Community Papers

TASTING NOTES: David in a world of Goliaths

While Tyler Harlton works with many Okanagan growers, he retains hands-on control of vine quality, farming methods and pick dates.  - Submitted
While Tyler Harlton works with many Okanagan growers, he retains hands-on control of vine quality, farming methods and pick dates.
— image credit: Submitted

It always fascinates me to learn the back story of those who’ve opted to “live the dream” and start their own winery.

Whether we’re talking former financial advisors like Cynthia and David Enns of Laughing Stock Vineyards or erstwhile sommeliers like Heidi Noble and Michael Dinn of JoieFarm, it’s intriguing how previous experience might have an effect on their current world of wine.

But what to make of someone who grew up on a small farm in Saskatchewan, played college hockey for Michigan State, got drafted to the St. Louis Blues, trained as a sommelier in Montreal and worked in a New York City law firm on Wall Street?

Well, I guess once you’ve crossed all of those things off of your list, as Summerland’s Tyler Harlton did, amongst the only things left are butcher or baker or local winemaker.

Harlton dove right in to his latest career with gusto a couple years back, sourcing grapes in small batches from around the Okanagan and putting his personal touch on each release under his eponymous “TH Wines” label.

Annual production is tiny, just over 1,000 cases at the moment, and while he’s looking to increase production to ensure his business is sustainable, he assures his growing legion of fans that his wines will always be made “by hand.”

His wines are unfussed, fresh expressions of Okanagan terroir; both food-friendly and enjoyable to ponder on their own.

His Viognier Pinot Gris blend ($25) champions a bounty of orchard fruit, peaches, pears, apples and the like, finished with a sprig of hallmark Okanagan sage. Local seafood or Asian food pairings? You bet.

Last spring, I was so impressed when I’d first tried Harlton’s wines, and equally frustrated that myself and most others hadn’t been aware of the superb quality of them, that I offered to partner up and produce a small tasting with him, to introduce him to a handful of local sommeliers who might otherwise not cross his path.

My hunch was right and enthusiasm contagious. His wines can now be found at a handful of private stores around Vancouver and the North Shore, by the glass at JOEY Wine Bar and elsewhere.

While British Columbia has many wineries producing tens of thousands of cases apiece of great wines, it’s tiny producers like this that are both important and just-as-worthy aspects of both the present and future of B.C. wine. There’s not a lot to go around, so grab his wine while you can.

TH Wines 2012 Pinot Noir | Okanagan Valley, BC | $30 |
Tyler’s latest release is yet another lively example of how well-suited Pinot Noir is to our region. Technical geekery includes a hand-harvesting on Oct. 10, crushing and destemming that evening, a fermentation after a brief cold soak and neutral French oak ageing (for texture rather than flavour) for nine months. The result is a swirl of blackberry and raspberry with cardamom, clove and a couple flecks of basil, ideally served with a hint of a chill. Order winery direct or find it (for a couple bucks more) at various private stores like Liberty Wine Merchants and elsewhere.

Broc Cellars 2012 Carignan | Sonoma, California | $15/glass, $70/bottle | Wildebeest
Colour me captivated by this stunner of a natural wine from a 120-year-old vineyard in Alexander Valley, bursting with plums, bing cherries and minerality to spare. Vancouver’s Wildebeest restaurant has an exclusive on it, make sure you give it a whirl on your next visit.

As always, if you’re having trouble finding something or just want to say hi, find me via or on Twitter @KurtisKolt


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