“Winemaking is creativity. We blend art and science.” – Lynzee Schatz
Timing is so important when your profession is making wine. Understanding this and having a strong sense of it undoubtedly separates the poor from the good, and the good from the great.
From knowing when to harvest the grapes in the fall months, to knowing how long a wine should rest in barrel before bottling, every step a winemaker takes in the journey of making wine is implemented with careful calculation, never rushed nor delayed, as being off by even the slightest margin can prove to have a negative impact on the desired result.
Winemaker Lynzee Schatz knows and understands this very well. She’s the head winemaker now for Five Vines Cellars, located in Penticton, British Columbia – at the heart of Okanagan Valley’s wine country – crafting the annual lineup of small batch wines for Time Winery, Evolve Cellars and McWatters Collection.
Lynzee was raised in the Okanagan and started her career at the age of 18 as a cellar hand at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. There she became interested in winemaking, and this led her to Australia to start her formal wine studies. After completing a Bachelor of Wine Science from Charles Sturt University, she traveled extensively and completed vintages at several wineries including California’s Pisoni Vineyards and Domaine Chandon, Yeringberg in Australia’s Yarra Valley, and both Tawse Winery and Angels Gate in Ontario.
“I grew up in the Okanagan, so coming back here to make wine is really special.” – Lynzee Schatz
She returned to BC in 2014 and spent the next five years at Vancouver Urban Winery, Postmark Brewing and Okanagan Crush Pad until starting in 2019 as a winemaker for what would eventually become the brands under the Five Vines Cellars ownership.
Time Winery, Evolve Cellars and McWatters Collection were all formed by Harry McWatters, described by many as “the godfather of BC wine.” He died suddenly in 2019 at the age of 74. During his time in the wine industry, he worked with more than 50 vintages of BC wine. The future of the three brands were, understandably, laden with uncertainty after his death, but luckily under their new ownership that is not something that needs to be worried about any longer.
As the one now leading the cellar for these three storied brands, Lynzee is looking to making the wines at the highest standards, in handcrafted small batches.
“My goal is to always produce wines as reflective of their variety as possible,” says Lynzee. “I want them to be generous, balanced and poised. Each of our brands has a different direction and style, and I want to continue showcasing this diversity.”
She enthusiastically admits that she loves working with chardonnay. “It is such a shapeshifter. From barrel ferments, only stainless-steel ferments, or somewhere in-between. It is also a staple in sparkling wine, and if you know me, you know I love bubbles,” she says.
In reference to my indicating that timing is of the essence when making wine, it’s important to also note that each year is unique, and that it would be wrong to set an identical clock based off of any previous year. Lynzee suggests that one can never get too comfortable and assume that each vintage will require the same playbook or strategy. “It is always different.”
She adds: “Winemaking is creativity. We blend art and science. We work within a huge variable that is the vineyard and growing season. We have to continually adapt to what happens in that season to be able to use that and produce the best wines we can. It’s also great that we move with the seasons, every month you’re doing something different in the cellar.”
If having excellent timing is a significant factor in the equation, understanding that Mother Nature can be unpredictable and, at times temperamental, is just as significant in plotting a successful vintage. Remaining positive and not allowing yourself to get flustered helps you stay focused and prepared for any zigs and zags that are sure to happen along the way.
“One of the hardest things about making wine is seasonal variance and how we really have no control over it,” says Lynzee. “We hope for a winter that doesn’t get too cold, a spring that isn’t too wet, a summer that gets hot enough, and a fall that pushes ripening through.”
“On the other side of that is the excitement of what each new year brings. While we go through the same sort of actions each year (for example: picking, pressing, fermenting etc.), it is always with a different batch of fruit. Each year brings a new story.”
Below are two wines from Time Winery, both just recently released through the winery’s website, that represent Lynzee Schatz’s early involvement at her new post:
Time Winery 2018 Merlot
Time Winery & Kitchen is housed in a historic and revitalized space that once housed the PenMar movie theatre. It welcomes guests throughout the year to taste wine from the three main labels (Time, Evolve Cellars, and the McWatters Collection) and is complete with elegant tasting bar and restaurant. This wine’s final stages in barrel and bottling was overseen by new winemaker Lynzee Schatz and is robust with classic aromas of cherry and blueberry fruit, leather and cedar chest. The palate is soft and rich, with expansive flavours of drying berries, tar and leather, smoke and milk chocolate. It’s a cellar worthy wine and should peak within the coming three to five years, but don’t hesitate to open this now and enjoy with beef stew or grilled meats. Excellent value. ($24.99)
Time Winery 2018 Syrah
Time Winery is committed to creating wines that express the unique flavours of Okanagan wine country. Syrah, like merlot, is one of those varieties that can be beautifully expressed in BC’s climate. So many wineries are doing great things with this grape and it is definitely showing. Time’s version is classic syrah, with bold aromas of ripe blackberry, a dash of white pepper and hints of mint. On the palate there’s rich flavours of black currant and dark plum with subtle traces of peppercorn spice and smoked sausage. The finish is warm and comforting. It’s a lovely wine that shows its balance and pairs beautifully with hearty winter meals. ($39.99)