Clean and Lean, New Winery is Really           ‘Very Riesling’

An old wine press in the Tantalus Vineyard contrasts the new LEED certified winery, Tim Pawsey photo

Tantalus Vineyards has emerged as the Okanagan’s de facto flagship Riesling producer—and rightly so.

For the last few years the winery operated out of the former Pinot Reach facility—a delightful, if somewhat rustic arrangement not entirely conducive to the task at hand. However, the just-opened new winery is a stunner. Not only that, it’s BC’s first (we hope of many) certified LEED winery, and includes a Sequencing Batch Reactor waste water system (that biologically converts all sewage and winery waste into reusable grey water).

Tantalus Vineyards general manager Jane Hatch - Tim Pawsey photo

We love the tasting room’s clean, modern lines, its slate floors and folding glass wall that grants panoramic views of Kelowna.  But what caught our attention outside is an old, rapidly deteriorating wine press that rests in the vineyards (first established by W.J. Hughes in 1927) that provides a fitting contrast to the new winery.

Tantalus General Manager Jane Hatch says the Pioneer Vineyard “Mirrors the history of grape production in the (Okanagan) Valley, starting out as table grapes then hybrids, before vinifera arrived in the 70s.”

Pioneering former vineyard owner Den Dulik enjoys a glass of Riesling - photo courtesy of David Wei

The current Riesling vines (that can take much of the credit for Tantalus’ success) date from 1978, when they were planted by then vineyard owner Den Dulik, who still works every day at the winery.

Tantalus is one of few BC wineries that have made a deliberate decision to concentrate  on just one or two varieties—in this case Riesling and Pinot Noir—and do them very well.

“It’s a small product line, somewhat unusual for this region,” says Hatch, who also reveals there’s some Chardonnay in barrel.  (“But it will be styled more like white Burgundy, not fruity or oaky!”)

Hatch says Tantalus focuses on these varieties because they’re really what are best suited to the cool site at the north end of the valley on the eastern side of Lake Okanagan. “Riesling has always done well here; way back in the 90s, Jancis Robinson recognised the Rieslings being produced off this site and has done so several times since,” says Hatch

Nor does she sell Pinot short. “If you look around, I would say that some of the best, nationally recognised Pinots come from around these parts, especially when you’re talking great Pinot Noir like Grant Stanley’s at Quails Gate—and certainly at Cedar Creek.”

As the conversations surrounding the defining of sub-appellations in the South Okanagan become more frequent, it’s just a matter of time before attentions are turned to the north valley. And when they do, you can be sure that this area (East Kelowna Benches?) will be firmly on the map.

Among the current releases:

• Tantalus Riesling 2009 Okanagan Valley VQA: Citrus and tropical tones on the nose, followed by a palate of green apple with moderate acidity and a zesty close. $22.90

• Tantalus Old Vines Riesling 2009 Okanagan Valley VQA: The old vines deliver more complexity and depth with great fruit intensity: tropical and citrus flavours wrapped in keen acidity and already showing some of those appealing petrol aromas on the nose that will only continue to evolve. Buy some to tuck away. $29.90

© Tim Pawsey 2010

Tantalus Vineyards