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Fresh, vibrant and oddball grapes.
As a rule, I have low expectations when it comes to “White Blends” as they currently exist in BC. Too often they’re a catchall of leftover or cheaply purchased grapes that are cobbled together (Pinot Gris is often the base) and then dosed with a big hit of ripe Gewurztraminer or Muscat to blanket the flaws in cloying floral notes. And while none of that is a problem per se, it is when you charge more than $20 for what is the winery equivalent of leftovers. (I make an exception here for JoieFarm’s A Noble Blend, which is technically a white blend but one that’s been purpose made for decades along established Alsatian principles and is an icon).
So it’s fair to say my expectations weren’t soaring when I cranked the cap of this white blend for the Cowichan Valley’s Blue Grouse. On the plus side, I’m a fan of Vancouver Island wine in general, and Blue Grouse in particular. And at under $20 (or less for wine club members), I appreciate that they’re not putting the boots to the consumer. On the other hand, not only does it have the telltale base of Pinot Gris (26%) bolstered by Gewurtztraminer (22%) it also has a significant portion of two hybrid grapes: Schonberger (35%) and Siegerebbe (17%). I think it’s fair to say this is the only wine to ever feature this particular melange of misfit toys.
I loved it. For going on two decades, we’ve been looking to Vancouver Island as the future for cool climate wines in the province and I’ve had too many thin, bitter $35-plus Pinot Noirs described as “Burgundian.” But things have been changing in the past decade. Ripeness is far less an issue, many wineries have discovered how to capture some brilliant freshness with balanced acidity and prices have come down a bit as more sophisticated players step into the game. All those things are present in this wine. There’s an immediate jolt of crispness and vibrancy and then the fruit appears, just ripe and keeping the theme of freshness. The hybrids add some quirky, crunchy notes that give this bottle some added character. And the whole package comes in at 11.5% alcohol and just over $17 (if you’re a wine club member). Is it complex? It’s complex enough for under $20, and more importantly it doesn’t pretend to be something out of this world. All the above are traits that make for being a great ambassador.