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Wine column: Hester Creek releases its much-anticipated GSM

Hester Creek winemaker Mark Hopley's eyes light up when he takes a sip of the 2022 GSM ($35).

"It's a fun wine to make," he said with a smile.

"It's just right -- lighter than a Bordeaux-style red and heavier than a Pinot Noir. It's food-friendly and juicy with aromas and flavours of strawberry and black pepper and violet."

This is the first release of a GSM (a red blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre) by Hester Creek Estate Winery in Oliver.

<who>Photo credit: Hester Creek Estate Winery</who>Mark Hopley is the winemaker at Hester Creek Estate Winery in Oliver.

While a signature blend in its homeland of France's southern Rhone Valley, GSM is rare in the Okanagan.

In fact, Hester Creek has immediately become British Columbia's biggest producer of GSM with this week's release of 2,250 cases -- that's 27,000 bottles.

"Hester Creek has been doing Rhone well, with our Viognier and Syrah (the white and red signature grapes of the Rhone,)" explained Hopley.

"So, we saw an opportunity for GSM."

<who>Photo credit: Steve MacNaull/NowMedia Group</who>New release reds from Hester Creek, from left, 2021 Syrah ($30), 2022 GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre) ($35) and 2022 Character Red ($23).

I first tasted Hester Creek's GSM in March, before the bottles were even labelled, with Hopley, at a special sneak peek event for some wine writers.

The GSM made its grand entrance with the second course of a gourmet dinner in the big demonstration kitchen at Hester Creek's Wine Shop.

Served alongside seared duck breast with wild rice and cherries fig jus, the GSM shone.

After the dinner, or more courses and more wines, of course, I was able to walk back to one of Hester Creek's on-site villas for a comfy night's sleep.

The six villas, with patios overlooking vineyards, are available for overnight stays until Nov. 30.

<who>Photo credit: Hester Creek Estate Winery</who>Hester Creek has six on-site villas available for overnights through the end of November.

While duck is considered the ideal pairing with GSM, it's also certainly welcome with any recipe that includes goat cheese, or any food with savoury herbs (such as thyme and sage) like sausages, meat pies or a well-seasoned steak or roast.

Or, drink it on its own on the patio after the sun has gone down, a cool breeze blows and lights twinkle.

While Hester Creek has plenty of Syrah, it needed its own source of the lesser-planted Grenache and Mouvredre to make a GSM debut.

So, Hester Creek president and viticulturist, Mark Sheridan, worked with Hester Creek's long-time vineyard manager, Iqbal Gill, in collaboration with grape growers and brothers Sukhi and Balwinder Dhaliwal from Kismet Estate Winery in Oliver.

The result is Vineyard Eleven at the warmest vineyard site in Canada on the east side of Osoyoos Lake.

The red grapes love the sandy soil, hot days and warm evenings.

The 2022 growing season -- the vintage of the first GSM -- was one of the longest on record, ripening the Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre to perfection.

By the way, it's called Vineyard Eleven because it scores an 11 out of 10 for its prime location and practices to produce exceptional grapes.

<who>Photo credit: Steve MacNaull/NowMedia Group</who>At Vineyard Eleven in Osoyoos, from left, Hester Creek president Mark Sheridan, vineyard manager Iqbal Gill and grape growers and brothers, Sukhi and Balwinder Dhaliwal.

Hester Creek is so rightfully proud of its inaugural GSM that it's put it in its 'Storied Series' portfolio of wines.

The series is for small lot wines made innovatively with grapes meticulously and sustainably grown in distinctive terroir.

The Storied Series also includes the 2023 Rose Noir, 2022 Semillon, 2023 Viognier (which Hopley said is the best he's ever made), 2022 Pinot Bianco and 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hester Creek is also building events around the GSM all summer long.

- Today and this weekend, the GSM will be available by the glass at the on-site Terrafina restaurant and the Wine Shop patio

- Also today and this weekend, taste the GSM and enter the grand-prize draw

- Live music every Saturday and Sunday on the Wine Shop patio, 1 to 4 pm

- The GSM will be an option in all wine flights at the tasting bar, Mondays through Fridays

- Through June 19 there's free shipping for cases of wine purchased online

- June 13 and July 11 After Hour Happy Hours will feature GSM by the glass

- July 19 the GSM will be in the line-up at the Rhone-Style Tasting Experience

- July 20 the GSM Release Celebration with a rhythm-and-blues concert by the Mocking Shadows

Tickets and information at www.hestercreek.com.

<who>Photo credit: Culmina Family Estate Winery</who>Wildlife painter Jacqui Keseluk is one of five artists who will be at tomorrow's 'Wine and...Art' pop-up at Culmina Family Estate in Oliver.

Wine and...Art

The cellar at Culmina Family Estate Winery in Oliver will be full of not just wine tomorrow, but art and music and people and delicious canapes.

It's the 'Wine and...Art' event, 4 to 6 pm, featuring a pop-up gallery with five BC artists' work and the painters in attendance, too.

The music is by folk duo Badgentina, the wine, of course, by Culmina and the canapes by chef Kenny Dia.

Tickets are $40 at:

https://www.culmina.ca/product/Wine-and----Tradition-Copy?pageID=D4240F68-9F1F-5BEF-3E61-1D836AC18BFE&sortBy=DisplayOrder&maxRows=36&&productListName=Events&position=1

Steve MacNaull is a NowMedia Group reporter, Okanagan wine lover and Canadian Wine Scholar. Reach him at smacnaull@nowmediagroup.ca. His wine column appears every Friday afternoon in this space.



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