Friday, July 31, 2020

Sea Star's secret: consistency

Photo: Sea Star's David Goudge

One might assume that the restrictions on ferry travel to the Gulf Islands this spring would have devastated the business of Sea Star Vineyards on Pender Island.

Not so, reports David Goudge, Sea Star’s owner.

“Tourists are not coming to Pender in any significant numbers so our winery is open for sales only (no tastings) on weekends,” he told me in a recent email. “Mostly our local 'cult' members are buying with overwhelming enthusiasm which has picked up all the slack from the lack of tourism and restaurants doing their best to survive.”

He continued: “Our sales are going to private buyers and wine stores in high volume - in fact sales are as strong in all avenues as last year. People are literally buying numerous cases based on previous vintages.”

I have tasted every Sea Star vintage since the first, 2013. The quality has always been outstanding. It is easy to understand why the winery has developed a cult following. “Incredible consistency,” David explains.

David resuscitated the property, 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’s winemaking talent flowered at Sea Star, with one fine vintage following on another.

That’s the good news. Now for the bad news: for personal reasons, David likely will sell the winery this year. The brand is so strong, however, that closure seems unlikely.

Here are notes on the recent releases.

Sea Star Salish Sea 2019 ($25). This is a blend of Ortega and Siegerrebe. It begins with fresh, spicy aromas with hints of citrus. On the palate, there are flavours of citrus, guava, apple and honeydew melon. The wine is crisp and fresh. 92.

Sea Star Ortega 2019 ($25). The wine has aromas and flavours of melon, passionfruit and stone fruit, with a dry and lingering finish; and with a surprising suggestion of white chocolate on the finish. This wine sets the benchmark for Ortega in British Columbia. 93

Sea Star Stella Maris 2019 ($25). This is quite a complex blend: Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir anchor the wine, with touches of Pinot Gris, Riesling, Ortega and Schönburger. Crisp and dry, the wine begins with aromas of spice and apple. On the palate, there are flavours of citrus, apple and pear. 92.

Sea Star Blanc de Noir 2019 ($25). Made with estate-grown Pinot Noir, this wine presents in the glass with a delicate rose petal hue. It has aromas and flavours of raspberry and watermelon with a surprising and interesting hint of white pepper on the finish. The wine is crisp and refreshing. 91.


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