Now in its second season, The Chase Wines has emerged as a must-stop for wine tourists in Lake Country, with its solid wines, its spacious tasting room and a bistro with ambitious menus for lunch and dinner.
It is one of two wineries being developed by Edmonton businessman Dennis O’Rourke. The second winery, O’Rourke Family Vineyards, will not be open for at least two more years. The massive barrel cellar, tunnelled into granite on a hill overlooking vineyards and Okanagan Lake, is ready for the storage of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but the associated winery is still being designed by teams of architects.
No wine has yet been made for O’Rourke Family Vineyards. That production will be dedicated to premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but winemaker Adrian Baker believes the vines need to be a little older before he begins making those wines. Between them, the two wineries have 110 acres under vine. Only 10 acres is six years old and 30 acres is five years old.
The mandate at The Chase, on the other hand, is the production of wines that are fresh and aromatic. In the 2017, the winery made 5,500 cases of wine. Most of it will be sold at the wine shop, to The Chase’s wine club and to the year-round bistro, which has ambitious menus for lunch and dinner.
Adrian, a New Zealand native, was recruited in 2013 to manage both of the O’Rourke projects. “I trained in molecular biology and biochemistry in Wellington, then after a mid-20s crisis and a bit of travel, went back to school for winemaking at the University of Adelaide,” Adrian says.
He joined Craggy Range Winery in 2001, a prestigious New Zealand winery, and soon became the senior winemaker for cool climate varietals. His early knowledge that there even was a wine industry in British Columbia likely came from Craggy Range owner Terry Peabody, who had run a truck manufacturing company in Kelowna in the 1990s.
“I came to B.C. in July, 2010, on a reconnaissance mission, to see if it we could create an adventure for our young family,” says Adrian, the father of four home-schooled children. “I came back at harvest time to do some consulting for a prominent winery.” He liked what he saw in the Okanagan and in April, 2011, came here permanently, first to begin developing 50th Parallel Estate Winery and then, two years later to join the nearby O’Rourke project.
The current releases at The Chase include the debut 2015 Pinot Noir, made well before there had been time to build a processing facility. That wine, and a few whites not in the market, were made in what Adrian calls “a derelict picker’s shed.” Coincidentally, he had earlier made 50th Parallel’s debut wines in a tractor shed while a winery was being built.
In both cases, the wines turned out well. No doubt, generations of Burgundy vintners have laboured under similar circumstances.
The 4,000-square-foot Chase winery – Adrian made the 2016 wines in it while it was still under construction – is a well-equipped, modern winery.
One of the white wines he is making at The Chase is Grüner Veltliner, the Austrian white varietal. Initially, he planted a few acres to assess how well it would do in Lake Country terroir. The result has been so positive that The Chase now grows 10 acres of this vine.
The Chase Riesling 2017 ($21). The house style for Riesling is dry (although there is an exception). This wine has aromas and flavours of lime and lemon with fine spine of minerality. 91.
The Chase Pinot Gris 2017 ($18). This wine begins with aromas of citrus and pear, leading to flavours of pear and apple. The wine has a generous mouth-filling texture, the result of fermenting 25% in barrel; but is crisp and refreshing on the finish. 91.
The Chase Gewürztraminer 2017 ($21). Adrian enjoys making Gewurzztraminer, and does so in a complex style: 40% is fermented in tank, 40% fermented in barrel and 20% is fermented on the skins. “I always say you don’t go half way with Gewürztraminer,” he says. “It is like getting half a tattoo.” This richly-textured wine begins with a dramatic aroma of spice and grapefruit, leading to flavours of lychee and citrus. 92.
The Chase Rosé 2017 ($21). This wine presents with a vibrant rose colour. The aromas of strawberry and raspberry and flavours of strawberry, raspberry, rhubarb and a hint of red licorice. The finish is dry. 91.
The Chase Chardonnay 2016 ($32). This is the winery’s first release of Chardonnay. It begins with a buttery aroma mingled with oak and fruit. On the palate, there are flavours of ripe apple and peach, with a persistent finish. 91.
previous article on the winery
By John Schreiner
reprinted with permission