Friday, June 9, 2017

Pender Island's Sea Star Vineyard releases fourth vintage

Photo: Sea Star proprietor David Goudge

With four vintages under its belt, Pender Island’s Sea Star Vineyards & Winery now has established a significant track record for producing quality wines.

Just before these wines were released this spring, I happened to be chatting with a Pender Island resident who was positively bouncing at the anticipation of going to the release event at the winery. I suspect if the islanders had their druthers, they would keep all of these wines for themselves.

It is a comparatively small winery. In 2015 it produced 3,800 cases, its target for full production. Production declined to 2,600 cases in 2016 because cool and wet weather at flower set reduced the yield from the estate vineyard. Sea Star was required to buy additional grapes from vineyards on Vancouver Island and the Okanagan to keep its output high enough not to disappoint its customers too much.

The winery is owned by David Goudge, who has lived on Pender Island for almost a decade years. He purchased Morning Bay five years ago after it had closed. The original winery, an attractive building set amidst the forest, was still there. So was the seven-acre vineyard that had been planted in 2002.

David resuscitated the property by investing in new equipment, a climate controlled barrel cellar and an updated wine shop.  To manage the vineyard and make the wines, he hired Ian Baker, who had formerly done the same duties at Mistaken Identity Vineyards on Salt Spring Island.

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 came to Sea Star in 2013 after about four years with Mistaken Identity and has certainly added to his box of medals since. For example, his Provence-style rosé was “best of show” last year at the Canadian Culinary Championships.
The singular character of Ian’s wines is that they always express clean, refreshing fruit aromas and flavours. I have tasted all four vintages and the wines have always been flawless. It makes me want to move to Pender Island.

The Pender Island grapes in the winery’s 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.

While the winery purchased Okanagan grapes in 2016 and in previous vintages, that is not the long-term plan. “We hope to never source grapes again from the Okanagan because we recognize it dilutes our brand,” David says.

 Here are notes on the current releases.

Sea Star Ortega 2016 ($20 for 503 cases). The wine begins with aromas of pink grapefruit and honeydew melon, followed by a rich display of fruit flavours on the palate – melon, grapefruit, pineapple – with spice on the crisp and dry finish. 90.

Sea Star Pinot Gris 2016 ($22 for 244 cases). This is the winery’s first Pinot Gris, made with grapes purchased from Cherry Point Vineyards. Winemaker Ian Baker did the vineyard proud by crafting a complex wine with aromas of citrus and flavours peaches, pears and melon. There is a touch of herbal spice that recalled oregano every so subtly. The texture is juicy and the finish dry. 90.

Sea Star Stella Maris 2016 ($24 for 384 cases). This wine is a blend of Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Ortega and Schönburger.  The grapes are all estate grown. The wine begins with aromas of pear, rose petal spice, apricots and honey. These are repeated with a lush, fruity palate; a medley of tropical flavours that linger on the finish. 92.

Sea Star Blanc de Noir 2016 ($24 for 819 cases). This wine is made with estate-grown Pinot Noir supplemented by organic Pinot Noir from the Okanagan. It presents in the glass with a delicate rose petal colour and aromas of strawberry. The wine has flavours of strawberry and rhubarb. The dry finish is tangy and refreshing. 91.

Sea Star Pinot Noir Reserve 2014 ($30 and almost sold out). This estate-grown Pinot Noir is seductive and feminine, with aromas of cherry and flavours of strawberry with a hint of vanilla and mocha. The silky texture is especially seductive. 91.

Sea Star Maréchal Foch 2016 ($23 for 72 cases). The wine, made in a nouveau style, is produced with estate grown grapes. The aromas burst with cherries and red plums which are echoed on the juicy palate. The striking fruity flavours are best revealed when the wine is slightly cool. The texture is silky. A great wine with summer salads. 90.


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