Monday, June 23, 2014

Class of 2014: Sea Star Estate Farms and Vineyards

 Photo: Sea Star  Estate Farms winery on Pender Island

A new winery, Sea Star Estate Farms and Vineyards, has emerged from the ashes of Pender Island’s Morning Bay Vineyard and Estate Winery.

Sea Star has burst onto the wine scene with a stunning debut. Its first four white wines, all from 2013 and all from Pender Island grapes, impressed the judges at the recent Northwest Wine Summit competition. Sea Star came away with two gold medals, a silver medal and a designation as one of 16 wineries of distinction in the competition (winners of two or more gold medals each).

It is a strong start for owner David Goudge and his winemaker, Ian Baker. Others also have recognized the quality of the wines. Even before the results of the competition were announced, Sea Star wines had been placed on the lists of several of the best restaurants in Vancouver (Blue Water Cafe, L’Abattoir, Hawksworth, Chambar, and Homer St. Cafe and Bar).

In fact, Blue Water purchased the entire vintage, a little over 200 cases, of Stella Maris, the winery’s elegant white blend. In total, the winery has released about 1,500 cases of Pender Island white wines. It has about 600 cases of a Meritage made with Okanagan grapes that will be released next year.

David, who has lived on Pender Island for about six years, purchased Morning Bay two and a half years ago after it had closed. He set about resuscitating Pender Island’s only winery.

Morning Bay was opened in 2005 by former journalist Keith Watt. He had planted a seven-acre vineyard in 2002, following up by building a handsome winery amid the Pender Island forest. “When people visit your winery and find that the building is serious,” Keith once told me, “they approach your wines seriously.”

David has discovered that the winery building still impresses. “So often, people drive up and their mouths drop,” he says. “They don’t expect this. They kind of think they are going to get a barn leaning slightly to the left or the right. To Keith’s credit, he dreamed big.”

Perhaps Keith dreamed too big. He listed the winery for sale in September 2010 as he struggled to operate Morning Bay under the financial pressure of having built more than a rudimentary winery. He sold the winery to David, operating it under lease for a year as he liquidated his stock of wines.

Since taking over the property, David has invested in new tanks, new equipment, a climate controlled barrel cellar and an updated wine shop. However, to those who attended the rock concerts Morning Bay used to host every fall, the winery will look familiar.

David was born in Ottawa in 1959 and grew up in a home where his parents shared wine at the dinner table. I am a fan of wine,” he says. “I have never tried to learn how to make it myself. I just leave that to the experts. But I am passionate about wine.”

He came to Vancouver to study architecture at the University of British Columbia. Then he went briefly into the restaurant business before establishing himself as a Vancouver real estate agent. Some of the restaurants that have taken Sea Star wines were restaurants where he entertained clients. That has given him an edge with restaurateurs not known for listing island wines.

“Now when I went back into Vancouver, some of the owners and managers recognized me and ask where I had been,” he says. “I told them I have started a winery on Pender Island and they said when the wine is ready, bring it to us. I kind of had a door open when the wines were available.”

No doubt, the elegantly simple but classic Sea Star labels help sell the wines. Each crisply white label is adorned with a sea star. “For me, the image of a sea star is reminiscent of beach combing in the summer; or you might be out kayaking on a calm day and you can see them up on the rocks,” David says. “They represent summer in the ocean, that’s what I thought.”

They also underline that this is the only winery in British Columbia whose property runs down to the ocean.

Ian Baker, the vineyard manager and winemaker, formerly was a partner at Mistaken Identity Vineyards on Salt Spring Island, where he also made the wines and ran the organic vineyard.

Ian is a one time Department of Fisheries employee and the former operator of a landscape business in Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island. More to the point, he was a long-time amateur winemaker with, as one of his former partners said, “a box of medals.”  He moved to Sea Star in 2013 after about four years with Mistaken Identity.

The Pender Island grapes in the winery’s 2013 whites are from the 5,000 vines at Sea Star’s vineyard and the 7,000 vines at the 5.5-acre vineyard at Clam Bay Farm on North Pender Island.

Here are notes on the wines.

Sea Star Blanc de Noir 2013 ($17.90 for 312 cases). This Provence-style rosé made from Clam Bay Farm fruit begins with a rose petal hue. It has aromas and flavours of rhubarb, strawberry and cranberry. The racy acidity gives the wine a fresh and tangy finish. The wine is also crisply dry. This wine won a gold medal and “best rosé” at the Northwest Wine Summit. 90.

Sea Star Siegerrebe 2013 ($17.90 for 425 cases). This wonderfully expressive wine, with Clam Bay fruit, begins with aromas of herbs, spice and grapefruit. On the palate, there are flavours of grapefruit, guava, peach and spice. A bowl of tropical fruit flavours, this aromatic wine has a very long finish. The exquisite balance of acidity and residual sugar contributes to the clean, fresh flavours. This wine won gold. 91.

Sea Star Ortega 2013 ($18.90 for 448 cases). Also made with Clam Bay fruit, this wine begins with aromas of melon, herbs and a light pinch of hazelnut. On the palate, there are flavours of grapefruit and honeydew supported by a note of minerality. The finish is dry with a touch of spice. Silver medal. 90.

Sea Star Stella Maris 2013 ($19.90 but sold out). This is an estate-grown blend of Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Ortega and Schönburger. It is a very complex dry white with the character and body to give it versatility with food. It has aromas of honey, rose petal, herbs and spice. On the palate, there are flavours of apricot and melon, with a pleasing touch of herbs and spice on the finish. 91.



At June 24, 2014 at 7:57 AM , Blogger Bill Deverell said...

Glad to see such a positive review for my neighbours' wine, John. These fellows have done everything right that their predecessor did wrong.

Bill Deverell


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