The Summa Quis of Howling Bluff Estate Winery

Words: Henry Yuen                            Pix: Howling Bluff Estate Winery

You can’t argue with that in the business world, everything boils down to numbers. The success or failure is measured in numbers at the bottom-line. When it comes to the business and financial sides of things, Luke Smith, owner of Howling Bluff Estate Winery, is in the driver seat, and fittingly so since he used to be an investment banker who knows his numbers.

However, in the wine-making industry, there are other driving forces to make it work, the love of wine and the passion to produce quality wines triumph over  other determinants. Luke Smith who dropped his suit and tie in exchange for work boots and gloves to work in the vineyards will gladly attest to it.  Luke is a firm believer that while numbers are important, one needs to follow the heart.  Thanks to his Mom who was a staff of the Vancouver International Food & Wine Society, Luke has been exposed to good food and wine.  Yet, it still is a 180 degree career change and not too many people can or are willing to contemplate. It took twelve years in the making for Howling Bluff Estate Winery to start enjoying the fruits of his vision and desire. No small feat whatsoever for someone who took the plunge first and sort out things later. Judging by the quality of the wines and the awards garnered, this ex-investment banker's instinct is paying off.

During a recent phone interview, Luke sounded as excited as the first day of operation, more so since 2016 is their 10th release, a milestone for sure. He admitted to the trials and errors in the early days but was happy with the overall results and he was especially delighted for the Old World Burgundian style varietals chosen for his vineyard in the Naramata Bench.

According to Luke, 2015 had a rather hot and dry summer, the budding came quickly prompting everything to operate fast. Howling Bluff, as the name implies, does have the blessing of stronger winds to keep the surface cool. Other than applying efforts to slow down the ripeness a bit and less trimming to increase the shades; and to let the vines to grow without too much pruning, 2015 was not too challenging, except for tending the whites to ensure them not to ripe too rapidly so to retain adequate acidity. The warmer climate was in fact magnificent for his Reds. Luke gives credit to the western terroir facing Howling Bluff up in Naramata Bench. "It is ideal for all these varietals: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot etc. even though each plot is slightly different."

His current production is about 2,500 cases with about two-thirds in Whites and balance in mostly Pinot Noir which he is extra proud of. After 24 months aging, the 2014 is being bottled now. While some days are superhot, the north south wind provides the breeze as the balance factor throughout the days and evenings, 2016 is looking good and projected to be a better year than 2015 with maybe a week or two ahead of last year.

Tasting notes:
2015 Summa Quies Sauvignon Blanc is a terroir-driven Sauvignon Blanc.  Impressive Asian fruits aroma of papaya, star fruits and crispy pear rounding to a refreshing citrus note on the palate.

2015 Summa Quies Rose is cold soaked for 2 days to extract the lovely salmon hue and flavours of the Pinot Noir. Its floral and fruity notes of raspberry and blood orange peel pours sunshine into the palate, a yummy fun wine for the easy-breezy patio moments.

2012 Summa Quies Pinot Noir is their flagship wine offering lots of plum, cherries and red fruits aroma with hints of cedar and rustic notes on the finish. A well-crafted and inviting wine that has garnered international awards, one that deserves any Pinot Noir lover's attention.

The just released 2012 Summa Quies Sin Cera is my personal favourite. A blend of Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, it was aged for 18 months in French oak and a further 2 years in bottle to increase the lusciousness of this velvelty red blend. The objective is to release wines only when they are ready to be enjoyed is nicely-achieved. The aroma of black plums and ripened cherries harmonized with the silky-smooth mouth feel in the lingering finish.

Howling Bluff will soon be releasing their signature 2015 Summa Quies Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend and a Barrel Select Sauvignon Blanc that was aged four months in French oak to balance the fine acidity. Stay tuned!
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