I used to get corked – now I’m screwed!

Gray Monk’s ingenious expansion brings a whole new dimension – Tim Pawsey photo

(Updated, see below)

We weren’t there at the very beginning, when, in 1972, George and Trudy Heiss were among the first to envision the Okanagan Valley’s potential as a serious wine region. But we have been lucky enough to witness the Okanagan Centre winery’s coming of age as one of the valley’s anchors.  Now, with its smartly integrated expansion, Gray Monk is an even more logical point from which to start your Okanagan Valley tour.

Plus, if you know George, you’ll want the tee-shirt too!

Co-owner George Heiss with true to form tee-shirt, Tim Pawsey photo

Read about it here—along with Gray Monk’s adoption of Stelvin closures for whites (Hooray!), and some great summer wine picks—in our most recent North Shore News column: “Wine is ultimately very much about people and personality — which Gray Monk has in spades.”

 

We’re just back from a ten day swing through the Okanagan Valley in conjunction with the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival—which turned out to be one of the best so far.

Gray Monk enjoys a spectacular setting overlooking Lake Okanagan – Tim Pawsey photo

If you’re planning an Okanagan visit this summer, stay tuned for our series of top tasting picks and suggestions on how to make the most of your trip.

Updated, May 30th., 2012:

As per North Shore News…

Celebrating a B.C. Odyssey

If there’s a bigger wisecracker in the BC wine industry than Gray Monk’s George Heiss Snr, I’ve yet to meet him or her. That thought always comes to mind when I encounter a bottle of Gray Monk Odyssey (‘reserve’) wines—mainly because it recalls one of the few times we’ve managed to ‘get one back’ on George.

In the spirit of the occasion, where the usual jokes, bad and not so bad, were already flying, as he showed me the then new label, I quipped: “You Oughtta See the guy who made this wine!”—and more mirth ensued. Well, it was funny at the time…

The latest Odyssey to cross our palate adds up to a wonderful expression of just what Gray Monk is all really about.

• Gray Monk Odyssey Brut Rosé

A blend of Pinot Meunier and Gamay Noir, with a gorgeous salmon colour and stream of lively bubbles, you’ll catch more than a hint of fresh cut rhubarb on the nose, followed by a very appealing, broad palate with red berry hints such as strawberry, and a touch of melon, before a clean finish that tastes drier than it is. In true Gray Monk style, the fruit rules, but there’s also no shortage of polish and structure. BCLS / VQA $26.99

I suspect they’ll be cracking more than a few bottles come mid June, when the Heiss family will be marking a few milestone anniversaries.

George and Trudy Heiss celebrate their golden wedding anniversary—but equally significant is that it’s 40 years since they embarked on their great adventure of being pioneer growers (along with Trudy’s father Hugo Peter), planting their vineyard on the steep slopes above Okanagan Centre in 1972. The winery, one of only a handful in the valley at the time, followed a decade later.

Today, with new wineries arriving at the rate of about one a month and the Okanagan’s ascending star by many taken for granted, it’s hard to fathom the risk involved in such a venture. But as John Schreiner reminds us in his excellent, latest Okanagan Wine Tour Guide (Whitecap, $19.95):

“The Heiss family has had a profound impact on Okanagan wine growing. They were the first to import clones of Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Auxerrois from Alsace. They facilitated the Becker Project, an eight- year trial of German vines that, by its conclusion in 1985, proved the viability of varieties now among the most important in the Okanagan.”

Over the years, Gray Monk has been instrumental in developing and maintaining the fruit forward style in those Okanagan white varieties. In short, the steady stream of visitors that continues to beat a path to the door of their (now significantly grander) winery and vista-kissed Grapevine Restaurant underscores their success in staying the course.

With the next Heiss generation—Robert (operations manager), George Jr. (winemaker) and Stephen (marketing manager)—now fully involved, Gray Monk remains firmly in the founding family’s hands. And while George Snr, and Trudy may not always be there, you can be sure they’re never too far away …

Okanagan bound this summer? If you haven’t been, it’s a must visit, made even easier with the just released Gray Monk free app for iPhone and Android.

  • Gray Monk Odyssey White Meritage 2011

Layered and nicely textured with sensitive oak balance, this is a more ‘modern’ styled meritage that blends Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc to deliver some tropical hints with a touch of grassiness on the nose with citrus and kiwi on a rich but balanced palate. Think anything with a good cream sauce but scallops and lobster for sure. $26.99 BCLS

© Tim Pawsey 2010

Trudy and George Heiss greet visitors at the entrance to the new Gray Monk Hospitality Centre – Tim Pawsey photo