Haywire 2016 Pinot Gris: The First New Wine in a New City

Haywire 2016 Pinot Gris: The First New Wine in a New City

So, after a year of wine-centric wandering in the Caucasus, I’ve moved back to Canada. More specifically, I’ve moved to Vancouver to study Journalism at UBC. I find myself now in a new city, but back in my home country. The change is, on paper, not nearly so dramatic as moving to Georgia. Yet moving here seems to have more gravity. It feels like settling down in Vancouver may be a viable (if conventional) path. Of course to properly feel like I can make a home here I know I’ll need to find good food and wine.

To that end I’ve spent much of my ‘settling in’ week buying kitchen supplies, organizing my living space, and cooking. By now I’ve got my core kitchen trifecta of a stovetop moka pot, a cast iron skillet, and a Le Creuset dutch oven (which I got on craigslist for about half what it’s worth, dad would be so proud). I’ve been shopping at the nearby chinese supermarket, with its dried mushroom aisle of my umami dreams. And I’ve been exploring local wine shops for something natural from British Columbia. The other day, I found what I was looking for.

The wine was a 2016 Pinot Gris sold under the Haywire label. Haywire is a house brand for Okanagan Crush Pad, a wine co-working space, facilitating the work of various winemakers in the Okanagan valley of British Columbia. Their house labels Haywire and Narrative, according to their website, are fermented using indigenous yeast, made from organic grapes, and bottled with minimal additives. All this sounds like a natural wine to me.

The ‘16 Pinot Gris White Label is owned by Brad & Dave Wise, who farmed their grapes alongside Theo Siemens on the ‘Secrest Mountain Vineyard.’ According to the Haywire website, the vines are part of a 15 hectare flat plot at 487 meters above sea level. Largely alluvial soils in the vineyard are interspersed with gravel and limestone. Though not yet certified organic, the vineyard has been farmed organically for the past two vintages and, if BC’s standards are like the EUs, can be certified after a further two years without chemical farming.

I should say that I did a bad thing and tasted this wine with a stuffy sinus. Only one though! The clear right nostril did all the work for me. I had read up on Haywire before coming to BC and though I picked the most budget-friendly bottle in their range ($20 before tax, so still not cheap), I had high hopes for this wine. My first sniff, then, was quite disappointing. All the floral citrus zest of a boring Pinot Gris with, at first, nothing to salvage it. But let this be a lesson never to judge a wine by the first sniff. After just a few seconds that grigio-sity (am I allowed to say that?) gave way to a surprising stone fruit richness. Coupled with the medium-ish body and restrained, almost muted, acidity, the whole wine came to feel like peaches cooked off in butter. It was unexpected, though I confess I don’t know enough BC wines or no-skin Pinot Gris to really have expectations. The surprise, however, became its charm.

Was this the the funky crushable ‘natty wine’ (shudders) of my hopes? No. It was, however, a unique wine that I found interesting which could also satisfy a conventional wine drinker. For an entry-level wine, it does its job as a crowd pleaser with just enough extra to make it a thoughtful drink. Being in a new city I’m finding plenty that’s unexpected. Whether I can find unexpected greatness remains to be seen. For now, I’ll take a pleasant surprise.

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