Before he became a winemaker, Summerland-based Tyler Harlton played eight seasons of professional hockey and seldom had more than 60 penalty minutes a season.
Everyone who meets this laid-back artisan is surprised his penalty minutes were even that high. He is as gentle a personality as you will find in the Okanagan wine industry.
And he hangs out with other artisanal winemakers. In June, TH Wines, as he calls his winery, joined five other small wineries for an informal tasting in Vancouver . They should consider keeping this league together. Their personalities and winemaking styles are quite complimentary.
TH Wines is one of the smaller of these producers, making just 1,100 cases in 2013. The winery was established three years ago in quarters that Tyler rented in an industrial park in Summerland. His business model calls for spending money on buying grapes and getting the brand established before tying up capital in a vineyard or in a fancy building. He opened a modest tasting room this year for the first time.
He may be operating on a shoestring but that is not reflected in to quality of the wines. These are notes on the wines.
TH Wines By Hand White 2013 ($19.99 for 468 cases). The name of this wine is inspired by the new labels – the image of two hands on a wine barrel. They are Tyler 's hands and the image underlines the artisanal approach here. This wine is 84% Chardonnay, 16% Sauvignon Blanc. It is a richly textured wine with flavours of pear and apple mingled with herbs. The finish lingers. 90.
Th Wines Viognier 2013 ($N/A). This is a classic Viognier, with a creamy texture and with apricot and peach aromas and flavours. The finish lasts and lasts. 90.
TH Wines Rosé 2013 ($21.99 for 119 cases). This is made with Merlot with a splash of Malbec and Chardonnay. It has aromas and flavours of apples and strawberries. The texture is generous and the finish is dry. 89.
TH Wines Pinot Noir 2012 ($29.99 for 270 cases). This is an utterly seductive Pinot Noir. The silky texture and the pretty aromas and flavours of strawberry and cherry make this a charming wine with a finish that lingers. 91.
TH Wines Cabernet Merlot 2012 ($34.99 for 306 cases.) The blend here is two-thirds Cabernet Franc, a varietal that Tyler favours. The other third is Merlot and Malbec. The wine has brambly flavours of blackberry and cherry on a foundation of earthy notes and long ripe tannins. 90.
Tyler 's friends include Little Farm Winery , the Cawston boutique operated by wine educator Rhys Pender MW and his winemaker wife, Alishan Driediger (left). They moved to this property in 2008, planting a four-acre vineyard of Chardonnay and Riesling.
Little Farm may well be the smallest licensed winery (or close to it) in the Similkameen and Okanagan. Production in 2013 totalled 353 cases, with the target at full production being 800 cases.
Little Farm Chardonnay 2013 ($29.90 for 68 cases). Crisp and refreshing and reminiscent of Chablis, this wine has delicate citrus aromas and flavours of grapefruit and green apple. 88.
Little Farm Riesling 2013 ($29.90 for 115 cases). In the style of German Riesling, this wine spent some time in neutral oak barrels, gaining texture and softening the bracing acidity. The wine has citrus aromas and tangy citrus flavours wrapped around a nice spine of minerals. The finish is dry. 90.
Little Farm Rosé 2013 ($24.90 for 170 cases). This is made with Cabernet Franc and it displays the vivacity of the varietal. There are aromas and flavours of strawberry and raspberry, with notes of herbs and pepper on the dry finish. 90.
Also in Tyler 's circle is Orofino Vineyards , also of Cawston. John and Virginia Weber (right) moved from Saskatchewan in 2001 to take over a six-acre vineyard and, within a few years, become accomplished wine growers. Earlier in July, they hosted vertical tastings of their wines, reaching as far back as a 2003 Pinot Noir and a 2003 Cabernet-Merlot.
They have not chosen to stay small even if there is great artisanal style in the winemaking. Orofino now is making about 4,500 cases a year.
Orofino Hendsbee Vineyard Riesling 2013 ($22 for 600 cases). Here is a polished and refined Riesling, with aromas and flavours of lime around a spine of minerals. The wine is crisply tangy and dry with good potential to age. 91.
Orofino Home Vineyard Old Vines Riesling 2013 ($29 for 100 cases). Most of this was fermented in old barrels; two barrels were fermented with wild yeast for additional complexity. The racy acidity is nicely balanced with residual sugar. There are aromas and flavours of lime and grapefruit around a mineral core. The finish is tangy. 90.
Orofino Scout Vineyard Riesling 2013 ($22 for 350 cases). A touch more residual sugar brings out aromas and flavours of lime, apple and peach. The texture is juicy. 90.
Orofino Celentano Vineyard Gamay 2013 ($23 for 120 cases). This could be a light Beaujolais Cru wine. The aromas and flavours of spicy cherry and raspberry dance on the palate. A note of pepper on the finish wraps up this lively wine very nicely. 90
Orofino Home Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 ($32). The wine begins with aromas of cherries mingling with the toasty notes from the barrels. On the palate, there are flavours of cherry and strawberry with a touch of mocha on the finish. 90.
Orofino Red Bridge Merlot 2011 ($25). This is the only wine in Orofino 's portfolio not made with Similkameen fruit. The Merlot grapes come from the Oak Knoll Vineyard in Kaleden. This is a very quaffable Merlot (a gold medal winner at the All Canadian Wine Awards) with aromas and flavours of black currant and blueberry. 88.