Church & State wants to raise the bar for B.C. wines

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      Church & State Wines (4516 Ryegrass Road, Oliver)

      Many wineries in Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country are family operations, but the Pullens go even further, bringing in cousins and uncles to work every once in a while. Perhaps that’s because they also operate a winery in Victoria in addition to the winery and 48-hectare vineyard on the edge of Coyote Bowl in the South Okanagan.

      “It’s an old cherry orchard that we planted into grapes,” John Pullen told the Straight by phone. “It’s an old gravel quarry. The first day we were out there, there was a coyote running across the bowl. The name kind of stuck.”

      Pullen said that Church & State Wines does not cross-blend its grapes between the two wineries, which means its Okanagan wines are truly Okanagan. In Oliver, the focus is on growing vines that thrive in the hot, dry climate and rocky soils, such as Bordeaux, Chardonnay, Marsanne, and Viognier.

      Church & State Wines produces 25,000 cases per year, which is more than double the amount created two years ago.

      “We operate on a blend of very traditional handcrafted winemaking techniques, and we’re trying to utilize the best and newest technology to elevate our quality as high as we can,” Pullen explained. “We’re really trying to push the boundaries of what can be done within British Columbia, both on Vancouver Island and in the Okanagan. We’ve had that goal since day one.”

      The push for excellence has resulted in six best Canadian red awards since 2009, according to Pullen. And the Lost Inhibition series of red, white, and rosé wines has also attracted kudos in wine publications. They’re sold with 200 irreverent labels carrying such phrases as “You’re So F*cking Classy,” “Abso-Frickin-Lutley Perfect”, and “Chill the F*ck Out.”

      Pullen pointed out that the Church & State Wines tasting bar is a little more boisterous than what people might experience at other wineries. He described the décor as “minimalist”, augmented with concrete, marble, and plenty of glass. There’s also an outdoor patio, which seats up to 30 people, overlooking Coyote Bowl.

      Signature wine: “The Quintessential blend has always been kind of our flagship Bordeaux blend,” Pullen said. “It’s consistently ranked in the top five best red blends from the province.”