Russ Niles, Owner and Winemaker at Edge of the Earth Vineyards, has never been afraid to go out on a limb.
Last year, while at an air show in Switzerland, he eagerly strapped himself into a safety harness and rode atop an aircraft wing at 100 knots per hour as the rain pelted down over the Swiss countryside. He brings the same enthusiasm and daring to his more down-to-earth winery in the picturesque Spallumcheen district just a few kilometres north of Armstrong.
The tiny (1.2 hectare) Edge of the Earth vineyard, perhaps best known for its smoky, smooth-drinking Maréchal Foch and its elegant Pinot Noir Icewine, is a study in sustainability and experimentation.
Unlike many wine growers, Russ has no use for chemical warfare on weeds. Instead, he swears by labour intensive weeding by hand, followed by rototilling. The result? “The vines have never looked better this time of year,” says Russ, “and we are expecting very good yields.”
But the most exciting news of 2012 is Russ’s flirtation with an unknown white varietal that he calls Argus, after the smallest of his barnyard cats. The origins of this grape, which came from cuttings gathered at Gray Monk Winery by one of Russ’s neighbours, remain a mystery that has baffled every expert to date. Tasted fresh from the barrel on bottling day, the beguiling Argus is utterly unique, offering bright citrus, apple and floral notes.
Like Russ, Argus is an original with a character all its own.
~ Barry Potyondi