Winery uncorks new blend

Sal D’Angelo has a history of trying new things at his estate winery.

The owner of D’Angelo Estate Winery on the Naramata Bench said that not only did he make the first ice wine based on Spanish Tempranillo red grapes, he’s now almost ready to release his first B.C. vintage of a fortified wine using an ice wine as its base.

“It is different, that’s the whole idea. When I made the Tempranillo ice wine, I realized I have a unique product here,” said D’Angelo. “I am trying to replicate that uniqueness, trying to get known for having something different. And of course it has got to be good.”

D’Angelo said he has to be careful about what he calls the product. While it is based on a combination of ice wine and brandy, both made from his own grapes, the VQA only allows 100 per cent ice wines to use that title. Instead, he has named his two wines Dolce Vita Bianco and Dolce Vita Rosso; Sweet Life White and Red.

“It’s ice wine and brandy,” said D’Angelo, who uses Tempranillo grapes for the red and Viognier for the white. The brandy was also made with his own grapes, distilled by Jorg Engel of Maple Leaf Spirits.

D’Angelo likens the process to that used to make port, where brandy is added to red wine halfway through the fermenting process. The high alcohol content of the brandy kills the yeast and stops the fermentation early, resulting in a wine that is both sweeter and stronger, normally containing about 20 per cent alcohol.

“I took it a step further,” said D’Angelo. Instead of making pure ice wine with the juice squeezed from grapes gathered on the vine on a freezing morning, he took the sweet juice, put it through his own proprietary procedure to make his Dolce Vita wines.

It’s not the first time he has made this type of wine. While he has been on the Bench since 2001, he was in the business for two decades before that in Ontario. There, he used Vidal grapes as the base.

“We got a double gold. It was the only double gold in the fortified wine category in the country,” said D’Angelo. That original fortified wine couldn’t be shipped to B.C., at least not until recently, when the old law prohibiting shipping wine and spirits between provinces was changed.

“I am trying to make something different. Everybody is trying to differentiate themselves from everybody else,” said D’Angelo. “It was a huge hit in Ontario. We poured it at wine shows and people were lined up 10 deep to get a taste of this new product.”

D’Angelo describes the taste of Dolce Vita as not being as sweet as an ice wine, which typically has a high sugar rating with an alcohol level of about 10 per cent.

“My final blend reverses that, so the sugar is a 10 and the alcohol is a 20,” said D’Angelo. “So not as sweet but a little bit more heat. The taste profile is completely different. I’ve done numerous focus groups with friends and family. Everybody loves it.”

While D’Angelo is hoping to be able to release the wine for May 1, he said it might be as much as a month later, but it definitely will be available for the summer season.

He is expecting to have 9,000 bottles of the red Dolce Vita and 4,500 of the white, both of which will be available in the wine shop at D’Angelo Estate Winery on Lochore Road in Penticton.


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