Photo: Road 13 winemaker J-M Bouchard
In early 2011, Michael Bartier turned over
the winemaker’s role at Road 13 Vineyards to J-M Bouchard with generous praise
for the new guy.
In an email, Michael described his
successor as “an amicable guy and extraordinary winemaker.”
J-M has now shown that the praise was merited. Road 13 has just
won a Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Excellence for a white wine he made in his
first vintage there: the Jackpot Viognier Roussanne Marsanne 2011.
Early in June, at a visit to the winery, I
tasted all of the winery’s current releases with J-M, including several from
Michael’s last few vintages there.
The quality of the wines is consistently
high. I am surprised that the winery only won one award. Three of its wines were
among the 43 in the final round of judging at the Lieutenant Governor’s
competition. Only 11 awards were given in what is a very rigorous competition.
Formerly known as Golden Mile Cellars, this
winery has employed three solid winemakers since Mick and Pam Luckhurst bought
it in 2003. Their initial winemaker was Lawrence Herder; when he decided to
concentrate on his own winery in the Similkameen, the Luckhurts recruited
Michael from Township 7. Last year, Michael joined Okanagan Crush Pad Winery,
in part to launch his own label.
A native of Sherbrooke, J-M (for Jean Martin) became
interested in wine after getting a degree in business and hotel management and
working in Montréal restaurants. In 1998, he went to Australia,
studied wine science at Charles
He began making wine in Australia
(with a who’s who of vintners) and then went to Alsace
to master Riesling.
Coming back to Canada,
he started working in the cellar at Sumac Ridge Estate Winery; then he did
several vintages at Hidden Bench, one of Ontario’s
hot new wineries. He returned to the Okanagan in 2010 to work on the new Don
Triggs winery. When Culmina, as that winery is to be called, fell a little
behind schedule, J-M accepted the Road 13 job.
(Culmina is currently under construction,
with plans to have the first wines on the market next year.)
At Road 13, J-M is working with owners who
have ambitious targets for both quantity and quality.
This spring, Road 13 bought 19 acres of
vineyard on the Golden Mile from Vincor, adding it to the 43 acres it already owns
both on the Golden Mile and on Black
Sage Road. Mick Luckhurst also purchases grapes
but concluded that Road 13’s best wines were often made with grapes he was
growing in his own vineyards.
He also had a letter of intent to develop a
vineyard in the Similkameen with the Lower Similkameen Indian Band. However, he
decided his plate is full enough for now and that letter was allowed to lapse
earlier this year.
In the 2011 vintage, the winery made 30,000
cases of wine, about 50% more than in the previous year.
J-M is another one of those winemakers
(like Grant Stanley at Quails’ Gate) who says that Pinot Noir is his favourite
variety but who clearly gives them all his best.
Here are my notes on the current releases.
13 Home Vineyard Riesling 2011 ($24). A crisp, dry
wine with what the Germans call racy acidity, this begins with herbal and
floral aromas. On the bright palate, there are flavours of lime and lemon, with
a fine concentration of fruit and minerals. The finish lingers and lingers. 91.
13 Mitchell’s Vineyard Gewürztraminer 2011 ($24 for
a production of 44 cases). The grapes for this wine came from a Summerland
vineyard and the inspiration for the style came from Alsace. This is a dry Gewurz with a rich
texture, with aromas of spice, ginger and grapefruit peel and with spicy orange
and grapefruit flavours. 90.
13 Viognier 2011 ($24). This wine was fermented in
neutral oak barrels, fleshing out the rich texture. It has aromas of citrus and
stone fruit, with layer upon layer of flavour – apricot, pineapple and peach.
13 Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2011 ($24). The profound
flavours and minerality of this remarkable wine reflect that the grapes came
from vines planted in 1968. There is honey and quince on the nose, with
persistent and ripe flavours of apples, quince, apricot and peach. J-M’s model
for this wine was Vouvray. He tweaked the vineyard practices and then fermented
the wine in neutral barrels with natural yeast. This made the Lieutenant
Governor’s short list. I can’t imagine how it missed getting an award. 93.
13 Jackpot Viognier Roussanne Marsanne ($29). This
is the award winner. It is not on the winery’s website, leading me to think
that the production was small and that it is only available at the winery.
These three varieties were co-fermented and that probably explains the complex
harmony here. Crisp
and refreshing, the wine has aromas and flavours of citrus, apricots and
tropical fruits. The layered texture is appealing, giving the wine depth and
is the term that Road 13 uses for most of its reserve tier wines. While Road 13
uses screw cap closures for most of its wines, it has decided to use corks for
the Jackpot range.
13 Chardonnay 2010 ($24). Lightly gold in colour,
the wine has buttery and citrus aromas, with flavours of tangerine mingled with
toasty oak notes. The oak is very subtly handled, not overshadowing the fresh
fruit flavours. 90.
13 Jackpot Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2009 ($34.99).
You have to go the winery to get this excellent bottle-fermented wine, with a
toasty, citrus aroma and with creamy brioche flavours and a crisp citrusy
13 Pinot Noir 2010 ($24.99). Still tight and
youthful in the bottle, this is a wine with vibrant and deep flavours and
aromas of strawberry and raspberry. 89.
13 Jackpot Pinot Noir 2009 Castle Vineyard ($39.99
for a production of 125 cases). This elegant wine appeals with delicate aromas
of strawberry and spice, and with flavours of cherries and raspberry and what
the winery prefers to call “silken black tea.” 90.
13 Syrah 2010 ($35). The wine begins with a touch
of white pepper and deli spices on the nose, with flavours of black cherry,
blackberry and chocolate. 91.
13 Merlot Syrah 2009 ($45). This wine, a blend of
70% Merlot and 30% Syrah, also was a finalist for a LG award. This is a boldly
ripe wine, with aromas of sage and plum jam. It has a big juicy palate with
flavours of plum, fig, red berries and vanilla. 91.
13 Fifth Element 2009 ($50 for a production of 250
cases). The wine got its name from an earlier blend of five varietals. This one is 68% Merlot, 22% Syrah and 10%
Cabernet Franc. Almost black in colour, the wine has savoury notes of cassis,
black cherry, fig, vanilla and chocolates. It is rich and full-bodied, but with
the structure to age well. The winery says this will cellar to 2017, which is