|Photo of sign courtesy of Richard Kanazawaa|
If we hadn't been told about Kanazawa Wines, we never would have found it. It wasn't in the tour books, or listed on the Wine Route map ... or the local map, or even Google Maps. For all intents and purposes, it didn't exist.
Sometimes those are the best places to find.
The place was a shack. Literally. A brand-new shack, granted, and cottage-like in its charm, but a shack nonetheless. Set at the end of a narrow dirt road, in behind a miniature horse farm, across the street from the significantly larger and flashier Township7.
When we pulled into the parking "lot" a guy sporting a black Metallica t-shirt and a wide, welcoming smile waved us in. That was the winemaker, Richard Kanazawa.
Rich has officially "been there and done that" in the business. A Langley native, he graduated from the BC Technology Institute and tripped off to Australia for some hands-on winemaking experience. Upon his return, he built up an impressive resume in the Okanagan with stints at Red Rooster, Blasted Church, Lang Vineyards and Bench 1775. The medals rolled in and the review scores climbed higher and higher. But after years of crafting happily-ever-afters for other wineries, Rich was itching to make his own mark.
There was a nerve-wracking period of self-doubt and plenty of professional drama when Rich and his wife Jennifer decided to launch Kanazawa Wines. Still, they persevered, and in 2010, they released their first vintage.
The impressive portfolio now includes red and white blends, a rosé, and sparkling wine, all of which have been getting rave reviews ... mostly. He's ruffled a few feathers with some of his non-traditional techniques and varietal choices that are considered, by some, as off-the-wall. But he likes it that way, and doesn't intend on changing his style.
"The new kids, the young winemakers, they're trying my stuff and saying, 'Hey, this is great, we need to do this,'" he says. "The older ones, the old-school winemakers, they look at what I'm doing and just shake their heads."
It took us forever to decide on what to buy (given our baggage weight limits) because EVERYTHING was that damn good:
Kanazawa 2015 Sakura Rosé - Rich kept the juice on the skins of this pinot noir-based rosé longer than usual, and filtered it at the absolute last minute, just before bottling. The result is a much more complex, meatier rosé than expected, with a heady nose of smoked salmon, musk melon and roses. On the palate, the smokiness continues, with intermittent bursts of ripe cherry and savoury.
Kanazawa 2012 Raku - A Côte Rotie-style blend of syrah and viognier, it starts out with robust, port-like aromas that lead to a complex flavour profile of liquid smoke, sweet cherry and dark chocolate. A classic, elegant red.
Kanazawa 2014 Malbec - Where some wineries get their malbec from the warmer climes of Oliver and Osoyoos, only 100-per-cent Naramata fruit went into this one, which was then aged in French oak for four months and neutral barrels for another eight. Violets and blueberries belie a peppery, herbaceous mouthful that is drawn together by thin strands of vanilla.
Kanazawa 2012 Ronin - Bordeaux-ish ensemble of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and petit verdot. Again with the big port nose, this time featuring more pronounced vanilla. Where the straight-up malbec held a bit of green-ness to it, the Ronin was all plush velvet, thick blackberry and cherry, and a warm, balanced finish.
(Editor's note: The sign has since been hung and Rich holds court every so often in his wine shack, pouring samples for visitors when he's not in the midst of tinkering with the latest project. If you find yourself out on the Bench, do give him a call at 250-486-7424 and swing by. It's definitely a place worth finding.)