Tyler Harlton, the guy behind TH Wines, is a friend of mine.
I say this not only as disclosure, but to actually give credibility to my endorsement of his wines.
A few years ago, a mutual friend had sent me a note via Facebook, recommending that when I attended an upcoming B.C. wine tasting, to ensure I visit Tyler’s booth. All of the usual friend-of-a-friend stuff accompanied the note: he’s just starting out, his wine is really good, you’d like it, blah, blah, blah.
Now, we’re at a point of rapid growth in the B.C. wine industry, with dozens of new wineries opening up every year. Of COURSE, a friend of any new winery is going to recommend their stuff and attempt to coax fellow industry folks to give them a chance. Hey – I always give a fair shake whenever I can, but when you’re in a room with well over 100 wineries, it’s literally impossible to offer due diligence throughout.
Well, on the day of the tasting, I turned into a new aisle at one point, and right there was a sign marking Tyler Harlton’s table. I shook hands with the guy, introduced myself, and took note that while he’s somewhat of an imposing figure (the dude’s 6’3”), he also has a calm and sunny aura. (Sorry, I live on the West Coast and talk like that sometimes.)
Long story short, once I tasted his wines – I was totally blown away. Each pour was that of a real wine, offering sense of place (terroir, if you will), and the quality and care that are obvious results of a hands-on approach to winemaking. We chatted and got on well, and I learned about the many past lives the guy has had.
It feels unfair to gloss over them in just a couple of sentences, but here goes:
Tyler was raised a Saskatchewan farm kid who played hockey growing up, leading to a defenceman position at Michigan State, then becoming a fourth-round draft pick for the St. Louis Blues in 1994. Post-hockey, he did sommelier studies while going to law school at McGill, ending up with a gig at a law firm on Wall Street in New York City. When that career wasn’t doing it for him, he returned to his roots - getting back to the land - and started towards his current life making wine in the Okanagan Valley. Oh, I should mention he hasn’t even turned 40 yet.
It’s a cool life story, right? In fact, I’ve shared it around here before. A fun tale to tell, for sure.
So, anyways, whenever I’d tell people about Tyler’s wines, they pretty much had the same response. “Oh, great, another awesome new winery, huh? Yeah, well, I’ll get around to it eventually.”
With the guy only making around 500 cases per year at that time, you can bet his marketing budget was pretty much nil. I was so hell-bent on getting people in the loop about his story and tasting the fantastic wines he was making from small vineyard plots around the Okanagan, that I convinced him to hire me to throw together a small trade tasting so restaurant and retail pals could get to know his stuff. That tasting went very well, and was (a small) part of the snowballing awareness and acclaim he continues to receive.
Over the subsequent years, only a couple, really, we’ve become pals and I’m always keen to expose new friends and colleagues to his wares.
Hey, I’m not gonna put out my neck for someone unless I truly believe they deliver the goods, and I wouldn’t consider someone a friend if I didn’t respect and admire them.
So there you go. Needless to say, I recommend you try Tyler’s wines. My favourites of his here on My Wine Canada are his 2013 Pinot Noir, chock-full of cherries and nutmeg, and his 2012 Viognier Pinot Gris, lush with apricots and honey (it’s showing quite well now that it has a couple years of age on it). This week, we’re offering free shipping if you order six or more of his wines. It’s worth getting to know the guy because, at the very least, I’d like to think I’m a good judge of character.
Kurtis Kolt is a Vancouver-based wine consultant, writer, competition judge and enthusiast. Track him down at KurtisKolt.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @KurtisKolt.