Admittedly, I don’t drink riesling nearly as much as I drink chardonnay. And lately, I’ve probably drank more pinot gris and sauvignon blanc. But it has become clear to me that when a quality riesling crosses my palate, it tends to jump out at me, letting me know that it deserves my undivided attention. Such can be said about the 2016 vintage of the Martin’s Lane Naramata Ranch Vineyard Riesling – a wine that was chosen as my most outstanding white wine of the year in 2021.
From the Naramata Bench appellation in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, the Naramata Ranch Vineyard is described by Martin’s Lane Winery as an exceptional parcel of old vines. A rather isolated location, with incredibly diverse geology, topography and elevations, vines here were planted in 1976 and sit on red granite and volcanic, silty soil.
According to winemaker Shane Munn (whom I spoke with via Zoom chat in Spring of ‘21), “The Okanagan is a very unique place to grow and make riesling. The soils are challenging – glacial of origin. This adds a sternness from which texture needs to be formed using unique techniques (extended skin contact) and alternative vessels such as large 1,250L German oak stucks and ceramic eggs. Our latitude is also challenging – all our sites lie between the 49 and 50th parallel. Throw altitude into the mix and it’s a very dynamic place.”
Designed and built to produce world-class pinot noir and riesling wines, Martin’s Lane is situated beautifully into a steep, jaggy rock hillside within the Okanagan Valley. The area has low humidity and rainfall, with cool nights and warm days – a perfect setting for growing pinot noir and riesling, two varieties traditionally not often seen alongside each other. But, as Munn puts it, “we’re in the New World, where we’re not bound by traditional constraints, so we’re forging our own path while still remaining inspired by the greatest wines in the world.”
Munn further explains that a mix of traditional and progressive winemaking methods are used to produce single-vineyard and single-block wines – with the aim of carving a path for Okanagan riesling and “reaching heights in terms of international reputation that none before have aspired to.”
The style of this top shelf riesling is off-dry, textured and complex. Munn pushes the skin contact to around 48 hours and uses those mentioned alternative vessels (German oak, ceramic eggs) for the fermentation and elevage. The results are phenomenal, with tantalizing floral and wet stone aromas that lead to tangy and savoury flavours of tangerine, lemon and minerality on the palate.
A wine of elegance and purity, it’s a riesling that catches you a little off-guard, in the sense that you wouldn’t expect it to be as structured and layered as it is, remarkably retaining its composure on day two and into day three. It’s an exciting wine, if not truly memorable.
In terms of its price point, at $55, it’s definitely a step up from most, but the reward is absolute. With quality-to-price-ratio (QPR) always playing a part in wines I offer a rating to, this comes very highly recommended and is well worth the extra spend, especially when taking its pedigree into consideration.
The 2016 Martin’s Lane Winery Naramata Ranch Riesling was awarded a score of 94 points and named most outstanding white wine of the year for 2021, as published in our VineRoutes Newsletter. To discover more exclusive newsletter-only wine scores, awarded by VineRoutes editors, sign up here.