Brothers can get a lot done when they work together. Romulus and Remus founded the city of Rome. Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the airplane. Those dashingly handsome Property Brothers on HGTV fix up and flip overpriced houses in Toronto.
Closer to home, the Bartier brothers of the Okanagan Valley produce award-winning wines that I can’t get enough of.
Don and Michael Bartier started up the Bartier Bros winery in 2009, and have long been producing oustanding wines that are finally available here in Alberta.
Both born and raised in Kelowna, the brothers had to leave their hometown to attend university, but eventually made their way back to the Okanagan Valley to open a winery.
Brother Michael spent years in the wine industry in BC and around the world before returning home, while brother Don had a successful career as an accountant in Calgary before the siren call of the grape lured him home, and the rest is history!
Michael Bartier is a bit of a rock star in the wine world, and acts as a consulting winemaker to several other wineries, in addition to his duties as co-proprietor of Bartier Bros.
Firmly believing in respect for the terroir, Bartier Bros do not grow any of the wildly popular Cabernet Sauvignon, as the limestone and granitic soils in the vineyard would not do justice to the Cab Sauv grape. Fortunately, the Cabernet Franc grape thrives in these soils, which rocketed Bartier Bros to stardom after their first vintage.
The red wines from Bartier Bros include Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, with the Cab Franc being my favourite. Bursting with dense fruits and velvety soft tannins, the wine has a smoky cedar finish from the barrel aging.
The Merlot is much bolder, with chocolate and blackberry on the tongue, followed by a long mineral finish, courtesy of the limestone soils that nurture the vines.
White wine fans will not be disappointed, with many different grapes to choose from. The thundering juggernaut known as Chardonnay is present, as are the less-famous Gewürztraminer, Sémillon, Riesling, and Viognier grapes, bottled in both blends and single varietals.
Astute readers may notice the absence of the ever-popular Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc varietals. Despite their popularity, Bartier Bros intentionally avoids grape varietals that are not perfectly suited to their local terroir, a strategy that has won them many accolades.
The Sémillon grape produces what is perhaps their most lauded white wine, as this grape is highly expressive of minerality, thanks to the chunks of granite covered in calcium carbonate that dot the vineyard. The vines draw nourishment from the rocky soils, which shines through as a long mineral finish, well balanced by the citrusy notes on the tongue and hints of freshly cut grass on the nose.
I paired a bottle of the 2016 Sémillon with grilled white fish, and it was a match made in heaven.
For those who prefer an off-dry white wine, look no further than the Riesling, which was fermented at cool temperatures and then stopped while there was still a small amount of residual sugar in the wine.
Riesling is well known for its intricate balance of sugar and acidity, which is well reflected in the complex palate of bright fruits and minerality, making it quite versatile for food pairings.
While the Sémillon grape seems to get most of the spotlight, brother Michael’s first winemaker awards early in his career at other wineries were for Chardonnay, so fans of that grape will be happy to find both oaked and unoaked varieties at Bartier Bros.
The unoaked Chardonnay bursts with peach and lime flavours, followed by a dry and flinty finish. I preferred the oaked Chardonnay, with biscuit and smoky almond flavours from the barrel aging, balanced by deep and rich fruit notes on the tongue.
Whatever your passion, there is a Bartier Bros wine to suit your palate. I always make sure to visit the winery on my annual pilgrimage to the Okanagan Valley, as it allows me to bring home some of the small-lot runs that never make it into the retail stores.
Fortunately, Bartier Bros finally started distributing into the Alberta market a few years ago, so it is now possible to find their wares at a select number of well-stocked wine stores right here in our fair province. Look for them in your local bottle shop!