Second Generation Winemaking Families: Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards Sparkle

kelowna capital news
 Hon. D. Ross Fitzpatrick – Chairman, Linda Fitzpatrick – Treasurer & Gordon Fitzpatrick – President. Photo credit: Kelowna Capital News

Kiefer Sutherland, Kate Hudson, Angelina Jolie, Rashida Jones…….Sara Triggs? Gordon Fitzpatrick?

What do they have in common? Some serious star power and a lot of familial fame.

In the next two posts, you’ll meet the sons and daughters of industry legends who have stepped out of their parent’s shadows to carry on a family tradition. So, who, exactly, are Gordon Fitzpatrick and Sara Triggs?

While their parents aren’t part of the gilded Hollywood set, these second-generation “creators” are definitely progeny of famous parents. In this case, however, it’s not the acting gene that’s been passed down, but the winemaking gene. And Gordon and Sara don’t live in sunny California. They live several thousand miles north, just south of the 50th parallel in British Columbia’s incredibly cool Okanagan Valley winemaking region where they’re making their own mark on the wine industry.

Okanagan photographer - jonadrian.com
Photo Credit: Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards

Gordon Fitzpatrick and Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards

I met the exceedingly Canadian (read: welcoming, polite with a hint of JT) Gordon Fitzpatrick when we stopped at Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards – otherwise known as Greata Ranch in the spring.

As a political junkie – woefully disheartened with the current political climate in the U.S. and my own Canadian province – I was looking forward to meeting the senior Fitzpatrick statesman – Senator D. Ross Fitzpatrick – who had made a name for himself serving as a liberal senator (1998 – 2008) during the Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper administrations.

Senator Ross Fitzpatrick
The Senator.    Photo Credit: Senator D. Ross Fitzpatrick

 

The Senator red and white
The Senator. Red & White blends. Cedar Creek’s tribute to their founder. Nice.

Some quick history – like many young residents of the Okanagan Valley- the Canadian Senator grew up in a farming family working part time jobs in the orchards and fruit packing houses up and down the valley. He was educated at UBC and Columbia, before establishing a highly successful career in the aerospace, oil and gas, and mining sectors.

In 1986 Ross Fitzpatrick followed his heart back to British Columbia where he became one of the eight founding fathers of the wine industry in the Okanagan Valley, alongside heavy hitters like Harry McWatters and Anthony von Mandl. Fitzpatrick purchased an orchard – the struggling Uniacke Vineyard – along the coveted stretch of bench lands in East Kelowna, building the highly acclaimed Cedar Creek Winery. As the business expanded, the family added a second vineyard outside of Peachland (1994) and a third, Desert Ridge Vineyard, in Osoyoos in the south Okanagan. Many vintages (27), awards, and Canadian ‘winery of the year’ recognitions later (2), the Fitzpatrick family sold Cedar Creek to Anthony von Mandl in 2014 when, according to son Gordon, they received an offer they couldn’t refuse.

The one property the Fitzpatrick family held onto was the 1896 fruit orchard south of Kelowna, called Greata Ranch. The exquisite property hugs the gently sloping western shore of Lake Okanagan, between Peachland and Summerland.

Greata Ranch Winery - ron caswell twitter
The view. Sigh. Photo Credit: Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards

The Greata Ranch winery had quietly produced wine for Cedar Creek, under the Greata Ranch name since 2003. For its rebirth in May 2017, the winery was rebranded as Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards bringing some well-deserved name-recognition to the family’s wine legacy. The estate winery was completely renovated, reopening with gravity flow winemaking, a bistro and a stunning lakeside patio that’s more than a little inviting. It’s here where proprietor and retired senator Ross Fitzpatrick has staged his second, cool climate wine act, and where we enjoyed some delightful Fitz by the lake.

