Former ski bums’ beautiful, fresh wines have amassed 17 gold medals in three years at the Cascadia Wine Competition.
AT ITS CORE, winemaking is a balancing act. Finding the right vineyard; adjusting care of the fruit to the evolving weather; knowing just when to pick to capture all the goodness of the grape; then nurturing the wine until you bottle it, ready to send your creation into the world.
Lyndsay O’Rourke seems to have found all those pieces and put them together with her grape-growing husband, Graham. They are owners of the appropriately named Tightrope Winery on the Naramata Bench in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.
Together, they are crafting wines of remarkable beauty whose hallmark is fresh fruit with a sense of place and balance.
Three to try
Like most B.C. wines, Tightrope wines are next to impossible to buy outside the province. However, Tightrope sells several of its wines through winebcusa.com.
Tightrope Winery 2016 Pinot Gris, Naramata Bench, $21: Okanagan Pinot Gris is among the best in the Northwest, and this wine bears witness to that, thanks to succulent aromas of ripe pear, peach and lemon zest. On the palate, tangy flavors of tropical fruit are propped up by zingy acidity.
Tightrope Winery 2015 Pinot Noir, Naramata Bench, $35: Aromas for this luscious red leap from the glass, providing flavors of spiced cranberries and chocolate-covered cherries. The medium-bodied palate offers a sensation of chalky, earthy, yet light tannin, and flavors of blackberry and plum.
Tightrope Winery 2016 Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon, Naramata Bench, $22: This classic white Bordeaux-style blend is a knockout, thanks to aromas of lemon, lime and fresh fig, followed by flavors of juicy grapefruit backed by tantalizing acidity.
In the past three years, their wines have amassed a remarkable 17 gold medals at the Cascadia Wine Competition, held annually in Oregon’s Columbia Gorge town of Hood River.
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Not bad for a couple of self-described ski bums who met at Whistler, got married, moved across the province, and planted grapes and hope near Penticton. Their first vintage was in 2012, so they have fast-tracked their way to one of the top wineries in a region with more than 250 of them.
Lyndsay grew up in Vancouver, and Graham came from Ontario. She was working at a pet store when he came in with his boxer, looking for puppy food. By 2003, Lyndsay and Graham were married. When their first son was born, they decided to get real jobs. Upon her mother’s suggestion, they moved to the Okanagan, where Lyndsay put her science background to work learning winemaking while Graham studied viticulture. They spent time in New Zealand learning their craft, and their young son even held on to a Kiwi accent for a time upon their return to Canada.
Today, the O’Rourkes have planted 10 acres of grapes overlooking the south end of Okanagan Lake, a region proving to be a great location for all grape varieties. That covers 40 percent of their production. The rest comes from nearby vineyards.
Life, family, grapes, wine: It’s all in balance.