A Summerland winery played host to representatives of one to the oldest and most famed Champagne Houses, not once, but twice over the last few weeks.
Two tour groups from Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin on a Canadian wine tour visited Sumac Ridge Winery on March 26 and again on April 9, touring the vineyards and enjoying a tasting with winemaker Jason James and Troy Osborne, director of vineyard operations.
It was 1772 when Philippe Clicquot-Muiron established what eventually became the house of Veuve Clicquot, though it was his son’s widow that took the firm’s Champagne production to great heights, introducing it to royal courts across Europe and establishing it as one of the most successful brands.
“We were thrilled to have guests from Champagne visiting the Okanagan and sampling our wines,” says winemaker Jason James. “It’s definitely an honour.”
The Veuve Clicquot representatives included contract grape growers and producers for the two hundred and forty-year old brand who were in the Okanagan for an educational wine tasting trip. Along with Sumac Ridge, the trip also included stops at Grey Monk, Summer Hill and Blue Mountain wineries.
“They really enjoyed the products, they found it quite interesting,” said James, adding that the groups tasted a range of the winery’s sparkling wines, including a sparkling Gewurztraminer as well as the flagship Steller’s Jay Brut, which is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. Like Champagne, the bubbles in Sumac Ridge sparkling wines are produced via the classic method, while fermenting in the bottle. After the tasting, the group made a symbolic exchange of each other’s special sparkling wines.
“We exchanged bottles. For each tour group I got a bottle of Veuve. I’ve already drank one, but I am keeping the other one,” said James, adding that the visit was over very quickly by the time they had done a tasting and toured the vineyard.
“I think they were fairly impressed with it, just the diversity of the Okanagan. It was sort of hard explaining to them because we had to go through an interpreter. But Troy Osborne, the director of viticulture, he explained about all the different vineyard sites in the valley and the different soil types,” said James. “The one thing they did notice was our fruiting zone is quite high compared to where they put their fruiting zone, low to the ground, so they have a lot more back breaking labour. I think they keep them close to the ground so they don’t get cold, frost and so on.”