Regular readers of this blog will know that our focus is on interviewing winemakers to tell you the back story of how their particular wine got into the glass. With Kismet we broke with tradition and interviewed the growers instead of the winemaker.
Kismet Estate winery is the creation of two viticulturists (viticulture is the science of grape-growing), but not just any two viticulturists.
The two in question are the brothers Sukhi and Balwinder Daliwhal. They are not just any viticulturists because they might just be the most awarded viticulturists in the Okanagan Valley, growing grapes for many of the most celebrated wineries in British Columbia.
Sukhi is the older of the two and was the first to emigrate from their native India to BC, in 1991. Sukhi arrived in the Okanagan Valley, BC’s viticultural hub, without much more than the shirt on his back and a willingness to work hard. He took various jobs in different aspects of agriculture, working in orchards and vineyards. Two years later he sent for his brother Balwinder to join him.
The brothers worked hard and proved to be quick learners. Before long they started managing vineyards and demonstrated their ability to get the most from the vineyard, harvest after harvest. Eventually they bought vineyards. Their success was almost immediate. The top wineries in the region wanted to buy their fruit. They now manage 35 different vineyard plots covering 400 acres. This makes them one of the largest growers in the Okanagan Valley.
We sat down with Sukhi and Balwinder at the bank of the beautiful pond that forms the backdrop for the entertaining space used for weddings and parties at the edge of one of their vineyards.
Both of the brothers are absolutely charming to have a conversation about wine with. They each have a natural and easy going way about them. They are the most in-demand growers in the valley, but you would never guess they knew that, given how down-to-earth they are. Their charm comes across immediately: it is part small town agrarian combined with a big dose of happiness about what they are doing. Enthusiasm and passion for the wine business is instantly recognizable in each of them. Their knowledge of vineyards and growing is encyclopedic. Our conversation with them was both entertaining and hugely educational.
We asked the brothers if there was much difference in how they farmed those 35 different plots. Sukhi answered, “In the Okanagan Valley we farm vineyards from Okanagan Falls to Osoyoos and every location there is a different soil and different climate. So we grow mostly whites in the north, and the reds in the warmer sites like Osoyoos.” Balwinder added “Most of our plots are not too big, maybe 15 to 20 acres. Our biggest is 25 acres. You get a consistency of terroir on small plots and we farm for the specific terroir.”
400 acres is a lot of land under vine. But the brothers told us theirs is very much a custom operation. “We sell grapes to 15 different wineries, plus our own. About 80% of the grapes we grow go to other wineries. We work with those wineries to meet their specifications. Each winery we sell to contracts a specific block and then we work with them to grow what they want. Each winery has their own rows and the winemakers visit throughout the summer and we work with each winery individually to help them create their own style of wine.”
The brothers expressed a strong respect for the land throughout our conversation. “We are not certified organic but we are moving in that direction. We avoid using fertilizers and pesticides.” Irrigation is a requirement in the Okanagan Valley’s hot, dry summers. “Drip irrigation is pretty much everywhere here, and we use a little bit of overhead irrigation on the new vines to build nice root system then switch over to drip; every different vineyard managed differently as they all have their own terroir, their different rootstock, soil and climate.”
We asked them about the different varieties that they grow. “Many varieties do well in the Okanagan, and we have grown most of them. Grenache – not much is grown here, maybe 10 acres.
There are just 3 wineries here that make blends with Grenache and Mourvèdre including the one we make: our Moksha. These are tricky to grow here, a lot of hard work. We’ve been working with so many different areas we’ve learned what grows well not just what the consumer wants. It’s an education process for the consumer – when they ask why we don’t make a certain wine, we explain it so they understand and are more open to tasting different varieties. Take Pinot Noir – if people ask why we don’t grow it, our properties are too hot to grow Pinot Noir so we send them to Meyer Family for good Pinot Noir – we’re happy to send people to other wineries that do particular varieties well.”
After growing grapes for so long, and with such success, it was natural for the brothers to start making wine from some of their own grapes. In 2011 they started their winery. They are now up to around 7,000 cases a year and make several different wines, both white and red. Keeping things in the family, winemaking is now handled by their son-in-law, Dapinder Gill. We only briefly met Dapinder on our visit but we will soon plan another so we can get his perspective on the winery operations.
If the natural progression is from growing grapes to making wine from those grapes, what would come next?
A restaurant to pair great food with those delicious wines, of course! We had lunch at the Masala Bistro which sits adjacent to their tasting room at the winery. Delicious and very authentic Indian dishes are cooked to pair with their wines.
As the following tasting notes will attest, Kismet is making delicious wines across the board. One thing should be noted about these wines: they represent excellent value for the quality offered.
We found that at all price points, these wines punched way above their weight class. With superb hospitality, great food and delicious wines at very fair prices, Kismet is a must-stop for any wine lover visiting the Okanagan Valley.
2019 Kismet Infinity Rosé
We describe this one as the drier of their two Rosé wines. Both wines are made from a base blend that includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Mourvedre and Grenache. Both are made using the saignée method where the bottom of the tank is “bled” off after a few hours skin contact. The Infinity is a beautiful salmon colour of orange/pink. Intense flavours of mineral, strawberry and cranberry come through with a crisp, dry finish. Very savoury and quite complex as notes of wet stones and dried flowers join the primary fruit flavours.
Excellent ($17.99 at the winery, particularly good value for this quality level)
2019 Kismet Lotus Rosé
This is what we describe as the fruitier of their two Rosés. Start with same base blend of grapes and add a bit of Orange Muscat to the blend. Here the colour is much darker, a vibrant burnt orange/ruby, indicating a longer skin contact. They have not fermented it fully dry and that bit of residual sugar really makes the fruit flavours pop. Cherry, red apple skins, orange peel and raspberry form a part of the myriad of flavours. The wine is textured, medium+ in body, bigger and fuller than many Rosés. The back end acidity acts as a greater counter to the fruit and gives the wine great balance.
Very Good/Excellent ($20.49 at the winery, particularly good value for this quality level)
2019 Kismet Saféd
We forgot to ask them the meaning of Saféd when we were there but a little on-line research indicates it to be a mountain in India. This is a wonderful summer sipper that completely charmed us from the first sip. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, it is completely transformed by the addition of Orange Muscat. This takes it from the more traditional flavours of grapefruit and cut grass on to a more tropical journey with mango, lychee and wonderful hints of orange peel. Very intense. There is good texture that is nicely balanced by the well-judged acidity that allows for a long and juicy finish. Sooo refreshing! Ideal for a hot sunny deck, with seafood appies or on its own, either way it is delicious.
Excellent ($19.49 at the winery, particularly good value for this quality level)
2017 Kismet Moksha
This red wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre, the classic blend of the Southern Rhone. The lots are vinified separately in new and once-filled French and American oak barrels and then blended before bottling. The result is a delicious wine of great quality; a rival for many Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but at less than half the price. We enjoyed this wine with our delicious lunch at Masala Bistro and the spice hints in the wine were the perfect match for Masala’s Indian dishes. Blackberry, cherry and plum flavours come across on a medium/full body. The tannin is ripe and polished, barely perceptible. This wine is drinking on point right now but will no doubt develop for another decade in your cellar….if you can keep your hands off it that long!
Excellent ($33.49 at the winery, particularly good value for this quality level)
316 Road 20, Oliver, BC V0H 1T0
Tasting Room: Open Daily 10am-6pm
Restaurant: Open Daily 12pm-7pm