It’s TIME to Evolve: tasting value Okanagan wine

A little while ago I had the opportunity to try a few Okanagan wines that are part of the portfolio under Encore Vineyards: TIME Winery, McWatters Collection and Evolve Cellars.

Encore was owned by the late Harry McWatters, one of the OG pioneers of BC’s wine industry. He worked in the industry for over 50 years, starting back in the late 1960s when Okanagan wines were virtually unheard of outside BC. He founded one of the original big name wineries in the Okanagan, Sumac Ridge. He also founded See Ya Later Ranch and co-owned Encore Vineyards/TIME Winery. He was the first director of the British Columbia Wine Institute and founding chair of many other landmark BC wine organizations, including VQA Canada, the BC Wine Information Society, Okanagan Wine Festivals Society and the BC Hospitality Foundation.

Sadly, McWatters passed away in July 2019. His death was surprising, but even more so was the news that came out afterwards: Encore Vineyards was in serious financial trouble.

I remember hearing a joke years ago, at the beginning of my career as a wine writer:

“How do you make a small fortune in the wine industry?
Start with a large fortune!”

The unfortunate reality is that running a winery is extremely expensive and it’s really hard to turn a profit. That’s true everywhere, but especially in BC where both land and labour costs are very high and wineries have hefty overhead.

If you only try one wine from the Encore portfolio, it should be this one – it’s seriously so good.

Fortunately, in the case of Encore/TIME, investors Ron and Shelley Mayert stepped in and bought the winery. They intend to keep management and staff in place, expand the winery and buy vineyard land.

This is great news because after tasting through some of their portfolio, it would be a real shame if they disappeared. I was particularly impressed with the McWatters Meritage – it was beautifully structured with a wonderful balance between big juicy fruit, toasty oak and dusty tannins. It is quintessential Okanagan and a wonderful namesake for its founder.

The TIME wines that I tried (the Fourth Dimension and Viognier) were also very good. The Fourth Dimension is a great example of the high quality red blends coming out of the Okanagan. The Viognier is a solid example of the varietal, with tropical pineapple and coconut flavours.

The Evolve Cellars wines are cheap and cheerful. I found the Effervescence bubblies a little too sweet for my taste and the bubbles are a little hard (they are made in the Charmat method, like most Prosecco, and I am a bit of a snob with bubbly and prefer the finer fizz from traditional method). However, they are decent value for the price and thirst-quenching when served ice cold.

See below for my detailed notes.

QUICK NOTES
Name: McWatters Collection Meritage
Vintage: 2017
Region: Okanagan Valley
Grape: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot
Taste: cassis, black cherry, toasty vanilla oak
Texture: juicy rich fruit underpinned by dusty velvet tannins

Name: TIME Fourth Dimension
Vintage: 2017
Region: Okanagan Valley
Grape: Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon
Taste: raspberry, red cherry, baking spices
Texture: soft and juicy with a hint of bitter spice

Name: TIME Viognier
Vintage: 2018
Region: Okanagan Valley
Grape: Viognier
Taste: pineapple, mandarin orange, lemon, toasted coconut
Texture: tropical and round with citrusy undercurrent

Name: Evolve Cabernet-Merlot
Vintage: 2016
Region: Okanagan Valley
Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Taste: plum, cherry, blackberry and a hint of spice
Texture: soft and juicy with round oaky overtones

Name: Evolve White Effervescence
Vintage: NV
Region: Okanagan Valley
Grape: 70% Pinot Blanc, 30% Chardonnay
Taste: green apple, lemon, pie crust
Texture: bready with a hint of sweetness

Name: Evolve Pink Effervescence
Vintage: NV
Region: Okanagan Valley
Grape: 97% Pinot Blanc, 3% Merlot
Taste: peach, strawberry jam, raspberry juice
Texture: juicy with a sweet finish



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