Poplar Grove Winery is one of the Naramata Bench wine region’s first five wineries. It started in 1993 when Ian Sutherland planted 2.5 acres of Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. In 1995, Poplar Grove released its first vintage release, a Cabernet Franc that won top honours at the Okanagan International Wine Festival.
In 2007, Tony Holler became the winery’s majority owner and president, together with Ian and Barrie Sali rounding out the team. Poplar Grove’s acreage increased when the Holler family brought their Holler Estate Vineyards to the mix, adding 110 acres of vineyard sites throughout the Southern Okanagan.
Our small group of writers met with Ian Sutherland and General Manager Jacquie Carlson last week, to enjoy a dinner at the onsite yet-to-be-opened Vanilla Pod at Poplar Grove. It recently moved from its former location in downtown Summerland to Poplar Grove.
Once the restaurant is complete, it will enjoy the same commanding views as does the winery showroom. It will also showcase the award winning wines of both Poplar Grove and Monster Vineyards.
Executive Chef Bruno Terroso introduced each of his dishes as we were fortunate to dine in the winery library, amongst the barrels, seated at a long table together. At the time of our visit, the restaurant was still under construction, but from what we saw, well under way to becoming a fabulous winery destination restaurant when it opens in June.
Our meal started with a lobster and prawn bisque, paired with a 2009 Chardonnay ($22). Poplar Grove ferments its chardonnay in stainless steel, at a temperature as cold as possible. It’s then finished for nine months in French oak, imparting that nutty, cashew flavour. The slight heat of the bisque allowed the Chardonnay to cut in nicely throughout the course.
A simply prepared organic green salad followed, with red onions and strawberries mixed into the greens. Poplar’s 2010 Monster Rosé ($18) was paired here.
We tasted a Legacy 2007 ($50), with New Zealand rack of lamb, grilled eggplant roll, romano bean mash, nugget potatoes, and rosemary aioli. Legacy is Poplar’s flagship wine, a combination of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. These particular grape combinations change depending on the vintage produced. The wine spends 21 months in French oak, then 14 months in bottle. Each release takes three to four years to produce. This wine has a cayenne/spicy aroma, together with cassis, and a deep colour. Great combination chosen.
With a name like Vanilla Pod, our hopes of being served crème brûlée were realized when the pots were brought out with a pour of 2010 Late Harvest Riesling. Together with the crème brûlée, it was delicious, containing enough acid balance without going too heavy on residual sugar. Polar Grove’s riesling comes from their Osoyoos block of vines. It’s normally not sold, so we were fortunate to be served this great after-dinner wine with our dessert. The crème brûlée did not disappoint either. Shiny, light, and not too sweet, with a nice golden coloured crackle on top.
Vanilla Pod Restaurant at Poplar Grove Winery is located at 425 Middle Bench Road in North Penticton. Our wine-paired meal was compliments of both Vanilla Pod Restaurant and Poplar Grove Winery.