Getting things right in the wine business is never easy. When you plant a vineyard and start making wine, you are taking a leap of faith both with Mother Nature and with consumers. You want vines that will grow well in your climate and to make good wines that are also easy enough to sell. The Mavety family, owners of Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars, has made some wise and brave moves in over four decades of pioneering in the wine industry in British Columbia.
The family business started back in 1971 when Ian Mavety completed an agriculture degree and then purchased the land where the winery still sits today, in a stunning setting of rolling terrain and steep cliffs near Okanagan Falls. It was brave to attempt to grow grapes at all back then, as the region was largely untested for such a project. Initially the vineyard was planted to lesser hybrid grapes, but the Mavetys were quick to see the potential that some vinifera plantings were showing. So they started converting to a Burgundian-inspired mix of pinot noir, chardonnay, gamay, pinot gris, and pinot blanc from 1986. Choosing the grapes of Burgundy rather than the Germanic or, in the early 1990s, Bordeaux red focus that most pioneers were taking, was another inspired decision; these grapes today are probably the most consistent producers of top-notch wine in the region.
After years of selling their grapes, the Mavetys launched the winery in 1991 and have since spent nearly 25 years impressing people with their product. Seeing “Sold Out” next to the pinot noir, gamay, sparkling wines, and chardonnay on the price list is an all too common side effect of this success. That said, they haven’t just rested on their laurels, but rather have kept pioneering. This may have a lot to do with the change of generation running the winery. Few wineries in British Columbia have had to face the difficult and daunting task of succession from one generation to the next, but the Mavetys seem to have done it well. Ian and Jane have not only passed on the management of the business to their kids Matt and Christie, but have also passed on the pioneering spirit.
Christie spent her youth doing odd jobs around the winery, in every aspect from the vineyard to cellar and operations. She is now the sales and marketing manager and also runs the tasting room. Matt started working at the winery full-time in 1997, after completing an agriculture degree and winemaking schooling in New Zealand. As the winemaker, he has brought some fresh approaches to the grape growing and winemaking with modern yet ancient techniques including biodynamics, high-density planting, and low-intervention winemaking such as wild yeast fermentation. The wines show a European influence, something Matt says comes from “travel, tastings, and discussions” and the work of Raphael Brisbois, their consultant of 22 years. It looks like the Mavetys not only got the wines right, but ensure they keep getting better.
Blue Mountain 2013 Pinot Blanc
Lemon, apple peel, some green pear, peach, wet stone, and a hint of savoury lees make for a subtle but refreshing nose. It is lively and crisp with lovely grip, great length, and lime, minerals, crisp apple, and endless freshness. Enlightened, restrained winemaking and a great example of B.C. Pinot Blanc.
Blue Mountain 2013 Sauvignon Blanc
An intense nose with green bean and gooseberry, citrus, and apple notes. There is great vibrancy on the palate, racy mineral acidity, green apple, peach, lemon, wet stone, and a little weight from partial use of older oak barrels. Great energy and a very long finish.
Blue Mountain 2013 Chardonnay
A subtle but complex nose with lemon, lees, peach, apple, vanilla, and hazelnut. The palate is restrained and crisp, yet still with weight and texture. There is fresh, zingy citrus, nectarine, minerals, apple, nut, and great length. The small amount of oak use is beautifully integrated, adding a layer of complexity; but the wine retains its crisp freshness.
Photos by Chris Stenberg.
Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars, 2385 Allendale Road, Okanagan Falls, British Columbia, Canada V0H 1R2, +1-250-497-8244.