Lightning Rock, an impressive new producer from Canada’s Okanagan

This is a relatively new project from Canada’s Okanagan Valley. Jordan Kubek and Tyler Knight are partners in wine and life, and until recently were working for Okanagan Crush Pad, where Jordan ran their vast sparkling program for the past few years. Now, they have decided to go it alone, with a new baby in tow. Their first vintage was 2017.

Jordan’s father, Ron Kubeck, recently purchased two vineyards in Summerland, and this is the source of most of their fruit. The first is Elysia Vineyard (5 acres of Pinot Noir, Viognier and Syrah), and the second is the Canyonview Vineyard (5 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), which was for a long time an important source of grapes for their previous employer. Tyler and Jordan also bought a small derelict vineyard called St Katherina, which they are nursing back to health.

‘The Okanagan has an interesting identity coming up for itself,’ says Tyler. ‘We have low alcohol, lighter wines, embracing the acidity.’

They make wines pretty naturally, although they do add 10 ppm SO2 at the crusher to avoid any risk of mousiness. Total sulphites are in the range of 50-70 ppm.

This is an impressive set of debut wines, and certainly a producer to watch for.

Lightning Rock Blanc de Noir Brut Natural 2017 Okanagan, Canada
Pinot Noir, wild ferment in foudres, 14 months on lees, no dosage. Pure, appley and lemony with nice acid and brightness, good focus and a savoury edge. Primary and delicious with a grippy finish. 91/100 (JG)

From Summerland’s Elysia Vineyard, a south-east facing slope with limestone laced soils over granite bedrock, this pale-peach hued fizz is Pinot Noir, whole-cluster pressed and racked to a 2000L oak foudre for native ferment. This spent 13 months on lees before disgorgement in February 2019 with zero dosage. Tight, nimble, and racy, lined with raspberry, orchard cherry, and streaked with salted herbal notes, this is a bone dry, savoury and mouthwatering fizz, vibrant with acidity and mineral energy, and based around a gentle and fine core of lees. Wow. A riveting beaut now, and one that will age gracefully for the next couple of years. Beauty debut. Amazing value. 92/100 (CDN $30) (TR)

Lightning Rock Chardonnay 2018 Okanagan, Canada
From the Canyonview vineyard. Spontaneous fermentation in puncheon. Bright and expressive with lovely pear and apple fruit, a bit of fennel and a nice acid line. There’s also a touch of mint. Fresh, elegant, expressive. 93/100 (JG)

From Summerland’s Canyonview Vineyard, and its alluvial, river stone littered vineyard, this is the inaugural Chardy from the young Lightning Rock Winery. After a whole cluster press into puncheons (30% new), this was native fermented, with full MLF. Ripe and lees-generous on the slender frame, this draws popcorn, stones, rock salts, lemon curd, green apple along the palate. A swath of lemon peel acidity carves through the downy lees, finishing with a dusting of flint. They went for it, full stop, and it’s working. Looking forward to seeing where they take this young wine (and winery) in future. 90/100 (TR)

Lightning Rock Viognier 2017 Okanagan, Canada
From the Elysia vineyard. Supple and bright. Not overly aromatic but with lovely texture. Bright and expressive with a twist of dried herbs, and a lemony finish with some apricot on the fringes. 92/100 (JG)

This ballerina of a Viognier comes from the east facing granite slopes of Elysia Vineyard, in middle Okanagan Valley’s Summerland. I call it a ballerina, because it is delicate, but muscular and strong. After a puff of reduction blows off under the screw cap, this streams perfumed cold cream, apricot puree, orange blossom along a potently salty, narrow palate. Somewhat knees and elbows (young vines/young winery) at this time, but promising for future. 87/100 (TR)

Lightning Rock Pinot Noir Rosé 2018 Okanagan, Canada
Carbonic maceration, 3 days on skins, then neutral puncheons. Supple green herbal leafy hints. Nice bright red cherries. Supple and textural with nice raspberry hints. Lovely. 92/100 (JG)

Lightning Rock Pinot Noir Rosé 2017 Okanagan, Canada
Rosé is a giant stretch for this wine, with a colour clocking in deeper than some pinot noir red wines. In fact, the process and procedure is as for red wine, so perhaps their attempt at the Rosé name was to differentiate this lighter, chillable red from the winery’s Pinot Noir from the same Elysia Vineyard. This was carbonically macerated for three days before continuing a native ferment in neutral oak puncheons where it remained for four months prior to tightening in stainless and bottling unfined and lightly filtered. Chiseled plum, forest berries, thorny blackberries on a slight, lifted palate, one spiced with smoked pink peppercorns and with negligible nubby tannins. Now, if they get the truth in labelling correct with next vintage, this pure little light pinot is a smashable star. 89/100 (TR)

Lightning Rock Pinot Noir 2017 Okanagan, Canada
From the Elysia vineyard. 30 ferments, then aged in barriques, puncheons and a 2000 litre foudre. Bright red cherries with a twist of cranberry. Lovely freshness and some elegance with red cherries and plums. Supple and delicious with nice balance. 92/100 (JG)

Lightning Rock Pinot Noir 2017 Okanagan, Canada
Fresh and supple with a nice light, juicy cherry fruit quality. Red fruits dominate, but there’s some nice texture and depth here. Some sour cherry. Light, supple and very drinkable. 92/100 (tasted on a separate occasion to the first note) (JG)

From Summerland’s Elysia Vineyard, a south-east facing slope with limestone laced soils over granite bedrock. Pale crimson in hue, black raspberry, wild blackberry, summer strawberry, scented leather is imbued with a dusky earthiness, tickle of VA and soupçon of black pepper. Tannins are slight and taut, slight in grip and long in frame. From this brand new winery one would expect some experiments, and this wine was one. Three tanks of varying whole cluster, from 25-75 percent, were native fermented and spent 21 days on skins before being pressed into neutral oak puncheons. It remained here on lees for eight months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Impressive debut. 90/100 (TR)

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