One of the things I love most about living in wine country and Penticton, is the variety of new wineries popping up every year. One day I decided to visit a winery I had never been to before. As we were driving along the Naramata Bench I saw a sandwich board on the highway that said Van Westen Vineyards Winery. So we took the next left and found our way to this…new to me winery! The Van Westen family were fruit farmers here since 1954. However Rob Van Westen decided to try his hand at growing grapes about 12 years ago. This will be the third year that the winery will be open in the summer. Previously it was hit and miss or by appointment.
As we pulled in to the driveway we were greeted by the winery dog named Brew. Don’t be alarmed by his size he truly has a gentle soul!
The tasting room is inside this large warehouse, garage style building. It’s not flashy, but then again, I’m here for the wine, not the décor! It does however have a wonderful Okanagan Lake view.
We gathered around a wine barrel converted to hold a bucket of wine bottles, with a table area for your glasses and tasting notes. A very clever idea indeed.
The tasting began with the 2013 Pinot Grigio, a wonderful summer patio wine. A nice clean crisp refreshing wine with hints of pear and apple. The second wine we tasted was the Vivacious! I love that name. It’s a 40%Pinot Blanc & 60% Pinot Gris blend. It had a stronger flavour than the first wine, and she said this would pair nicely with white meats like chicken or fish. It has a nice sweet aftertaste. The third wine was the Viognier. A percentage of it is oaked so the wine has more body. However there is no oaky taste because the barrels are 6 – 10 years old. She said this pairs nicely with seafoods like crab etc.
While I was tasting the white wines, my BF and DD was taking interest in the unique things found around the winery. The first thing he noticed was a bladder press. You put the fruit/grapes inside and the rubber bladder expands and squishes the juice out. (The days of purple feet are over my friends) 🙂
Then he looked up and saw a giant moose head. I mean this thing was huge. This photo doesn’t do it justice. As the story goes, in 1904, (yes 101 years ago) this moose kept coming in to the town of Naramata and he was becoming a nuisance. They kept chasing him out of town and he kept coming back. So I guess you can say his days were numbered. But his legacy lives on, and story continues to be told at Van Westen Vineyards and Winery!
Now we entered the barrel room to taste the red wines. The temperature is controlled to around 16 degrees in here. There were three wines to taste. The 2010 Voluptuous is 77% Merlot and 33% Cab Franc. I senced the flavours of plum in this wine. We followed the first wine with a tasting of the same wine from 2011. Same vines but a totally different taste. She described how even the wind and weather can have an impact on the taste of the wine, which is why year to year the wines differ. I preferred the 2010. The last one was a 2010 V…roman numeral five. It’s their Bordeaux style blend. Merlot, and Cab Franc, with a bit of Malbec, Cab Sav, Petit Verdot! It’s a really full bodied, full flavoured wine. It pairs nicely with gamier meats like duck or lamb.
The wines at Van Westen are also vegan. They don’t add any artificial softeners, so the tannins are bolder than some other wines that use them. This also enables you to cellar the red wines probably up to 10 years. They will soften over time. So no fish protein and no egg whites! This is important if you have an egg allergy!
As we were leaving the winery we bumped in to the winemaker Rob Van Westen. He told us the story of the Lapin Cherry. Apparently it was created through crossbreeding by Dr. Lapin at the research station in Trout Creek. His dad took the first risk at planting them over 40 years ago, and now they are grown all over the world. So it’s safe to say the oldest Lapin cherries in the world are grown on this property.
I had a lot of fun on this wine tour and heard some wonderful stories. I would highly suggest you plan a visit to this winery. They are open Friday and Saturday and long weekend Sundays until July 1st, then they will probably be open daily over the summer. You can also call for a tasting appointment.
Please note: I am no wine expert. I just like to drink it!