When Saturna Vineyards’ wines first hit the market they were pricey, uneven (Okanagan grapes) and mostly just passable. Over time, as their vines have matured and more island grapes are making it into the bottle, the house has gone through several (one? two? three label redesigns?) changes. More importantly the prices have all levelled out more commensurate with quality, but things are still, I’m afraid to say, uneven. When you visit, and taste the range at the tasting bar, you can see they’ve headed towards strengths (tearing up their Merlot, moving towards more whites), but for whatever reason they’ve never landed a classic.
But let’s back up. The Bistro at the Vineyard is a destination. Regardless of the wine, and the food (which seems to be as variable and changeable as the labels), the patio, overlooking South Pender, the San Juans and, on a clear day, the Olympic Peninsula, is as divine as anything on offer up in the Okanagan. In fact, in the right August weather, under an umbrella, it could pass for Provence. And under those perfect conditions, even mediocre wine flows with passion. If you boat in, the short walk uphill for food makes it more worthwhile and the short walk back to Saturna beach is an idyllic way to walk off the booze. We’ve found, generally, their Pinot Gris is the go-to bottle, year after year. Always passable, never disappointing. But when summer ends so too ends our Saturna sipping.
That will change this year with a surprising and wonderful Wild Ferment Riesling. (Compare it at their tasting bar; their standard Family Estate Riesling is no competition.) The Wild Ferment absolutely catches the island spirit, with lovely citrus notes, a whiff of pineapple and lime, uncommon depth for the vineyard and eminently food friendly—or just get a second bottle and relax under the shade of the gazebo. At a mere $18 it’s a steal. And at 12.9% you’ll still be fine to kayak round the island. Maybe Ann Sperling came down for a consult? I jest. A new winemaker joined the vineyard last year and whether it was moxie or a wild stab, relying on indigenous yeast was a payoff. A little hard to find (unfortunately) and I’ve yet to see print reviews, but if this is the direction the vineyard can move in then Larry Page may finally find his $7 million buyer.
Price: $18 at the vineyard
Market Liquidity: A breakthrough. Finally.