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Column: Richmond's Hidden Gem Winery

Take a sip at Richmond Country Farms when you check out the Richmond Sunflower Festival this summer.

It’s home to Richmond’s Sunflower Festival, the Pumpkin Patch and their Country Farms' vibrant fruit and vegetable Farm Market. But did you know that it’s also home to Country Vines Winery?

For over sixty years, the Hogler family has owned and operated Richmond Country Farms. Their Farm Market, with a wide variety of Richmond-grown fruit and vegetables as well as produce from the Okanagan is a popular attraction for shoppers and visitors alike.

And now they have brought a taste of wine country to Richmond. Under Farmer and Winemaker Lucas Hogler's leadership, their goal has been to put Richmond on the wine map with wines that exceed expectations. 

Here are three wines I recently sampled at the winery with Biochemist and Tasting Room Sommelier Eric Urqhart. First up, The County Vines 2020 Sauvignon Blanc ($19.99; 88 points, Very Good). Grapes are grown in Oliver and the Similkameen, 60 % of them are fermented in stainless steel and 40% in French oak puncheons.

It reveals a pale yellow colour with aromas of stone fruit, citrus, and green vegetables wafting to your nose. Like most Sauvignon Blanc, there is bracing acidity, which makes for an excellent food wine. On the palate enjoy the flavours of peach, grapefruit juice and rind, lemon, and green pepper. There’s also a textured mouth feel from the judicious use of oak and a lengthy fruity finish.

Enjoy with Greek and Mexican food and other fresh-tasting dishes with avocados, tomatoes, green onions, olives and sharp cheeses like feta. Or it would be a good match with grilled asparagus and salads, chicken with rosemary, or grilled halibut!

Changing colours, Country Vines also has a rosé, the 2020 Contact Pinot Gris ($17.99; 87 points, Very Good.) This orange-pink wine is produced from 100% Pinot Gris grapes grown on the Hogler’s Country Farms in Richmond. It was partially barrel fermented and had skin contact for three days to give it colour.

These days most Pinot Gris don’t have skin contact and they appear as a white wine. But the grape skins do have a pink colour. The original version of the wine was pink because it was fermented with the skins in contact with the juice for several hours in a process called maceration.

As Pinot Gris became more popular in the 1980’s, winemakers stopped macerating the wine and just fermented the colourless juice so it looked like a white wine, which had become the more popular style.

Because Hogler decided to produce this rosé version, it has more complexity, and it gives a rationale for the name Contact (the colour occurs when the skins are in contact with the juice).

Expect a light aroma of berries, citrus, and yellow fruit. It displays a medium amount of acid with flavours of strawberries, orange and lemon and pears, ending on a medium finish. I enjoyed it partnered with a Rick Stein recipe of Clam and Pork Alentejo from Portugal.

The winery recommends enjoying Contact with smoked salmon, charcuterie, or prosciutto and melon.

And finally, my favourite of the Country Vines trio I tasted, the 2016 Hot Pursuit ($18.99); 91 points Outstanding.) This 8-year-old full-bodied red is produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah that has aged gracefully. It is a dark opaque red with aromas of black, red, and blue fruit as well as the floral scent of violets.

The Hot Pursuit displays medium tannins with some grip to give the wine structure against a backdrop of black cherry, cassis, plum, blueberry and cigar box. All this and a wonderful acid fruit balance ending on a savoury finish.

The back label has a dragster and describes the grapes as being a “high octane blend…guaranteed to turn your crank”. I would certainly make a hot pursuit, but stay within the speed limit to Country Vines Winery. It’s just north of the Massey Tunnel in Richmond, at 13060 Steveston Highway, east of the Richmond Country Farms Market. Whether it turns your crank or not, I’m sure you will enjoy it, preferably with a barbecued steak or roast.

Visit Country Vines online or in person. No reservations are required for a tasting in the tasting room or on their relaxing patio.