posted by John Schreiner at Goodgrog
Frind Winery bets on Vernon
Frind Estate Winery owner Markus Frind recently planted Cabernet Sauvignon in a vineyard at the northern end of Okanagan Lake, just west of Vernon.
This is undoubtedly the northernmost block of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Okanagan. The majority of Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards are either near Oliver and Osoyoos or next door in the Similkameen Valley. Indeed, Markus owns a 10-acre near Osoyoos and a 14-acre vineyard near Oliver where he grows Cabernet Sauvignon, among other varieties.
But, based on data from his own weather stations, he believes he has found a Vernon area vineyard site where south-facing slopes are exposed to sunlight all day and where the heat of the sun is amplified by reflections from the lake.
“I have got 900 acres up there,” Markus says. “I started buying about two years ago. I have 23 weather stations up there and I also have access to historical data, going back 17, 18 years. The entire area is 50 to 100 growing degree days warmer than the Summerland Research Station.”
The property has been pasture and orchards. Sagebrush grows on much of it, one of the clues that this is warmer than other Vernon area land. The other clue, Markus says, is that grass starts growing in March when there is still snow on other slopes.
“When I was up there on March 1, the hillsides were green and the vegetation had not even started popping out in West Kelowna,” says Markus. His winery opened last year on the western shore of Okanagan Lake, south of Quails’ Gate and below Mission Hill Family Estates.
He also draws confidence from the history of successful grape-growing at 17 ½-acre The Rise Vineyard, which abuts his property. Pinot Noir, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, some planted as early as 2005, grow here. The original owners planned a winery here, integrated with a luxury housing development. The housing development slipped into creditor protection and then different ownership in 2010. Plans for a winery were shelved.
The vineyard, however, has continued to sell grapes to other wineries, a number of which have produced award-winning wines. In recent years, there has been speculation that vines will be pulled out for the construction of more housing.
Markus Frind is definitely focussed on wine, after previous successes as an internet entrepreneur. Born in Germany in 1978, Markus was just four when his parents, descended from generations of farmers, moved to a 485-hectare (1,200-acre) farm at Hudson’s Hope in northeastern British Columbia.
After high school, Markus studied business and computer science at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Then he had a series of technology jobs until, early in 2003, he created Plenty of Fish on his home computer. The dating web site’s success was explosive: by the second year, it was generating monthly revenues of $200,000 a month. Markus sold the site in 2015 for $575 million.
That success (along with other business successes) have given him the capital to finance his major ambitions in the B.C. wine industry.
In the fall of 2017, he purchased the 5.5-hectare (13.5-acre) lakeside property that had been owned for more than 50 years by the Bennetts of political fame. It is strategically located on the Westside Wine Trail. Part of the Bennett mansion has been turned into a large tasting room.
The wine shop is accessible from the beach, from the lake and from the tree-lined driveway bordering a six-acre planting of Maréchal Foch vines.
Just before buying the Bennett property, Markus purchased 121 hectares (300 acres) of raw land on a hillside northeast of Kelowna. Advised that just 10% was suitable for vines, he deployed heavy equipment to fill in gulleys and sculpt the slopes so that 80% can be planted. The property is currently under development.
“We have vineyards all over the place,” Markus says. “We will be up to 700 acres planted in the next couple of years.”
Fourteen acres of Pinot Noir was planted last year on the Vernon property. In addition to the Cabernet Sauvignon planted this year, he believes there are sites there where Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and other varieties can be grown. (The entire acreage, however, is not suitable for vines.)
The property has slopes of up to 25%, stretching due south towards the lake. There is little risk of early spring frosts nor of early fall frosts. The weather stations have logged growing degree days averaging around 1,450 a year, spiking in some areas close to 1,500.
“Chances are we might fail but I am pretty sure we will get either of the Merlot, the Cabernet Franc or the Cabernet Sauvignon right – if not all of them,” Markus says. “It is incredibly hot there. It is even hotter than Naramata.”
The winemaker at Frind is Eric von Krosigk, a veteran Okanagan winemaker.
Here are notes on current releases.
Frind British Columbia Chardonnay 2018 ($25.99). Silver medal at Chardonnay du Monde. The unoaked wine begins with citrus aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of apple with a hint of mandarin and butter. The finish is crisp. 91.
Frind Premier Chardonnay 2018 ($37.99). Silver medal at Chardonnay du Monde. This unoaked wine begins with aromas of nectarine and apple, echoed on the luscious palate, along with flavours of peach and mandarin orange. 93.
Frind Viognier 2018 ($23.99). Rich in texture, the wine begins with aromas of herbs and minerals. On the palate, there are flavours of ripe apricot. The finish is dry. 90.
Frind Pinot Noir Cuvée 2018 ($29.99). This wine was aged 12 months in French oak. The wine begins with aromas of cherry and vanilla. These are echoed on the palate and lead to a spicy finish. The texture is silky. 90.
Frind Big Red 2018 ($22.99). This is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 12 months in French and American oak. The wine begins with aromas of black currant and blackberry. On the palate, flavours of black cherry and black currant mingle with a hint of vanilla. 90.
Frind Syrah 2018 ($44.99). Dark in colour, the wine has aromas of dark cherry mingled with black pepper. On the palate, the pepper supports earthy dark fruit flavours. The finish is quite persistent. 91.