In the fast-paced, dizzying growth of the British Columbia wine industry, the Okanagan Valley’s Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards offers some impressive history and pedigree, considering they’re Summerland’s new kids on the block.
At the helm of the venture is Gordon Fitzpatrick, no stranger to those who have been following the local wine scene during the past couple of decades. With a background in farming and the local fruit trade, in 1986 the Fitzpatrick family purchased Kelowna’s Uniacke winery, which went on to become the renowned CedarCreek Estate Winery. Eight years later, the family purchased a Summerland property known as Greata Ranch, where they planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with those vines still going strong to this day.
Fastforward to 2014, when the Fitzpatrick family sold CedarCreek to Von Mandl Family Estates (of Mission Hill Family Estate fame), and Gordon headed across the lake to the Greata Ranch property, which his family had retained. It is here that we find what has been christened Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards: a winery with a strong focus on traditional-method sparkling wine and a fast-rising reputation for clean, fresh, mineral-driven whites.
Besides gaining an intimate knowledge of the land, another benefit of acquiring this land a couple of decades ago is that they don’t have to charge an arm and a leg for the wines; dollar for dollar, they’re some of the best values in the valley.
Here are a few personal favourites:
Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards The Unwinder Ehrenfelser 2016
($18.49, B.C. Liquor Stores)
I usually associate gooseberry with Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s certainly front and centre here: all bright and juicy, with a tropical twang. Mineral notes keep things fresh, while the flavours and textures of both lime leaf and lemongrass ensure a dry finish that ties things together well.
The Fitzpatrick family is certainly familiar with Ehrenfelser, as CedarCreek’s takes on the variety have had a strong cult following for many years. It’s great to see them pushing forward with the grape. Though it’s a rare variety even in its German homeland, it has a good pickup here in B.C., where it sits comfy alongside our local seafood and Asian-inspired cuisine.
Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards Interloper Gewürztraminer 2015
($18.49, B.C. Liquor Stores)
Gewürztraminer is one of British Columbia’s most-planted grape varieties. Although it’s ubiquitous in local vineyards, wines made from the grape vary widely when it comes to style. It can be grown in a cooler-climate part of the province, picked early for a wine that’s crisp with citrus character and a remarkably dry finish.
On the other hand, it can be grown in warmer areas and left to hang on the vine a little longer, resulting in a rich, concentrated, honeyed wine, dripping with ultraripe fruit.
For me, the style produced by Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards errs toward the former and it’s a wine I’m more likely to grab when the sun is shining and pals are heading over. The litchi and passion fruit are lifted by a tiny hint of spritz in the bottle, and hallmark Okanagan sage is drizzled with a little honey. Nice stuff.
Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards Pink Mile Rosé 2016
If you’re reading this, you’re a wine enthusiast. This should mean you’re well aware that pink wine isn’t a seasonal thing, and we should be enjoying it all year ’round. This includes Thai takeout, Thanksgiving dinner, and idle Tuesdays. Orange blossom, gobs of ripe pink grapefruit, and more than a handful of peaches come tumbling out of the bottle.
It’s so good, in fact, that they’re sold-out at the winery, but you can find it on the wine lists at the Fairmont Pacific Rim and YEW Seafood + Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel, and rumour has it that there are a few bottles left at the Swirl VQA store in Yaletown.
Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards the Mischief Pinot Blanc 2016
Pinot Blanc does so well in the Okanagan, and here’s another fine example. There’s a rich viscosity in this version, with honeyed apples, quince, and pears, yet lively acidity keeps all of that fruit nice and buoyant.
Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards Fitz Brut 2013
($32.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)
In this traditional-method sparkler, a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sits on the lees in the bottle for a minimum of 24 months before disgorgement. Creamy and lush, with apricots, nectarines, and some lovely marzipan notes—it’s easy to see why the Fitzpatricks are hanging their hats on this style.
When visiting the winery, do try one of their sparkling flights of wine, where you can taste their bubble right next to proseccos, cavas, Champagnes, and the like; it’s a fun way of seeing what makes our local fizz unique.