Skip to content

Column: Naramata winery celebrates a decade with French tradition

B.C. residents opened a virtual winery for three years before it was formally built.

Roche Wines, a small artisan winery on the Naramata Bench is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. In May 2011, Dylan and Pénélope Roche left France and began the long process of establishing what became Roche Wines in 2014.

Although the couple has deep roots in the French tradition, it actually began with Dylan who was from North Vancouver. With an interest in wine and France, the land of his ancestors, he moved to Beaune, Burgundy in 2000.  

There he worked for a travel company, which led to rapid wine education. “Work was a connection to French families, many of whom were vignerons and winemakers. Through that contact, I was tasting wines that rearranged my perspective really fast.  How could wines be this good, this complex? And that started a process of curiosity and I had to know how this could be made and how it could come about,” Dylan said.

Dylan enrolled in a University of Dijon wine course focused on someone who would take over a small family wine operation. He worked two vintages in Chablis and Pommard -- two of Burgundy's famous regions -- and then worked in a New Zealand winery where he met his future wife. Pénélope had also arrived from France to learn more about winemaking.

When they returned to France, they lived with Pénélope’s family at their small Bordeaux winery, Chateau Carmes Haut Brion in the famous Graves district. Having earned their wine diplomas, Pénélope continued her father’s work of bringing the wines to their fullest potential while Dylan helped in the background. By 2005 they were selling wines with the top 50 wineries in Bordeaux.

By 2011, the Roches decided to move to the Okanagan when the family estate had to be sold. Dylan explains, “We decided to come here based on the idea there might be more for us to offer and freedom here than in a crowded rigid structure in France.  We decided to come to Penticton because it’s not too big and not too small. It’s central and the climate here benefits from the influence of the north and south end of the valley. It tempers the heat. We really believe that long and slow ripening is one of the keys is to good wine.”

In 2014 they bought an eight-acre vineyard in Naramata and created a virtual winery to prove they could make and sell wine. In 2017 the winery was built.

I have recently tasted a variety of their current releases and if you enjoy rosé, their Roche 2020 Rosé is a winner ($21.90)!

Picked at the Domaine Roche Vineyard, it has a gorgeous pink rosé hue. Its aroma displays berry and floral scents from the 92-per-cent Zweigelt and eight per cent aromatic Schonberger blend.

Raspberries and strawberries greet your palate as you taste the fresh elegant wine with a dry finish. Barbecued pork, spot prawns, or passaladiere would match the joyful flavours of this pink vino.

The 2018 Nuances ($32.90) is a complex Bordeaux blend of 58-per-cent Merlot, 24-per-cent Cabernet Franc, and 18-per-cent Cabernet Sauvignon. The Merlot originates from Naramata’s Kozier Organic Vineyard, while the two Cabs are grown near Oliver. The grapes were hand-harvested, fermented in stainless steel, and aged for a year in French oak.

The Nuances reveals a seductive bouquet of red and black fruit with gentle vanilla and cigar box scents. There are smooth flavours of plums, black cherry, and cassis with herbal nuances, medium tannins, fresh acidity, and a savoury chocolate finish. Enjoy lamb shanks, steak frites or any recipe with tomatoes.

I asked Dylan whether he is trying to imitate French Bordeaux or is he trying to make a unique B.C. wine. He answered, “We have our roots in France but we’re not trying to make the wines taste like they’re French. I think our wines taste different from what they taste like in Bordeaux. Part of that is our short hot summers where we accumulate sugar and tannin faster. In Naramata, It ripens but it doesn’t lose that juiciness and superiority of fruit; it’s not too big as it is further south.”

Dylan continued, “The Cabs come from Oliver where they ripen nicer but we don’t get the density and texture we get in Bordeaux. I actually think our Nuances tastes like a Chianti, meaning higher acid and more rustic than a Bordeaux blend.”

Visit the Roche's website for wine orders and tasting hours. Roche wines are available locally at JAK’s Richmond and Everything Wines.