Roger Wong brings back Focus Riesling
By John Schreiner
The 2010 white wines from Intrigue Wines Ltd. included a surprise: the first Focus Riesling since 2002.
It has been worth the wait.
Intrigue is a winery launched in 2009 by Roger Wong, his wife, Gillian, and partners Ross and Geri Davis. Because the partners all have significant day jobs – Roger also is a winemaker at Gray Monk – Intrigue has yet to open a tasting room. The wines are sold from the winery’s website and through a limited number of VQA and private wine stores.
There are plans for a tasting room in the future somewhere in Lake Country since the partners live there and grow grapes there. Until then, tastings by appointment can be arranged by calling 1-877-474-3754.
The winery debuted with three whites from the 2008 vintage, totalling 450 cases. The portfolio is growing. The current release includes the winery’s first red, a Merlot, and five whites, including the Focus Riesling.
A little background to begin with. Roger, who was born in Vancouver in 1965 and has a geography degree, has been fascinated with wine since starting as a home winemaker at 17.
When he was 30, he quit a government job and went to the Okanagan to help Tinhorn Creek in the 1995 crush. He stayed on the next year to work in the winery’s vineyards and cellar. Tinhorn Creek advanced his career, helping him take courses at the University of California.
In 1998, Roger took over as winemaker at Pinot Reach Cellars, a Kelowna winery that became Tantalus Vineyards in 2004. In 2005 he moved to Gray Monk to make the red and sparkling wines.
The Focus label emerged in 2002 as part of Roger’s dream to make wines in various regions with the grapes that those regions were focussed on. In the North Okanagan, he believed the focus should be on Riesling.
He made the first Focus Riesling in 2002 but the venture stalled after the 2003 forest fires saturated Kelowna vineyards with smoke, ruining the grapes that vintage. He put the idea on the back burner while he developed his career at Gray Monk and planted a vineyard of his own near Oyama.
Focus occupies a premium spot in the Intrigue portfolio, but only by a few dollars. These wines are among the best value for money in the Okanagan. Nothing is over $20.
Intrigue’s wines are made primarily from North Okanagan grapes, both from the winery’s vineyard and from purchased grapes. The Merlot is purchased from a vineyard in Summerland.
Here are notes on the wines.
Gewürztraminer 2010 ($15.90). With 13.9% alcohol, this wine is rich in the late-harvest Alsace style. There is rose petal spice on the nose, with flavours of lychee and spice. 87
Pinot Gris 2010 ($15.90). The wine begins with appealing citrus aromas and goes on to deliver tastes of peaches, pears, apples and melons. The wine has good weight but also a crisp, refreshing finish. 90
“10” 2010 ($14.90). The winery releases a different white blend each vintage, naming it simply for the vintage. This is blend of Riesling and Gewürztraminer with a touch of Muscat Canelli that lifts the floral aromas. There is an alluring core of sweet fruit here – flavours of lime, pink grapefruit and green apples. Once again, the vibrant acidity of the vintages gives the wine a crisp, refreshing finish. 90
Riesling 2010 ($16.90). A charmer with a moderate 12.5% alcohol, this wine begins floral, herbal and citrus aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of lime and green apples. The “racy” acidity – as the Germans would say – gives the wine a crisp, tangy, mouth-watering finish that is very refreshing. 90
Focus Riesling 2010 ($19.90). This wine has 13.1% alcohol, suggesting it was made from slightly more mature grapes. It begins with citrus aromas. On the palate, there are flavours of lime and grapefruit, with minerality in the texture. It is finished dry, with racy acidity. This is a wine built for some aging. If laid down for three or four years, it will develop the richness and complexity of a fine Riesling. 92
Merlot 2009 ($19.90). The 2009 vintage produced a lot of ripe grapes. This wine has 14.9% alcohol but also has so much fruit and concentration that the alcohol never sticks out. It begins with aromas of vanilla and spicy red fruits and has flavours of black currants and blackberries. The texture is rich and satisfying. 88
John Schreiner is a wine writer in North Vancouver.