It is an exciting time to be a wine lover living on Vancouver Island.
Nearly 25 years after Vigneti Zanata opened their winery doors in 1992, accredited wineries now exceed 30 and the numbers just keep growing.
As well as the classic ‘farm being planted with vines and then becoming a new winery’ and ‘garden vineyard evolving into a commercially viable new winery’, pioneering vineyards are being sold off to eager new owners who are coming into the wine business with new eyes, new ideas, fresh palates… and in some cases deep pockets!
These second generation winery owners often look for winemaking talent outside of their immediate family and their own experiences. This can bring an infusion of much appreciated talent and technical expertise. It can also redefine the style and quality of the wines that are being made.
At the same time the initial plantings of Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Vidal, Ortega and Marechal Foch in many Island vineyards have been enhanced have been enhanced by the Swiss grower Valentin Blattner’s hybrid varieties – Petite Milo, Epicure, Cabernet Libre and Cab Foch. The best-sited vineyards can routinely achieve excellent levels of wine-ready ripeness with these varieties.
Almost every Vancouver Island winery grows Ortega. Named for the Spanish philosopher and poet, Ortega is a German cross of Müller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe. Early ripening Ortega produces a crisp, light wine with a bright floral aroma and citrus flavours.
The 50 acre property that is home to Enrico Winery & Vineyards just outside of Mill Bay was purchased in 2000, with a long term vision to one day convert it to a vineyard and winery. By 2008, 2 acres of Ortega were added as well as 2 acres of Cabernet Libra and 1 acre of Cabernet Foch, bringing the total planted area of vineyard to 11 acres.
Enrico 2014 Tempest Ortega (17186) $16 was one of 14 wines chosen as among BC’s best in June at the 2015 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence. This is the first time a winery from Vancouver Island has won! Expect to be tantalized by the crisp and beautifully balanced finish of this fully fruited, zingy light-bodied.
Winning a Gold in May at the 35th annual All Canadian Wine Championships, hosted by The Canadian Wine Trails, Enrico 2012 Cabernet Foch (687590) $17.60 is a dense mouthful. Full bodied and pepper spiced, it offers up a medley of plum, prune and blackberries with a floral whiff of candied violets leading the aromatics.
Blended from a mix of Island-grown Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir Enrico Celebration (746248) $20.35 is a lip-smacking melange of lemon, grapefruit and melon flavours in a tank-fermented spritzy, Prosecco-styled Charmat Method bubbly. Look for copycat bubblies from other Island wineries in the next year or two. Vancouver Island is the perfect microclimate for growing sparkling wines!
Moving into its sixth vintage release this year, Southend Farm & Vineyards is open by appointment most times and welcoming walk-ins on Quadra Island. With a vineyard at the northern margin of grape-ripening conditions, Ben McGuffie and Jill Ogasawara currently have about 4 acres of vines – a mixed bag of Petit Milo, Siegerrebe, Bacchus, Leon Millot, and Marechal Foch, and Cabernet Foch.
Southend Siegerrebe (748236) $21 actually tastes like grapes on first sip – sweet green table grapes, very nearly Muscat! After the flowery aromatics, oodles of peach and grapefruit ooze over thee taste buds before the wine transmogrifies into a zingy Torrontes-like finish that begs for another sip. Like their vintage-defying Quintage, Southend’s Siegerrebe is entirely unique.
Incorporating some estate grown grapes with others from Courtenay’s Sleeping Cougar Acres SouthEnd 2013/14 Quintage (895524) $23.05 is a very tasty double vintage blend of Leon Millot, Marechal Foch and Dornfelder aged in new American Oak barrels – the 2012 – and in stainless steel tanks – the 2013. Supple and smooth on the tongue, this is rich and sweet on first sip, strutting its flavours of blackberries and chocolate with a wisp of whiskey and black pepper in the finish!
Other than visiting the wineries, in person, these relatively rare wines – which were all made in very limited quantities – are only available in better private specialty stores.
Reach Doug at MetroLiquor’s Discovery Harbour store in Campbell River or email firstname.lastname@example.org