There is no doubt that the Fraser valley is rapidly becoming a key region for BC wineries. One of the newest wineries is the family owned Whispering Horse Winery in Yarrow**. The idea for and working force behind the winery is Laurent Fadanni and his wife Melissa Giesbrecht. They own the winery along with Melissa parents Bary and Shirley Giesbrecht. 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.
It was in 2011 that Melissa and Laurent approached Barry and Shirley about the possibility to keep J-Bar ranch and this special piece of land in the family, but with a new purpose. After much research and discussion, Barry, Shirley, Laurent and Melissa took the plunge. Fed by a common enthusiasm and love for wine, Laurent’s creative passion for turning dreams into reality, and Barry’s practical hands-on knowledge, the decision was made to buy J-Bar ranch and transform it into a family-run boutique winery.
Today they have over 6000 vines planted. Some of which will surprise you; they planted four varietals: L’Acadie Blanc; Epicure; Seyval Blanc; and Pinot Gris. L' Acadie been better know in Nova Scotia. Some Epicure is grown on Vancouver island but is far from common.*
On a very hot summer day the 4 us set off to visit the winery. We took the back roads through Langley township past Abbots ford into the foothills of the Skagit Range of the Cascade Mountains on theVedder River. A lovely drive which took us a little over 90 minutes.
Whispering horse is only open by appointment. Located above an old river bed, the soil type is sandy loam, with river rocks and pebbles braided throughout; remnants from a past river. This unique soil type and structure not only facilitates drainage from heavy spring rains, but also contributes a unique and subtle minerality to the wines.
The horse barn has been convert into a winery. In time a new tasting room will be build to attract the consumer.
We were warmly greeted by Laurent in his lab and and our tour began. In 2012, the planting of our main Whispering Horse vineyard began bringing the total acreage of vines planted to 6.5. In 2016 in their main vineyard, they planted two more acres of L’Acadie Blanc, as well as one acre of the cool climate red, Dornfelder, and one acre of La Crescent, which will be used to produce an off-dry white. The long-term goal is to plant 16 acres in total, with a focus on hybrid varieties like L’Acadie Blanc, to produce up to 3,000 cases of premium wine within the next 10 years.
We explored the vineyards before settling in for our tasting experience.
Reflecting the region’s cooler climate, Whispering Horse has chosen to produce traditional method sparkling wines; a natural choice as sparkling production utilizes grapes that are less ripe in order to maintain adequate levels of acidity and low alcohol content. Our ‘future-release’ offerings will range from Brut Nature (bone dry) to Doux (sweet) in white, rosé, and red. However, as these wines require aging, they will only begin to become available in late fall 2018. “Patience is a virtue”.
Two wines are currently offered a 2017 L’Acadie Blanc and a Rosé Pinot Gris. All four of us were pleasantly surprised by the quality and flavours of these wines.
Starts with a bright lemon hue The aromas are strong proving hints of peach pear and grapefruit. On the pallet the earthy mineral s shine through along with hints of apple and citrus. a very good wine.
Pinot Gris 2017
A clear salmon hue. Lovely aromas of peach and strawberry followed by a light but crisp body The palate t receives an array of fruit flavours finish strong with subtle minerality. Excellent.
* Epicure - is a mid season ripening white grape, often harvesting a week before Pinot Noir on the BC Coast. It is a large clustered vine with small leaves and exceptional disease resistance. Epicure is a complex cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and a number of Asian grape varieties. Wines from Epicure tend to exhibit strong tropical flavours, pineapple, guava, and passionfruit. Gooseberry can be detected is leaner seasons and in those years the wines can be more like a Loire Sauvignon Blanc.
** Yarrow is a small community located 90 kilometres east of Vancouver and 12 km southwest of downtown Chilliwack
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