Photo: Mike and Robin Nierychlo
6798 Norcross Road, Duncan BC, V9L 6C3
Tasting room open 1
pm to 6 pm Fridays
recently tasted bottle of 2007 Maréchal Foch from Starling Lane Winery, which
was discovered in my cellar during a reorganization, was a reminder of how good
that boutique Saanich winery was.
expected such longevity from the variety? Yet the fruit was still fresh and the
wine had not begin to fade.
The bad news is that Starling Lane closed three years ago.
The good news is that the Cowichan Valley
vineyard that grew some of that Maréchal Foch is now owned by Mike and Robin
Nierychlo. In May, they opened Emandare Vineyard not far north of Duncan
. They have not yet
released their Maréchal Foch but the barrel sample of that wine is promising,
as is a barrel sample of Pinot Noir.
They have released two excellent whites, one of them from
the oldest block (14 years) of Sauvignon Blanc on Vancouver
It causes one to ask why Sauvignon Blanc has not been
planted all over the island. As Mike points out, if that variety thrives in the
cool climate of the south island in New Zealand, it should do equally well on
Vancouver Island. To the best of my knowledge, the only other producer on the
island with Sauvignon Blanc is Dosman Vineyards, a neighbour of Emandare. His
planting is four years old.
The Nierychlo name should be familiar to those who have
followed wines in British Columbia.
For several years, Mike posted wine videos on a site that was known as Wine
Garage TV … until a California
wine retailer with the similar name forced him to change the name.
Mike’s wine education was almost entirely gained when he was
picking the brains of winemakers and making contacts while producing the videos.
He has combined that knowledge with his native shrewdness to develop Emandare,
with the help of his wife, Robin. The winery name is the phonetic echo of their
initials: M & R.
Both grew up in Langley, Mike, the son of Polish immigrants,
in 1983 and Robin, the daughter of Dutch immigrants, in 1984.
“I came from a family of hard workers,” Mike says. “One of
my first jobs was at a lumber mill on the green chain. That makes you a man
Soon after marrying Robin in 2004, Mike discovered that he
and his brother-in-law shared a passion for wine. That led them to start making
wines. They began with a cherry wine before progressing to grape wines. Robin
says they never made the same wine twice.
“We never made wine from a kit,” Mike says. “We would go to
wineries we loved and we could say, can we buy grapes from you and can we hand-pick
some. Oftentimes, they would say sure, because we would only need 1,000 pounds
for what we were doing. Then we would ask the winemakers, by the way, how do
you make the wine? That was how we started.”
The next step in his wine infatuation was to start making
“Here is how I got involved in wine media,” he recounts. “I
was just sitting in the garage one day, where we were making wine, and I was
bored. I had a bottle of wine there, so I grabbed my video camera and started
talking about this wine. I don’t even remember what the first bottle of wine
was. I talked about it and I posted that on the Internet. And for about two
years straight, I was posting several videos a week, talking about wine,
winemaking, wine tasting, food pairing. And I did piles of interviews.”
Soon, he and Robin began looking for a way into the industry
as producers. “We love island wine.” Mike says. “That is part of the reason we
wanted to be here.”
Their search settled on Vancouver Island after the couple
moved to Victoria
where Robin now is a radiation scheduler with the B.C. Cancer Agency. Mike is
self-employed, owning a business making counter tops. And both are keeping the
day jobs while Emandare gets rolling. “We didn’t walk in here with deep
pockets,” Mike says. “We come into this with business knowhow and work ethic.
And a loan. You can’t do it without some cash.”
Their property, with about 6 ½ acres of vines, was planted
14 years ago by a grower named Marcel Fleurie. About the time that Starling Lane
closed, Marcel – for personal reasons – leased the property to another winery,
hung out a for-sale sign and moved away.
It had been on the market for two years before Mike and
Robin bought it in September 2013.
The varieties grown here include two acres of Pinot Noir and
one acre of Sauvignon Blanc; they plan to double that planting. They are also
growing Siegerrebe, Gewürztraminer, Maréchal Foch and a combined acre of two
Blattner hybrids, Cabernet Foch and Cabernet Libre.
“The Cabernet Foch is a brilliant blending grape,” Mike
says. “I would never make a straight red from it. It makes a really boring
He is not impressed with Cabernet Libre and likely will pull
it out after this vintage – although in 2014, it was the backbone of a popular
rosé, 55% of a blend with Tempranillo, Malbec and Carmenère. Mike is not sure
why the previous owner had planted about 100 vines each of three late ripening
varieties more suited to Osoyoos than Vancouver Island
Another rosé is planned from the 2015 vintage.
Although there are no current plans to seek organic
certification, Mike and Robin have adopted many organic practices. They turned
off the irrigation system completely. “Last year, 2014, was considered a
drought year and our plants were healthy and happy,” Mike says. He believes the
vines learned to fend for themselves because irrigation was sporadic when the
vineyard was operated under lease.
Last fall, they harvested 11 tons of grapes from a vineyard
they were still rejuvenating.
“I figure this place, once it is healthy, can do 12 to 15
tons on average,” Mike says. “If I could hit 30,000 pounds of grapes a year,
that would be a beautiful number. We did our conservative business plan [for
the winery], based on eight tons of grapes from this property.”
Friends helped Mike and Robin build the modest winery. And
he dipped into his “Rolodex of contacts” to equip Emandare.
“Every piece of wine equipment we purchased was used,” Mike
says. “Because of my relationships from the past, I found used equipment. I got
120 emails when I needed a bottle filler. I called around and found one and
traded some wine for it and got it cheap.
That’s how we got all of our equipment.”
Mike adds that “we are doing everything old world and we are
doing everything naturally as far as winemaking goes. Not a grain of commercial
yeast has entered this building. That’s why we went organic; we don’t choose
the kill the yeast in the vineyard.”
In Emandare’s first vintage, 2014, the winery made about 800
cases of wine – two whites, a sold-out rosé and two reds still in barrel. The
winery’s tasting room opened in May. Emandare also has been a regular attendee
at the Duncan Farmers’ Market every
Saturday. This has proved one of the best outlets for introducing the brand to
Here are notes on the two whites.
Gewürztraminer 2014 ($20). This wine begins with aromas of citrus and
delivers generous and intense tropical fruit (lemon, guava). Low in alcohol at
10.4%, the wine is refreshing. The blend is 80% Siegerrebe, 20% Gewürztraminer.
Blanc 2014 ($24). The wine has a fleshy texture because a touch of residual
sweetness remains. Herbal on the nose, the wine has flavours of grapefruit,
kiwi and honeydew melon. 90.