Thanksgiving Wine Review 2003 Lange Pinot Noir Cancilla Vineyard Willamette Valley Oregon

Happy Thanksgiving (apologies turkeys)!

The two-year-old is asleep, so I have to pop out a wine review, before the moment slips. For Thanksgiving, something supple, medium bodied, mildly tannic but with good acidity to keep the food coming. It is a worthwhile moment to share an aged wine and something American.

Lucky us, a beer friend offloaded his 2003 Pinot Noir by Lange from the Cancilla Vineyard in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

Lange Pinot Noir Cancilla Vineyard Oregon 2003 The APPEARANCE looks a medium intense garnet with a medium clear rim, casual lean legs, and a touch of sediment.

AROMAS glow of medium intense honey, dried orange peel, black cherry paste, strawberry, brooding clove and nutmeg powder.

The PALATE seems rich, thanks to a thick velvet texture, but is medium in body, silky smooth for two thirds until a twang and tannic finish.

FLAVORS still hold pleasantly fresh and complex, with black fruits akin to dark cherry and blackberry, light cigar ash, iron flecks, wrapped in a mellow honey of medium plus length.

Fresh into the glass, Lange’s 2003 holds well and is outstanding (5 of 5) for its age. However, do not forget it. As each hour passes that fruit falls out, inch by inch. By the end of a meal it is a shadow. Nice work for the holiday.

 

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A Canadian Winery (and Distillery) Eh!? De Vine Vineyards Wine Review

Wayward Wine continues to ply the uncharted wines of Vancouver Island. It has been rough, but we found some decent Pinot Noir (read here). This marginal-in-the-best-of-times climate manages to counter its Northern latitude by bottling any warmth it can from the eastern straights with its western mountains. The best example: the Butchart Gardens utopia that traps tourists with its improbably lush gardens:

Butchart Gardens

Mom and kiddo soak in the sunshine.

But after milling for hours through the throng and flora at Butchart Gardens, you could use a drink.  Luckily, a mere six minute drive will get you to De Vine Vineyards (an easy 22 minutes from Victoria). So we take the narrow drive up a hill, and yes, pass real vineyards.

De Vine Vineyards vines.jpg

These grow normal, everyday grapes like Pinot Gris and Grüner Veltliner.  A chunk get made into spirits, but more on that later. Our core question: can De Vine buck the brutal acid and imbalance of other Vancouver Island wines. To the tasting room!
De Vine Vineyards Alexandria Ext

“Beware” is right!

While our 22 month old daughter causes havoc in the parking lot, and patio, and garden, and tasting room, and winery, and well… everywhere… I pull up to the bar. It looks tidy and fine in here, replete with reclaimed wood trimmings and bottle shelves:

De Vine Tasting Roome

The diligent staff fill me in. Winemaker, Ken Winchester, a Montreal native, left his garage winemaking, studied at UC Davis, built 15 acre Winchester Vineyards in Paso Robles and saw decades of success.  He also studied distilling at Islay Scotch icon Bruichladdich. But in 2002, he returned to the cold climes of Vancouver BC, and soon came under the wing of the Windsor family and their De Vine Vineyards.

We start with Gewurztraminer crossing Siegerrebe 2017 $22

De Vine Siegrebbe 2017

It looks like pale lemon water. Yet aromas pounce with enough lychee, citrus, star gazer lily and tropical tones to remind of its Gewurztramier heritage. But do not let the nose fool you. The palate feels near dry, clean, with ample but tame acidity, and medium body, with some viscosity.  Flavors range from snappy Granny Smith apple, lime, and white pear. Dev Vine’s Siegerrebe is a very good (4 of 5) white ready for summer or various light dishes.

