Wine: High-density Sipping

Culmina Family Estate Winery Saignée | BCBusiness

The Triggs family’s Okanagan terroir is capable of producing a super-premium wine that we’ll all be coveting this fall

Donald Triggs grew up on a farm in Treherne, Manitoba. After a highly successful career in business, a journey that included building Vincor International Ltd. into the 14th-largest wine company in the world, the former CEO has returned to the farm, so to speak, only this time he moved to the Golden Mile Bench outside Oliver, B.C.

At Culmina Family Estate Winery, B.C.’s newest wine project, science, technology and the vineyard are at the forefront of what will become a 5,000-case winery, but the family’s roots will be the foundation. Don and Elaine Triggs and their daughter, Sara, are on a mission to make wine that tells the story of its site—or terroir.

4790 Wild Rose St., Oliver, B.C.
Tel: 250-498-0789
TASTINGS AND SALES By appointment.
OWNERS The Triggs Family
WINEMAKER Pascal Madevon
ANNUAL PRODUCTION 9,200 bottles, with a target of 60,000 bottles

The search for terroir was intense. After choosing the multi-level south Okanagan site, the family has spent seven years digging pits, testing soils, trialling grape varieties, logging the weather and making experimental wine. The results, say the Triggs, are gratifying, with most of the measurements and parameters pointing to a vineyard capable of making super-premium wine.

When you arrive at the winery on Arise Bench you are surrounded by Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Higher up on Stan’s Bench (named after Elaine’s father) the family planted Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah and a tiny bit of Chardonnay that they wanted on a warm site. Topping out at 595 metres above sea level is Margaret’s Bench (named after Don’s mother). It is the coolest of the three sites and is planted to Riesling, Chardonnay and Grüner Veltliner. The latter grape should make a white wine in B.C. that will no doubt cause a stir.

The plan is to make a south Okanagan statement and that means the fruit has to be perfect. The Triggs went with high density in the vineyards to help achieve this goal, planting some 2,044 vines per acre—almost double the Okanagan Valley average. With competition comes smaller berries, better flavours and more complexity—hallmarks of super-premium wine.

The irrigation system is equally complex and capable of tracking more than 85 separate blocks inside the vineyard. It’s a dream come true for Culmina’s winemaker, Pascal Madevon (ex-Osoyoos Larose). The former Bordelais vintner has been given unlimited options to control production and fully ripen his grapes, prior to their arrival at the winery.

In the end, some 78 per cent of the high-density plantings will end up in a red blend that will spawn two or three other second-tier wines, plus a Char- donnay (Dilemma), a Riesling, a rosé (Saignée) and one of the first commercial Grüner Veltliners in the Okanagan.
“Culmina is more encompassing and more complex than anything I did at Vincor,” Triggs says, pointing out the ob- vious. “That was then and this is now.” 

The Picks

UNEXPECTED: Culmina Family Estate Winery Saginée 2012, $22
UNDERVALUED: Culmina Family Estate Winery Dilemma 2011, $26

UNBELIEVABLE: Culmina Family Estate Winery Hypothesis 2011, $48

ADVENTUROUS: Coming next year: Grüner Veltliner