Have You Heard of Whispering Horse Winery?
One of our newest wineries to BC, Whispering Horse Winery is located a little southwest of Chilliwack on Vedder Mountain Rd. Cultus Lake is around the corner from the winery as well. The story behind the name of the winery is, of course, related to horses. In the words of the winery,
“Our winery’s name, Whispering Horse, was inspired by the history of the land, which was first established in the early 1960s as J-Bar ranch, where John Giesbrecht (Barry’s father and Melissa’s grandfather) bred, raised, and trained hundreds of horses for over 50 years.
J-Bar ranch began in 1965, where John constructed a large indoor riding arena, as well as various other smaller barns and stalls on the property. At that time, John chose to focus on breeding Registered Quarter Horses and often housed at least 25-30 horses at a time, and up to 50 at J-Bar’s peak. There was a full-time horse trainer and ranch-hand to help with the work, but John’s children also did their fair share. Barry and his siblings all began working and riding at J-Bar at young ages. Barry, from the ages of 12-15, began showing horses competitively across BC and Washington State, USA, bringing home many first place trophies. Eventually, as the children grew older and became less interested in showing, John shifted to Quarter Horse racing in the late 1970s. Again, John raised many winners and champions, who raced in events across Washington, Oregon, and as far south as California, USA.”
With all these wins with horses, you could say that John Giesbrecht was a horse whisperer. By 2010, John needed to turn over the reins to the younger generation. Melissa (John’s granddaughter) and Laurent (Melissa’s husband) approached Barry and Shirley, Barry’s wife, about the possibility to keep J-Bar ranch, but to have a new purpose. Today there are over 6000 vines planted on the land. Being a very cool-climate area, they focused on mid-ripening varieties consisting mostly of French-American Hybrids as well as some vitis vinifera: Seyval Blanc, Pinot Gris, L’Acadie Blanc, Epicure, and Dornfelder.
Their Wine Making Philosophy
Their goal is to produce small lot, terroir wines that are focused on elegance and finesse and made with minimal intervention. For them, the wine begins in the vineyard so winemaker Laurent Fadanni focuses his energy there to produce excellent, flavourful fruit that offers layers of complexity. They feel with excellent fruit, there is very little to do during the vinification process and to use only minimal interventions. All of their wines are bottled unfiltered, as they feel that the filtering process takes away something from the wine, which affects its complexity and essence.
What is L’Acadie?
I first heard of the L’Acadie Blanc grape at the Vancouver International Wine Festival 2017, where Nova Scotia has been growing it and producing very exciting sparkling wines. According to Wikipedia, “L’Acadie blanc was created in 1953 by Ollie Bradt at the Vineland research center in Niagara, Ontario. The grape is a crossing the Seibel grape Cascade and the Villard grape Seyve-Villard 14-287, both bred by French horticulturalist. Cuttings of the new grape variety were sent to the Kentville research station (now known as the Kentville Research and Development Centre) in Kentville, Nova Scotia. Here the grape was given the name L’Acadie blanc after Acadia, the former New France colony that is now part of The Maritimes in eastern Canada.” In Nova Scotia they also use the L’Acadie Blanc grape in a “Tidal Bay” white blend along with other white aromatic grapes. After tasting wines from this grape I wondered if any winery is growing L’Acadie in their vineyard here in BC. After a bit of sleuthing, I came in contact with Melissa and Laurent, and their new Whispering Horse Winery, and was told that their first vintage of L’Acadie was going to be bottled in 2017. They graciously sent me a bottle to taste of this wine, and I must say it is quite interesting and quite different from the lighter L’Acadie that I tasted from Nova Scotia. Let me tell you about Whispering Horse Winery’s L’Acadie!
Whispering Horse Winery L’Acadie 2016
From the winemaker Laurent, “…the grapes were hand harvested on the 2nd week of September 2016 at 22 brix, destemmed, crushed, and fermented in stainless steel at 12°C over a 2 week period. Wine spent 9 months on lees before being racked and was bottled unfiltered…”
The was is a bright, medium intensity lemon in colour. It has a fairly pronounced nose with a mix of youthful and developing aromas. The wine did spend extended aging, for a white wine. Upon first opening the wine it had deep aromas of tropical fruit and what one could mistake as oak, but there is no oak contact for this wine. There was also lesser amounts of lime on the nose. With decanting over 1-2 days I also picked up apple and peach aromas in the glass. On the palate, the wine seems lightly off dry, is round with medium heft in your mouth, and a waxy and/or buttery mouthfeel, which can come from the malolactic fermentation. You get higher acidity as well as a prickle on your tongue. Dried tropical fruit, ripe pears primarily along with lesser amounts of citrus and stone fruit. There is also apple that shows up on the mid-palate. With decanting I first picked up peach flavour and then lime. The wine has a longer length, finishing with mouth-watering acidity and prickle on the tongue, tart citrus fruit, apple and some bitterness. Apple becomes more evident on the finish with decanting. This wine I think benefits from decanting, adding more fruit aromas and flavours. These grapes come from 5-year-old vines, so have yet to reach their potential.
Rating: – A fuller bodied wine with deep fruit aromas and flavours ranging from tropical fruits, pears, peaches, apples, and limes. A mix of acidic prickle on the tongue with buttery smoothness. A wine that you have to taste many times over several days to really appreciate its changes in the glass.
The Fraser Valley vs Nova Scotia Wine
This wine is much bigger in mouthfeel and flavour compared to the L’Acadie wines I tried from Nova Scotia. I wondered why. Possibly more sunlight, aka Growing Degree Days, here compared to Nova Scotia? I went online and checked the number of GDD for 2016 for the Chilliwack area and for Kentville in Nova Scotia, where many of the Nova Scotia wineries are located. Going to the farmwest.com website, you can determine the GDD for any agricultural area across Canada. The two graphs show the difference (Please note the vertical scales are different on both charts).
On average Chilliwack gets approximately 40% more GDD compared to Kentville. For 2016, the variability in GDD days is much greater in Kentville, while in Chilliwack there is variability compared to the yearly average, but the variability is primarily above the average. So more GDD for Whispering Horse Winery in 2016 I think shows the riper fruit, deeper flavours, and bigger mouthfeel.
Whispering Horse’s 2016 L’Acadie is already sold-out with a mere 200 bottles bottled. But there will be more wine to come later this year. I suggest contacting the winery to get on their list. In addition, they are producing a range of sparkling wines, which I am quite excited to try as well. You can purchase wines through their website. Enjoy!