Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New releases: Van Westen's 2008 white wines

The best white wine vintage in the Okanagan in many years was (in my view anyway) the 2008 vintage. Nearly all the 2008 I tasted over the past eight months were packed with fruit flavours, made ever more savoury by the vintage’s bright acidity.

Alas, many of the 2008 whites are sold out now … but here comes Robert Van Westen (photo above). Never one to rush his wines, he has just released the 2008 whites from his Van Westen Vineyards. It is one more chance to taste that vintage’s terrific whites. The wines are all under screw cap, further preserving their freshness.

There are three wines, all with labels beginning with V, a particular conceit at Van Westen Vineyards, and one that may prove limiting in the future, as when he releases his first Cabernet Franc as Vrankenstein, not a label I would expect to see on the table at, say, Bishop’s, however good the wine will surely be.

One never knows, of course. Robert and Tammi, his wife, have a regular list of customers in the Vancouver area to whom they deliver their wines personally. This engaging couple could sell ice cubes in Inuvik. Selling V wines should be easy for them.

Especially if they are selling the Van Westen Viognier 2008 ($24.90). Happily for Robert and for the rest of us, Viognier is a grape that begins with a V, grows brilliantly in the Okanagan and produces wines of distinction. The variety, unusual for a white grape, has a bit of tannin in the skins, resulting in wines with excellent structure. This wine is full on the palate, with aromas and flavours of apricots and tangerines. The bright acidity of 2008 turbocharges the fresh fruit flavours and gives the wine a crisp finish. Only 120 cases were released. 90.

Van Westen Vino Grigio 2008 ($18.90) is Robert’s take on Pinot Gris. Only 333 cases were released. Here is another delicious white packed with fruit – ripe pears, peaches and papayas, with a hint of anise on the finish. Again, the bright acidity adds to the crisp, refreshing finish. 88.

Van Westen Vivacious 2008 ($18.90) is primarily Pinot Blanc with a touch of Pinot Gris (230 cases released). Pinot Blanc can be a rather neutral wine but not when made by Robert Van Westen. A portion of this wine is barrel-fermented and aged on the lees, which were stirred regularly to enrich the texture and to add complexity to the crisp apple flavours. On the finish, there are stone fruit and mineral flavours, even a note of austerity. Definitely a food wine. 87-88.


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