Barclay Robinson’s very first Okanagan vintage could not have gone better. “It’s been fantastic,” says the Road 13 winemaker. “It was great all the way through: a fairly early bud-break, quite warm in April and May, then cooler in June that affected fruit set. But then it was warm and dry, and when we came to harvest the quality of fruit was beautiful, with fantastic ripening. It’s going to be one of those ‘Get it while you can’ vintages!’”
Robinson (who arrived in April) was lured to the Okanagan from Niagara, where his specialty was making ‘big and bold’ red Bordeaux varieties. When the position at Road 13 opened up he jumped at the chance to work with fruit from the south Okanagan.
What appealed most about the Okanagan? “Aside from the fact that the valley is just a beautiful place to make wine, the biggest thing is organics. We’re in the process of finishing organic certification. And the varieties we grow in the south—especially Cab Franc and Cab Sauv—are what I love to work with,” he says. “especially when they come from close to the border.”
“Our Osoyoos vineyard is so well situated to capture that heat that you need every year. What’s amazing is to watch each block come in and see the health of the fruit. Everything is so pristine. I keep thinking ‘Wow! I get to make wine from that? That’s awesome!’”
However, he’s equally excited about working with Rhone varieties, including Mouverdre and Grenache (that go into the GSM blend)—and Viognier. And he’s particularly stoked about the Syrah. Just released are the 2018 Syrah and 2018 Jackpot Syrah. The fruit for Road 13 Syrah comes from seven south valley blocks, he explains, that combines the power of the east side with the spice of the west side. It spends 16 to 18 months in barrel and is released ready to drink, although it will still age well.
Road 13 Jackpot Syrah (named after a historic, local goldmine) comes from the best sections of the block. “It spends time in newer oak and on skins and in barrel a little longer, to build the mid-palate and smooth out the tannins,” says Barclay.
2020 has been quite the year, as Robinson had to hit the ground running. Above all, the winemaker has high praise for his new colleagues. “The viticulture team here is a rare animal,” he says. “I have so much expertise to work with. They want to get the best fruit possible. It’s been a real pleasure.”
@ Vitis Magazine