Next, I have high hopes De Vine’s Estate Pinot Gris $22
De Vine Pinot Gris 2017
This is not your plump, sweet yet vapid Italian Pinot Grigio. No. Twangy aromas and flavors run from peach to oodles of lemon lime and salt. It feels lean taught and steely. If your enamel can handle it, De Vine’s Pinot Gris is very good (4 of 5).
Fleur White Blend 2017 $22 comes from upland Alsatian grapes: Maeline Sylvaner, Pinot Auxerrois and Schönburger.
It looks watery pale. Honestly, it tastes sweet, yeasty, underdeveloped, but rounder and more approachable than otherwise. It is acceptable (2 of 5) but clearly compensating.
To the reds.
DeVine Pinot Noir 2017 Vancouver Isalnd CA
We already pitted De Vine’s 2017 Pinot Noir against other island Pinots (read here). Long story short, $28 gets you a bright, soft, bubblegum, berry and earth, quaffable but forgettable red (3 of 5) thanks to carbonic macerated grapes akin to Beaujolais Nouveau style.
Luckily, De Vine makes a Marechal Foch, 2016 $28
Wait, who? No your not in Napa anymore, Toto. Marechal Foch, named for the synonymous marshal who ended WWI. I have not seen this funny Alsatian hybrid since living in Upstate New York and Nova Scotia (read here).
The appearance is a purple ink. Flavors and aromas glow with blackberry compote, red cherry, medium acidity and well integrated muscular grippy tannins. 18 months in French oak barrels gives it a tobacco mocha that level up the quality to very good (4 of 5), worthy of a bottle purchase.
Look around De Vine and you quickly realize that wine only covers one side of their coin. In the lab, next to the tasting room, looms a vintage German copper pot still, named Brünhilde.
Still De Vine Vineyards
Winemaker Ken Winchester also studied distilling at no slouch Islay icon Bruichladdich. Remember those vineyards. Well, Canadian law requires that they distill half of what’s grown. So that Pinot Blanc and Grüner Veltliner make it into quite a few of De Vine’s liquors.
For example:
Sitka Vodka
Yup, grape vodka. It tastes clean, simple, a touch edgy. Imagine if Le Croix made a new flavored sparkling water by sitting this vodka across the room while someone whispered “pinot blanc”.
I digress.
De Vine’s other spirits draw from strawberries, sloe berries, ancient grains, and honey. I feel a bit bewildered and it is not the alcohol.  I had hoped to try De Vine’s single malt Glen Saanich, but sadly members snap it up. Here are some spiritous highlights:
The Honeyshine Mead silver tastes clean, with clover, meadow foam, and light spice making it for a great mixer (4 of 5)
Their Gins are solid, especially the 1600 recipe Genever, with common (Harry Potter) household ingredients like mugwort, wormwood, horehound, and blessed thistle, all and more of which make for a plump, citric,  warming, exotic nip (4 of 5 very good).
De Vine Gins
We also grab a bottle of Moderna Vermouth ($22) based on a 1786, 30 botanical Turin Vermouth recipe, with its base both their wine and spirit. Neat, it tastes spicy, with pepper sticky spruce sap carrying on a long, green finish. De Vine’s Vermouth may be bit tannic but remains very good (4 of 5).
In sum, Winchester is doing his darnedest with Vancouver Island’s tart grapes, while exploring every possible spirit style at his fingertips. De Vine sits atop a lovely hilltop. They feel pleasant and polished. Their range will have something to keep any weary traveler warm.
(Also, if you want to slip back into the United States, do not bore boarder guards with your list of wine purchases. The mere mention we bought Vermouth got us through two checks. Codeword: Vermouth).
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Canadian Pinot Noir Eh!? Alderlea v Quill v DeVine Vancouver Island BC

By choice or by fate, I cannot escape Pinot Noir. I was born in Oregon and returned to its wine industry.  Our traipse through the extreme wines of Vancouver Island have gone from bad to worse to decent, usually faltering with noble grapes like Chardonnay (here), Gamay (here), but succeeding with weird hybrids like Savignette (read here). Can this warm pocket in the Northernmost fringes of winemaking pull off the queen of grapes: Pinot Noir?

Let us try three.

De Vine Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Vancouver Island CA 2017 $28.00

DeVine Pinot Noir 2017 Vancouver Isalnd CA

We will recap our visit to De Vine Vineyards in a future post. Their attempt to tame Pinot Noir is interesting. To get any color or fruit, they put the wine through carbonic maceration, aka Beaujolais nouveau-style, closed tank, forced fermentation and then, oddly age it for six months in French barrels. The result?

The APPEARANCE looks a clear medium purple with cranberry highlights.

Medium AROMAS of pepper, tart strawberry, red cherry, dried white mushrooms.

The PALATE seems off dry, with high acidity, light doughy tannins, a light body, soft texture, and just enough alcohol to be wine: 12.2%

FLAVORS taste bright and quick with tart red fruits like strawberry, cranberry, followed by a light dry wood and vanilla, finishing shortly thereafter.

Alderlea, Pinot Noir, Vancouver Island BC 2015 $25.00

alderlea vineyards2015

One of the last vintages by the Dosmans: who toiled twenty five years to turn Vancouver Island into wine country inCowichan Valley.

The APPEARANCE looks clear, ruby red, with a wide clear meniscus.

The AROMAS smell of medium, if a bit wild, grapefruit twang, tart red cherry, pomegranate, brett leather, light tobacco ash, white pepper.

The PALATE is dry, lean, light, and tightly cut with acidity, light tannins, a mild 12.8% abv.

Medium plus FLAVORS show a contrast between mulled wine, pomegranate, tart zip and wild musk that cary a medium plus length.

Blue Grouse, Quill, Pinot Noir, Vancouver Island VQA CA 2016

Quill 2016 Pinot Noir

65 acres, 8.5 planted but soon to be 15 (wow) in the Cowichan Valley. BUT! And this is a big but. Quill is 50% Vancouver Island Pinot Noir 50% Okanagan: the Okanagan being Canada’s hottest, sunniest, warmest continental climate nearly on par with the Columbia Valley.

