Friday, July 20, 2012

Hainle vineyards, Peachland, BC, Canada

I had a great conversation with friends today: it was my daughter's first birthday and so, naturally, we were sitting with glasses of wine and having a chat.

   The conversation turned to the topic of people who stick to their beliefs in the face of  adversity... People who inspire us through their fastidious attachment to what they believe is true and good and worthy of effort. And then they succeed. Despite (or because?) of the contrariness that surrounds them, they succeed where none believed possible. Examples abound! Sylvester Stallone and Rocky, finding diamonds in the Canadian Arctic (the geologist who did believe in Canadian diamonds was told by professors in university that his theory was "un-sound"), and there are even examples in the wine industry.

   Yes, the wine industry is scattered with more then its share of visionaries who believe in something beyond what most people do. I'm proud to say that I know one of those visionary winemakers and his name is Walter Huber and he owns/runs Hainle vineyards (

   This isn't the first time I've written about Hainle vineyards but, much as with many things in life, for me it keeps getting better everytime I go back.

   Let's be honest, Hainle vineyards doesn't get very much good press in British Columbia... I can't even say that I've seen any good press on them in Canada. But how can that be I wonder? Is it because there's nothing good to say?

    I could talk about Walter's fundamental belief in organics and bio-dynamic principles. I could talk about Walter's willingness, nay eagerness, to share his time and wine-samples with anyone of any level of wine-education who demonstrates passion and zeal for quality. I could even talk about Walter's continual self-education and relentless search for wine techniques both antique and modern that bring the best results to his wines (ask to see his rare books!).

   I could talk about all of these things and more, but they don't really matter. What matters to you, and to me, is what's in the glass. What matters is that wine gurus around the globe who know far more about viticulture and vinification then I may ever learn are singular in their praise for Walter's work with the diverse portfolio that is Hainle/Deep Creek vineyards.

   To wit, the Los Angeles International competition has awarded Hainle Zweigelt 100 points not once, but twice in the past 10 years. Twice, and yet the local media is silent on the subject. Here in BC the '07 Pinot Noir received 99 points last year at the second largest wine tasting in the province in Whistler. The first Canadian Pinot Noir to win 99 points, and no one wrote a word about it. Then a few months ago in March (2012) Walter was invited to Geneva to receive the CQE Gold Award (International Quality Wine) from the eponymous Century International Quality Era Award committee.

   I have heard it said that sometimes truly great people are appreciated abroad before they are ever appreciated at home. Perhaps I am too juvenile in the ways of the wine industry to say with any certainly which winemakers are or are not genuinely great... Perhaps.

   So don't take my word for it my friends, the proof (as always) is in the glass.

Hainle Vineyards / Deep Creek 2012 releases

2011 Riesling-Gewurztraminer
$20, 92-93 points
  • made with the Muller-Thurgau yeast from Pieroth winery in Germany ( ), this is a new level of early approachability for Hainle white wines
  • rich stonefruit and light summer floral bouquet
  • bit of residual sugar on the palate is balanced by superbly refreshing full acids which are incredibly well integrated in such a young wine

2011 Sauvignon Blanc
$25, 92 points

  • made with the same yeast strain
  •  nose displays a dizzying array of savory lemongrass/Asian herbaceousness
  • palate is marked by the trademark Hainle vineyards mineral backbone but is well-balanced by that savoriness... much as in the above example the acids are racy and vigorous and yet in an integrated and approachable manner 

2009 Old Vines Riesling
$25, 91 points
  • vines are now aged almost 40 years
  • different yeast / not the Muller-Thurgau
  • aromas are already developing into traditional petrol/waxy with crisp, clean fresh slatey mineral backbone
  • the palate follows suit with bright, fresh acids that cleanse.. approachable but still tasting a little young
  • would suit the fattier fishes at this point in it's life, or the rich Alsatian food that follows Germanic traditions (think curried bratwurst, schnitzels, raclette)

