Hainle Vineyards, Peachland, Okanagan Valley, Canada

Posted on July 19, 2011

Great article on Hainle Vineyards ..Enjoy, Bill

The history of the Okanagan Valley (http://www.bcwine.ca/) 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)
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 (http://www.hainle.com/) was one such individual.

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.

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