More than 20 years after the release of its first red wine, Osoyoos Larose is embracing a fresh start. The vineyards were certified organic in 2022, a winery is taking shape in a former fruit-packing facility at the east end of Osoyoos beside Highway 3 and new labels and packaging are in the works.
They have also launched a wine club, La Maison Osoyoos Larose, which offers members access to the older wines and large- format bottling from Osoyoos Larose’s cellar as well as a pre-release of the flagship, Le Grand Vin.
Michael Kullmann, a Bordeaux-trained winemaker born in London, England, took over managing Osoyoos Larose at the end of 2021. He came to the project in April 2019 as vineyard manager.
“We have started to change a lot of things,” Kullmann says. “It’s wonderful to come here, with a fresh view and be open to new ideas.”
The vision for Osoyoos Larose took shape in 1998 with the planting of a vineyard on a bench northwest of Osoyoos in the southern Okanagan Valley. The visionary project was a joint venture between Canada’s Vincor International and France’s Groupe Taillan, which included the legendary Château Gruaud-Larose, a second-growth winery in Saint-Julien, amongst its properties in Bordeaux. Such a significant investment in Okanagan wine country by a noteworthy Bordeaux concern gave a huge boost to the grape and wine industry.
The release of the first Le Grand Vin in 2004 showed the magic that could be conjured up by Bordeaux expertise and the Okanagan climate. It was a stately and intriguing red wine made from merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc grapes grown in 2001, at which point the vines were only two years of age. (A grape vine doesn’t usually produce grapes of sufficient quality to make wine until its third year in the ground.) Osoyoos Larose quickly became one of the most celebrated producers in the Okanagan due to the quality of its Le Grand Vin and Pétales D’Osoyoos (introduced in 2005) labels. In 2013, Groupe Taillan took sole ownership of Osoyoos Larose.
There’s a lot occupying Kullmann and the Osoyoos Larose team’s time and attention. Having worked out of rented spaces since the beginning, a new winemaking facility is taking shape, with tanks coming to keep wines from specific parcels of the vineyard separate during production. There is also a separate vineyard planted with white varieties used in Bordeaux — sauvignon blanc, semillon and muscadelle — to produce white wine to for the portfolio. And, on the sales side, an impressive inventory of mature wines will be available through the wine club.
“From the very first vintage in 2001, we have always kept quite a few cases back to one day release direct to consumers,” Kullmann explains. But that collection kept growing as the winemaking team were kept busy with production and work in the vineyard. “We have aged and cellared these wines, it’s time to showcase the back vintages to people.”
While many Canadian wineries operate clubs, most focus on selling current releases to customers. Osoyoos Larose’s concept to focus largely on mature wines that have been carefully cellared and released at their peak drinking window makes it unique. Kullman will taste the older wines to decide which to include in club packages.
Due to laws prohibiting shipping wine across provinces, membership in La Maison Larose is limited to consumers in British Columbia and Alberta. For an annual fee, consumers will receive three shipments each year, starting with a six-bottle case of a specially selected older vintage. Another shipment will feature an early release of the next vintage of Le Grand Vin, while a holiday-themed shipment will see larger format bottles (three 1.5-litre magnums or a 3-litre bottle and 1.5-litre magnum) of an older wine sent out. More details here.
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