Robert Van Westen’s wine releases are out of synch with his peers. Most other wineries tend to release their white wines in spring. Robert, the co-owner and winemaker at Van Westen Vineyards, waits until late fall – when most of the competing good whites have disappeared from wine store shelves.
He has now released his three 2007 whites. What a triumph in winemaking they represent. The only complaint is that the quantities are limited; buyers need to move quickly to find these wines before they, too, have disappeared from wine stores and restaurant lists.
There are the best white wines so far from this small Naramata Bench winery, which has been open three years now.
Next year, Rob and Tammi, his wife, will be opening the winery’s first tasting room, making it easier to find the wines. A word of warning: call ahead because the tasting room is likely to be open only n Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Vino Grigio 2007 ($18.90) was released November 1. This Pinot Gris, of which 333 cases were made, is aptly named because its exuberantly fruity style mirrors what Pinot Grigio should be: a fresh, tank-fermented white that sets out to be delicious, not complex. The aromas show lemon zest and citrus notes. On the palate, there are flavours of ripe pears and more citrus. There is a fine skein of minerality and acidity to give this wine a crisp backbone. The finish is refreshing and very long. 92
Vivacious 2007 ($18.90) was also released November 1, with a production of 230 cases. This is Van Westen’s ingenuous take on giving complexity and a fruity lift to sometimes bland Pinot Blanc by barrel-fermenting some of wine and by adding four percent of Pinot Gris to the blend. This is a big, generous white with flavours of apple and melon. The time that the barrel-fermented wine spent on the lees shows through in the rich texture of the wine on the mouth. But the good acidity gives the wine a clean, tangy finish. 90
Viognier 2007 ($24.90) was released December 1 and the release is only 101 cases. This is emerging as the Van Westen flagship white. It is an explosion of tropical aromas and flavours – apricots, citrus, peaches – with an appealing aroma of grapefruit. There are layers of taste in this wine; it opens like a flower in the grass as it warms up, but it has good acidity to give it a crisp, tangy finish. 92