by Treve Ring | Black Sage Bench Pinotage. Who knew? This is no wild and savage beast (in the South African wildebeest vein), but rather a lush, ripe dark plum, wild raspberry, and black cherry example with massive structure, tobacco leaf vegetation, cedar earthiness and powdery-shaded tannins. Alluring baking spice and exotic flowered aromas add intrigue.
Stoneboat Vineyards Pinotage 2010 | Oliver, Okanagan Valley | $25
April Fools is coming up. Here’s how you own it, wine geek style: Pour this blind for someone, and then tell them to guess what it is. Kapow! Right? Ok – so perhaps not everyone has the same sense of humour as I do, but you don’t need a corkscrew license to realize that pinotage is not as common here as, say, merlot.
South Africa’s flagship red grape is a long way from home in Stoneboat’s Oliver vineyards. The grape was originally propagated by Lanny Martiniuk for the original South African owners of nearby Lake Breeze Vineyards. 35 years ago, Lanny and his wife Julie left the bustle of Vancouver to set up shop in the bucolic Okanagan Valley. They settled on a 15 acre orchard on Black Sage Bench, buying it on a handshake in 1979. During the formative years of the BC wine industry, Lanny served as director of the BC Grape Growers Association for a decade and was chair of the Grape Marketing Board. He was also a founding director of the BC Wine Institute and a pioneer in revitalizing the industry after free trade and the grape pullout of 1988. Lanny is well known as a successful grapevine propagator and has grown millions of vines for vineyards all over BC – including the 2 pinotage plants he kept for himself, which have now multiplied into 7 acres worth. 35 years and three wine-industry-working children later (Jay, Tim & Chris), the Martiniuks now practice “thoughtful farming” on nearly 50 acres of vines.
I posed my stack of 5 questions to their winemaker, Alison Moyes…
Straight up – why did you make this wine? Pinotage is an exciting grape to work with. It was an opportunity to work with a varietal rarely seen in the Okanagan and create a wine that is distinctly our own. The possibilities on the nose are endless! Tropical notes often come through, which I love, and find to be rare in red wines in general. Luckily for me, Lanny had the foresight to plant the pinotage in 1998 because of how well it is suited to the site and rocky soils.
Where are the grapes from? All Stoneboat wines are made from estate grown grapes, including the pinotage. The vineyards are located south of Oliver on the lower Black Sage bench. It is a unique site in that it rests on a gravel bar, rather than the sandy soils that surround us in both directions. These growing conditions are made for pinotage with large diurnal shifts from the hot summer days to cool nights.
Your ideal pairing with this wine? I’ve been doing some experimenting with pinotage pairings lately. Traditionally my choice has been rack of lamb with a cocoa rub. However, after trying a few vegetarian options my eyes have been opened to just how versatile this wine can be. Pasta with caramelized onions, kale and gorgonzola was an absolute winner!
What do you drink when you’re not drinking BC wine? Considering how delicious a nice lager tastes at the end of a long day on the crush pad and how many great craft breweries there are in BC, beer is the obvious choice. I’ve been enjoying taste testing to find my favourites. Occasionally a gin & tonic hits the spot, too.
Favourite BC wine, other than yours? Tough to pick just one. There are so many great options to choose from. The Origin blend from Maverick really caught my attention this past year; an interesting combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer. I’m expecting to see great things from them.