Saturday, June 20, 2009

The organic grapes of Mistaken Identity Vineyards

Photo: Ian and Wendy Baker

The third winery on Salt Spring Islands, Mistaken Identity Vineyards, has just opened this weekend, located on a 7.5-acre organic vineyard within walking distance of Ganges, the largest community on the island.

The winery has debuted with four wines, using grapes from the estate vineyard and, in some instances, from an organic vineyard in the Okanagan. They are available in a tastefully finished wine shop and, as wine by the glass, on an appealing outdoor deck under the shade of a massive Douglas fir tree.

The winery is the work of three Vancouver Island business couples with a shared passion for wine that they were able to realize after snapping up the vineyard here which was planted around 2001.

The winery's on-site operations are managed by Ian and Wendy Baker. Ian, who was born in North Vancouver in 1959 and has a business degree, has previously run a fish hatchery for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. When that position was downsized, he and Wendy launched a successful landscape maintenance business in Qualicum Beach.

Ian began making wine as an amateur, blooming to be one of the leading members of a home vintners club in Nanaimo. His particular specialty was making Gewurztraminer. He won two gold medals with the varietal in national competition. Thus, he was the obvious choice to run Mistaken Identity on behalf of the partner couples.

The partners are Nanoose Bay investment advisor Cliff Broetz and his wife Barbara Steele; and Nanaimo accountant Dave Baker (Ian's brother) and his wife, Lenora. Cliff, whose wine interest was triggered during Napa Valley winery tours, is a longtime friend and business associate with Dave. Cliff discovered over lunch one day that Dave and Ian were looking for a winery opportunity. Not long after that lunch, the brothers learned that a vineyard on Salt Spring was for sale. With alacrity, Cliff teamed up with them to buy the property just before the 2007 harvest.

The grapes that fall (it was a small harvest) were picked and stored in a freezer, to be fermented along with the 2008 vintage. Ian had learned in his amateur years that frozen grapes, when thawed later, retain all their desirable winemaking qualities.

The vineyard came with several buildings including a house that was built in 1908. The original plan to restore the home as a wine shop proved impractical and the home had to be taken down. However, a nearby building dating from 1986 had the structural integrity that was required. It now houses the tasting room and is attached to a new winery building. The exterior mirrors the design of the older house that was beyond saving. Over all, the winery fits comfortably into the bucolic pastoral landscape of Salt Spring.

The vineyard, which had been planted by the previous owner of the property, has enough varieties to give Ian all sorts of blending flexibility. The major white variety is Madeleine Angevine. The other whites includes Madeleine Sylvaner, Ortega, Pinot Gris, Siegerrebe, Reichensteiner and Chardonnay. The red varieties are Zweigelt, Leon Millot, Pinot Noir and a little Agria (likely to be replaced with Siegerrebe).

Last year, a difficult growing year on the coast, Mistaken Identity complemented some of its varietals with fruit from an organic producer in the north Okanagan. The winery is likely to continue that practice.

With the reds still maturing in barrel, Mistaken Identity has launched with three whites and a rose.

Here are some notes on the wines:

Abbondante Bianco 2008 ($23). The Latin name for this white wine signals the abundant mix of varietals in the blend: Madeleine Angevine, Madeleine Sylvaner, Ortega, Siegerrebe and Riechensteiner. These come together with attractive floral and spice aromas and with spicy fruit flavours. The wine has a clean, crisp finish, with a touch of herbs on the dry finish. 87 points.

Pinot Gris 2008 ($24). The winery's tasting notes speak of nectarine and white peach flavours. My notes also speak of citrus and pear flavours. The bright acidity gives the wine a tangy, crisp finish. It is also dry. 87

Pinot Rose 2007 ($19). If you like the dry rose wines of Provence, this is for you. The wine begins with a lovely rose petal hue and aromas of strawberry. On the palate, there are flavours of rhubarb and cranberry. Again, the bright acidity and the mineral backbone give this wine a tangy, refreshing finish. 88

Gewurztraminer 2008 ($24). Made with Okanagan grapes, this wine has the classic spicy aromas and flavours of this popular variety, along with hints of grapefruit. The wine has just a touch of residual sugar, just enough to elevate the fruitiness. 87

Merlot 2008 (barrel sample). Don't look for this wine until next year. Now, it shows good flavours of plums and black currants that are still in the process of integrating with the wood. Potential to score 87-89.


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