2009 Pinot Gris
 $20, 89-90 points
  • nose is displaying more lees-qualities at this point (almonds, toasty brioche) and soft summer floral qualities with an undercurrent of savoriness akin to Burgundian sous-bois or underbrush
  • trademark minerality is felt keenly on the palate with slightly softer acidity then I'm used to from this winery (medium instead of medium+ to full) this is a great wine to enjoy on it's own, whether it be on a patio or for an evening function
2009 Erenfelser
$27, 95 points
  •  I have to start off  by stating that this is one of the most unique examples of this varietal that I can remember ever having... Mrs AStudentOfWine loves Erenfelser and so I end up purchasing a fair share of them over the course of a year. Most examples of this varietal are fairly simple in nature and overwhelm with basic notes of jammy stonefruit and over-ripe exotic floral
  • this is a wine of different calibre! If you understand the difference between a beach towel and Irish linen, then you understand this wine. The nose is a filigree of never-ending stonefruit and floral qualities that almost trip over themselves in their dance with the Hainle mineral backbone and savory sous-bois
  • on the palate: crisp, clean, dry with a host of floral tones that ring from front to back and have a world-class persistence, great concentration... what a shame that Canadians prefer Erenfelser with residual sugar because they're missing out on a truly superb wine
2009 Gewurztraminer-Sauvignon Blanc
$20, 92 points+
1500 cases produced, sells out every year
  • rich straw color, bright flecks of silver and gold throughout
  • elegant rose-perfume, hints of spicey pepper tempered by warm hay and lemongrass
  • light residual sugar (off-dry), fully intense and deliciously crisp, clean, refreshing acids, utterly transparent full concentration of flavors that truly reflect the terroir  
  • versitile wine! food pairings with sushi, Thai, summer salads, fresh seafood

2011 Gewurztraminer
$20, 89 points
  • made with the Muller-Thurgau  yeast
  •  fairly straightforward nose which has an intense focus of stewed apricot/apricot compote
  • palate once again POPS with an intense and yet very approachable acidity, touch of residual sugar. Very refreshing, this is a great wine when you need to beat-the-heat!

2009 Pinot Noir
$45, 94+ points

   very exciting! Walter and I were discussing this vintage and he let me in on the fact that he kept this wine macerating for 6 weeks... 42 days is double what some wineries will spend on their Bordeaux-styled blends with Cabernet-Sauvignon, much less for a fragile grape like Pinot Noir. Crazy stuff! But Walter says that he uses this technique very specifically because he wants the depth of color, he wants the depth of flavor...
  • color is very deep almost Royal-purple
  • nose is fully intense bouquet  of black roses, irises, plums, distinct mineral background... almost like the great Morgon or Moulin-a-Vent  quality which is truly ironic as the greatest Gamay Noir describe how they take on Pinot Noir characteristics
  • palate is choc-a-bloc full of rich, meaty, chewy, fatty, unctuous tannins just aching for great food to sit beside, acidity is enthusiastic but well-behaved, concentration of flavors is full with the same notes as the bouquet  with the inclusion of fresh red berries to start. Excellent balance, stunning structure
   I need to finish this review with an observation; many people have vastly differing views on what a great Pinot Noir  ought to be... I've sat with world-class winemakers extolling the virtues of Oregon and Sonoma examples and then been inundated with scathing remarks from merchants saying that Sonoma doesn't make "real Pinot"... this may or may not be your cup of tea, but to me (and many others) this is a truly gifted example of what this varietal can be, but rarely is.

2008 Estate Pinot Noir (Hainle's Reserve)
$90, 99+ points
   To start I need to preface by sharing that Walter had the privilage of tasting Romanee-Conti next to his award winning 2007 Estate Pinot Noir just a short time ago. Walter believes that his '08 vintage demonstrates more of the Romanee-Conti nuances and is, in fact, a better wine then the '07 vintage that scored 99 points.
  • color is paler then the '09 (regular) Pinot Noir  with a trace amount of oxidization
  • a truly puissant  and yet extremely elegent bouquet; harmonious layers of sweeter bright red berries, soft roses and irises, light truffle-like notes, warm savory earth
  • on the palate crisp and clean with mineral tones singing right from the start, tight red berry acids (cherries, young plums), intense floral notes are balanced with some of the sweeter/candy notes felt in the nose... almost Morgon-like again, but the best of all Gamay. Concentration is through the roof, balance in impeccable and the structure is brilliant
   This is one of the finest wines I have ever had. 
  Truly, this is drinkable now, and sheer joy, but this will reward patient cellaring and because of the craftsmanship will have a fantastically long life of well over 20 years. Consider this wine an investment; you and I may never spend the $2000 for a bottle of Romanee-Conti, and this wine might very well (once again) score higher then that heavy-weight of Bourgogne.

