review – okanagan crush pad winery visit

I have been waiting to visit the Crush Pad for a long time.

I had heard about the facility many times at festivals. One of my favourite parts of attending the wine festival is getting a chance to talk to the vineyard owners and winemakers of the smaller, local wineries that surround us. Often, when I ask too many questions and we really start getting into the nitty gritty of how they go about producing wine, they mention that they use the crush pad for their processing.

So, what’s the Crush Pad? Well, it is kind of exactly what it sounds like. You go there and crush grapes. If you grow grapes but need a place to process them, you can go there. If you need help refining your wine and don’t know where to turn, you can go there. Since they were established in 2011, they have been helping other wineries get off the ground and even today, with five wineries under their wing, they are helping newly established Okanagan wine growers make a real go of it.

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But, since you DRINK wine and probably don’t MAKE wine, you want to know more about the philosophy and the process that goes into the wines they produce for themselves, right? And since this is really about great winey places, you want to know if it’s worth a trip to visit the place and spend some time there.

The Philosophy

Do you remember a few years back when Kashi cereal got busted for not being as organic as they had projected that they were? It turns out some of their suppliers were maybe not as granola (hardee har) as Kashi and they had turned a blind eye to that slip.

That could never happen at this vineyard.

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Sometimes, when I explain my philosophy about ethical food consumption to people, their eyes roll back in their head, or they glaze over and you can tell, despite all their bamboo wearing, lulu headband sporting, burt’s bee’s chapstick loving ways that they really don’t get why I only eat happy cows that were driven in pairs to the butcher’s field before the big day.

If you feel that we are caretakers of our planet, and it’s inhabitants, you are going to love how this team makes wine. This place oozes respect for the land, for the wildlife and for the next generation. And they do it without an ounce of pretentious snobbery. How that is even possible this far North of Oregon I have no idea.

Sustainability is built into all their programs and a respect for the land, and what it can do well, is at the core of how organic wine is produced here.  It makes so much sense. Find out what your patch of dirt is capable of doing really well, then support it as best you can to do that. So simple, yet so rare. They have a terroir specialist and truly believe that wine is made from the ground up.

Guess who weeds in the vineyard? Um, ducks! Hello! And their best friends, the chickens! Like dogs? Awesome, they have dogs and sheep and bees, too! This is a working farm and what they are doing works. I was surprised by how dry the land was. But that’s how it naturally is, they haven’t created a golf course for the sake of the visitors.

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From there, it is all about clean, crisp and true-to-the-fruit bottles of wine. All the wines are aged in concrete tanks or clay amphorae and there are no additives or commercial yeasts used in the process. The grapes are left to rest and to do what they are meant to do. Why does this matter? Well, if you don’t want your kids eating red dye #5 in a 68 cent wiener then why are you willing to drink it in your $25 bottle of wine? Let that sink in.

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They have a new winemaker, Matt Dumayne, who has come over from New Zealand with stops all over the place making award winning wines. Previously, Mike Bartier was their winemaker. You probably recognize the name as Bartier Brothers has been featured on here a number of times. The whole team, really, are superstars of good grapes and great wine with a wealth of knowledge and experience. The best part, besides the great wine, of course, is that they are happy to bring others along in their success and their journey.

The Tour and the Winery

We were led through our tasting and our tour by Mike West, whom I had already met at the Sun Peaks Wine Festival Blending Seminar a few times. Mike is about the nicest guy in the wine business, and a perfect person to ask dumb questions to, as he is too polite to laugh at you. I asked plenty and he was very gracious. I expect their other tasting room staff are equally lovely.

As important as being lovely is that they are smart. Nothing disappoints me more than tasting a wine, asking a question and having the person behind the counter not know a thing about the vintage. This has happened to me at big wineries and small ones, too. I think it is important, if you invite a consumer to come to you to purchase, that you can produce some value-added services for them while they are there. Someone that can talk about your wine is one of those services. Have a bad winery experience and you will know just what I am talking about.

We were not rushed, our questions were answered and we got an opportunity to really look around and learn about the wines, the grapes, the process, the facility and the company. To me, that is a perfect winery visit.

We got to see the chickens, the ducks and the bees. We got to see the alien pods (they call them concrete tanks but whatever) and the winemaking facility. Mike answered questions about the tanks, they only rinse them between vintages, like a tea pot, and the use of neutral French oak barrels for a select few wines. You know how I feel about the overuse of cheap oak in wine. Those people should be cattle ranchers.

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The winery was gorgeous, had seating, lots of parking and was easy to find. Check, check, check and check! Ten out of ten!

The Wines

Okay, the juicy part. I love these wines. I bought five after all was said and done and I already regret not buying double that. The winery has two ‘house brands’, Narrative and Haywire. Both brands have great qualities and I would be hard pressed to choose a favourite. A month ago I would have told you it was Narrative. You can look back through reviews to see a few of each, but I have got to say, I loved the Haywire line as well.

Every wine we tasted was worthy of a conversation. They were complex, long, true and full of flavour. The only exception was the Haywire 2015 Gamay Rose which is just a young, young wine. I bought some 2013 Narrative Red over a year ago and just opened the last bottle. It aged beautifully, so I am not dismissing the Gamay just yet. Give it time.

Smoothest wine of the day? The Haywire Canyonview Pinot Noir. So rich, and almost creamy! Wow. And we even had a Syrah that I liked, usually not on my list of buying wines.

My favourite wine of the day? The Haywire 2014 Wild Ferment. This wine was made with absolutely no intervention. Like, pick the grapes, plunk them in the alien pod, and walk. I’m sure it’s not quite that simple, but pretty close. As natural as winemaking can be in this day and age of food safety and the 1%. Wild ferment wines are just not possible without the philosophy of this company. The result? It’s nothing like any other Pinot Gris you’ll taste this year. It’s complex, dry, earthy and should cost a lot more than they charge. I can’t wait to share it.

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Wine to watch? Narrative Red. This wine is having kind of a ‘Tiger Woods year’. It’s really out there, doing big things. But.. it could be doing good, big things. It can be that champion. Keep it on your radar, it may come back with a grand slam.

The Verdict

Get to this winery. They do a Summer concert series and have a wine club. Connect with them on social media to find out about what’s happening and keep them on your radar. You will not be disappointed with your visit. I rarely visit a winery twice, and I never go back if the experience was mediocre. I’ll be back without a doubt.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Lynn
    Aug 31, 2016 @ 06:48:40

    The Crush Pad team is doing it right. Looking forward to a visit there soon!

    Like

    Reply

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