is a short sailing trip if you want from Vancouver to Comox on Vancouver Island. Once there you can meet Layne Robert Craig and Brenda Hetman, a husband and wife couple, who have started this winery, and done so with very specific goals. They want to craft wines following biodynamic farming methods. They do not use synthetic chemicals at all. In their cellar they use Albrigi stainless steel, terracotta amphora, Burgundy oak barrels and puncheons. With the help of wine maker Michael Bartier, they try to take great care to ensure the flavours created in the vineyard from their unique island terroir is represented in the glass.
They grow Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, Siegerrebe, Schonberger, as well as Pinot Auxerrois at their vineyard. They do not irrigate their vines so that they have to go deep, which protects the vines from over watering and vigor. Their biodynamic methods seem to be working on the Island as they note that they have been 100% disease free for two years.
Once the grapes are picked they have a very minimal human touch in the winery. They use native fermentations in their terracotta amphora for their Orange-method wines and their 2017 Pinot Noirs. All their wines are vegan and gluten-free.
It takes a lot of fortitude and belief in yourself and your methods to produce grapes and wines with these natural methods, especially on Vancouver Island (and the Fraser Valley) with the amount of rain that we can get through the growing season. I was pleased to receive a box of wines from Layne and Brenda, and have slowly been tasting through all the wines so that I can give you my best impressions of their wines. I can say that their white wines do taste different from BC Okanagan wines. When I tasted them, they remind me of the wines from the Niagara Peninsula.
Why 40 Knots or Aeronautical Theme?
With terms like 40 Knots and Stall Speed on the wine labels, and the winery name, I wondered why? Vineyards are on the ground. I checked 40 Knots website, and this is what they said, “Early in 2014, Layne was googling something about his plane that stalled at 40 Knots. He clicked on a link and saw a winery in Comox for sale called 40 Knots. With both Brenda and Layne in the corporate world for many years they had been looking to change lifestyles to their original roots of a farming life. Vancouver Island just happened to be their place of choice.
So the aeronautical terms do now make sense, knowing that Layne has a pilot’s license. The question is now, why did the previous owners name the winery 40 Knots? More research is needed on my part.
One of their labels is “Spindrift”, which I checked the definition and found out it means “sea spray”. Being close to the ocean, with the wind, I can see that sea spray could reach the vineyard. Here is a video made by 40 Knots Vineyard & Estate Winery showing their land and proximity to the ocean.
My Wine Review of 40 Knots Vineyard & Estate Winery’s Wines
40 Knots Spindrift Extra Brut 2014 ($36.90) – “This limited release 2014 spent 2 years on lees, aging in our cellar. Disgorged in 2014, with no dosage.” This wine has medium plus gold colour, producing small bubbles in a light mousse that dissipates quickly when poured. Medium intensity nose, showing lees, baked and bruised apples and light toasty aromas. It is dry with crisp tart apple flavours to start, added later with baked apples and then lees. Higher acidity. Small bubbles that start off not quite creamy, but if you let the wine stay in your glass for a few minutes the wine becomes very creamy when sipped. The creaminess fills your mouth. Medium plus length with toastiness lasting to the end. You also get some salinity at the very end. This wine reminds me of excellent Champagne.
Rating: What else can you ask for? Enjoy this on New Year’s Eve.
40 Knots White Seas 2016 ($19.90) – “Designed as an all-encompassing white wine to showcase the delicate, refreshing, yet complex wine style only found on Vancouver Island. Clean fruit, hand harvested and whole bunch pressed. Slow and cool fermentation in stainless steel to retain aromatics.” Made from Pinot Gris grapes. The wine is medium pear skin in colour. Medium plus youthful aroma with floral, lychee, pears and sweet spice aromas. If you decant this wine, the floral and lychee nose becomes more apple and flinty. The wine is off dry, but has bright acidity that leaves a light acidic prickle on your tongue. The wine has a round waxiness to it; a nice mouth feel. Flavours of pears, pear skin, lychee, and floral with a hint of pine needles. It has a long lingering finish with flavours of pears, apples and floral. The flavours are a better enjoyed as soon as you open the bottle. With decanting the aromas and flavours are not as intense, but still nice.
Rating: – A wine with a nice round mouth feel and bright acidity to highlight its flavours of apples, pears , floral and lychee.
40 Knots Ziggy Siegerrebe 2016 ($22.90) – Siegerrebe is a grape formed by the cross between Madeleine Angevine and Gewürztraminer. This wine has medium minus pear skin colour; lighter than the White Seas wine. Pronounced nose with lots of Gewurztraminer-like aromas; lychee, floral, lime, sweet spices and pine needles. A dry wine with higher acidity, medium plus body and flavour intensity. Flavours of lychee, sweet spices, pepperiness, peaches, lime skin and other green fruits. With decanting the peach and pepperiness is not evident, but you do get some minerality on the palate. The wine has a medium length and finishes with flavours of lime skin and pine needles. An enjoyable wine.
Rating: If you like Gewurztraminer, you will like this Siegerrebe. Lovely mix of lychee, lime skin and pine needle aromas and flavours.
