Although the Okanagan Valley is the largest wine region, the Fraser Valley is much closer for Richmond residents. Domaine Chaberton in Langley was the first winery, which opened in 1991. Today there are over twenty wineries with Siegerrebe, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Bacchus being the top grapes planted.
Singletree, a small but vibrant family winery opened in the Fraser Valley in 2014 at Abbotsford’s Mt. Lehman. It’s named after the single harness yoke that allowed pioneering farmers to use horses to clear the Fraser Valley land for farming. Owned and operated by the Etsell family, it has UCLA Davis trained winemaker, Andrew Etsell behind the portfolio of wines available for tasting and purchase.
I recently tasted a trio of Andrew’s wines. His 2018 Singletree Victory ($20.77) is a perfect wine to begin a tasting. It's a frothy, fruity, refreshing wine. This Frizzante is produced from Siegerrebe grapes grown on the 12 acre Mt. Lehman estate vineyard. Frizzante wines are gently sparkling; the level of effervescence is lower than Spumante or Champagne. The Victory name comes from the grape’s name, Siegerrebe which means “victory grape.”
The bubbles are made by the Charmat Process, which creates the effervescence in a large tank rather than the slower and more expensive Champagne process in the bottle. When you pop the cap on Victory, there is a frothy mousse with a ripe apple cider and peach aroma. It enjoys a creamy texture with an apple peach flavour and a sprinkle of spice. There’s also a crisp acidity to balance the ample fruit and the slightly off-dry finish. The Victory will add some sparkle to your next brunch.
I also enjoyed the Singletree 2019 Pinot Gris ($17.30). It’s a blend of 75-per-cent Fraser Valley grapes from their Mt. Lehman vineyards and 25-per-cent Okanagan fruit from their Naramata vineyards. Although technically it’s a dry wine, the ripe fruit gives it an off-dry impression in the finish, which complements the acidity. I liked the tropical fruit personality with pineapple, lime, and mango. A juicy white with clean flavours and crispness to get your appetite going. Pinot Gris is a versatile wine so match it with brie or gruyere cheese, macaroni and cheese, fish tacos, or veal with prosciutto, fontina, and caper sauce.
And switching colours, I uncorked the elegant 2016 Harness ($30.35) from the excellent 2016 vintage in Naramata. It's a classic Meritage blend of 35-per-cent Merlot, 35-per-cent Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and five-per-cent Petit Verdot. At the 2020 All Canadian Wine Awards, the Harness earned a silver medal.
The aroma reveals violets and red and black fruit with tobacco leaf. On the palate there’s ripe plums, black cherries, and cassis together with fine tannins and a chocolate port finish.
Decant for at least an hour to enjoy the complexity. Serve with grilled butterflied lamb with rustic porcini sauce or prime rib with Yorkshire pudding.
The winery is open daily from 12 to 5:30 p.m. but closed Monday and Tuesday. There’s free shipping on wine orders of six or more bottles. Joining the Singletree Wine Club (it’s free) entitles you to have first access to latest releases, library wines, and exclusive offerings. Plus there’s a 15 per cent discount off regular prices at the winery. Twice a year, Singletree winemaker Andrew Etsell selects the club wines for the April and November deliveries. All white selection prices are between $207 and $249, all red ranges from $207 to $364, and a mixed selection costs from $207 to $364.Something that’s really popular at Singletree are the Di Vine Domes. There are two plastic domes next to the vineyard that offer a cozy space for small groups from the same household to enjoy wine tasting and charcuterie boards. This feature is so popular there is a waiting list. For more information visit Singletree Winery's website.