provided samples of Sauser for us to taste. We tried the freshly pressed Gewürztraminer grape juice and some Schönburger sauser that was a few days old. They were both interesting and delicious. Still white in appearance with some bubbles from the suspended yeast, sauser is an alcoholic beverage but usually less than 4% alcohol.
Suuser – or also referred to as sauser – is fruity and sweet, with a refreshing acidity and appealing fizz. It is mostly foggy in appearance, but don’t let that put you off. The cloudy look is simply the result of the juice not being filtered before its bottled¹.
Rumour has it that Sauser was invented by the Swiss. One year following a bountiful harvest, there was not sufficient wine making equipment for all the grape juice resulting from the crush. Enter Sauser, an excellent way to work done the juice inventory!
Dick and Shona Lancaster purchased the 7-acre Naramata Bench vineyard in 2000 and started right away planting more vines. In 2006, they built the Black Widow Winery and released their first single vineyard wines. Today the annual production averages 2,200 cases– all from grapes grown on the Naramata Bench within a short walk of the winery. Many of our wines have won awards in National and International competitions.
Dick has a background originally in Biology (BSc., MSc.), an MBA in marketing and finance, and over 30 years amateur winemaking experience so the transition from a professional accountant (CMA) to grape grower/winemaker was very natural. Their daughter Shannon joined them full-time for the 2011 crush as assistant winemaker, helping in all aspects of the vineyard, B&B, and the winery.
Naramata Bench Vineyard
The Black Widow Estate sits on a steep slope adjacent to Naramata Road. This provides dramatic views of the region and an ideal micro-climate for growing many varieties of grapes. Proximity to the lake on the west and rock bluffs to the east contribute to a long, frost-free growing season.
The white wine varieties were planted in 1997-1998, while the reds were added in 2001-2002. The Lancaster’s have made many changes to improve grape quality, including the installation of drip irrigation, and trellising using the Scot Henry system.
Grape growing is very labour intensive. Pruning is done by hand in the winter. Shoots are thinned in early summer, sucker, trim excess growth, and leaves pulled to expose fruit to sunlight as the summer progresses. During early stages of ripening (veraison), the vineyard team thins the green fruit to reduce the crop level so that the remaining bunches will fully mature. All harvesting is done by hand and only top quality fruit is selected.
Unfortunately, the tasting room was closed the day we visited the winery. For the full list of Black Widow wines please go to the following link.
Reference: 1. Suuser Festivals by the Laughing Lemon.
You should definitely visit Black Widow Winery the next time you are in Naramata.