Photo: Rob Van Westen
Winemaker Rob Van Westen has “played” through more injuries
than the average hockey player.
The first time I met him, he was wearing a monstrous cast
after having survived a tractor rollover.
His most recent injury, if memory serves, was a collar bone
so seriously broken in a fall that the bone had to be held together with metal
to heal. He had surgery after the 2013 vintage to take out the screws. In a
recent email to his clients, Rob said: “My shoulder is letting me work although
it needs a hot tub to loosen the muscles at night. It is so great to be back
physically working with upper body strength increasing daily after that 14
month ordeal of mending and re-mending the collarbone.”
Throughout all that, he has managed to make interesting wine
for ten vintages now. He may have been hurting but it never showed in the
wines. The latest releases are no exception.
The other bit of good news is that the tasting room at Van
Westen Vineyards is to be open regularly in the coming season. It will open
from 11 am to 5 pm Friday and Saturday from the Easter weekend to July; and
then daily to mid-October. Rob is generally available by appointment at other
Located just off Naramata
Road, the winery has operated irregular hours in
the apple packing house that Rob converted into a winery. The informality of
the place – a few upended barrels – is part of the charm. And there has always
been a good chance that Rob will take guests on a barrel tasting.
Meanwhile, you can find some of his wines in the VQA stores
and other private wine stores, as well as in restaurants. For private clients,
Rob loads his truck several times a year and delivers the wine personally.
As the pun in the headline suggests, the DNA of a Van Westen
wine is that each one has a name beginning with V. He released an Icewine a few
years ago called Vice, renaming it Vicicle to get around a trademark issue.
Here are notes on the latest V’s.
Van Westen Viognier
2012 ($N/A for 242 cases). This wine begins with appealing aromas of
pineapple and apple and opens to deliver a bowl of fruit flavours – apricot,
mango and apples. The texture is rich with that trademark Viognier spine of
tannin and mineral. The finish lingers. 91-92.
Van Westen Vino
Grigio 2012 ($19.90 for 530 cases). Rob’s take on Pinot Grigio begins with
aromas of apple and pear, leading to flavours of apple, melon and citrus, with
mineral notes. The dry but fruity finish is persistent. 90.
Van Westen Vivacious
2012 ($19.90 for 530 cases). This is another interpretation of Pinot Blanc,
with a dash of Pinot Gris and barrel fermentation for a portion. A full-bodied
white with 13.8% alcohol, it has layers and layers of flavour, including apple,
melon, Asian pear and tangerine. 89.
Van Westen Vixen 2012
($19.90 for 100 cases). This is 60% Pinot Gris, 40% Pinot Blanc and 100%
delicious. It begins with tangerine aromas, leading to flavours of grapefruit,
tangerine, guava and baked pears, with a honeyed note on the finish that
suggests a touch of botrytis. 91.
Van Westen Voluptuous
2010 ($29.90 for 218 cases). This is
67% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Franc. It spent 18 months in barrel, one-third new
French oak, and aged further in bottle before its November, 2013 release. Even
so, I took the precaution of decanting it which, I believe, helped the wine
open both its aromas and its textures. It begins with black currant and coffee
aromas. It delivers a good dollop of sweet fruit to the palate, with notes of
black cherry and chocolate. 90-91.
Van Westen Voluptuous
2009 ($29.90) This vintage is not
quite sold out but if you come across any in wine shops or restaurants, jump on
it. It shows the ripeness of the 2009 vintage with its full-bodied texture and
appealing flavours of black cherry, black currant, chocolate and espresso. 92.
2012 Pinot Noir aka VD
($39.90). This is the wine that Rob makes with Tom
DiBello, the winemaker at Burrowing Owl. I will bow to the tasting notes
provided by Rhys Pender, who has a more articulate palate (he is am MW after
all). “A brooding, complex wine
with intense aromas of dark chocolate-coated black cherry, raspberry and
mulberry along with underlying clove, burlap and graphite. The palate starts
with a soft, silky texture and flavours of ripe strawberry and cherry before
intriguing liquorice, pipe tobacco, earth and mineral notes reveal themselves
on the long finish.” I agree, with the caveat that wine needs decanting and
breathing to show all of that. My score: 90.