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Column: Okanagan Crush Pad wines raised in concrete really rock

Wines fermented in high concrete "eggs"

There’s a unique winery in Summerland whose wines are worth seeking out if you like wines with personality! The Okanagan Crush Pad or OCP was the first in Canada to ferment their wines in eight feet high concrete “eggs”.

With temperature control tubing in their concrete walls, even temperatures are maintained throughout the tank. And because concrete is slightly porous like oak casks, the wine can breathe throughout fermentation and aging without leaving an oaky taste.

Furthermore, the tank’s egg shape allows more skins and pulp that would normally float on top of red-wine juice to stay submerged. As a result, wines come out brighter with higher fruit notes and prettier secondary aromas. In other words, they really rock!

Today I review three OCP wines from two of their brands: Haywire and Bizou & Yukon. Their website explains the “Haywire” name: “Haywire” is an old Canadianism that refers to wire used for baling hay. This type of wire tended to tangle and be unpredictable making it an apt description of Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie’s impromptu decision to forgo retirement and journey into the wine business.”

The Haywire Switchback Pinot Gris ($29.90; “A+” rating) comes from a certified organic 10-acre site overlooking Okanagan Lake and Naramata.

This Pinot Gris has to be of the most complex and delightful Pinot Gris that I’ve tasted. What’s not to admire! Fermented in concrete tanks using native yeasts, it has an inviting citrus and tree fruit aroma with spice.

And let’s not forget the multi-fruit flavours of gooseberry, pear, and lemon with a grinding of spice and white pepper. The Haywire is alive with exuberant acidity that is held in check by the luscious fruit. And there’s a creamy mouthfeel from resting on the lees for ten months. Delicious with my apple smoked barbecued pork shoulder with South African curried yellow rice.

I also served the Haywire 2018 Garnet Valley Ranch Pinot Noir ($29.90; “A” rating) with the pork and curried rice and it was a splendid match. There’s a lovely deep burgundy colour and a generous nose of fruit, vanilla, smoke, and earthy notes.

On the palate, expect plenty of cranberries, cherries, and beets with a whiff of smoke, as well as cinnamon and cloves to spice things up. Overall, a tasty elegant Pinot Noir from Haywire’s high elevation organic vineyard.

To celebrate the unofficial start of summer during the May long weekend, I opened the Bizou & Yukon 2018 BEE-zoo Bubbles ($24.90; “A+”rating.) Bizou & Yukon is the brand unveiled last year, named after the pair of giant white and fluffy Great Pyrenees dogs that shepherd sheep and guard one of the winery’s properties in Summerland.

Christine Coletta, co-owner of the Okanagan Crush Pad proudly commented on the inaugural launch of the brand, “The past few months have been hard for many people. It has been a relief to focus on something that I know will bring a smile to people’s faces. We sometimes forget that wine is simply about friends, family, and simple enjoyment.”

And the BEE-zoo Bubbles certainly brought a smile to my face! It's a fun bubbly with aromas of fresh red berries, candyfloss, spice, and herbs and a foamy mousse to provide bubbles galore and a cream texture to enjoy. Love the flavours of cranberry, raspberry, and strawberries with cinnamon, cloves, and spearmint. There’s a crisp acidity and a delicious sweet and sour dynamic with an off-dry finish. It’s a wonderful aperitif to entertain friends on the patio now that some COVID restrictions have been rescinded.

Check out the Okanagan Crush Pad’s website for tasting reservations, wine clubs, and buying online: Wines are also available at Save-on VQA stores such as Ironwood and other private wine outlets.