Babbling Bottles’ visit to Hainle Organic Estate Vineyard and Winery almost ended right before it began when we nearly missed the sharp turn off to one of Peachland’s very few estate wineries! Hainle is what I would deem one of the few OG’s (Original Gangsters) of the Okanagan Valley, and is officially considered as the eighth winery to open its doors in historical terms.
Hainle is well worth the trip to the Okanagan’s stone fruit capital and is one of Kelowna’s best-hidden iconic benchmarks in the winemaking landscape. One of the original and longest-lived vineyards in the valley, the winery began operations in 1972 under the ownership of Walter Hainle whose wine heritage stretches back to 12th century Austria. One of the most fascinating aspects of the history of Hainle is the story of Ice Wine and how it came to be in the Okanagan. It all began with an early winter in the year of 1972, when an early frost hit the vineyard and threatened to ruin an entire vintage of fruit still hanging on the vine. Ice Wine was largely unheard of in Canada at the time, but Walter Hainle had an idea. Harkening back to his German heritage, Walter took a bold step and decided to attempt to turn his acres of helpless frozen grape gems into the opulent nectar known as Ice Wine. Knowing that the market for Ice Wine was non-existent in the Okanagan Valley, Walter decided that this new product was too good to keep all to himself, and by 1978 Hainle Estate Winery was the first producer of Canadian Ice Wine – with a grand total of 178 bottles!
Want to know more intriguing facts about Hainle Ice Wine? According to our tasting associate, the wine was served at Kate and William’s Royal Wedding in 2011, not to mention a bottle of the 1978 vintage was sold at auction recently for 1.2 million USD.
Now currently owned by the Huber Family who purchased the winery in 2002 following the death of Walter Hainle, the winery now operates under the strictest regulations for non-intervention wines that utilize zero chemical fertilizers, pesticides and other non-organic treatments. The Huber Family Wine Purity Law of 1856 states:
Every wine has to be produced by the winery it states on the label. All vine has to be grown naturally. Grapes have to have a minimun of 20 brix on white wine, 22 brix on red wine and 32 brix on ice wine. All wine must has to be free of added sugar, water or other additives. Only yeast and pure wine must is allowed for fermentation. Only five natural fining agents can be used.
MISSION STATEMENT FROM HAINLE'S WEBSITE:
“Are we creating positive social change? Perhaps. Do we think our wines are better than anyone else’s just because they are organically produced? No. We, like every other winery on the planet, have made wines we are not completely happy with. We believe, however, that our presence in the marketplace provides an alternative for wine consumers who share our values and concerns. We also realize that not all of our customers are particularly looking for organic wines; they may be choosing our wine just because they like it. The real benefit is that we know who our customers are, and they know us. It’s a value-added symbiosis, far removed from mass marketing, high volume production and maximization of economic return. If that can be called social change, so be it. We feel comfortable here; not all wineries, nor businesspeople, for that matter, necessarily would.”
This statement really speaks to the philosophy of Babbling Bottles, as it is a true expression of passion and non-compromise. I believe it to be a highly respectable attribute to focus on a niche and doing it right – not trying to please everybody and in the process pleasing no one. It speaks to the determination and inner strength of Hainle’s winemaking philosophy, and acknowledges that every winery in the valley should pursue their business in the way they feel is best. It's a raw example of pursuing one’s passion, one that reveals itself through practice and the product - not through preaching.
It's Organic. Not Pretentious.
Walking up the stairs into the main tasting room of Hainle, we felt like we were stepping into a medieval cathedral: adorned with rustic dark wood elements, low lighting and heavy furniture, it rang out with European Old World elegance. Formerly a restaurant-turned-tasting-room, the main space flows seamlessly into an ornate upper cellar showcase where prized vintages were cellared and available for sale. The feel of high-quality craftsmanship was pervasive, to say the least. The building itself is nestled into the Peachland hillside, above which sits the old vines Reisling block from the 1960’s with roots estimated to reach 40-50 meters into the soil! On the second floor, guests are privy to a stunning peekaboo view of Okanagan Lake stretching across to Squally Point, the alleged home of the infamous Ogopogo lake monster.
We walked away with two bottles: a 2016 Meritage for cellaring and a highly unique 2012 Grand Reserve Rosé. I know what your thinking. 2012. Rosé. No way. But, alas, the tasting at the winery had us convinced that this was a most intriguing bottle. Once cracked at home on the patio on a searing hot Okanagan afternoon, this wine displayed an abundance of intriguingly pleasant characteristics that kept me reaching for another sip. A blend of Gewurztraminer and Zweigelt, the grand reserve opened with a chorus of fresh red cherry, white pepper and raspberry kombucha crème.
Clearly close to the end of its life, the Grand Reserve was still soundly structured with bold, clean flavours and a viscous mouthfeel that added weight and substance to the wine. Entirely unfiltered with a crystalline ruby colour and minimal sediment, the 2012 Grand Reserve retained a crisp acidity followed by a dry, lengthy finish of smoke and cherry sweetness reminiscent of Port. Certainly, while drinking this wine it comes across more as a refreshing chilled red blend than a rosé.
I only wish I could have bought 6 bottles back in 2012: one to drink each year consecutively up to this point, in order to better understand the ageing process this wine has undergone. At the time of this writing, the mountains behind Peachland and Summerland are ablaze with wildfires that have grown to cover over 100 hectares and threaten to join up with other existing fires to become one huge super fire. I originally planned to visit Hainle once more before writing this piece, but in light of the current state of emergency, I was unable to do so. All Babbling Bottles can say is that our hearts and thoughts are with all the citizens and growers in the area, as well as the firefighters brave enough to fight the flames.
For more information on Hainle and their exceptional wines, visit here.