It is tempting to describe the Saanich Peninsula winery as simply de Vine, but unless one thinks of the elegant label or efforts to obtain Certified Organic status as simple, the winery is as complex as the wines it produces.
De Vine Vineyards is “a total family effort”, says patriarch John Windsor. The owners of a large medical business in the US were looking for a quiet getaway and ended up purchasing 25 acres of raw land in Saanich. John and Cathy were soon joined by sons Chris and Ryan, and their wives, Natalie and Helen.
“We began to plant a vineyard for the romance of it,” John admits. Then neighbour Ken Winchester, a well-known winemaker, suggested the family start a winery.
“We are risk takers,” John says. “So we took the risk.”
The vineyard is planted to Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Gruner Veltliner plus Okanagan grapes that allow Winemaker Natalie, consulting with Winchester, to make Rhone-style wines.
Purchasing other grapes like Merlot, Chardonnay and Dornfelder allow de Vine to produce a variety of wines in an attempt to meet consumer demand.
John said that philosophy drives the way the family approaches the land and produces its wines.
“Don’t grow what you like,” he says. “Grow what grows best in your environment. And don’t make what you like. Make what the environment will let you make best.”
“We are driven by quality,” he adds.
John spoke with Food & Wine Trails on the evening before the De Vine tasting room was scheduled to open for the summer, the same day the spring bottling was planned. The winery has added a picnic license and a wine tour license and has constructed a gorgeous new patio.
Hectic? “I wouldn’t do this but for the family,” he laughs.
This summer visitors will be treated to many new bottlings. A Viognier-Roussane-Marsanne blend is ready, as is a single variety Roussanne.
“Last year we were able to purchase the only major planting of Roussanne in the Okanagan,” he says.
A total of eight bottlings will be released in the coming weeks. Two more are being held back for further aging.
“We don’t want to release them before their time.”
The Windsor family plans to surprise customers each year with a different wine labeled Epiphany. The 2010 version combined Chardonnay with brandy. The 2011 version blends blackcurrant and Dornfelder flavours into a luscious, velvety port-style dessert wine.
Simple or complex, de Vine is without question a winery that deserves to be on any must-visit list.
~ Lorne Eckersley