Characters of the Naramata Bench & Uncork Your Palate
We want you to know your ‘Uncork Your Palate’ winemakers prior to meeting them on April 23, 2013 in the Crystal Garden!
The following information is courtesy of our partner’s (Naramata Bench) newsletter. Part of what makes the Naramata Bench a truly exceptional wine destination is the passion, experience and enthusiasm of their amazing winemakers and winery owners. Each month we’ll introduce you to a few of the characters that give the Naramata Bench area and our VCM Fundraiser its personality and flavour.
In the 1990s, Garron Elmes studied oenology and viticulture in Stellenbosch, South Africa. After graduating, he took a job at a large winery outfit that was more of a “wine factory.” Friends of the family were starting a small winery on the other side of the world, and Elmes was offered a job getting the fledgling winery up and running. Naramata certainly didn’t carry any sort of reputation at the time. Lake Breeze, where Elmes was headed, would be only one of four wineries along the Naramata Bench at the time. But the young South African was up for an adventure.
“My original plan was to stay for four or five years,” Elmes laughs, pointing out that he’s now in his 17th year as winemaker at Lake Breeze. “I’ve outlasted three sets of owners!” Ask him what kept him here, and he’ll sweep his arm out over the vineyard, with the lake and mountains in the background. “Just take a look around.”
Besides the physical beauty of the Naramata Bench, Elmes loved the hands-on involvement in every step of the wine business in Lake Breeze’s early days. He did all the vineyard work, the winemaking and he was in the tasting room too.
Elmes also loved the variety of wines that he could make because of the diverse growing conditions in the area. “We now make 14 different wines and we’ve been able to find markets for everything we make.” He does admit to having two favorite grapes: Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. He’s tripled the winery’s production of Pinot Noir in the last few years.
Despite the part he has played over the years in raising the bar in winemaking on the Naramata Bench, Elmes is unfailingly humble when asked how he’s been able to consistently make wines with both a loyal following of customers as well as critical acclaim. (Lake Breeze’s 2008 Tempest was recently awarded Double-Gold “Red Wine of the Year” at the 2012 All Canadian Wine Championship, just one of dozens of awards so far this year.) Typically, he deflects the credit. “We’re lucky that our local market supports our industry.” After 17 years of award-winning wines at Lake Breeze under one winemaker, it’s pretty clear that there’s much more than luck involved.
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