Canada’s Okanagan Valley has lots of different wineries, ranging from big operations to tiny boutique ones. On a recent trip I tried to find some of the alternative stories: those that don’t get written about so much. This is one of them.
Anthony Buchanan is the winemaker at Desert Hills, but since 2014 he’s been making wines under his own label. He began in 2014 with 56 cases of Pinot Noir, and last vintage (2018) he was up to 1000 cases. In 2019, he’ll be doing 1500 cases, with a range of six wines.
‘The whole concept was that I wanted to make wines I could drink myself,’ he says. He’s been around in the Okanagan a while: his first vintage here was 2007 when he worked at highly-regarded winery Blue Mountain.
He’s been progressing to using lower levels of sulphites in the wines. He’d always been taught to add 30 ppm of SO2 at grape reception, and to add enzymes, and now he’s moved away from this approach.
Sourcing grapes can be a challenge in the region, but he’s been pretty successful, helped by the fact that his production is quite small. ‘I’ve built up some good relationships in the region,’ he says, ‘and I’ve just leased 10 acres in the Similkameen. There he will plant Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Blaufrankisch. ‘I’d like to do a small lot every year of something totally unique and have fun with it.’
Anthony Buchanan Wild Ferment Method Ancestrale 2018 Okanagan, Canada
76% Chardonnay, 24% Pinot Gris. This comes from Vantage Point in Keledon. The plan was not to disgorge this but it had 5.5 bars pressure and they ended up having too. It too three long days to disgorge 90 cases. Bone dry and precise with pure citrus fruit. Linear with lovely citrus fruit and some pear richness, and a bit of grapiness. Clean and pristine with lovely acidity. Has some seriousness. 90/100
Anthony Buchanan Lawson Pinot Blanc 2017 Okanagan, Canada
The grapes come from Kelowna. Stainless steel ferment and then goes to third-use barrels. Lovely weight: has tangerins and pear fruit with some brightness. Pure, with a hint of waxiness. Quite fine. 90/100
Anthony Buchanan Lawson Pinot Blanc 2018 Okanagan, Canada
Fruit from Black Sage Bench this year. 100% barrel fermented with 20% new oak. Natural malolactic, and unfined and unfiltered. Lovely texture to this wine, which shows some fine spiciness and just a touch of oak. Notes of white peach and citrus with real harmony on the palate. 92/100
Anthony Buchanan Semillon 2018 Okanagan, Canada
Old vines from the Golden Mile Bench. Barrel fermented. This has a lovely crystalline character, combining citrus fruit and some toast and spice. Very bright and detailed with a hint of mandarin. Fine and expressive with a touch of honey. 93/100
Anthony Buchanan RMG Orange 2017 Okanagan, Canada
A blend of Riesling, Müller Thurgau and Gewurztraminer that spends three weeks on skins with no additions. Aged in neutral and second fill barrels. Lovely weight and structure here with fresh white peach fruit, some nuts and a bit of spice. There’s a hint of mint, too. Nice grippy structure. Fresh, detailed and delicious. Stylish stuff. 92/100
Anthony Buchanan Ashlyn Pinot Noir 2017 Similkameen, Canada
This is 777 clone from the Similkameen, 11 year old vines. 12% stems and 40% new oak. This has a lovely savoury, structural edge to the bright cherry and plum fruit, with nice brightness. Shows good structure with a hint of pepper. Quite serious. Focused and tight. 94/100
Anthony Buchanan Syrah Whole Cluster Ferment 2017 Okanagan, Canada
Whole cluster Syrah from the Black Sage Bench, food trodden. 2% Viognier cofermented. This is so fresh and peppery. It’s fleshy but fine with lovely depth, but also nice bright peppery fruit, showing bright cherries. Stunning texture and purity here. 95/100
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