Words & Pix: Henry Yuen
Operating a winery is a long-term investment and a patient endeavour. A couple of years for permits and licenses before any planting is done, at least three more years until fruits good enough for winemaking show up, next come the time and labours required for harvesting, pressing, stemming…etc, followed by at least six months of fermentation and winemaking prior to bottling. Another few months easily pass by before the first sale is even registered. On good terms with Mother Nature’s blessing, the time frame for a winery to see the first cash inflow is 6 years. It does take vision, dedication, determination, faith and relentless hard work, besides adequate financial resources, for any winery to thrive.
The family owned Singletree Winery in Abbotsford is one good example of such operation. After more than a decade adapting to the Fraser Valley terroir, the Singletree wine has started to make a name in the wine trade. The second generation now takes care of the day-to-day operation led by Andrew Etsell as the winemaker who crafts signature wines in the region. At a long table dinner to celebrate their harvest, I joined families, friends, business associates and neighbours who are all big fans of the winery to enjoy a sumptuous locally-sourced multi-course family-styled dinner and tasted some of their latest releases. Always down to earth, Andrew kicked off the event by reporting on the 2017 harvest and provided his assessment of the impact of the weather and how different varietals performed. He also shared his thoughts on what could be expected of the 2016 vintage. Raising a glass of the 2016 Gruner Veltliner, Andrew assured everyone, “by all accounts, things are falling into places and the wines are as good as ever.” Cheers to that!
Garnet Etsell created the vision and now his son Andrew is putting in the hard work, equipped with passion and dedication, to ensure the winery is running as planned. The target of 3,000 cases has been achieved and bigger things are expected to happen. By the look of the overwhelming supports shown by friends, neighbours and fans around the long tables, they are happening soon!
Gruner Veltliner is an Austrian varietal not widely grown in BC but strives in the Fraser Valley. Under cool fermentation in stainless steel tank, this fresh and lively wine manages to retain all the aromatic characters. With only 11% alcohol, bright acidity and an alluring stone-fruit bouquet, this wine is a palate pleaser, a perfect welcoming sipper indeed.
For appetizer of smoked Salmon and Panko Prawns, an estate grown Sauvignon Blanc that truly represented the terroir of the area, the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc was poured. A portion of the wine was barrel-fermented in new and neutral French oak and the remainder in stainless steel to render a good balance of the fruity aroma and the roundness in the mouth-feel while maintaining its crisp. This is a light, refreshing and food-friendly everyday wine.
To pair with the creamy, dreamy Butternut Squash Soup, Andrew chose the 2016 Wild Siggy. This Siegerrebe delivers a nice floral note laced with aromatics of lychee, peach and green apple, kissed by a hint of sweetness in the back end.
Braised Short Rib was paired with 2016 Pinot Noir sourced from Summerland in the Okanagan Valley with the collaboration of consulting winemaker Matt Dumayne of Okanagan Crush Pad. While this is a light to medium-bodied Pinot Noir, it does not lack in flavour. Nice dashes of strawberries and red fruits leading to a hint of spices and a rustic earthy finish. The 9 months in French oak provides subtle tannins. Though considered a light red, the wine has enough complexity to match the short rib.
Pan-seared Sablefish was paired with the 2016 Pinot Gris which was fermented in concrete tank giving both depth and richness to this wine. While acidity is maintained, there is adequate pear and apricot notes to round out the palate, adding mellow sensation to the fatty and melt-in-your mouth sablefish.
The finale was the 2016 Late Harvest Kerner and a country style Creme Brule. It was cool fermented in stainless steel to preserve the acidity while providing the honeydew, nectarine and Asian fruit notes for a syrupy mouth-feel. Do enjoy this Late Harvest on its own and savoured its well-balanced sweetness and acidity.