THE ADVOCATE V O L . 7 8 P A R T 1 J A N U A R Y 2 0 2 0 55
The oldest wineries in the Shuswap are Recline Ridge and Larch Hills, both
in the Tappen area near Salmon Arm. There are now over a half dozen
wineries in Tappen, Celista and Salmon Arm itself, plus those around
Enderby and Armstrong.
In preparation for this column, I had a chat with Graydon Ratzlaff, who
with his wife Maureen owns and operates Recline Ridge. It planted its first
vines in 1994. Graydon admits that, in the early years, there was much
skepticism that any vines would grow, let alone grapes ripen. But in these
cooler climate areas, the secret is in the varieties planted. Both Russ Niles
and he noted how well suited Ortega (a 1948 German-bred crossing of
Müller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe) has proven to be in the Shuswap. Other
dependable whites, all bred in Germany, are Siegerrebe (itself a crossing in
1929 of Madeleine Angevine and Gewürztraminer), Bacchus (a 1933 crossing
of Silvaner, Riesling, and Müller-Thurgau) and Kerner (another
1929 crossing of Trollinger with Riesling). By “crossing” I refer to cross-
pollination of the vines of these different varieties.
Shuswap reds are most often Maréchal Foch (a B.C. staple bred in Alsace
in the early 1900s and named after French WWI Marshall Ferdinand Foch)
and Zweigelt (developed in Austria in 1922 by crossing St. Laurent and
Blaufränkisch), plus some plantings of Pinot Noir. The latter is often blended,
made a rosé or made a sparkling wine, as ripening it fully can be tricky.
That you may never have heard of some of these varieties, or certain of
their parentage, speaks to the need for the ongoing education Graydon says
they do with visitors to broaden their wine palates. That and trying to cajole
those who only drink Merlot to try some of these lesser-known whites. He
says that if they can get the customers to sip, they often convert them over
to these easy-drinking floral and fresh whites.
The growing season in the Shuswap is three to four weeks shorter than
in the Okanagan, and the number of growing degree days (units indicating
when the temperature reaches a point where vines grow and grapes ripen)
is significantly lower (1,121 on average versus 1,551 in Osoyoos or 1,533 in
the Similkameen Valley).2 Bud-break (when the leaves bud) can be mid-May
as opposed to early- to mid-April in Oliver-Osoyoos. But given the earlierripening
and more winter-resistant varietals grown, harvest is about the
same time as in the Okanagan/Similkameen, starting around Labour Day.
I asked Graydon if he has noted any changes in the growing climate in
recent years, either in terms of milder winters or hotter summers. He said
that every year is different. There is no average year for growing grapes.
2019 was cooler and wetter, and more care had to be taken due to rot in
some varieties. However, this was common throughout all B.C. wine