Winemaker Alishan Driediger makes not-so-little wines at Little Farm Winery
Little Farm Winery in Cawston, British Columbia, had a run of 1,100 cases in 2016, and owners Alishan Driediger and Rhys Pender MW would like to keep it that way — small.
The couple purchased Little Farm in 2008 and released their first vintage in 2011. While their wines are grabbing attention, they didn’t always intend on being winemakers. “We were only planning on growing and selling our grapes,” says Driediger. “We planted in 2009 and had a rough go of it … Fast-forward a few years and the vineyard is finally producing some fruit. After all that we had been through with these vines, we had to see what they’d be like as wine and decided to make it ourselves.”
They chose two white varietals because Little Farm’s soil is perfect for whites. “Rhys was — and still is — such a wine nerd that, as soon as he saw that our soils were high in calcium carbonate, he got really excited and said Riesling and Chardonnay were the way to go,” explains Driediger. “These varieties really showcase the calcium carbonate’s effect: a minerality in the wines. And we love Riesling and Chardonnay. So, worst-case scenario, if nobody ever bought our wine, at least we’d be happy drinking it for the rest of our lives!”
Luckily (or unluckily) for Driediger and Pender, people do buy their wines. The limited quantities make grabbing a bottle extra special for their fans. “For us, small-batch winemaking is, by default, all we can do,” Driediger explains. “It does allow a more intimate relationship with the wine as it progresses from fermentation to bottle. Each batch’s behaviour is slightly different, each barrel is a little different. You get to know them all a little bit. You have a little relationship with all of them.”
She continues: “We really do very little in the cellar and do a whole lot in the vineyard, tending to the vines. That is where all the work happens, and that is what we want to taste in our wines … not the taste of a lot of winemaking. Minimal intervention means the wines aren’t interfered with along the way and are allowed to be what they naturally are. It was the only way to go!”
In order to keep their minimalistic approach, they do everything by hand, using traditional techniques like small-basket pressing, foot trodding instead of using a crusher destemmer, natural fermentation and leaving the wine on the lees. Driediger’s fermentation experience is inspired by her baking and culinary background.
“It’s so interesting how these natural processes work and that people have used these processes for generations …. [and] how nature affects the end product, too. For example, bread from a sourdough starter can taste differently depending on how hot or cold the day is, how active the starter is that day and at what point of its daily cycle you use it. This carries over to wine — what’s going on in the vineyard, the growing season, the natural flora on the berries — the taste of each vintage is slightly different. It’s so cool to know that all the variables we [can] control are kept the same: it’s nature that’s responsible for the variation. And the pieds-de-cuve that we make to kick off our fermentations are in effect the same thing as a sourdough starter!”