40 Knots Uncloaked Chardonnay 2016 ($22.90) – “A stainless steel driven Chardonnay to reflect the freshness and purity of fruit in this timeless variety. Showcasing the vineyard and not the barrel. A clean, fresh, and disrobed Chardonnay.” This wine is uncloaked in the sense that oak barrels are not used so that the fruit flavour of the Chardonnay grape can fully express itself. This wine is bright lemon colour in the glass. Medium intensity nose showing lemon, lees and a hint of flint. With decanting you also get some stone fruit aromas. The wine is dry, and roundish. Acidic prickle up front but then gets smooth on the mid-palate. Apples and pears mainly, with a hint of peach and light citrus flavours. With decanting some of the flintiness I picked up on the nose, shows up on the palate. The wine also tastes a bit-off dry with decanting. Medium length, finishing with a mix of stone fruit, citrus and some leafiness. One fruit flavour does not stand out; a blend of flavours. Decanting makes this wine much more elegant to me. Decanting recommended.
Rating: – An elegant sip. Not overtly fruit, but gives you a mix of apples, stone fruit and citrus flavours.
40 Knots l’Orange 2016 ($36.90) – “Schonberger and Pinot Gris fermented and aged on skins in Italian Terracotta Amphora. No intervention, just patience. When timing was perfect, grapes were pailed from Amphora and screened to stainless without pressing. ” I am always curious about orange wines; wines made from white grapes that have been allowed skin contact to extract some tannins from the skins as well as more flavours. Orange wines tend to be made as simply as possible by wine makers, and you can see many orange wines made in ancient style clay amphoras, rather than the stainless steel and oak we now use. This wine was made using Italian terracotta amphora and pleased my palate tremendously. The wine has a medium orangy copper colour. Pronounced youthful nose, with sweet aromas of lychee, honey, ripe peaches, and orange marmalade. With decanting I also detected a spearmint aroma too. The wine is dry and round, has higher acidity and some tannic backbone. It has a complex flavour profile with a mix of floral, mandarin orange, and apricots. Medium plus length finishing with mouthwatering acidity and drying tannins, and flavours of oranges, peaches and apricots. Highly recommended for wine geeks, and someone who wants to step beyond the stainless steel fruit flavours that you get from many white wines around the world.
Rating: A unique, complex, aromatic wine with a beguiling nose. Lovely tannin structure and acidity to complement the apricot and mandarin orange flavours.
40 Knots Pinot Noir 2016 ($29.90) – “Experience this sought after Pinot only possible in this cool climate with warm days and cool ocean breezes. Enjoy the richness of superior aging with assistance of rich salt air.” This wine is pale garnet, translucent to the core. It has a youthful, medium intensity nose, showing candied cherries, a whiff of lees, red berries, raspberries, light nutmeg and a hint of tea leaves. Upon first tasting the wine feels a bit off dry, but with decanting moves to the dry category. It has medium body, with a lighter mouthfeel. Almost no tannins till the end. Flavours of red berries, raspberries, red cherries, and a hint of perfume, supported by a light streak of salinity beneath the fruit flavours. With decanting this wine feel heavier in your mouth, has some bramble aromas and flavours, and a hint of flintiness or smoke on the palate. The wine has a medium length and finishes quite soft. There is a hint of tannins on the finish. With decanting the tannins finish a bit stronger and the wine get a little peppery. This Pinot benefits from some decanting.
Rating: – A nice, light red-fruited Pinot to enjoy. It gets bigger with decanting.
40 Knots Stall Speed Merlot 2016 ($29.90) – A very deep dark ruby colour in the glass. Rich, ripe blackberries, dark chocolate, black plums, and raspberries aromas, along with hints of vanilla and tea leaves. The wine is dry and round, with a heavier, thicker mouthfeel. Ripe black fruit, black cherry and raspberry flavours. There is a perfumed component to this wine but with decanting it goes away. Medium tannins and oak. With decanting the aromas stay the same, and most of the flavour components too. The perfume does drop off as mention, and you do get a hint of milk chocolate toward the finish. The wine has a medium plus length, finishing with tart fruit and some drying tannins. You can drink this wine now but could age for a few years too.
Rating: – Quite a fruit forward Merlot, with raspberries, blackberries and black fruits on the nose and palate, along with a luxurious mouthfeel.
40 Knots 442 Safe Haven Fortified ($21.90) – Made from Marechal Foch grapes, its opaque purple in the glass, coating the glass as it is swirled. Medium minus intensity aromas of raspberry, coffee, black fruit and blackberries. Deep, dark aromas. This fortified wine is off-dry, medium silkiness with a heavier mouth feel. Black fruits, blackberries, black plums and some perfume on the palate. A medium length, the wine finishes with a mix of sweet black fruit and some bitterness, and then some pepperiness. It would be nice if the finish was a wee bit longer and the flavours a tad stronger, but overall an enjoyable drink with dessert or lounging at the end of the day.
Rating: Lots of black fruit flavours and aromas for this medium bodied fortified wine.
Where Can I Buy These Wines?
They do have a business locator tool on their website where you can enter your city and it will show you the wine shops as well as restaurants carrying their wine. You can also order wines through their website.