Father and sons, working in the Okanagan Valley, produce world-class riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot blanc and blends, and earn hundreds of wine-competition medals.
GROWING UP IN East Germany, Fritz Kruger was not surrounded by wine. But when he emigrated to West Germany in 1949, wine was cheaper than beer, so that’s what he drank.
And that wine was riesling.
Today, his sons craft some of the finest white wines — including riesling — anywhere in the Northwest.
Three to try
Wild Goose Vineyards and Winery 2013 Stoney Slope riesling, Okanagan Valley, $20: Crafted from some of the oldest riesling vines in British Columbia, this is annually one of the finest white wines in the Northwest. It reveals notes of fresh peach and apple, a hint of almond and a kiss of sweetness.
Wild Goose Vineyards and Winery 2013 Mystic River pinot blanc, Okanagan Valley, $19: Too often, pinot blanc is underappreciated, but it wouldn’t be if more were this good. Aromas of lime, pear and apricot lead to flavors of kiwi and white peach. A perfect shellfish wine.
Wild Goose Vineyards and Winery 2012 Red Horizon Meritage, Okanagan Valley, $22: This is perhaps the best red wine Hagen Kruger has made. It’s a merlot-heavy, Bordeaux-style blend with plush flavors of blackberry pie and plum sauce backed by velvety tannins.
After he married, Kruger moved to British Columbia, eventually settling in the warm Okanagan Valley to retire. In 1984, he planted a little riesling and gewürztraminer, becoming one of the first in the province to grow European wine grapes rather than inferior, cold-hardy hybrid varieties.
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With his sons Hagen and Roland, they launched Wild Goose Vineyards and Winery in 1990. A quarter-century later, father and sons continue to work side by side near the community of Okanagan Falls, B.C., to produce world-class riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot blanc and blends, and earn hundreds of medals in regional, national and international wine competitions.
Hagen took over as head winemaker in 1998, and Roland serves as general manager.
In 2012, the winery went through a big remodel, including installation of a 1,200-square-foot deck that overlooks its Stoney Slope Vineyard. Unfortunately, the Krugers were unable to serve their guests a glass of wine on the deck because of provincial laws. Instead of giving up, the Krugers opened a restaurant called the Smoke & Oak Bistro that helped them get around the legal issues. Focusing on Southern-style barbecue with a German twist, it was a huge hit its first year.
Like most wineries in British Columbia, Wild Goose has no distribution south of the 49th parallel, so it is frustrating to have such great wines so close yet nearly impossible to enjoy without traveling there.
Fortunately, some headway has been made in the past year in getting a few British Columbia wines into the rest of the Northwest. Thus, the Krugers are confident they will be able to get their wines into the Seattle market in the next year or so.
Meanwhile, plan a long weekend in the Okanagan Valley (it’s a six-hour drive from Seattle) and try the wines for yourself.