2009 Z3 (Zweigelt, Baco Noir, Pinot Noir)
this is the third and last release of this blend
$ 27, 91-92 points
  • much darker pigmentation then usual; fully intense garnet core with slightest cherry rim. No oxidization
  • nose is full of traditional Z3 notes; big dark berries (blackberries, Saskatoon, black cherry), followed by Okanagan sous-bois  savoriness and lightly meaty-bacon notes
  • whilst normally not my thing, I found this blend to be lovely and a wonderful sipping wine on it's own! Big, rich chewy tannins that are approachable with medium, bright acids, medium+ concentration 
  • a natural pairing with venison due to the richness of the berry aromas and flavors, texture to the tannin structure and approachable acids which don't require much in the way of fattiness in the food to balance

2009 Baco Noir
$25, 90 points
  • traditionally dark pigmentation with no visible oxidization
  • aromas are deep, dark blueberry compote with Okanagan sous-bois
  • acidity is fresh and inviting; an excellent wine to start a meal or serve in the middle of a warm and lazy afternoon. The blueberry notes in the nose are quite dominant on the palate (in a good way)... a fresh alternative to Gamay Noir
 2008 Merlot - Cabernet Sauvignon
 $55 (?), 93 points
  • comes from the vineyard in Osoyoos
  • medium+ garnet core with slight cherry/brick rim
  • bouquet is Bordeaux-like; rich red berries, savory earthiness, soft ripe red/black floral notes, delicate minerality, pencil/graphite edge, soft and mild cigar tobacco like Davidoff
  • acids are medium+, quite young and tight, already starting to integrate, tannins are the Hainle fleshy, chewy, meaty variety meriting a long cellaring... concentration is very good, excellent balance and structure
  • drinking best 2015++

 2009 Estate Zweigelt
$45(?),92 points
  • color is deep, dark fully concentrated purple/garnet core with no oxidization
  • traditional blueberry, Saskatoon aromas with a sweeter, more fruit-forward style... light background of sous-bois but you need to search for it a bit
  • moderate acids (fresh and inviting), moderate+ chewy tannins which are already integrating well, this is really a fruity little wine that wants to be served early in a meal or earlier in the evening... 
  • Walter has a firm belief that this wine pairs brilliantly with oysters (fresh or cooked) and I have tried this pairing and find it to be, absurdly, true! For this particular vintage I would pair off Oysters Rockefeller and watch the warm bacon notes bring similar notes from the wine into focus

2010 Pinot Noir Icewine
$45(?), 90+ points
  •  pale golden-amber core with orange rim
  • nose is a much richer floral to start; think of yellow roses just after the rain, savory winter spices like spice cookies, toffee
  • on the palate much more refreshing acidity, lower residual sugar, bright and fresh this is for people who think that they don't like Icewine because they're all too sweet... this should appeal to pastry chefs as they acidity will be quite versatile with desserts. Would also work well as a gelee or shaved-ice as a palate-cleanser in a formal meal because of the richness of the acid

 2011 Gewurztraminer-Icewine (Clare's vintage)
$45(?), 97 points++

   I must preface this review by stating that the name "Clare's Vintage" is only for myself and my family. You see, I regularly recommend to private clients that when offering a gift for someone who purchases a new home, or celebrates the birth of a child, that the gift of a bottle of icewine is perfect. Most new vintages of icewine will sell for under $100, and icewine is one of the wines most capable of great aging... in some cases for 100 years or longer. And? And the value keeps increasing with each passing year or decade. Some icewines at only 10 to 20 years old can be worth as much as $5000 or more in the right market. The best  can be worth 10 times that amount or more. This means that your friends can open the icewine you gave them at their mortgage-burning party and be savoring a wine worth far more then most of us would ever part with. In keeping with that idea I pre-purchased a case of the 2011 icewine from Hainle vineyards for my daughter Clare when she was born. I will give it to her when she turns 20 and if she wants me to auction it, it will pay for her university for several years.
  • rich amber color, liquid honey or rich hay, almost orange marmalade
  • bouquet  is almost beyond words; the aromas are about more then just ripe fruit/compote layers... almonds, winter spices with a hint of Thai chili, savory earth
  • on the palate, lots of residual sugar balanced by a lip-smacking acidity, showing great cohesion for still in barrel, fully intense apricot and grapefruit flavors, kumquat marmalade, candied orange peels, lemon zest, huge floral layers with an almost rosewater quality, Turkish delight... full concentration, amazing balance and structure, long long long length
   I consider myself fortunate that I met Walter Huber and Hainle vineyards early in my wine career... Walter is one of those vignerons  who is willing to take the time to talk with his clients. Walter doesn't get egotistical because his wines win awards around the world. Walter doesn't chose to share his time with people because of how much wine they're buying.

   Walter likes talking about wine with people who truly are passionate... he likes to share what he's learnt with those around him. To me, that makes him rather remarkable. And then, to taste his wines... well, as always, the proof is in the glass my friends.

As always I look forward to your comments and questions.

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

    1 comment:

    1. I had the pleasure of meeting Walter for the first time yesterday. I couldn't agree more, his wines are incredibly distinctive for the region. A lot of the other wineries like to boast about their traditional approach to winemaking. As you know, Walter is in a different league altogether, embracing ancient techniques from vineyard to bottle. It was an eye-opening experience for me! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this under-appreciated BC winery.