The APPEARANCE looks a medium intense ruby with a purple core.

Medium intense AROMAS pop and mellow with orange juice, herbs like fennel, pepper, rhubarb and red cranberry, and a touch of Brett.

The PALATE is dry with medium, yes, only medium acidity (your dentist will thank you), medium grape skin tannins, a medium body, and a soft cheese texture.

Medium intense FLAVORS run from red cherry with a dash of orange juice to rhubarb, young brie, and that earth and licorice herbaciousness, like fennel, that carries a medium plus length.

So, who makes the better Pinot Noir? De Vine, Alderlea, or Blue Grouse?

De Vine’s nouveau Pinot tastes pleasant and inoffensive enough (3 of 5 score), but memorable? Nah.

Left open, our various other bottles from here never calmed after a day. But Alderlea’s Pinot finally turned its sprint into a mellower marathon. The structure and leanness remain, but the edge is gone. Dried local cheddars work well, kalamata olives calm Alderlea’s Pinot down, mellowing it into a simple, black cherry juice, game hen, herbed chicken, balsamic laced items would work. Day 2 Alderlea’s Pinot is very good (4 of 5). My advice: decant or let it sleep the night open.

Meanwhile, Blue Grouse’s Quill drank quite well (4 of 5) out of the gate. It came off more supple, tame, and pleasant. Alderlea’s wine might technically be more complex, intense, and ageable. But for the moment, Blue Grouse, thanks to the boost of warm Okanagan fruit comes off more agreeable.

So, choose your poison: a quaffable missive; history, terroir, and challenge; or blurry but pleasant ease.

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Sauvignette Eh!? Wine Review of Unsworth Vineyard Vancouver Island BC

Ok! Vancouver Island wines have given us challenging results. Maybe, the standard grapes Chardonnay (review here), Gamay (here), even Sparkling pinot (here) provide little more than acidity, edge, reflecting regional limits. Maybe a more climate-friendly hybrid grape might work.

Sauvignette.

Sounds French-ish, so good right? Sauvignette grapes (aka Epicure) came from a hybrid of Cabernet Sauvignon and a mix other hybrids, Resistenzpartner possibly. This mutt of a grape is all the stronger thanks to its mixed heritage, handling the harshest climates.

Unsworth Vineyards grows it on fertile clay soils on gravel in the Cowichan Valley. Neutral barrels ferment it through a full malolactic fermentation, extended for five more months on the lees: a good recipe for complexity.

Let’s try it:

Unsworth Sauvignette Vancouver Island 2016

Unsworth Vineyards, Sauvignette, Vancouver Island CA 2016 $21.00

The color looks a clear light straw with medium legs.

Medium plus AROMAS glow with kiwi, honey, beeswax, lightly toasted almond, and lime.

The PALATE feels dry, acidities cut high like a jagged knife, but finally, thanks to this odd grape choice (and methods), the alcohol is warm, texture viscous, due to the medium plus at 13.9% abv.

Medium plus intense FLAVORS carry afinity to pineapple juice, green apple, and light vanilla powder and almond.

Unsworth’s Sauvignette is bright yet well oaked. It comes off a bit punchy and virile, but such intensity is appreciated in this land of light and limpid. Pair with garlic and cream dishes, lemony white fish, aged goat cheeses like manchego cheese. It is very good (4 of 5), worth $21, both thanks to the material and methods.

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Canadian Bubbly Eh? Averill Creek Vancouver Island Sparkling Wine Review #3

OK! Ok! So our venture into wines from Vancouver Island VQA’s has drawn up bracingly tart Chardonnay (read here) and wild Gamay (read here). They have been real, reflective, but not great.

Maybe cool climate Burgundy and Beaujolais are not harsh enough models. Let us look to Champagne, to bubbly, to where fizz makes high acid wine magical.

The winery Averill Creek is pretty big for the island: 30 planted acres. Since 2001, they do everything right, Guyot planting, warm, south facing vineyards, 2.5 tons per acre, gravity flow winery. They make a bubbly of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. To get the fizz, the Charmat (aka Prosecco) method keeps things young, fresh, and clean.

Averill Creek, Charme de L’ile, Vancouver Island, CA NV $23CA

Averill Creek Sparkling Wine

Averill’s Charme de L’ile looks right: pale clear straw color, full of vibrant rapid medium sized bubbles. It smells promising and prosecco-like enough: clean lemon rind, grapefruit, and pale honey aromas abound. But the acidity sears off enamel and any saliva left hiding between tastebuds. A rapid, steely fizz does not help, instead it chews through any fat or protein we throw at it. Our armament of local cheeses and chips disappears decimated by all the acidity.

Averill Creek’s bubbly, albeit bracing, is still a valiant effort and good (3 of 5). I imagine some time on the lees via the traditional method, or a partial malolactic ferment might make it more amiable. Still, with a few breaks between glasses, this can be enjoyed.

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