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Column: Free spirited wines from the Okanagan

Organic and additive-free wines to try
Free spirited Okanagan wines
Two of Okanagan Crush Pad’s delicious offerings: Free Form Vin Gris (left) and Cabernet Franc.

The Okanagan Crush Pad is a unique Summerland winery that produces four different brands, each with its own personality. I recently reviewed wines from Haywire, Narrative, and Bijou + Yukon. Today I will spotlight Free Form wines.

Free Form wines are organic, fermented with indigenous yeast, additive-free, and left to their own course. Under chief winemaker Matt Dumayne’s direction, the team pursues “wines of place”, celebrating the inherent uniqueness of each terroir and vintage. Every wine is a “free form”.

Like the wines, the bottle labels created by Vancouver artist Scott Sueme depict the free form wild landscape of the central Okanagan on land sculpted over 9,000 years ago by retreating glaciers. A wild setting emerged one that is home to arid deserts, low sun-burnt hills, snow-capped mountains, and a 120-km long chain of lakes.

The Free Form 2019 Vin Gris ($27.90; “A” rating) is a really unique wine. It’s a white wine with a red wine background. It was produced from Summerland Pinot Noir grapes that were whole bunch pressed into concrete eggs, it was fermented with native yeasts. The juice was on the skins for such a brief time that you might find it hard to believe that it's made from Pinot Noir, except it’s delicious. The wine went through malolactic fermentation; tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer tasting lactic acid. Finally, the Vin Gris was bottled unfiltered to preserve the fresh fruit.

In the glass, the wine has a grayish-pink onion-skin hue. The nose displays herbal, citrus, and stone fruit aromas with a splash of bergamot oil (Earl Grey tea). There’s bergamot fruit (sour orange and lemon) on the palate, quince, a sprig of fennel, and an orange tealeaf finish. Bone dry and smooth with a mineral character thanks to the soil’s terroir and the concrete eggs. Enjoy with seared scallops or vitello (veal) tonnato.

Finally, the Freeform 2019 Cabernet Franc ($44.90; “A+” rating) is a complex fruit-forward medium-bodied red that’s ready for enjoying. I loved the generous aromas of red fruit with earthy notes. There’s a wide selection of raspberry, strawberry, and black cherry flavours, and seductive tastes on the forest floor. And there is a balanced tartness that keeps the ripe fruit in balance, with gentle tannins and a crisp tea leaf finish.

Serve the Cab Franc with grilled asparagus, spicy lamb merguez sausages, chèvre and young manchego cheese, and fresh local strawberries that are now ripe and ready.

Although many wineries have wine clubs, the Okanagan Crush Pad offers two clubs. The Founder’s Club has free membership, but you must buy at least $600 of wines per year, two wine cases at $25 per bottle. As a member, you get a 15 per cent discount on all wines.

In addition to the discount, you can take advantage of shipping credits as well as tastings, concerts at the winery, and wine tastings in Vancouver.

When you’ve purchased your first $300, your Tasting Flight of six wines at the winery will be free (valued at $25). You’ll also receive a coupon for a charcuterie platter for your next winery visit. And there’s a complementary Flash Tasting of three wines for you and up to four guests.

For more information on joining the Founder’s Club and THE List @ OCP (described in last week’s column), purchasing wines online, and tastings, visit Okanagan Crush Pad's website. Its wines are available at Ironwood's VQA store and other private wine stores.