Time Winery 2013 Chardonnay
Time Winery is the brand of Encore Vineyards, which is owned and operated by the McWatters family, headed by Harry McWatters, whose career spans 50 years of BC wine history from Casabello, Sumac Ridge, and now Encore Vineyards. This Chardonnay comes from the Sundial Vineyard south of Oliver and is an oaked style of Chardonnay.
Zooming In: The Region and The Winery
The grapes come from what used to be called the Sundial Vineyard northern part of the Black Sage Bench south of the town of Oliver. As far as vineyard land in BC goes, this is as good as it gets. I would even argue that it is also some of the best vineyard land in Canada. As proof, consider this: Grapes for three of the first four ‘prestige’ wines ever produced in BC (Oculus, Pinnacle, and Nota Bene) were all grown in this same small area of the Black Sage Bench. Legendary grape grower Richard Cleave lived across the street on his Phantom Creek vineyard which provided Sandhill with grapes for their Small Lots series. The Tennant and McCarrell families just south of Cleave started Black Hills in the late 90’s which brought a new level of focus on the area. Prior to being called Sundial, this was Sumac Ridge’s home base and responsible for the Chardonnay but also the ground-breaking Black Sage Bench series of wines from Sumac Ridge which helped build that brand through the 1990s. Before Sumac Ridge, it was known as Monashee Vineyards, an innovative vineyard first planted in the 1960s that used the first mechanical harvester in BC. No other vineyard region in BC has such a lengthy and tightly-packed history as this region.
As it turned out, the name “Sundial Vineyards” was only a temporary moniker. The original “Black Sage Vineyards” name used by Sumac Ridge was sold to Vincor when that company purchased Sumac Ridge. The McWatters family needed another name and chose Sundial, an eloquent metaphor that merged the elements of light (needed for ripening grapes) and time (always measured in vintages on a bottle) in brilliant simplicity. With the sale of the property to Phantom Creek Estates in 2016, the name Sundial Vineyards may unfortunately disappear from shelves in the near future.
WITG (What’s in the glass)
As it is clearly an oaked chardonnay, this is not a wine to take home to mama simply because mama probably doesn’t like oaked chardonnays. Card-carrying ABC members also need not apply. This Chard comes packing and for my taste, that is awesome. It is not overpowering however and the specs on this wine say that it was build in thirds – 1/3 is oak fermented, 1/3 aged in oak, and the remaining third completed entirely in stainless steel.
This is a 2013 vintage which means that the wine is now almost 4 years old. Not old for a person or cat but sometimes wines like Chardonnay get a bit fussy at this age. True enough, it is solidly in the developing stage. The fresh lustre of a young, vibrant, and fruity wine is now gone. Currently, it is hinting at some aged character but isn’t fully showing what it is capable of, if indeed further aging is what you are after. For my own taste, this wine is at the extreme edge of where I like it. That is to say, I don’t like my chards to be so youthful and fruity that they are characterless juice but at the same time, I want a chardonnay that can speak to me with that soft voice from the other pillow in barely a whisper. This wine does that.
The aromas in my glass were light but present – orange rind, small flowers, ripe cantaloupes, vague hints of vanilla and cloves, and dried mangos. The oak has subsided somewhat but that is what I expected. There is complexity here and every time I go back to it, there is something a little different to experience – a new aroma, flavour, or texture that I hadn’t noticed before.
Since it is developing, the booze is showing a little heavy right now. The alcohol (at 13.9%) sticks out a little bit but not enough to make it unpleasant or too bitter, although that will depend entirely on what food gets paired with it. A rich, buttery sauce might bring out that bitterness more than a simple lemon or herbed sauce.
The Big Three Questions
Is it good for what it is?
You bet it is. It is an oaked chardonnay. To me, oak should add complexity and nuance to a chardonnay and not overpower it, which is what I think people didn’t like about the heavily oaked chards of old. Wineries could cover up a lot of grape-growing or winemaking mistakes with a generous smothering of oak. That is clearly not the case for Time’s Chardonnay since the oak flavours compliment and elevate the wine as a whole rather than act as a sugarcoating. For people who like really oaked chards, this wine might not actually be enough oak for you so consider other wines if that’s what you are looking for. For people who don’t like oak at all, well, I’m guessing that you probably haven’t read this far. But just in case you have, you will probably like this wine because the oak is not overpowering nor is it out of balance. Don’t turn it down if someone offers it to you at a party. This is a solid, benchmark BC chardonnay that straddles fruit and oak with graceful complexity.
Will it Age?
The back label suggests that it will ‘age gracefully through 2018’ and I would agree with that. However, it depends entirely on what you seek out in a wine. I love the complexity that a tinge of age brings out and that is exactly where it is right now. If you are wanted something fresher, look for a younger vintage.
Would I buy it?
Yes, I would and I have. This particular bottle was a gift but I have purchased this very same wine before and will no doubt do it again when their new wine shop opens on Martin Street in Penticton.
This is a textbook example of a balanced, BC-style Chardonnay.
Cheers from wine country!