Words: Henry Yuen
5782 Mt. Lehman Rd, Abbotsford BC. 604.381.1788 www.singletreewinery.com
Going through all my previous wine articles, the name “Abbotsford” seldom comes up. The fact is, Abbotsford's wine scene is no comparison to “Okanagan”, at least not in the next while. Though along Highway 1, numerous 'Wine Route' signs can be sighted, most wineries are in the municipality of Langley. Similar to neighbouring Langley, there are pockets in Abbotsford where the climate is mild without the harsh winter and rain fall is a lot less than the lower mainland. As much as the wine world stresses the importance of adhering to tradition, things do change one way or another. Abbotsford and nearby municipalities such as Surrey, Pitt Meadows and Chilliwack have started to catch on and become parts of the Fraser Valley wine region. Now that Abbotsford has officially joined in the foray, it is no longer an area of corn fields and blue berry farms. Changes do happen and acreages of farmland have been replaced by vineyards. Singletree Winery is one such venture that re-introduces Abbotsford as a wine-producing region.
Dating back to 2005, owner Garnet Etsell was quite confident that Abbotsford was not necessarily the dry belt of the Fraser Valley area and the family farmland site on hand was ideal for grape-growing, he decided to turn Singletree into a reality winery.Evidently, the terroir in Abbotsford is quite different from Okanagan, thorough research and cautious decisions must take place before anything was planted. It took Singletree five years to do the research and understand the terroir in this particular micro-climate zone. Identifying the varietals that would perform well was the next step. In order to yield positive results, varietal selection has to be diligent.
The word “Singletree” refers to the horse harness tool in the 1800s used by farmers to guide the horse to clear, plough and prepare the earth for farming. Clearly a tribute to the early farming history in that area, a reflection of Garnet's deep roots in this farming community. Having grew up in a blueberry farm and worked for an agricultural group of companies for 30 years, running a winery and vineyard is not out of the realm at all. As a matter of fact, with his extensive agricultural background, it is considered a natural progression to “run your own show”. They now have twelve acres at the foot of Mount Lehman and another two acres close to Abbotsford Airport.
The Etsell family soon realized White varietals would flourish better in this terroir of Abbotsford. Consequently, Siegerrebe, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are the dominating white varietal and Pinot Noir is the only red varietal planted. While waiting for his own vines to bear fruits, the first few vintages were crafted with fruits sourced from the Okanagan under the guidance of Matt Dumayne of Okanagan Crush Pad; a notable springboard for many newly established wineries until they are ready to transition using the fruits from their own vines.
My personal favourite is the Singletree Siegerrebe. Lovely bouquet of Asian fruits, lychee and nectarine is vivid; light and breezy, this wine delivers freshness on the palate and can be enjoyed both indoors and out.
The Singletree Pinot Gris is fresh and lively, deliciously refreshing as a summer drink. Pink grapefruit citrus with a hint of papaya skin dominate the palate.
The Singletree Sauvignon Blanc is pleasantly dry, with melon and lime aroma, it is a great patio sipper; a hint of oak on the finish renders a palate depth. The Singletree Chardonnay mixes cold-fermented and barrel-fermented fruits rendering character and nice structures. A medium Chardonnay that is versatile, filled with peach and green apple skin aroma and a balanced acidity on the finish. Singletree Homestead is a beautiful blend of about 46% Pinot Gris, 23% Gruner Veltliner, 18% Chardonnay and 13% Kerner. The result is a light, fruity and embracing wine with juicy expression of pineapple and honeydew. Another blend Singletree Farmhand White is an everyday white with 77% Pinot Gris and 23% Sauvignon Blanc. Thanks to 100% oak fermentation, this well-balanced wine with only 11.4% alcohol is laced with citrus and melon aroma and a smooth, spicy note at the back end.
The Etsell family has transitioned well into the winery and vineyard life with the father and son team (Garnet & Andrew) tending to the deep roots of their family in the Fraser Valley. They cherish the opportunity to bring their passion to work every day and all the results are there for us to explore. Next time you are in the Abbotsford neighbourhood, drop by their tasting room and check out what the Fraser Valley terroir and the strong agricultural sense of family roots could provide.