Road 13 Chenin Blanc is one in a million. Scratch that, it’s actually three in a million. Road 13 Chenin Blanc, made from grapes grown on vines that are more than half a century old, is vinified three different ways. Not only are they the oldest Chenin vines in Canada, but they also vie for the title of some of the oldest Chenin vines in North America! I had the recent privilege of tasting all three of Road 13’s Chenin expressions in conjunction with a one-on-one virtual interview with the winery’s winemaker, Barclay Robinson. I came away with several observations, one of which being that none of us would be where we are today without falling in love.
WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
Love can take us down paths we never thought imaginable. And that’s exactly what happened when Barclay met who would eventually be his wife. Barclay was living in Calgary and painting houses in the late 90s when he met Janet who got him interested in wine. Long dinners discussing regions and blends sparked a brief chapter as a sommelier. Wine became a passion for Barclay and he eventually enrolled in Canada’s only Oenology and Viticulture diploma program at Brock University in St. Catherine’s, Ontario.
Fast forward several years, after honing his winemaking skills in Niagara, his passion for red wine (Rhone varieties in particular) brought Barclay to an opportunity at Road 13 earlier this year. The winery had spent some time looking for a new winemaker and saw a glean in Barclay’s eye to get his hands dirty in the winery’s historic Oliver and Osoyoos dirt.
DIRT? EW, DAVID
(I couldn’t resist a Schitt’s Creek reference)
While the rest us are washing, scrubbing and sanitizing, Road 13 is livin’ it up, relishing even, in their dirt. Their motto is that great wine starts with good dirt. 74-kilometres’ worth to be exact.
The winery’s South Okanagan vineyards are covered with ponderosa, ratnip and stemwinder soils. The ratnip soils on the Golden Mile Bench are where the Chenin Blanc vines call home. Vines that reach more than two metres into the ground!
Ratnip soil is mostly sandy loam with angular gravel and larger rock. It’s terrible at holding water, draining quickly. In turn, the vines struggle to get the proper amount of moisture. That means the vines are strong, they’re used to working hard and produce shining, concentrated flavours as a result.
The vines were planted the same year that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Or for something a bit more uplifting, the same year that Apollo 8 successfully orbited the moon. 1968 was a historical time, and 52 years later, the gnarly old Chenin vines are producing some remarkable wines.
2019 CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK CHENIN BLANC
Road 13’s Chip Off the Old Block is 98 percent Chenin Blanc and two percent Orange Muscat. It’s summer in a bottle and winter in the glass all at once. Bright, lifted and exuberant aromas of ripe stone fruit take you to a summer deck, basking in the sun. Crisp winter blossom and floral nuances bring you to a crackling fireside, wrapped in a blanket.
A bottle of white wine for all seasons and any occasion. A wine of contrasts yet intact with perfect harmony. I would never turn down a glass.
Winemaker’s Food Pairing
“Roasted chicken with Herbes de Provence and butter under the skin; fresh shucked oysters; spinach salad with fresh blueberry, strawberry, roasted walnuts and ricotta cheese; cheese and charcuterie boards; oven roasted vegetables; corn on the cob.”
Available direct from the winery with free shipping. Addition availability in BC at BC Liquor Stores. Additional availability in Calgary at J Webb, Vine Arts or Willow Park and at Crestwood in Edmonton.
2016 TRADITIONAL METHOD SPARKLING CHENIN BLANC
This expression is a nod to the grape’s Loire Valley roots. It’s lean and mineral-driven with depth and elegance. The Chenin grapes were picked early, which is normal for grapes destined to be sparkling wine. It’s to ensure the necessary high acidity levels are maintained. Made in the traditional method, there’s a rich creaminess on the palate along with hints of honeydew melon. Notes of juicy green apple, white plum and ginger shine and flow seamlessly through the pristine effervescence.
Canada’s Top 10 and Top Value
Wine Align 2020
Winemaker’s Food Pairing
“Raw oysters, Dungeness crab, Lobster, Moroccan style couscous dishes, Green Thai curries, or with lightly salted/buttered popcorn on movie nights.”
Available direct from thewinery with free shipping. Addition availability in BC at BC Liquor Stores. Additional availability in Calgary at 4th Street Liquor or Willow Park and at Sherbrooke Liquor in Edmonton.
2010 JACKPOT SPARKLING CHENIN BLANC
Can you say, next level? 8 years on its lees, sipping this magnificent wine is like diving headfirst into Champagne. If Champagne was made with Chenin.
This sparkling wine is bursting with biscuity notes balanced with baked pear and rich honeydew. Lively and mouth-coating, perfect for a celebration. Fine, persistent mousse with a subtle hint of key lime on the finish.
Winemaker’s Food Pairing
“Will pair with foods listed above, anniversaries, birthdays, New Year celebrations.”
I wouldn’t be a wine writer sharing these three versions of Road 13 Chenin Blanc if it wasn’t for love. My love for the Okanagan led me to my first winery job in 2004. Falling in love with my husband led to starting a family. And it’s our family of four, with two little ones that arrived at the same time, that led me to say good-bye to 9 to 5 and start a website.
And here we are!
We may have to wait a year or two – or a Jackpot eight – before we get to taste a bottle of Road 13 Chenin Blanc with Barclay’s name on it. But we can seek comfort in knowing that he’s exactly where he needs to be and it’s all thanks to love. Love for wine and a passion for certain varieties. Love for dirt. And love from people that seem to know the right path to nudge us towards.