Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hainle Vineyards, Peachland, Okanagan Valley, Canada

The history of the Okanagan Valley ( wine-region is a short and troubled one by modern standards: the first vineyard was planted in the 1850's by a Catholic missionary at a time when Europeans were virtually unheard of in British Columbia. (B.C. didn't become a recognized province until it joined the Dominion of Canada in 1871)

view from HAINLE vineyards
 Well, that missionary may have done well working for God, but in working for the grape he perhaps didn't do as well... plantings of vines were sporadic at best until the 1920's when prohibition came into effect. Then out came all the vines and fruit wines were virtually the only wines produced in the province.

 Fast-forward to the 1970's and a few enterprising individuals began to invest time, money and themselves to this northern climate (it lies on the same lines of latitude as Champagne in France) to see if something other then fruit wines could be made here. Walter Hainle ( was one such individual.

vines at HAINLE vineyards

 In 1972 an early frost threatened to wipe-out one of Walters' first crops. Rather then lose his entire years work, he decided to fall back on his Germanic heritage and made an icewein or icewine. It was Canada's inaugural vintage of 178 bottles, and if one could be found today, it would be worth approximately 1,500,000 British Pounds Sterling at auction. One bottle.

 I have not been fortunate enough to sample one of those bottles. I haven't even had the pleasure of tasting one of their vintages of icewine. What I did happen across, in a little winestore in Chiliwack, was the 2002 Pinot Blanc selling for less then $25. I thought to myself, "How bad could it be?"

 The truth was, I had no idea how good it could be. Pinot Blanc is a varietal grown in Alsace (France), Germany, Hungary and Slovenia most notably. The Hainle family is from Austria, and whilst it is certainly grown in Austria, it is not one of the main varietals for the country. Pinot Blanc is actually a mutation (in the best possibly way) of Pinot Noir (a varietal I adore), although it can easily be confused for Chardonnay, and until recently (1980's) was actually mistaken for Muscadet in California. Pinot Blanc is often vinified the same way as Chardonnay going into oak barrels and undergoing malo-lactic fermentation.

 So here is an anomaly for me: not only a varietal that doesn't normally age well (most are consumed 5 years or under), but also an older vintage than one normally sees for anything other then icewine from BC. What to do with a 9-year old Pinot Blanc from BC? The answer is pure enjoyment.

2002 Hainle Vineyards Pinot Blanc
Peachland, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada
12.5% ABV, $25 CAD ** BUY THIS NOW **
  • visual:   clean (trace crystals at bottom of bottle); moderate gold amber core with slight watery rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ intense and fully developed bouquet of golden delicious apples, apricots both fresh and dried, wild grass and clean hay, sharp minerality, aromatic lemon such as Meyer lemon, lime zest, soft honey notes and dried flowers
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ to full (lime and pink grapefruit) acids, moderate- ABV, moderate+ body, moderately intense and fully developed flavors that mimick the nose well; flowers are more noticeable as dried roses, apple flavors are almost "baked apple" with lemon zest. Excellent balance, structure and length... the flavors sit and develop on the palate for 30 seconds and longer
  • conclusion:   A stunning example of a vintage Pinot Blanc, this is drinking well in 2011 and should be consumed soon. There is still great concentration on the nose, and strong (well balanced) acids, but the palate is fading. If you are lucky enough to find this - buy it and enjoy it!
  • PAIRINGS:   consider rabbit. Just enough wildness of flavor to balance the apple/lemon, enough fat to balance the moderate+ acids (if you don't overcook the rabbit)... I would go to an old favorite of mine: butter poached rabbit with wild thyme and fresh farfalle pasta. A match made in heaven!
 So my first foray into Hainle vineyards, but most definitely not my last. This wine shows well why Hainle vineyards has garnered so many accolades and awards over its' almost 40 years of winemaking.

HAINLE vineyards

As always, I welcome and enjoy your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

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