Thousands of years ago, when the South Thompson River ran a different course, the land that now holds the Thadd Springs Vineyard was the nomadic riverside home to 30 bands of Secwepemc (or Shuswap) whose people camped along the river. Renowned BC pioneer and rancher Thaddeus Harper used the grounds as a camp and staging area, as cattle were driven from the U.S. to the Chilcotin to Harper’s Gang Ranch. Ed and Vicki Collett bought the land for Kamloops first winery, Harper’s Trail, in 2007.
Wine entered Ed and Vicki’s lives gradually. Throughout his career, Ed visited wine regions in other parts of the world, particularly Australia and Chile, and was struck by the similarity in climate to the Thompson River Valley. The possibility of starting a vineyard crept into the couples’ minds and a weekend getaway overlooking the vines in the Okanagan cemented the desire to create their own vineyard. Along the way, they came to recognise that the land they had chosen for their vineyard had so much more under the surface than just ideal limestone-veined grape-growing soil.
Harper’s Trail Winery is surrounded by the Thadd Springs vineyard, a stone’s throw from the South Thompson River, just on the outskirts of Kamloops. The soil is officially classified as clay, but one thing that thrills the winery team is the vein of limestone that runs through the property. The vineyard was first planted in 2008 and with subsequent plantings now contains 24 acres of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir.
Michael Bartier, the former chief winemaker at Crush Pad, left there at the end of 2014. He now devotes himself to his own Bartier Brothers winery and to consulting for clients like Harper’s Trail. A seasoned and respected winemaker born and raised in the Okanagan Valley, Michael has earned a deserved reputation for quality wine production over the last two decades. His experience includes making wine at Township 7, Stag’s Hollow, Road 13 Vineyards, Okanagan Crush Pad Winery, and Bartier Bros. Michael’s winemaking style is driven by his belief that wine is meant to be enjoyed with food, and the wines should always speak of where they came from; in our case, a breathtaking and pristine landscape.
Vicki and Michael provided the following update on the new vintage. “The 2016 vintage was a challenge. With above average temperatures in February, we had early bud break April 4, beginning with Cabernet Franc. Shortly thereafter, we endured a few nights of frost in which we had to use our wind machines to protect the fragile buds that had just burst. In July, we sustained about 10% damage throughout the vineyard due to a hailstorm that passed through. Luckily it was early enough in the season that there was no residual microbial impact. Harvest began August 31, beginning with Gewurztraminer, then resumed in October as cool weather and rain in September suppressed the sugar development.
In mid-October we experienced two nights where the temperature dropped below -5C in the vineyard, which forced us (even with the use of wind machines) to harvest the Cabernet Franc and Riesling, that were still hanging on the vine. Overall, it was our largest harvest to date totalling 94 tonnes from our 24 acre Thadd Springs Vineyard, where we continue to produce premium cool climate wines that reflect the Thompson Valley and its attributes.”
Harper’s Trail Chardonnay 2014 Alcohol 13.1%, Brix 22.5, pH 3.28, TA 6.75 This wine is ripe, crisp and refreshing – full of fruit flavours including pineapple, peach and citrus – and is completed with a long, refreshing and stony finish. Match this Chardonnay with shellfish, seafood bisque and pasta with cream sauce.
Harper’s Trail Pioneer Block Riesling 2016 Alcohol 11.6%, Brix 21.2, pH 2.68, TA 8.5 Refreshing citrus aromas are balanced with an earthy, minerally background and a long finish, making this an extremely versatile food wine. Try it with charcuterie, soft cheeses, sushi, or spicy prawns.
Harper’s Trail Cabernet Franc 2015 Alcohol13.1%, Brix 23.0, pH 3.78, TA 6.0 Earthy, complex, and elegant with notes of capsicum, black cherry, plum, and cigar box. Firm tannins make it a perfect accompaniment to roasted meat, especially lamb.
For the complete selection of Harper’s Trail wines, please go to the winery website.
Vicki provided the following information on the winery’s future plans. “Vineyard expansion over the next 10 years will include planting 48 additional acres of vinifera; expanding on existing varietals of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Riesling. The plan includes the introduction of Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Our objective is to control growth and quality while maintaining market share.”
Source: Background, photos and tasting notes from the winery website.