Tuesday, February 11, 2014

High V’s from Van Westen

Photo: Rob Van Westen

Winemaker Rob Van Westen has “played” through more injuries than the average hockey player.

The first time I met him, he was wearing a monstrous cast after having survived a tractor rollover.

His most recent injury, if memory serves, was a collar bone so seriously broken in a fall that the bone had to be held together with metal to heal. He had surgery after the 2013 vintage to take out the screws. In a recent email to his clients, Rob said: “My shoulder is letting me work although it needs a hot tub to loosen the muscles at night. It is so great to be back physically working with upper body strength increasing daily after that 14 month ordeal of mending and re-mending the collarbone.”

Throughout all that, he has managed to make interesting wine for ten vintages now. He may have been hurting but it never showed in the wines. The latest releases are no exception.

The other bit of good news is that the tasting room at Van Westen Vineyards is to be open regularly in the coming season. It will open from 11 am to 5 pm Friday and Saturday from the Easter weekend to July; and then daily to mid-October. Rob is generally available by appointment at other times.

Located just off Naramata Road, the winery has operated irregular hours in the apple packing house that Rob converted into a winery. The informality of the place – a few upended barrels – is part of the charm. And there has always been a good chance that Rob will take guests on a barrel tasting.

Meanwhile, you can find some of his wines in the VQA stores and other private wine stores, as well as in restaurants. For private clients, Rob loads his truck several times a year and delivers the wine personally.

As the pun in the headline suggests, the DNA of a Van Westen wine is that each one has a name beginning with V. He released an Icewine a few years ago called Vice, renaming it Vicicle to get around a trademark issue.

Here are notes on the latest V’s.

Van Westen Viognier 2012 ($N/A for 242 cases). This wine begins with appealing aromas of pineapple and apple and opens to deliver a bowl of fruit flavours – apricot, mango and apples. The texture is rich with that trademark Viognier spine of tannin and mineral. The finish lingers. 91-92.

Van Westen Vino Grigio 2012 ($19.90 for 530 cases). Rob’s take on Pinot Grigio begins with aromas of apple and pear, leading to flavours of apple, melon and citrus, with mineral notes. The dry but fruity finish is persistent. 90.

Van Westen Vivacious 2012 ($19.90 for 530 cases). This is another interpretation of Pinot Blanc, with a dash of Pinot Gris and barrel fermentation for a portion. A full-bodied white with 13.8% alcohol, it has layers and layers of flavour, including apple, melon, Asian pear and tangerine.  89.

Van Westen Vixen 2012 ($19.90 for 100 cases). This is 60% Pinot Gris, 40% Pinot Blanc and 100% delicious. It begins with tangerine aromas, leading to flavours of grapefruit, tangerine, guava and baked pears, with a honeyed note on the finish that suggests a touch of botrytis. 91.

Van Westen Voluptuous 2010 ($29.90 for 218 cases).  This is 67% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Franc. It spent 18 months in barrel, one-third new French oak, and aged further in bottle before its November, 2013 release. Even so, I took the precaution of decanting it which, I believe, helped the wine open both its aromas and its textures. It begins with black currant and coffee aromas. It delivers a good dollop of sweet fruit to the palate, with notes of black cherry and chocolate. 90-91.

Van Westen Voluptuous 2009 ($29.90) This vintage is not quite sold out but if you come across any in wine shops or restaurants, jump on it. It shows the ripeness of the 2009 vintage with its full-bodied texture and appealing flavours of black cherry, black currant, chocolate and espresso. 92.

Van Westen/DiBello 2012 Pinot Noir aka VD ($39.90). This is the wine that Rob makes with Tom DiBello, the winemaker at Burrowing Owl. I will bow to the tasting notes provided by Rhys Pender, who has a more articulate palate (he is am MW after all). “A brooding, complex wine with intense aromas of dark chocolate-coated black cherry, raspberry and mulberry along with underlying clove, burlap and graphite. The palate starts with a soft, silky texture and flavours of ripe strawberry and cherry before intriguing liquorice, pipe tobacco, earth and mineral notes reveal themselves on the long finish.” I agree, with the caveat that wine needs decanting and breathing to show all of that. My score: 90.

1 comment:

John @ Matticks VQA said...

Great to hear Rob is healing well! Just one small correction - the '12 Vivacious is actually Pinot Blanc with a splash of Pinot Gris.