Photo: De Vine's Natalie Windsor in wine shop
Grüner Veltliner, the great Austrian white varietal, took a
long time getting to British Columbia
Even today, there are just two producers – De Vine Vineyards on Vancouver
Island’s Saanich Peninsula
and Culmina Family Estate
Winery in the south Okanagan.
The problem, as Ontario
vine importer Lloyd Schmidt once explained to me, was that he could find no
source of vines that were certified virus free. That explanation is puzzling,
long history with viticulture.
Ironically, Karl Kaiser, the Austrian-born co-founder of
Inniskillin Wines in 1974, had managed to spirit some Grüner Veltliner vines
in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Inniskillin released several vintages. In my
first wine book in 1984, I described the winery’s 1983 Grüner Veltliner this
way: “A pale, greenish-hued wine with a very delicate aroma, but full and
fruity like a fresh melon.”
Grüner Veltliner probably was a tough sell, especially when
the 1985 Austrian wine scandal caused all Austrian wines to disappear from the
market for several years. Inniskillin’s Grüner disappeared into white blends.
Then the winery needed to expand its parking lot and did so by removing the
Grüner Veltliner vines altogether.
During the past decade, the varietal, along with Austrian
wines in general, have been coming back in the market. Grüner Veltliner has
enjoyed a modest cult following in the United States
. And the University
provided virus-free vines to American nurseries which, I believe, are the
source of the De Vine and Culmina plantings.
It is notable that the vines grow in two quite different
terroirs. Culmina’s vines grow in the coolest section of its vineyard, if you
call the south Okanagan cool. The Saanich
cooler and the soils are quite different.
It is noteworthy that both terroirs are producing quite
promising Grüner Veltliner. The Culmina wine is fuller on the palate, with more
alcohol, than the De Vine wine. That is simply a reflection of terroir.
The quality of these wines should encourage other growers to
plant the variety as well.
De Vine, which opened in 2010, is owned by John and
Catherine Windsor and the families, including daughter Natalie, the winemaker.
Initially, they had purchased a 10.4-hectare (23-acre) property in central
Saanich, building a home there and converting a spacious barn into a
glass-blowing studio for Chris Windsor, one of their sons.
The property is on a ridge with a great view. They decided
to improve on it by planting a vineyard. The four blocks, called Matthew, Mark,
Luke and John, were planted in 2007 and 2008 with Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and
Grüner Veltliner. They were the first to plant the Austrian varietal in British Columbia.
They planned to sell the organic
grapes to Winchester Cellars on the other side of Old West Saanich Road until that winery
closed in 2009. So the Windsors recruited one of its former owners, Ken
Winchester, as their initial winemaker. They bought the equipment of the
Gabriola Island Winery, which had just gone into receivership, and tested the
equipment by making small quantities of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir
in the 2009 vintage.
Since then, De Vine has opened an
appealing wine shop. It is open seven days a week during the summer and on
weekends from October to April. The winery’s web site currently is being
relaunched. Meanwhile, here are notes on some of the wines you will find in the
wine shop now.
De Vine Grü-V Grüner Veltliner
2013 ($21 but sold out). Light (11.4% alcohol) but crisp and refreshing,
this wine has floral aromas and flavours of green apples and herbs with the
varietal’s classic white pepper on the dry finish. 88.
De Vine Pinot Blanc 2013
wine has aromas of citrus and apples, with
abundant flavours of green apples. The flavours are bright, supported by
good fresh acidity and a refreshing, fry finish. The texture reflects a good
vintage on the Saanich
. The spine of
minerality in both this wine and the Grüner Veltliner speak to the terroir of
this vineyard. 89-90.
De Vine Ortega Siegerrebe 2013 ($20).
This inspired blend builds complexity into a pair of varietals that, on their
own, usually are not complex. This wine has aromas of citrus and herbs, leading
to generous fruity flavours of green apple and lime and a crisp, refreshing
finish. Again, there is a fine spine of minerality. 90.
De Vine Foch Rosé 2013 ($21). I don’t
recall ever tasting a Maréchal Foch rosé before and I confess I am not
convinced the varietal is really suitable for this application. The gamy aromas
of Foch are a bit surprising, coming from a glass of rosé. The palate delivers
gobs of black cherry and mocha chocolate flavours. 86.
De Vine Epiphany Black & Blue 2013 ($21
for 375 ml). This is a fortified wine (19% alcohol) made, presumably, with
blackberries and packaged in a blue bottle. It is a trifle lean and tart on the