Greata Ranch TOTA
Photo Credit: Thompson Okanagan Tourist Association

Act II

Sadly, Senator Ross Fitzpatrick was not at Greata Ranch when we stopped by to sip the traditional method sparkling wine that’s quickly putting Fitzpatrick Vineyards on the bubbles map. According to son Gordon, the good senator is enjoying the fruits of retirement in warmer climes and has handed over the winemaking reigns to the family. What I didn’t know – and what Gordon didn’t share when we chatted over a Fitzpatrick flight of wines – was Gordon’s own background as a political staffer. The Greata Ranch president did his own tour on Parliament Hill as Special Assistant to the feisty – some might even say crusty – ‘little guy from Shawinigan’, the Rt. Honourable Jean Chrétien. Chrétien – for non-Canadians reading this – served as the 20th Prime Minister of Canada between from November 4, 1993 to December 12, 2003.

In 1996, Gordon gave up the political cut and thrust of Ottawa’s Parliament Hill and returned to the Okanagan Valley to help his father run Cedar Creek. Together the Fitzpatrick politicos-turned-vignerons, have made their mark on the winemaking scene in the Okanagan Valley, bringing a genteel Canadian diplomacy and a passion for grape growing to the region.

Gordon Fitzpatrick 2
Former assistant to a Canadian Prime Minister now President of Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards.

Fitzpatrick Vineyards Sparkle

The focus at Fitzpatrick Vineyards is sparkling with most of the 40 acres of vineyards dedicated to the three primary grapes of traditional method Champagne – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. The family also grows an interesting selection of cool-climate grapes for still wine including Gewürztraminer, Ehrenfelser, Pinot Blanc and Riesling.

Fitzpatrick wine flightAs Gordon points out – 24 years of experience at Greata has helped them understand climate, soils, lake affect and vintage variation, and ultimately what grows best on the property. Key to that list is the influence of Mount Eneas, a 655-metre peak to the west Greata Ranch. The mountain shaves 2 ½ hours of valuable ripening sunlight off the day. According to Gordon, the family has learned their bench strength lies with producing acidity-loving sparkling wine grapes that thrive in those very climatic conditions.

You’re going to want to visit this truly lovely winery and meet the second-generation Fitz star who’s now running the show. The views are to die for, the wines are delicious (and offer excellent value) and the summer concert series is pure Canadiana (i.e. songster AND wine icon Jim Cuddy).

Plus – and for me this is a definite plus – maybe you’ll get to rail about politics and reminisce about the good ole days with a couple of front-line political types. What’s not to love?

Okanagan photographer - jonadrian.com

Sparkling Wine Cave. Photo Credit: Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards

Wines to Try:

sparkling

2014 Fitz Brut – $32.99

Fitz Brut is made from 100% estate grown grapes from Greata Ranch. Wines follow traditional Champenoise practices (meaning the second fermentation happens in the bottle) spending 24 months aging on the lees before disgorging and packaging.

The 2014 Fitz Brut is a blend of barrel and stainless steel fermented wine with lovely green apple, citrus and honey flavours. Toasty brioche notes add a delicious richness to this elegant, balanced and refreshingly crisp sparkler.

Design lover that I am, full marks goes to the Fitzpatrick Family for their impactful brand design work. Don’t leave without the gorgeous ice bucket, which according to Gordon, is selling almost as fast as the Brut.

2016 Unwinder Ehrenfelser – $18.50

Ehrenfelser is a German Riesling-Sylvaner based cross. The 2016 Ehrenfelser offers a delightful hit of spring featuring vibrant floral and stone fruit aromatics. Ripe tropical fruit – melon, papaya, pineapple, peach and mango – reward the palate with a citrus-crisp, vibrant acidity. Off-dry, with a lower alcohol content of 9% ABV.

Interloper Gewurztraminer – $18.50

A beautifully rich gewurtz with classic lychee and perfumed rose petal bouquet. The palate offers tons of ripe, round tropical fruit and honey flavours with zesty acidity and a refreshing crisp finish.

 

Next up: Second Generation Winemaker Sara Triggs and Culmina Family Estate Winery

 

 

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